by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page NFL Expert

Needless to say, the 2018 NFL season for the Buffalo Bills has been a disappointing one. With the Bills getting into the Playoffs last year in the final game of the season, having only four wins to date this year is not what Head Coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane were looking for. That said, this season showed us exactly what the Bills were lacking as far as being able to compete for the Playoffs again in 2019.

In the last two years there have been two other NFL clubs that were in similar situations to the Bills. In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams drafted Jared Goff with the first pick in the Draft. The plan was for Goff to sit in 2016 but after a half season of struggles, the Rams made Goff the starter and like many rookie quarterbacks, he struggled.

In 2017, the Chicago Bears selected Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall selection in the ’17 Draft and they had a similar plan as the Rams. Let Trubisky sit and learn as a rookie. Just like in L.A., the plan never materialized and Trubisky was made the starter after just four games of the 2017 season. Like Goff the previous year, Trubisky struggled.

Can Allen Be The Next Goff & Trubisky?

Last April, the Bills moved up in the first round to select Josh Allen to be the Bills quarterback of the future. Like with Goff and Trubisky, the Bills planned to have Allen sit as a rookie and then start in 2019. Like Goff and Trubisky, than plan never came about and Allen was made the starter after just one game. Following the script of those ahead of him, Allen struggled.

In the case of the Rams and the Bears, they replaced their coaching staff after the rookie quarterback’s first year and also went out to find supporting players between the Draft and free agency to help their young quarterbacks. In both cases, the new staff and new supporting players turned their teams around as each became a Playoff team in their quarterbacks second season.

The Bills aren’t about to change their coaching staff, as that was done two years ago but we can bet that the team will be all in when it comes to finding players to help Josh Allen.

In the case of the Rams and the Bears, they had a surplus of cap space to go out and acquire players in veteran free agency. The Bills this coming spring will also have ample cap space in which to do the same thing. They will have this space because they got rid of players who they felt either weren’t fits in their offensive and defensive schemes or were players who just weren’t worth what they were getting paid. That thought process hurt the Bills in 2018 as they had over $68 Million in dead money but hopefully it will pay off in the future.

What The Offense Needs

Just what do the Bills need? On offense, a lot! As we have seen throughout the season, the Bills wide receiver corps is one of the worst in the NFL. There isn’t a player on the roster that we can say is a legitimate number one or number two NFL wide receiver. The player who is closest to becoming a two is second year man Zay Jones. Jones has shown flashes but hasn’t played with the consistency to prove to the staff that he can be a real reliable receiver. It’s way too early to write him off as he has talent but the Bills will probably need to acquire at least two quality veteran wide receivers.

The other needs on offense are the Bills need at least two starting offensive linemen, preferable a tackle and an inside player. They also have a big need at tight end and Charles Clay has not done much. Last, there is a huge need at running back. Yes, the Bills have stated that they have plans for LeSean McCoy, but do they really? In the second half of this season McCoy has been a disappointment and he will be 31 when the 2019 season begins. I see McCoy as strictly a role player now and with a better than $6 Million dollar salary next year, is he worth the cost?

Lots of Holes To Fill

That means on offense alone the Bills have a need for a minimum of five players and probably more. On defense, the Bills have a need for a dynamic pass rusher, an outside linebacker and a corner. So at minimum, the Bills need list will be eight players. Even with $90 Million to spend, they will not be able to do all that in free agency. The Draft will obviously be part of the equation.

What the Bills will be doing over the next two months is trying to figure out what will be the strengths and weaknesses of both the Draft and free agency. Right now it is too early to know the answer. It will be another four weeks before we know what underclassmen will be in the Draft. Until we know that, the strength of the Draft is unknown. As for free agency it could be more like six to eight weeks before we know for sure who will be available as clubs can attempt to re-sign potential free agents.

What fans have to hope for is that the strengths of the Draft compliment the strengths of free agency. If that is the case, the Bills can at least attempt to fill all their needs. While everything is a question mark now, the hope is there for a turnaround season in 2019. Right now, Bills fan need a little patience.

Greg Gabriel

Gabriel has spent most of his adult life as an evaluator for various NFL clubs. He started his career in 1991 working for the Buffalo Bills as a part time scout under dormer Bills Director of Player Personnel Norm Pollom. He left the Bills in June 1984 to become the Great Lakes area scout for National Football Scouting. Following the 1984 season, Gabriel joined the New York Giants as their Midwest area scout and was promoted to Director of Player Development in 1996. The Giants went to three Super Bowls and won two during Gabriel’s time with the club.

Following the Giants appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Greg became Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears under General Manager Jerry Angelo. He held that position until June of 2010. During his time with Chicago, the Bears won three Division titles and the 2006 NFC Championship. In his nine Drafts with the Bears, the team drafted 12 future Pro Bowl performers such perennial Pro Bowler Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

In the 2012 – 2013 season, Gabriel was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles Scouting Department and has since done some small scouting roles for various NFL clubs.

Since leaving the NFL Gabriel has been a contributor for the National Football Post, the Bleacher Report and more recently Pro Football Weekly. He also is both a writer and contributor for WSCR (670the Score) in Chicago. The last three years he has authored the Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide.
Gabriel grew up in Amherst and is a 1974 graduate of Canisius College where he was a member of the football team. He and his wife Robin currently resides in the Chicago area.

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