This week's Bills Mailbag focuses on LeSean McCoy's future, the biggest remaining position of need … and my son's golf game. Let's get right to it:
Jim Eimer asks: Who will be the biggest surprise cut? If you were general manager, what is a blockbuster trade you would consider — either trading away or a position of upgrade?
Jay: Both answers involve LeSean McCoy. The Bills continue to say McCoy is in their plans for 2019, but until the regular season arrives, it’s reasonable to question that. He’ll be 31 when the season starts, is coming off the worst year of his career and the team could save $6 million against the salary cap by cutting him. All that puts McCoy squarely in the “surprise cut” category. If the Bills moved on from him in a trade, that also would fall into the “blockbuster” category, more so because of his name recognition rather than the expected return, which would likely be minimal based on the reasons listed above.
As far as positions the Bills might want to address, No. 1 wide receiver and stud pass rusher are on the list. As you might imagine, though, teams aren’t exactly lining up to trade those types of players. The Bills also only have six draft picks next year, which limits what the they can do in the trade market.
Nicholas Pernot asks: What do you see as the biggest position of need at this point? Have any unexpected players taken up a leadership role in the locker room yet?
Jay: The injury to Tyler Kroft means there is a hole at starting tight end, so that would be my biggest position of need at this point. Dawson Knox, the team’s third-round draft pick out of Ole Miss, looked good in practices that were open to the media this spring, but it’s a lot to ask for him to be ready to be on the field for 85 or 90 percent of the snaps in Week 1. The injury to Jason Croom meant that Knox and seventh-round draft pick Tommy Sweeney got a bunch of practice reps. Croom should be healthy by the start of training camp, so he’ll factor into the competition.
As for the second part of the question, it shouldn’t be unexpected, but several players have mentioned the leadership traits of Frank Gore. The ageless running back walked into the locker room with a great deal of respect based on the Hall of Fame career he’s put together. He’ll fill a Lorenzo Alexander-like role for the offense.
BigD asks: Your thoughts on Josh Allen this spring? Many reporters sounded negative this week. It seems like the defense had all their starters and the offense was a mess of injuries after Zay Jones and Robert Foster went out.
Jay: I agree that the defense seemed to throw a lot at Allen in the practices we watched. There were several blitzes, including a bunch with members of the secondary. I look at that as a good thing. That’s what the spring is for. The offensive injuries did not help Allen, robbing him of a chance to get work behind his starting offensive line and with his expected top receivers.
That said, I thought the hype train surrounding Allen earlier this spring was ridiculous. So, too, would be worrying too much about last week. I put almost no value on what happens in the spring, when players aren’t even in pads. It’s a time for installation more than anything. The real evaluation of Allen as the Bills’ franchise quarterback won’t come until Week 1 of the regular season. By then, he should have plenty of time working with the players who were added to be starters on offense.
ATV3 asks: We’ve heard a lot regarding the additions on offense and defense, but last season special teams had a tough go. Anything to report on the all-important third phase of the game? Reasons for optimism?
Jay: Well, Danny Crossman is gone, so that’s one. New coordinator Heath Farwell is barely older than me, but he impressed the Bills during the interview process. The Bills also acquired a few players to make Farwell’s life easier. The most significant was the addition of All-Pro returner Andre Roberts. Having a player who can be trusted on both the kick- and punt-return units is going to be a big boost. The team also went out and signed players with an eye on special teams, with running back Senorise Perry and linebacker Maurice Alexander among them. There will be a competition in training camp between Corey Bojorquez and Cory Carter for the punting job. I’d give a slight edge to Bojorquez at the moment. Bottom line: The special teams should — and needs to be — better than it was a year ago.
IDon’tTrustTheProcess asks: The Bills seem to have a lot of good, young talent in the secondary. What is the max number they will keep who are safe bets to make the roster, and what are the key camp battles to watch?
No. 2, Brandon Beane brought in a lot of personnel in the offseason to revamp the offensive line. Other than at center, there’s a lot of uncertainty at the other spots. The potential starting tackles seem better suited as guards, although Cody Ford is getting a shot at the right tackle spot. Is Dion Dawkins on shaky ground? Is he a trade candidate?
Jay: I’d say the max number the team keeps in the secondary would be 11. At cornerback, I look at Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Kevin Johnson, Taron Johnson, E.J. Gaines and Lafayette Pitts being the top six — Pitts primarily for special teams. At safety, starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer form one of the best duos in the league. Rafael Bush is back as the No. 3, leaving rookie sixth-round draft pick Jaquan Johnson and returner Dean Marlowe to compete for the fourth, and maybe fifth jobs.
As for key camp battles, Siran Neal, a 2018 fifth-round pick, has shifted from safety to nickel cornerback. I’ll be interested to see at training camp if he can carve out a role on the 53-man roster.
Regarding Dawkins, I think it’s premature to say he’s on shaky ground. He’ll go to training camp as the starting left tackle. If he loses the job, it’s because he didn’t adequately perform, or another player behind him proved to be better. In either scenario, it’s hard to envision Dawkins having much trade value. The hope has to be he can develop into the player the Bills hoped they were getting when they traded up into the second round of the 2017 draft to acquire him. As for Ford, you’re right that he is going to start out at right tackle. I don’t see a move to guard coming for Ford or Dawkins any time soon.
Mark Ricotta asks: From your perspective, why should fans believe Allen is different than the last few quarterbacks many thought were the next franchise player for the Bills? Something feels right, but we’ve all been burned before. What do you think makes Josh the anti-EJ, anti-JP, anti-Edwards, anti-<insert name here>?
Jay: Let’s start with none of those other quarterbacks was considered anything close to the prospect Allen was coming out of Wyoming. While it’s true that his underwhelming college stats — particularly his completion percentage — turned off some draft analysts, others believed he was the best quarterback in the loaded 2018 class. In that regard, he’s way ahead of where Manuel, Losman or Edwards ever were. Obviously, Allen has a long way to go to prove he is the best of the 2018 class, especially considering the rookie year that Baker Mayfield had in Cleveland.
The reality is — and this might sound like a cop out, but it’s the truth — I have no idea if Allen is the Bills’ franchise quarterback. I don’t think anyone can know that at this point. There were things I liked about his rookie season, and things I didn’t. I’m looking forward to seeing what playing behind an improved offensive line and with a better group of wide receivers will do for him.
Luigi Mike Speranza asks: If you shoved a microphone at each veteran Bills player and asked each of them if he wished Tom Brady would retire, do you think any would agree with the majority of fans and say yes or would they want to beat him a few times first to take a bit of the sting out of the legacy of Bills' losses to him?
Jay: I’m sure one or two of them would agree. It’s too bad Nickell Robey-Coleman isn’t still around — he definitely would have. Most of them, however, would say something along the lines of how going against the best is a challenge they look forward to, blah, blah, blah. As for getting a couple of wins against Brady, I don’t picture that doing much to erase or even dull the damage he’s inflicted on the Bills during his career.
Rick McGuire asks: Sounds like rookie running back Devin Singletary spent a lot of time with the first-team offense during minicamp and looked really good with his opportunities. If he goes on to have a solid preseason, is there any chance he overtakes LeSean McCoy as the No. 1 back, or at a minimum Frank Gore for No. 2 on opening day?
QCP asks: Will Singletary make noise this year?
Jay: There has been a lot of interest in Singletary since he was drafted in the third round. As of right now, it’s hard for me to see where he fits in — particularly if McCoy and Gore are on the Week 1 roster. Don’t forget the Bills also added T.J. Yeldon this offseason. If those three are on the team, Singletary’s touches figure to be limited. As mentioned above, though, that could change if a player like McCoy isn’t here. I still feel like the Singletary selection was one made more with 2020 in mind.
Paul Catalano asks: Can’t think of a Bills question, but how’s Elliott’s golf game going this year?
Jay: Golf questions always welcome in the mailbag, especially when pertaining to my 5-year-old son. He’s doing great. He competed in six U.S. Kids Golf tournaments this spring, and his best score is 43 from about 1,150 yards. The best part is, he absolutely loves it, and asks after every tournament when we can sign him up for the next one. On this Father’s Day weekend, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have a son like him — and a father like I do. He instilled in me the love of golf that I’ve passed on to Elliott.
Greg Tompsett: Clearly a hot dog isn’t a sandwich … but is it a taco? Carb outer portion covering three-quarters of the inner meat, leaving a spot for condiments and toppings?
Jay: Greg, I thought I was clear about this last week. A hot dog stands on its own as a food item. It’s its own category. Same with a taco. If you ordered a taco and I brought you a hot dog, you would have me arrested. Thanks for all the questions this week!
Story topics: Brandon Beane/ cody ford/ Corey Bojorquez/ Cory Carter/ Dawson Knox/ Dean Marlowe/ Devin Singletary/ Dion Dawkins/ E.J. Gaines/ ej manuel/ Frank Gore/ Heath Farwell/ Jaquan Johnson/ Jason Croom/ Jordan Poyer/ Josh Allen/ JP Losman/ Kevin Johnson/ Lafayette Pitts/ LeSean McCoy/ Levi Wallace/ Maurice Alexander/ Micah Hyde/ Nickell Robey-Coleman/ Robert Foster/ Senorise Perry/ Siran Neal/ T.J. Yeldon/ Tre'davious White/ Trent Edwards/ Tyler Kroft/ Zay Jones