Are the Buffalo Bills playoff contenders? That is one of three burning questions the Bills must answer between now and the season opener which takes place six weeks from now. Six weeks is perhaps not enough time to fix everything wrong with the Buffalo Bills, but a strong camp and preseason will go a long way in determining how good the team can be.
Training camp for all NFL teams is underway and Buffalo, like all of the other 31 teams, has their share of questions that need to be answered. They are undergoing an overhaul at head coach where defensive guru Rex Ryan takes over for Doug Marone.
As many recall, Marone took a huge gamble on the head coaching market and left a solid 9-7 Buffalo Bills team stranded. The timing for his decision was terrible as he wound up on the outside looking in of the NFL coaching carousel. Enter Rex Ryan, a proven coach with a solid record manning the sidelines for a New York Jets team that did not have a ton of talent.
Can Rex Ryan catch lighting with the Buffalo Bills, making them playoff contenders?
Ryan is a good coach, but the AFC East is loaded with teams that all can make a claim at a playoff berth. Every team in the division improved their rosters by adding talent, except for the New England Patriots. The Patriots are the defending champs so they hardly fall to the back of the pack. It will be a tough climb to the top of the division, but the Bills have a head coach who has been there before.
Rex Ryan inherits a stout defensive unit which ranked near the top-five of just about every defensive statistic. Having him on board should serve as an upgrade. Surprisingly, the Buffalo Bills’ chances of the playoffs will not rest on the shoulders of the defense, but the other side of the ball instead.
Is running back LeSean McCoy washed up at 27-years-old?
When the Buffalo Bills acquired LeSean McCoy during the offseason there was more attention paid to the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles traded him, than the Bills trading for him. When healthy McCoy is a top-three running back. He can do it all – run downhill, catch the football, and block.
In goal line situations he was also effective, though you could not tell due to the fact that the Eagles neglected to use him much of the time inside the five-yard-line. His Philadelphia departure sparked a national media fire storm regarding Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly and the type of player he prefers. The talk was about everything except for the Buffalo Bills acquiring one the NFL’s best backs. His exodus was a head-scratcher until he signed a five-year, $40 million extension with the Bills. LeSean McCoy was traded not because he was ineffective, or waning down, he wanted more money.
For Buffalo he gives the offense a consistent threat at the line of scrimmage. If the Buffalo Bills want to employ a smash mouth, ball control type of offense that Rex Ryan likes, then McCoy is the guy. He will be worth every penny of his new deal.
Is E.J. Manuel any good?
Quarterback play is the key to any team’s success. Third-year QB E.J. Manuel has been so-so at best in his brief career. He has the talent to win a few games on his own, but his decision making and poor footwork will also cost a few victories.
Having wide receiver Sammy Watkins helps, as does the aforementioned McCoy. The problem is they cannot read the football field for E.J. Manuel. He has to do that by himself. Eliminating the turnovers and other costly mistakes will determine how good he can be, as well as how far the Bills can go. A solid third season out of Manuel could mean playoffs for the Buffalo Bills.
[Photo by Jeff Zelavansky/Getty Images Sport]