Rex Ryan begins filling out Bills staff, hires Dennis Thurman as DC
Bills new coach Rex Ryan’s staff in Buffalo will have a familiar New York Jets resemblance.
All eight assistants hired by the Bills on Thursday previously worked with the Jets under Ryan, including Dennis Thurman who takes over as Buffalo’s defensive coordinator.
Thurman held the same job the past two seasons in New York and has a lengthy tie to Ryan, who was hired Monday. Thurman and Ryan have worked together since being members of the Baltimore Ravens defensive staff in 2002.
Thurman takes over a Bills defense that finished fourth in the NFL in yards allowed, led the league with 54 sacks and produced three Pro Bowl linemen. He replaces Jim Schwartz, whose contract was terminated this week, allowing him to pursue other jobs.
Under Thurman, the Jets defense finished sixth in yards allowed in the NFL last season, and 11th in 2013.
Ryan spent the past six seasons coaching the Jets before being fired following a 4-12 finish last year. In Buffalo, he replaced Doug Marrone, who stepped down abruptly on Dec. 31 after his second season.
Ryan is a defensive specialist, who has an established reputation for an attacking philosophy. During his introductory news conference Wednesday, Ryan vowed he intended to build the Bills into "bullies."
Karl Dunbar was hired to coach the defensive line, after holding the same role with the Jets the past three years. He has 10 seasons of NFL coaching experience. Dunbar also served as defensive line coach at LSU, where he worked with current Bills tackle Kyle Williams.
Dunbar was also an NFL defensive lineman, and played under Ryan’s father, Buddy Ryan, with the Arizona Cardinals in 1994-95.
Bobby April III takes over as linebackers coach after holding the same job with the Jets the past two seasons. April is the son of former Bills special teams coach Bobby April Jr.
Tim McDonald will coach defensive backs, the same job he had in New York the previous two seasons. He’s a former NFL player who earned six Pro Bowl selections during a 13-year career split between the Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
Tony Sparano Jr. will coach tight ends after spending last season serving as a Jets offensive assistant. He is the son of former Miami Dolphins and interim Oakland Raiders coach Tony Sparano.
The Bills also hired Jeff Weeks (assistant defensive line coach), Eric Smith (special teams assistant) and Jason Oszvart (strength and conditioning assistant).
Ryan still has several jobs to fill on his offensive staff, which will be headed by newly hired coordinator Greg Roman.
The Bills made two roster moves by signing defensive back Jonte Green and offensive guard Darryl Johnson to reserve/future contracts.
Green was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by Detroit and had seven starts in 24 games with the Lions over the 2012 and ’13 seasons.
Johnson was an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico, who signed with San Diego last spring before being cut by the Chargers in August.