Rex Ryan did it again.
Ryan, never one to shy away from attention or headlines or controversy, claimed former Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali off waivers Wednesday – just one day after Enemkpali was released following a locker-room altercation that left Geno Smith with a broken jaw.
Is Ryan bringing in Enemkpali surprising?
“Yeah, a little surprised, quite frankly,” former Bill and current Bills radio color analyst Mark Kelso said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Nobody knows the circumstances other than IK and Geno and some of those guys in that Jets locker room. But if anybody has an opportunity to know what this young man is all about, it’s Rex and some of the guys on this coaching staff that worked with him and drafted him out of college. So (I’m) a little bit surprised. I do think the Bills have a pretty mature locker room, they’ve got some guys who have been around Buffalo for a long time and that kind of anchor that locker room and they’ve brought in a lot of personalities already, this team, but it’s a little surprising. The young man might be a pretty good player – he was a heavy contributor on special teams last year for the Jets and played in probably a half dozen games at linebacker – but this team’s pretty deep on the defensive side of the football. There’s no guarantee coming in here that he’ll even make the squad.
“But they know him better than anybody,” Kelso continued. “So I do think that though Rex sometimes brings in some guys that maybe had some difficulty on some other teams, I do think that (he’s) making sure all those puzzle pieces fit together in the right way. I don’t think he’d be bringing someone in that he felt was going to be disruptive. Again, only those guys know the circumstances and what provoked the entire situation in the first place.”
Ryan has brought a lot of personality everywhere he’s been, but how much rope will he be given in Buffalo?
“He has a little bit, that’s for sure,” Kelso said. “I think there’s a ton of optimism. Season-ticket holders and sales were at an all-time high this year. The chess pieces that they have in the building right now are a lot nicer than they were at the end of the year. No disrespect to the guys that were here last year – a lot of healthy contributors to Bills teams over the years – but they’ve had upgrades at several positions. They big question now is can guys all play together? If they can play together and have the right chemistry in the locker rom, I think they have an opportunity to be a formidable team here in the AFC East. But there’s still some questions – a lot of questions – that are unanswered at the moment. The offensive line is going to be a group of guys that hasn’t played together yet, and the quarterback position is still an unresolved issue here as the first preseason game is about to unfold here on Friday night (against Carolina).
“I think there’s a lot of unanswered questions, but certainly there’s a lot of excitement and energy that may have been missing here in recent years. But he brings a lot of that. He’s a personality. Some of that I think he tries to deflect attention away from his team and carry some of that weight of the pressure of being in the NFL on himself and on the coaching staff. He enjoys what he’s doing. I think players like playing for him. Again, it just remains to be seen. It seems like the Bills have had a healthy training camp so far and have gotten a lot of confidence. I like the way practice is conducted. I like the speed of practice in how they try to replicate game situations and they’re trying to get an awful lot of guys reps. I think they’ve accomplished that here in the first weeks. Let’s see if it bears fruit on the field.”
As for the quarterback situation, Kelso said it’s like taking a “handful of dice and throwing them up in the air.” Kelso likes EJ Manuel for his upside and leadership skills, he likes Matt Cassel for his pedigree and experience and he likes Tyrod Taylor for his athleticism and improvisational ability.
“They all have their skill sets,” Kelso said. “In my mind right now, I guess if you’re saying the regular season was going to start in the next couple days, the least risky proposal is Matt Cassel. If you have a healthy running game, he can manage the game and you would think that he would make the least mistakes. But I don’t think it’s settled in anybody’s mind. I still think it’s a tossup. It just depends on how those guys play here in the next couple weeks.”