AFC East: Bills Testing Their Depth

Buffalo's rash of injuries is testing coach Chan Gailey's squad for depth at key positions. The injuries have contributed to the team's six-game losing streak and forcing Gaily to talk about something he doesn't want to -- next season.

Gailey: Newfound depth is silver lining to injuries

   With the Bills officially eliminated from the NFL playoffs for a 12th consecutive season, longest streak for an AFC team now that Houston is in, coach Chan Gailey has also officially begun speaking about next season.

   He doesn't like it.

   "No coach likes to talk about that, you want to be talking about the playoffs, a chance to be the (Super Bowl) champions," he said. "That's why you are in the business. You're not in the business to look great, be respectable, get stats. It's about being the best. It's frustrating and I don't like it but it is what it is. We're out of the playoffs so what are we going to do with the rest of this year and what are we going to do about next year?"

   The Bills (5-8) host the Miami Dolphins (4-9) at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday in a game where the only compelling storyline is job competition for 2012. Buffalo is riding a six game losing streak; Miami fired coach Tony Sparano this week and named secondary coach Todd Bowles interim head coach.

   With 15 players on injured reserve including nine or so regulars, Buffalo's quality of depth has been exposed badly during its losing skid. However, the silver lining, Gailey said, is that depth is being developed because so many backups are getting playing time.

   "We've been able to play a lot of guys this year that will create competition next year," he said. "We played a lot of young guys the last two years that gives us some experience with depth. If we can continue to see the growth in these guys, it will create a lot of competition on our football team next year."

Losing Streak Killing Hope

   --The Bills are a team in the throes of a six-game losing streak during which they have been outscored 194-77, and there isn't any question that they are a team that has lost its confidence.

   "Early in the season when we were winning, we were playing with a little more swagger, confidence was there," linebacker Chris Kelsay said. "Now it's not."

   Coach Chan Gailey is at a loss to figure out where it has gone, but he acknowledges that it is indeed gone.

   "I think they are down," said Gailey. "I hate to go all the way to demoralized. I think they don't have any confidence right now. I think we are fighting that right now as a football team. I don't think there's any question about that. And I thought we were making progress after the last two games, I really did. Then we just played awful (against the Chargers)."

   The Bills are helpless on both sides of the ball and there's no one they can rely on to make a big play when one is needed. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was admittedly terrible in San Diego as he completed just 13-of-34 passes for 176 yards with two picks, compiling a career-worst 31.0 passer rating. Fitzpatrick not only is throwing the ball poorly, missing on the simplest of routes, but his decision-making -- considered to be his finest attribute -- has been questioned as well. His decision to throw the pass that San Diego's Steve Gregory intercepted and returned for a backbreaking touchdown was simply puzzling. He also threw an interception directly into double coverage earlier in the game.

   "Fitz is always trying to make a play," said Gailey. "He makes it a lot of times. He made them a lot during the first part of the year. Now that ball's getting tipped up and intercepted. At times he missed some things he hit earlier in the season. I see that as well. I think he would say the same thing. I think it boils down to a consistency factor and I don't know what that is, because we were very consistent the first part of the year."

   Wide receiver Steve Johnson, who had his first 100-yard game of the season in the loss, said he's perplexed by what has happened to a team that won five of its first seven games and at one point was leading the league in scoring. And he feels bad for what Fitzpatrick is going through.

   "Yeah, it's tough because he's a brother, and you don't want to see your brother go through anything bad," said Johnson. "So seeing him go through it, it's like we all go through it. He's our quarterback, he's our head. With Fitz he'll have better days. He'll have good days, he'll have bad days, just like we all will. We're still riding with him. We've just got to uplift him just like he does with us. When we make mistakes he's there for us. It's tough, but we're all grown-ups. We've got to get through it."

   As bad as the offense has been, at least it had its bright moments earlier in the year. On defense, the Bills have been abysmal for Gailey's first two years with the team and his defensive coordinator, George Edwards, could be the fall guy at the end of the season.

   Because they have so many deficiencies, Edwards has tried a patchwork approach to his 3-4 defense, but it has required playing several players out of position. The idea of converting Kelsay and Spencer Johnson, defensive ends by trade, into outside linebackers, just looks more and more ill-advised as the losses pile up. Neither player can hold the edge and they can't cover on passing downs.

   The defensive line has been unable to generate a pass rush, and when the Bills try to get the quarterback with blitzes, they don't have defensive backs good enough to maintain one-on-one coverage.

   Gailey was asked if the six-game losing streak comes down to the most obvious of points, that his team lacks enough talent.

   "I hate to admit that," Gailey said. "I hate to, because we've got NFL players. I want to say if we'll go execute with the players we've got, I think we can be a respectable football team. I don't know if we can be good right now, but we can be respectable."

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