Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: LeSean McCoy on his way to the Hall? The future at Fisher & a surprise training camp cut - The Buffalo News
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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: LeSean McCoy on his way to the Hall? The future at Fisher & a surprise training camp cut

As part of our annual training camp preview section, I've written approximately a million words this week. I'm tired.

That means I have no time for a witty opening few paragraphs for this week's mailbag. Plus, you guys came through with so many good questions this week, that I want to answer them all. So let's get right to it:

He's on his way, but not there yet. McCoy enters 2017 with 8,954 career rushing yards, which leaves him 38th on the NFL's all-time list. If he duplicates his 2016 effort of 1,267 yards, that puts him at 10,221 and gets him into the top 30 all time. It's in the years that follow, however, that will really determine McCoy's worthiness for the Hall of Fame.

There are just 15 running backs who have ever rushed for 12,000 yards. Of those, 13 are in the Hall of Fame, while another is still active (Frank Gore) and the last one, Edgerrin James, has been a finalist recently. If McCoy gets to that number, his chances obviously improve greatly. He'll be 29 this season, and as I wrote in Friday's Buffalo News, still looks to be in his prime. To get to 12,000 yards, he'll need at least three more seasons of solid production. If he stays healthy, I say he can do that.

The better question might be, will he still be in Buffalo when it happens? McCoy has three years left on his contract (including 2017), with cap hits ranging from $8.875 million to just a shade over $9 million. The Bills can get out of the deal after this season for minimal damage on the salary cap in terms of dead money. Will the team's new front office want to pay that much money for a running back in his 30s? That's something we'll have to find out.

As an avid Jeopardy fan, Bill, I have to remind you that this is not in the form of a question. Alex Trebek would not be happy. I'll let it slide, though.

I don't see the Bills leaving St. John Fisher any time soon. For starters, there is an agreement with the school that runs through 2021.

"The training camp partnership between the Buffalo Bills and St. John Fisher College has been extremely beneficial for both parties,” Bills President Russ Brandon said in a statement last year announcing a five-year extension of that arrangement.  “Our training camp model is among the best in the entire National Football League and we’re excited to continue our relationship with St. John Fisher College and the Rochester community for years to come."

Brandon is a Fisher graduate. The Bills have visited the Rochester suburb every year since 2000 (which, by the way, coincides with the team's playoff drought). It's been an important part of the regionalization of the franchise. That's not to be dismissed. Although any fears of relocation were put to rest when the Pegula family bought the team, the Bills need to do all they can to appeal to fans from Rochester, Syracuse, Southern Ontario and all points in between. That's never going to change, and holding camp an hour down the Thruway is a good way to reach fans who might not otherwise get to see the team all that often, or who simply can't afford the cost of attending a regular-season game.

New coach Sean McDermott is also a fan of going away for a few weeks in the summer. If he believes in it, then the team is going to make sure it happens.

Andrew's going way outside the box here. Props on the creative thinking. To answer your question, yes, they could move Jones, but that would have to mean both the coaching staff feels it's the right move and the player is on board with it. There is no indication that either of those things are close to happening.

Perhaps you're thinking about the current project the Bills are working on with Logan Thomas, who played quarterback at Virginia Tech and entered the NFL at the position before switching to tight end. However, Thomas played quarterback for three different NFL teams before eventually making the switch. I don't see any way that Jones would be ready to do the same this early in his career. If he doesn't make the Bills, which is a realistic possibility given the quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart, there is a good chance another team gives him a look.

At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Johnson has a big frame. He's got tremendous power in his legs. In the few practices we were able to watch in the spring, he also did a nice job of catching the ball out of the backfield.

As for how he can make the team, as with any rookie undrafted free agent, it will start with special teams. That's something he played at the University at Buffalo even as the senior starting running back, so the willingness is there, which is a good start. The reality is Johnson faces an uphill climb. If the Bills keep five running backs and fullbacks the top four spots right now figure to go to McCoy, Jonathan Williams, Mike Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco. That would leave Johnson competing with Cedric O'Neal and Joe Banyard for one spot.

The team might not keep that many, though, electing to use Tolbert as a running back/fullback. In my estimation, Johnson would have to beat him out for a spot, which will be tough to do since he's a known commodity to McDermott. Perhaps Johnson shows enough to earn a spot on the practice squad in his first professional season. That would be an accomplishment.

This is always a tough question to answer. If you pick a really big name like Marcell Dareus, people call you crazy. If you pick someone like Jonathan Williams, is that really that much of a surprise? Enough of my complaining though.

The best way to answer this is to look at veteran players who have high salaries and younger players behind them potentially ready to take their spot. Performance isn't the only factor to consider when a player is released. Potential cap savings are also worth exploring.

According to overthecap.com, the biggest potential cap savings if they were to be released during training camp would come from Jerry Hughes ($7.55 million), Kyle Williams ($6.8 million), McCoy ($6.25 million), Eric Wood ($4.525 million) and Richie Incognito ($3.775 million). There are no obvious replacements for the first three players on the list. The Bills do have decent depth up front after signing Vlad Ducasse and re-signing Ryan Groy, but Wood and Incognito are respected team leaders who are still performing at a high level, so they wouldn't be on my chopping block, either.

That takes me to ... linebacker Preston Brown. The Bills would save nearly $1.8 million if Brown was released. They also have a young player in second-year veteran Reggie Ragland who could step into the starting middle linebacker job. Cutting Brown, who has started 46 of 48 games in his first three years in Buffalo, would certainly qualify as a surprise.

In a word: Yes. I'm with you that the team needs to get better in that area. Incumbent Colton Schmit ranked last among qualified punters with an average of 42.4 yards per punt. Field position can obviously sometimes dictate the length of a punt, but Schmidt also ranked 26th in the league with just 20 punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. That's not good enough.

The Bills signed Austin Rehkow as an undrafted free agent out of Idaho, and he will be given a real chance in training camp to take the job away from Schmidt.

Well OK then. 7-9. Are you happy? That's what I predicted when the schedule came out back in April, and I see no reason to change it now.

To review, this is how I got there:

Week One, vs. N.Y. Jets: Win.
Week Two, at Carolina: Loss.
Week Three: vs. Denver: Win.
Week Four: at Atlanta: Loss.
Week Five: at Cincinnati: Loss.
Week Six: Bye.
Week Seven: vs. Tampa Bay: Win.
Week Eight: vs. Oakland: Loss.
Week Nine: at N.Y. Jets: Win.
Week 10: vs. New Orleans: Win.
Week 11: at L.A. Chargers: Loss.
Week 12: at Kansas City: Loss.
Week 13: vs. New England: Loss.
Week 14: vs. Indianapolis: Win.
Week 15: vs. Miami: Win.
Week 16: at New England: Loss.
Week 17: at Miami: Loss.

I still feel good about those predictions.

Ok, I think that's enough for this week. Thanks for the questions everyone!

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