1. It sounded promising in theory, didn't it? Rex Ryan having some good, old give and take with his defensive players? Willing to listen to what they liked and didn't like about his scheme? Being open to, as linebacker Preston Brown put it, a "compromise" between how Ryan thinks the defense should be executed and the ideas of those who actually do the executing? The coach seemingly brought that notion to a screeching halt Monday when, during an appearance ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike," he said the Bills would be "all in" with his defense in 2016. Ryan, as he did during the season, lamented his mistake of attempting to "merge" elements from what the Bills did in having the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL in 2014 with his approach. That's unfortunate for the Bills, because as Brown and other players quickly recognized when Ryan allowed for a four-man rush to be used successfully in the season-ending win against the Jets, compromising worked. I would be in favor of going even further. I've maintained the best (and perhaps only) way for the Bills to dramatically improve their defense next season is to eliminate most, if not all, if the complexities of Ryan's scheme and go with the much simpler style that gave the linemen more freedom to go after the quarterback. That would figure to go a long way toward closing the gap between the Bills' NFL-leading 54 sacks in '14 and their paltry 21 of 2015.
2. So how is this supposed to work now that Rob Ryan, Rex's twin brother, is the Bills' assistant head coach/defense? Based on everything I know about them, Rex and Rob are pretty much the same guy in terms of defensive philosophy and personality. Rex is a bit more conservative with his grooming (as in much shorter locks and no facial hair) and took steps, via lap-band surgery, to go with far less girth than he once had and his brother still carries. Otherwise, this move pretty much seems like Rex's way of reinforcing, well, Rex's way. They both believe strongly that their defensive concepts -- which began with the teachings of their father, Buddy Ryan -- are the best in the game, so Rob isn't likely to do a whole lot of challenging of his brother. And who on the rest of the staff is going to challenge the head coach's bro because that would, in effect, be challenging the head coach? Certainly not the defensive coordinator, Dennis Thurman, or anyone else coaching on that side of the ball. The problem, of course, is that Rob arrives after being fired by the Saints, where his defense was historically bad. Nevertheless, Rex insists the Bills "got better" because of Rob's addition. But that just might be another way of his promising that what's going to lead to improvement in 2016 is merely a double dose of what they were banking on doing the same in 2015.
3. When Sammy Watkins speaks, you can't help but listen. And he knows it. Emboldened by his ability to cause his targets to soar in the second half of the 2015 season by publicly demanding that the ball be thrown his way more, the second-year receiver went on ESPN2's "First Take" Monday and said he needs to become even "more of a vocal leader." Watkins couldn't have made it clearer that he believes the players need to rely more on themselves, individually and collectively, to find the necessary path toward improvement in 2016. "As a team, it needs to be more team-driven, not based on the coaches," Watkins said. "We need to control this team and come together as a group. And if anything happens or if the defense is doing bad, we need to address it. That's when we need to call people out, accountability, whatever we need to do, we need to get it done." He added that the Bills must also be "a more disciplined team." Gee, Sammy, tell us how you really feel?