5 takeaways from HC Rex Ryan
After the second session of Organized Team Activities, Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan took his familiar place at the podium to speak with the media, and after quite a lull of actually having practice to discuss, a multitude of issues were discussed.
What were the most glaring things said by the head coach at One Bills Drive? Five takeaways from Rex Ryan during the first week of OTAs:
1) Rex adamant that Sammy won’t miss time
- The Bills made national headlines last week due to the announced procedures performed on high-profile players Sammy Watkins and Shaq Lawson. We’ll have more on the latter in a moment, but Watkins is the marquee name in this. He was spotted on crutches during the Bills practice on Tuesday, and many have wondered about not only chemistry with Tyrod Taylor, but when exactly Watkins will be ready to return to action. Rex Ryan, in his explanation for Watkins, was unwavering in his belief:
“By the time the regular season comes around Sammy Watkins is not going to miss any time. Now do we have a timetable to when he comes back specifically? You know no we aren’t going to give you that. I can tell you this: He is going to be ready to go in the regular season. There is no doubt.”
Regarding Watkins, I believe it’s a lot of hullabaloo that will all amount to nothing. Should there be a minor concern over the chemistry with the quarterback, and to a certain degree, his conditioning? Sure, but the key word is this: ‘Minor.’ Watkins proved last year that he can be an impact player on an almost weekly basis, and as long as Taylor continues to take advantage of his top wideout, there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue. Unless it’s the fourth week of the preseason and Watkins is still sidelined, then it’s time to revisit this, but the way everyone at the Bills are talking, that situation will likely not end up being the case.
2) The Shaq story
- The other big news from last week had to do with first-round pick and edge rusher Shaq Lawson. The rookie will likely miss the start of the regular season, and many fans are wondering about what exactly happened to get to this point. When Lawson was drafted, he was absolute in one thing: His shoulder was fine, he’d been dealing with the condition since his freshman year, and he didn’t need surgery. Even Doug Whaley and company signed off on it.
“Medical staff cleared him, said he can play. Now, if something happens, it’s going to happen, but it’s nothing that we’re real worried about or we wouldn’t have taken him. We got complete faith in our medical staff and they signed off on him, so we’re excited to have him.”
It was revealed shortly after the announcement that he’ll, in fact, need surgery after it flared up on a swim-move repetition during the team’s rookie minicamp. Both Whaley and Rex have been staunch in believing that Lawson could even play right now had he not gone through the surgery, but it was a preventive measure. Ryan said that “this isn’t a devastating thing.” This could end up being the best thing for all parties involved, but, we’ll just have to see how long Lawson is kept away from action, and how steep his on-the-field learning curve might be once he does get back. The added time after the rehab is done is the real concern as to how much of an impact player Lawson can be in 2016.
3) Rookie corner “looks like the real deal”
- During the second day of OTAs, the Bills were without usual starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore. It created an opportunity for the rest of the corners on the roster to get some legitimate time with the starters. The chance — perhaps surprisingly — was given to rookie and sixth-round pick Kevon Seymour. Not only did the 5-foot-11, 186-pound corner work all day with the first-team, he drew some high praise from his head coach. Rex Ryan said that they saw something in him early on, much like they did with Ronald Darby last year — one of the best rookies in the NFL in 2015. The head coach remarked that they saw some special things with Darby early on last year, and when speaking about Seymour in those terms, said “I am not going to put him in that class yet, but we are close.” With an unsettled depth chart after the top two, Seymour has a huge chance to make an impact on the roster in the first year if he keeps this up. There’s a long way to go, though. It is May, after all.
4) Two safeties basically won’t leave the building
- Past Aaron Williams, things are completely up for grabs at the safety position. Corey Graham, Robert Blanton, and Colt Anderson are all vying for a starting job. However, two younger players have made a good early impression in 2016 on the coaching staff. Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks, two mid-round members of the 2013 draft class, are both entering the final year of their contract. With that in mind, they’re seemingly putting their all into the offseason work. Rex Ryan said the duo gets in the building before the coaches in the mornings, and then, they’re still there at facilities even after the coaches leave. “I mean they’re here all the darn time and you can see it in their play as well,” Ryan revealed. Meeks spent the majority of the season on the practice squad last year, and Williams failed to take advantage of a clear opportunity to start in 2015. So, for both, this is a make-or-break summer, but with what the head coach let loose, it’s also a definitive step in the right direction as they get closer to training camp.
5) Rex’s 2015 admission
- The unraveling of the Bills season in 2015 really happened on the defensive side of the ball. Unnecessarily high expectations were placed on the team, they struggled to find a true identity, and even Rex Ryan got away from what made him such a good defensive play-caller in his time with both the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets. Since then, the Bills have switched fully to a 3-4 defensive scheme, and buying all the way in to Rex’s principle. The head coach is predictably optimistic, but also admitted what he should have done last season.
“I think we are a zillion miles ahead of where we were last year and that goes without saying, especially in the communication part on defense. The way that we are disguising coverages, all that type of stuff. Okay I admit I should have done it last year whatever, but here this year I am extremely confident we will be a lot better than we were last year defensively.”
The success of the 2016 season will hinge on the defense getting close to what they were during 2014. That, with a similar year offensively for the Bills as they had last year, could pave the way to a playoff berth this season. At this point, it’s all ‘could’s,’ ‘would’s,’ and ‘if’s,’ but the Bills know the defense must be much less predictable in 2016 — and that begins and ends with the man calling the plays.