Ryan made that comment after Thursday’s minicamp, per Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News. Ryan added: “I don’t know about these other teams. I’m sure they’ve had some great camps, too. But I’ve been really impressed with this group.”
Despite Ryan’s optimism, Dunne pointed out “it’s hard to make such a statement” because first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson required shoulder surgery and star wide receiver Sammy Watkins broke his foot during the offseason. What’s more, “cornerback Stephon Gilmore made a tepid return to mandatory practices into his contract year and one [of Ryan's] running backs, Karlos Williams, showed up overweight,” per Dunne.
Perhaps Ryan is attempting to build confidence after Buffalo went a middling 8-8 in his first season with the team after six years as the head coach of the New York Jets.
Ryan missed the playoffs in his last four seasons in New York as well. Hall of Fame quarterback and Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly appeared on The Jim Rome Show this offseason and said, “I think Rex will probably be looking for another job. I think everybody knows that, including Rex,” when asked what would happen if Buffalo missed the playoffs in 2016.
Ryan seemed more optimistic than worried with these comments. He pointed to player improvement and the fact his team was "all in," and Buffalo improved in the draft with proven college players.
Lawson is a formidable pass-rusher when healthy and helped lead the Clemson Tigers to the national title game. Buffalo also added Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland and Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington in the second and third rounds, respectively, to help against the run. It also drafted Ohio State quarterback and former champion Cardale Jones for depth.
Considering the defense finished a disappointing 19th in the league in total yards allowed in 2015, improving on that side of the ball should help Buffalo compete for a playoff spot in the AFC East.
The Bills also have a number of weapons on the offensive side, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor, running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers Watkins and Robert Woods.
Taylor appeared in more than seven games for the first time in his career last season and finished with 3,035 passing yards, 568 rushing yards and 24 total touchdowns. He could make strides in 2016 with more experience. McCoy, who has four 1,000-yard campaigns on his resume, played only 12 games last year and could produce more if he remains healthy.
Ryan may have had those pieces in mind when he said, per Dunne: “I can't wait to get the season started. I'm just telling you right now: forget the vacation. I wish it was shorter. And I mean it. I'm excited about this team."
Next up for the Bills is winning during the actual season.