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Vic Carucci's 3 Bills thoughts: Easier does it, weekend at Terry's, playoff frustration

1. The only way I can see the Buffalo Bills making a dramatic defensive improvement in 2016 is for Rex Ryan to make a dramatic change in his approach to defense. Let the head-shaking and smirking begin. Rex change? His ego would never allow it. His defense is his defense -- with all of his complexities and layers and insistence on defensive linemen doing less of what they do best and more of what allows other players to thrive while keeping opponents constantly guessing. All of that's true, but Ryan has no choice but to make his scheme simpler to play and easier to learn. Why? Because, with serious cap restrictions, it's impossible to believe the Bills can get him more of the right kind of veteran players for it via free agency. The draft isn't likely to help a whole lot, either, because inexperienced players generally are bad fits in the front seven. As Ryan demonstrated during the final two meaningless games of the schedule, he is capable of doing something else, something less complicated, such as unleashing the four-man pass rush that made the difference in the season-ending win against the Jets. It was viewed as a compromise, but it actually was much more of a shift back to what worked so well for the Bills' D in 2014. Ryan needs to get away from what has been comfortable for him for 15 years and do what works for his players. His job security could very well be riding on it.

2. This weekend, Ryan, General Manager Doug Whaley, and the rest of the Bills' football and business brass are expected to gather at the Boca Raton, Fla., home of team owners Terry and Kim Pegula for comprehensive meetings. They're expected to review the 2015 season -- when the Pegulas' "expectations were not met" -- and fix things for 2016. If everyone's being realistic, they will be spending far more time talking about the real problems with coaching (such as what I mentioned above) and personnel (such as improving the depth on both lines and at linebacker, while also finding some starter replacements) rather than discussing the accomplishments made in both areas to overcome a rash of injuries (another issue that must be addressed, along with the poor discipline that resulted in a rash of penalties). This is not the time for anyone to be taking bows. Let's not forget those horrific, back-to-back losses against Philadelphia and Washington. And let's not lose sight of the fact that EJ Manuel (whom Whaley described as being in the "top third and maybe quarter" among backup quarterbacks that started in the NFL) cost the Bills dearly with his terrible showing against Jacksonville. If everyone's being honest, the focus will be on all that went wrong, not what went right on the way to mediocrity.

3. I can only imagine how difficult it will be for the Bills (not to mention their fans) to watch Saturday's wild-card playoff game between the Texans and Chiefs at Houston. Yes, those are the Texans that the Bills had no problem beating, 30-21, on Dec. 12, when Buffalo was still showing a playoff pulse. And, yes, those are the Chiefs, against whom the Bills held a 16-7 lead in the first half before allowing them to rally to a 27-22 win that delivered a staggering shot to their postseason hopes on Nov. 29. The Chiefs were on what would prove to be a 10-game winning streak after a 1-5 start, so they are legit. Nevertheless, the Bills will continue to be haunted by the fact they allowed that game to get away from them because of one of the worst defensive collapses of the season, replay-challenge mistakes by Ryan, and nine penalties.


Correction: An post on Jan. 8 regarding a Buffalo Bills offseason meeting incorrectly cited Bills owner Terry Pegula’s statement as saying the results of the 2015 Bills season were “unacceptable.” The statement did not use that word. Pegula stated “our expectations were not met.”

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