Buffalo Bills don't expect to be pushovers under Rex Ryan
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Rex Ryan most certainly won the offseason with his brash talk about building the Buffalo Bills into a tougher team.
And there's nothing the coach has seen thus far to temper his vow.
''We're going to be a handful,'' Ryan said last week. And the great thing is, it's not long until we get to prove it.''
It starts Sunday, when the Bills usher in a new era hosting the Indianapolis Colts. They do so under new owners (Terry and Kim Pegula), a new Ryan-led coaching staff, new high-priced offensive additions (running back LeSean McCoy, tight end Charles Clay and receiver Percy Harvin), a new starting quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) and a majority of an attacking style defense returning intact.
Add it up, and the expectations are sky-high for a once-proud franchise that has been mostly a pushover during a 15-season playoff drought that ranks as the NFL's longest active streak.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams can't recall being this confident about a built-to-win Bills team entering a season in his previous 10 years.
''That's the expectation in here, upstairs and in town,'' Williams said. ''When we go out on Sunday, we're not just going out there to compete, we're going out there to win.''
The difference for Williams as compared to the past is the talent the Bills have added on offense - including Clay and Harvin - and the depth he believes the team has to overcome injuries.
And yet there remain questions for a team coming off a 9-7 finish, its first winning season in a decade.
At quarterback, Taylor prepares to make his first career start after spending the past four seasons as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore. McCoy's early season effectiveness is in question after hurting his left hamstring three weeks ago.
The schedule also features numerous challenges. Buffalo opens against the Colts and defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, two teams that played for the AFC championship in January. The Bills also face a stretch from Nov. 12 to Dec. 20 in which they'll play five of six games on the road.
Here are a few other things to watch out for:
T-MOBILE: Taylor won the starting job after showing he's capable of completing passes from the pocket, and also being a threat to run. His explosiveness provides new coordinator Greg Roman an opportunity to add a read-option element to the offense, much like he previously had in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick.
Nicknamed ''T-Mobile'' during his days at Virginia Tech, Taylor went 24 of 31 for 236 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, and also had 11 carries for 108 yards, and a 20-yard TD.
Based on the preseason, expect opponents to test Darby often after the second-round pick out of Florida State struggled in coverage. Though he intercepted two passes by Cleveland's Josh McCown, Darby was beaten numerous times while attempting to cover Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin and Pittsburgh's Martavis Bryant.
''I'm confident he'll do a good job for us,'' Ryan said, referring to Darby.
DOMINANT D: Ryan inherited a dominating defense that led the NFL with 54 sacks and was third with 30 takeaways. The unit returns a line that features three Pro Bowl selections: Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus. The Bills also re-signed Jerry Hughes, who shifts to a pass-rushing linebacker from defensive end.
Dareus will miss the opener while serving a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
OFF TARGET: Veteran kicker Dan Carpenter's status is suddenly in question after he missed three of six field-goal attempts and an extra point try in three preseason games. Ryan expressed concern even though Carpenter, who hit a franchise-best 34 field goals last season, missed much of the offseason with a hamstring injury.
FAN SUPPORT: The Bills set a franchise record by selling more than 60,000 season tickets, about 12,000 short of Ralph Wilson Stadium's capacity. As a bonus, fans will celebrate the 50th and 51st anniversaries of the Bills two AFL championship teams during halftime Sunday.
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