Prediction: The Bills finish with a top 10 defense
Defense wasn’t a bright spot for the Bills in 2015. Rex Ryan made this defense a highly anticipated specimen heading into last season, but the talk of the head coach couldn’t come through.
The team tied for 19th in yards allowed per play and ranked 31st in sacks (21) after getting to the quarterback 54 times in 2014 and 57 times in 2013. Players questioned the scheme and Ryan could not find an effective way to rush the quarterback efficiently.
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The Bills did their diligence in the offseason by bringing in some veterans to fill in some depth and drafting highly touted defensive players Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland. Lawson will probably be out the first 4-5 weeks due to shoulder surgery, but should fill in the role as a huge tool to scare quarterbacks.
Ragland comes from Alabama University, a team which runs an extremely similar defense to Buffalo. The linebacker should be an immediate impact in the run stopping and pass coverage role in the middle.
After the 2015 season was finished, Ryan did state he tried to combine both his and former Bills coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense to hopefully ease the transition, but it came back to bite him in the butt.
“In a way, I tried to merge a couple things, two systems and things like that, and quite honestly it didn’t work. So we’re going to be all in, we’re going to play Buffalo Bills defense, and we’re not going to be fun to play,” Ryan told ESPN Radio after last season.
Ryan has the perfect head coaching experience needed for the Bills to succeed. Per Yahoo sports, Ryan led 10 defenses, as a head coach or coordinator, before the 2015 Bills. None of them finished worse than 11th in yards allowed. Nine of the 10 finished eighth or better.
Then his first Bills team ranked 19th in total defense. It wasn’t just Ryan’s worst defense; it was his worst defense by a significant margin.
Ryan also brought in his brother Rob and future hall of fame safety Ed Reed to coach for the 2016 season. Rob was formerly with the New Orleans Saints, who finished dead last in total defense the year he was relieved of his duties.
This will be Reed’s first stint as a coach, but what player won’t take advice from a former great in the NFL. Rex stated he brought his brother and Reed in to help mesh his scheme and familiarize it with his players.
“I’m excited to have Rob join our staff, and I think he will be a great asset for our defense,” Rex Ryan said in a statement. “He has a tremendous working knowledge of our schemes, and I look forward to his input.”
The Bills did a lot to progress themselves on the defensive side of the ball. With all of the tweaks being made, why couldn’t you be confident in the direction that side of the ball is going?