The Arizona Cardinals take on the Buffalo Bills in week three of the NFL season and thankfully for the Cardinals and their media and staff, this game occurs in September and not in December.
Again, these answers were provided before a lot of cuts were made, but thank you to Chris Trapasso of Buffalo Rumblings for working on this.
Now there seems to be more pressure than ever for Rex Ryan to end Buffalo’s playoff drought. How hot is his seat heading into year 2?
Right now… not like atomic Buffalo wing hot, because I really think Terry Pegula believes in continuity and wants to keep Doug Whaley and Rex Ryan together. However, in Buffalo with the Bills, the overall vibe from the fan base and media can sour quickly. If the Bills are a few games under .500 by the midway point of the season, then his seat will be atomic Buffalo wing hot. YOU LIKE THE BUFFALO PUNS?!?! Overall, though, I think his job is safer than most think.
Despite Mario Williams’ big dropoff in production, his release did leave a hole in the defense. Which players will get the chance to fill that hole?
Third-round rookie Adolphus Washington. The Bills picked him a few rounds earlier than I would have… but I’m not a member of Buffalo’s scouting department. Anyway, Washington fits into Rex’s two-gapping five-technique spot well and, I’m assuming as a first-year player he won’t complain every time he’s asked to eat two blockers like Mario did in 2015.
Tyrod Taylor was one of the more pleasant surprise stories in the league last year. Is he the franchise QB Bills fans have long been waiting for?
Ok… so I’ve officially been put on the spot. I think Taylor is the franchise QB the Bills have been waiting for, but not by conventional “franchise QB” standards. We typically equate the “franchise QB” label to a signal-caller that can routinely be a 4,500-yard, 35-plus touchdown passer -- Taylor isn’t that. But he’s an exquisite fit in Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense that features a variety of (downfield) play-action passes and the occasional read option.
The Bills invested heavily on defense in the draft, hoping to improve a unit that badly regressed last year. Unfortunately, first-round pick Shaq Lawson is out several months with shoulder surgery. How much of a wrench does that throw into Buffalo’s plans?
It throws a roast-beef sandwich sized (they’re usually somewhat big) wrench into their defensive plans, mainly due to Lawson’s versatility… however, Doug Whaley did some fine GM working adding capable weakside linebacker Zach Brown in free agency. Also, Manny Lawson proved to be the most underrated player on the Bills last season in the strongside linebacker spot. Would the Bills be in a better situation if Shaq and Reggie Ragland were available? Without question. Are they absolutely screwed without those two rookies? No. Then again, no Marcell Dareus for the first month of the season is a much more impactful loss. Rex’s ability to “scheme” pressure, which he did so well during his tenure with the Jets, will really be put to the test in the month of September.
Sammy Watkins started fulfilling his potential as a top-level WR, but he’s coming off foot surgery. Will someone emerge as a reliable No. 2 option in the pass game?
By no means is Robert Woods the next James Lofton, but he’s largely been underrated in his career. His career statistics are comparable to Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu -- hat tip to WGR’s Sal Capaccio -- so that should give an idea of how impactful he can be, especially with a competent quarterback under center. Expect to see more of tight end Charles Clay this season as well.
The Bills have a lot of depth at running back. How do you expect the carries to be split up?
To start the season, it’s going to be LeSean McCoy, more LeSean McCoy then some Mike Gillislee. After that, with Karlos Williams suspended, I wouldn’t be surprised to see rookie Jonathan Williams tote the rock a few times each game. Reggie Bush probably won’t see 8-10 carries a game but wouldn’t be surprised if he sees that many touches on a few Sundays.
Who's the fan favorite player, the cult hero [think how John Kuhn used to be in Green Bay] and why?
Recently… Fred Jackson by a mile. Currently… I’d have to say James Wilder. He’s constantly interacting with #BillsMafia on Twitter and actually held a kickball game for fans. (If this comes out after Wilder is cut, which is likely, can add this after “I’d have to say” … Kroy Biermann because of his last name and Bills fans’ tailgating habits? Honestly, there really isn’t that bottom-of-the-roster guy who everyone in the fan base adores.
How does the first month of the season go for the Bills? The last month of the season? What's the final record going to be?
[Captain Obvious voice] Getting the Patriots in September without Brady is … HUGE. The Bills would probably feel “ok” starting 2-2. The toughest game in the first month is against Cardinals in Week 3, but at least that game is in Orchard Park -- and Buffalo travels to New England the following week. As for December, three of those four contests are at home, and the season finale is against the Jets in New Jersey. Buffalo should win two of a trio of home games against the Steelers, Browns and Dolphins in the contest leading up to Week 17. The Bills have as much overall talent -- and a better quarterback situation -- as they did in 2014 when they went 9-7. If they endure some major injuries and get a few bad bounces, they go 7-9 or 8-8. If they stay relatively healthy and get some good bounces, they go 10-6.