FACTS AND STATS
2015 finish: Third, AFC East
DIVISIONAL RECORD: 4-2
TOTAL OFFENSE: 372.3 (8th)
RUSHING: 100.6 (19th)
PASSING: 271.7 (7th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 420.3 (32nd)
RUSHING: 121.4: (24th)
PASSING: 298.9 (32nd)
COACH: Rex Ryan
2nd season with Bills
8th season as NFL head coach
58-60 overall; 4-2 postseason
Do the players still believe in Ryan and his defensive scheme? Too many complained publicly that the defense didn't fit their skills the way Jim Schwartz's did in 2014 to expect a change of heart. But Ryan delivered a clear message in the offseason by having his players wear shirts with "ALL IN" on the front.
2016 UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS
By TSX reporter covering team:
QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Tyrod Taylor. Backups -- EJ Manuel, Cardale Jones
Taylor begins his second season as the starter, and he is light years ahead of where he was at the start of 2015, which has allowed offensive coordinator Greg Roman to expand the useable portion of his vast playbook. Taylor has worked hard to improve his throwing over the middle, a weakness last year. Manuel had a solid preseason and is in the top tier of backup QBs in the league at this stage of his career. Jones is a project who will not see the field unless injuries fell the top two.
McCoy made it through camp and the preseason completely healthy, and he looks quicker than he did in 2015, when injuries curtailed him all season. He will be the bell cow in the run game and could approach 23-25 touches a game. Bush is an interesting addition to the offense as he can play a similar role to McCoy as both a runner and pass receiver out of the backfield. Their skills are almost carbon copies. Gillislee has been sidelined by a concussion, but when he returns, he may surpass Bush in the backup role while Bush would be utilized on third downs. Williams isn't part of the equation and probably will be inactive most weeks.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Charles Clay. Backups -- Jim Dray, Nick O'Leary
Clay has the skills to be a serious threat downfield in the passing game, but he needs to be more involved in the intermediate game. His blocking is above average, which makes him an important part of the offense. Dray is strictly a blocker who won't see too many balls thrown his way.
This is a big year for Watkins. He has been plagued by injuries throughout his first two years in the NFL, and this year he has seen limited practice and game time due to offseason foot surgery. All signs point to him being 100 percent for opening day, and if he can stay healthy, he has the potential for a breakout season, following up on the strong second half he had last year. Woods is a solid possession receiver who may be better suited working out of the slot in three-wide formations. Goodwin still has dynamic speed, but as usual, he starts the season hurt, this time with a concussion, so Salas may be the No. 3 receiver at the start.
This unit has not played a down together in the preseason because Glenn was out with an ankle injury, thought he is expected back for the opener. The group returns intact from last year, so there is experience and continuity. Miller should be better than he was a rookie, while Mills is the weak link and could lose his job to either Kouandjio or Henderson at some point. Groy was unimpressive in preseason, but he was the best of a weak bunch on the interior. Lewis was just signed last week and has had very little practice time with the Bills.
The loss of Dareus for the first four games is certainly a blow, so the Bills will turn to Bryant to fill in. Bryant played well last year when Williams missed the final 10 games with a knee injury. As for Williams, he has seen limited practice time and there are questions surrounding how much he has left at age 33. Washington is the third-round rookie who has looked good in camp and preseason and could be a force up front right away. Worthy earned his roster spot with a strong preseason.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Jerry Hughes, WLB Zach Brown, MLB Preston Brown, OLB Lorenzo Alexander. Backups -- OLB Bryson Albright, MLB Brandon Spikes, OLB Lerentee McCray, WLB Ramon Humber
The Bills managed just 21 sacks last season, and that figure has to improve. Hughes is the best pass rusher, and he is going to see an awful lot of double teams without Mario Williams on the other side, so Alexander -- who won this job over the released Manny Lawson -- needs to continue on an ascending path. Preston Brown will be the QB of the defense, and he feels more comfortable in the scheme than he did last year. Zach Brown gets the first crack at replacing injured Reggie Ragland, but Spikes will be lurking, especially on run downs.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Stephon Gilmore, RCB Ronald Darby, S Aaron Williams, S Corey Graham. Backups -- CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB Kevon Seymour, CB Corey White, S Jonathan Meeks, S Duke Williams, S Colt Anderson, S Robert Blanton
Gilmore and Darby form one of the NFL's best cornerback tandems, and Gilmore is motivated to have a big year with free agency looming in 2017. Darby struggled a bit in camp, and teams are going to test him often despite his success as a rookie last year. Aaron Williams' health remains a question mark, and it is not a certainty that he will play in the opener. Graham is a reliable back-end defender who doesn't get beat deep, and there is decent depth with Duke Williams, Meeks, Anderson and Blanton.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Dan Carpenter, P Colton Schmidt, LS Garrison Sanborn, KR Marquise Goodwin, KR Walter Powell, PR Reggie Bush
With the new touchback line at the 25, the Bills released kickoff specialist Jordan Gay, leaving Carpenter to handle the kickoffs. Carpenter can get the ball to the goal line, and he can directional kick, so he should be fine, especially given that the Bills led the league in kickoff coverage last year. As a placekicker, he is reliable, though he can't miss six extra points as he did last year. Schmidt and Sanborn are reliable and went unchallenged in camp. If Goodwin isn't ready, Powell could be deep on kickoffs. Bush is the punt returner, and it's possible he will be return kickoffs as well.
PRACTICE SQUAD: K Jordan Gay, C/G Gabe Ikard, WR Dezmin Lewis, CB Doran Grant, WR Matt Hazel, LB Max Valles
All times Eastern
Sept. 11, at Baltimore, 1:00
Sept. 15, N.Y. JETS (Thu.), 8:25
Sept. 25, ARIZONA, 1:00
Oct. 2, at New England, 1:00
Oct. 9, at Los Angeles, 4:25
Oct. 16, SAN FRANCISCO, 1:00
Oct. 23, at Miami, 1:00
Oct. 30, NEW ENGLAND, 1:00
Nov. 7, at Seattle (Mon.), 8:30
Nov. 20, at Cincinnati, 1:00
Nov. 27, JACKSONVILLE, 1:00
Dec. 4, at Oakland, 4:05
Dec. 11, PITTSBURGH, 1:00
Dec. 18, CLEVELAND, 1:00
Dec. 24, MIAMI (Sat.), 1:00
Jan. 1, at N.Y. Jets, 1:00