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Few reasons for optimism about the Bills

I have been covering the Bills in one form or another since they went into business 51 years ago and I have never witnessed their players and fans in such a worrisome state.

It wasn't the egg they laid in Denver versus the Broncos. It was the actions of management as this team is getting closer and closer to the start of the NFL season. The team needed something beyond new uniforms and some hopeful rookies and they haven't received it.

First there was the trade of veteran wide receiver Lee Evans to Baltimore. What team trades a proven player for a fourth-round draft choice? Yes Evans is 30 now and he had a so-so year in 2010 but beyond him there was very little proven talent among the receiving corps. Yes, Stevie Johnson had an outstanding year but now there is no one like Evans to take away a large piece of the quality coverage from opposing defenses. There is no assurance of another excellent season by Johnson, no assurance of 10 touchdown receptions or 1,000 receiving yards.

The young receivers beyond him are promising but unproven.

Then there was the insertion of running back C.J. Stiller into the starting lineup ahead of Fred Jackson in Denver. It may seem like a small thing to outsiders but the important thing to remember is that Jackson may not be an all-pro but he is 100 percent a football soldier. The Bills don't have a lot of soldiers. Management should have treated him like one. Jackson was upset and should have been. He fought his way up from the delicatessen leagues in pro football, he does the scruffy things that win football games, he moves the piles, struggles for the extra yard, and -- glory be! -- he protects his quarterback from pass-rushing assassins.

Spiller may do those things some day but not now.

There are too many shaky positions on the Bills, starting with their offensive line. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a pretty good quarterback, not an all-pro. Management hasn't reinforced protection for Fitz. To the contrary.

The faithful, those folks who back up their support of this team by buying tickets, expect a shot at .500 this season. So far it looks like they'll be lucky to finish 4-12 as they did a year ago. Mental state, some sort of confidence is an important part of NFL football.

In their 51 years so far, the Bills have had some glorious eras -- the AFL championships and the four Super Bowls most significantly. But they also have experienced a dozen seasons in which they won four games or less. So far it looks as if they will be lucky to finish 4-12 as they did last season. The signal for that downer of a prediction was the Evans trade, which looked suspiciously like a cost-cutting move, and the play of Spiller and of cornerback Leodis McKelvin, two recent first-round picks which have the aroma of garbage piles of the past.

There is one exhibition game left but it's the annual "don't-get-hurt-game." The smell of chaos is in the air, which so often leads to more coaching and GM changes, guilty or not. Who's at the bottom of this? My guess is a bean counter.

Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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