Dick Jauron took the shortcut through the Buffalo Bills media room when he happened upon a couple of reporters completing their day’s work.

Clapping his hands, the Bills coach smiled and said, “Writing positive stories, I hope.”

If only. It was the first day of the team’s mandatory minicamp this week, and Jauron had to be aware that the story was a negative one involving veteran defensive tackle Darwin Walker’s holdout over a contract dispute.

And yet, Jauron’s upbeat nature was telling.

Entering his second season with Buffalo, the coach remains a constant and unflappable counterpoint to the many questions hanging over a franchise that’s enjoyed only one winning season since 1999, and not reached the playoffs since — the seven-year drought matching a team low.

Jauron’s mood was no different a few days later when the team completed its final practice before taking a six-week break leading up to the start of training camp.

Shrugging aside questions about Walker, who has yet to report, Jauron touted how much bigger and faster his team is and chose to overlook the Bills’ holes, particularly on a young and patchwork defense that must make up for the offseason loss of three starters — linebackers Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher, and cornerback Nate Clements.

“Well, I guess, first of all, I would say I’m a very optimistic man in general,” Jauron said. “And the other part of it is, I don’t tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the guys we lost.”

“But they’re gone and we’ve moved on,” he added. “The guys that replaced them have to step up and perform, and I believe they will.”

That remains to be seen for a team that by many projections will have trouble matching last year’s 7-9 finish. Things have become so bad that the Bills are in jeopardy of being relegated to secondary status in a community that’s embraced its NHL Sabres, who reached the conference finals for a second straight season.

That’s a far cry from the Bills glory days, when the Jim Kelly-led team reached — and lost — four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s.

It doesn’t help that the Bills haven’t had stability in the coaching ranks. Jauron is the fourth coach the team has had since Hall-of-Famer Marv Levy retired after the 1997 season. Levy’s back, this time as general manager, although Jim Overdorf, the Bills vice president of football administration, is the one negotiating contracts and involved in other personnel decisions.

And the team’s cost-conscious philosophy has also proved troublesome, leading to annual offseason purges of talented veterans, with Spikes, Fletcher and Clements the latest to go.

Last year, the Bills lost receiver Eric Moulds, safety Lawyer Milloy and defensive tackle Sam Adams. The year before that, Buffalo was unable to retain left tackle Jonas Jennings and defensive tackle Pat Williams.

Bills players remain upbeat despite the latest series of changes.

Defensive end Aaron Schobel isn’t worried about a unit that struggled last year, finishing 18th in yards allowed.

He noted that Spikes is replaceable after being limited by injuries the last two seasons. And Schobel’s confident that either second-year linebacker John DiGiorgio or rookie second-round draft pick Paul Posluszny can step in to replace Fletcher in the middle.

“Maybe we’ll be better off. Who knows, time will tell,” Schobel said. “I think we’ll be fine.”

Quarterback J.P. Losman is confident the offense will improve after finishing 30th in yards gained last year. Besides being more comfortable in its second year under coordinator Steve Fairchild’s system, the Bills bolstered their line by adding guard Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker in free agency.

Then there’s the arrival of rookie first-round pick Marshawn Lynch, the running back drafted to replace Willis McGahee, who was traded to Baltimore in March. Lynch has the potential to be a better fit in Fairchild’s multi-threat scheme because of his added versatility as a receiver, something McGahee struggled with.

“We feel we are creating that identity of who we are,” Losman said. “No matter what defenses throw at us, we know that this is what we’re going to do, and it’s going to work. So right now, we are building that confidence.”

It’s a confidence that reflects the team’s coach.

Jauron, however, is not unrealistic.

“We like what we see. But I’m pretty certain you can go to 32 teams, and you’re going to get the same thing,” Jauron said. “But I believe we are significantly better.”

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