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Jay Skurski's Bills Mailbag: Do teams ever look past opponents?

I missed Eric Wood in the Bills' locker room this week. The team's former center would annually host a Thanksgiving eating challenge for his teammates. The goal was simple: Add the most percentage of body weight.

Richie Incognito was recognized as the toughest to beat, although there was some speculation as to some of his methods being a little shady.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Let's get to this week's mailbag ...

Brendan Sweet asks: If Josh Allen doesn’t show some improvement by the end of the season, what is the chance that the Bills draft another quarterback early in next year’s draft?

Jay: There’s a better chance of me being quarterback next year than the Bills using another first-round pick on the position – provided Allen’s elbow isn’t in need of surgery. That would take him out for all of 2019 – and put the team in one heck of a predicament. I would applaud a team thinking outside the box and doubling down on first-round quarterbacks, but it’s easy to see why it doesn’t happen. If you believe it takes more than a year to know whether a quarterback can be a franchise guy, it makes sense to try to build up the team around him. I would not expect the Bills to deviate from that plan. Allen's injury, coupled with a supporting cast that’s clearly deficient in several areas, means getting a full evaluation this year is impossible.

Luigi Mike Speranza asks: Still keep thinking about the Bills/Vikings game and surprise upset. In your years of interviewing athletes, has a player in any sport ever admitted they’ve looked past an opponent due to a special opponent or situation in their upcoming game?

Jay: No immediate interview comes to mind. I don’t think that’s much of an issue, truthfully. Players and coaches are genuinely focused on the next week. They might look ahead on the schedule, but not as extensively as fans do. It’s human nature that some players might think that things will be easy in a particular game, but members of the coaching staff are paid to make sure that doesn’t happen. The Minnesota game is a great example of how an NFL team should never take another one for granted. The gap between even the best and worst team is not so wide that the latter could never beat the former.

Bk asks: Did the Bills suddenly wake up one day in November and realize they needed wide receivers? Did they forget that they had to play on offense also? Why should I have faith in their talent evaluation?

Salary cap analysis: Bills are getting what they pay for on offense

Jay: I can’t speak for management, but I’m relatively confident they didn’t forget they had to play offense. Asking what took so long to rebuild the wide receiver group is a fair question. It was clear early in the season they didn’t have much at the position. I’m not going to say rookie Robert Foster should have been kept on the 53-man roster because of his speed, because I didn’t think he was doing enough at the start of the season to justify a spot. The move to bring in Terrelle Pryor was a low-risk roll of the dice. There was no harm in seeing if he could help.

Adding Isaiah McKenzie via waivers was fine, but that’s the type of move every team makes during the season. I’d also stop short of putting all that much into one good performance against the Jets – a team that looked like it was lying down on the head coach. One good game does not mean the team’s issues at receiver are resolved.

As for why you should trust their talent evaluation, there have been some hits along the way. If we go back to last offseason before Brandon Beane arrived, the additions of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are good examples. So too is kicker Stephen Hauschka. Fast forward to this year’s offseason and the addition of Star Lotulelei has helped shore up the defense, while Trent Murphy has been pretty good when he’s healthy. Additionally, draft picks such as Harrison Phillips and Taron Johnson have carved out important defensive roles.

We have to take a wait-and-see approach with how some of the other moves pan out – particularly the addition of Allen – before we can make a determination on the job the current front office has done.

Jimmy Wood asks: How many games do we have to win before the end of the season to keep Sean McDermott off the hot seat?

Jay: It’s not many. I’ll say one. Going winless in the last six to finish 3-13, especially with some of the opponents still to face, would probably put some heat on McDermott, but in my mind there is no possible way he’s not back in 2019. We’ve seen the Bills cycle through coaches for far too long. This rebuild – and that’s what it should be called – is in a transition year. Next season will be when the pressure is squarely on McDermott, as well as General Manager Brandon Beane, to produce a winning season. They will have the resources in free agency and the draft to rebuild the offense in particular. How they make use of those resources will be the key.

Colin K. asks: Do you think anyone along the offensive line stays into next season? … I think Dawkins has earned his starting position as the only bright spot. Other than that, I honestly don’t know who will still be on this team at right tackle or any of the interior linemen positions? Thoughts?

Jay: The left side of the line, with Dawkins at tackle and rookie Wyatt Teller at guard, figure to be back. Is Teller ready to take over as a full-time starter? The remaining six weeks should go a long way toward determining that. The Bills obviously are hoping he can, because it would be one less need to fill.

After that, it’s fair to expect changes on the right side, where both tackle Jordan Mills and John Miller are pending unrestricted free agents. Center Russell Bodine has one more year left on his deal at a manageable price, so he’ll probably be back, too, but won’t necessarily be the starter. After a rough start to the season, I think the line has been serviceable most of the time. It’s important to remember that the coaching staff was quick to point out not all of the sacks the quarterbacks were taking earlier in the year were directly the result of line play. Still, it’s definitely an area that the Bills will try to upgrade this offseason.

ErranMorad asks: Can you talk to Derek Anderson yet about his concussion and how serious it was?

Jay: We can’t. As long as he is in the concussion protocol, and he was there as of Saturday, he’s off limits to the media. Given the time that he’s missed, which is now four weeks including the team’s bye, we can deduce that it is a serious concussion.

We’ve seen Anderson start to do a little more at practice, which is a good sign, but it’s hard to predict when he might be medically cleared. At this point, it’s less about him being healthy enough to play and more about hoping this concussion does not have any impact on his health and wellness in the future. The reality is, he can show a lot of the leadership he was signed to provide regardless of whether he’s healthy enough to play just by his presence in the locker room and meetings.

Robert Goodwin asks: Who is the Bills’ Turkey of the Year so far – Vontae Davis, Nathan Peterman,  Kelvin Benjamin or other?

Jay: A themed question, nice. It has to be Davis. I understand why Peterman and Benjamin were nominated, but I don’t equate poor play with being a turkey. Walking out on your teammates at halftime of a game in which you were already short-handed at the position – then making light of it a couple of months later in an ad? That definitely makes you a turkey. Message to Vontae: People are laughing at you, not with you.

Louis Stromberg asks: When the Bills run the table the rest of this season and then win out and beat Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game, does he retire along with Bill Belichick?

Jay: Predicting when Brady will retire is like betting against New England: It’s always a bad idea. I think some of the enthusiasm for the Sabres has found its way into the Bills’ mailbag.

Mike asks: Do you think this romaine lettuce recall is a hit job being perpetrated by Big Iceberg?

Jay: Scandal! Who am I to rule it out? If so, you’ve got to respect the hustle. If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying, right? Thanks for all the questions this week!

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