Dec 11, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (57) runs after making an interception from Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during the first quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
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There are a lot of hot topics surrounding the Buffalo Bills as they head into the offseason. Here’s some of the latest that caught my eye.
Ever since the Buffalo Bills‘ offseason started, things have been going downhill and fans are left with even more questions than before. Meanwhile, the media has taken notice and haven’t let Buffalo get away easily.
With a lot of topics and more drama on the daily, we’re going to start with some good news.
On Friday, the NFL announced their All-Pro Teams for the 2016 season. There were a record 17 first-timers that made the First Team, including three rookies. Although no Buffalo Bills made the First Team, two defenders made the Second Team All-Pro Second squad.
Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown have had surprising seasons that sprouted due to rookie injuries on the depth chart. With Shaq Lawson missing most of the season and Reggie Ragland missing the whole season, Alexander and Brown were asked to step into a starter role with no experience within the organization. Both exceeded expectations this season by far.
On a defense that was manhandled in some way each week, Alexander and Brown — among a few others — stayed consistent throughout the season. They could’ve easily been considered on the first-team, but making the second-team All-Pro team is still an accomplishment to be proud of.
Lorenzo Alexander entered his 10th season in the league this year and was as reliable as they come, not missing a single game all season long. In return, he ended the year with 76 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, one interception, 6 passes defended and four stuffs. Every single one of those stats was a career-high.
He also finished tied for third in the league in sacks this season, 3 sacks behind the league leader.
On the other hand, Zach Brown finished second in the league in tackles with 149 on the season. Bobby Wagner led the league with 167 tackles.
Brown was also a reliable part of the defense and didn’t miss a game all year. His 149 tackles came from all over the field and his ability to read where the ball is going was off the charts. He also finished with 4 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles, 4 passes defended and 11 stuffs.
If he doesn’t return to the Buffalo Bills next season, he has definitely earned a nice paycheck wherever he goes.
Congrats to both Zach Brown and Lorenzo Alexander for being named to the NFL’s second-team All Pro team. With both players hitting free agency this offseason, I can only hope Buffalo can bring them back next season.
Now, let’s move on to an NFL record that the Buffalo Bills actually tied this season — and no, it isn’t a joke.
Dec 13, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) kisses the Philadelphia Eagles logo at the 50 yard line prior to the coin toss at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
The Buffalo Bills tied an NFL record this season for most coin tosses won in a single season.
Granted, the coin toss doesn’t mean much other than who gets a chance to set the tempo first. In fact, the Buffalo Bills didn’t even do that well in the games they won the coin toss — which was almost all of them. The Bills went 6-8 when they won the coin toss, going 1-1 when the opposing team won it.
Compared to last season, Buffalo had a much improved year at the middle of the field before the game starts. In 2015, only 6 coin tosses were won. The difference? Buffalo did much better when they won the coin toss last season, going 5-1 in those games.
Obviously, there’s nothing other than bragging rights to gain from this. Although it’s not much of a bragging right, the Buffalo Bills and their fanbase will take any ounce of bragging rights they can get.
Their ability to completely manhandle teams during the coin toss happens to be one of them.
There’s other bragging rights, though. They were third in the league in turnover percentage, at just 6.8%. Buffalo also broke the franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season with 29. Their astounding year on the ground is enough bragging rights on its own:
The Bills were #1 in the NFL in: Rushing Yards Rushing TDs Yards/carry Rushing plays of 20+ yards
Although the season didn’t go as planned, there are still areas to be proud of. With that being said, it’s clear the Bills are onto something. Just a few pieces away, that’s why this offseason will be one of the most important ones in a while.
Unfortunately, it’s time to move on to some rather down news starting with an anonymous Bills’ player taking shots at Rob Ryan’s defensive schemes.
Oct 23, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills assistance head coach Rob Ryan (right) talks with Bills cornerback Kevon Seymour (left) and Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (center) during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins won 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
An anonymous Buffalo Bills’ player has some harsh criticism for Rob Ryan’s defense.
When the Buffalo Bills couldn’t make the playoffs in Rex Ryan’s first year as head coach, they thought bringing in his twin brother to help the defense would be the fix they needed.
Oh, were they wrong on that one.
In fact, Rob Ryan came into this franchise and completely messed up the entire defense and the players took notice. It resulted in a disappointing 7-9 season that easily could’ve ended much differently with a more capable, all-around defense.
That wasn’t the case. With both Rex and Rob Ryan being fired after Week 16 of the season, some players have spoken out about some of the problems they encountered with the two in control of the team.
First, players were questioning their ability to hold people accountable and discipline the players. LeSean McCoy was one of the players stepping up to speak:
“I think the discipline has been an issue,” LeSean McCoy said. “Players just [need to take] accountability for their own actions. … I just think as players, as professionals, we need to step up and play accountable. That’s the biggest issue.”
“It’s discipline,” Sammy Watkins said. “Whatever around the locker room that needs to be addressed — on the field, off the field, flags, whether it’s a running drill. … I just think being professional as players [needs to be] fixed first. … Then the coaches have to be hard on us, not scared of us. Get at us, yell at us, curse at us. Whatever to get the player to do that job the best he can, that’s what they need to do.”
On Friday, Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report released a series of tweets that described a conversation he had with an anonymous Bills’ player regarding Rob Ryan. The tweets will make you wonder if firing Rex Ryan was really necessary.
This #Bills player said that Rob Ryan — not Rex — was the problem. Rob was basically the team's DC in 2016. "He changed everything."
There has been a lot of questions surrounding who was calling the defense this season. Was it Rex? Dennis Thurman? Rob? It sounds like no matter who that was, Rob Ryan had a much bigger impact on this defense than just the red zone.
If that’s the case, it’s possible that a lot of Buffalo’s mishaps on defense this season were in fact Rob’s fault.
“Players hated it. Everything we played was dictated off the offense. We had no identity,” the anonymous player said to Dunne.
One other note: Player I chatted with said Rob Ryan mixed man with zone so much it confused everybody. "It was all over the place."
Apparently, having both brothers on the same team isn’t a good idea and the Buffalo Bills are possibly better off with none. From what this player is saying, it looks like the Bills made at least one good move in firing Rob Ryan.
Now, let’s move on to our last headline of recent, which includes the ever-so-disappointing Dan Carpenter.
Jan 1, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter (2) kicks a field goal against the New York Jets with Buffalo Bills punter Colton Schmidt (6) as holder during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
According to Bleacher Report, Dan Carpenter was the third-worst kicker in the NFL this season.
This shouldn’t really surprise any Buffalo Bills‘ fans. If it does surprise you, it’s likely because you’re wondering why Dan Carpenter wasn’t ranked THE worst in the league.
Fans are ready for a new kicker in Buffalo and looking at how Dan Carpenter has performed over the past two years, it’s quite obvious why that is. According to an article posted by Bleacher Report on Thursday, the facts seem to agree with the fans.
Carpenter ranked 32nd out of all NFL kickers in 2016, earning a grade of 62.9. Mike Nugent ranked 34th with a 61.9, so Carpenter barely escaped the basement.
Carpenter has been with the Buffalo Bills for four years now and that appears to be two years too long. In his first two seasons with the team, he finished with a 92% field goal percentage and 90% field goal percentage. In those two seasons, he also hit more than 30 field goals in each season and went 10-14 from 50+ yards in both seasons combined.
Those numbers have dipped dramatically these past two years. First off, he has only hit a total of 42 field goals in 2015 and 2016 — he attempted 36 in 2013 and 38 in 2014. His percentage dipped down to 85% in 2015 and saw an even bigger dive this season at 76%.
The most frustrating thing with Dan Carpenter is his extra points. In 2013 and 2014, he only missed one extra point out of 64 total. However, that number dropped big time when the NFL moved the extra point back. He has missed 11 in 2014 and 2015 out of 85 total.
It’s pretty clear that fans want Dan Carpenter gone and would love nothing more than to see a top-talent kicker take his place. Looking at free agency, the best two available in my opinion are Steven Hauschka (31 years old) and Nick Novak (35 years old). They are both veterans that can hit a good percentage of field goals — Hauschka at 89% this season and Novak at 85%.
There are also some nice prospects that the Bills could look at come draft day. Zane Gonzalez out of Arizona State had a fantastic season hitting 23 of 25 field goals with his only two misses coming from 50+ yards away. He went 7-9 from that range and hit a 59 yard field goal as his longest. In his four years, he has missed just five extra points and only one this season.
Jake Elliott out of Memphis and Adam Griffith could also be good options. Elliott performs well from far away and Griffith is a lock with extra points.