One of the most interesting storylines in the NFL training camp isn’t what you may think.
It’s not the Deflategate fallout, Russell Wilson’s contract or the Texans’ appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks."
It's what's the Buffalo Bills have done this off-season, and after yesterday, things have gotten even MORE interesting.
The Bills added Rex Ryan, Richie Incognito, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, Percy Harvin, LeSean McCoy and now IK Enemkpali.
Yes, that IK Enemkpali.
The one that broke Geno Smith's jaw.
If you’re keeping score in Buffalo, they added a coach with loud personality, a man who single-handedly destroyed a locker room, an assistant who allegedly assaulted a kid over a beach chair, a player who allegedly fights with teammates, a player who make bizarre party announcements via Instagram and who ripped his former coach on the way out and, finally, a guy who recently broke his teammate’s jaw over a reneged financial agreement.
Actions like these don't emit sounds of ringing endorsement for the team. If anything, that may sound like the casting of a new season of Love and Hip-Hop. The scripted reality show in Buffalo has scenes consisting of LeSean McCoy leaving one locker room with Riley Cooper and getting traded to another one with Incognito, both of whom were caught using the n-word. Thinking about it, it could be a new season of Love and Hip-Hop, except Cooper and Incognito are white and this is the NFL.
On the outside looking in, the history of the pieces added to the locker room in Buffalo may sound like a recipe for disaster. However, some the best football comes from properly motivated teams who create a chip on their collective shoulders. After all, the men who play this sport often thrive off of personal competition. Don’t believe for a second that these guys don’t play pissed off and angry on every single snap.
At a glance, it appears that the folks in Buffalo has assembled the NFL version of the Island of Misfits Toys. The aforementioned players and coaches were all ceremoniously cast aside in epic fashion in their previous stops. Even though these guys were unwanted, they do have talent but some have things they need to prove their new team. You have to think that everyone associated with the Bills, from management on down, feel like they have something to prove. When people believe their backs are up against the wall, they will come out fighting since there is no way to go other than forward. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention former first round draft pick, quarterback EJ Manuel, who desperately wants, and needs, to prove himself. The team brought in Tyrod Taylor as competition to Manuel, and many around the league feel that the former Ravens backup is ready to take the next step. So unless EJ wants to become Charlie-in-a-box, he needs to step up.
At this point in time, how will Ryan, a unique personality himself, going to get all of these players and coaches, who have a good amount of baggage themselves, to come together as a cohesive unit? Based upon history and genetics, he's the right man for the job. A coach like Ryan can take the pressure off of these guys since he will give the fans and media enough to play with while he formulates the team he wants. Of everyone on the Bills, he has the most to prove. After all that went down in New York with the Jets, he left with a sub .500 record after starting out with consecutive AFC Championship game appearances.
You can bet that he wants to prove that he was more than the product of the nation’s largest media market and in his press conference with the Bills, he did just that.
Ryan’s latest move bringing in Enemkpali in after being cut by a division rival and his former team demonstrates that his troll game is vicious. You know that Rex is in this kid’s ear hyping him up, giving him the fuel he needs to play hard, especially on November 12th when they play the Jets in Met Life Stadium. For a young player like Enemkpali, that’s all he needs so he can prove to the Jets that they made a mistake in letting him go. Ryan told reporters Wednesday night that he knew the signing would be perceived as a shot at his former team:
“And you know what, people are going to blame me for it, too. I get blamed for everything that goes on there,” Ryan said on the practice field Wednesday night. “Whatever. That part of my life is over. That’s all behind me. I’m just trying to focus on this football team. We’re going to do what is in the best interests of this team.”
Based on that statement, Ryan believes that he is still in the Jets’ heads to some degree. That can’t sit well the team’s current coach, Todd Bowles, since he’s trying to put his own imprint of the Jets. Former Steeler and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark has spent some time around Enemkpali. He told the "Mike and Mike" show that the second year player was at his wit's end from from previous confrontations when things got physical with Geno Smith. He later admitted that Enemkpali might not catch on with another team, but thanks to Coach Ryan, aka Santa, Clark was proven wrong.
Overall, the Bills sound like a fun team to cover, especially in the league that loves to thrive off of storylines. They sound like the team that should have been showcased in "Hard Knocks" instead of the Texans. With all of the Bills' recent moves, this season should prove to be exciting in a division that is routinely handed over to the Patriots. Since Tom Brady won’t be in action to start the season, the AFC East will be up for grabs from the jump.
We’ll see if the “Misfits” from Buffalo will have a say in that.