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Vic Carucci's Bills Mailbag: Expect Marcell Dareus to be gone after June 1

You have Buffalo Bills questions that you've submitted to me via Twitter @viccarucci.

I have answers:

Vic Carucci: I think it's highly unlikely Marcell Dareus will still be with the Bills after this season. I don't envision another team trying to trade for him, because the rest of the NFL is well aware that Dareus' massive contract is a problem with which the Bills are stuck and no one sees the benefit in taking it on, as a trade would require.

For the rest of the league, it's a simple case of waiting for the inevitable and signing him after he clears waivers.

If the Bills were to release Dareus before June 1, 2018, the dead-cap hit would be $22.2 million (not much less than the current $24.4 million). So look for them to do so after June 1, when the number drops to $14.4 million.

VC: Not at all. Even with the Bills' offensive shortcomings, all of the next five opponents are eminently beatable. That three of the games are at home (against Tampa Bay, Oakland and New Orleans) strengthens the chances of the Bills coming out of this with more wins than losses.

I say that, of course, with the assumption their defense will continue to play at a mostly high level and that their offense shows some improvement from bye-week tinkering or at least has a couple of games — if only by accident — that aren't as ugly as most of the ones played so far.

VC: I'm as baffled as you are. When the Bills decided to match the two-year, $5-million offer sheet the Los Angeles Rams gave Groy as a restricted free agent last March, I fully bought into the notion the team had big plans for him.

One of those plans, presumably, was to eventually have him replace Eric Wood at center, although that seemingly has since been delayed by the contract extension the Bills recently gave Wood. Another was to work Groy into the rotation at right guard, where John Miller's grasp on the starting job has been tenuous since the start of offseason workouts.

Vlad Ducasse never seemed to put up much of a fight, confirmed by the fact Miller had been the starter through the first four games. Ducasse hardly did anything in his starting appearance against Cincinnati to change that perspective.

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Will having the bye for Sean McDermott and his coaches to reexamine all that has gone wrong with the running game, especially up front, result in seeing what Groy can do? Put it this way, if it doesn't, then I seriously wonder if it will ever happen ... and what the reason was for making the investment to keep him around in the first place.

VC: I don't think there's any specific pattern to the color coding from team to team or coach to coach. Each coach uses his own terminology for the 100-plus plays and various other notes/reminders that generally are listed in columns and squares on both sides of an 11-by-14-inch page.

Oversized call sheets, the majority of which are generated by the same computer software, long ago became a replacement for those often clumsy pieces of paper that coaches once stuffed into their pockets for games. Besides protection against rain, snow and Gatorade, the lamination allows notes to be added with markers. The size and rigidity of the call sheet also allows coaches to cover their mouths to thwart lip-reading opponents watching them through binoculars or on television monitors.

Among the categories under which favorite plays are listed on a typical offensive call sheet are first-and-10, first-and-15, second-and-one-to-five, second-and-six-to-nine, second-and-10-plus, third-and-short (one to three yards), third-and-medium (four to six yards), third-and-long (seven to 10 yards), third-and-extra (beyond 10 yards). There also are columns for goal line, short yardage, play passes, nickel passes, nickel blitzes and various types of zone coverage.

Coaches like to include the names and numbers of each of the game officials on the premise it will help them get their attention better than yelling, "Hey, you!" or "Mr. Official!" or "You in the zebra stripes!"

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Jon Gruden once told me for a book we wrote together that he made sure to have the names of his three sons on every sheet. "Seeing their names helps me to maintain a little sense of balance when I need it the most, such as in the middle of a game when the running battle between your head and your heart can easily tilt you too much in one direction or another," he said. "The sideline sheet is my crutch, my all-in-one tool, my security blanket."

But my all-time favorite comment about the sheets was the one former NFL GM Ernie Accorsi gave The New York Times: "They remind me of the menu at Denny's."

VC: It's a little of both. The change from more of the power-type blocking the line had previously done to more of the wide-zone approach that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison implemented has clearly had a negative impact. Never was that more apparent than in last Sunday's loss, when Bengal defenders were zipping into the backfield with relative ease and blowing up run plays before they could barely start.

Although the Bills don't go with wide-zone blocking a hundred percent of the time, it absolutely is a Dennison staple and they use it more than any other because it's what he knows best. Whether it's the best fit for the linemen or even LeSean McCoy and Mike Tolbert is debatable (although arguments to support it are getting weaker by the game).

I think it's also fair to say, regardless of style, the Bills simply aren't getting good enough play from most of their O-linemen or at least when they're matched against superior defensive fronts such as those of the Bengals and Carolina Panthers. If there's a bright spot, it's that they won't be seeing those kinds of fronts every week.

VC: I see what you see. Tyrod Taylor isn't playing at the level necessary to take full advantage of the defense's efforts to allow this team to be competitive in every game.

But I'm not ready to show him the bench after five games. I actually believe things could get worse with Nathan Peterman under center, but not because I have any major questions about his skills or long-term viability as an NFL quarterback.

For one thing, the struggles of the running game are the biggest problem with the offense and a major reason why Taylor and the rest of passing game are performing poorly as well. For another, Taylor is getting almost no help from a receiving corps that lacks a true No. 1 talent and the overall quality of his pass-catchers has declined significantly with the knee injury to tight end Charles Clay.

For yet another, Peterman is a rookie. He did have some promising moments in the preseason, but that's hardly enough to convince me he's ready to face defenses that will be fielding far more starters and using far more comprehensive game plans than he saw in August. With the same shortcomings surrounding Taylor, Peterman would more than likely be set up for failure.

I'm not saying a quarterback change won't ever happen this season. But until the Bills go from being tied for first in the AFC East to falling off a cliff, it's hard to imagine McDermott being in any hurry to pull the plug on Taylor even if — as I suspect — he's a long shot to be their starter for 2018.

VC: Oh, my. There are so many exceptional candidates, I don't think it's possible to pick only one. (As an aside, I've recently heard buzz that Jon Gruden is extremely jealous of Tim's visor game).

Regarding your second question, I don't think McDermott or GM Brandon Beane underestimated how well the defense would perform. I think they firmly believed the incumbents would show improvement because the new scheme would be better suited to their skills and they would be better coached, and the newcomers (especially safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer) would make an immediate impact.

McDermott and Beane aren't looking at 2017 as a throwaway season. Although they have placed the brunt of their focus on the future and are still in the process of rebuilding, they still intend to do everything possible to compete this year. Getting the most out of the defense has always been part of the plan, but so is doing what is necessary to sustain its effectiveness beyond this year by additions and replacements.

VC: Not at all. The second-round pick, alone, made it worth doing for a player who likely was not going to return after becoming a free agent in the offseason. The ability to also land a starting cornerback, E.J. Gaines, made the deal that much better.

It's probably more wishful thinking than anything else to assume Watkins' presence would have prevented the Bills' passing game from entering its season-long funk. He hasn't exactly been tearing it up for the Rams, has he?

Also, giving up the chance to acquire those assets for Watkins would have been foolish for a team that, one, is more dependent on its running game than passing attack, and, two, doesn't have the quarterback to consistently get the best out of a top receiver.

As for how wisely the Bills invest that pick, only time will tell.

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