The end of the summer is near. For me, at least.
The Buffalo Bills will report to St. John Fisher College in Pittsford in less than two weeks now, signifying the end of the offseason and the beginning of the 2017 season.
Aside from the arrest of defensive tackle Adolphus Washington, it's been a quiet few weeks for the Bills since they wrapped up minicamp last month, which is undoubtedly what General Manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott wanted. How the team will handle Washington's situation will certainly be one of the first topics addressed with reporters by McDermott after training camp gets started.
Before we get there, let's empty out the mailbag once more. Here are your questions, and my best attempt at answers:
How much is Mr Big Stuff buying in and predictions for him this year?
— Bill Perry (@gottahavajava) July 14, 2017
For those unaware, "Mr. Big Stuff," is the nickname of Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. As for how he's buying in, who knows? Dareus has done his best to distance himself from reporters as much as possible in recent years. When he does talk, it looks like it's the last place in the world he'd like to be.
And really, how much does it even matter what he says? A few years ago, he said he was on the straight and narrow after an arrest for possession of synthetic marijuana, then later that day drag raced his Jaguar into a tree on McKinley Parkway. The truth is, Dareus is firmly in "don't tell us, show us" territory.
Outward signs at least were positive this spring. He was a full participant in pretty much every workout that was open to the media, and all indications are the same is true of those practices that weren't. He was honored with "Marcell Dareus Day" and threw out the first pitch at Buffalo Bisons game. He continued to do charitable work both here in Buffalo and his native Alabama.
All of that is good. But it would be just a guess to know how much he's really buying in. New defensive line coach Mike Waufle is known to be a disciplinarian, so his relationship with Dareus will be interesting to watch develop. As for a prediction for his season, it's tough to put a statistical goal on it, but if he can play a full season – which needs to be his goal – something along the lines of 40-50 tackles and five sacks would be a good starting point.
Chances of adding a #2 TE by mid training camp? In a TE friendly scheme makes too much sense.
— Hector Magaña (@HectorMagana89) July 14, 2017
Fairly good. Let's put it at 50-50. As most fans know by now, the Bills brought Gary Barnidge, the former Cleveland Browns' starter, in for a visit during the spring as a free agent. He remains unsigned, so it's possible the two sides could revisit things in training camp if Barnidge doesn't find an offer more to his liking before then.
Former Chargers tight end Ladarius Green, who was a bust as a free agent signing by the Steelers, is also still on the open market. There is also the possibility the Bills wait until final cuts to see if a player they like hits waivers. Given starter Charles Clay's uncertain health situation and the lack of depth behind him, tight end is on the short list of positions the team could look to beef up before the regular season.
Do they keep Sammy after this year?
— Adam Jacobs (@AdamJ5) July 14, 2017
What record they finish with?
— Adam Jacobs (@AdamJ5) July 14, 2017
Back-to-back tough ones from Adam. Let's start with Sammy. The case for keeping him is simple -- when healthy, he's shown he can be one of the most dominant wide receivers in the NFL. His nine-game stretch to close the 2015 season, when he trailed only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, was dynamite.
The problem is, we haven't seen enough of that. Inconsistent quarterback play hasn't helped, but the bigger issue is of course injuries. Watkins missed half of last season and clearly wasn't 100 percent in the eight games he did play. He has to prove he can put two foot surgeries behind him and show he can stay healthy. Obviously, by not picking up his option, the Bills still need to be convinced of that. As I wrote earlier this offseason, far more often than not, when a player doesn't have his fifth-year option picked up, it means he's heading into the last year with his current team. Of the 27 players who had their fifth-year options declined from 2011-13, only four of them re-signed with the teams that drafted them after their rookie contracts expired. If Watkins stays healthy and has a great 2017 season, the Bills could use the franchise tag on him, but that has never happened before with a player who has had his option declined.
Since there is so much uncertainty involved, it's tough to answer definitively whether he stays beyond 2017, but I do believe there would be an interest on the Bills' part if Watkins is healthy.
As for the record, I predicted 7-9 in April when the schedule came out, and nothing has really changed to make me waver from that. Key early -season games are against Denver in Week Three and at Cincinnati at Week Five. The toughest stretch looks to be back-to-back road trips to Los Angeles and Kansas City, and then a home game against New England. Ending the season at the Patriots and Dolphins is also a tough ask for the Bills. So I'm sticking with 7-9 for now.
Why did Maclin ultimately pass on the Bills?
— Matt O (@Matt_ORourke1) July 14, 2017
When speaking with reporters in Baltimore, Maclin said "from a football standpoint, it made the most sense." That certainly could be, but as it does more often than not in these situations, follow the money. The Ravens offered Maclin a two-year contract worth up to $11 million. That's pretty good money for when he was on the open market.
There is also the opportunity that he'll have with the Ravens to be the No. 1 receiver for a quarterback with a Super Bowl win on his resume. Maclin knew he wasn't going to be the No. 1 in Buffalo with Watkins in the picture.
Do you think Mark Brammer was underrated as a tight end?
— Dave McKinley (@DaveMcKinley2) July 14, 2017
*Quickly Googles Mark Brammer*
Ok, so I see that Brammer played five seasons with the Bills from 1980-84, appearing in 65 games with 43 starts and finishing with 116 catches for 1,137 yards and 10 touchdowns. Full disclosure: I hadn't yet turned 3 before his Bills career was over, so I took this question to my co-worker, Vic Carucci. Here was his reply: "Wasn't much of a receiver, OK blocker."
So there you have it. Here's who I do think is underrated, though: Dave McKinley. He's one of the best storytellers in Buffalo.
Whats your favorite wny golf course? Have you played Springville CC?
— BHP (@bnasty_55) July 14, 2017
Now we're getting to the good stuff. How much time do you have? How much space do we have in the paper? I could talk and write about golf for days. My favorite local course is actually across the bridge in Canada - Whirlpool. Growing up in Lewiston, I have so many great memories of racing across the border after work in the summer during high school to get the twilight rate, which remains one of the best deals in golf.
We've been really lucky in this area the last 10-20 years with how many great new courses have opened. Diamond Hawk, Arrowhead, Ivy Ridge, Harvest Hill and Hickory Stick are all really solid, plus those courses in Canada like Legends and Grand Niagara. Of those, I'm partial to Hickory Stick, since it's in my hometown and I get to play there frequently with my favorite playing partner, my dad. Plus, it's always in immaculate shape.
I've been lucky enough to play some of the private courses, too, and Crag Burn is as great as you constantly hear it is. I haven't played Springville yet, so that's one I'm hoping to knock off the list soon.
Jay, to what degree do you think Tyrod's deficiencies can be corrected by this staff?
— Nip it in the bud! (@TheBocaBreeze2) July 14, 2017
I'm skeptical. I go back to when former quarterbacks coach David Lee was going to rebuild Ryan Fitzpatrick's mechanics. No shortage of stories were written that particular offseason about how Fitz's footwork was going to be different and what they would lead to. Fast forward to the regular season and it certainly looked like the same old Fitz.
That's not to say Taylor won't, or can't, improve. There is reason to be optimistic that Rick Dennison's offense - which figures to include bootlegs and rollouts designed to take advantage of Taylor's speed - will be a good fit for the quarterback's skillset. But nothing Dennison does is going to make Taylor taller, and if that's the reason he's hesitant to use the middle of the field, that's not changing.
For me, the No. 1 thing Taylor needs to do this year is get back to throwing the deep ball as well as he did in 2015. That will force defenses to respect the deep threat and thus not crowd the line of scrimmage so much for running back LeSean McCoy.
Is a chicken wing a sandwich?
— Secondfh (@Secondfh) July 14, 2017
I mean, if you're putting it on some sort of roll or between bread, I guess. But then the question becomes what kind of monster eats their chicken wings on bread? Side note, I went to college in Florida and some places there put breading on their chicken wings. It's horrifying.
Does Marcell dareus prefer doughnuts or muffins as a morning pastry treat?
— matthew (@mattymelts) July 13, 2017
I think we're done for this week. Thanks for the questions everyone!