At the end of the month the Buffalo Bills will reconvene for training camp, in what will be a crucial time for a team that has playoff aspirations in 2016. There are a plethora of questions facing the team as we get closer to the start of camp at St. John Fisher College.
Through the weeks leading up to camp, 7 ABC will examine the 20 most pressing questions the Bills have for the upcoming season.
Today, we acknowledge the fact that the Bills have a talented enough starting group, but what about after that?
4) Do the Bills have sustainable defensive depth?
By now we know full well about the strength of the team in the starters. Even without the likes of Mario Williams, the Bills are still have a talented enough group of first-team players, and in my opinion, they can be good enough to help the organization compete for a playoff spot.
That is, if no one really gets hurt.
As we all know full well about the rigors of an NFL season, injuries are always an issue for every team, but it's the teams that are built the deepest to sustain and thrive on a week-to-week basis. Last year, the Bills were gobbled up by injuries and it became a big reason for some over the lack of success.
While it's true that Sammy Watkins, Kyle Williams, Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Aaron Williams, and others all spent varying times on the injury report, it wasn't the sole reason that ultimately did their 2015 season in. The lack of a defensive identity in 2015 certainly played a part, but the injury factor cannot be ignored
Heading into 2016, injuries will likely once again be an issue, because that's what usually happens in the NFL. The question this time around: Is the Bills roster actually deep enough to keep things afloat -- specifically on defense -- to at least contend for a playoff position in the event of injury?
If they need to rely too heavily on their overall depth, they could be in trouble.
Defensively, the deepest position they have is along the defensive line, consisting of some combination of Cobin Bryant, Adolphus Washington, Leger Douzable, and Jerel Worthy coming off the bench in the event of an injury. One of those players must start, alongside Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, but that player hasn't been identified as of yet.
Everywhere else on defense has questions once you get past the starters. The Bills might be forced to rely on sixth-round rookie cornerback Kevon Seymour if either Stephon Gilmore or Ronald Darby is unavailable to play. They could also call on veteran players like Corey White and Sterling Moore, but they seem to favor the rookie as it stands today.
At pass rusher, Shaq Lawson is already injured and they have to decide between a duo of veterans (Manny Lawson and IK Enemkpali) that don't inspire much confidence. One more injury while Lawson is still out could mean the return of the anemic pass rush from last season. And then at inside linebacker, only backup Zach Brown has any extended starting experience, but he was benched last year in the Tennessee Titans 3-4 defense.
Their second strongest grouping is probably safety, mainly due to Robert Blanton being the next-man-in, but the rest of the group is muddled together -- regardless of how confidently Rex Ryan is in that group.
Yes, the defensive depth is a legitimate concern because of the team's overall margin for error in 2016. If they want to get back to the postseason, the defense will have to improve both statistically, and by gelling together much better than they did during Ryan's first year on the job.
The pressure on opposing must improve, the number of sacks must improve, and the run defense must improve -- but they need their main players to stay healthy to do so. If they aren't able to stay on the field, and they generally have to rely on youth and inexperience with their depth, it could undermine everything the Ryan's are trying to do this season.
The best hope is to stay relatively healthy, but to also see some of these key depth players (Seymour, Z. Brown, Enemkpali, etc.) really start to flourish in the system in camp, so that way the drop-off isn't as extreme as it appears to be heading into camp.
Bills Training Camp 20 #TC20
4) Do the Bills have the depth?
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