2017 NFL Season Preview- Buffalo Bills
For yet another year, the Buffalo Bills extend the longest postseason drought by a team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The Bills lost three of their final four games to miss the playoffs for the 17th straight year.
Despite a 7-9 record, the offense was solid, scoring 399 points and 46 touchdowns. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor played the same way he did in 2015 by having some impressive moments and big game, but wasn't consistent from week to week. For the second year in a row, Buffalo led the NFL in rushing. Despite missing three games, running back LeSean McCoy was fantastic and finished with 1,267 yards AMD averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Mike Gillislee was an impressive backup who registered a 5.7 average per carry. Tight end Charles Clay lead the team with 57 receptions but was somewhat under utilized thanks to Taylor avoiding throwing over the middle. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins missed eight games die to offseason foot surgery and the rest of his season was a waste. Robert Woods lead the team with 613 receiving yards, but lacks big play ability. A lot of the Bills success running the ball stems from the offensive line. The unit is one of the best run blocking groups in the league.
The defensive line bounced back from there bad 2015 season. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus missed eight games sue to substance abuse suspension and two separate injuries but was solid when he was on the field. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown were on one year deals and both had break out years. Alexander racked up 12.5 sacks after making just 9.5 in his previous nine seasons. Brown led the team in tackles with 149, second most in the league. The secondary was devastated by injuries, particularly at safety. Aaron Williams' career is likely over after a serious neck injury. Cornerback Ronald Darby had a sophomore slump and needs to get back on track in 2017.
Kicker Dan Carpenter had a horrible year missing six field goals and five extra points. Return specialist Brandon Tate finished in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt return average.
Even though the season was a wash, Buffalo produced six Pro Bowlers in running back LeSean McCoy, guard Richie Incognito, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, inside linebacker Zach Brown, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Incognito is one of the top run blocking guards in the league. Williams had an impressive year for a 33 hear old after missing 11 games in 2015. Gilmore was solid registering 12 defended passes and five interceptions.
The rookie class left a lot to be desired. Defensive end Shaq Lawson missed the first six games while on the PUP list, but became a regular part of the front seven rotation. Middle linebacker Reggie Ragland missed the entire season after injuring his knee in training camp. Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington didn't make much of an impact and needs to step up in 2017. Quarterback Cardale Jones is still a raw project after only being active for one game.
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 30th
NFL Rank- 1st
NFL Rank- 6th
NFL Rank- 29th
NFL Rank- 16th
NFL Rank- 19th
In the midst of a 7-9 season, head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were fired with one game left in the season. Rex was replaced by running back coach Anthony Lynn on an interim basis. After the season, Buffalo hired former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to be the new head coach.
The team then hired former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison to the same position and replace defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman with former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.
Notable Additions- QB TJ Yates, FB Mike Tolbert, WR Corey Brown, WR Rod Streater, WR Andre Holmes, S Micah Hyde, S Jordan Poyer
Notable Departures- QB EJ Manuel, QB Cardale Jones, RB Reggie Bush, RB Mike Gillislee, WR Robert Woods, WR Marquise Goodwin, T Cyrus Kouandijo, MLB Zach Brown, CB Stephon Gilmore, S Aaron Williams, S Corey Graham, K Dan Carpenter
Bills 2016 Highlights
2017 NFL Draft
Going into the draft, Buffalo held the tenth overall pick with major holes to fill. Most notably at quarterback, wide receiver, and cornerback.
The Bills believe Cardale Jones can be their starter of the future but if he isn't, Buffalo needs one who can step in and perform well on command.
Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were both lost to free agency. The team needs a lot of help here to help Sammy Watkins.
The team sewed up their problems at safety in free agency, but also let Stephon Gilmore sign with New England. They need another cornerback to pair with Ronald Darby.
On draft day, the Bills traded back to the 27th overall pick with Kansas City so the Chiefs could draft Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. With the 27th overall pick, Buffalo selected LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White. White is the ideal cover corner but can be a liability as a tackler.
The Bills also notably drafted East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones and Temple guard Dion Dawkins in the second round, and Pittsburgh quarterback Nathan Peterman in the fifth. Jones is a proven college player as the FBS all time leader in career receptions but just has average physical traits. Dawkins was viewed as the top downfield blocking guard in the draft, but has some character red flags as he and teammate Haason Reddick were arrested for an alleged involvement in a night club fight. Peterman was seen as the most mentally strong quarterback prospect by his ability to read defenses, but needs to learn better ball placement in throws.
Tre'Davious White Highlights
What to Expect
The Doug Marrone era Buffalo Bills were a borderline playoff team. Under Rex Ryan, they took several steps backwards. With Sean McDermott, I see them stepping in the right direction.
The team resigned Tyrod Taylor, but don't be surprised if Nathan Peterman replaces him due to his passing ability. The running game will still be strong with LeSean McCoy and will have more opportunities for Jonathan Williams. Zay Jones is a solid number two to Sammy Watkins and adding Corey Brown, Andre Holmes, and Rod Streater gives the team a load receiving corps. The offensive line will still be dominant run blockers, the only question will be how they will fair in pass protection.
Defensively, McDermott will get them back to their pre-Rex Ryan form. Marcell Darius, Kyle Williams, and Jerry Hughes were once part of the best defensive line in football and can get back to that under McDermott. With Reggie Ragland back and Lorenzo Alexander coming off a career year, the linebacker corps should be strong as well. The secondary should be drastically improved. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are solid enough safeties and Tre'Davious White and Ronald Darby are both capable of being top notch cover corners.
The reality is that as long as Bill Belichick is coaching New England, the Patriots own the AFC East. That doesn't mean Buffalo isn't capable of handling the Jets or Dolphins. If they can handle their business, the can potentially be a wildcard team.
Best record they can hope for: 9-7