What to expect from Doug Marrone's Bills

July, 25, 2013
7/25/13
12:00
PM ET
A look at what to expect as the Buffalo Bills begin the Doug Marrone era:

[+] EnlargeDoug Marrone
Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsQuestions at quarterback could make for a rocky first season in Buffalo for Doug Marrone.
Biggest change to expect: The most significant changes Marrone brings from Syracuse in replacing the fired Chan Gailey are his schemes. Buffalo is a team in major transition in 2013. Marrone is installing a new defense, a new offense and will start a new quarterback. Marrone comes to Buffalo with an offensive pedigree. He runs an up-tempo, K-Gun style that puts a lot of pressure on the defense. However, with questions at quarterback surrounding Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel, it may not be in Marrone's best interest to speed the game up for four quarters. There will be times when Marrone must adjust and slow the game down in order to hand the ball to his best offensive player: tailback C.J. Spiller. Gailey made the mistake of ignoring Spiller in the past. Marrone would be wise not to make the same error. Defensively, Marrone handed the group over to former New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Buffalo will be very aggressive and blitz-heavy, which is needed after last year's meager performance under former defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

What success would look like: This is a grace-period year for Marrone. Expectations are low in Buffalo, and most view the Bills as a third-place team in the AFC East behind the New England Patriots and the up-and-coming Miami Dolphins. Buffalo had playoff aspirations last year after making big-money acquisitions such as Mario Williams. But that quickly blew up in the Bills’ face during a disappointing 6-10 season. Buffalo has the NFL's longest non-playoff streak and has not made the postseason since 1999. If Marrone could win seven or eight games in Year 1, that would be considered a success.

AFC East struggles: One of the biggest issues with Buffalo’s previous regime was the inability to win in the division. The Bills were 4-14 against AFC East competition in the past three seasons under Gailey. Marrone must change that trend for Buffalo to turn things around. Marrone and the Bills can make a statement right away with a home game in Week 1 against AFC East rival New England.

More or fewer wins? The Bills have good talent in certain areas. As long as the quarterback play isn't a complete abomination, Buffalo can win more than six games in 2013. As I mentioned earlier, the Bills on paper look like a seven- or eight-win team. But much of their success will come down to the consistency of Kolb or Manuel at quarterback. They must play well and manage the game on a weekly basis in order for the Bills to be consistent.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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