Good morning, everyone. With the weekend right around the corner, here's last night's Dunne with Graham Podcast from the Waterfront and three quick Bills thoughts below...
Who's the greatest Bill? Bruce Smith's joke over wine to Jim Kelly raises the debate. Hanging out with former teammates out in Sonoma Valley, Calif., during Super Bowl Week, the Bills great asked Kelly why his number is retired when he wasn't the best player of his own team.
There was laughter. But it makes you wonder.
Kelly, Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed are all Hall of Famers... so who was the best of the bunch? Was it O.J. Simpson before all of them? I won't pretend to know the answer to this as a four- and five-year-old during the team's Super Bowl run but let the debate rage in the comment section below if you'd like. Simpson is part of the 2,000 club, a dominating force in the 1970's. Kelly was the one at the controls of the K-Gun offense, moving this offense at a breakneck pace. He threw for nearly 35,500 yards and 237 touchdowns, often outdueling one of the best ever in Miami's Dan Marino. Thomas? In a glory era for running backs, he was one of, if not the best in the NFL. His eight straight 1,000-yard seasons is something we'll rarely ever see again and he was ahead of his time as a receiver, catching 472 passes with more than 500 receiving yards in four different seasons. Andre Reed, a seven-time Pro Bowler in his own right, finally got the Canton nod two years ago as the NFL's 16th all-time leading receiver. He was the No. 1 weapon outside. Then there's Smith, who'll have his No. 78 retired. He racked up the most sacks ever (200) since it became a statistic in 1982. At any moment, Smith could change a game on defense.
Together, the latter four and a very strong supporting cast reeled off four straight Super Bowl runs. And surely opinions differ on who was the best.
Vets certainly hear the "off the bus" praise. Moments after the Bills drafted Shaq Lawson, GM Doug Whaley called the Clemson product a Day 1 starter. Same story with Alabama's Reggie Ragland.
Then, on NFL Network last night, Whaley called Lawson, Ragland and defensive end Adolphus Washington all starters "off the bus." The confidence is admirable — heck, the Bills sure need all three to bring such an instant impact to the NFL's 19th-ranked defense. Lawson (OLB), Ragland (ILB) and Washington (DE) all supply a brand of violence that surely reminds Rex Ryan of his best defensive units in Baltimore and New York. There's always another side to this, though. You can bet proud veterans like Kyle Williams and Corbin Bryant up front and Manny Lawson at outside linebacker heard their general manager. Bryant would seem to be the fourth defensive lineman out in Ryan's 3-4 if Washington is a Day 1 starter, while Manny Lawson would be replaced by Shaq Lawson. We'll see who lines up where soon enough at OTA's and minicamp. Either way, anointing rookies as starters, before they've even practiced, is an interesting strategy. What if the learning curve proves steep for one, two, all three? Whaley raised the bar of expectations for all three and might've motivated a few vets in the process.
Think big plays, misdirection with speed on offense. Suddenly, the Bills have three of the fastest players in the NFL in Kolby Listenbee (10.03 in 100), Marquise Goodwin (4.27 in 40) and Dri Archer (4.26 in 40). All three possess Olympic-level speed, along with the wheels of Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy.
What does it mean?
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman might not have an offense that can go three- and four wide like many others in the NFL. This is a team dead-set on running the ball again in 2016. But with a run-first offense, defenses are bound to creep a safety into the box and leave the likes of Listenbee and/or Goodwin singled up deep. Listenbee is well aware of this dynamic. And also, the Bills can look to use more misdirection and/or scheme a player like Archer into open space. Roman's offense shifts very creatively side to side. Defensive linemen say postgame just how confusing the blocking schemes are, and now maybe the Bills can keep those front seven players guessing even more. Whether it's in motion, on screens, draws, delays, whatever, Archer has a shot on offense. On paper, there's a lot to like about this speed infusion. Of course, Goodwin has struggled with injuries so far and Archer is on his third team. The former Kent State star who brought 40 speed and football speed to the field never caught on as a third-round pick by Pittsburgh and then the New York Jets wouldn't even take him into OTA's this spring. Roman can start toying with the X's and O's later this month in OTA's.