Buffalo Bills fans – Now that the initial letdown has subsided after learning about Kiko Alonso’s knee injury, I encourage you to press forward.
Heartbreaking stories, events, and losses are nothing new for Bills fans. In light of the most recent heartbreak, I am willing to offer my personal (some may call it delusional) perspective of the big picture. The reality of the situation is that we have weathered much worse as a collective fan-base. There was, and still should be, a quiet buzz around the upcoming 2014 season for the Buffalo Bills. Alonso’s replacement will most assuredly come in-house from someone already on the roster. Based on the talk coming out of One Bills Drive, GM Doug Whaley has expressed confidence in the current depth at the linebacker position. Although it will be difficult to think about “what could have been” with a fully healthy linebacking corps, a quick assessment of the aforementioned depth does provide a glimmer of hope that losing Alonso won’t be completely debilitating to the defense. Rather than rehashing what many others have already predicted regarding Kiko’s replacement, I’d rather look at the one area of the team that could and should truly determine the fate of Buffalo’s 2014 season.
Alonso’s injury aside, the level of success this team experiences this year will fall largely on the shoulders of quarterback E.J. Manuel and the Bills’ offense. In no way am I trying to say that losing Alonso for the year is not a big hit to the team, but from my point of view, the primary focus of the coaching staff for training camp should be preparing Manuel and the offense for week 1 of the regular season. Bills fans should be focused on the chemistry that Manuel and rookie WR Sammy Watkins develop during camp, as well as how newcomer Mike Williams will mesh with the rest of the receiving corps returning from last year. In my view, the offensive weaponry at the receiver position has been provided by the front office. It is now up to the coaching staff to develop and put Manuel in the best position to succeed with the talent that surrounds him. A healthy C.J. Spiller, the addition of Bryce Brown, and the veteran savvy and leadership from a player like Fred Jackson should provide the Bills more than enough balance from game to game to take some of the pressure off Manuel. Even without a fully healthy running back group in 2013, it is worth noting again that the Bills were 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and 1st in the entire league in rushing attempts. Even with Watkins and Mike Williams in the fold, you can bet that Doug Marrone’s offensive philosophy will start with the run game.
Once the news about Kiko surfaced it was hard not to immediately reel off statements about how the Bills are a cursed team, or how the Bills are always ravaged by more injuries than other teams, and I am not trying to dismiss or downplay the hurt I felt when I woke up on Tuesday morning and read the news about Kiko – it was gut wrenching. As disappointing as this news was, as a fan base we should not write off the season just yet. Kiko’s replacement will at least have all of training camp to get first team snaps, right? Small solace I know, but solace nonetheless. You may recall the article I wrote near the end of May where I asked “What Type of Fan are You?” In this case, as hard as it may be, I am doing what I can to be the optimist.