Work in progress

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

J.P. Losman would like to think he is everything to the sports fans of Buffalo that Willis McGahee was not.

The fourth-year quarterback lives in the city and embraces it rather than counting the minutes until he can get out.

"I live downtown, I allow myself to be open to public criticism," Losman said recently. "It's nothing but positive.

"People are excited, they know we are dangerous. They love the long ball and know we are going to sharpen up."

That's all well and good for Losman and no doubt appreciated by hyper-sensitive Buffalonians.

But as any player who has walked on to the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium as a member of the home team knows, the best way to secure their endearment is to deliver on Sundays.

The Bills are very much a work in progress as they prepare to kick off their season Sunday at home against the Denver Broncos. A rebuilding team thick with young talent on both sides of the ball, there still will be growing pains to endure.

McGahee was let go with little resistance after last season, once in which he was sharply critical of Buffalo the city. The insubordination wasn't appreciated by fans who will have more reason than usual to hate the Baltimore Ravens when they come to the Ralph on Oct. 21 with McGahee anchoring the backfield.

To make up for the loss, the Bills drafted Cal running back Marshawn Lynch in the first round, a prospect 81-year-old general manager Marv Levy has likened to Buffalo great and recent hall of fame inductee, Thurman Thomas.

If you think that is some hefty pressure, welcome to Losman's world.

The Californian, who the Bills selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, is looking to appease a football audience desperate for a quarterback to take the team by the shoulder pads and shake it.

Doug Flutie and Drew Bledsoe gave it a shot, but the last guy to truly do so and be recognized for it was Jim Kelly.

Trouble is, the Hall of Famer, who was recognized for his leadership as much as his arm, is more than a decade removed from active duty.

"This is (Losman's) year to show whether he is going to be the quarterback of the future or a guy that's just looking to be here and move on to another team," Kelly told the Associated Press. "I hope he does well. He's a good kid."

Even if the strong-armed Losman continues to evolve into a bona fide NFL starter, the Bills likely are to be a work in progress this season.

Ideally, they will continue to build on the latter portions of 2006, which included a 5-2 run on the way to a 7-9 finish.

Losman has his share of weapons with Lynch, receivers Lee Evans, Peerless Price and Roscoe Evans and a rebuilt line in front of him, so the offence could be fine.

On defence though, the losses of linebackers London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes plus ace cornerback Nate Clements are a big concern as a young, undersized unit could pose some problems early.

So, too, might a particularly nasty schedule, one rated as the toughest in the league based on the winning percentage their opponents had last season.

Before the snow flies, the Bills will have games against Denver, Pittsburgh, New England, the Jets, Dallas and Baltimore. All six of those are considered reasonable contenders to have big seasons.

After a meeting against another of those -- the Bengals in Week 9 -- the Bills get their first shot at a team with a losing record in '06 and that's on the road against divisional rival Miami.

If Losman still loves Buffalo by then, he may be there to stay.


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