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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: Assessing the likelihood of a Marcell Dareus trade

If you've even made it this far in your suicide pool, good luck in Week Five.

The NFL is as unpredictable as ever this season. The Bills beating the Falcons last week as 8-point underdogs is a prime example of that. The biggest favorite in Week Five is Pittsburgh, which is 3-1 this season but hasn't looked overly impressive in getting there. The Steelers are hosting a Jacksonville team that has blown out the Texans and Ravens, and also lost to the Jets. So good luck figuring them out.

But enough about that. The Bills are riding high at 3-1 atop the AFC East. A win Sunday in Cincinnati would send them into the bye week feeling good. Here is this week's mailbag:

"The Truth" asks: Why is Mike Tolbert still getting carries? He is no longer a productive back. And keep the signed scorecard!

Jay: Look at the roster. What other options do the Bills have? The Bills have made Joe Banyard inactive the last two weeks, and outside of that, returner Taiwan Jones is the only other running back on the roster.

Tolbert's stats this year – 34 carries for 119 yards, two catches for 14 yards – project out to a season in which he would have 136 carries for 476 yards, eight catches for 56 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. Last year, Mike Gillislee had 101 carries for 577 yards and nine catches for 50 yards, with nine total touchdowns. Everyone knew the Bills were going to take a step back when it came to production from the backup running back when Gillislee left.

Tolbert's performance has largely met expectations. When he starts running sideways, the Bills have problems. But as a change-of-pace option behind LeSean McCoy, he's been serviceable.

That hasn't stopped the Bills from looking, though. The Buffalo News' Vic Carucci reported Wednesday that the team had running backs Jalen Simmons and Brandon Wilds in to One Bills Drive for workouts.

Paul Catalano asks: Likelihood Marcell Dareus is traded in your mind would be?

Jay: Slim, simply because I can't see a team giving up an asset for him. There are two reasons for that: No. 1, Dareus is one failed drug test away from a 10-game NFL suspension. That's a significant risk for any team acquiring him. No. 2, it's no surprise that the Bills have soured on Dareus' act. Listen to the words from General Manager Brandon Beane when the team sent him home from Baltimore for breaking a team rule.

Any team in the league is going to see all of that and say to itself, "why trade an asset for a player it looks like the Bills might just cut anyway?"

I'd be shocked if Dareus was on the Bills in 2018, but trading him will take some serious maneuvering from Beane.

Rick McGuire asks: Have any new players coming from winning teams (Tolbert, Hyde, DiMarco) spoken to the team about how to handle success and stay focused?

Jay: Absolutely. Coach Sean McDermott has had players continue to start the team's morning meeting by addressing their teammates, allowing them to talk about their journey to the Bills. Those moments have gone a long way toward building team chemistry, which so far has been a strength for the team.

McDermott also identified the three players Rick mentioned specifically because they have played in winning organizations before and know what that looks like.

Jim Banko asks: "In your opinion are the Bills' offensive game plans too conservative and are they too dependent on the defense?"

Jay: Tyrod Taylor attempted nine passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air last week against Atlanta, so that would not suggest an overly conservative game plan. To Jim's point, however, the Bills still do rank 32nd in the NFL in passing attempts, with just 99. That can work if the running game is operating at the level it did the past two years, but so far that hasn't been the case.

That means the defense has to be elite. The good news for the Bills is that it has been through the first month of the season. Asking the defense to continue to allow just 13.5 points per game, however, might be asking too much. There will be a time this season when the offense will have to carry its weight.

GMan asks: When does Rod Streater become available to the Bills?

Jay: Because he was waived/injured, the Bills can't re-sign Streater until six weeks after the term they agreed on ends. That part of the team's agreement with Streater, who was having a solid summer before suffering a toe injury in the second preseason game, is unknown. Even if it was a short period of time that the Bills and Streater agreed on, he wouldn't be able to come back until after the bye week based on the NFL rules.

Ian Hill asks: "Should I let this year's team back into my heart, which has been broken ever since the 5-1 fast start in 2008?"

Jay: Did you really shut the team out of your life? Or did the four-game winning streak last year capture your attention? My point is, turning fandom on and off is never that easy.

If you were truly able to divorce yourself from the Bills and you're considering reconciliation, I'd say ... take it slow. You don't have to dive back in if you're afraid of getting hurt again. Watch Sunday's game. If it feels good, maybe get tickets to the game against Tampa Bay coming out of the bye week. See where things go.

Ok, that concludes the Ann Landers portion of the mailbag. Seriously, there is plenty to like about this particular team. The general manager isn't afraid of making the big move, the head coach isn't Rex Ryan, and there are plenty of players on the roster who are fan favorites for one reason or another (LeSean McCoy, Eric Wood, Kyle Williams, Lorenzo Alexander and Tre'Davious White, to name just a few). I understand Ian is afraid this hot start will fizzle out like others before it, but give this new coaching staff, front office and roster a chance.

Matt Marchese asks: "With Matthews out, is it maybe time to move Zay Jones into a more familiar role out of the slot? Will he be more effective there?"

It's not a bad idea. The Bills have to do something to get Jones going. With just four catches in four games, his production has been one of the most disappointing parts of the season so far. Giving him a shot in the slot would make sense, but it depends on if the team has another receiver it trusts on the outside to go with Andre Holmes. Kaelin Clay has seen a slight increase in his offensive snaps the past couple weeks, mainly as a deep threat.

Brandon Tate and the recently re-signed Philly Brown are veterans, but neither of them figures to fill an every-down, outside receiver role. The other issue with moving Jones is what happens when Matthews comes back? If the Bills put him back in the slot, they'd be asking Jones to change jobs again, which is perhaps more than they'd like to put on the rookie's plate.

I'd stick with Jones outside against Cincinnati on Sunday, and if things don't get significantly better in terms of his production, reassess options during the bye week.

"Dirty Deems" asks: More impressive rookie – Tre White or Ronald Darby?

It's easy to forget how good Darby was at the start of his career. In his first four games, he had 11 passes defensed and two interceptions for the Bills in 2015. White this season has eight passes defensed, one interception and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. In other words, both players have been wildly successful in their first month as pros.

I'll give White the slight edge because the Bills have had more success as a team. The 2015 Bills got off to a 2-2 start, and were torched for 40 points in Week Two of that year by the New England Patriots.

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