September 20, 2017

First Impressions – the Buffalo Bills

by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
September 10, 2009 (updated 2:06 PM)

The Buffalo Bills came into training camp with high hopes. But their preseason has been a tumultuous one. The revival of the old Buffalo hurry up offense and pressure defense has been overshadowed by questions and changes. The good news is the season starts anew for them Monday night.

But still, one wonders where they’re headed after such an unsettled preseason. The practice games did not do much to ease a fan’s worries. The offense struggled to score and quarterback Trent Edwards did not show the progress that was hoped for. The team went 1-4 in the exhibition season averaging only fourteen points per game and towards the end, unexpectedly fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, who threw some parting shots of his own at head coach Dick Jauron on the way out. Then, just the weekend before the opener, owner Ralph Wilson summoned Jauron, GM Russ Brandon and two assistants to his home to discuss the poor preseason performance. It was hardly a vote of confidence for a coaching staff and front office already on shaky ground.

Needless to say, all the early optimism in Buffalo has been tempered by these developments. And the reality is they’re probably heading for a long season. Though they have talent, they are young in too many spots, and just not good enough in others. Now, they head into an opener against a foe that has been particularly deadly to them in recent years, the New England Patriots. But, as they say, it’s a long season, and everyone is 0-0. So let’s take a look at some of these Bills.

Terrell Owens, WR

Monday night will mark the Buffalo debut of star WR Terrell Owens. It will be the start of his 14th season in the NFL and the first game with his 4th NFL team. But surprisingly, it’ll mark only his 4th career game against the Patriots; the second in Foxboro and just the first at Gillette Stadium. He’s never beat them. Owens first game against the Pats came in 1998 when he had 3 catches for 61 yards and a TD in a 24-21 Patriots win at the old Foxboro Stadium. They didn’t see him again until the 2004 season when they matched up with the Eagles at Super Bowl 39. Owens, of course, had a great day with 9 catches for 122 yards, but it wasn’t enough as the Pats prevailed 24-21 in that one as well. Finally, the Patriots had a much anticipated duel in Dallas in 2007 where Owens asked everyone to “get their popcorn.” It was an entertaining game and Owens had 6 catches for 66 yards and a TD, but the Patriots prevailed 48-27.

Ellis Lankster, CB

Bills rookie corner Ellis Lankster began his career with a bang by intercepting two balls in less than a minute in the second pre-season game, the second of which he returned for a touchdown. Lankster, a seventh round pick out of West Virginia, has quickly gained a reputation as a playmaker amongst Bills coaches and fans due to his pre-season performance in both practice and games and made the Bills squad as a 7th round choice.

Jairus Byrd, S

Another Bills rookie in the secondary, Jairus Byrd, was a teammate and fellow starter with Patriots rookie Pat Chung at Oregon. Byrd, like Chung, was a second round pick and will play safety for the Bills.

Bobby April, Special Teams Coach

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has regularly raved about Bills special teams coach Bobby April. Its pretty clear Belichick thinks a lot of his coaching ability and his units traditionally have been tough and well coached. They were ranked as the best special teams in the NFL by Dallas Morning News columnist Rich Gosselin in three of the past five years. This will be his 18th year coaching in the NFL and 6th with the Bills.

Bills Offensive Line

The Bills are likely to start two rookies at guard, Andy Levitre and Eric Wood. They’re also likely to start a center, Geoff Hangartner, who is a career backup. Finally, the inexperienced Demetrius Bell has replaced the just-released Langston Walker at left tackle and it’ll be interesting to see if the Patriots defensive line can get the upper hand against this potential Bills weak spot.

Alex Van Pelt, Offensive Coordinator

The last week of training camp the Bills fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert and replaced him with Van Pelt. Van Pelt played as a backup QB for a long time with the Bills. He’s called plays before, in NFL Europe as an assistant. It’ll be interesting if he can revive a moribund Bills offense.

Shawn Nelson, TE

Bills rookie TE Shawn Nelson has good speed and receiving ability. It’s important the Patriots not overlook him in coverage, because he runs like a receiver and has the speed to beat many of the Patriots linebackers. Could be a sleeper factor in this game if the Patriots don’t watch him and focus only on the Bills excellent wide receivers.

Recent Matchups

The last 11 meetings between these teams have been unsually lopsided, with the Patriots winning all 11. During that period of time the Patriots have outscored the Bills by an average of more than 3 touchdowns per game. The total point differential is 321 to 96 (or an average of 29.2 to 8.7 per game). The Bills have not scored even 20 points in any one of the 11 games, with their highest output being 17.

Here are some links to help you stay in tuned with all the happenings around the Buffalo Bills this week:

Buffalo Bills Team Site

Buffalo Daily News

Two Bills Drive

E-mail Greg Doyle at [email protected]


  1. So was this article researched at all?
    1.) It’s Ellis Lankster – not Eric.
    2.) Nelson should be the least of your worries…he’s not even the starting TE.
    3.) Langston Walker was released from the team this week and was replaced by Demetrius Bell.


    • Steve –

      1) thanks for the input – fixed.
      2) we’ll have to disagree on that one (not that he isn’t the starter, but that he’s no worry)
      3) totally my fault, not Greg’s. Greg sent me a re-write as soon as Langston was let go and I blew it by posting the wrong version. Not Greg’s fault at all – it was mine. I’ll post the correct piece as soon as I can.


  2. Thurman Thomas says:

    Have you seen my helmet?

  3. Apologize for the Ellis mistake. As for the others, this column won’t only focus on starters. Its a tidbits piece, not supposed to be any kind of in depth look at the game, though in some cases it will look at that. But it will also hopefully focus on anecdotes about any player on the roster, interesting parts of their lives, connections to the Patriots, past performances or even promising players who may not be quite there yet (such as Nelson). Nobody is claiming he is a starter, just a new player on the Bills Pats fans might not be familiar with yet. As for the Walker issue, it was rewritten by me the other day, including discussion of Demetrius Bell, in wake of his release and I apologize the original version which was posted was wrong in discussing Walker.

    • Sounds good Greg, the rest of the article was right on. I definitely didn’t mean to sound too critical…I just wanted to be sure your readers had all of the latest info. Monday night can’t come soon enough!

  4. Okay men, we’re all fixed. Again, apologies to Greg for the sloppy posting.

  5. Nice job of summarizing who and what to look for, Greg. I can’t wait for Monday night.

  6. Cap'n Dunsel says:

    Given Jauron’s nearly iron-clad reputation as a lousy coach, Schonert’s firing, Walker’s release, etc., etc., I’m getting a whiff of “Hey, we might be worse than the Raiders” from Buffalo.

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