It's been nearly three months since Rex Ryan was named head coach of the Bills in mid-January. He and his coaching staff have been hard at work, but they've also been waiting to get in the classroom with their players to implement their new schemes with the roster they inherit here in Buffalo. That opportunity begins this morning as players report for the club's voluntary offseason conditioning program.
The Bills have been active around the free agency window in 2015, securing players by extension, new contract or trade.
Ryan is confident the players will very quickly realize that the staff is eager to get to work with them.
"They're going to recognize immediately how excited we are to be here and what our expectations are with this football team," Ryan told buffalobills.com. "They're going to realize how high we set the bar. The reason for the optimism is because of the players that we have. We feel very good about the players that were here and the guys that we've added to the team. We feel we have a very talented roster. Then they're going to realize the talent that we put together on our coaching staff. I think we have an all-star coaching staff."
The Bills coaching staff is largely new with a handful of holdovers from the previous staff with special teams coordinator Danny Crossman and secondary coach Donnie Henderson being the most notable names. The offense and defense have new coordinators, but both have prior working experience with Ryan. So although the schemes will lead to a measure of change, the dialogue among the staff will be seamless.
"I think it'll just happen naturally," said offensive coordinator Greg Roman. "I think we have a very common vision for what we want to become and I think it's just going to be a natural thing. Rex is very effective communicator, which is great. So I think it'll be pretty organic. It's just going to happen as we go."
Ryan, who is known as a very popular coach with his players, is keenly interested in getting a feel for the personalities in Buffalo's locker room.
"I think that's one of best parts about coming in fresh and brand new is trying to cultivate those relationships and getting to know the guys," said Ryan. "That's something you cherish as a coach, but it's not something you do overnight. It'll play out as the year goes on and things. I'm probably more excited about that than anything else, just getting to know these guys. I know them as players, but the other part in terms of what makes them tick. Who they are off the field as well is important.
"They're going to know with us all the coaches that we brought in every one of them is the same type of guy. Number one they're great teachers. Number two they care about their players and that's going to be obvious."
For the players on defense it sounds as if the staff will be weaving together a healthy mix of what the players have run each of the last two seasons. Buffalo's 2013 defense is a virtual replica of the kind of defense Ryan and Dennis Thurman previously ran in New York, but Thurman was so impressed with the execution of the defense last season that he intends to make use of elements from both schemes.
"We definitely took a look at what they did in 2013 when Mike (Pettine) came in and installed the system," said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. "We looked at how the guys performed within it. Looking at that along with 2014 tape and how well they played you have to look at everything as a whole. We did that and we're going to incorporate some of the things they did in 2014 as well because they played very sound fundamental defense."
The heaviest lift this offseason will be on the shoulders of Roman. Not only does he need to determine with coach Ryan who their starting quarterback will be in 2015, but he'll also be implementing an offensive scheme that is in stark contrast to what Buffalo has run on that side of the ball the last few years. Roman however, is undaunted.
"It's very exciting," said Roman. "That's what you want. I think it'll work to our favor because it'll be totally different, and sometimes new is good. I think it will be here. Working against our defense and Dennis (Thurman) I think that's going to be very helpful for us too because they present so many different learning opportunities with what they do on defense. I think it'll help accelerate our preparation.
"It'll evolve and adapt to the players that we have. I think these guys have done an amazing job of going out and being aggressive to get some guys in free agency. I think it'll be a completely different look for the fans when they come and watch us."
At this point Bills fans are still almost four months away from seeing the team up close at training camp. So for now the focus will be laying a foundation for the players within their new systems.
"It's about getting those fundamentals taught," said Ryan. "On defense how we get off blocks, some base calls and some base principles. Same thing on offense, here's our steps, here's how we're going to line up and attack blocking patterns, how we recognize defensive fronts and things like that. It's all going to be taught. When it comes together it's a thing of beauty. There are going to be some growing pains. We're not going to be ready to play the Patriots in a week, but we will be ready to play them in the regular season."