2017 Season Previews: The Buffalo Bills

The Bills start 2017 once again as a team in transition, the Rex Ryan experiment is over, as well as the GM, so coach Sean McDermott has power over this franchise and the direction it goes. As a Carolina Panthers fan, I think this is without a doubt an upgrade, I only wish he would have taken Mike Shula with him. McDermott was the heavy under Ron Rivera, and is as old-school as it gets. I think he’s going to fit in well with the Bills when winter hits, especially if they start winning early as opposed to the loose control that Rex Ryan held.

Offense: Tyrod Taylor took a 10M paycut to prove he could be the man in Buffalo, and cannot be happy that Sammy Watkins was traded, but considering Watkins injury history, I think it was a good deal. Jordan Matthews is a solid slot guy who has 225 catches in 3 years. The Bills also have Anquan Boldin, who while on the tail end of his carrer can be a steady influence on the offense and a great target to have, and don’t sleep on rookie Zay Jones, who caught everything near him at ECU. Charles Clay has been a bust so far as a FA, but can be productive. The offense will revolve around the running game, so don’t expect that to change, so that means more LeShean McCoy, who had 1200 yards and will get the ball even more this year, but this year he’s got human bowling ball Mike Tolbert, who is another Carolina player and is going to be another veteran leader. The depth here is going to be a problem, as Mike Gillislee took his 8 TDs to Foxboro.
Richie Incognito is a standout on a line that just doesn’t have much around him. Cordy Glenn stole money last year and the team has to be looking to replace almost everyone else. For a running team, I am stunned the Bills only spent one pick here, on Dion Dawkins who is going to get a chance to play everything but Fullback up front.

Defense: Sean is going to a 4-3, and the big questions here are going to be if Shaq Lawson, who will move outside or maybe even back, and Reggie Ragland who missed all last year but might not have a role. Finally, Preston Brown is going to have to learn his role as we go through the season. That’s 3 of the 7 starters who are going to have the staff thinking “train or Trade” every time they make a mistake. Marcell Dareus has a ton of potential, and if McDermott can get him to straighten up, this becomes a much better Defensive Line. There is some great vet leadership here as Lorenzo Alexander brings a great work ethic and Kyle Williams has seen everything. The big problem, of course is both are older players and youth does have to step up sooner rather than later.
With all the question marks the front seven are going to have with the switch, that’s nothing to the secondary changes. Top guy Stephon Gilmore is gone, and number 2 guy Ronald Darby was traded. I don’t think the Darby trade was that big a deal, as he was a Ryan pick, and didn’t have a great year. Tre’Davious White is another LSU CB who will start day 1 and Gaines was a solid back when he is healthy. Micah Hyde comes over from Green Bay and should be the leader back here, and I think he could pair with White to make a good tandem. This secondary is going to take time to gel, but could be interesting going forward. The biggest issue is height, you are looking 5’10, 5’11,6’0 and 6’0 if Poyer takes the starting role. No backup cracks 6’0 on the roster. That’s going to cause issues in the redzone.

Special Teams: Sucked last year. Stephen Hauschka came over from Seattle and wasn’t that much of an upgrade over Dan Carpenter, and Punter Colton Schmitt ranked 30th in the NFL, and should have had competion brought in. The Bills have to be thinking that the 3 yard dip last year was temporary. Brandon Tate is the return guy, but he’s from North Carolina, so I can’t talk about how unimpressive he is, but the coverage units are not bad.

Overall: This team is not going to win 7 games this year. They will be better on the field, but I’m not sure that is going to mean more wins. They go from
AFC Central and NFC West to the AFC West and NFC South, two harder divisions. Sean is going to lay a foundation, get rid of the party guys, and build a hardworking team. They have 6 picks in the first 3 rounds, and might add a few more if some 3-4 team needs help up front.

Record: They get 3 wins in the AFC East, I think they sweep the Jets. They get 0 vs the AFC West, as they go to the Chargers and KC, and they have QBs that are going to hurt them. I’ll give the a win in the NFC South, most likely New Orleans in November. Bonus game is a revenge game in Cincy, as the Bills won last year in Buffalo, and Indy. I’ll give them a win at home vs Indy. 5-11, just because they play a slate of hard offenses, and watch that Tampa game. The size there is going to be unreal.

 

Three Questions

1. Are they punting this year with all the draft picks they are accumulating?

Dan:  I think that while they’re in rebuild mode, they will never fully give up on a season before the season has even began. While they’re acquiring draft picks, which is always extremely helpful in a rebuild, they’re revising the way their team is structured, getting rid of Sammy Watkins and acquiring Matthews on offense and switching around corners on defense. While I don’t think they’ve gave up on the season, there isn’t much hope for this Bills’ team. At least they won’t be last.

Joe: Definitely. In fact, they may compete with the Jets for last place in the AFC East.

David: I don’t think they had a choice. The Pats are going to run the place, and Miami passed them. They still don’t know if Tyrod is the QB, they don’t know what they have as far as the defensive front swap, and the powers that be don’t know if Sean McDermott is the guy. Punting this year makes sense.

2. Is Tyrod Taylor the answer?

Dan:  Right now, I believe he is. Unless an Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning shows up in the 2018 draft, I think the Bills need to ride the Tyrod Taylor train until they get the rest of their pieces in place. He can be a good quarterback, but he certainly needs help around him.

Joe: I don’t think we will ever find out if Tyrod Taylor is the answer or not.

Whether by design or by his being in the wrong at the wrong time and therefore a casualty of the Bill’s decision to into rebuild mode, Taylor has been sabotaged by Buffalo’s front office as they trade off one of his best/favorite pass options… Sammy Wadkins and a key man of defense…  their top CB, Ronald Darby for two players on the last year of their contracts and a passel of draft choices. Buffalo now owns two selections in the first, second and third rounds of the 2018 draft, and the fact that they just traded their best receiver and cornerback for draft picks seems to indicate the Bills are in long term rebuild mode. If the Bills are rebuilding they are not going to take the $18 million cap hit that Tyrod would represent if they kept him on the roster past March 2018.

All of that ain’t good news for Taylor. Especially, since this is a make or break year for Taylor.

David: I don’t think he is, but I think he is a serviceable QB. I mean if you think about it, he’s still the second best QB in the division. With a strong running game I can live with a 3 to 1 TD to INT ratio as I ride to respectability.

3. Are the Bills trusting a rookie head coach to much?

Dan:  No, I don’t believe so. They’re starting to switch up their roster to what will be the best fit for their team and to make it easiest on the head coach. In rebuild mode, everybody has to be all in and everybody has to trust each other. I feel like the trust their putting in McDermott is what they need to do in order to fill this rebuild properly. No trust and they will continue on their horrible cycle they’ve been on for the past ten-plus seasons.

Joe: It doesn’t matter. Either the HC probably won’t be there long term just like Taylor won’t be OR the HC was a part of the plan all along and will be there to put together all the pieces on the field. When the Bills fired their GM right after the drat more than few folks in the “know” said that head coach Sean McDermott was really the one making the calls. Which kind of makes some sense. McDermott needs players he can call his own and who will follow his lead, If the Bills were going to rebuild then what better place to start than in the draft with the guy who will be trying to mold the team into what he feels is the Bills best chance to build a winning team?

David: The Bills have been a mess, and they have a very loose team that has little discipline and direction. So they hire a taskmaster and clean house. How is he not a better direction? The BROWNS have made the playoffs more recently than the Bills. Making a Madden 2017 world champion rewrite the offensive playbook would be an improvement.

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