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Vic Carucci's Bills Mailbag: Best Bill ever? Which will be better, defense or offense?

You have Buffalo Bills questions that you've submitted to me via Twitter @viccarucci.

I have answers:

@InYourEyes4u says: As a Bills fan since 1960 I have seen all the greats in Bills history. If you had to name just one player regardless of position or era whom do you feel is the best Bills player pound-for-pound to ever play for the Bills and why?

Vic Carucci: I have to make this a two-fold answer, because I don't think the best player in Bills history is necessarily the one who has had the greatest impact on the team since it began play as an original American Football League franchise in 1960.

For best player -- as in pure talent, athleticism, and production -- I'll go with Bruce Smith. He has few pass-rushing peers in the history of the game; none when it comes to most sacks, of course. For that matter, he's on the short list of players at any position capable of having the most consistent dominance.

The most impactful Bill ever? Jim Kelly is the easy choice. His arrival in 1986, after two seasons in the United States Football League, changed the course of the franchise. No player before or since has come close to doing that.

Kelly instantly gave the Bills greater relevance than they ever had on a national scale. He was the catalyst of an offense that had the most to do with their four consecutive Super Bowl appearances, an achievement that might never be duplicated. He continues to be as revered as anyone who has ever set foot in Western New York.

Jim Kelly acknowledges the crowd during the NFL Draft. (@nfl photo)

@ConnorManley202 says: Will the Bills' defense or offense be better in 2017?

VC: I'm going with the defense.

After ranking 19th in the NFL the past two seasons, it can't get a whole lot worse. I also believe the 4-3, zone-coverage-heavy base scheme that Sean McDermott and coordinator Leslie Frazier have installed will be a better fit for a vast majority of the members of a front seven that were miscast in Rex's Ryan's 3-4.

Additionally, I expect McDermott and his staff to help cut down on the silly mistakes that contributed to the defensive struggles since 2015, while providing an elevated level of individual instruction.

On the other hand, even though the ground game should remain strong, it will be difficult for the Bills to lead the league in rushing for a third consecutive season. And a passing attack that ranked 30th in the NFL last year doesn't appear to have enough help at receiver or tight end to show significant improvement.

Expecting Tyrod Taylor to elevate his performance in the wake of taking a $10-million pay cut and while facing the real prospect that this could be his final season in Buffalo could be expecting too much.

@mattcorey716 says: Will the offensive line take a hit or benefit/ stay same from the new offensive scheme?

VC: I can see some challenges, at least initially, as everyone gets used to the new wide-zone blocking that Rick Dennison is incorporating.

The linemen will be asked to do a whole lot more on the move, especially to the outside, as there will be a heavier dose of stretch plays in the run game. That's also something to which LeSean McCoy and the other ball-carriers will need to adapt.

Eventually, I think the overall comfort level with grow as the season progresses. However, I still have concerns about the health of left tackle Cordy Glenn (who missed five games last season with injuries and ended offseason workouts in a walking boot to protect a nagging ankle problem), and the uncertainty at right tackle (with an incumbent, Jordan Mills, that struggled last season and a rookie, Dion Dawkins, projected to take his place) and right guard (where journeyman Vlad Ducasse is pushing John Miller for the starting job).

@JeremyPowley says: What are some things you've enjoyed seeing under this new coaching staff during ota's and hope to see during training camp?

VC: Mostly, it's been the emphasis on fundamental instruction in all phases.

I thought the previous staff generally strayed from that based on an approach that made scheming a far greater priority than teaching. I always got the impression that, for the most part, Rex Ryan assumed players had a far better understanding of his playbook than they actually did and, therefore, it wasn't necessary to spend a whole lot of time on details. This was especially true on defense, but as time went on it also seemed to manifest itself on offense.

The most notable exception was receivers coach Sanjay Lal, whose position group (and especially Sammy Watkins) greatly appreciated his ultra-precise tutoring. Lal now guides T.Y. Hilton and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts' receivers.

@bpdz8 says: Vic, since you've seen both good and bad NFL coaches; how many of last year's losses would you chalk up to bad coaching & lack of discipline?

VC: It's hard to quantify something like that, but I have little doubt it was a factor in how the season played out.

Generally speaking, I'd say the Bills' failures during Ryan's 31-game run had as much to do with personnel as they did with coaching. That's why they're starting over with McDermott and a new GM in Brandon Beane.

For what it's worth, the analytics website ProFootballFocus.com says the Bills have the 27th-ranked roster in the NFL.

@TCBILLS_Astro says: #Bills fans want to know how to block everybody at #Bills restaurant who posts pictures of pancakes. Also, who do you like as S backups?

VC: I'm going to leave the first question alone, because I've been known to eat the occasional pancake and have fallen victim to the selling of food that looks good on television or in a photo even if it isn't necessarily good for you.

As for backups behind starting safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, I'll go with Colt Anderson, because of his eight years of NFL experience and the fact he can contribute on special teams, and Joe Powell. I don't have a great reason for Powell, but I am fascinated by the fact he is getting his NFL shot after playing at a junior college in Manhattan that no longer exists and for semi-pro and arena teams.

@GraysonTumult says: Just curious, with TE depth so inexperienced, why have the Bills not brought back Chris Gragg for a look. If anything to see how he has recovered?

VC: Because experience isn't all that's needed. There is a talent standard, and I don't think the new regime believes Gragg meets it.

@timothy_filutze says: Are the Bills coaching staff being underestimated to have a breakout year?

VC: Anything's possible, although success from a first-year head coach who has never filled the role at any football level is always going to be seen as exceeding expectations.

That's why rookies on the job that deliver winning records invariably become leading candidates for coach-of-the-year honors.

@twittabern says: Anything ado re: RB2?

VC: At this point, it's hard to see anything other than Jonathan Williams or bust.

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