|Wilson confident Bills on right track to building contender|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 December 2007 09:50|
That's the assessment of team owner Ralph Wilson now that the Bills (7-7), with two games left, have been eliminated from playoff contention for an eighth straight season.
Wilson can overlook the disappointment of his team enduring what's now become the longest postseason drought in franchise history.
Instead, he's impressed with how a young Bills team persevered under second-year coach Dick Jauron through an injury-riddled season, overcoming a 1-4 start to stay in the playoff hunt before being knocked out with an 8-0 loss at Cleveland last weekend.
``I'm very, very impressed with Dick Jauron,'' Wilson said in a phone interview with The Associated Press late Wednesday. ``And I've never seen a team with so many injuries - we signed guys off the street who were playing the next weekend - compete the way they have. It's amazing.''
The Bills, who have already matched last year's win total, have been resilient. They opened the year losing five players - including two defensive starters - to season-ending injuries. And they prepare for their home finale against the New York Giants on Sunday with 15 players on injured reserve.
Wilson is looking forward to what the Bills will be capable of doing next season with a healthy roster that should be further bolstered in the draft.
``With a full complement of players ... I think the team has a good future,'' he said.
The future might still include Losman, the fourth-year player who lost his starting job to rookie quarterback Trent Edwards this season. Losman has one year left on his contract, and there have been questions of whether the Bills will try to trade him this offseason now that they're moving forward with Edwards.
Not so fast, said Wilson, noting the number of starters who have been injured this season, including in Carolina, where the Panthers were forced to start aging veteran Vinny Testaverde. The Bills were even forced to go back to Losman, who secured three wins in five appearances midway through the season after Edwards sprained his throwing hand.
``A team needs two quarterbacks the way they're getting injured,'' Wilson said. ``We'll have to think long and hard on that one.''
If Losman returns, he'll remain the backup, because Wilson said Jauron is ``very, very high'' on Edwards, the third-round draft pick who has contributed to four victories in eight appearances this season.
The Bills' future also looks bright because they have the core of their team signed through next season. Buffalo has previously been hampered by free-agent losses. Last offseason, the team was unable to re-sign cornerback Nate Clements, who bolted to San Francisco, and linebacker London Fletcher (Washington).
Wilson said the Bills will be ``very selective'' in free agency this offseason, extending a trend that began two years ago when Marv Levy took over as general manager.
In that time, Buffalo has concentrated on signing mostly mid-range free agents, with the exception of last March, when left guard Derrick Dockery and right tackle Langston Walker were signed to contracts worth a combined $75 million.
Wilson isn't a big believer in free agency, noting that most of this year's group of Pro Bowl selections were players developed by their respective teams. It's a group that includes Buffalo's lone Pro Bowl player, tackle Jason Peters, signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2004.
``You build a team from the draft,'' Wilson said. ``It takes a little longer that way, but you have, for example, one team that has signed a lot of players but has never been a Super Bowl team.''
Wilson was referring to the Redskins (7-7), who have one of the NFL's highest priced rosters but currently sit on the fringe of the NFC playoff picture.