Dateline: City of Optimism, in the State of Caution: From a football perspective I can’t quibble with much that has taken place this past offseason. As long as you don’t think the NFL should be stocked with role models for your kids, the roster got better. Some quick opinions:
I’m not going to praise Rex Ryan’s desire to offer redemption to shady characters. Bringing Richie Incognito and IK Enemkpali, and standing by O-line coach Aaron Kromer, might be motivated 10% by Rex’s belief that men deserve second chances, but it was 90% by his desire to win.
Enemkpali’s release the week before the regular season and resigning to the practice squad helps to prove my point about Rex.
Fred Jackson is a great man and was a great Bill whose name should be on the Wall one day. But his age (caught from behind on his long run vs. the Steelers), his trouble staying healthy, and his salary cap impact made it right to say goodbye. We’re still above average at running back and we used the cap savings to help re-sign Marcel Dareus, a much more important player right now.
Shady McCoy is no Thurman Thomas. McCoy will have his moments; he’ll provide some thrills. But the Eagles parted with him for a reason. He can be the featured back in Buffalo’s offense for the next season or two. Then, look for someone with younger legs, like Karlos Williams, to become the marquee back.
The Bills made the best decision at QB by releasing Matt Cassel and then took a step back by resigning him and naming him the #2 behind Tyrod Taylor. If Taylor performs like they did in the preseason games, the offense will be surprisingly good. As for EJ, I’m glad that he seems to have figured out so much during the offseason and I won’t be surprised to see him end up getting significant snaps this year.
If the offensive line plays like I think they will and if other good receivers such as Charles Clay can stay healthy, look for Sammy Watkins to have a huge year in terms of yards per catch. Buffalo has too many options for Watkins to make an enormous number of catches, but he’s an incredible talent who will have a lot of room to operate.
I don’t expect the defense to match last year’s performance. They’ll be good, but Rex likes to let his corners play single coverage, and Ronald Darby, to whatever extent he plays, is going to get burned. It will take him a year or two to become a shutdown corner.
How many victories? I have the Bills going 10-6 this year and right in the playoff hunt ‘til Week 17. But if the QB play we saw in the summer games proves to be a mirage, it will be tough to win 8.
Whatever the Bills do this year, it will be a fun January for us to go back and see how wrong I was about the 2015 season a couple of days before it began.