2016 Buffalo Bills: Reasons For Optimism And Pessimism
Two good friends, Owen Optimist and Peter Pessimist, walk into a bar in Buffalo and order a drink. After serving both of them the bartender asks “So are you excited for the 2016 Buffalo Bills season?” Both men reply boisterously at the same time with opposite answers. Owen exclaimed “Yes!” While Peter barked back “Not one bit!” The bartender said “I’m a bit shocked because while you two are known to disagree from time to time you almost always agree about the Bills”. This started a vigorous debate between Owen and Peter.
Owen: Let me tell you why I’m so excited. It starts at the top with Rex Ryan. Under Rex Ryan and Greg Roman, the Bills offense was not the weakest link for once. They finished 12th in points scored and 13th in total yards for the season. The defense was the issue and with a defensive head coach like Rex Ryan that side of the ball should easily rebound from giving up the 19th most yards in the league. If the defense can get back into the top 10 and if the offense doesn’t regress the Bills should make the playoffs.
Peter: PUH-LEASE! Rex Ryan a reason for hope? Playoffs? Are you sure that’s your first beer? Rex promised the Jets a Super Bowl nearly every year and failed to even appear in the game once. He promised the Bills would make the playoffs last year and couldn’t fulfill that promise either. The last time he coached a team to the playoffs was 2010 which also happens to be the last year he finished with more than eight wins. He’s a mediocre coach at best and I can’t believe you would consider listing him as a reason for hope. I suppose you’re going to tell me next that it was a great idea for Doug Whaley to draft four players with injury history?
Owen: Well since you brought it up, I do think it was a great draft for the Bills. They got three potential starters this season on defense. On top of their first three picks, they also got a quarterback with huge growth potential, a receiver with lightning fast speed, a running back who was overlooked due to a year off and a cornerback that was passed over by many teams because they didn’t realize he had an issue with his eyesight. This has the potential to go down as one of the better drafts in Bills history like in 1985 when they drafted Bruce Smith, Andre Reed and Frank Reich all in the same draft! Even if Shaq Lawson does miss some time, it will be in the first half of the season when the schedule is a bit easier.
Peter: You really need a reality check if you think the Bills draft in 2016 could mimic the success of the 1985 draft where they selected two Hall of Fame players. I’m glad you brought the schedule up though. The Bills are going to have a much tougher schedule this season. Instead of playing the NFC East which was a joke last season, they now have to play the NFC West with two of the better teams in the entire league Seattle and Arizona. Instead of playing the AFC South which the lowly Houston Texans won, this year the Bills will be matched up against the AFC North which features two playoff teams from last year in the Bengals and Steelers. On top of that Baltimore should be much better after a down year last year and they know Tyrod Taylor better than any other team. They should be able to provide a blueprint to other teams on how to stop him Week 1.
Owen: A blueprint to stop Tyrod? Are you nuts! Now you’re the one who has clearly had too many drinks! Tyrod can scramble, he can bomb the ball to Watkins with incredible accuracy, he has one of the better running back groups in the league to hand off the ball to and two Pro Bowl lineman to protect him. How could you possibly think that one game against Baltimore could derail an entire season for a player as diverse as Tyrod?
Peter: Oh you have so much to learn young Owen. You brought up Pro Bowl lineman as a plus which is convenient but what about the glaring holes on the right side of the offensive line? Things are not looking great for Seantrel Henderson to return before the start of the season and even if he did he was inconsistent at best. Jordan Mills right now is projected to be the starting right tackle and that should be a scary thought for Bills fans. On top of that, rookie John Miller had plenty of ups and down at the right guard spot last year. If the Bills only have solid players on one side of the line how could you ever expect them to run a diverse offense which can spread the field?
Owen: John Miller was a rookie last season who was thrust into the starting lineup. His play is only going to get better over time as he continues to learn and develop as a player. You said that I left out the right side of the line conveniently but you left out one of the biggest leaders on the team in center Eric Wood. Three of the Bills five starting lineman are very good, Miller has the potential to grow and I will concede to you that the right tackle spot needs to be upgraded. But with Tyrod’s mobility, he should be able to scramble to prolong plays if the right side of the line breaks down. Also, did I mention if Henderson does get healthy before the season the Bills will be returning five starters to the line for the first time in 20 years? How could you not get excited about that?
Peter: Because they have no wide receivers outside of Sammy Watkins and he has a broken bone in his foot! Imagine the Bills had to start Robert Woods as their #1 wide receiver? The guy has never amassed more than 700 yards in a single season. It would be a travesty and there is nothing but a bunch of role players behind him. Sure one of them can break out but they’ve all had their chances on various teams and it’s not likely that any of those guys will amount to much.
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Owen: I wish there was a word that meant stupider than stupid because that’s what I’d call you right now. You’re going to knock on Robert Woods? He was one of the team’s most consistent blockers last year. On top of that, he played the entire year with a groin injury and still managed to record the second-most receiving yards on the team last season. I’d love to see what you could do with a pulled groin but my guess is you wouldn’t even be able to make it out of bed in the morning.
Peter: Having the second most receiving yards on a team with a bunch of lousy receivers is not much to write home about. The guy only got 552 total yards on 47 receptions. That’s hardly acceptable for a good #2 wide receiver. I suppose you’re willing to justify just about anything at this point. I bet you think the Bills are fine at safety now too with Aaron Williams trying to return.
Owen: Hey bartender can you please get this guy a coffee because someone has to sober him up! Of course, the Bills are going to be fine at safety this year. Aaron Williams is only 26 and is one of the Bills better young players on the roster. Not having him in the secondary last season was one of the major reasons there were communication issues on the defense. The other starter is Corey Graham who had a pretty darn good year last year. I’m sure you’ll criticize him for something but the guy led the team in tackles playing at a new position. He is only going to get better the longer he gets to work on his skills at the position. They also added great depth when they signed Robert Blanton in the offseason.
Peter: I need a coffee? You need about ten red bulls and a nice cold shower so you can start thinking straight. You want me to get excited about Robert Blanton who was signed to a veteran minimum contract? If the guy was worthwhile he’d be getting paid more than the minimum. Sure Corey Graham led the team in tackles but did you see the way he covered in the second half of the season? Safeties are supposed to be the last line of defense and you can’t have a guy getting burned the way he did on occasion even if he does make up for it with solid tackling. You’re also overselling how good Aaron Williams is. Yea he isn’t bad but he is not nearly as great as you think. On top of that, he could decide after one hit in training camp that he can no longer continue his career which would force Blanton into the starting lineup next to Graham which would be a nightmare for the organization.
Owen: Ugh! I just can’t take you anymore! You’ll never be happy! Tyrod put up one of the best seasons for a Bills quarterback in a long time and you still have doubts. The Bills have some consistency for the first time in 20 years on the offensive line and you criticize that unit. The Bills had their first legitimate #1 wide receiver season since Stevie Johnson in 2012 and you think they are weak at the position. They have their best safety returning to the team this year and you make it sound like the unit was downgraded. You criticize a general manager who got the team three players who were projected to be drafted higher than where the Bills took them and all of those three players filled a position of need. On top of that, you criticize their coach who has bonded with the blue collar fans of the city. What do you want Doug “I Am A Robot” Marrone back? You’re never going to be happy no matter what happens to this team. I’m starting to wonder if I even know who you are anymore. You don’t sound like Peter Pessimist to me as much as you sound like Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News. You’re not really Jerry are you?
Peter: No comment. Hey Bartender! Check please!