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Sully’s Mailbag: Bills’ first two games are tests, but not musts

As expected, there was a flood of Bills-related correspondence this week. With the final cuts looming and the opener only nine days away, fans are in full football mode. The final mail pickup came before Tom Brady won his appeal against the NFL, so I didn’t get any feedback on Thursday’s big news.

It was a major win for the players’ union, and a huge blow to Roger Goodell, whose authority over player discipline will certainly come under greater scrutiny after this setback. The NFL will appeal, though it would have been wiser if the league let this Deflategate go so it wouldn’t linger into the new season.

Anyway, on to the Mailbag. Submissions were generally civil, although one tweeter asked if my wife hated me, too. I chuckled at that one. I’ll pass it along to Melinda. It reminded me of the time Aaron Schobel visited the press box during a game and asked me, “Do your kids like you?”

@AdamJ5 asks: How critical are those first two games? Indy and NE are powerhouses.

Sully: Well, the Pats and Colts played in the AFC title game, so that’s a pretty daunting start for the Bills. Neither game is critical, but a minor panic might set in if the Bills don’t at least split the two games, especially since both are at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

It’s not necessarily whether they win, but how they perform. If Tyrod Taylor plays well and the defense does a commendable job against Brady and Andrew Luck, it will be a promising sign even if they lose a couple of close ones.

What’s more critical, in my view, is how they play against Miami, Cincinnati and Kansas City, teams they could be fighting for a wild-card spot. Remember, a home loss to the Chiefs seriously damaged their playoff hopes a year ago.

By the way, I predicted the Bills to lose both games and still finish 9-7.

@joseph genco asks: Fred’s release was handled clumsily. Comment on the hierarchy. Terry and Kim above, everyone else parallel? It’s a Jets recipe.

Sully: Fair question. Rex Ryan had a power struggle with his general manager in New York. When he came to Buffalo, he said it was one happy family, in which he and General Manager Doug Whaley would share equally in decisions.

But owner Terry Pegula said Ryan reported directly to him. Rex is making the big money. He’s the most empowered figure in the football department. It would be naive to think he’s not going to throw his weight around at times.

The way I see it, Ryan got his way on the big call – Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback. Whaley exerted his control by cutting Fred Jackson, which our sources say was anything but a group decision.

Things are fine for now. But if the Bills start losing, don’t be surprised if friction develops between Ryan and Whaley. It’s almost inevitable in organizations where the coach has more power than the GM.

@InDaZone asks: @TBNSully, what does it say about an organization that signs Incognito, Karlos Williams, IK, and then releases a man like Fred Jackson?

Sully: It says that all the organization’s talk about character in years past is irrelevant now. Under Ryan and Whaley the Bills are more than willing to give a problem child another chance in the name of winning.

When they signed IK Enempkali after he punched out Jets quarterback Geno Smith, it seemed like a reflex action. Taking on other teams’ miscreants had become a badge of honor for the Bills, a confirmation of their status as a haven for outlaws.

Jackson was the ultimate team player and family man. Whaley felt he was too old. Fine. But they’ll miss his adult example and veteran leadership – especially in the tough times when fragile characters show their true colors. asks: Gilbert Perreault’s jersey number 11 for the Sabres is already retired and John Tavares will soon have his number 11 honored for the Bandits. When can we expect to see Bob McAdoo’s number 11 for the Braves hanging in the rafters at First Niagara Center?

Sully: Great take on the 11’s. I’ve been pushing for years for some kind of ceremony at the FNC to honor the Braves and McAdoo. Others, including local sports historian John Boutet, have been banging the drum even longer.

Sadly, the folks with the Sabres don’t seem to care. In March of 2014, I wrote a column in which both the mayor (Byron Brown) and county executive (Mark Poloncarz) said a Braves banner in the downtown arena was long overdue.

But the Sabres show little interest in honoring their NBA heritage. It would have been great to bring Miami back for a preseason game when McAdoo was an assistant coach and Jack Ramsay was still alive. Alas, Ramsay died last year. McAdoo is now a scout and community liaison for the Heat. asks: If the Bills will be a ground and pound team with McCoy, how important is it for the WRs to block downfield and which bubble WRs are strong at this skill?

Sully: I’m sure Ryan and Greg Roman see the tight ends and fullback as more vital blocking instruments in their run-oriented attack. Still, blocking is always an important skill for a wideout, one that can separate him from his peers at cutdown time.

Chris Hogan is a strong blocker. That’s one reason why I expect him to make the team, despite a knee sprain and a so-so camp. Marcus Easley is also, but he’s not on the bubble because he’s such a valuable member of the special teams.


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