There’s always a connection to Buffalo.
My family’s favorite Christmas song is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Specifically, Vanessa Williams’ version. Williams and her husband, Jim — a Depew native — are big Bills fans.
With that in mind, here’s this weeks’ Christmas-inspired Bills Mailbag …
Sam Ruggiero asks: Which beloved Bills career will finally melt away next season like Frosty the Snowman on a warm winter’s day — Lorenzo Alexander or Kyle Williams?
Jay: Alexander has already indicated he’s interested in returning for another season, so if these are my only two choices, I’m taking Williams. He’s been less forthcoming about his future plans, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he came back for another year. He’s stayed healthy this season, taken a full workload and is still playing at a high level. Add in his leadership, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bills bring both players back in 2019.
Alex M. asks: If the Elf on the Shelf was looking at Brian Daboll’s play-calling from the beginning of the season until now, would the Elf notice a difference from September until the time he reports to Santa?
Jay: Absolutely. Josh Allen’s arm strength alone gives Daboll more options in the playbook. Allen is averaging 11.6 yards per intended target, according to the NFL’s Next Gen stats. That leads the league. We’ve also seen some variation in the running game lately, particularly with the jet sweeps by wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. We should expect to see more wrinkles next season, provided Daboll is here (more on that later).
Brendan Sweet asks: What do the Bills need most under their Christmas tree for next year? A real No. 1 wide receiver? Maybe Golden Tate?
Jay: It’s hard to argue that a No. 1 wide receiver isn’t at the top of the list of offseason needs. Santa’s going to really need to work his magic to provide that, though, because there does not appear to be one available in free agency. I certainly wouldn’t put Tate, who is a nice player, in that category. The same goes for players such as Tyrell Williams, Randall Cobb, John Brown and Adam Humphries. That leaves the draft, but it doesn’t look like a good year there, either. In Todd McShay’s most recent rankings of the draft’s top 32 prospects, he has just one wide receiver on the list — Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown at No. 27. Now, that’s just one man’s opinion, but it highlights that there is not an overwhelming number of receivers available who are considered first-round talents. It might take a Christmas miracle for the Bills to have a true No. 1 receiver next year.
Displaced Buffalo Bills Fans ask: Which Bills position coach is most likely to get a lump of coal in their stocking? My guess would be Danny Crossman.
Jay: That’s the obvious answer. The Bills’ special teams have been a mess all season under Crossman, who has somehow managed to survive despite working for four different head coaches in Buffalo. At this point, I’d be surprised if a change wasn’t made there. Every year, there is at least one change that we maybe didn’t see coming, too. One name to watch if I was making the call is tight ends coach Rob Boras. Under his direction, Charles Clay has disappeared from the offense.
Zack Hausle asks: What “stocking stuffers” — players who may not be high-profile but could still be intriguing additions to the roster — pique your interest for the Bills in the draft or free agency?
Jay: Offensive linemen. It’s possible that the Bills have five new starters along the line next season. Right tackle Jordan Mills and right guard John Miller will be unrestricted free agents. So will center Ryan Groy, who has stepped in for the injured Russell Bodine. The left side will be back, but it’s no guarantee guard Wyatt Teller will be handed a job, and tackle Dion Dawkins could shift over to the right side if the Bills find what they believe to be an upgrade in the draft. I put rebuilding the offensive line right up there with adding wide receivers as the top offseason priority.
Paul Catalano asks: Who would be your Christmas miracle draft person to fall and land with the Bills, realistically?
Jay: Nick Bosa. The Ohio State defensive end has elite bloodlines and would give the Bills’ pass rush a huge boost. It’s probably not realistic, though, with the Bills likely picking in the bottom half of the top 10. How about UB receiver Anthony Johnson in the second round? It would be a great story (which us media guys root for) and also be a logical pick.
Anthony Salerno asks: Who has the fa-la-la-la-la longest shot of returning next season — LeSean McCoy or Lorenzo Alexander?
Jay: McCoy, given his salary and lack of production this year. Brandon Beane has gone on the record saying McCoy is part of the 2019 plans, but there’s no guarantee the Bills’ general manager doesn’t change his mind. To that end, it will be interesting to see what McCoy is able to do over the last two weeks.
IDon’tTrustTheProcess asks: Adam Zyglis’ portrayal of Josh Allen in last Sunday’s paper hit the nail on the head. Better protection and more weapons should arrive in 2019 to help him. The potential loss of Brian Daboll to a head-coaching opportunity would hurt. Is there a Grinch ready to steal our Christmas?
Jay: This is not meant to be a knock on Daboll, but he would be a very tough sell to a fanbase. The Bills have the 31st-ranked offense in the NFL. For a while, it looked like one of the worst offenses in the history of the NFL. I get that Daboll has ties to Bill Belichick (and Nick Saban), but that has not equaled success for several former New England assistants. Perhaps a team strikes out on its top choices and resorts to Daboll, similar to what happened with Mike Pettine and the Cleveland Browns a few years ago, but I see Daboll back here next year. If the offense under Allen takes a major step forward in 2019, I’d see him as more of a realistic candidate.
In Like Flynn asks: Which of the misfit toys (undrafted rookies) will be sticking around in Buffalo for the long term? Is Allen the savior promised by the three wise men (Brandon Beane, Sean McDermott and Brian Daboll)? Is the Ghost of Christmas Future brighter for the Bills or Patriots?
Jay: The rare mailbag hat trick. Well done. Of the rookie undrafted free agents, I see Robert Foster and Levi Wallace as sticking around for the long term. If they can continue to grow into their starting roles, it would fill two big needs for the team. … It remains to be seen if Allen is the savior. I’ve liked a lot of what I’ve seen from him, but also think he has a long, long way to go. The team can say all it wants that Allen’s completion percentage is not a concern, but it’s going to have to get much better. … As for who has the brighter future, it depends on how long we’re talking. If it’s just next year, it’s New England. Unless the Belichick-Brady marriage ends, they are still the AFC East favorites. Five years from now, it’s easy to pick the Bills, but a lot of that will depend on Allen’s development.
Lefty Ruggiero asks: What star will shine the brightest in the east this week – Josh Allen or Tom Brady?
Rick McGuire asks: Will Bills fans be getting a Clark Griswold or a Charlie Brown Christmas tree Sunday in Foxborough?
Jay: Brady and the Charlie Brown tree. I said a long time ago I would never pick against the Patriots as long as Brady and Belichick were still there. I stand by that this week, even if New England is on a two-game losing streak.
Louis Stromberg asks: Jay, how we doing? Not going Christmas theme. Not our style. I’ve been thinking — when we eventually start our own podcast, we should call it thunder and lightning. You provide the meat of the content (LenDale White) and I’ll bring the juice/flash (Reggie Bush). Cool?
Jay: We can do better for ourselves than a guy who ate his way out of the NFL and a disgraced former Heisman winner, who had negative rushing yards in his one season with the Bills. How about we modernize it to the Saints’ duo of Ingram and Kamara, which sounds very much like a law firm I would trust. For my new co-host and I, wishing you all a Merry Christmas — thanks for the questions this week!
Story topics: Brandon Beane/ Brian Daboll/ Danny Crossman/ Dion Dawkins/ John Miller/ Jordan Mills/ Josh Allen/ Kyle Williams/ LeSean McCoy/ Levi Wallace/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Rob Boras/ Robert Foster/ Russell Bodine/ Ryan Groy/ Sean McDermott/ Wyatt Teller