Buffalo Bills Season Review/Off Season Preview
Year one of Rex Ryan saw the Bills lose one more game than the year before, and the team somewhat took on his personality. Ryan is a great motivator, and the Bills were better as an underdog and were 5-3 after losses, therefore going 2-5 after a win. They basically zig zagged through the season, and health was an issue, but the Bills will need to take on an identity in 2016. The ended on a high note beating the New York Jets to complete a season sweep and to knock them out of the playoffs. Their worst loss was probably during their trip to London where EJ Manuel threw two interceptions and the Bills gave up 27 unanswered in the second quarter during the loss.
A lot of it was hit above, but Ryan needs to give him team an identity. They have talent but it all seems to only click sporadically. It also should be noted that the defense fell from 2nd to 24th in DVOA, while the offense went from 26th to 9th. For a defensive guru, the hiring of Greg Roman, and the signing of Tyrod Taylor may have saved this team from embarrassment. To be fair, the roster is going through a scheme change, which creates roster turnover and time, but you would expect on scheme alone a defense with this much talent the defense would have been above average.
Tyrod Taylor, when healthy was very efficient. He was accurate, he was able to run for over 500 yards and with only six interceptions in 14 starts that can win you a lot of games. Taylor is due to become a free agent, but at this point the Bills have to invest here. It was only 14 games but I saw enough that you don’t have to make him one of the higher paid quarterbacks, but with the right pieces he can win at the highest levels. As for EJ Manuel, he may not even be a viable backup at this point.
Running back Play
It is tough to get too far into the backs with Lesean McCoy currently dealing with some off field issues that may affect his team status. If he is back the Bills will be loaded at running back. McCoy didn’t have a great year from a numbers standpoint, but he averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and rookies Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee were able to install themselves as backs deserving carries in the Bills offense. If the Bills are forced to move on from McCoy it makes the blow much easier, but it would be nice to get these three all healthy and rotating in to wear teams down.
Wide Receiver Play
Sammy Watkins being able to put up over 1,000 yards on 60 catches is impressive, but the thought would be that he is about to dominate the league given how they drafted him. The offense is mainly to blame and really doesn’t feature feeding one particular receiver. It is also a run first offense and usually a quicker strike oe. It leaves the shot plays for Watkins and makes it easier for him to be open on them, but it doesn’t make him the center of the offense by any stretch. Robert Woods is a good example of a guy who fits the system. His numbers will never wow you but he is always involved and always getting first downs. Marquise Goodwin is used in the slot, and is another deep threat, and it leaves the Bills in fine shape at wide receiver, just a hope to get Watkins involved as a key to the gameplan. At tight end the Bills are also fine and should be happy with the play of Charles Clay heading into his second year with the team.
The Bills currently have nothing invested in their offensive line. They spent a lot of time debating on what position Cordy Glenn was and before you knew it he is a free agent and they have to be unsure if they will sign him. If they do he will slot in to left tackle beside another free agent Richie Incognito. Not many will want to sign Incognitos off field issues, so it would make sense to see him back in Buffalo. Cyrus Kouandjio entered the starting lineup in his second year and wasn’t bad, but the Bills probably don’t see him shifting to left tackle, and are just going to hope he is an average to above average right tackle. Eric Wood is a fine veteran at center, but the team should be searching for long term upgrades at virtually every position on the line.
On the defensive line Rex Ryan needs to figure out what he wants to do. Mario Williams came out as frustrated, confused and saying before the Bills did that he will not be back next year. Ryan typically ran a 3-4 base and Williams doesn’t fit that scheme at all. Marcell Dareus does, well I should rephrase and just say Dareus is a beast and will fit any scheme. Still, he was drafted for the 4-3 and hasn’t had much experience in the five technique. Kyle Williams can fill in as a nose because he is already losing mobility, but in the shift in scheme the Bills need to figure out personnel to match.
Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson essentially are the pass rushers who can be considered backers or lineman. Both fit that mold, and both are fine pass rushers, Hughes leading the team with 5 sacks. Lawson however, does not fit a role where he should be playing full time and the need for rotational rushers will have to come into play at some point this offseason. On the inside the Bills will need to resign Nigel Bradham, but that shouldn’t be a problem. With the return of Bradham the Bills will have him PReston Brown, and AJ Tarpley to rotate in, and it leaves them set in really any scheme.
The Bills enter the offseason needing to decide what to do with Stephon Gilmore. Him and Ronald Darby were two of the better performers on the defense, and both of them shared duties on top wide outs. Gilmore is due a contract in one year and it would be in the Bills best interest to address that this year and have the combo tied down for the next three years. Leodis McKelvin also enters this year with one left on his deal, but the hope is that going into a contract year only motivates him to bring consistent play for the first time in his career. At safety Aaron Williams and Corey Graham arent flashy, but you dont need to replace them ad with another year iin the scheme the secondary should be improved from this year on in house play.
Where do they go?
They need to fix the front seven. Figure out where Dareus is most effective and build around that. There is never a time where a team is set on pass rushers, and adding another name would be smart for Buffalo, particularly a versatile one. Extending Taylor and Gilmore as well as addressing the line. The roster has talent, and this will be big offseason for Ryan because improvement has to be expected.