Bills: 5 Changes for a Playoff Push in 2015

The Buffalo Bills finished the 2014 season 9-7 behind their defense. The team isn't that far away from making a playoff push in 2015 under Rex Ryan. Here are five changes the Bills can make in 2015 to finally end their playoff drought.

Fix the Guard Position

Buffalo's guard play was below average all season long. Erik Pears, Buffalo's right guard, finished 76th in Pro Football Focus' guard ratings among 78 candidates. He's a free agent who shouldn't return in 2015. At left guard, Buffalo played Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson and Kraig Urbik. Williams only played three games before joining the injured reserve, but he was not impressive during his time on the field. Richardson, a rookie, was benched after four starts and Urbik started the second half of the season. None are great fits in Greg Roman's power running offense. To fix the position, Buffalo needs to add a talented offensive guard in free agency. Mike Iupati comes to mind as he's played with Roman for the last few seasons and is one of the best run blockers in the NFL. Adding a player of his caliber would fix the left side of the line, and allow Richardson, Urbik, Williams and Cyrus Kouandjio to compete for the right guard spot. One player can go a long way in fixing this problem.

Find an Ideal Running Back for Greg Roman

Buffalo's offensive line struggles were mentioned above, but Buffalo's running backs struggled to create for themselves in 2014. None are necessarily great fits in Greg Roman's offense. Fred Jackson may do well with consistent blocking in front of him, but he's 33 years old and cannot be depended upon long-term. C.J. Spiller hasn't given any indication on whether he'll void the last year of his rookie contract, but he's not a bruising back by any means. An improved offensive line would help him as a "homerun hitter" of sorts, but he's not an every down back. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown didn't show any indication of being every down backs in 2014 either. Buffalo may want to add a No. 1 running back in the 2015 draft. The team will have plenty of options in a deep class if they want to go that route.

Add 3-4 Personnel in Free Agency/Draft

Rex Ryan's addition as head coach means that the Bills will be running out of a 3-4 defense. That means that the team needs to add some depth and personnel to their roster that fits in his defense. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News believes that David Harris could be a free agent option. Calvin Pace would also be an option if he's released according to Mehta. The defensive change will also be interesting for Buffalo's free agents. Will Jerry Hughes, Da'Norris Searcy and Brandon Spikes be pursued or will the team allow them to walk away? Besides free agency, Buffalo will want to target some 3-4 personnel in the NFL draft and sign others who go undrafted. Ryan has a lot of defensive talent to work with as is, but more additions must be made.

Get Sammy Watkins More Involved in the Offense

The Bills were aggressive in moving up to add Sammy Watkins in the 2014 NFL draft. He did well in his rookie season, catching 65 passes for 982 yards and six touchdowns. That said, Watkins was not utilized enough in 2014. There were 11 games this season where Watkins saw nine or less targets. Compare that to Odell Beckham Jr., who only had four games with single-digit targets. OBJ averaged 12.88 targets per game in his last nine weeks of the season. Sure, the Giants were playing from behind often in 2014, but they also realized their top player needed the ball in his hands. The Bills did not do this for Watkins. In 2015, Roman will have the chance to get creative with Watkins and utilize him in a variety of ways. If Watkins gets more touches per game, it'll bode well for the Bills offense. The Bills were 4-1 when Watkins had 80 yards or more receiving this season.

Bring in a Veteran Quarterback to Compete with E.J. Manuel

Kyle Orton's sudden retirement left the Bills with EJ Manuel as their only quarterback entering the offseason. Manuel was given the hook early in 2014 after going 2-2 as the team's starting quarterback. In his two seasons, Manuel has shown flashes of why the Bills took him in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. Yes, Buffalo certainly overdrafted Manuel, but he deserves a chance to compete for the starting job in 2015. That said, the job cannot be handed to Manuel.

In free agency, the Bills need to add a veteran to the mix to compete with Manuel. The free agent QB crop is certainly underwhelming, but giving Manuel competition is a must. Buffalo needs to add another quarterback that they feel comfortable with as a game manager. After that, let the veteran and Manuel compete for the starting job as Bills quarterback.


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