It’s no secret that on paper, the Buffalo Bills are lacking weapons on offense, particularly at the wide receiver position. Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones are good-but-not-great weapons at the top of the team’s depth chart but behind them lie a collection of rookies, undrafted free agents, and journeymen.
Buffalo’s passing game was abysmal last season and resulted in Rick Dennison’s firing following the 2017 season. Brian DaBoll was hired as the team’s offensive coordinator shortly after and the former Crimson Tide coach will need to be creative to ensure that the Bills can get the most production out of the unproven weapons that have on hand.
Just how much Daboll will be able to open up the playbook is dependent on the quarterback play, which is one of the most prominent concerns on the Bills’ roster.
The Bills’ three quarterbacks have six combined starts between them, with McCarron leading the way (4) ahead of Nathan Peterman (2) and rookie Josh Allen.
Peterman was utterly atrocious in his rookie campaign, tossing five interceptions in one half during his NFL debut while McCarron was signed in free agency. Allen, a rocket-armed passer that Buffalo traded up to select with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, is considered to be a work-in-progress at the moment. He’s got the physical skills that excite coaches, but he’s got a lot of things to clean up in regards to his throwing mechanics and footwork that are worrisome.
The lack of experience is a concern, as Allen will be under pressure to secure the starting role despite the argument that he’s likely better off sitting for a while as he develops his game. But with McCarron and Peterman as his primary competition, Allen’s arm talent and athleticism should prove no match for them.
Enough talent at wide receiver?
Additionally, the coaching staff needs to get these signal callers up to speed, not only on the offensive scheme but a less-than-ideal wide receiver corps.
Kelvin Benjamin is the clear cut #No. 1 receiver on the roster. The massive pass-catcher that was acquired by Buffalo at the trade deadline is a reliable possession receiver that dominates in contested catch situations.
Behind Benjamin, there’s a lot of questions to answer. Will Zay Jones improve upon his rather unimpressive rookie campaign?
Logic says yes, as Jones is the NCAA’s all-time receptions leader (399) and it was revealed shortly after the season concluded that he played with a torn labrum for most of the year.
Jeremy Kerley was signed as an unrestricted free agent before waiting until Day 3 of the 2018 NFL draft to address the receiver position by selecting Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud and North Carolina’s Austin Proehl. McCloud was a prized recruit coming out of high school but didn’t live up to that hype while Proehl will have a difficult chance at cracking the roster unless he can stand out on special teams.
Where are mismatches?
Brian Daboll needs to ensure that he’s getting the ball into Buffalo’s key playmakers’ hands as often as possible in order to put points on the board in 2018. LeSean McCoy was a big part of the passing offense last year, catching 59 passes for 448 receiving yards and two scores in addition to his 1,138 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Despite being 30-years old, McCoy is still one of the NFL’s most dangerous running backs, capable of making big-time plays in both the run and pass attack.
Charles Clay will once again be the “security blanket” at tight end for his fourth year playing for Buffalo. When healthy, he’s the most consistent receiving target on the roster and should be a reliable security blanket for whoever’s under center.
Nick O’Leary has shined as a blocker but what’s more surprising is his steady growth as a receiver. Last season he caught 22 passes, averaging over 14 yards-per-catch and scored twice.
Brian Daboll has been known to get production out of his running backs and tight ends, including a performance by Peyton Hillis which earned him a cover on Madden ’12. The Bills will need to get creative on offense along with the intermediate routes in the Erhardt Perkins system that gets more production out of slot type receivers on crossing routes. This may be the Bills best chance at the “multi-dimensional” offense Coach McDermott talked about in recent interviews.
The Bills will still lean heavily on the run game, which could be challenging with several new faces on the offensive line this season. The only sure thing on offense is LeSean McCoy but even his rushing averaged dipped in 2017 with the rushing offense getting off to a slow start mostly due to the offensive line learning a new blocking scheme. How will another new scheme along with the changes on the offensive line affect the run game this season?
Outside of drafting Josh Allen, the majority of the focus this off season has been on the defense. Scheme aside, the Bills offense could look similar to last season’s style of run heavy, intermediate and high percentage throws. Much like last year, the Bills could be leaning on the defense to keep them in games