In very short order, the Buffalo Bills’ season has gone off the rails with losses to the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets. As they welcome the Arizona Cardinals to New Era Field on Sunday, it looks a lot like the season will continue off the rails, into a ditch where it will catch fire and explode.
Can the Bills salvage the season? Forget Arizona for a moment and think long term because the games don’t get any easier.
What can the Bills do to save themselves and their year?
Rex Ryan and the franchise can fire Greg Roman as many times as they want, the truth is the defense was most of the problem in Thursday’s loss to their division rivals. You can’t allow almost 500 yards to a team and expect to win, especially when that team scores 37 points.
The secondary has performed terribly, with Stephon Gilmore the worst culprit. As much grief as the Jets’ Darrelle Revis is getting, Gilmore is worse and the Bills have to make adjustments, whether it’s by giving him more safety help or swapping him out more. The Bills couldn’t match up with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall, and are about to face Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Julian Edelman, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Adams, A.J. Green, Amari Cooper and Allen Robinson, to name a few.
The run defense and front seven in general also have to improve. Overall, the team is ranked No. 25 in defense by Football Outisders over the course of the first two games and they are bad across the board.
We suspected Rob Ryan wasn’t the answer to the defensive issues from last season, but the horrible play under alleged defensive mastermind Rex Ryan is baffling and must stop.
Anthony Lynn has no margin for error
So the team reacted to losing to the Jets by firing Roman, the offensive coordinator, despite his offense keeping them in the game when the defense was busy tanking.
There were real reasons for Roman’s departure—he and Ryan didn’t see eye to eye on philosophy, the team is ranked No. 29 in third down conversions and the run game is nonexistent. We could also point to the stats last Thursday and acknowledge that if it wasn’t for a few big plays, the offense would have been as bad as the defense.
That doesn’t mean Lynn, an assistant and position coach who has never called plays at any level, gets room to screw up. In fact, his margin for error might be even smaller than Roman’s was.
As a former running back, Lynn is likely to get back to leaning on the run game, which Ryan is apt to like since that seems to be the only offensive philosophy he knows. LeSean McCoy is a very good back and Jonathan Williams could be an able backup. If the line can block, we’ll see more effectiveness out of the backfield.
More concerning is the passing game. Tyrod Taylor has not looked good and Sammy Watkins has been almost a non-factor, even accounting for his foot injury. Lynn has to find a way to improve the production from both players going forward and if Watkins is too hurt to produce, he needs to find a way to get Robert Woods, Greg Salas and Marquise Goodwin to play better.
In plain terms, the Bills have to come up with some new ways to produce on both sides of the ball. They will have to find a way to steal some games from teams you wouldn’t expect them to beat and not lose to others who shouldn’t present a huge challenge.
If they keep playing at the level they’ve shown in the first two games, though, there aren’t too many of the latter.