The last time we left the Buffalo Bills, they just lost their second game of the season and chose to fire offensive coordinator Greg Roman. It was an impulsive reaction to an 0-2 start, but one the Bills have been attempting to justify over the last 72 hours.
Well, when they reconvened on Monday after multiple reports had come out with some insight to the decision, the reasoning for the move continued during Rex Ryan’s press conference. What came about?
Five takeaways from the Bills head coach on Monday:
1) Roman firing all about one man: No. 14
- I think it’s safe to say that the firing of Greg Roman came as a big surprise to most, considering how hard the Bills went after him back in the offseason of 2015. However, when the decision came down on Friday, Rex Ryan announced that he wanted to get his passing attack going for the rest of the 2016 season. But, think about his message since he’s walked in the door. Rex has always talked about wanting to feature a “ground-and-pound” style of offense — and that’s just what the Bills did in 2015, ranking near the top in basically every major rushing category as a team. So, what gives? What brought on the shift of philosophy?
“We want to be able to run the football, we expect to be able to run the football. But I also think that we need to expand what we’re doing in the passing game. Not with a zillion plays or whatever, but getting good at certain aspects and take advantage of the players we have, especially on the outside.”
That little note at the end: “…especially on the outside,” is the important denotation here. It’s quite clear to me based on that quote and all the other indicators, that this move was made with Sammy Watkins in mind. Through two games, Watkins has only a total of 11 targets, in which he’s made six receptions for 63 yards. With how they seemed to correct the problem in the second half of the 2015 season, those numbers are a bit of a surprise. However, not when you consider the other, perhaps bigger factor…
2) Sammy on a similar cycle
- Just as it was last week, the Buffalo Bills will be putting Watkins on a similar work schedule to what they had in the condensed week leading up to the game against the New York Jets — and that is incredibly concerning. Watkins, clearly a bit hobbled by that surgically repaired foot, isn’t getting the required time to fully rest the injury. The Bills are in a bit of a crisis mode, and they can’t afford to be without him in the lineup. So, instead, they’ll be depending on a player that clearly isn’t 100-percent, and likely basing the offensive attack around him. It’s quite the perplexing predicament for the Bills, but with an incredibly strong Cardinals team on their way to Buffalo this weekend, they have no other options if they want to avoid an 0-3 start — and it still may not even be enough.
3) It won’t be long to see Lynn’s spin
- The one thing the Bills do have going for them against the Arizona Cardinals offensively is this: the Cardinals don’t have any idea what to expect from Anthony Lynn as a play caller. The new offensive coordinator, who will likely feature a more prominent passing attack, has as Eric Wood termed it on Monday, “the element of surprise” working in his favor. However, he’s got only six days to get his offense together the right way, how much of his personal touch can we expect to see Sunday against the Cardinals?
“Well I think the spin in the offense is going to be immediate, some things that we’ll do from a tactical standpoint, I think we’ll see immediately. Changing the verbiage and playbook and all that stuff—we’ll pull from the same place. It may be an occasional play here and there, but we’re still definitely keeping the verbiage and everything else that’s already in place.”
So, you’ll see the Bills continue to draw from Roman’s playbook that’s been well established for months, but perhaps a more pass happy approach. That would be the likeliest “spin” to expect.
4) The ‘bully’ isn’t going anywhere
- Alright, so the “ground-and-pound” might be a thing of the past from here on out, so what about Rex Ryan’s other main quotable from his opening press conference about him wanting to “build a bully,” does that dissipate as well? Oh, you didn’t think Rex could give that up that easily, did you?
“Well no, I want to build a bully. There’s no question about it. Offense, defense, special teams. Without a doubt that’s what we want to be. We want to dictate to who we’re playing, how we’re going to play. So that has never changed.”
To his credit, the offensive line has been fairly good to start the season, and the defensive line has been a strength for the team so far, too. The problem is not the physical ‘bullying,’ it’s been the Bills getting beat in coverage, it’s been them not seeing open receivers, it’s been the running backs and tight ends missing blocks. If they can fix those things, the Bills might be able to do some things going forward… but they have to do so without a stark change in personnel. They should be fine in coverage for the most part, but perhaps the struggles on offense in the effort to build that bully is what facilitated the change.
5) The Cardinals are just what the Bills need?
- At 0-2 to start the season, you would think the Arizona Cardinals — one of the most talented rosters in the entire National Football League — is the last thing the Bills would want to see on their schedule. An easier opponent to get themselves back on track would probably be the better option to try and rescue the start of their season. However, Rex Ryan, who is the quintessential eternal optimist, thinks this is just what the doctor ordered:
“Because I think if you’re coming down---you’re 0-2. Our expectations were much higher than that. Against these two teams right here, it’s clear they’re playing as good as any teams in the league. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I can’t see anybody playing better than what I saw on tape, so we’ll get to see us immediately. I see we’ve had struggles, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve been far from perfect, I get that. But we’ll see how we measure up against maybe the best in the league here.”
I guess I’m not really following his logic here. Everywhere you look, the Cardinals have advantages in individual matchups throughout the roster. They have great skill players, one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the league, their secondary is good on a weekly basis, they have a superb pass rush… the Cardinals bring it every week. Are the Bills as bad as their 0-2 record indicates? No, I don’t think they are. Their best bet is to look at this game thinking that they have nothing to lose and to give Arizona their best shot at it. If they play loose, maybe they have a chance. However, with the screws tightening a bit on a season that has gotten off to a rotten start, we’ll see just what this team is made of.