Saturday, March 10, 2007

The good Lord tripped me up at the line of scrimmage.

I suppose I should address the recent moves made by the Buffalo Bills, yes? (Since the question was asked in comments, after all.)

The major moves are twofold: the Bills signed three players to the offensive line, and they traded Willis McGahee to Baltimore for three draft picks (3rd and 7th round this year, 3rd round next year).

First, the line. Hooray, it's about time, and all that. For the entire time I've been writing this blog, the offensive line of the Bills has never once risen above "merely adequate", and has frequently made descents into the realm of "downright bad", even making a couple of stops at "friggin' abysmal". As my longtime readers know, it's my opinion that all the ink spilled over the issues of quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, defensive backs, linebackers, and everything else here pale before the fact that the Bills have not been a force at the line of scrimmage in a very long time.

And look at all the recent Super Bowl winners and runners-up: some had amazing, high-octane offenses; others had punishing, smothering defenses. Some had very competent running games, while others placed more emphasis on excellence up front in winning with a succession of backs and/or receivers. But for all the different approaches that get teams to the Super Bowl, it's a fact that you don't get to the big game if you're not dominant at the line of scrimmage. As Chuck Dickerson used to say on the radio here (in just about the only words that ever crossed his lips that I agreed with), "Football games are won or lost by your big guys up front."

So now the Bills have signed three new O-line guys, which is very welcome news in my eyes. The team's approach to improving the offensive line, going back three general managers, has been to draft O-line guys low in the draft and hope they develop into studs. That hasn't really worked all that well. (Now, maybe these guys all tank and the line still stinks. Could happen. But then again, maybe not.)

The other big Bills story is, of course, the trade of McGahee. I'm fine with that. McGahee has never lived up to his potential in Buffalo, which is a real shame because that first season he started, he showed real flashes of excitement. But this past year, he didn't make it to 1000 yards, I didn't see him make one of those awesome stiff-armed blocks he used to do all year, and he basically gave off an air that said, "I'm here to make money and that's about it."

Do I think McGahee stinks? Not at all, and in fact, I'd bet that he's about to have two or three very good years in Baltimore before he starts his career decline. But what got me this year wasn't even his lack of output, but the fact that he just never seemed to care all that much. Sure, there were two games that were notable exceptions, but like it or not, the Buffalo Bills don't play the New York Jets sixteen times next season.

I finally realized McGahee was never really going to lift off here during the second-to-last game of last season, when the Titans came to town. The Tennessee running back that day was Travis Henry, the workhorse guy that McGahee had originally pushed out of Buffalo back in 2004. And Henry outran McGahee that day, badly. Basically, McGahee let the guy he'd pushed off the Bills roster come back into town and show him up in his own park.

Did the Bills get better by trading McGahee? Possibly; possibly not. But it was already clear that they weren't going to give him a big contract heading into next year, and they probably weren't going to try to resign him after next year. So, faced with the possibilities of a training camp holdout and then finally losing him anyway, they chose to lose him in a way that gets them something in return. Sounds good to me.

Now, on to the draft.

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