It hasn’t been a good preseason for the Bills. They have lost some key defensive players to injuries, including rookie LB Reggie Ragland, who is expected to miss the season with a torn ACL, and fellow rookie LB Shaq Lawson could be out until Week 8 with a shoulder injury. LB IK Enemkpali, who was expected to fill in for Lawson, also suffered a season-ending ACL injury and was subsequently cut by the team. Then there’s DT Marcell Dareus, who has been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and has since announced that he has decided to enter a rehab program to try to get help. And RB Karlos Williams, who is also facing a four-game suspension, was recently cut by the team.
QB Tyrod Taylor started 14 games in his first year getting a chance to start, completing nearly 64% of his passes for 3,035 yards and 20 touchdowns with 6 interceptions. He also got things done on the ground, rushing 104 times for 568 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Sammy Watkins had 60 receptions for 1,047 yards and 9 touchdowns in 13 games while TE Charles Clay caught 51 balls 528 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first season with the team. WR Robert Woods put up similar numbers, 47 receptions for 552 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the ground, RB LeSean McCoy had 203 carries for 895 yards and 3 touchdowns in 12 games. RB Mike Gillislee, who could compete for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart with Williams gone, had just 47 carries last season for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns in five games, including one start. The defense was middle of the pack, giving up 359 points but was in the top 10 in the league with 17 interceptions.
With the injuries to the defense, the Bills are going to have to rely on the offense more than they might want to. The running game could be taking a step back without Williams, who did well last season when filling in when McCoy was injured. The Bills did sign veteran RB Reggie Bush recently, and he is currently No. 2 on the depth chart, though he hasn’t played close to a full season since playing 14 games in 2013 so there’s no guarantee he’ll be available for all of the 2016 season. If Bush misses time, Gillislee will have to step up as the change-of-pack back for McCoy. The question in the receiving game lies with Watkins, who is recovering from offseason foot surgery, although he is expected to be ready to start the season.
The Bills kick off their schedule with a road game at the Ravens before hosting the Jets and Cardinals in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. In Week 4, they head to Foxboro to take on the Tom Brady-less Patriots in the final week of the quarterback’s Deflategate suspension. Brady will be playing for the return matchup with the Patriots in Week 8, leading into a Week 9 Monday night contest at the Seahawks, which comes before the Bills’ Week 10 bye. They face the Bengals on the road in Week 11 coming out of the bye. The BIlls get a three-game homestand in Weeks 14-16, facing the Steelers, Browns and Dolphins, respectively. Their season ends with a Week 17 battle at the Jets. I’m not high on the Bills this season, projecting them to regress from their 8-8 record of a season ago.