It’s easy to sympathize with long-suffering fans of the Buffalo Bills who will once again be starting over under a new head coach.
Colorful but controversial Rex Ryan was kicked to the curb after a dumpster fire of a season, the low point of which was an incredible 34-31 overtime home loss to the Miami Dolphins who ran roughshod over Ryan’s defense.
The Bills had seemingly pulled off a great comeback to keep their slim playoff hopes alive but then an epic display of incompetence allowed Miami to tie the game and later win it. Already a dead man walking, sexy Rexy was unemployed soon after the final gun sounded.
The loss locked in the 17th straight season of missing the postseason, the NFL’s longest current drought.
This year it will be Sean McDermott who will be tasked with getting the Bills back on track and it’s probably a good idea if he rents instead of buying.
The deck is already stacked against Buffalo by virtue of being stuck in the AFC East which is absolutely ruled by the New England Patriots and will be that way until Tom Brady and Bill Belichick both retire.
The quarterback situation is an ongoing problem in Buffalo and has been since the days of Jim Kelly. It is likely that Tyrod Taylor will be the starter again this year despite his maddening inconsistency.
The Bills did draft Pitt gunslinger Nathan Peterman in April and he is probably the better long term option of the two. The other quarterbacks on the roster are T.J. Yates and Cardale Jones so if Buffalo is going to make a playoff push it will have to be driven by some other position.
Fortunately for the team, they have one of the NFL’s best running backs in LeSean McCoy.
McCoy battled injuries all year long but still managed to rack up 1,267 rushing yards and 50 pass receptions. He is the sole reason why Buffalo was able to finish 7-9 and he will be leaned on heavy this year. Whether the 29-yer-old McCoy is able to withstand the pounding is the key to the Bills success.
Catching the ball whenever Taylor is able to get it to them will be speedy Sammy Watkins who hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to live up to the potential that the team had when they drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2014.
That was a particularly costly pick because the Bills had to give up two first rounders to move up into position to snag him. It’s reasonably safe to say that the move hasn’t panned out – at least yet.
Joining Watkins in the receiving corps will be veteran WR Robert Woods, rookie Zay Jones and tight end Charles Clay.
For an alleged defensive genius, Rex Ryan’s unit didn’t show it – outside of a 16-0 road win against the New England Patriots who were missing Tom Brady – the defense was often porous.
This was especially the case against the run where the Bills ranked a ghastly 29th in the NFL. Giving up two 200 + yard games to Miami’s Jay Ajayi didn’t help that ranking.
Former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier is in at defensive coordinator and will be going with a 4-3 scheme this year. The strength of the defense is in the line with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams clogging the middle
Lorenzo Alexander leads the linebacking corps but Buffalo lost linebacker Zach Brown in free agency.
The secondary took a big hit when top cornerback Stephon Gilmore jumped ship to the division rival Patriots and are hoping that first rounder Tre’Davious White can be an impact player.
Otherwise, the pass defense is going to be a problem this year with quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, Phillip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Tom Brady (twice) on the schedule.
So, what does it all mean?
When your top offseason acquisition is a kicker – Steven Hauschka from Seattle – it doesn’t bode well.
Look for the Bills to extend their playoff drought to 18 seasons.