Monday, July 17, 2017

Offseason Review: Day 13: The Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills

AFC East

Huge shout out to /u/IlluminatusUIUC who wrote a few sections of this!

2016 Season Review

Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but the razor cakes weren’t in full effect last year. Starting the season 0-2, firing the offensive coordinator after the first game, letting Rob Ryan anywhere near an NFL defense. The highpoint of the season came when shutting out the undefeated (Tom Brady-less) Patriots on the road, and it was all downhill from there. The coaching situation was a joke, the players were getting injured, there was no discipline anywhere, and no one wanted to take responsibility for what was happening. The Bills finished 7-9 for their first losing season since 2013. It wasn’t all bad though, on December 27, 2016 the Ryan brothers were fired.

Coaching Changes

Just about every coach from 2016 was fired/went to a new team. On top of the coaching staff, the Bills also fired GM Doug Whaley. The only two constants from last year are Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman, and the Strength and Conditioning staff. New head coach Sean McDermott had a consistently top-10 defense in Carolina and is making it known around the league that he isn't messing around in Buffalo. While this may sound striking similar to Rex Ryan, McDermott seems to be less talk and more results. Free agent Micah Hyde was quoted as saying McDermott "is on a mission". For the sake of Buffalo Bills fans everywhere, let's hope that "mission" is making the playoffs. McDermott is also rumored to have already held executive power over former GM Doug Whaley during his first draft as a head coach. The news that McDermott already has this much say is both exciting and terrifying for Bills fans.

Here are some of the bigger names on the new coaching staff.

Position Name Notes
Head Coach Sean McDermott Started career as Player Personnel Evaluator, coached under Andy Reid, Carolina DC from 2011-16
Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison With Denver most of his career, Houston OC 2010-13, Denver OC 2015-16
Defensive Coordinator Leslie Fraizer Cincinnati DC 2003-04, Minnesota DC 2007-10, Tampa Bay DC 2014-15, Minnesota HC 2010-13
QB Coach David Culley Kansas City Assistant HC 2013-16
TE Coach Rob Boras Los Angeles Rams OC 2015-16
LB Coach Bob Babich Chicago DC 2007-09, Jacksonville DC 2013-15
GM Brandon Beane Spent 19 years in Carolina, most recently was Assistant GM

Free Agency

Major Players lost/cut

Player Position New Team Notes
Marquise Goodwin WR San Francisco 49ers Good for one or two deep bombs per year, incredible athlete (olympian), injury issues.
Robert Woods WR Los Angeles Rams Best WR from USC since Keyshawn. One of the best blocking WRs in the league and a solid #2 for any team.
Nickell Robey-Coleman CB Los Angeles Rams Great nickel corner who had an off year in 2016.
EJ Manuel QB Oakland Raiders RIP
Stephon Gilmore CB New England Patriots This one hurt. Gilmore got a lot of flak from Bills fan that was underserved imho. He's a top 10 (if not 5) corner and I'm having nightmares imagining Belichick with another Talib/Revis/Law.
Mike Gillislee RB New England Patriots Gilly is a fantastic player and could gut the Bills twice next year, but our backfield is crowded and our budget is tight
Zach Brown LB Washington Redskins Probably the second biggest loss this year. One of the leaders on defense.
Justin Hunter WR Pittsburgh Steelers Lot of potential, caught a few big TDs in 2016
Aaron Williams S FA 2 serious neck injuries, I hope he hangs up the cleats for his own sake
Dan Carpenter K FA Gave us one phenomenal year, lost his touch last year
Corey Graham S FA 31, just doesn't have the speed anymore
Jerome Felton FB FA Solid FB while he was here
Percy Harvin WR Retired Hopefully for good
Corey White CB New York Jets Secondary depth
Robert Blanton S Dallas Cowboys Disappointing season in Buffalo, injured
Garrison Sanborn LS Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quality starter while he was here, unsure why he didn't re-sign

Biggest losses: Gilmore, Brown, and Woods.

Major Additions

Player Position Former Team Notes
Micah Hyde SS Green Bay Packers Immediate Starter to weakest position grouping
Jordan Poyer FS Cleveland Browns Also immediate starter
Steven Hauschka K Seattle Seahawks Big upgrade if he can handle the winter without a roof
Patrick DiMarco FB Atlanta Falcons McCoy should be happy about this one, sorry Devonta
Andre Holmes WR Oakland Raiders Will take Robert Woods spot
Mike Tolbert FB Carolina Panthers How many FBs can we sign?
Ryan Davis DE Dallas Cowboys DE depth, only had 2 on the roster before signing
TJ Yates QB Miami Dolphins Playoff Caliber QB?

Biggest Additions: Hyde, DiMarco, and to be honest having a veteran QB like Yates on the team is going to be nice for a change.


Draft Pick Player Position School Notes
27 Tre'Davious White CB LSU Traded back in the first round with the Kansas City Chiefs. All-SEC last year, 8th in PBU in the FBS, awarded #18 at LSU. Immediate Starter.
37 Zay Jones WR East Carolina All-time NCAA receptions leader, incredible hands, his college receiver coach is now Bills receiver coach. Potential 3rd stringer.
63 Dion Dawkins OL Temple Bills traded up to select Dawkins, relies on power over speed, converted DL. Potential to start over Jordan Mills.
163 Matt Milano LB Boston College The next Luke Kuechly? Probably not. Played man-coverage at points in college career, maybe he's our secret weapon against Gronk.
171 Nathan Peterman QB Pittsburgh Pro-Style offense in college, good accuracy and field vision, arm strength is a question. May sneak into 3rd string behind Taylor and Yates over Cardale Jones.
191 Tanner Vallejo LB Boise State Very similar to Matt Milano, broke his wrist senior season. Battle between him and Milano for depth reps.
Bills get Chiefs Get
27,91, 2018 1st Round 10
Bills Get Rams Get
37,149 44,91
Bills Get Falcons Get
63 75,149,156

I think it's silly to give out "draft grades" this early, but I can say many Bills fans were upset after trading back with Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, and Jabrill Pepers still on the board. Tre'Davious White was a fantastic consolation prize, and hopefully the Chiefs absolutely tank next year and give up a top 10 pick.

This draft is seemingly very solid, hitting all the biggest areas of need in Buffalo; The secondary, receivers, and the offensive line. Not to mention picking up an extra first round draft pick next year is huge.

Projected Starting Lineups

QB: Tyrod Taylor
HB: LeSean McCoy
FB: Pat DiMarco
WR: Sammy Watkins
WR: Andre Holmes
TE: Charles Clay
LT: Cordy Glenn
LG: Ritchie Incognito
C: Eric Wood
RG: John Miller
RT: Dion Dawkins

DE: Jerry Hughes
DT: Kyle Williams
DT: Marcell Dareus
DE: Shaq Lawson
WLB: Preston Brown
MLB: Reggie Ragland
SLB: Lorenzo Alexander
CB: Ronald Darby
CB: Tredavious White
FS: Micah Hyde
SS: Jordan Poyer

Position Groups Strengths and Weaknesses


The Bills QB position is basically a collection of late-rounders and second-chancers with potential trying to catch Rick Dennison’s eye. Interestingly, in terms of archetypes the Bills are all over the map. Tyrod Taylor is a shorter athletic QB who relies on his feet to buy time or pick up yardage on scrambles. Cardale Jones is a huge player with a cannon arm and raw tools. Nate Peterman and TJ Yates are both traditional dropback passer types. The fact that they all ended up on the same team is a testament to the number of different voices competing in the front office - but this offseason will shake out the type of QB they really want moving forward.

Strengths Variety of different styles allow Dennison to craft his offense. Tyrod Taylor is explosive and has every opportunity to put together something special.

Weaknesses Incredibly inexperienced. All four of the QBs have less than three seasons starting experience combined. Tyrod seemed to stagnate last year, we may have seen his celing.

The left side of the OL is rock solid and among the best units in the NFL. The right side is … also a unit in the NFL. The Bills have been trying to improve it in recent years by drafting players like John Miller, Cyrus Kouandjio, and now Dion Dawkins, but…

Strengths Very strong veteran group on the left side, excellent at run blocking.

Weaknesses Scheme change may neutralize some of our strengths, right side of the line is a significant weakness. Minimal depth at tackle, with Cordy Glenn still nursing an injury and Cyros Kouandjio being an early offseason cut.

Pass Catchers
A position group that was decimated by injuries last year. If Sammy Watkins can stay healthy this should be an adequate grouping. Depending on how Tyrod plays, this grouping is the weakest of the offense. The three new receivers in Holmes, Jones, and Brown plus Watkins and Clay do have plenty of potential to get the air game moving.

Strengths Watkins, when healthy, is one of the best downfield threats in the NFL. Clay is an above average receiving tight end. Elite options out of the backfield.

Weaknesses Watkins has a history of nagging injuries, virtually everyone else on the WR depth chart changed this offseason and has no experience with Taylor.


The DL was and remains the core of the defensive unit. Marcell Dareus has (as of writing) not fucked up and gotten himself suspended. Kyle Williams decided against retirement and both he and Jerry Hughes return to the 4-3 alignment that made them successful. Shaq Lawson enters the season healthy.

Strengths The starters can be one of the best units in football.

Weaknesses Depth. The starters’ contracts are extremely expensive, leaving us minimal money for backups.

The choice to sign Lorenzo Alexander and let Zach Brown walk in free agency was a surprising one. Lorenzo’s elite season last year came after he had turned 30 and in a completely different scheme, so giving him a raise and a starting role in a 4-3 is a gamble. Reggie Ragland will get his first taste of football in over a year after tearing his ACL before the start of last season. He slipped down the draft boards into round 2 last year, and has the potential be a great value pick, like many Bills 2nd rounders of late.

Strengths Downhill thumping. Preston Brown, Reggie Ragland, and Alexander are very strong at the point of attack, which should improve our run defense significantly.

Weaknesses Pass coverage, range. McDermott has been blessed with an extremely rangy group of backers in Carolina that can do it all. Our group is a little more one note, so it will be a test for him to balance his scheme around their talents and, more importantly, their limitations.

The Bills’ highest profile Free Agency loss was of course Stephon Gilmore, who signed a monster deal with the Patriots. The general consensus around Bills’ fandom is that Gilmore is good but not that good, and if he had signed with anyone else it would have seemed a mistake. Of course, when Belichick does it you ask yourself what you missed rather than what he saw in the guy.

Strengths Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White could be the stars that we’re hoping for. Darby could return to his near-ROTY form.

Weaknesses Easily one of if not the weakest position grouping on the team. Depending on a rookie in one of the toughest positions in football is always a gamble. One of the best CBs in the league went to our arch nemesis. Aaron Williams was cut after one too many injuries to the head and neck.

Special Teams

Colton Schmidt just signed a fat new contract, so hopefully he bounces back from his off year and gets back to being a top 5 punter in the league. Steven Hauschka replaces Kid Rock/White Trash Steve Christie/Dan "Jesus was a" Carpenter at the kicking position this year. This should be an immediate upgrade.


Kicking the ball far.


Returning the ball far. 28 yard field goals.

Schedule Predictions

As voted on by /r/buffalobills, so beware that these picks were fueled with optimism and beer.

Week 1, Jets: 98.7% WIN
This I can agree with, the Jets are pretty weak in a lot of areas and the Bills new coaching staff will be very eager for a win to set the tone for their time in Buffalo. There might be some growing pains this game, but this should be a W in Orchard Park.

Week 2, @ Panthers: 53.5% WIN
The last time the Bills played the Panthers a certain rookie QB became a star in the eyes and hearts of Bills fans everywhere. This QB, who goes by the name of EJ Manuel is not on the team anymore, but his spirit lives on. Let’s hope the Panthers are still in the post Super Bowl slump. Oh, and we’re playing against the new coaches old team, win one for the gipper.

Week 3, Broncos: 50.8% LOSS
If our defense can step it up and put pressure on the Tony Romo-less Denver Broncos offense than this game might be close. Another game against a new coaches former team, maybe Dennison has some intel that will turn this L into a W. Otherwise we’re going to be counting on Tyrod Taylor and company to score on a stone wall defense, which is never something you want to be doing.

Week 4, @ Falcons: 90.9% LOSS
Maybe if we had a QB named Dom Grady. And maybe if Kyle Shanahan really was the glue holding the Falcons together. This game is going to be rough.

Week 5, @ Bengals: 70.4% WIN
Another team that slumped last year. I hear Rex Ryan is available if Mike Brown wants to bite the bullet and own up to whatever blackmail Marv Lewis has on him. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Never count out a team with AJ Green. If there is one game on this schedule that I’d change from a W to a L it would probably be this one.

Week 6, BYE

Week 7, Buccaneers: 75.5% WIN
Again it’s going to come down to our new coaching staff working with the defense and shutting down a good young QB. I believe Tyrod can penetrate the Bucs defense enough to win against them, but I can’t count on the defense anymore.

Week 8, Raiders: 70.2% LOSS
Lost by two touchdowns to the Raiders last year. Why didn’t we draft Derek Carr?

Week 9, @ Jets: 93.0% WIN
Division rival games are always tough. Let’s hope the Jets have given up hope at this point and we can stomp them into the ground even further.

Week 10, Saints: 74.2% WIN
As long as Drew Brees is healthy the Saints aren’t an easy out. Tyrod will need to put on a show like he did against Seattle last year.

Week 11, @ Chargers: 73.4% WIN Kind of like Brees, as long as the Chargers have Rivers I wouldn’t count them out so easily.

Week 12, @ Chiefs: 65.3% LOSS
If we win one game next season, let it be this one. We need that number 1 pick from Kansas City. The Bills and the Chiefs have a weird sort-of rivalry going on over the past few years. We’ve played each other in 8 of the last 9 years and KC has had our number for the past few matchups. And on top of that, it’s in Arrowhead.

Week 13, Patriots: 80.9% LOSS
Three things in life are certain; Death, Taxes, and losing to Tom Brady. Maybe he’ll realize he’s like 45 by week 13 and we won’t have to face him.

Week 14, Colts: 78.2% WIN
If Andrew Luck is back to his normal self, this is nowhere near a 78.2% win. However, I do think it would still be a win. The Bills have a fairly complete team compared to the Colts. Winter games in Buffalo are always a bit of an advantage as well.

Week 15, Dolphins: 87.9% WIN
Another winter home game, and the last of the season. We’ve played the Dolphins well over the past few years, and even without Thad Lewis on the roster I have confidence in this game that’s half a year away.

Week 16, @ Patriots: 90.1% LOSS
Maybe they will be resting their starters at this point? Although last time we were in Foxboro we did get a SHUTOUT…

Week 17, @ Dolphins: 52.2% LOSS
Ending the season with a loss in Miami, splitting the season series. The Dolphins did make the playoffs last year, so calling this one a win would just be greedy.

Overall: 9-7

Training Camp Battles to watch

Quarterback depth chart
As discussed above, the QB depth chart is all over the map in terms of player archetypes. With new leaders from the GM on down to the OC, the traditional model shouldn’t be assumed. The consensus is that Taylor is a lock at starter with Yates, Jones, and Peterman vying for two backup spots. However, Taylor’s contract option was picked up and then promptly re-negotiated downwards this year - an unusual move for a QB that you would want to support. Peterman is a low round draftee, but Dennison choosing Siemien over Lynch in Denver suggests that he is not too concerned about draft position. Jones, as the project QB of the previous regime, appears to be the first one out but he also has the best physical tools.

#3 WR
With Sammy Watkins and Andre Holmes seemingly having the #1 and #2 spots locked down, the real battle starts at #3. Although TE Charles Clay will most definitely get more looks than the receivers this low on the totem pole, we do know Tyrod likes to air it out so whoever is number three may get the chance to see some deep ball action. Second round pick Zay Jones is the slight favorite over Philly Brown from Carolina, but you never know if McDermott will go with the known quality or the high-upside rookie.

Right Tackle
Will rookie Dion Dawkins crack the starting lineup? Or will Jordan Mills continue to be called on even with his lackluster performances. And then there's the wild-card Seantrel Henderson who had a great rookie year, but is currently serving a ten-game suspension for using medical marijuana as a treatment for his Crohn's Disease.

Offensive and Defensive Schemes


We can expect Dennison to have major control over this side of the ball since McDermott hasn't really ever been majorly involved with an NFL offense. The offense Dennison runs is a West Coast offense. Expect lots of play-action, bootlegs, and short passes. This is both a positive and a negative for Tyrod. It's good because he's a mobile QB who can thrive in this type of situation, and it's not so good because Tyrod is notorious for missing/not seeing short to medium passes over the middle of the field. It may also end up putting less of an emphasis on Lesean McCoy who has been an absolute monster in Buffalo.


McDermott will run a 4-3 defense in Buffalo. Getting Dareus and Williams back together in the middle of the line is a dream come true for most Bills fans. Rex's defense was often touted as complicated and confusing. McDermott has said his defense will be clear and straight-forward. The front seven will have one gap to hit rather than the two they had to choose from under Rex, and the blitzing will be far less exotic. The secondary will be playing zone for the most part, which may be helpful for rookie CB White adjusting to the speed of the game.

Other Offseason News

Sean Mcdermott has gotten rid of the pool table and video games from the Bills locker room, in a scene in which I can only hope went something like this: Circle the Wagons!


Submitted July 17, 2017 at 08:44AM by bceltics933
via reddit

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