Whenever a team brings in a new coaching staff, a change in philosophy occurs that can have a positive or negative impact on players throughout the roster. The Buffalo Bills will go through yet another “culture change” following the hire of Rex Ryan as the team’s new Head Coach and Greg Roman as Offensive Coordinator. Ryan and Roman bring a “bully” mentality to their respective units, with the central theme being run and stop the run.
Bills fans are familiar with the scheme Ryan will employ on defense, as his protégé during his time with the New York Jets, Mike Pettine, served as defensive coordinator in 2013. Roman comes from the 49ers where he served as offensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh, who he coached under at Stanford as well. He’s a run-oriented coach that will likely bring his power schemes with him.
Here at BillsMafia.com, we take a look at the winners and losers from the hires.
Rex Ryan’s defensive success has a correlation to the play he gets out of his cornerbacks. From 2009-2012, Ryan’s units thrived due to Darrelle Revis’ ability to “shadow” opposing team’s top receiver and eliminate them from the game. During that three-year span before Revis tore his ACL, he was the best defender in the NFL, breaking up 62 passes and intercepting 10 of the 133 passes in which he was targeted, while opposing quarterbacks couldn’t post higher than a 47.8 passer rating against him.
Stephon Gilmore has been inconsistent throughout his first three seasons, but has been dominant in the second halves of the past two seasons. He’s a big, physical cornerback that is a great fit for Ryan’s defense that will ask him to press wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and play man coverage.
Sophomore Offensive Linemen
The Bills spent three draft picks on Cyrus Kouandjio (second round), Cyril Richardson (fifth round) and Seantrel Henderson (seventh round) in the 2014 NFL Draft with the hopes of bolstering the weak offensive line. All three players are massive “road-graders” that have major upside as run blockers. However, with Doug Marrone running a zone-blocking scheme on offense, the rookies weren’t necessarily best-suited for that style of offense.
Under Roman, the Bills will likely employ more man, or gap, blocking. This will maximize the abilities of Kouandjio and Richardson particularly, who won’t be expected to be on the move as much as they were in Marrone’s scheme. While the offensive line is still a major need that the team will need to address in free agency, the addition of Greg Roman bodes well for the Bills’ young and ripe offensive linemen.
In 2014, second-year safety Duke Williams was productive as a rotational strong safety, racking up 53 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble while playing 49% of the Bills’ defensive snaps. From week seven on, Williams graded out of ProFootballFocus’ No. 8 ranked safety in pass coverage, allowing just five receptions for 33 yards. Quarterbacks posted a 41.7 passer rating when targeting him.
Williams is a physical, hard-hitting safety that plays bigger than his 200-pound frame would suggest that makes him a force in the box, but he has enough speed to cover ground in two-deep looks.
Rex Ryan’s pressure-based schemes rely on the ability of the cornerbacks to play tight man coverage with a free safety over the top in “Cover 1” or “Cover 3” that puts the strong safety in the box. For the past two seasons, Jets safety Dawan Landry has played 54.4% of his defensive snaps against the run in the box, and the year prior to him, LaRon Landry’s 208 snaps in the box were 4th most among safeties.
Duke Williams will likely be an interchangeable piece for Rex Ryan, as he can play both free and strong safety, but he’s the type of physical playmaker that Ryan’s defenses have been built around.
EJ Manuel’s first two professional seasons have gotten off to a rocky start, but Greg Roman has gotten the most out of a similar athlete in Colin Kaepernick. Both Manuel and Kaepernick stand 6’5” and weigh about 235 pounds. Manuel ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at the combine while Kaepernick ran a 4.53. In San Francisco, Roman simplified the playbook for Kaepernick, employing the read-option and more half-field reads that put the inexperienced passer in a beneficial situation.
Kaepernick’s play took a step back in 2014, but much of his struggles can be attributed to injuries suffered by key offensive lineman, as well as having 34 of his passes dropped, the fourth-highest total in the NFL.
Manuel has now had 12 weeks in which he was a spectator behind Kyle Orton, and without any real competition on the roster and a lack of intriguing quarterbacks available in free agency or the draft, it appears that EJ will have a legitimate chance to start—hopefully in a scheme tailored to feature his athleticism.