To kick off my Bills writing at Rumblings, I figured it made sense to provide my general thoughts on the most prominent Bills figures:
On Terry Pegula:
Feels appropriate to start at the top. While the Bills haven’t made the playoffs since being owned by Pegula (#breakingnews), I do think he's made it clear he’s willing to do whatever it takes from a financial standpoint to field a winner and hasn’t been a micro-manager on the football side.
Those two things are what you hope for from your owner.
On Doug Whaley:
I could (and probably will) discuss Whaley at length before the season starts, but it seems like we see eye-to-eye on the Bills GM The last time we checked in to gauge your thoughts on Whaley, his Approval Rating was 79%.
Through the draft, on the free-agent market and via trade, I believe Whaley has done a tremendous job building the roster from where it was after the 2012 season.
Also, despite some rumors last year about disagreements between the two, it seems as though he and Rex Ryan see eye-to-eye on most team-related topics.
On Rex Ryan:
Where to start here? Staying with my originally intended structure of this article, I’ll keep it short. Rex knows defense. Very well. Could his super-complicated system use some tweaks for the modern, quick-passing NFL? Probably. Simple(r) isn't automatically bad.
Rex also knows PR. On a few occasions, I've tweeted my belief that he’s the finest PR head coach in the NFL. Then again, I do think his headline-worthy behavior is genuine.
Do I think he should be fired if the Bills don’t make the playoffs this season? That answer isn't cut and dry. But I won't be surprised if he’s shown the door if Buffalo misses he postseason, although I believe every NFL head coach should at least be given three years at the helm.
Last year, he definitely made things too complex, but I don’t think all of the defensive woes were on him (another topic I'll discuss later this summer.)
Beyond potentially simplifying his multiple, blitz-happy defense, Ryan must improve his time-management and decision-making with challenges.
Side note: Most head coaches could be better in those areas. Rex is no exception.
On Tyrod Taylor:
Count me in the group of people (see: just about everyone?) surprised with how effective Taylor was in his first season as an NFL starter. His downfield accuracy was outstanding, he worked well from the pocket, especially for a quarterback who I believe is the most dynamic running signal-caller in the league. The one concern I currently have with Taylor, ironically, is his propensity to run.
While he didn't simply take off after his first read was covered last season and drifted in pocket often — both encouraging signs — I do think the less he runs, the better. He’ll almost always be able to create big plays with his legs, but he should scramble as an absolute last resort... which would drastically reduce his chances of getting injured.
Taylor didn't take repeated open-field hits in 2015 like RG3 did as a rookie and into 2013, yet with running comes an immense safety risk... and his two-game injury last year (that occurred on scramble) may have been the difference between 8-8 and 10-6.
Beyond a few more targets to the middle of the field — I don’t think he was as bad between the numbers as some others do -- I’ll mostly be watching how comfortable Taylor is staying in and throwing from the pocket in 2016.
Oh, and I think the Bills could (or, maybe should?) make a contract decision with Tyrod by Halloween. It's the mid-way point of the season, the day after Buffalo’s home contest with the Patriots. Full-health provided, Taylor will have made 22 starts by then.
On Sammy Watkins:
Watkins is a must-get-10-targets-per-game talent. Some quick numbers: he’s only had 10+ targets in 9 of his 29 games as a pro. Odell Beckham Jr. has received 10+ targets in 14 of 27 NFL games. That ratio is 11 of 26 for Allen Robinson.
Sure, the Bills are one of the most run-oriented teams in football, but Watkins has proved himself at every level of the field — with the deep ball being his clear specialty — so he needs the football being thrown in his direction more often.
Also, I don’t think he needs to take a snap in training camp or preseason. He’s vital to Tyrod’s development and the Bills pass-game (thank you, Captain Obvious), so his foot must be completely healed before he plays again.
Side note: I’d still like to see him more involved in the screen game, or on plays in which he can utilized the tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability he showcased for three years at Clemson.
On Greg Roman:
He fascinates me. This offseason, we’re starting to hear chatter around the league about the idea to revert back to the run game as the focal point of an offense to exploit defenses that are now specifically constructed to stop the pass (with more small defenders on the field)... Roman's way ahead of a curve here. Without a doubt.
He’s been an old-school, power-running advocate for years, and he has a sterling track record as an offense coordinator.
Roman helped to; revitalize Alex Smith’s career, make Colin Kaepernick a household name and allow Taylor to emerge as a Top 10-15 quarterback out of relative obscurity in 2015.
What’s fun about Roman, too, is that he’s not afraid to sprinkle in a variety of “new school” spread concepts as a change-of-pace to his smash mouth, sometimes-three-lead-blocker ground-game attack.
I love Roman's creativity, openness to multiple formations, packages and motions, and the aforementioned fact that, years ago, he saw an opportunity to gain an advantage by employing a power-running philosophy during a pass-happy era in the NFL.
On LeSean McCoy:
The most naturally talented running back to don a Bills uniform since Thurman Thomas. Yes, C.J. Spiller was more inherently explosive, but it takes much more than sheer dynamic athleticism to be a consistently successful running back. (The athleticism and production disparity between Spiller and Fred Jackson proved that.)
His almost palpable swagger — along with some questionable off-field decisions — make him a bit of a lightning rod. I get that.
But whenever I watch him, the word “special” always comes to mind. His quickness, agility and vision are all still elite, and although running back committees are (smartly) en vogue today, Roman’s offense operates at his best when McCoy is on the field.
(He has an exquisite skill set for that pull sweep he hit for a long touchdown against the Dolphins last year and terrorized the Jets with during the Bills win in New Jersey on Thursday Night Football. I think it's Roman’s favorite run play, and it's gorgeous when perfectly executed.)
Counting the playoffs, McCoy is now over 2,000 touches in his NFL career. However, he’ll only be 28 this season.
Also, I'd like to see him used as a bigger part of the screen game in 2016.
On Marcell Dareus:
Dareus needs to be a one-gapping defender again, because his combination of size, strength and quickness is one of the best in the league, and when he wasn't asked to eat two blocks -- something of which he's certainly capable -- he was a dominant force for the Bills and his production in that role led to the mega contract he signed last year.
Dareus is the Bills best defensive player and is only 26 years old, so, technically, he should be entering the prime of his career now... a scary thought for opposing offenses.
Lastly, I respect the hell out of what he's been able to accomplish despite the unfathomable amount of loss he's suffered through in his life.