Philadelphia Eagles

Bills hire Sean McDermott as head coach

Bills hire Sean McDermott as head coach

Update: 5:26 p.m.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills reached an agreement on Wednesday to hire Sean McDermott to be their next head coach.

The deal was reached shortly after the Bills interviewed McDermott for a second time in eight days. The 42-year-old has no previous head-coaching experience and spent the past six seasons working as the Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator.

McDermott replaces Rex Ryan, who was fired two weeks ago. He becomes the team's ninth head coach since 1999, when Buffalo last made the playoffs under Wade Phillips. The Bills went 7-9 this past season, extending the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 17 years.

McDermott has 18 seasons of NFL experience, spending his first 12 years with the Philadelphia Eagles. He started as a scouting coordinator for two years, then mentored under late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. He eventually succeeded Johnson in 2009.

He takes over a team in Buffalo that featured the NFL's top running attack but an underperforming defense in two seasons under Ryan.

The Bills defense finished 19th in yards allowed two years straight, and was particularly porous against the run. Buffalo allowed 200-plus yards rushing to opposing running backs three times this season, including twice against Miami's Jay Ajayi.

The offense was inconsistent at times under second-year starter Tyrod Taylor.

Owner Terry Pegula grew so dissatisfied with the defensive meltdowns, he fired Ryan in the week leading up to Buffalo's final game. Ryan was replaced by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who served as interim coach in a season-ending loss to the New York Jets.

Lynn was one of three other candidates to interview for the job besides McDermott.

Lynn was considered an initial front-runner to take over on a permanent basis, before the Bills began leaning toward McDermott, who was the first candidate the team interviewed. The Bills also interviewed Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard.

The Panthers enjoyed four straight seasons of being ranked in the NFL's top 10 in fewest yards allowed before taking a step back this season.

Carolina finished 21st in yards allowed, giving up 500-plus yards three times. The pass defense particularly suffered a drop-off following the loss of star defensive back Josh Norman, who signed with Washington in free agency. Carolina's defense was also weakened once star linebacker Luke Kuechly missed the final six games with a concussion.

The Panthers still finished sixth against the run and ranked second with 47 sacks.

In 2015, McDermott oversaw a unit that forced an NFL-leading 39 takeaways and ranked second in yards allowed. The Panthers team went 15-1 and lost to Denver in the Super Bowl.

It's uncertain whom McDermott will hire to oversee Buffalo's offense.

Another major question is McDermott's plans for Taylor.

The Bills restructured the quarterback's contract in August, giving him a five-year extension while retaining the right to opt out of the deal by March.

Potentially complicating matters, Taylor had surgery last week to repair a sports hernia. Next season's portion of the contract, worth about $30 million including bonuses, is guaranteed if Taylor is unable to pass his physical in mid-March, when the deal kicks in.

The Bills also face a potentially significant roster overhaul with 24 players eligible to become free agents this offseason. The group includes cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown, and receiver Robert Woods.

Chris Long to Malcolm Jenkins: 'I'm here for you'

Chris Long to Malcolm Jenkins: 'I'm here for you'

Eagles defensive end Chris Long became the first white professional athlete to actively participate in the national anthem demonstrations designed to cast a light on racial and social injustices.

Before the Eagles' preseason game against the Bills on Thursday, Long put his arm around safety Malcolm Jenkins (see story), who has raised his right fist in the air during the playing of the anthem since last season. Long explained he felt it necessary to show support for the cause in the aftermath of violence in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

"It's been a hard week for everybody," Long said postgame. "It's not just a hard week for someone being from Charlottesville. It's a tough week for America.

"I've heard a lot of people say, 'Why do athletes get involved in the national anthem protests?' I've said before that I'll never kneel for an anthem because the flag means something different for everybody in this country, but I support my peers. If you don't see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don't think you'll ever see it.

"Malcolm is a leader and I'm here to show support as a white athlete."

Long spoke out about the Charlottesville protests on Sunday (see story), making the case that his stance is not about politics, but "right and wrong." One day earlier, protests over the removal of Confederate memorials turned tragic when a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed.

After the events that unfolded, Long could no longer sit idly by.

"I was inspired by a lot of the allies that were there to stand up against hate in my hometown and I wasn't able to be there to protest or to stand up against hate," Long said. "People like Heather Heyer gave their life for that and I was inspired by that.

"I just told Malcolm, 'I'm here for you.' I think it's a good time for people that look like me to be there for people that are fighting for equality."

Jenkins said he was aware Long was going to take part in the demonstration, and was appreciative of his teammate's backing.

"Before the game, he approached me and he wanted to, in his own way, send a message of support," Jenkins said.

"I think he understands that he could never necessarily know my experience as a black male, but in the light of all that's going on, as a white male, he understands that he needs to be an ally. He expressed that desire to me, and so I thought it was appropriate to show that gesture of support."

Though Jenkins' demonstration has not garnered the mainstream national attention of some of the other high profile athletes who have sat or knelt during the anthem, he has been among the most outspoken. The Pro Bowl safety is involved in various social programs and has even spoken to Congress about social injustice in the United States.

"The biggest thing is to continue to call attention to the things in this country I think everybody after the past week has been focusing on," Jenkins said.

"If we want to eradicate hate from our country, drawing attention to not only the hate itself, but the products of those hates. If you look at the long history of our country, and how especially in our justice system we talk about police and community engagement — the duality of our justice system right now, communities of low income and communities with color have completely different interactions with the justice system than that of our counterparts — and in the light of everything that's happening, just continuing that discussion."

Jenkins wasn't the only of Long's teammates to show respect for the stance he took. Eagles cornerback Ron Brooks, who himself knelt for the anthem on Thursday, also took notice that another person was using their platform to further the cause.

Brooks didn't get too caught up in the fact that Long is white and anthem demonstrators have been predominantly black. Anybody who's willing to take a stand is needed.

"I'm not too concerned about whether it be a white person, black person, they could be Anglo-Saxon, whatever race, it doesn't matter," Brooks said. "Just him showing his support — I think a lot more people need to action and not just be quiet and let things go to the wayside.

"I admire Chris for standing up for something and show support for injustices that are going on. Whether the person was Malcolm, or whether the person had been [Carson Wentz] or anyone else, just that support and speaking up and using your platform."

Carson Wentz, Eagles offense finally find some rhythm after stagnant start

Carson Wentz, Eagles offense finally find some rhythm after stagnant start

BOX SCORE

On the first nine offensive plays of Thursday night's game against the Bills, the Eagles' offense gained a total of five yards. 

Five. 

To say the Eagles' offense stalled early in the team's 20-16 preseason win over the Bills would be a bit of an understatement (see Instant Replay). They needed a spark. 

Doug Pederson initially wanted Carson Wentz and the first-team offense to play just one or two series. But after the team's third 3-and-out, which included Wentz's taking a big hit, to start the game, he sent Wentz and his unit back into the game.

"You want to get your offense going," Pederson said. "There is a fine line. But there's a lot of pride with those guys and they understood that I wasn't completely happy with the performance early and they wanted another opportunity."

Through three drives, seven of the Eagles' nine plays netted one yard or fewer. 

Things just weren't working. 

"It can be tough," Wentz said. "The first couple drives it was definitely frustrating, coming out 3-and-out every time. I missed a couple throws, couldn't get the running game going. It was frustrating. Again, we'll go back, watch the tape, evaluate and keep building this thing." 

When Pederson sent his offense into the game with just under five minutes left in the first quarter, the Eagles began to use a hurry-up offense (see 10 observations). It was a tactic to find some sort of rhythm and the tempo. It did the trick. 

First, Wentz hit Alshon Jeffery for nine yards. Then Nelson Agholor for seven. Jeffery for 14. LeGarrette Blount for 17. Then Blount ran for eight. Before no time, the Eagles had traveled down deep into Buffalo territory. 

"Going back to last year, Coach Pederson has always had a feel for when's the right time to do then, when you kind of need a spark," Wentz said. "That's what he felt tonight. It was effective."

Eventually, though, Blount caught a short pass and fumbled the ball away. That ended the first-team offense's day. But at least they got some semblance of rhythm before leaving. 

Still, it wasn't a strong showing from Wentz and the first unit. Pederson attributed the slow start to the lack of game-planning. He thinks things will be different once they begin preparing specifically for other defenses. 

Neither Wentz nor Pederson is concerned. 

"I don't," Pederson said. "Because I see it in practice every day. I know what they're capable of doing." 

"Was the performance great? By no means," Wentz said. "This is definitely not where we want to be, but I definitely don't have doubts. I know we have the right guys, we have the right scheme, we just have to put it together."

The Eagles were without their normal starting offensive line Thursday, which might have played a role (see Grading the Win). Jason Peters missed the game for personal reasons, which meant Lane Johnson had to switch sides and Matt Tobin came in at right tackle. And last week, the team was without starting right guard Brandon Brooks. 

Perhaps that's one of the reasons the run game struggled so much to start the season. 

Through two games, Blount has just nine carries for 17 yards. Not a great beginning to his time with the Eagles. 

"It's going OK," Blount said. "Obviously, we have a lot to improve on, we have a lot of corrections to make. It's not going as smoothly as any of us want it to go. But it's the preseason, we're still in camp, this is the time to make the corrections and not take it over into the regular season."

Pederson blamed the lack of running attack on the absence of game planning. Wentz thinks the Eagles will be able to game plan more for the Dolphins next Thursday, even though they will practice with them during the week. 

And if they can't get things going, Pederson can always call for the hurry-up offense. 

"It's one of those things, you can't do it too much," Wentz said. "Going back to last year, coach has always had a really good feel when's the right time to do that. When's the right time to push the tempo, when you need a spark. Tonight we needed a spark."