When the Indianapolis Colts travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills in week one of the 2015 regular season (Sunday, September 13 at 1:00 p.m. ET), it will be the start of a new era for the Bills. They hired Rex Ryan as their head coach and the hire has Bills fans excited for the team (and namely their defense) for this upcoming season.
And with Ryan in charge, this defense does figure to be one of the league's best once again in 2015. Under Doug Marrone last year, the Bills ranked fourth in both points allowed per game and yards allowed per game, finished first in third down defense, ranked third in passing yards allowed per game, ranked first in sacks, and ranked 11th in rushing yards allowed per game. Now, with the team adding a very good defensive coach in Rex Ryan, the hopes are just as high - if not higher - for the defense again in 2015.
Talent-wise, the Bills stack up against any team in the league on the defensive side of the football. Pass rushers Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes (yes, the former Colts first round pick) combined for 24 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2014 and have combined for 47 sacks and eight forced fumbles over the past two years that they have played together, forming a top pass rush duo. Furthermore, former third overall pick Marcell Dareus has become a force at defensive tackle, racking up ten sacks a year ago and playing very good against both the run and against the pass. He won't be playing in week one when the Colts face the Bills, however, as he was suspended for one game by the NFL. Other players, like Kyle Williams, will still make it a very tough defensive line to face, however. The team's linebackers are solid but unspectacular, though playing behind the Bills' defensive line makes their job much easier. They figured to get linebacker Kiko Alonso back after he missed last year with a torn ACL, but the Bills traded him to the Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy (more on that in just a bit). When it comes to the secondary, the Bills lost a good starter in safety Da'Norris Searcy, who signed with the Tennessee Titans. The Bills will need to replace a starter there, but despite that fact, their secondary still figures to be a pretty good unit.
In short, the Bills' defense will be very good again in 2015. The real question entering this season is about the offense. We know that the quarterback position is the most important position in football, and its there that the Bills have a lot of questions. They traded for Matt Cassel earlier this offseason and he figures to be their starter, but EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor could push for the job too. Regardless of which of those three players ends up starting, the bottom line is that the Bills quarterback position likely won't be very good in 2015 and could end up being the thing that holds them back.
The hope, however, is that running back LeSean McCoy can carry the load offensively. One of the best running backs in football, the Bills acquired McCoy in a trade with the Eagles earlier this offseason that surprised many. In six years with the Eagles, McCoy rushed for 6,792 yards and 44 touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He also has caught 300 passes for 2,282 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per catch. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time first-team All-Pro, led the NFL in touchdowns in 2011 and led the NFL in rushing in 2013. One of the best backs in the league without any doubt, he figures to have a big workload with the Bills this year. In 2013, two running backs topped 300 carries, and one of them was McCoy. In 2014, two running backs topped 300 carries, and one of them was McCoy. If things go according to plan, it's likely that he'll reach that same milestone again in 2015 - mainly because the Bills need him to.
Their receiving position is actually pretty good, with Sammy Watkins entering his second year, Robert Woods entering his third year, and Percy Harvin signed in free agency - and the Bills also signed tight end Charles Clay in free agency, who could be a good receiving option for the team. The real question, again, is the quarterback position. And it's anybody's guess right now as to how that will turn out.
When facing the Colts, the Bills will certainly present a challenge. The Colts figure to have one of the league's best offenses, while the Bills figure to have one of the league's best defenses. That could make for a good matchup in week one and a matchup that won't be easy for Andrew Luck and company. For the Colts defense, it could also be a good test - how well can they stop the run? That has been the big question entering this season, and in week one they get to face a team that could end up being one-dimensional with one of the league's best running backs. It will be a good test right away.
The Bills should be a good team in 2015 and should have a good first year under Rex Ryan. The defense isn't a concern, but the offense - namely, the quarterback position - is. And with today's NFL, that could end up being the thing that separates the Bills from some of the top teams in football. The Bills have the defense to match up with some of the league's best, but their offense might fall behind because of the quarterback position. If they can get that figured out, however, then the Bills will be a team to watch out for in 2015.
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