Young, dynamic playmakers provide optimism for Bills offense

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It's the defense that's the bedrock of the Bills chances for success in 2015. Last year's fourth ranked defense returns virtually intact with an aggressive, attacking blueprint drawn up by Rex Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Dennis Thurman.

But the Buffalo offense is set up to make more than its share of big plays as well. And the offense is anchored by a group of young, dynamic playmakers who've already shown flashes of excellence.

Heading into the first week of the 2015 season, here's a look at every player on the Bills roster.

The Bills skill positions on offense are filled with eight core players—QB Tyrod Taylor, RBs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, WRs Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Percy Harvin, and TEs Charles Clay and MarQueis Gray.  All are under 30-years old. Most of them have explosive speed and dynamic play-making potential. Some of them have already demonstrated how dangerous they can be to opposing defenses.

The graybeard of the group is WR Percy Harvin, who turned 27 years old last May. The youngest is Sammy Watkins, who just turned 22 back in June. In between, the Bills have six other key offensive performers who should be nearing or at the prime of their career.

There is speed to burn in this core group of playmakers, as demonstrated by their 40-times at the NFL Combine. Watkins flashed a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds two years ago at the Combine. Back in 2009, Harvin ran 4.41 and McCoy clocked in at 4.5 at his pro day.  Tyrod Taylor ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine in 2011, the fastest of any QB in that draft class.

Head Coach Rex Ryan has been saying for months that he believes Taylor has more speed than any QB in the league.

"If he's not the fastest quarterback in the league, he's certainly up there with them," Ryan said a few months ago. "He's got great run skills. I'm not gonna say he's Russell Wilson, but he's got a little of that in him, where he's able to run zone-reads and pull the ball down and be effective."

Even rookie running back Karlos Williams has great speed.  He was clocked at 4.48 at the combine, second among the RBs there.

The speed demonstrated in workouts by the Bills young skill position players has already been shown on the field in the NFL.  Sammy Watkins rookie year provided a glimpse of how explosive and dynamic he is likely to be as his career moves along.

Watkins averaged 15.1 yards per catch in 2014 and 72 percent of his receptions produced first downs, the third highest percentage among all receivers in the AFC. He was a go-to player on third downs for the 2014 Bills, with 18 of his 65-catches coming on the "money down," fourth most in the NFL.

Watkins and young veteran Robert Woods set an NFL record last year with their production. They are the first duo at WR under the age of 23 on one team to record 60-or-more receptions in the same season. Each had 65 catches.

As he moves into his third year, Woods has already tied the Bills all-time record for most receptions in his first two seasons—he has 105, the same number Jerry Butler had in 1979-80. And last year's 65 catches for Woods made him third in the NFL for most catches by a second-year wideout.

At age 27, McCoy has already made his mark as one of the top playmakers in the league regardless of position.

Since the beginning of the 2010 season, "Shady" ranks first in the NFL in total rushing yards (6,155), runs resulting in first downs (323), and fourth in rushing touchdowns (40). Despite a preseason cut short by a hamstring injury, McCoy demonstrated early in training camp he has the same elusiveness and shake that allowed him to become one of the league's top backs in the last six years.

At the tight end spot, the Bills acquired one of the league's most versatile and productive TEs in March when they signed Charles Clay to a free agent contract. And third-year player MarQueis Gray, a former college QB, has shown flashes of big-play potential in his 25 games played for Buffalo, Cleveland and Minnesota.

And then there's QB Tyrod Taylor, who lacks the regular season experience of most of the other key Bills playmakers. Taylor is more of a projection, based on his work in preseason games and his dynamic on-field presence in college at Virginia Tech.

"I just like his explosiveness, as a thrower and a runner as well," Rex Ryan said after announcing that Taylor was the winner of the Bills three-day QB battle during preseason. "The decision was going to be tough because all three guys did a tremendous job for us. It came down to basically, that explosiveness that Tyrod brings to us."

Explosiveness is the key for the Buffalo offense to produce big plays.

The Bills defense has already established itself as one of the top ranked units in the league. Now, the Buffalo offense heads into 2015 with a cadre of dynamic, young playmakers poised to break out this season.

 

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