Miami will have an interesting schedule this year. The Dolphins will play the Patriots twice in a span of three weeks before rounding out their season the same way with the Bills. Twice in three weeks.
The Bills have undergone quite a few changes this off-season but none perhaps as big as the coaching changes. Following the 2016 season, Rex Ryan was released and the Bills hired Sean McDermott to be their head coach. It’s his first as an NFL head coach.
McDermott joins a young AFC East coaching group that includes Jets head coach Todd Bowles who enters the season potentially with his job in jeapordy, and Dolphins 2nd year head coach Adam Gase. The grandfather of the AFC East of course is New England’s Bill Belichick.
To get some insight into the Bills this year ahead of training camp, I asked Connor Price of Buffalowdown.com about his 2017 Bills.
The AFC East has been all New England Patriots for more than a decade. How close is your team to competing against them for the division?
"I’m confident we are two or three players away from competing with the Patriots. During Tom Brady’s suspension last season, the Bills stole a game. Shutting the Patriots out for a 16-0 victory. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, but that goes to show that our players have the ability to match-up against them. We may just need Jacoby Brissett to start again."
Quarterback seems to be the hot topic of every NFL team but it seems to be even worse for the Bills and Jets this year. What are the expectations for the quarterback position?
"Bills fans should expect Tyrod Taylor to have a similar season as his 2016 campaign. He is a dual-threat quarterback who can greatly impact the game with his legs. It will be interesting to see how his passing game transforms under Sean McDermott. This will be a big year for Taylor to impress the new coach/GM. You know how they love to have THEIR guy at quarterback, I just hope they hold on to Taylor."
Teams try and use the off-season to improve. Has your team improved?
"The Bills have improved very much so this offseason. The draft was huge for the team, with the additions of Tre’Davious White and Zay Jones. They also picked up Micah Hyde, Mike Tolbert, Patrick DiMarco, and others. The secondary may take a step back with the Gilmore departure, but Darby will step into his place confidently. Whaley is gone and Brandon Beane is here. That itself is a massive improvement."
What has been the best and worst moves of your off-season?
"The best move in our offseason has been the new coaching staff. Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley have been let go. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have been hired. Both of these positions are drastic improvements. The worst move is the fact that the team let go of Mike Gillislee. Gillislee had 8 TDs last season, and was a great backup to McCoy. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots use him in their 5 man running back corps right now."
What do you expect to see or learn in training camp?
"The linebacker position battle will be a huge deal in training camp. Lorenzo Alexander and Reggie Ragland could be lining up in different places, and it really is a jumble. Ragland will be gearing up for his first NFL season, and a couple of veterans will be showing him the ropes. BillsMafia is eager to see Sammy Watkins again, just like every year. He needs to stay healthy for us this year and it starts in training camp."
What do you think Sean McDermott brings to the Bills? Do you think he is the answer at changing the team around?
"Sean McDermott brings passion and new life to the Bills. Richie Incognito commented http://buffalowdown.com/2017/07/17/richie-incognito-discusses-new-coach-interview/"
that the coach is trying new things and he is closer to some of his teammates than he has ever been. McDermott will need to completely change the culture of this franchise if he wants to compete. Rex Ryan had a completely different coaching style, so it will be interesting to see how the players adapt. I absolutely believe he is the answer to turning the team around, and if he wasn’t then the team wouldn’t have hired him. The first training camp and offseason is so crucial to a new coach, so he needs to get off to a hot start. All eyes will be on him come August.
Who is your teams biggest rival in the AFC East and why is not one of the other teams?
"Our biggest rival is Miami. Clearly, things have not gone well with the Patriots so they probably wouldn’t be a rival. Although I would love for them to be. Miami fans love bragging about that sweep last year even though both games were decided by three points! I believe those two teams are the closest in the division at this point in time. http://buffalowdown.com/2017/07/10/top-5-reasons-to-make-fun-of-the-miami-dolphins/"
What are your predictions for the AFC East standings this year?
"I think the standings will be the same as last year. The Patriots will win it, and the Jets will be in the basement. Miami and Buffalo will battle for the wild card spot, but I am not sure if the Bills are over the hump yet. Miami and Buffalo are more similar than some people think. Throw the records out the door when those two teams play each other. I would bet both teams narrowly miss out on the second wild card spot."
If there will be one thing that will surprise people about your team this year, what will it be?
"If one thing surprises people this year it will be the secondary. People are counting out the Bills, saying they have no one because of the Gilmore departure. Rookie Tre’Davious White and FA acquisition Micah Hyde are great players that will shock people this season. Hyde was overshadowed in the Packers’ defense because of their great safeties. Hyde is a leader who will be showcased more in the Buffalo defense. He will be able to develop and grow in his current position. Micah Hyde and the secondary will shock people this season."