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Peter King: Shawne Merriman Is Back, Buffalo Bills Are 'Not A 4-12 Team'

The off-season hasn't exactly gone as many expected for the Buffalo Bills. However, that hasn't stopped Peter King from noticing that the tides may be turning for a franchise nonetheless -- a strange feeling to hear about positive momentum coming from a team that has been in the AFC East basement for the last several years.

Last season did feel like a turning point, as Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense kept the team close late in several games that could have went either way (the Chiefs being one of those nail-biters). Stevie Johnson gave Fitzpatrick a great receiving target, and Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish are also present. Fred Jackson nearly ran for 1,000 yards and the presence of C.J. Spiller should be felt at some point -- there's simply too much talent there to not make a difference.

But it was the defense that hurt the bills so often, which is why Buddy Nix went all out on defense in the draft. He grabbed Marcell Dareus with the third overall selection and also hit up Aaron Williams and Kelvin Sheppard to give the team players on all three levels on defense who can come in and start. It was the beginning of a shake-up that also saw the imports of Nick Barnett and Drayton Florence and the loss of last year's top two tacklers, Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner.

Yet King still believes that despite some early injuries in camp (mild) and the lack of major free agent additions, the Bills will be better than last season. He also notes via Twitter than Shawne Merriman says he's back, which if he can ever get back to his prime form with the Chargers, that would become the major defensive addition the Bills could use in the pass rush. Certainly the Bills would become an underdog everyone would root for in a division that's so loaded by polarizing teams like the Patriots and Jets. Whether or not the Bills can join those ranks and challenge for a playoff spot is still to be tested. King, at least, seems to think they'll be better than last year.