ORCHARD PARK – The Bills’ 2016 season is six days old, and already there is turmoil in the ranks.
Friday, barely 12 hours after a 37-31 loss to the New York Jets that plunged the Bills’ playoff hopes into serious doubt already, coach Rex Ryan fired his offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and elevated running backs coach Anthony Lynn to the position.
Well, someone had to be scapegoat for an 0-2 start that has been nothing short of disturbing, though the timing was a bit odd coming a day after the offense scored 24 points and watched Ryan’s defense implode. Still, Roman’s offense was the main culprit in the loss to Baltimore, and he had two poor play-calling performances to open this season. To anyone paying close attention, it’s clear that the offense, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor in particular, are not making progress, so Ryan acted quickly.
If nothing else, Roman’s firing deflects some of the attention away from the Bills’ defeat, but it won’t stop me from sharing some thoughts Upon Further Review.
Three things I liked
1. Explosive plays. The Bills had a few, and they were the only reason this game wasn’t a blowout. Tyrod Taylor threw 84- and 71-yard touchdown passes, and Nickell Robey-Coleman had a 36-yard scoop and score fumble return providing 21 of the points, and Robey-Coleman’s play gave Buffalo a 24-20 lead in the third quarter. Unfortunately, no one on either side of the ball did much of anything else to support those three plays. What’s crazy is a team that has three big scores like that usually wins, but not these Bills.
2. The Buffalo linebackers. I considered this the weakest area on the defense, and I don’t think my mind has been changed, but for one night, this group was pretty good. Inside linebackers Preston Brown and Zach Brown combined to make 30 tackles as they both played all 75 defensive snaps. On the outside, Jerry Hughes had a sack that was nullified by a phantom penalty on Stephon Gilmore that had nothing to do with the play, and Lorenzo Alexander forced a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble that somehow eluded the Bills’ recovery attempt. All that said, the overall defensive effort was miles and miles short of being impressive.
3. A nod to history. Bruce Smith is arguably the greatest player in franchise history, and while he was never one of my favorite guys to cover – in fact he ranked way, way down the list – he definitely deserved to have his No. 78 retired. The Bills did a nice job with the ceremony, and those of us who know Bruce won’t be surprised if he re-carpets his house with that giant picture of his face that was displayed on the field.
Three things I didn't like
1. The cornerbacks. Ryan has been bragging that Gilmore and Ronald Darby are the best tandem in the NFL. I never bought that for a second, and last night was eye-opening. They were absolutely horrible in this game as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker toyed with them for a combined 227 receiving yards. As for Gilmore, he’s aggravated that the Bills didn’t give him a big contract extension, but what we saw Thursday night is exactly why I wouldn’t give him that salary cap-draining deal. No cornerback is worth what Gilmore is looking for.
2. The play-calling. Ryan thinks he has fixed that by firing Roman, but we’ll see. But if we never see the short yardage jumbo package that we saw midway through the fourth quarter that failed, as it almost always seems to, I’ll consider that progress. The Bills had third-and-1 at the Jets 45, so Roman decided to get cute. He brought in EJ Manuel, sent Taylor out as a receiver, and then snuck Manuel who got nowhere. Then Roman brought in fullback Jerome Felton to line up in the I-formation, and handed it up the middle to LeSean McCoy, right into the strongest part of the Jets defense. Shocker, McCoy didn’t get it. Down 6, the Bills were down 13 about three minutes later, and the game was over.
3. The so-called stars. Who scored for the Bills last night? I’ll tell you – Robey-Coleman, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas, and Mike Gillislee. What about the guys who are supposed to be big-play producers with the corresponding salaries such as McCoy, Sammy Watkins, and Charles Clay? Nothing. As for Watkins, this is two straight weeks of nothing. Yes, maybe his foot is sore. Yes, maybe Taylor just isn’t capable of getting him involved in the passing game. But the fact that Watkins has six catches for 63 yards in two games has to be partially his fault, too. I’m tired of the listening to the excuses.
2010 – That was the last time the Bills started a season 0-2. Let’s hope this isn’t a reprisal of that year when the Bills began 0-8 in Chan Gailey’s debut, then went on to a 4-12 record.
3 - Jets receivers (Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, and Quincy Enunwa) who caught at least six passes for 90 yards, just the second time in Jets history in which that has happened. The first time was just last December against the Giants when Decker, Marshall, and Bilal Powell did it.
The Bills have the weekend off to lick their wounds before they start getting ready for the invasion of the high-powered Arizona Cardinals next Sunday. Imagine what that offense could potentially do to this Buffalo defense that still won’t have Buffalo’s favorite party guy, Marcell Dareus, back on the field. Carson Palmer pitching to Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown, with electric David Johnson running and catching, does not bode well for the Bills.
It will be quite a test for Lynn to call enough successful plays that will produce the necessary points to outscore Arizona. Count me as skeptical about that happening.