We’ve made it to the final preseason game. Although this game won’t feature the stars from the Bears and Bills, we wanted to spend some time with our friends at Buffalo Rumblings to preview their season. Dylan Zadonowicz was kind enough to take the time to give us the basics on a tumultuous Bills off-season. The Bears and Bills will meet officially when the calendar turns to November, so it’ll be interesting to see how the first half of the season goes for each organization.
Windy City Gridiron: What’s going on with LeSean McCoy and is there a sense that the league will look to discipline him this season?
Buffalo Rumblings: Recently the NFL has started to crack down on domestic violence cases. At this point in time, McCoy is not guilty of a crime, but if he is found guilty of the incident at his home involving his ex-girlfriend I would fully expect the NFL to take action and rightfully so. Until a verdict is reached, this will hang over McCoy’s head along with the NFL’s. Other than his legal case, McCoy hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down as he turned 30 this off-season. He will once again play a large role in the offense with inexperience under center.
WCG: The Bills made the playoffs last year, but jettisoned their starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, traded up in the draft, and took the controversial Josh Allen. Was that a good decision and how Allen has looked so far?
BR: The Bills have longed for a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly. Although Tyrod Taylor quarterbacked the team that broke the 17-year playoff drought, he was not the long-term answer for sustained success. Taylor is a serviceable quarterback, but you can’t rely on him to win a game in tight situations. The Josh Allen pick was a leap of faith, but coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane had to pull the trigger on one of the four top guys in the draft.
So far Allen has looked up and down. The first two preseason games he looked like he was going to be named the Week 1 starter, but the third preseason game didn’t go as well as planned after McDermott made him the starter for the game. He went 6 of 12 for 34 yards and was sacked five times. Given the offensive line in that game was putrid, there were a few times he dropped back and you should’ve expected him to get the ball out of his hand sooner. The Bills’ Week 1 starter remains unknown and the decision likely won’t be made until after the preseason game against the Bears.
WCG: Sammy Watkins was shipped off last year before acquiring Kelvin Benjamin. Zay Jones had an ... interesting off-season. Are these guys ready to go for Allen and who else should we know about?
BR: If Allen starts, these guys will be two of the top options as pass-catchers in 2018. When healthy, Benjamin can be one of the better receivers in the NFL and his big body allows him to be a reliable target. Jones had a bad case of the yips last year and had a lot of drops over the course of his entire rookie campaign.
Jeremy Kerley is another name to keep an eye on, he was brought in during free agency and he has the most experience of the group. Kerley will mainly be the guy lined up in the slot and he adds quickness on shorter routes that Jones and Benjamin lack. Corey Coleman, who was recently acquired from the Cleveland Browns for a 2020 seventh round pick, is one of, if not the only receiver of the group that has the speed to take the top off of a defense.
WCG: What’s the outlook on the defensive side of the ball this year? Who are the leaders and are they going to improve on their porous rush defense?
BR: Over the off-season the Bills revamped their defensive line with the signings of Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy. They lost Preston Brown in free agency, but added Tremaine Edmunds in the draft and lost E.J. Gaines to free agency, but added veteran Vontae Davis. Kyle Williams is still the heart and soul of this defense, as well as the rest of the team.
After trading Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars, the Bills lacked talent at the defensive tackle spot behind Williams. Adding Lotulelei and Harrison Phillips to the interior of the defensive line and Edmunds as the middle linebacker should help the Bills in their efforts to stop the run.
WCG: The Bears and Bills get to play each other for real this year. What do you hope this team can accomplish before the Bears travel to Buffalo in Week 9?
BR: A year after making the playoffs, the Bills could take a step back this season with questions at quarterback and losing two veterans on the offensive line. The important part for the Bills this year is the progression of Josh Allen. Allen holds the keys to the car that drives the Bills’ future and his growth is what matters the most. Even if Allen isn’t named the starter initially, you can bet that he will start multiple games for the Bills soon enough. By the time the Bears come to town, I expect Allen to be the starter.