ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The question marks might be many, yet Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey's expectations have not wavered regarding when his offense will be fully functional.
"Yeah, there's a timetable: Game 1," Gailey said Wednesday. "That's always been my expectation. When they turn on the clock and start keeping score for real, you better be ready."
It's regarded as an ambitious timetable even for an offensive specialist such as Gailey, given the work-in-progress state of the Bills as they opened a three-day mandatory minicamp, marking the last chance to work out their kinks before training camp opens in Rochester on July 29.
The offense, specifically, features numerous uncertainties.
Gailey has yet to name a starting quarterback in a three-way competition between Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who split the starting duties last season, and third-stringer Brian Brohm.
The offensive line is unsettled due to injury. Right guard Eric Wood (broken left leg) only resumed practice this week while left tackle Demetrius Bell (knee) is out until at least the start of training camp.
And keep in mind that Gailey, upon being hired in January, inherited a popgun attack that has ranked 25th or worse in the NFL in net yards in each of the past seven seasons.
Gailey remains undeterred.
"We have confidence that our system will put guys in position to make plays," he said.
With 35 years of coaching experience, including 15 at the NFL level, Gailey is noted for establishing solid running attacks.
Gailey was the Steelers' offensive coordinator in 1996 and '97, when running back Jerome Bettis enjoyed his two most productive seasons. Gailey served the same role in Miami in 2000, when the Dolphins averaged 118.4 yards rushing, the most by the team since 1984.
Given that success, it's no surprise that the Bills focused on their running attack in the draft by selecting Clemson's C.J. Spiller with the No. 9 pick. Spiller joins a backfield that already includes Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, who split the starting duties last season.
Lynch might be unhappy still playing in Buffalo, but he's at least excited about Gailey's emphasis on running the ball.
"Well, I'm a running back. We think run first," Lynch said. "If that's the kind of guy he is, I'm all about that."
Gailey's also had success in tutoring quarterbacks. He's worked with some of the NFL's best: John Elway in Denver and Troy Aikman in Dallas. And he's also gotten the most out of Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh and Jay Fiedler in Miami.
Bills receiver Lee Evans has confidence in what he's seen of the offense, and believes Gailey can provide a spark to what's been a sputtering attack. He described Gailey's approach as relatively simple, but made to appear complex to defenses because of various formations and based on what players are on the field.
"It's simple plays disguised up," Evans said. "You know what they are, you know them like the back of your hand, and you execute them."
The question remains whether the Bills have enough time to become comfortable with Gailey's scheme and be able to execute it.
That was evident during the first of two practices on Wednesday.
Edwards had difficulty finding a rhythm with his receivers. He overthrew Evans on a deep pass, and had a pass nearly intercepted by safety George Wilson because of a miscommunication with receiver Felton Huggins on a crossing route.
Coordinator Curtis Modkins had the offensive players huddle around him after a mistake-filled red-zone drill.
"He just talked about execution," Gailey said of Modkins' message. "We hadn't done a good job of that up until that point. And it got a little better in that last period."
On the bright side, the Bills closed the afternoon session with Fitzpatrick threading a perfect pass to Chad Jackson in the end zone to finish a 2-minute drill.
Gailey is maintaining his patience.
"There are days I see it looking better than others," he said. "We're not there yet."
Notes: DE Aaron Schobel, who is leaning toward retirement, was the only player not excused from attending the mandatory session. GM Buddy Nix declined to say whether the team will fine Schobel for not being present. ... QB Edwards got a majority of practice time with the first-string offense on Wednesday, followed by Fitzpatrick. ... LB Keith Ellison was not present because Gailey said he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed injury.