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NFL Draft Preview: Bills

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — When offensive coordinator Greg Roman was hired by new head coach Rex Ryan, he inherited one of the NFL’s least potent attacks. But in two months’ time, the Buffalo Bills – fueled by a well-formulated plan by Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley, which was backed by the bank account of owners Terry and Kim Pegula – have transformed their offense into a potentially explosive unit.

“Our front office did a tremendous job,” Roman said in reference to the acquisitions of running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver Percy Harvin, tight end Charles Clay, fullback Jerome Felton, quarterback Matt Cassel, and guard Richie Incognito. “We kind of presented a vision of how we wanted to look and be. It’s a totally new beginning here, they understand that, and they took what we communicated to them and went out to find those pieces.”

Roman and Ryan have said numerous times they want to establish a physicality on offense by beating teams up at the point of attack and running the ball. They will certainly try to do that, but with Clay and Harvin joining a pass-catching group that also includes returning starting wideouts Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, the Bills can present matchup problems for most defenses.

“We want to be multi-dimensional, but also be physical,” said Roman. “We want to be a balance problem for people. We don’t want them to say, ‘All we have to do is stop this guy or double this guy.’ We want 11 men out there that can impact the game, so it really starts with balance.”

“You want to be the guy, don’t get me wrong,” McCoy said this week, as the Bills began voluntary offseason workouts. “But you want to be the guy on a team that has other weapons. When teams come here to try and stack the box or take me out of the game, there are other guys making plays.”

McCoy, who came to Buffalo from Philadelphia in a somewhat surprising trade for linebacker Kiko Alonso, is the centerpiece of the rebuild, but even he recognized that he’s not going to be a one-man show.

“You don’t really notice it until you get here,” he said. “The atmosphere, the people and coaches – the talent level – that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed. From being on winning teams to this team – this is a talented group. I don’t think ego has a big play in this. Everybody is here to win games. We need each other. I want the ball, but I might need Percy or Sammy to get those guys off the box.”

Factoring in the re-signing of defensive end Jerry Hughes to all the turnover on offense, the Bills have basically won the offseason, and they accomplished exactly what Whaley intended heading into the draft. He said at the Scouting Combine that he wanted to get the roster mostly retooled through free agency and trades, and then attack the draft without worrying about specific needs which is a good position to be in without a first-round pick.

There are a number of ways they can go with the No. 50 overall spot, but the two most logical would be offensive guard or defensive line. Even with the addition of Incognito, the Bills still need help up front. Guard is the weak link, so there has been some speculation that left tackle Cordy Glenn could move to guard, right tackle Seantrel Henderson might switch sides, and the Bills could draft a tackle. Or, they could just leave the tackles alone and take a guard.

As for defensive line, age is starting to creep up on Mario Williams and Kyle Williams. Also, Mario Williams has huge salary-cap hits this year and in intervening years, so it’s not crazy to think he could be released before 2016. Marcell Dareus is in his walk year and the Bills are going to try to re-sign him before he becomes a free agent, but if the price gets too high, they may not be able to do it. Also, the Bills don’t have great depth behind their starters so bulking up there is a real possibility.

BEST FIT: G Laken Tomlinson, Duke

The 6-foot-3, 313-pounder played four years at Duke, starting 51 of 52 games, and earning first-team All-ACC honors as a senior. Scouts have said he would be a good fit for a run-oriented scheme. He and A.J. Cann of South Carolina should be the first two guards taken, and both are projected as second-rounders.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Offensive line: The Bills signed Richie Incognito to play one guard spot, but they aren’t enamored with holdovers Chris Williams or Kraig Urbik, so there’s a need to plug the other spot. With a new coaching staff, there could be some switching of positions in store for some of the linemen, but adding a strong guard would be a wise way for the Bills to use their first pick in the second round.

2. Defensive line: The Bills’ front line has been outstanding the last two years and it returns intact now that edge rusher Jerry Hughes has been re-signed. However, the depth is not great, particularly in a 3-4 scheme, plus, you can never have enough edge rushers. With Mario Williams creating a major drain on the salary cap, it’s not crazy to think that he could be a cap casualty in a year or two, and the Bills could add in-the-now depth, and possibly his replacement, in this draft.

3. Safety: Losing Jairus Byrd after 2013 and Da’Norris Searcy after 2014 has put a strain on the back end. Unproven Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks and Bacarri Rambo will vie to replace Searcy at strong safety, so it wouldn’t hurt to add someone to the mix who could also flip and play free safety if needed.


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