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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: What's up with Blanton? Is rivalry against Dolphins dead?

Jay Skurski

There’s something about Derek Anderson being on the opposite sideline that results in abysmal offensive performances for the Buffalo Bills.

Anderson, the current Carolina Panthers’ backup quarterback, was the starter for the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 11, 2009. He went 2 of 17 for 23 yards that day, but the Browns still managed to beat the Buffalo Bills, 6-3, in what was the defining game of the Dick Jauron Era.

Anderson didn’t get into the game Sunday, but instead had an up-close performance of another atrocious offensive performance by the Bills. Sorry about bringing up bad memories – let me make it up to you in this week’s Bills Mailbag.

Let’s get to your questions:

Jeff Hunter asks: Robert Blanton?
Tim Grover also asks: Robert Blanton over Trae Elston?
Krystle Noel agrees, stating: OMG thinking the same thing!

Jay: Ok, I’m detecting a trend here. Not everybody is on board with re-signing Blanton, who spent 10 games last season with the Bills before landing on injured reserve because of a foot injury. He signed with the Cowboys in the offseason, but was cut earlier this month. Here was coach Sean McDermott’s reasoning for the move offered Wednesday:

“We just felt that … looking at our roster and the bottom third of our roster – and trying to improve every day like we always try and do – we felt like this would give us a chance to get a player of Robert’s caliber,” he said. “He’s been here before and he knows the system. He is a good special teams player as well as a backup safety at this point.”

Blanton did spend two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings in 2012-13 when current Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was the head coach there.


Tommy Collins asks: Week 1 no run lanes on right side, last week wasn't happening anywhere on OL. Same OL as last year, not same production. Zone scheme issue?

Jay: Tommy, it’s almost like you read Vic Carucci’s mind. In Thursday’s edition of The News, Vic talked to veteran guard Richie Incognito at length about that very topic. Here is just a part of what Incognito had to say: “It's completely different from what we've been doing the last two years, so we're learning, we're growing. In the wide-zone scheme, you can have 30 different wide zones, but there's going to be varying factors where the hole, that puncture, is going to be.”

Incognito does a great job explaining the challenges of learning the new scheme in the article, which you can check out here.

Bills' run struggles impacted by new blocking scheme


Eric Weidner asks: How long does Rick Dennison have to figure out that run, run, pass, punt won't work? It's like Hackett all over again.

Jay: Certainly a lot longer than one game. Ghosts of offensive coordinators past haunt Bills fans, but Dennison deserves time, just like the rest of the coaching staff. He’s not going anywhere, either.

Now, if the offense looks the way it did against Carolina for the next 14 games, it might be time to entertain a conversation about a possible change.


Bill Perry asks: Any sense of frustration by the Defense players with the Offense?

Jay: Not even a little bit, and there shouldn’t be. Think back to last season, when the offense carried the team at times and made it a game when the defense was Rex Ryaning it up. That’s what happens on a football team. The defense could struggle Sunday and watch the offense score a bunch of points against the Broncos. Maybe after weeks of games in which one side of the ball was pulling its weight and the other wasn’t, frustration might set in. But not yet.


Lou Speranza asks: Bills need a deep threat. If Rod Streater is healthy will Bills sign him? Fast/cheap/knows system?

Jay: That is a possibility, although for now the team seems content to give Kaelin Clay an opportunity to be that deep threat. Receiver Walt Powell is also on the suspended list and can return after the Week 4 game against Atlanta. Powell had a good summer, so he might get a look at that job, too.


Alan Hutson asks: Why were the Bills trying out punters recently?

Jay: Teams try out players every week. Some of those tryouts get reported when they are leaked to the press, some don’t. In this case, the agent of one of those punters tweeted the information in an effort to get his client a job. Colton Schmidt is a holdover from the previous regime – and we’ve seen what happens to those players – who is on a one-year contract. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that the team is looking to see if there is an upgrade out there. On Wednesday, for example, the team swapped out Elston for Blanton. Those players near the bottom of the 53-man roster are always at risk of being here today, gone tomorrow.


Taylor DeGeorge asks: Heard about an O where the QB would move the pocket, not have the pocket move him. What happen to the "roll-out" O and wouldn't it help?

Jay: Yes, I do think it could help. At this point, we know that Tyrod Taylor is never going to be a true pocket passer. His height makes it difficult to see over the line of scrimmage and increases the risk of getting passes batted down at the line. The Bills should embrace Taylor’s athleticism, because it’s one of the strongest parts of his game. That could mean more rolling pockets, as Taylor points out, or even designed runs.


Rick McGuire asks: You think there's any chance we'll ever see the 1970s, '80s & '90s Bills/Dolphins rivalry again? It just doesn't seem the same anymore.

Jay: No, those days are gone. I wasn’t around for the '70s part of the rivalry, but obviously a passion for hating the Dolphins developed in Bills fans at the time because of their dominance.

The '80s and '90s featured legendary coaches (Don Shula and Marv Levy) and quarterbacks (Dan Marino and Jim Kelly) on both sides. The current teams have gone through so many coaches and so many players that there isn’t enough time for a healthy hatred to form. Both teams are also staring up at the Patriots in the AFC East, so beating the Dolphins isn’t going to be the Bills’ No. 1 goal right now the way beating New England should be.


Heather Smith asks: Can Ryan Groy step into a starting role on the right side of the line? Shouldn't something drastic be done? Is Dawkins good enough? Help!

Jay: Groy has worked as the backup center throughout training camp and the preseason under this coaching staff. That’s the position he played last year when Eric Wood went down.

He is the only interior offensive line backup active on game days, so he can play guard, but he never got a look at the position with the starters over the summer.

It’s only two games into Dawkins’ rookie season, so it’s much too early to say whether he’s good enough yet. The issue with Dawkins is that the team has needed him on the left side because Cordy Glenn has been hurt. That might continue this week as Glenn is dealing with an injury. That has prevented Dawkins from really focusing on trying to win the right tackle job.


Gman asks: “Will you explain what the Thursday "color rush" is all about?

Jay: It’s about what everything else in the NFL is about – money. As far as I can tell, it’s just another way for the league to try and sell more jerseys. Think about those red jerseys the Bills have worn against the Jets. Those weren’t around before, and I see some fans who own one now.


RussZ asks: Xavier omen. Any chance of seeing him in a pistol formation?

Jay: It’s Omon, and I think this question is an omen that we’re done for this week.

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