News: Gosselin: Bills should have a nice balance

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  1. LaTunaNostra

    LaTunaNostra He Made the Difference

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    Rick Gosselin: Bills should have a nice balance

    08:18 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 30, 2004

    Rick Gosselin
    Inside The NFL

    With Gregg Williams as head coach from 2001 through 2003, the Buffalo Bills became one of the best defensive teams in the NFL. That was to be expected. His background was on defense, having previously served as the coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. His Tennessee defense led the NFL in 2000, and his Bills led the AFC in 2003.

    But now the offense needs to be fixed, so the Bills replaced Williams in the off-season with Mike Mularkey, who had been the coordinator at Pittsburgh.

    Buffalo ranked 30th in the NFL in offense in 2003, which is puzzling because the Bills lined up veteran Pro Bowlers at quarterback (Drew Bledsoe), halfback (Travis Henry) and wide receiver (Eric Moulds). But the Bills won only six games and scored 243 points, the lowest total in the AFC.

    Enter Mularkey, who presided over the development of Tommy Maddox as an NFL quarterback and the emergence of Hines Ward into a Pro Bowl receiver.

    In addition to those three Pro Bowlers already at Buffalo, Mularkey will have three recent first-round draft picks in his stable — running back Willis McGahee, wide receiver Lee Evans and quarterback J.P. Losman.

    McGahee was drafted in 2003 but hasn’t played a down, recuperating from a college knee injury. Evans was the 13th overall pick of the 2004 draft and gives the Bills speed — the one element they lacked on offense. Evans runs in the 4.3s.

    The Bills also traded up into the first round to draft Losman with the 22nd overall pick, and he gives Buffalo a quarterback to groom behind the 32-year-old Bledsoe.

    The Bills have put Mularkey in a position to have immediate success on offense. The defense is already in place to be successful. Only cornerback Antoine Winfield is gone from a unit that finished as the NFL runner-up behind the Cowboys in 2003.

    The Bills were expected to be playoff contenders in 2003 but underachieved. They again will be in a position to achieve success in 2004.

    NFL Q & A

    Q: One statement you never hear: "our offensive line and defensive line really dominated today ... too bad we lost." What team has the potential to have the best combination of lines on the same team? Also, would you agree this is the best way to a title? It seems like this is the best way to hide your deficiencies.

    Jason Harter

    GOSSELIN: All the talk about the Dallas dynasty of the 1990s seemed to center on the “Triplets.” But the Cowboys also trotted out the best offensive line in the NFL and the deepest defensive line. When you can control the game up front, you can control the game. I agree with your premise. But in a salary-cap world, the most dollars are spent on the skill positions. It's the offensive line that suffers, and that's the one area of a football team that needs the most continuity to perform at a high level.

    Kansas City has the best offensive line right now, and the Chiefs lost their starting right tackle (John Tait) this off-season in free agency. I'd say the Carolina Panthers have the best defensive line with end Julius Peppers and tackle Kris Jenkins as emerging young stars. But the best combo right now is probably New England. They play a 3-4 and have three No. 1 draft picks in their three-deep — Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork — plus behemoth veteran run-stuffer Keith Traylor. With Damien Woody leaving in free agency, the Patriots lack the big names on the blocking front. But this line plays well together. Look for center Dan Koppen and tackle Matt Light to emerge as recognizable players in 2004.

    • • •

    Q: You've said Ray Lewis is the best linebacker and best defensive player in the NFL. Who in your opinion is the second-best linebacker?

    GOSSELIN: I'd probably go with Julian Peterson of San Francisco because of the completeness of his game. He's a tackler (144 in 2003), a pass rusher (seven sacks) and a pass defender (two interceptions, 14 passes broken up). He forced three fumbles and recovered one last season on the way to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. He also has prototypical NFL size for the strongside linebacker position at 6-3, 235 pounds. Lewis is short for his position at 5-11.

    • • •

    Q: Why are you so high on Seattle? Isn't ranking them fifth in your off-season rankings a little rich for a team that hasn't won a playoff game since the 1980s?

    GOSSELIN: Their coach knows the way — Mike Holmgren took two teams to the Super Bowl in the 1990s — and Seattle is a team with few holes. The Seahawks won 10 games last season and believe they should have beaten the Packers in Green Bay in the opening round of the playoffs. Seattle was at midfield, driving for the winning field goal in overtime, when Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception that Al Harris returned 52 yards for a game-ending touchdown.

    The Seahawks have weapons galore on defense, plus a solid offensive line. They needed help on defense and improved there in free agency (cornerback Bobby Taylor and end Grant Wistrom) and the draft (tackle Marcus Tubbs in the first round and linebacker Michael Boulware in the second). I also think Ray Rhodes is the right guy to be shaping this defense.

    On paper, I think the Seahawks are the best team in the NFC West, and that makes them a Super Bowl contender. Different teams rise up each season in this salary-cap league. It was Carolina in 2003 and Atlanta in 2002. I think it can be Seattle in 2004.

    • • •

    Q: Are the Raiders a better team with Norv Turner as their coach?

    GOSSELIN: Turner better fits the "vertical stretch" philosophy Al Davis preaches as owner of the Raiders. He wants to attack, and you do that with a downfield passing game. Davis probably had to clench his teeth watching the “dink-dink-dunk” West Coast passing schemes of Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan. West Coast offenses take what the defense gives them. Davis prefers to take what he wants to take.

    Turner's history in Dallas and Washington was to throw the ball downfield, and acquiring Kerry Collins gives him a quarterback capable of making those passes. At 38 (39 in December), Rich Gannon is strictly a short-game passer. Which was fine when the Raiders lined up aging Jerry Rice and Tim Brown on the flank. There was no downfield capability, so short, quick passes were the best way to attack. But the Raiders have some young speed, and Turner will use it. He'll find a way to get the football to Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel.

    Big plays make the game look easy. There will be more big plays in a Turner offense. I don't think the Raiders are at a point where they will contend for a playoff spot overnight, but I do think they will be more competitive and win more games than they did in 2003.

    • • •

    Q: As a lifetime Cowboy fan, I'm amazed Drew Pearson has never even made the 15 finalists for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His numbers in the regular season and postseason are better than Lynn Swann's, yet Swann is in, based largely on stellar Super Bowl performances. But he doesn't even have 6,000 receiving yards! If a player can get inducted based on memory (i.e. Joe Namath and Swann), there is no reason why Drew isn't in. Any longtime Cowboy fan knows the games he helped pull out. A couple of writers told me there was no evidence of any anti-Cowboy bias in Canton, Ohio. I don't agree.

    Nick Gilbert

    GOSSELIN: Comparative numbers are a bad argument. How do you think Art Monk feels? He caught 940 passes for 12,721 yards, won three Super Bowls and can't get in. If you base a case on stats, does Pearson (489 catches) belong in ahead of Monk? Irving Fryar, Henry Ellard and Andre Rison all caught at least 200 more passes than Pearson and are unlikely to get in. Rison won as many Super Bowls as Pearson.

    I agree with you that Pearson should have been a top 15 finalist at some point, so the full voting board could discuss his candidacy. But he's going to have a tough time getting in. The standard for receivers has changed. There will be receivers with 1,000 career catches in the future who might not get in. Swann was a bitter fight that dragged on for 14 years. Does he belong? In the end, the voting panel thought so.

    Every one of those voters has an opinion, just like you do. You may not agree with them, and they may not agree with you. Bob Hayes reached the final seven, and he still couldn't get in. I thought he deserved to be in, but the voting panel didn't agree. I thought that, of all the Cowboys who have been passed over, you could make the best cases for Hayes, Rayfield Wright, Cliff Harris and Chuck Howley.

    I expect Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith to be inducted in the near future. Charles Haley and Deion Sanders also should go, largely on their contributions as Cowboys. That's a minimum of five players off one team, and it will be hard to argue an anti-Cowboy bias at that point.

    • • •

    Q: I understand that every team would like a Sam Madison/Patrick Surtain combo, but that is very hard to find. So much is being made about how every other team in the NFC East (Philly and Washington especially) has made big improvements. But by starting Pete Hunter on the right, no team really scares me with their group of receivers.

    The Giants have Amani Toomer, but then they have Ike Hilliard and absolutely no depth behind James McKnight. Philly has Terrell Owens, but do Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell make you worry? The only team that can pose a problem is Washington with Laveranues Coles, Rod Gardner, and James Thrash. If Hunter can take the step Bill Parcells hopes he can, does any team outside of Minnesota and Cincinnati really scare you with their wide receivers vs. the Dallas cornerbacks?

    GOSSELIN: Yeah, Cleveland (Andre Davis, Quincy Morgan, Dennis Northcutt), Pittsburgh (Plaxico Burress, Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El), New Orleans (Joe Horn, Donte Stallworth, Devery Henderson) and Seattle (Koren Robinson, Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram) for starters. Even Detroit (Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, Tai Streets and Az Hakim) will be a handful.

    The question is can Hunter be competitive? He's only started two games. His development looms as one of the huge question marks this season. But it goes beyond Hunter. If he's your second corner, who's your third? Look at the teams I listed. All have competitive third receivers. How do you feel about an Antwaan Randle El-Bruce Thornton matchup in the slot? Or a Dennis Northcutt-Donald Mitchell matchup? If a defense has a weakness, the offense will find it.

    The NFC East only accounts for six of your 16 games. You're going to need 10 victories to make the playoffs, which means you're going to have to shut down some pretty good receivers at some point. There will be Sundays when the Dallas defensive coaches will be holding their collective breath.

    • • •

    Q: If 1,000 pounds of uncertainty are removed, what is your feel for the Cowboys?

    John R. Whatley

    GOSSELIN: If all the uncertainty were removed, the Cowboys would go unbeaten on the way to another Super Bowl championship. But the last time I felt that good about the Cowboys was 1993, when Dallas was the reigning Super Bowl champion and the words "salary cap" were just a negotiation chip. Jimmy Johnson was the coach, and the Cowboys had Hall of Famers at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. The Cowboys don't have a collection of Hall of Famers on this team, and Larry Allen is tarnishing his star with a premature demise of his career.

    The uncertainty remains at quarterback, running back, pass rush and in coverage. Add it up, and there's probably 600 pounds of uncertainty surrounding this team. The Eagles put some stance between themselves and the Cowboys with the off-season acquisitions of Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse, and the Redskins have closed the gap dramatically on the Cowboys with the hiring of Joe Gibbs and acquisition of Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis.

    • • •

    Q: Who do you like in the CFL this season?

    GOSSELIN: Edmonton is the defending champion, but quarterback Ricky Ray jumped to the New York Jets this season. The CFL is a passing league, so you always favor the teams with the best quarterbacks. I'll go with Hamilton and quarterback Danny McManus. He's taken his CFL team to six Grey Cups in his 14-year career. He leads the CFL with 1,001 passing yards through two games, and his Tiger-Cats are 2-0. British Columbia also should be in the hunt with Dave Dickenson at quarterback. He's another Grey Cup veteran.

    Printer Version
  2. TruBlueCowboy

    TruBlueCowboy New Member

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    Sounds like Gosselin thinks that Bills pick may not be as high as we hope. :(
  3. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    I will go to my grave crying anti-Cowboy bias even if Troy, Emmitt, Michael, Charles and Meion all get in because it will still exist. Give me a freekin' break!

    As for our defensive coaches holding their breath, we went 10-6 last year with an offense that was truly offensive and Mario Edwards as a starting CB. Give me a freekin' break part 2!!
  4. speedkilz88

    speedkilz88 Well-Known Member

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    He's fishing(for a response). Its a slow part of the offseason and he needed to get Cowboy's fans attention. Its an old but effective ploy.
  5. Dale

    Dale Forum Architect

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    I think the comment about teams knowing where to attack teams' weaknesses is over exxagerating things a tad.

    Like you said, teams knew they could pick on Edwards last season, if for no other reason than refs were prone to calling him for pass interference on a regular basis. Edwards wasn't a terrible player, but he was definitely beatable, yet we still posted the league's No. 1 pass defense.
  6. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    Since when is 4-12 considered a nice balance??? :rolleyes:
  7. Double Trouble

    Double Trouble Well-Known Member

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    It seems to me that when a veteran team goes bad (as Buffalo did last yr), they usually never get it back together with the same bunch of guys. As their drafting a QB, WR, and RB the last 2 yrs suggests, they're getting ready to do a wholesale rebuild, and they've got 3 (potential) cornerstone offensive players in place with Evans, McGahee and Losman.

    I would think that the Bills' season depends largely on Bledsoe. If he's finished and is now merely the QB that we saw last season, Buffalo will do well to match last season's win total and Losman will get an early NFL indoctrination. If he's still the guy from 2002 that threw for over 4,000 yds, Buffalo will probably contend for a wild card and maybe win 10 games.

    Their defense will be good, but will have a tough time putting up another season like they had last yr (so will the Dallas D....). Given they have to face the NFL's best team, a tough Dolphins team, and a vastly improved (I think) Jets team twice each, I don't see them getting past 10 wins, though under the right circumstances, I could see them slipping in the playoffs as a wildcard.
  8. jterrell

    jterrell Penguinite

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    \When the Bills try to pass they will get sacked, whent hey try to rush they will get stuffed in the backfield alas balance.

    Buffalo should be a little better on offense this year. The question is do they give back anything ont he defensive side. My gut says they do. Gregg Williams was a very good defensive coach and they lost a fairly nice CB.

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