As you may be aware, ESPN is moving away from their divisional blogger format and instead toward a team-by-team blog. James Walker, who has manned the AFC East blog since taking over for Tim Graham a few seasons ago, is now handling Dolphins talk exclusively. Enter Mike Rodak, who will now exclusively cover the Bills for ESPN.com going forward.
Since you’ll probably be seeing his face cross your Twitter timeline more and more as the days and weeks go on, I thought it might be a good idea to get to know Mike a little. He was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some of BillsMafia.com’s bloggers’ questions this weekend. (Note: Mike also did an interview for Bills Central Radio, the podcast I co-host, earlier this week.)
1. How did you end up covering the Bills? What are your early impressions of the team? (@wyobilzfan)
I covered the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com for the past three seasons and was offered this position recently. Obviously, it’s good to stay within the division and cover a team that I have some familiarity with. My early impressions of the team is that they are fast, young, but also inexperienced. I foresee this team having some growing pains, but there’s obvious talent at several positions.
2. Where do you think Pettine’s defense will end up ranking against the rest of the NFL? (@billsmafia_babe)
I think it will finish in the middle of the pack this season. I do think Pettine is a great defensive mind, but he still has to prove himself outside of Rex Ryan’s shadow, and with a much younger group than he had with the Jets.
3. What have you seen out of EJ Manuel so far that points at him becoming a franchise QB, or not? (@jeremynpike)
I do think Manuel has the makings of a franchise quarterback, in the little we’ve seen of him. From a makeup standpoint, he comes off as mature and level-headed, and on the field, he shows poise. If he can maintain those qualities even when things get tough, then he’ll be in good shape.
4. Which safeties have been performing the best in camp? (@RQUINN619)
Tough to pinpoint specific players not having been at practice in a little while, but I was impressed with Aaron Williams early in camp. Would like to see more of Meeks and Duke Williams.
5. Are the Bills in the national discussion yet as an up and coming team? (@jaymaj13)
I think Manuel puts them in that discussion. With Kolb at quarterback, there is less national interest. Either way, they’ll have to prove something in the regular season — like the Seahawks did last season — before any buzz starts to build.
6. The team just signed a ten-year lease with Erie County; however, (in your opinion) what steps are needed in order to ensure the Bills future in Buffalo? Whether that’s extending the Toronto season, a new stadium, or just fielding a winning team? (@jaytdehart)
I think the stadium is the biggest need. I know there is a certain homey, nostalgic quality to Ralph Wilson Stadium that locals like to talk about, but the reality is that outsiders consider it one of the worst venues in the league. Writers who travel to Buffalo are surprised to learn they have to walk through the concourse just to get to the locker rooms, which are easily the smallest and most cramped of any NFL stadium. On the business end, the Bills severely lack the luxury suites and amenities that modern NFL stadiums have. Obviously, Buffalo is a smaller city and it’s tough to compare it to New York, Boston, Dallas, etc. But for any writers who visit newer NFL stadiums, they will tell you that “The Ralph” makes the Bills look like a J.V. franchise.
7. You’ve covered the Patriots for the past three years. Are they trending downward, or are the reports of their impending demise greatly exaggerated? (@mrdeadlier)
I think the Patriots have shown an ability to morph each season. They deal with change well. This season, they’ll have a slew of new, younger faces on offense that could impact the results of some games. The biggest concern Patriots fans have is how the team is able to get over the hump in the playoffs. They have the longest championship drought of any team in Boston, with the Bruins (2011), Celtics (2008), Red Sox (2007) all having won titles since the Patriots last did in February 2005. More than anything, that’s what the Patriots need to overcome.
8. What are your expectations for the Bills in 2013? (@TheProfessorSD)
I think it’s important to temper any expectations for this team. It’s not because of history; what they’ve done recently — not having made the playoffs since 1999 — doesn’t really matter. Rather, it’s simply that it’s very tough to win in the NFL, and even though fans might get excited about players like C.J. Spiller or Stevie Johnson, the best teams are those who can build their rosters from 1 to 53. The Bills haven’t done that yet.