Buffalo Bills fans will witness a markedly different roster take the field when the team opens its season Sunday in Orchard Park. Gone are defensive stalwarts Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher-Baker, and Nate Clements. Gone, too, is star running back Willis McGahee, whose attitude and decreased production made him expendable. In their place: a stable of young, largely unproven players who will be expected to inject the team with energy while maintaining the production of their predecessors.
Among those facing the greatest pressure will be rookie linebacker Paul Posluszny, who will be asked to step into the demanding and unforgiving middle linebacker spot. Second-year safeties Donte Witner and Ko Simpson will also be playing in the midst of high expectations after both high draft picks received extensive playing time as rookies last season.
Offensively, Buffalo has the ingredients of a potentially explosive attack. Training camp reviews on quarterback J.P. Losman indicate he may have finally progressed to the level that the Bills have been hoping for from the former first round pick. He'll find another first-rounder behind him in the form of the electrifying Marshawn Lynch, this year's 12th overall draft pick.
Much of Lynch's success will be reliant on the play of the Bills' revamped offensive line. After years of conservative adjustments to an annually porous unit, Buffalo opened their checkbook in the offseason and made key additions in Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker.
Buffalo will need its new parts to mesh cohesively and perform well from day one. The Bills this season face the toughest schedule in the NFL, with their opponents' 2006 winning percentage at a league-high .539.