Come Sunday afternoon, the Rex Ryan era officially gets underway as the Buffalo Bills open the season against the Indianapolis Colts at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
And you can bet Buffalo’s new head coach is ready.
“The Colts are a young team, obviously led by a fantastic quarterback,” Ryan told the media today. “What I’m taking comfort in is the fact that we’re playing at home, and the fans that I talked to are as excited about this opportunity, this game, as I am.”
Good news emerged that the team was as close to full health as it is getting before the start of the season.
And that included the return of LeSean McCoy, the Bills expected leading rusher and centerpiece of the offense, who hadn’t practiced since August 18.
“I think he’s gonna be ready to roll,” Ryan said. “We’ll see how he progresses in a week but he’s practicing full so yeah, he’ll be ready.”
Running backs Karlos Williams, Bryce Brown and Boobie Dixon are all expected to be back for Sunday also.
It wasn’t just the running back position that is close getting close to full health either.
The team is getting healthy across the board, just in time for the opener.
“Injury wise, shoot we’re ready,” Ryan said. “…Right now we feel pretty good, we got guys practicing, we’ll see how they progress through the week but I feel pretty good about our team, health-wise.”
It isn’t just a new era for a head coach; it is one for a young quarterback too.
Tyrod Taylor is making his first career NFL start, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to him.
“Just got to channel that energy, channel that anxiety or whatever into energy, positive energy, and go out there and play,” Taylor said. “But as far as nervous, I don’t really get nervous before games. Like I said more so just excited to go out there and play.”
His coach sang a slightly different tune, but ended at the same place as his quarterback.
“I expect him to be nervous, I mean I really do and that’s the beautiful part of this game, Ryan said. “You know here he’s been a backup; he’s won a Super Bowl as a backup quarterback and all that. Been around some great players, Hall of Fame players and all that. But you know what, it’s still your first start and I think that’s gonna be the butterflies, the excitement, nervousness, that’s part of it and that’s to be expected. But you go out there and do it kid. Cause he’s cool, he’s ready for this day and his teammates are ready to support him, so I am excited about that without question.”
On the other side of the ball, the Bills’ defensive unit is one of the best in the league, but face one of the game’s best young signal-callers in Andrew Luck (4,761 passing yards, 40 touchdowns) who has a revamped offense at his disposal.
The Colts went out and added veterans Andre Johnson (85 receptions, 936 yards) and Frank Gore (1,106 rushing yards) as free agents and drafted Duron Carter and Phillip Dorsett this off-season to help give even more weapons to Luck and an Indianapolis receiving corps that already included playmaker T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
So how exactly do you go about stopping one of the game’s best in Luck?
“I think the thing about him is he’ll get out of the pocket to throw the ball down the field and he can get out of the pocket to run so whereas with Ben (Roethlisberger), you’ll see him get out of the pocket to throw the ball, he really won’t take off and run unless he’s got no other option,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said when asked about Luck’s strength in the pocket. “We have a big challenge in front of us defensively, and for us on the defensive front, because there’s a razor’s edge of selling out to get pressure and get around him but also maintaining integrity of your contain and doing different things with your pass rush line so it’s a great test. We’re looking forward to it, we’ve still got a couple more days of work, and we’ll be ready for the challenge.”
Defensive end Jerry Hughes expressed similar thoughts.
“I mean we know he’s good at what he does so we know he’s going to get the ball out quick,” Hughes said. “We just kind of have to stay active and for all four quarters be relentless, not really give up on whatever pressure that we’re sending his way and just try to put some body shots on him.”
With all the questions still yet to be answered that come with a start of a new year, one thing is for sure.
Expectations for a season haven’t been this high in Buffalo in well over a decade.
And it isn’t just the fan base.
“I’m gonna tell you this, the expectations here are real and what that is, is we expect to be good,” Ryan said. “Hey I get it, our schedules tough and all that but when that team looks at us – they aren’t real happy about playing us either. So I think that’s the real expectation and we’re gonna find out right from jump where we are at the present time. We play the Colts; it doesn’t get any tougher than that so we get it right here. But like I said we’re ready, we’ll attack it head on, we’ll see who has the better team at the present time.”
Sunday can’t come soon enough.
More stories you might like