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[BN] Blitz newsletter: What are the realistic expectations at One Bills Drive?

The Buffalo Bills exceeded expectations in their first season under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane. Now that the playoff drought has ended, is postseason contention the new standard for the coming years? Bills beat reporter Jay Skurski answers this question from reader Rick McGurie in his latest mailbag column:

Beane is one of the most competitive guys I’ve been around, so a losing season would obviously not sit well with him or McDermott. That said, he has made comments about how he told Terry and Kim Pegula that it would be a two-year project just to fix the team’s miserable salary cap situation. That will be completed after this year.

Here are some of the reasons to be pessimistic about the Bills’ chances this year. They have one of the more unsettled quarterback positions in the NFL. The offensive line lost three opening-day starters from last year, and a team captain in center Eric Wood. The wide receiver talent appears to be lacking (more on that later). All of that adds up to a team with understandably low expectations.

Here’s the thing, though. Expectations were also low last year. If you want to take the glass-half-full approach, start here. The defense should be better in the second year of McDermott’s system, particularly with the additions of Star Lotulelei, Tremaine Edmunds and Vontae Davis. It’s not a total reach to think the offense can get the same or better quarterback play from whoever wins the job. LeSean McCoy is still LeSean McCoy. Perhaps a return to full health leads to a big season for Kelvin Benjamin, who’s playing for a new contract. The point is, preseason expectations sometimes don’t match up with performance.

As for the fan base, I see a group that’s fully on board the Beane-McDermott Express. One thing that last year’s playoff berth did was erase the stigma of “The Drought.” Without that looming over their heads, fans can buy into where the franchise is heading. Even if they don’t get there this year, if progress is shown – particularly with rookie quarterback Josh Allen – there should be reason for optimism.

Inside the Bills: Rookie running back Keith Ford carries the memory of three fallen teammates taken by gun violence on his arm. "They were very close to me. I played football with them, grew up with them. I have to remember them some type of way," Ford told Skurski about the meaning of his tattoos. "Those three bullets on my arm remind me that these were the guys who pushed me and guided me to get this far. They're up there and one day I'm going to see them again, but it's just a reminder, the people who stood by me, I'll always remember."

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Why Josh Allen didn't attend QB camps: In an interview with Sports Illustrated at last month’s NFLPA Rookie Premier in Los Angeles, Allen explained why he didn't have a personal quarterback's coach or participate in the growing camp circuit when he was younger: “I came from a small town. I didn’t really go the camps. I was too busy playing different sports. … Watching kids grow up and play different sports, allowing them to develop different parts of their athleticism, to me was a big part of my success in college. The pro of playing multiple sports is you’re competitive. That competitive edge kicks in, and if you’re just doing the circuit and you’re going to camps, it’s not the same. You’re not getting the same amount of competitive nature that you would playing other sports.”

WR spotlight: "About the only recent bit of good news to emerge from the Buffalo Bills' wide receiver position is that Kelvin Benjamin showed up for offseason workouts looking healthier and in better physical condition than he was last year," Vic Carucci writes. Here's a full training camp preview of the position.

Jim Kelly released from hospital: Kelly was discharged Friday from Mount Sinai West in New York a day after undergoing follow-up surgery. Five implants were inserted into the new bone in Kelly's upper jaw. Another surgery looms in September, when he will have permanent dentures inserted.

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Got feedback on this newsletter or our Bills coverage? Email Josh Barnett at jbarnett@buffnews.com. Find us on Facebook by clicking here and follow @BNBlitzNow on Twitter.

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