Armed … Dangerous … Playoff-Ready
Western New York’s NFL entry has not been a playoff contender at any point in the 21st century. That sorry trend seems ripe and ready for a serious reversal of fortunes.
It’s true. The former beast of the AFC Eastern Division (in the 1990s) has lived through an interminable dry spell. But finishing season after season with poor won-lost records has enabled them to acquire high draft picks and it is finally beginning to pay dividends on the field.
Last season, the Bills possessed one of the best defenses in the entire NFL. Unfortunately, their offense was mediocre at best with questionable quarterback play from second year pro E.J. Manuel and a weak offensive line.
The team’s owner knew that changes were needed and acted aggressively to see that those changes were made.
Start with the Head Coach. Buffalo jumped at the chance to sign “loud and lively” Rex Ryan once he was terminated by divisional rival, the New York Jets. The Bills then hired Dennis Thurman to replace Jim Schwartz as Defensive Coordinator. Ryan immediately captivated Buffalo’s fan base and kindled white-hot interest in his new team.
Those coaching changes almost certainly will impact the Bills positively. But it is the personnel changes that really have team management and loyal fans excited.
Start with off-season trades and free agent acquisitions. Buffalo made news – BIG NEWS – when it engineered a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. The snow-belt team shipped young linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Eagles and received running back LeSean McCoy in return. Call it a blockbuster and a win for both teams. McCoy should have a huge impact on Buffalo’s offense and will probably help E.J. Manuel and overall team production.
Buffalo’s free agent pickups should help this team, as well. Offensive guard Richie Incognito will add a strong player to a weak offensive line. Tight End Charles Clay and wide receiver Justin Brown offer two additional targets for Manuel (they’re needed) and some blocking help, too.
Former New York Jet Percy Harvin is another key addition. He is explosive and is a potential game-breaker every time he touches the ball.
Graphic via buffalowins
Importantly, this rapidly-improving team did well in the draft, too. Picking for the first time in the second round, the Bills drafted Ronald Darby, a cornerback that will add depth to a position that already includes Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore.
The cold weather club also picked Nick O’Leary , a tight end who may be ready to contribute immediately. The team’s last four picks included a wide receiver, a guard, an outside linebacker and a running back. Many of these picks project as developmental players so it will take time to determine the actual quality of the draft picks.
That said, most analysts believe that the Bills are ready to take the next step and challenge the New England Patriots for divisional supremacy. Perhaps, but perhaps not. It will still take solid quarterback play to become a true contender. And incumbent E.J. Manuel has yet to show that is equal to the challenge.
Graphic via rantsports