The Buffalo Bills are now knee deep into their new offensive playbook with Anthony Lynn as the man in charge of that side of the ball. The Bills have a crucial contest with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and are getting prepared to try and do anything in their power to avoid an 0-3 start to the season.
With how Rex Ryan was talking on Wednesday, it’s pretty clear he’s feeling the sting from an 0-2 start to 2016. Five takeaways from the Bills head coach from the first two days of practice:
1) Rex feeling his slightly warmer seat
- Considering the type of players the Bills have on their roster, it’s somewhat of a surprise that they’ve opened up the season with two consecutive losses. Worse yet, they’ve looked incredibly inconsistent on defense, and consistently inefficient on offense, too. Perhaps that’s what facilitated the changes over the past week, but it’s also the reason why the normally boastful Rex Ryan was a bit subdued on Wednesday.
“ Well you know I haven’t been in these circumstances before being 0-2. Obviously I feel a great deal of responsibility for where we’re at as a football team and, you know, not real comfortable right now to be honest with you. Just want to win. And we need to win in the worst way and we understand that.”
You ain’t kiddin’, Rex. This is a fairly brutal stretch of games over the next three weeks, at home against Arizona, on the road against New England, and then traveling all the way out west to take on the Los Angeles Rams. The Bills, at best, can only get to 2-3 on the year through this stretch, but a 1-4 or even an 0-5 start seems more logical based on the opponents, and the location of those opponents. It’s not quite panic time at One Bills Drive, but unless they put out the early flames, this could turn into an all-out five alarm fire.
2) Watkins taking the slow approach… Sunday status in question?
- The Bills will continue to be cautious with wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who is still dealing with soreness in his foot — and that approach led to the Bills sitting Watkins at practice on Wednesday. They were without Watkins once again on Thursday, too. Watkins followed a similar pattern last week ahead of the Thursday night game, before “practicing” on the final day of work ahead of the game. However, it was quite clear that Watkins was not 100-percent during the game, and it doesn’t appear that he’s quite there yet based on how much rest they’re giving the wideout. I did, however, find this comment from Rex Ryan particularly interesting, in response to the being asked if there’s any growing fear that he won’t play, due to Watkins missing time during the week:
“I think there’s a little more concern because of the fact that another day he didn’t practice. There’s probably a little heightened concern there, a little bit.”
At this point, he’s expected to play. However, with an injury like the one Watkins has, there really is no definitive statements as to whether or not he can play until the day of the game.
3) A first for Rex: meeting with the offense
- Since he took over the job as the Bills head coach, Rex Ryan has kept his focus solely on the defensive side of the ball, and over the course of the spring, summer, and early fall, trying to fix the defense after their performance in 2015. Well, with how poorly things have gone, the Bills head coach is taking on a new interest: sitting in meetings with the offense. He admitted he hasn’t done so with the Bills, but did early on in his tenure as head coach with the New York Jets. So, what type of guy is he in those meetings?
“No, I’m more of an observer and trying to get in, if they ask questions, I’ll give them a defensive perspective, but that’s pretty much it.”
During both Monday and Wednesday’s practice, in the time that the media was able to watch practice, Rex Ryan kept his sole concentration on watching the offense — the offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers — do their work during individual drills. He won’t be calling any plays, and continues to keep meeting with the offense for the rest of the season. I’m not sure that it will have any impact on the team, other than the head coach admittedly paying attention to the nuances of the team’s offense for the first time.
4) Anthony Lynn’s style and game day role
- The switch from Greg Roman to Anthony Lynn is a heavily anticipated one for the upcoming weekend, and as the week goes along we’ve been starting to gain a little bit more clarity about some of the changes that are on the way. The first change was from the words of Rex Ryan, saying that he wanted to be a bit more of a passing threat to the outside, so the question is, how will they do that? It seems a simplification of the offense is in order, which likely means giving the players less to think about while the play is happening. The next change is a bit of a smaller one, but one that some fans had been asking, ‘Wait, they weren’t doing that before?’ Roman spent his time on the sidelines during the game and called the plays from there — which will no longer be the case with Lynn. The offensive coordinator will be up in the booth calling plays from there, communicating directly with Tyrod Taylor through the headset. Different offensive coordinators have different preferences when it comes to that — for instance, I remember former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett loved being on the sidelines, but was eventually switched upstairs due to the preferences of then head coach Doug Marrone. We do know this, we won’t know the identity of this offense until Lynn starts calling his plays on Sunday against Arizona.
5) A hobbled Darby?
- The Buffalo Bills have a brand new player on the injury report, and after the way the New York Jets picked the secondary apart, it’s not one the Bills can afford to lose. Second-year cornerback Ronald Darby was a limited participant in practice on both Wednesday an Thursday due to a hamstring injury, and that could be part of the reason that the player was beat as many times as he was in Week Two. Darby came through with a few solid plays in the beginning of the second half, but the Jets picked on both Darby and Stephon Gilmore for the majority of the game. Both are extremely talented players, and Darby’s performance was even more shocking considering the fact that he was the best player on the field for the Bills against Baltimore. If he was playing with a hamstring injury against the Jets, that could explain the performance. There were no excuses for the game of Gilmore, however. He had one of the worst games of the past few seasons. But, the Bills need him this weekend — a healthy him, that is. The Cardinals boast three really skilled wide receivers, and a loss of Darby for this game would be a blow to their chances of winning.