The Bills have said since the offseason began that their focus would be improvement on defense. To that end, they've made three big additions to the defensive coaching staff. And this week, at the NFL Annual Meetings in Florida, Head Coach Rex Ryan talked about all three of his coaching hires, and what he expects from each of them.
The Bills hired Rex's brother, Rob, in January as the team's assistant head coach/defense. Also in January, perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed was hired as the team's assistant defensive backs coach. And last week, Buffalo hired veteran coach John Blake to coach the defensive line.
When he was asked about the addition of Blake, Ryan told the media at the NFL Meetings he expects a shot of enthusiasm from the longtime pro and college coach.
"I think when John [Blake] hits the field, I think we will immediately see that enthusiasm," Rex said. "Immediately that is what the fans are going to see when he is out there. The guy was very successful. In his stint with the Cowboys he won two Super Bowl rings there."
Rex expects Blake to work on pass rush technique with the Bills D-line. And he points to his success with Jerry Hughes technique after individual work with Blake a few years ago.
"John's great expertise I think is his pass rush, maybe a different way of looking at some things," Ryan says. "The way he attacks people. Jerry Hughes has used John in the summer, he has gone and worked out with John all the time. He is an expert there no question about it."
Last week, in an appearance on The John Murphy Show, Blake was asked about his pass-rush technique, and whether it focuses on the upper or lower body.
"It's both," he said. "Head to hands and quickness and leverage being able to execute technique. It's as much mental as it is physical. Again you have to be focused in the heat of the battle when things are going full speed."
As for Ed Reed, the nine-time Pro Bowl performer brings credibility and stature to his position group. Rex Ryan thinks Reed is a natural coach, even though this is his first venture into the profession. But in his final season with Rex, in New York, Ryan saw signs of coaching greatness in Reed.
"You know Ed, when we had him his last year with the Jets he was the pied piper," Rex told the media in Florida. "They all followed him and they all learned the game. And that is why I know this guy is going to be a great coach, and I am sure, I would not be shocked if in five years this guy is going to be a head coach, that's how quick this guy is going to rise."
Ryan expects Ed Reed to immediately get to work showing the Bills defensive backs the importance of film study.
"He will teach guys how to study tape, how to get things, playing the game. We got to do a better job of that."
Reed is just diving into his study of the Bills defensive secondary. But after watching NFL games on TV the last few years, he's convinced most current players have to be taught the proper way to study game film.
"For me, looking at games at home, not on film, across the league, it doesn't look like it," Reed said in a conversation at One Bills Drive last month. "That's what you call route recognition. You can see guys don't know. It seems like they're guessing out there, not reacting."
Rex Ryan's twin brother Rob will have some "special assignments" on his plate as he tries to improve the Buffalo defense. At the NFL Meetings, Rex dropped some hints about what those assignments might be.
"There might be certain things, down and distance wise he will be in charge of," Rex said. "Maybe some field things, like when it gets to this point, backed up, red zone, you guys figure it out. Similar things that [Bill] Belichick had him do when he was a coach for him as well."
Rex also plans on having Rob Ryan work extensively with young linebacker Preston Brown. His goal is to get Brown settled in as the quarterback and signal caller for the Buffalo defense.
"He's like a quarterback of a defense. You are in the middle of it, you need to step up and communicate that way. I know it not his personality off the field, he is a very quiet individual and things like that, but you have to be a leader on it."
"I think he needs to step up," Rex continued. "We handed that off to Manny Lawson, but Preston – you know that is going to be a challenge. We are going to put a pretty good coach with him to make sure that goes the way we want it to." Rex considers his brother, Rob, that "pretty good coach."