Monday, September 28, 2015

Bills off to Strong Start

The Rex Ryan era is only three games old, but the Buffalo Bills are certainly off the to a strong start. Their 41-14 beatdown of Miami in Miami was certainly impressive. This followed a strong opening win vs. the Colts, and then an interesting loss vs. New England, in which the Bills looked miserable for the majority of the game, but never quit and came back to make it interesting in the fourth quarter. And, of course, New England is pretty good.

So, we sit at 2-1, with two dominating defensive performances and an offense that has been pretty good - spearheaded by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a former Ravens back-up making his first NFL starts and rookie running back Karlos Williams, who is averaging almost eight yards per carry. [Of course, this brings back into question the logic behind signing Shady McCoy to that expensive contract extension, which I've called into question before. Then again, I also called into question (at least once) the signing of Percy Harvin (which I thought my have contributed to Freddie getting cut), but he has looked great, and he and Tyrod really seem to be on the same page.]

Let's remember through that Ryan was able to take the Jets to the Conference Championship game in his first two years with the Jets, so I'm not really surprised by his early success with the Bills. It's the long-term consequences of moves like the McCoy contract that have me concerned. Plus, it's very early in the season, but the Bills have looked good.

Let's start with the defense. Ryan has been quoted as saying he wanted to "build a bully" in Buffalo, and he certainly seems to have done that. In addition to playing good defense, the Bills seem to be playing really physical defense. I don't know if there is a stat that can track hard hits and intimidation, but, as I've said before, this is the hardest hitting Bills defense since the Wade Philips days, and those were some killer defensive units.

I'm hoping the Patriots game was an anomaly, as, for whatever reason, the blitz-happy Ryan only dialed up 15 blitzes in more than 60 passing plays run by the Patriots after blitzing 27 times vs. the Colts the week previous. What I'm hoping is that Ryan realizes it's a long season and that he didn't want to tip his hand to the Patriots too early. In 2010, his Jets lost 45-3 to the Patriots before turning around and beating them in the playoffs. So, maybe Ryan is playing his cards close to the vest vs. the Patriots in anticipation of a higher stakes game against them in January. Does that seem far fetched?

As I mentioned, Tyrod has been fairly good on offense, completing more than 70% of his passes and hitting on seven TD passes vs. three interceptions. His biggest drawbacks - those three INTs came vs. the Pats in a game where he also took seven or eight sacks. Against, New England, Taylor clearly seemed to be holding the ball too long as he went through his reads, but to his credit, Taylor never appeared to panic and did make enough plays to earn a 93 QB rating for the game - for what that is worth.

Against Miami yesterday, Buffalo and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, went to more moving pockets and kept Taylor off the ground, while also appearing to give him lanes to throw - he's only 6' 0", so this is kind of a big deal. I think Colin Kaepernick's dismal performance yesterday also underscored somewhat Roman's ability as an OC. Kaepernick became a star under Roman's guidance - granted Roman was let go in San Francisco after the offense struggled somewhat last year - but he seems to have transferred some of that Kaepernick magic over to Taylor, at least for now. Taylor gets great reviews for his work ethic, so maybe he will continue to evolve and develop in Roman's offense, where Kaepernick seemed to stagnate after a while, and with Roman now gone, Kaepernick "rock bottom" yesterday.

To touch on Williams, he's a big back, a real downhill, north-south runner, who hits the hole quickly (or the line if a hole is not there) and has been much more effective than the elusive McCoy so far in Roman's offense. McCoy is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Yes, it's early, but so far Taylor, Williams, and Harvin have been the three most impressive pieces of the Bills offense. (Richie Incognito is getting rave reviews too.)

Harvin had seven catches in eight targets yesterday, several for first downs. After a very promising start to his career in Minnesota, Harvin really struggled the past three years, bouncing around from the Vikings to the Seahawks, to the Jets, to finally Buffalo, but so far appears to be a good fit in Roman's offense and with Taylor at QB. Kudos to Ryan for choosing to pursue Harvin in the offseason even if his tenure with the Jets last year was not great (he scored one TD in eight games.)

Next week is home vs. the Giants. Let's hope there is no letdown following a big emotional win on the road over a division rivals. Giants don't seem that great, but they do have Eli Manning, which could make them dangerous. I heard a radio analyst the other day say that the Bills were destined for 8-8 due to the emotional nature of Ryan's coaching. The analysis was that you can't sustain a high level of emotion throughout a 16-game NFL season and that Ryan's team were susceptible to peaks and valleys that prevented them from being truly great - like say teams coached by emotionally level-headed guys like Bill Belichick (who always appears to be a dick). I'm hoping that analyst is wrong.

Go Bills.

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