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Gailey bullish on Fitzpatrick for 2011 ; Defense to use multiple fronts

Here's a stock report from the news conference held by Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey on Monday:

Buy on Ryan Fitzpatrick and a "multiple-front" defense.

Sell on Aaron Maybin and Donte Whitner.

Gailey gave first-blush, season-ending impressions on his 4-12 football team, and his comments were candid by NFL standards and a heck of a lot more straightforward than anything his predecessor, Dick Jauron, ever said under similar circumstances.

Gailey gave about as strong an endorsement as one could expect on Fitzpatrick, who threw 23 touchdown passes in 13 games. How committed is the coach to Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback in 2011?

"Very committed," Gailey said. "He's done a lot of good things. He can improve. But we've got to stop the turnovers. But if we can do that, I think we give ourselves a chance to be a successful offense."

Gailey said he is eager to see Fitzpatrick return in 2011 with a healthy offensive cast that is familiar with the scheme.

"To be honest with you I'm looking forward to it very much so," Gailey said. "And I think our offensive line is going to be a lot better next year. I think we're going to be able to do better things with C.J. Spiller next year. He [Fitzpatrick] allowed other guys to flourish, and that's what he does. He puts the ball where it needs to be for people to make plays, and that's the one thing you like about the guy. He gives your team an opportunity to win."

Gailey said he sees the defense continuing to play a multiple-front scheme and not moving farther in the direction of a playing an exclusive 3-4 front, with two stand-up outside linebackers. Said Gailey: "There are a lot of [teams] called 3-4 that play multiple fronts. I think we'll probably end up being a true multiple-front team rather than a true 3-4 team just because our personnel dictates that. I think we're probably a little bit better suited. I've not talked to the defensive staff about this, but just looking at it on the surface right now, I'd probably say we're going to be multiple front rather than Kansas City sit in 3-4 no matter what, Cleveland sit in 3-4 no matter what. I don't see us being that team. I see us being more of a multiple team. I do know we have to get better against the run and whatever that personnel is, that's the personnel that will be on the field."

Gailey said the scheme won't preclude the Bills from drafting a great player at No. 3 overall just because he may not fit a scheme. Would there be a great player you decide wouldn't fit? "There won't be one of those," Gailey said. No specific player was mentioned, but a relevant example would be Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a 315-pounder who probably fits a 4-3 front better than the 3-4.

On other issues:

*Gailey agreed linebacker Aaron Maybin's hold on his position on the team is tenuous. Maybin, the team's first pick of the 2009 draft, has no sacks in two seasons. Maybin played just 28 snaps over the last 13 games.

Gailey: "Right now he's on the outside looking in. That's where he is. If he improves, he'll improve his status. But if he doesn't improve his status he won't find playing time on this football team."

*On safety Donte Whitner, set to become a free agent: "Tenuous would be another word you could use there. He's a really good player, you'd love to have him on your football team but we're in a business where that doesn't happen every time."

*On the offensive tackles: "I thought Demetrius [Bell] had an OK year. I didn't think he had a great year. And I know the injury, he couldn't practice Wednesdays at all the whole year, and again I'm not trying to make excuses for anybody but I'm just stating facts, he didn't practice on Wednesdays. I think a year of strength and core development will help him tremendously. He missed all of that last year because of the shoulder, he got no upper-body work, he got no lower-body work and he gutted out the season. He and Eric [Wood] gutted out the season for us and you've got to like that about a guy that will do that. But I think his upside is tremendous. The right tackle, I'll be honest with you, I thought Erik Pears played as well as you could expect the last game and a half he played for us."

*On Wood, who started 12 games at guard and four at center for the injured Geoff Hangartner: "He played well at both. I think we've got to do what's best for our football team, and I don't know where that is today. So we have to make a decision but then you've got other good players at those positions, too, so that's going to be a tough call for us to be honest with you about who's going to play where. That's going to be a hard one. I'm not looking forward to that one."

*On the competitiveness of the team in the AFC East: "Probably from the outside, maybe from your perspective, you don't see the pieces as clearly or as maybe glass half-full as I do. The biggest hurdle for us is to get from not winning those close games to winning those close games. Then when you win those close games, you gain confidence to go play better in the big games. I believe our football team is a lot closer than maybe other people give us credit for to getting there."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com