The State of the Bills at the Bye
by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page
With this being the Buffalo Bills bye week, we can take a look at where the Bills are at through five games of the season.
I don’t think any of us six weeks ago would have thought the Bills would be 3-2 and sharing first place in the AFC East going into the bye. They have far exceeded expectations for this season and I feel going forward they will continue to do so. Why? Because the current Bills coaching staff is the strongest staff since Marv Levy was the Head Coach. The Bills are playing better football than their talent level suggests they should and that is because of coaching.
Looking at the offense, they are average mainly because the quarterback has limitations and he won’t get much better than he is right now. He is a player that is better on the move and making plays outside of the pocket area than when he has to throw from within the pocket. Opponents know this and their game plan is to keep him in the pocket. That is the easiest way to beat the Bills. Reality is, Tyrod Taylor is not going to lead the Bills to a Championship. Rookie Nate Peterman may be a guy who can consistently get the Bills to the playoffs, but we still don’t know if he is good enough to win in the playoffs. Time will tell.
The Bills have a good, but not great running game. If Cordy Glenn was healthy I feel the ground game would get better. Rookie Dion Dawkins is going to be a solid pro, but I doubt it will be at left tackle. At right tackle or guard he can be very good. The Bills have played two players at right guard and haven’t gotten what they want out of the position. That is where Dawkins will most likely end up once Glenn is ready to go.
Right now, the Bills are hurting at both tight end and wide receiver. Losing Jordan Matthews and Charles Clay to injuries has hurt the offense. There were not that many play makers to begin with. Zay Jones has a bright future, but because of the offense he came from at East Carolina, he just isn’t ready to contribute the way we would like him to. He’s a rookie and it takes time to develop. The Bills still need to add some quality receivers to improve the depth at the position.
The running back position is solid and I feel that Mike Tolbert does an outstanding job complementing LeSean McCoy. With McCoy now being 29, his best years are behind him, but if used properly he still has a few good years left.
The defense has been the surprise of 2017. No one thought they would be this good this quickly. They are playing inspired football with contributions from the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. The good news is, for the most part, this group will continue to improve because they are young. Look at what Sean McDermott had in Carolina and what he has in Buffalo. The defensive rosters aren’t even close, but this group is overachieving and is just a few players away from being one of the better defenses in the NFL.
In Carolina McDermott had not only a speedy group of linebackers, but also a very instinctive group. The Bills linebacker corps is playing good football, but I doubt they are where Sean wants them to be. I would think that the Bills will use a high draft choice on a linebacker in the next draft.
The same can be said about the secondary. They could use another quality corner who is proficient in both man and zone coverages, and has top ball skills.
The defensive line is playing very well, but going forward decisions will have to be made on Marcell Dareus. There is no questioning his talent, but does he have the reliability the staff wants? With all the high draft picks the Bills have next April, don’t be shocked if they use one on a defensive lineman.
In the first year of the McDermott/Beane regime the Bills were looking to improve and be able to compete far better than they have in the past. They have already done that as they are contending for a playoff berth. As good as this team has played in 2017, they will be much better in the years to come. The bounty of draft picks in the 2018 Draft, if used wisely, will assure that.