It was a (checks calendar) chilly start to rookie minicamp Friday for The Buffalo News.
A total of 54 drafted rookies, undrafted free-agent signings, first-year veterans and tryout players practiced outside on the grass fields at One Bills Drive on a day that felt more like November than May. Enough of my complaining, though, let's get to this week's mailbag ...
Nick Ilardi asks: Where do you rank Josh Allen 1-32 among starting quarterbacks?
Jay: This is a fun question. I’ll put him in a tie for 26th with the Jets’ Sam Darnold and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson. Those three, all part of the 2018 draft class, have not separated themselves enough yet, but Baker Mayfield has, so he’s above them. I put Allen ahead of the following teams: Miami (Josh Rosen/Ryan Fitzpatrick), Arizona (Kyler Murray), Washington (Dwayne Haskins/Case Keenum) and Denver (Joe Flacco/Drew Lock).
Certainly, this list will change this season. I could easily see Allen (as well as Darnold, Jackson, and possibly Rosen) moving ahead of quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Eli Manning (or Daniel Jones), Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Nick Foles, Derek Carr and Dak Prescott, but for right now are more accomplished than Allen. It would be a sign of growth if Allen were to have a better 2019 season than those listed.
Daniel Austin asks: What is your take on the Ziggy Ansah signing with Seattle? Does Brandon Beane have another move left in him to bring in a defensive end?
Jay: My take is it says the Bills liked him, but didn’t view him as a necessity. If they did, they would have struck a deal a long time ago. Seattle waited to sign Ansah until after the deadline had passed for signings to count against the compensatory draft pick formula. That was never an issue here, because the Bills have no chance of getting a compensatory pick in 2020 based on all the players they’ve signed (and the few that they’ve lost). Beane has made it sound like he stayed in regular contact with Ansah’s representatives, meaning his decision to sign in Seattle likely came down to one of two things – more money or better opportunity. The Seahawks’ need for a pass rusher after trading Frank Clark was arguably bigger than the Bills, who still have Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson at defensive end.
As for whether Beane has another move in him, that possibility can never be discounted. Pass rushers are at a premium, though, so unless you’re the Raiders, you’re probably not trading them away.
BigD asks: Every draft pick has signed except for Dawson Knox. Any idea why he hasn’t signed? Is this a problem?
Jay: The short answer is no, it’s not a problem. Rookie wages are slotted according to draft position, which takes most of the negotiations out of the equation. There is minor contract language that can sometimes hold things up, but it rarely amounts to a player missing time. I don’t know exactly what the holdup is on Knox’s deal, but feel very confident saying it’s not a big deal. It’s May. It’ll get done.
Luigi Mike Speranza asks: Best guess as to how long this basically all-new offensive line will take to jell? If, along with Josh Allen’s development, it takes up to eight games as Vic Carucci suggested it could on Sports Talk Sunday, can we possibly make the playoffs?
Jay: If the offensive line hasn’t come together in the first half of the season, then no, this team isn’t making the playoffs. During the second half of the year, the team has a stretch of five of seven games on the road, included among them trips to Dallas, Pittsburgh and New England.
Here’s where I stand on the idea that it will take time for the offensive line, or offense in general, to come together. I’m not interested in hearing it. That sounds like excuse making. It’s time for this team to win. There are 20-plus coaches on staff. It’s their job to have players ready to go in Week 1. There are only 16 games in a season. Football isn’t like baseball, where a bad month or even two doesn’t doom a team. There is no such luxury in the NFL. Bringing in this many new players is the path the organization decided to take. It’s up to the coaching staff to have them ready to go. Play them longer in the preseason if it’s such a big concern.
Jon Sayers asks: When will they get a No. 1 receiver?
Jay: I’m not holding my breath that it happens this year. I’m also not sure a lack of a true “No. 1” means the team can’t win. Everyone’s definition of No. 1 receiver differs. Only about a dozen players in the league would fit my definition – 70-plus catches, 1,000-plus yards, at least five touchdowns. That means 20 teams don’t have a No. 1, including the Super Bowl champion Patriots (who didn’t have a receiver in the top 25 in yards this past season). This offseason was unusual in that two No. 1 receivers were moved – Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. Those moves had less to do with their ability, though, and more to do with the headache they gave front offices in Pittsburgh and New York, respectively. We know that Beane is aggressive and will make a move if he thinks it will help, but it’s hard to see right now what that move would look like for a No. 1 receiver.
Adam Placzek asks: Do you think Jerry Hughes gets an extension before the season starts? Possibly during the season?
Jay: I don’t think he does for a few reasons. No. 1, there is no urgency on the Bills’ part. If Hughes were to somehow have a monster season, the team could use the franchise tag to make sure he doesn’t get away as an unrestricted free agent. Why not wait and see what kind of season he has before making a commitment either way? No. 2, Hughes will be 31 before the start of the season. While it’s true that defensive ends have shown they can be impactful into their mid-30s, again, why not have Hughes prove it on the field? He has 22 sacks over the last four years, and while that’s not the only indicator of how he’s performing, it’s one of them. No. 3 isn’t as important in my mind, but we’ve seen what has happened to players acquired by the previous regime. Simply, they aren’t here anymore. Only five players on the roster predate coach Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane – running back LeSean McCoy, long snapper Reid Ferguson, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and defensive ends Hughes and Shaq Lawson. There is a very real possibility that after 2019, that total will be down to one – Ferguson.
Rick McGuire asks: Been watching a lot of YouTube videos of third-round pick Devin Singletary. The more I watch, the more I’m convinced this young man will be an NFL star. Maybe I’m jumping the gun, but he has moves that make defenders look silly trying to tackle him. Your thoughts on him?
Jay: Sufficiently intrigued is how I would describe my reaction to that pick. Beane shares your enthusiasm for Singletary’s highlight reel, calling him the most fun player he scouted this past season. The third round has produced some stud running backs in recent years such as Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. Like most others, I thought a wide receiver in the third round would have been a higher priority, but running back is undoubtedly a need in the not-too-distant future, with McCoy and Frank Gore signed through 2019 only. The addition of T.J. Yeldon does make for a crowded running back room, but Singletary’s not going anywhere as a third-round pick. The question is, will there be enough carries for him as a rookie considering who is ahead of him on the depth chart? That looks to me like it will be a challenge.
Faceless Man asks: If you were the offensive coordinator, how would you use the Bills’ running backs this season (situations/carries)?
Jay: I’m going to take the Bills at their word that McCoy will be the starter. In that case, he should get 15 carries a game, at least to start the season. If he can’t improve on his performance from a year ago, that plan will have to quickly change. The Bills ranked tied for sixth in rushing attempts last year, with 468. That averages out to about 30 per game. If McCoy gets 15 of those, seven or eight would go to Gore, probably in short-yardage situations. That leaves eight attempts to be split among Allen – who I think the team wants to see run less this year – Yeldon and Singletary. As I mentioned, it’s hard for me to see how much Singletary factors into the offense this year. Perhaps the Bills treat this as sort of a redshirt season for him, and don’t even have him active on game days.
Bill Perry asks: Do the Bills bring in a camp body or a veteran to compete at quarterback with Derek Anderson’s retirement?
Jay: I asked Beane this Thursday night and he said the plan right now is to roll with Allen, Matt Barkley and Tyree Jackson at the position. The GM believes it’s too difficult to get four quarterbacks meaningful snaps during training camp, which I would agree with. The only way I see a veteran added to the mix is if for some reason Jackson really flames out. I don’t expect that.
Gravelstan asks: Will Anderson be back as a coach of some kind?
Jay: I highly doubt it. I’d imagine he’s retiring to spend more time with his kids. Taking a coaching job would require him moving full time to Buffalo from Arizona, which I don’t believe he wants to do at the moment. Remember, too, that the Bills have a new quarterbacks coach on staff in Ken Dorsey.
Greg Frisch asks: Would you rather go to the Nashville game in October for the weather and locale or the Pittsburgh game in December hoping for a 4 p.m. start and playoff implications?
Jay: Nashville all day. I’ve never been, but every NFL writer says it’s one of their favorite stops on the road, so I’m greatly looking forward to it. I’m Charmin soft when it comes to cold weather, so at Pittsburgh would be a big, fat “no” from me. Thanks for all the questions this week!