Welcome to another installment of Enemy on the Ship, a series of articles where I am graciously given the time and effort of a writer or blogger for the teams the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face in 2013, and they share their thoughts on the team they cover, and how they’ll do against the Bucs in 2013.
It’s time to take a look at the Buffalo Bills, so we turn to Rob Quinn, who is a staff writer for Buffalo Rumblings, a Bills website on the SBNation network. You can find him on Twitter here. So let’s see what he has to say about the Bills, and how they’ll fare against the Buccaneers.
Leo Howell – The Bills were a team that had some appeal and upside before last season, but they turned out to be a disappointment. What has changed this offseason in Buffalo, and how will the team be better or worse than in 2012?
Rob Quinn – On paper, the Bills looked like they could be ready to de-throne the New England Patriots, as they appeared to build a team similar to that of the New York Giants, who had defeated them in the Super Bowl. They added a premier pass rusher in Mario Williams while also signing veteran pass rusher Mark Anderson. On the back-end, they had rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd, who is one of the best safeties in the league.
However, former defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt operated one of the most vanilla defenses I have personally seen in my life. By midseason, fans could count on one of about three or four plays to be ran. This year, the team hired Mike Pettine, a Rex Ryan decisple who has been preaching the words “aggressive,” “multiple” and “versatile.”
Much has changed in Buffalo this offseason, not only on the field, but in the front office.
On the offensive side of the ball there will be new starters at quarterback (whether that be E.J. Manuel or Kevin Kolb), No. 2 wide receiver (Robert Woods, Da’Rick Rogers), and left guard, following the departure of Andy Levitre.
On defense, the team is moving towards a “hybrid” 3-4 front, and there will be 4 new starters in Alan Branch, Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham and Aaron Williams (who moved from cornerback to safety).
If the team plays up to their potential, they could be a threat for a wild card position, but after all the turnover on both sides of the ball, it’s hard for me to predict over seven wins for the Bills this season.
LH – CJ Spiller is obviously a dynamic athlete and has game-breaking ability. How will he be used in 2013, and do you think he has what it takes to break down the Buccaneers’ excellent run defense?
RQ – Fans in Buffalo believed that C.J. Spiller receiving just 247 total touches was a crime, and head coach Doug Marrone has stated on numerous occasions that Spiller was ready to get the rock a lot more in 2013. Spiller is misconstrued by many as a “small and speedy” back, but he’s actually put on quite a bit of muscle since entering the league.
Spiller is simply a player that opposing defenses have to keep an eye on, but as an outside runner, he’s struggled against teams with athletic defensive ends and linebackers, which the Buccaneers have in Lavonte David and Da’Quan Bowers. If linebackers/defensive ends can set the edge and force Spiller inside, keeping him out of space, the defensive will win
LH – Which quarterback will be under center for the Bills when they face-off against the Buccaneers? Which of the two obvious choices do you prefer, and which do you think the team will go with this season?
RQ – As the Bills are playing the Buccaneers in Week 14, I’m fairly certain E.J. Manuel will be under center for the game. While the competition is wide open, without “coach speak” I think Kevin Kolb will be the starter going into preseason, but Manuel will be starting by Week 6 at the latest.
LH – Mario Williams is the star on defense, but tell us a bit about the unit as a whole. How will they match up with the Buccaneers’ balanced offense?
RQ – Mario Williams may be the big name on defense, and this scheme could be huge for him, but the real stars on the defense are the unheralded defensive tackle Kyle Williams, safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Stopping the run has been an issue for the Bills for years, and the physical running style of Doug Martin will put the new-look defense to the test. In the passing game, Stephon Gilmore grew as a player each week last year, and if that carries into the 2013 season, the Vincent Jackson-Gilmore matchup will make the game.
Mike Williams is in a contract year and is one of the most underrated No. 2 wideouts in the league and should be able to have a nice performance against Leodis McKelvin.
The Buccaneers lack a vertical threat at the tight end position, which would really display the weakness of the Bills’ defense, as they don’t have the personnel that can stop that position.
LH – Finally, how do you think the Bills will fare against the Buccaneers when they meet in 2013?
RQ – To me, the game could go either way. If the Bills adapt quickly to the new schemes on offense and defense, they could be a sleeper in the AFC East, but like many Bills fans who have dealt with too many scheme changes over the years, I’m skeptical. I’m predicting a Tampa victory in week 14.