Anytime Rex Ryan enters a room ears and eyes open wide. You just never know what Rex Ryan will say, in terms of football, life, comedy – anything. But for that side of unpredictable satire that he brings, there is one thing he is consistent with -engineering an aggressive and intelligent defensive system. Truth is, Buffalo didn’t even need help in that department but at the same time, it won’t hurt having Rex make that unit even more dangerous.
Of course Rex Ryan does come with some baggage. His bravado turns folks off and his offensive game plan is usually old-school and anemic. He had quarterback issues in New York with the Jets and he enters Buffalo with the same issues. At present time (August 9th 2015) there is a three way race between the veteran Matt Cassel, former first round pick E.J. Manuel and for Virginia Tech Hokie and Baltimore Raven – Tyrod Taylor. Cassel is the presumed favorite for his experience and moderate success (here and there). E.J. Manuel was a reach when Buffalo took him in the first round two years ago and that reach is looking more like a bust as time moves on. Taylor is an interesting wildcard in the mix though. He is a mobile quarterback who might add some versatility to an offense that everyone knows will be run-heavy.
Why wouldn’t the Bills be run heavy? They traded away linebacker Kiko Alonso for Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy, who is easily one of the best backs in the league. McCoy is a versatile and confident back who is amongst a handful of running backs in the NFL that can be considered a three-down-back. Veteran Fred Jackson is a favorite in Buffalo but last year suffered his first real injury so that has fans nervous. Jackson should be nervous about losing his number two spot on the depth chart to rookie Karlos Williams, who is a big bodied back out of Florida State with a nasty streak in him.
The offensive line is equipped with the NFL’s biggest bully in Richie Incognito, who wasn’t touched by any team last year after the ridiculous bully-scandal in Miami, but last time out he was a pro bowl caliber guard. Cyrus Kouandijo disappointed the Bills in his rookie season but should be able to crack into the starting lineup after pre-season.
The wide receiver group looks good on paper, but with questions at the quarterback position it’s hard to say just how much of an impact these players will have. Percy Harvin followed Rex Ryan to Buffalo and when healthy Harvin is easily one of the most explosive players in the league. Harvin can line up outside, in the slot, in the backfield and even as a returner in special teams – and be equally as dangerous from all spots. The problem with Harvin is that he is usually injured and his “me first” attitude tend to cause friction amongst teammates. Last year Sammy Watkins showed flashes of what he can become but he too struggled with injuries in his initial NFL campaign. Robert Woods might be the most consistent out of the bunch when it comes to route running and hands – while the other two add an explosiveness.
Defensively, Rex Ryan will quickly fall in love with Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus at his disposal. Dareus will have no problem moving to nose tackle in Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. It’ll be interesting to see Kyle Williams move from tackle to guard this season and with the attention going to the other two on the line, Bryant Corbin might find a lot of one on one opportunities and have a chance to flourish as an end pass rusher. Linebacker Preston Brown was a rookie out of Louisville last season who led this Bills defense in tackles – which made the trading of Kiko Alonso for LeSean McCoy a no-brainer for the Buffalo brass. Nigel Bradham is an instinctive linebacker that does very well in drop zone situations while Mario Williams will be expected to be all over the defense. Ryan knows that his presence around the line of scrimmage is a huge X-Factor for this defenses success, expect Williams to line up on both sides of the line, standing up from the middle, dropping back from the edge – just about anything to keep offenses guessing.
The secondary is not the strongest part of this Bills defense, but they look better than they actually are due to the front seven. Leodis McKelvin led the team with four interceptions and went down with an ankle injury and opposite of him is South Carolina Gamecock Stephon Gilmore who is more of a man to man corner than a zone guy. Rookie Ronald Darby out of Florida State may become the nickel by starting day, mostly because of his aggressive nature.
The Rex Ryan Bills, will looks similar in styles to the Rex Ryan Jets teams that we’ve seen over the last few years. The difference is – Ryan has more talent than he ever had on offense with the Bills than he did with the Green Machine. That quarterback situation will be the talk of Buffalo throughout the season, but there is enough to challenge for the division here.
Predicted Record: 9-7
Predicted Pro Bowlers: LeSean McCoy, Jerome Felton, Mario Williams, Preston Brown, Corbin Bryant