Ryan’s brash approach still can’t answer Bills’ QB question
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Though he’s parachuted out of a plane, tricked out his pickup truck in Bills colors and brought a tremendous buzz to Buffalo since arriving in January, coach Rex Ryan finds himself in a similar boat with many immediate predecessors on one important front.
“We might not have the elite of the elite at that position, but we have some good players at that spot,” Ryan said last month in assessing a three-way competition between former starter EJ Manuel and newly acquired players Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor.
It’s a competition that will resume once training camp opens in suburban Rochester on Friday, and extend potentially into September.
“In an ideal world, would you already have your quarterback named by now? Yeah,” Ryan said. “But you know what, we’re not there. We’re in an ideal situation to have competition at that spot, and I welcome it.”
Except for Drew Bledsoe’s three-year stint as starter from 2002-04, quarterback has been the Bills’ most unsettled position since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
And it’s the one key position that remains unresolved for Ryan, the former New York Jets coach, who takes over after Doug Marrone abruptly stepped down on Dec. 31.
Ryan inherits a team that features a talent-laden and aggressive defense, which played a significant role in Buffalo’s 9-7 finish last season — the Bills’ first winning record in a decade. And yet, it wasn’t enough for Buffalo to end the NFL’s longest active playoff drought, which now stands at 15 seasons.
Though quarterback remains a major question mark, Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley took an aggressive approach upgrading the rest of the offense. The key move was acquiring LeSean McCoy in a trade with Philadelphia to lead what Ryan vows to be a “ground-and-pound” running attack. The Bills also added receiver Percy Harvin, fullback Jerome Felton and guard Richie Incognito, and signed tight end Charles Clay to an offer sheet AFC East rival Miami declined to match.
Here are a number of things to look for as the Bills enter their first full season under new owners Terry and Kim Pegula:
OH-LINE: Aside from plugging in two new guards, Incognito and rookie third-round pick John Miller, the Bills could have a hole to fill at offensive line coach.
Aaron Kromer was placed on indefinite paid leave two weeks ago for allegedly punching a boy and threatening to kill his family during an altercation in Florida. Kromer is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 12. For now, assistant line coach Kurt Anderson will fill in.
DEFINING D: Dennis Thurman followed Ryan to Buffalo to become the Bills’ fifth defensive coordinator in as many years. He replaces Jim Schwartz, who was not retained.
The good news is, Thurman brings with him an attacking, Ryan-devised defense similar to the one the Bills ran in 2013 under Ryan’s former coordinator Mike Pettine.
There are numerous holdovers from Pettine’s days, including a dominating front that features Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes.
BRING ON THE BROWNS: Ryan and Pettine will reunite at camp from Aug. 17-18, when the Bills host the Browns for a pair of joint practices. The teams will then travel to Cleveland for a preseason game on Aug. 20.
ON THE RUN: McCoy joins a suddenly deep and talented backfield rounded out by Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown and fullbacks Felton and John Connor.
The Bills struggled running the ball last year in finishing with 1,482 yards rushing, a franchise low in a 16-game season. Buffalo also lacked a player who topped 100 yards rushing in a game for only the third season in team history, and first since 1979.
PEGULA POWER: The Pegulas, who also own the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, have introduced a free-spending approach to the Bills since purchasing the franchise from late-owner Ralph Wilson’s estate for an NFL-record $1.4 billion in October. That was evident in the aggressive tack the team took this offseason in adding and retaining talent, which included restructuring McCoy’s contract and re-signing Hughes to a five-year, $45 million deal.
That’s a switch for a franchise that previously had difficulty retaining talent, including safety Jairus Byrd and guard Andy Levitre.
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