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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: Pressure on Tyrod, who'll be around when they get good & what's with all the TEs?

This week's mailbag is bursting at its digital seams.

With the season opener against the Jets now just three days away, there is plenty to discuss in Bills Nation. So let's get to your questions:

To answer your question, no.

This seems to be the prevailing thought, which is interesting because the roles were reversed last year. The Bills' offense actually finished in the top 10 in scoring, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 10 with 24.9 points per game. The defense was tied for 16th, allowing 23.6 points per game.

The reason for the flip-flop traces back to the new defensive scheme implemented by Sean McDermott that has fans hoping for an improvement on that side of the ball. The offense, meanwhile, looked abysmal in the preseason. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is working with basically a brand new set of receivers. A word to the wise, though – don't overvalue preseason performances. That's not to suggest the Bills will be an offensive juggernaut, but rather to wait for a few real games before writing them off.


That's one of the biggest questions facing the offense. It's one I brought to Andre Holmes prior to the third preseason game against the Ravens. Here was his response:

"I think we have a lot of speed in this group and I don't see any problem with Sammy leaving and not being able to stretch the field. We've all got very fast football speed and we can all stretch out the field. I've seen Zay stretch out the field already. I know Jordan can. I have. Really everybody. I don't see Sammy leaving – that departure – as changing that part of the offense for us."

Of course, that's to be expected. Holmes isn't going to say "we're not good or fast enough." To Bobby's point, someone needs to prove they can take the top off defenses. The thinking here is that Jones will be the first player to get that chance. His official 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine was 4.45 seconds. Watkins' time in 2014 was 4.43 seconds – basically identical.

Taylor's deep passing was his best trait in 2015, but it wasn't as strong in 2016. Watkins' absence and/or ineffectiveness helps explain that.

My tireless research shows that the Bills' roster isn't as overloaded as you might think. A total of 18 teams have three tight ends, while 12 have four (Detroit carries two and Tampa Bay has five at the position).

There's a difference between being overloaded and being forgettable, a la Tim Euhus in 2004. The Bills always keep at least three at the position, so four isn't some drastic increase. It's just that they've rarely had difference-makers. The easy answer for why the Bills are carrying so many is that they figure prominently into offensive coordinator Rick Dennison's scheme. That means an uptick in Charles Clay's production should be expected, while Nick O'Leary's playing time should also increase.

As for keeping another tight end on the practice squad, the Bills carried a long snapper in that role last season, so that's not worth worrying about.

The list of players would be pretty long, but it's not too early to think about positions of need. In that sense, can any spot really be ruled out?

Look around the roster: At wide receiver, projected No. 1 option Jordan Matthews is a free agent after this year. At tight end, Charles Clay carries a hefty salary and there are long-term concerns about the health of his knee. At defensive tackle, Kyle Williams is nearing the end of his career and Marcell Dareus is a high-priced headache. At linebacker, career special teamer Ramon Humber is starting. The list of needs is long for a franchise that is entering the first year under a new coach and general manager.

I'll start with this year's draft picks. Cornerback Tre'Davious White and wide receiver Zay Jones will ideally be long-time starters here who were brought in under McDermott. Dion Dawkins, given that he was drafted in the second round, needs to develop into a starter, too. Shaq Lawson is entering just his second season, so he should be around for years to come.

The trick to answering this question is knowing when you expect the Bills to be contenders. If down the road means the 2019 season, then the likelihood goes up that some of the current members of the team are still around. If it's 2020 or beyond, the chances of any of this year's core – think players like Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, Cordy Glenn, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander – ranges from slim to none.

Absolutely there is. The Bills have a rookie quarterback the coaching staff believes can make plays in the NFL. Everyone knows Taylor's contract is easy to get out of after this season. He's playing for his job here in 2018. If he struggles, there will be pressure from the outside to see what the team has in Nathan Peterman. That's the nature of the quarterback position, as the old saying about the backup QB being the most popular guy in town alludes to.

So how bad does Taylor have to look? That's a tough call. If the Bills bench him, it basically equals the end of his time in Buffalo. There are two ways that could play out. The team could stick with Taylor until its officially eliminated from the playoff race and then turn things over to Peterman. The alternative would be turning to Peterman earlier in the season in an effort to rescue a sinking ship.

Taylor would really have to collapse – think 0-5 start at the bye week bad – before such a move was considered.

What Bills fan wouldn't go for that if it meant getting away from the Patriots twice a year? Alas, that doesn't seem to be a front-burner item for the NFL. With two conferences and four divisions that make sense from a geographic standpoint, I can't see where the push would come from.

The Patriots' dominance of the AFC East is a huge reason for the Bills' playoff drought. But realignment isn't going to end that. The retirements of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will. Or at least Buffalo fans have to hope that's the case.

This dovetails with the question above about usage of tight ends. Yes, Clay should be expected to play a bigger role. He has averaged 54 catches in his first two seasons in Buffalo. His career high is 69 catches in 2013 with the Dolphins. Challenging that doesn't seem out of the question, provided his chronic knee injury can be managed well and he stays on the field.

McCoy was asked that very question Wednesday. Here was his response: "I'm not sure. I hope I get more than he does. One thing I've learned, man, is that you can't be too selfish. I'm obviously going to get a load of the carries. He's a bigger, stronger, more physical runner than I am. It is what it is. So if he has times where he needs to get short yardage, I'm sure he'll go in there and get it. But there's going to be times where I'll be in there. That's more for the coaches. They'll work that out.

"Now, if I go all the way down the field, you know, at the 2-yard line they take me out, I think Sean might give me a bone and let me get it."

My translation: Yes, Tolbert will take away some goal-line carries, but not all of them. I'm sure that doesn't help too much from a fantasy standpoint.

As for favorite cereal, adult me eats Special K (the fruit and yogurt kind). Kid me was Lucky Charms all the way.

It's going to be a long season, isn't it?

Because they were Whaley's draft picks. A new regime brings in their own guys. It's just what happens in the NFL. (I chose to answer that question even if this was just a cheap ploy for my friend Jim to brag about beating me by a stroke the last time we played golf. Congratulations to him).

Anyway, I think that's going to do it for this week. Thanks for the questions!

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