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LeSean McCoy's absence would create on-field problems for Bills, too

When the dust settles, LeSean McCoy could face potential suspension.  The video evidence in a Philadelphia bar brawl appears to show the Buffalo Bills running back throwing a punch at someone on the floor.

Charges won't be levied until at least Wednesday. Soon, we'll have more details. But, no, the Bills' offseason couldn't have started any worse than this.

The Bills could sever ties with McCoy completely, absorb the cap hit and move on at a position that already includes Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee. But Rex Ryan has also branded himself as Mr. Second Chance in Buffalo, a head coach who retained Aaron Kromer as his offensive line coach, who claimed IK Enemkpali and took fliers on several other players other teams deemed too risky.

For more on all this, here's our "Dunne with Graham" podcast from Friday.

Four games? Six games? Any amount of time McCoy would miss this season would have ramifications on the field. A few to consider...

1. This will be a much, much tougher schedule (especially vs. the run). After going 8-8 with the soft AFC South and NFC East on the docket, the Bills now have the cutthroat NFC West and AFC North in 2016, something like skiing down a Double Black Diamond after gliding down the bunny hill. Buffalo will face five of the top seven run defenses in the NFL — the Seattle Seahawks (No. 1), New York Jets (No. 2), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 5), Arizona Cardinals (No. 6) and Cincinnati Bengals (No. 7). And beyond this, New England was ninth vs. the run and Baltimore was 12th. It'll all get a heck of a lot more difficult for the Bills' No. 1-ranked, McCoy-paced rushing attack.

And if the team doesn't have McCoy in the picture, offensive coordinator Greg Roman may be forced to rewire his offense a bit this offseason. Everything, from Day 1 last offseason, was built around the run. That's why the Bills handed McCoy a five-year, $40 million contract. Don't count on Roman suddenly going four- and five-wide exclusively but an arrest to their star player could throw a wrench into how this team thinks on offense.

2. What happens with Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito? I just can't see the Bills letting a proven, durable left tackle get away in a game severely lacking proven, durable left tackles. As a source told The News in Mobile, Glenn's "floor" should be $10 million per year. The most likely scenario is Buffalo placing the franchise tag on Glenn and working toward a long-term deal before that tag expires. Still, the greatest strength on this roster — the left side of the offensive line — is also a great unknown on a team already tight up against the salary cap. Left guard Richie Incognito, arguably the best guard in the NFL, is also an unrestricted free agent. While one report indicated a two-year deal between Buffalo and Incognito is most likely, one source told The News otherwise — that Incognito will command a much better market. There will be several interested teams. And at 32 years old, after everything he's been through, he'll probably want to fully capitalize on his worth. There's a chance the Bills can't match whatever Incognito is offered and they're forced to replace a deserving Pro Bowler. Buffalo averaged 6.6 yards per carry on runs behind Incognito in 2015, per ESPN Stats and Information, the best for any team since the stat's inception in 2006.

3. LeSean McCoy is a rhythm runner. In conjunction with all this success behind Glenn, Incognito and center Eric Wood, McCoy is the very definition of a "rhythm" runner. He runs with an innate feel for his blockers. He anticipates. He knows who's moving where a split-second before everyone else on the field. This process takes time once a season begins, too. If he's forced to miss a month of the regular season, it could be very difficult for McCoy to magically, suddenly dominate the way he did at times in 2015. A hamstring injury derailed his September last season. If suspended, by the time McCoy is fully shifted into top gear in 2016, the Bills might already be facing an uphill climb to make the postseason.

Ryan often lamented the fact that his playmakers were not all healthy together in training camp and the first quarter of the season.

Missing McCoy, the offense's centerpiece, would be a big blow.

4. Playing at a lighter weight. A suspension certainly would challenge McCoy to stay conditioned. He'll turn 28 years old in July, an age many backs begin to fade. Shaun Alexander, another "rhythm" runner, saw his numbers free-fall from age 28 to 29. When McCoy loses his quickness, as one personnel exec said, that's it for him. So give running backs coach Anthony Lynn credit. One reason McCoy had the season he did was Lynn encouraging him to shed pounds. As Lynn said midseason, McCoy lost "at least" 10 pounds. At one point, the back dipped to 202 pounds, before settling at around 206. Staying around this number will be imperative in maintaining his trademark quickness and cutback ability — can he do so if he misses time?

5. Karlos Williams Watch. Through four different injuries as a rookie, Williams finished with 517 yards on 93 carries with seven touchdowns and another 11 receptions for 96 yards and two scores. A McCoy absence would open a huge door for Williams, a north-south throwback of a runner. If McCoy's out, the Bills will be counting on this bruiser north of 240 pounds to shoulder a heavier burden. I like Williams a lot here. He's a decisive, no-nonsense back with a nose for the end zone and a side most people don't see on the outside. The 2015 fifth-round steal possesses the raw talent to win the No. 1 job outright and never let McCoy get it back. But no doubt, it's an even more critical offseason for him to get his body ready for a full 16-game schedule.

 

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) beats Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry (95) in the third quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park,NY on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) beats Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry (95) in the third quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park,NY on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

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