When Rex Ryan took over the Buffalo Bills coaching job in 2015, the fan base loved the idea of a coach who had experience putting together a suffocating defense that could stop the run and rush the passer while creating turnovers in the secondary.
What they failed to realized is that Rex Ryan’s defense wasn’t what it once was for multiple reasons. When Ryan took over the Jets he had an amazing array of defensive weapons such as Calvin Pace, Darrelle Revis, Kerry Rhodes, Bart Scott and David Harris. They led the Jets to the Number 1 overall ranked defense in the NFL.
The Buffalo fan base was of course happy, here’s a man who had success with great defense while having mediocre QB play at best and made it to the playoffs twice in a row. What Buffalo didn’t account for was that Rex Ryan’s once feared defense was no longer really feared, in fact it dropped every year after that, from 1 to 3 to 5 to 8. You can blame it on injuries and other variables sure, but people caught on to it and knew how to attack the Jets.
Without outstanding Quarterback play, the Jets didn’t do anything after that. So here was Rex Ryan, new year in Buffalo with a good defense, but the same things that cursed him in New York, cursed him in well, New York, this time in Buffalo. No Quarterback, Tyrod Taylor came in and he was good because people didn’t know about him, but after he was studied, he was essentially shut down.
While still efficient and accurate, there’s only so much a Quarterback can do when the defense doesn’t do its job. Rex Ryan was fired before the end of the 2016 season along with his brother who had assumed the role of Defensive Coordinator.
A change in coach could only mean good things for Buffalo, they seemed to be all in to win this season, signing Anquan Boldin, keeping Tyrod Taylor at QB which was smart given that his completion percentage the two seasons prior was above 60% and he had yet to throw double figure interceptions at 6 each of the two years he started.
Anquan Boldin joined a receiving corp with Sammy Watkins on the outside and Lesean McCoy in the backfield, who happens to be one of the best pass catching backs in the league who was dangerous in space. Things were looking ok for the Bills when something odd happened.
Their Franchise Wide Receiver who sure had his issues with injuries was still a dynamic and dangerous receiver was traded, to the Los Angeles Rams for DB E.J. Gaines who had an incredible Rookie Season in 2014 allowing 1 Touchdown and 1.03 yards per pass attempt. He missed the 2015 seasons with injury almost identical to Sammy Watkins injury after being stepped on during practice. In 2016 he allowed 8 Touchdowns and 1.77 yards per completion which was a big regression from his rookie year.
So here was Buffalo, trading Sammy Watkins whom they traded a first and a fourth round pick to move up 5 spots in the 2014 Draft for a DB who wasn’t his best last season. Buffalo wasn’t done however, as they traded for Eagles WR Jordan Matthews who was a more consistent and less injury prone WR than Sammy Watkins.
Buffalo was still in a good place, they traded for a WR they can count on for the long term with no history of serious injury. All of a sudden Anquan Boldin retired, so now Buffalo has Jordan Matthews, Shady McCoy and unknown receivers Zay Jones and Corey Brown. You can bet that defense will focus on McCoy and Matthews until one of the young receivers steps up, which could cause problems for a Buffalo’s Offense.
As far as the Defense goes, as long as Kyle Willians, Lorenzo Alexander and E.J. Gaines play well, they’ll have a shot at winning some games, Leslie Frazier takes over the defense. Sean McDermott who was Carolina’s Defensive Coordinator will implement some of that great defensive scheme but ultimately it’s up to Frazier to call the plays, last time he was defensive coordinator for Tampa Bay Bucs from 2014 to 2015 his defense ranked 25th and 23rd respectively.
Buffalo could be in for a long season, it seems like they can’t catch a break on offense or defense, trading away Sammy Watkins turned Anquan Boldin off to the point where he retired rather than play.
The AFC East is looking like a sure thing for New England once again, unless Miami can give them a run for their money. 3 more weeks until madness begins and we see who stands out and who doesn’t.