The Bills might be the most interesting team of the offseason, which isn’t really going to win them any games, but it’s been fun. Coming off their first winning season in a decade, the Bills appear to be poised to make the next step and end the drought.
My own private fear is that the Bills defense will regress back to 2013 standards, where they had a lights out pass defense and a very poor run defense. Rex likes to blitz, unlike Jim Schwartz, but he should realize what of talent he has at the defensive line. There is really no need to blitz as much as he did in New York, where he never had a premier edge rusher. Aside from the obviously strong front four, the Bills have a young stud at cornerback in Stephon Gilmore, assuming he can stay healthy and a couple of good safeties in Aaron Williams and Corey Graham (both of whom can double as cornerbacks in a pinch). The question in the secondary is the #2 CB. With Leodis McKelvin out for at least 6 weeks, the duty falls to Ronald Darby, the rookie second round pick who has been less than stellar in the preseason. He’s going to get picked on a lot, especially in the first two weeks. The pass rush is going to have to put serious pressure on Andrew Luck and Tom Brady to help make up for Darby’s shortcomings. My other main concern is, of course, injury. The defensive depth of Buffalo isn’t bad, but when you have a lot of stars then the loss of any of them will be felt. If Dareus, Mario Williams, Preston Brown, or Stephon Gilmore went down for an extended period of time, the Bills would be hard pressed to make up for that kind of loss. Dareus being out for Week 1 alone already makes it a tough way to start the season.
On the other side of the ball, the offense has been completely redone by new offensive coordinator Greg Roman. With Tyrod Taylor starting at quarterback, the Bills will be a run first offense with a healthy dose of passing to the playmakers, of which there are many. Between Sammy Watkins, Lesean McCoy, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, and Charles Clay, Taylor will have no problems finding people to get the ball to. The question is whether or not he can get them the ball reliably. Taylor was good, not great in the preseason, but he brings an additional element to the offense in the shape of his legs. The Bills will likely try to use him as a mini version of Colin Kaepernick and that could pay off for Buffalo. Durability is the main problem with this strategy. Taylor doesn’t have Kaep’s bulk, so there’s some doubt as to whether or not he can hold up to the punishment of a regular NFL season, but since we can’t know for sure, I’m focusing on the positives Taylor brings to the table. He can read the field, he can make all the throws, and he won’t tuck it and run after his first read is covered. But, enough about Taylor, he’s the sideshow to this offense. The main event is McCoy and him running the ball 25 times a game… if he can remain healthy. He already has a tweaked hamstring which could implode at any time and if he goes down, the Bills season goes with him. Behind McCoy we have Bryce Brown, his former backup in Philadephia, Boobie Dixon, a middling power back, and rookie Karlos Williams, whom I think has a real chance to be a solid change of pace back doing power dives up the gut. If he can break through to the second level, he has good straight line speed and the strength to power through defensive backs.
As always, hope and optimism abound in Western New York, so I’ve boldly predicted that the Bills will win 10 games and make the post season for the first time this century. I hope we meet the Patriots during Wildcard Weekend.