The first two weeks of free agency brought the Bills an influx of new offensive talent with all of it coming at the skill positions. While Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor will be part of a quarterback competition with EJ Manuel, the other offensive additions will have pretty defined roles coming in the door. So how might Buffalo's offense be most different from what it looked like last season?
If there is one thing offensive coordinator Greg Roman likes to have for his offense it is options. Naturally every NFL play caller wants that because it helps to keep an offense unpredictable. Roman, however, likes to take it a step further. While he desires many options he wants them tied up in just a handful of players.
Though Roman's offensive looks are greatly varied in alignment and personnel groupings, in an ideal world a lot of the same players will remain on the field down after down and series after series. To do that an offense needs versatile players who can serve in a multitude of roles.
Charles Clay, Percy Harvin and LeSean McCoy fit that bill exceptionally well.
Clay can be a blocker, split wide as a receiving option, catch the ball out of the backfield or take a hand-off.
"This guy is a hard guy to defend. He's real multiple in what you can do with him. So he creates matchup problems," said Bills head coach Rex Ryan in a recent interview on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550. "He's too fast for a linebacker, he's too big for a corner to cover. So you've got to love that matchup with him.
"He's a guy who is perfectly suited for what we're looking for in Greg Roman's offense. He was a former fullback so you can put him in the backfield. So he can play fullback, tight end, the H-back spot and receiver. So there are a lot of things we can do with him. We love his versatility."
Meanwhile Harvin can fill a receiving role inside or outside and even serve as a move player out of the offensive backfield.
"The flexibility he gives you… Percy is one of those rare guys you can put all over," Ryan said. "You can put him in the backfield, run reverses with him, he's an outstanding kick returner. The other thing that people don't realize is he's a tremendous receiver and he's only getting better."
McCoy is obviously a running back by trade, but he's more than capable of splitting wide and serving as a complementary receiving weapon.
These three acquisitions allow Roman's creativity to really flow and mold and shape the offense in a fashion that makes them difficult to predict week to week by their opponents.
The decisions we're referring to are those of opposing defensive coordinators this fall. Buffalo's offense now offers a myriad of matchup problems at the skill positions. Harvin, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are all difficult cover assignments one-on-one. Who to double or assign bracket coverage could prove difficult for the Bills opponents.
"What we're trying to do is take a little pressure off Sammy Watkins," said Ryan of the Harvin signing. "You might recall last year Sammy got double almost every snap. You roll your coverage to him and all that. With a guy like Percy Harvin that's now going to be difficult to do. Percy can catch a slant and take it the distance and he can go over the top of you. He's a game breaker."
Watkins and Harvin lined up outside on run downs will also give defensive coordinators pause when they want to bring a safety down in the box to stop LeSean McCoy and the run game. A single-safety high look could be costly if two speedsters the caliber of Harvin and Watkins are lined up opposite one another on the flanks.
With Woods and Chris Hogan likely working the middle of the field and Clay working the seams of the defense, defensive coordinators will be spending a lot of long hours trying to figure out what to stop first.
Watkins led the Bills in scoring on offense as a rookie with six touchdowns. Woods and Hogan were second and third with five and four touchdowns respectively. With the new playmakers on the roster the team that finished 18th in scoring in 2014 figures to boost that ranking considerably.
LeSean McCoy ranks in the top 10 in scoring, among non-kickers, over the past three seasons and has 54 touchdowns in 90 career games. That's more than a touchdown every two games.
Harvin, despite playing for three teams in the last three seasons, has 31 touchdowns in 68 career games. It's good for almost a touchdown every two games.
And Clay, who is viewed as a player on the ascent, has 10 of his 15 career touchdowns in his last two seasons, which equates to a touchdown every three games.
The only reason these three players might not score with the frequency that they did with their previous clubs is because Buffalo has a few other weapons on offense that can also deliver touchdowns. The ball will likely be spread around. The multitude of scoring threats however, is expected to raise the collective ability of the Bills offense to put points on the board.
Ryan has been up front about wanting to be a 'ground and pound' offense, but these additions equip Roman with the ability to morph and change the look of the offense through the course of a game if an opponent, for example is dead set on stopping Buffalo's rushing attack.
"We're going to take advantage of what the defense is giving us," said Ryan. "That's the thing about Greg Roman. He's a smart guy and we're going to take advantage of what the defense gives us. We prefer ground and pound. We want to run it 50 times if we can, but we're not naïve enough to think that we're going to be able to get away with that. They're going to put all their defenders down in the box, there's no question. We still might not disappoint them, but at the same time we can spread you out and create some nightmares for you in coverage.
"If you want to stop our run by keeping all the big guys in there then so be it, we'll have ways to hurt you outside."