The Buffalo Bills sit fourth in the projected draft order entering Week 9, but there will be some stiff competition for the No. 1 overall pick next April.
The Oakland Raiders looked downright horrible Thursday night against the lowly 49ers in dropping to 1-7. That's tied with the Giants for the worst record in the league. It gets more amazing by the day that the Giants passed on Sam Darnold in favor of a running back. The Raiders, meanwhile, have Jon Gruden under contract for the next nine years. Talk about buyer's remorse.
Let's get to this week's mailbag ...
Eric Schultz asks: We knew this would be a tough season, but did it have to be this bad? I say no. Defense is good. Even a little more competence on offense should have made a difference.
Bk asks: How can we “trust the process” when the coach and general manager are putting this product on the field? Rebuilding I can take, but this offense is historically bad.
Jay: I can’t argue with that. Here’s how I would say you can “trust the process,” though: We’ve seen the alternative, and we know that doesn’t work. The Bills have forever cycled through coaches and general managers. That has proved to be a recipe for failure. Since Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott took over, they’ve been consistent in expressing how this “build,” as they call it, will take some time. I understand the skepticism right now based on how the offense has looked, but it’s too early to pull the plug. I’m far from convinced that Josh Allen is the answer, but it’s not that uncommon for rookie quarterbacks to struggle, and there is no denying he needs a better supporting cast. The fact is, we simply don’t know right now if he’s the right man for the job.
That’s not to absolve the front office and coaching staff from blame. Beane should have had a veteran quarterback to mentor Allen in here the day after he traded AJ McCarron. I would have hired a more veteran quarterbacks coach instead of handing the job to David Culley, who has been a receivers coach for the majority of his career. The trade for Kelvin Benjamin is looking like a big-time miss. There will come a time when it’s clear whether the plan is working, but we’re not there yet.
Rick McGuire asks: Next year is McDermott’s and Beane’s ever-so-critical third season here. The Bills look to have at minimum a top-5 pick in the draft and $80 million or so to spend in free agency. What should the Pegulas and fans realistically expect? I’m thinking less than 9-7 and both may be gone.
Jay: Some of that depends on how the team finishes this year. If it really bottoms out and goes 3-13 or 4-12, it’s a pretty big leap to nine wins. In that sense, improving to .500 would be significant. That’s short of the playoffs, though, which should be the goal. I’m not ready to say the Bills have to make the postseason next year or else Beane and McDermott should be on the hot seat, but I’m with you that the pressure to show big-time improvement will be very real. That will start for Beane on the first day of free agency, continue to the draft and then lead into training camp and the season.
Lefty Ruggiero asks: Can we sneak UB’s offense on the Bills’ roster?
Jay: Now there’s an idea. Anthony Johnson is the best receiver playing in Western New York, and I’m not sure it’s close. I’ll be interested to see what happens with Tyree Jackson this offseason regarding the draft. It’s been extremely impressive what UB’s marquee teams – men’s and women’s basketball and football – have been able to do the past year or so.
TNFP69: Why would the Bills put our rookie quarterback back in this year when healthy? A bad offensive line and receivers can only cause him to get some bad habits. What do you think?
Jay: I’d rather get as big of a body of work from Allen as I can, so I’d put him back in the lineup. I get the concern about the offensive line, which has struggled dating to the preseason, but no team is going to have five Pro Bowlers up front. The only way Allen is going to get the experience he needs is by being on the field. It’s on the coaching staff to make sure Allen doesn’t develop bad habits. That’s what they’re here for.
Luigi Michael asks: I took LeSean McCoy’s postgame, distressed comments as a subtle signal that he hoped to be traded at the deadline. For his sake, I had hoped the same. Your thoughts?
Jay: The more I thought about it leading up to the deadline, the more I became of the belief that trading McCoy was the right thing to do. I believed the team could replace most of his production with the combination of Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy, and I wondered whether he factored into their plans in 2019 as a 31-year-old running back making $9 million against the cap. By not trading him, the Bills confirmed that they do see McCoy as a part of their future. I can accept the idea that it’s imperative to surround Allen with as many talented players as possible. Trading McCoy also would have opened another hole that would have to be filled this offseason. As for whether he wanted to be traded, I’m not inside his head to know. Looking at it from the outside, though, it would be understandable if he did. Why wouldn’t McCoy want to go back to Philadelphia, for example, where he started his career and is still the franchise’s all-time leading rusher? Even if it was somewhere else, McCoy would have a chance to chase a Super Bowl, something that’s not happening here this year.
Aran Heaney asks: If things play out as they’re likely to and we end up 2-14 or 3-13 (we do still have the Jets and Dolphins twice each), what should be our list of priorities in free agency and the draft?
Jay: Offense, offense, offense – and then more offense. Through the first half of the season, the Bills have not only had one of the worst offensive performances in team history, it’s been one of the worst in league history. Every level of the offense needs work, starting at quarterback. Allen, of course, is already in place. His development will be the biggest key to improvement. The Bills need to add a respectable backup for Allen, though. From there, they could need as many as four new wide receivers (the only one I feel confident in saying will be back in 2019 is Zay Jones) and two offensive linemen (Jordan Mills and John Miller will be free agents). There will be needs on the defensive side of the ball, particularly if Kyle Williams retires, but those have to take a back seat to rebuilding the offense.
Eric Tichy asks: Has any offensive (or defensive) player openly expressed any real frustration to the media regarding the utter lack of production game in and game out?
Jay: The closest to that would be McCoy after the Monday night loss to New England. He was as down as I’ve seen him in four years here, but he stopped short of calling out the coaches or his teammates. In that sense, players aren’t going there. If anything, I sense more of a feeling of bewilderment about how things have gotten so sideways on offense. At some point, players and coaches run out of ways to describe what’s going wrong. We’ve reached that point with the offense.
Kevin Forrest asks: What are the odds we start winning after being eliminated from playoff contention and get a pick in the 9-12 range?
Jay: You already know the answer to that. The Bills had the league’s hardest strength of schedule over the first half of the season. That flips to the easiest strength of schedule in the second half. It’s very easy to see them winning a game or two at home in December that drops them down the draft order.
Mark Rizzo asks: What if we run on third-and-8 again in the fourth quarter with the momentum shifting back toward the opponent?
IDon’tTrustTheProcess asks: Brian Daboll pulled out all his tricks for the Pats on Monday night. Do you think he will treat fans against the Bears on Sunday with triple tight-end sets and the flying wing-T?
Jay: I’m sensing some frustration …
Brent Thorman asks: When do the Bills get their next touchdown?
Ken Criss asks: Will Shady go all year without scoring a touchdown?
Jay: Yep, definite frustration. Sunday and no. I think we’re getting close to the end here.
RyF asks: Who’s worse, Peterman or Barkley?
Kevin Kresse asks: What do we do after another disastrous start from Peterman: A. Laugh. B. Cry. C. Both. D. Protest One Bills Drive?
Robert Goodwin asks: Any chance that when “Matt Barkley” trots on the field he’ll rip off a mask and it’s really Colin Kaepernick?
Jay: Yes, it’s definitely time to wrap it up. Thanks for all the questions!
Story topics: AJ McCarron/ Anthony Johnson/ Brandon Beane/ Brian Daboll/ Chris Ivory/ Colin Kaepernick/ John Miller/ Jordan Mills/ Josh Allen/ Kelvin Benjamin/ Marcus Murphy/ Matt Barkley/ Nathan Peterman/ Sean McDermott/ Tyree Jackson/ Zay Jones