On a bench inside the Buffalo Bills' indoor practice facility, Chan Gailey and I recently chatted about how much the organization has changed since he became head coach two years ago.
We touched on several elements of the transformation that has taken place for a story that will run in The Buffalo News next week, but where Gailey truly lit up was on the subject of roster depth.
"Not even close," Gailey said. "Buddy and I laugh from time to time. It's a good laugh.
"We were trying to find 53 players that we thought could help us win that first year. This year we may have to let some good football players go that we wouldn't even have thought about [releasing] two years ago."
That's the truth. A review of the final cuts before the 2010 season doesn't reveal any tough choices or hidden gems who managed to stick anywhere else in the NFL: Quarterback Levi Brown, running backs Joique Bell, Andre Anderson and Chad Simpson; offensive linemen Kirk Chambers, Nick Hennessey, Christian Gaddis, Andre Ramsey, Jason Watkins and Sean Allen; defensive end Rashaad Duncan; linebacker Donovan Woods.
Those were the final cuts. Other teams didn't rummage through the Bills' castoffs for keepers.
That seems like a long time ago.
Let's not pretend the Bills are stacked everywhere. They do have question marks at positions such as wide receiver and backup spots on boths sides of the ball. And a team never can have enough quality O-line depth.
But when the Bills have high draft picks and former starters such as C.J. Spiller, Vince Young, Shawne Merriman, Dwan Edwards and Leodis McKelvin taking backup reps, then the team should benefit.
Better competition will make training camp edgier. Serviceable players will get cut, illustrating the difference between 2010 and now.
"We had to get better players," Bills General Manager Buddy Nix told me, "but we had to keep the good ones we already had. For some reason, we play against good players that came through here all the time.
"We had to make a real effort to keep our own rather than make a splash in March or April. That sells tickets, but it doesn't win games for you most of the time."
A starter on the 2012 Bills -- theoretically, based on the depth -- shouldn't win his job because there was no other candidate. It won't be from happenstance or lack of depth. A starter will have earned it.
As I expressed this sentiment to Gailey, he nodded vigorously.
"No kidding," Gailey said. "The starters we will put on the field this year are all in that really good football category if not great."
(Photo: Associated Press)