Watch: 3 Reasons for Bills Concern

The Buffalo Bills have playoff aspirations in 2015, but there are three things that could derail their hopes.

The Buffalo Bills have the longest current playoff drought in the NFL. After finishing 9-7 in 2014, Buffalo went out and added plenty of new talent to their roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Trades brought in LeSean McCoy and Matt Cassel. In free agency, the team added Jerome Felton, Tyrod Taylor, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay. After struggling in 2014, Buffalo has plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, the Bills should be near the top of the league in 2015. Last year, the defense finished fourth in the league and they’ll only be more aggressive under Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman. Don’t be surprised to see Buffalo near the top of the league in sacks, interceptions and turnovers this season.

While things look great on both sides of the ball, playoffs are far from a guarantee. Here are three things that could derail the Bills as they attempt to return to the post-season.

1. Injuries

While injuries can hurt every team in the NFL, the Bills have been hit hard with injuries throughout training camp. Just last week, the team was missing their top FIVE running backs and top THREE wide receivers. While none of the injuries are season threatening, it’s a bit unnerving to see how quickly two key positions were depleted in just a week or two. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills have already lost two key reserves for the season: Ty Powell and Jarius Wynn.

Over the course of a 16 game season, the Bills need a bit of luck to keep their star players on the field if they want to compete for the AFC East crown or a wild card spot.

2. Quarterback play

Buffalo’s quarterback competition is still on-going, but at least it’s because all three quarterbacks have performed better than expected. This is encouraging but will it carry over into the regular season?

Matt Cassel seems to be the safest choice among the trio and there are many people who believe he starts the season at quarterback for the Bills. He plays it safe on the field and if the defense performs up to their talent level, Cassel’s type of quarterback play could work for the Bills. That said, Cassel’s track record of staying on the field over a full 16 game season isn’t promising. The quarterback has only seen a full 16 game season once in his career (2008). In the following two seasons, Cassel did start 30 games for the Chiefs but since then he’s only in 30 games over the last four seasons.

Tyrod Taylor has been the most intriguing quarterback for the Bills over the course of the preseason but he’s never started in a real NFL game. Taylor has looked strong as a pass and runner in two preseason games but could he play at a high level over the course of a 16 game season? That’s the big question.

Last, we can’t forget about E.J. Manuel. The quarterback has started in 14 games over his two year career but no one knows exactly what they’ll get from the quarterback. Manuel has shown plenty of talent at times, but Bills fans have also grown accustomed to Manuel’s inaccurate passes. In his rookie season, Manuel also dealt with various knee injuries.

Regardless of who wins the job, Buffalo needs a quarterback who can keep defenses honest. The Bills hope to be a run-first team in 2015, but their success on the ground will have a lot to do with the quarterback play. If Buffalo’s quarterback struggles to find his receivers and move the ball, opposing defenses are going to bring eight or maybe even nine men in the box.

Cassel, Taylor or Manuel will have to step up for the Bills in 2015 if the team wants to play more than 16 games this season.

3. Early season play of Ronald Darby

Early in the season, one of the biggest concerns for the Bills should be the play of Ronald Darby. The rookie has had a good camp and played well in the team’s second preseason game, recording two interceptions. That said, he’s also had his struggles. He was picked on in Buffalo’s first preseason game against the Panthers and has had trouble covering Bills receivers from time to time at camp.

Buffalo has a tough stretch to start the 2015 season and the team needs to start strong. That could be a problem if Darby is a liability in coverage. Over the first four weeks of the season, the Bills will go against quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, possibly Tom Brady (if his suspension is overturned or reduced), Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning. All four are savvy enough to know that they could exploit the rookie on the field. Darby will have to prove himself early in the season to show that he can hang with the rest of the defense. If he struggles, opposing teams could connect for big gains that result in points. A unit is only as strong as its weakest player, and right now Darby may be the weak link among the defense.

Darby has a tremendous skill-set and over time, he should develop into a fine corner in Buffalo. That said, rookie cornerbacks generally have their fair share of struggles. For the Bills to get off to a fast start this season, Darby has to prove himself early and often.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Bills in 2015. The Bills haven’t had a roster this talented in years and there’s no doubt that the team has responded well to Rex Ryan’s coaching this offseason. Buffalo’s playoff drought could very well come to an end in 2015, but all three of the issues above could derail their season.  

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