They had snow (a lot of it too!!), they had changes at QB and they reached their first playoff spot for a very, very long time. This week we look at the Buffalo Bills!
Alexander Woollard (@BillsManc) is a UK Bills fans with lots of family in Buffalo and was very keen to help us out by talking about his team in our latest ‘State of the Franchise’ feature. So, Bills fans, sit back, relax and enjoy the honest review of Alex.
Last Season’s Reflections
After two average years in Buffalo, at the end of the 2016 season Head Coach Rex Ryan was sacked and rode off into the distance on his tandem bike with his brother Rob (seriously they have one, look it up!). Shortly after the 2017 draft GM Doug Whaley was given his marching orders too so the Bills came into the 2017 season with a new pairing of Sean McDermott as Head Coach and Brandon Beane as GM (affectionately known as McBeane by the Bills fans). The two were formerly DC and Assistant GM at the Panthers so they already had a close relationship and give the impression they have a plan they are working to.
As the 2017 season approached, the team appeared to be in the running for the first overall pick, having already got one of the worst offenses in the league, they traded number one receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams in exchange for a second-round pick. The expectations coming into the season were low particularly in a division with the Patriots and a Dolphins team who had reached the playoffs the previous year.
Off to a Good Start
The team surprisingly started the season very well, getting to 5-2 including wins over Raiders, Broncos and Falcons in which the defense was very impressive. McDermott built a strong defense without big stars in Carolina and that has been the case in Buffalo too, Micah Hyde came from Green Bay and had a career season and first round draft pick Tre’Davious White seemed to get a pick every game. However, the team traded star DT Marcell Dareus to the Jags after week 7 and that seemed to knock the defense out of its stride.
Losses against the Jets and Saints took the team to 5-4 and next up was a trip to the LA Chargers. The team then made what can only be described as a monumental cockup. They decided to bench QB Tyrod Taylor, who yes has his flaws but is a competent quarterback, for rookie fifth-round pick Nate Peterman. Not unpredictably it was a complete disaster with the poor guy throwing five interceptions in the first half before they brought back Tyrod who kept the defeat vaguely respectable.
From 5-5 the Bills managed to close out to 9-7 which included a crazy overtime win against the Colts in three feet of snow. Because of the poor state of the AFC this season, one team would make the wildcard with a 9-7 record. Coming into the last game of the regular season we needed to win in Miami and hope that the Ravens lost at home to the Bengals. The game in Miami was won fairly easily and that left the fans and the players watching the last 15 minutes of Ravens against Bengals. In an amazing turn of events, Andy Dalton managed a touchdown on the last drive of the game to take the game for the Bengals and the Bills 18-year playoff drought was over.
First Playoff game in 18 years
The reward for all the hard work and perseverance was a playoff game at the Jags. It turned out to be one of the worst playoff games of all time with almost nothing on offense from both sides. The Jags won but it didn’t matter, the Bills ended the longest drought in US sports history!
Changes During the Off-Season
Bad news emerged after the end of the season when offensive captain center Eric Wood was forced to retire after failing a medical which was followed by Guard Richie Incognito part-retiring and part going-off-the-rails. The team also traded starting LT Cordy Glenn to the Bengals. Hence, going into the draft, the offensive line was a big issue. The team also had one of the worst passing games in the league so receiver was also a position of need approaching the draft.
The main free agents the Bills added were on defense with the biggest name being DT Star Lotulelei from Carolina. With Kyle Williams staying on for another year, the defensive line now looks like a strength. Vontae Davis was also added from the Colts, he’s an experienced CB and will help to support what was already a strong secondary.
The Bills have been looking for a quarterback since Jim Kelly retired in 1996 and it was clear from that Chargers game that McBeane had no confidence in Tyrod Taylor so it was no surprise he was shipped to the Browns for their third-round pick. AJ McCarron was brought in but no one believes he is the answer long-term so it was absolutely obvious that a QB was the priority in the draft.
With a bundle of picks in hand, Brandon Beane in his wisdom decided to pick Josh Allen over Josh Rosen at the 7th overall pick. Allen’s personality seems to fit better with the team’s makeup, but I don’t think I am the only Bills fan who is apprehensive about him. Their second first-round pick was Tremaine Edmunds at 16 who is a very physical and talented linebacker. Surprisingly no offensive linemen were drafted but another CB, DT and two WRs were.
Predictions For The New Season
The Bills are rebuilding, notwithstanding the unlikely playoff appearance last year, and it needs to be remembered this is only year two. The team is very unbalanced, the defense looks very exciting, Tre’Davious White is a top corner and S Micah Hyde was voted to his first pro bowl. Tremaine Edmunds is going to be a star in my opinion and although we probably overpaid for Star, I think he will solve our problem which was against the run later on in the season.
I am as worried about the offense as I am excited about the defense. The O line is almost non-existent, with very little experience. The receivers likewise are, with the exception of Kelvin Benjamin, either has-beens or late round rookies. At the start of the season at least we are faced with the prospect of AJ McCarron under center who we could kindly describe as a never-has-been so we are once again entirely reliant on LeSean McCoy who is a great RB but is getting towards the end of his career.
I would expect Josh Allen to be playing by week 3 and the season has a 5-11 feel for me. Pats will win AFC East as always and I feel like the Jets and Dolphins will both be better than last year so it be could be a long one.
Editor Notes: Bills fans, let us know your thoughts and tell us whether you agree with Alex’s reflections and predictions. Leave a comment or contact us via social media below: