Last year, Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan treated his first two games against his old team like the Super Bowl he never got to.
Both times, his Bills came through. The Bills swept the Jets last season by identical 22-17 margins and quashed New York’s playoff hopes with a Week 17 upset by forcing three interceptions from Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Entering his second season with Buffalo, Ryan is downplaying the third matchup with his old mates. Ryan said Thursday night’s contest with Gang Green is “just a football game now,” and even paid the Jets defensive line a compliment.
“It’s hard to imagine somebody being better than that group,” Ryan said of the unit, according to The Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci.
Nobody can forget Ryan helped assemble the unit that sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton seven times last weekend. Ryan drafted franchise defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson in 2011 and drafted explosive pass rusher Sheldon Richardson two years later.
Ryan is going to have his hands full containing this unit. The one member of the nucleus Ryan didn’t coach was Leonard Williams, who led the team with 2.5 sacks in Week 1. Williams might be the best player of them all in the end and showed off more of his lofty potential against Cincinnati. Free-agent signee Steve McClendon did an admirable job of replacing another Ryan gem, Damon Harrison, and recorded two sacks last week.
Don’t expect the bombastic Ryan to take the sidelines Thursday night. Expect more of a subdued version that will resemble Ryan’s replacement, Todd Bowles.