Welcome to the NFL’s true offseason.
The six weeks between the end of spring practices and the start of training camp is the only slow spot on the league’s calendar. With that in mind, a note of thanks to all of you who have produced such good questions week after week for the mailbag. Before I head out on my own summer vacation, here’s one last mailbag to wrap up the spring.
Jeff asks: With all the personnel changes, who becomes Josh Allen’s No. 1 target and leads this offense in catches?
Jay: My vote would be Cole Beasley. A reliable slot receiver is something the Bills have lacked since Stevie Johnson left. Beasley has been durable, missing just one game in the last five years. During that time, he’s averaged 75 targets and 53 catches a year. A big part of the reason Beasley signed with the Bills is the role he’s expected to fill. While he would be my pick to lead the team in catches, I predict Robert Foster leads the team in yards. In my opinion, Foster is the most physically gifted receiver the Bills have. He formed a nice chemistry with Allen at the end of last season, and fans should be excited about the potential for them to grow together.
Rick McGuire asks: First off, congratulations on your Bills Media Golf Classic win with Brandon Beane — 4-under is quite an accomplishment. My question: The Bills seemed to endure a higher number of injuries this spring than in years past. Training camp is a month away. Could conditioning be a concern?
Jay: Thank you! It was a great day on the course. Beane is a heck of a player. As for your question, I wouldn’t worry about conditioning. A lot of these injuries during the spring can be classified as minor. It was not ideal that so many expected key contributors on offense missed as much time as they did, but to their credit, those injured players were still there doing mental reps. With the exception of tight end Tyler Kroft, I’d expect the team to be fully healthy at the start of training camp. As evidenced by their $18 million investment in a new training center, team owners Terry and Kim Pegula put a high priority on injury prevention. Obviously, luck factors into it, but the Bills were one of the healthiest teams in the league last year. Conditioning is not a concern for me.
Brendan Sweet asks: Are there any trade options out there for the Bills? I feel this team is an elite wide receiver away from a playoff run. What wide receiver would be available for them?
Jay: With Beane in charge, the possibility of a trade can never be totally ruled out. That said, after missing out on Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason, the trade market for elite wide receivers looks pretty dry. In my mind, it would be worth it for Beane to make a call to the Cincinnati Bengals, just to see if there’s any chance they would move A.J. Green. He’s heading into the final year of his contract, and the Bengals have a new coaching staff in place. Additionally, Cincinnati has a potential replacement at No. 1 receiver already on the roster in Tyler Boyd. Green is one of the more underrated stars in the game, putting up at least 1,000 yards in six of his first seven seasons. He played just nine games last year because of a toe injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve, but still managed to finish with 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns. He’d be a perfect fit in Buffalo, but the Bengals would have to be motivated to move him. Depending on how they start the season, perhaps that would happen around the trade deadline, particularly if they get the sense Green might want to move on after his contract expires.
Mike Canfield asks: Which undrafted free agents, if any, have a bona fide shot at making the 53-man roster?
Jay: That looks like it will be a challenge. No. 1, the pool is shallow this year, with just nine undrafted rookies on the roster right now. No. 2, the team’s depth is greatly improved after Beane was so active in free agency. If I had to pick one, I’d go with receiver David Sills V. The top five receiver spots in my mind are locked up with Zay Jones, John Brown, Beasley, Foster and Andre Roberts, but the Bills could easily decide to keep six receivers.
Pat Reale asks: Does Duke Williams make the team? Do you think another team will pick him up if he’s placed on the practice squad?
Jay: As mentioned above, I see the competition at wide receiver coming down to eight players fighting for one spot. Williams is on that list, as well as Sills, Victor Bolden Jr., Ray-Ray McCloud, Nick Easley, Isaiah McKenzie, Cam Phillips and Da’Mari Scott. I don’t have Williams making the team in my latest 53-man roster projection. I simply have not seen enough of him to put him there. As far as whether he’s picked up by another team, that largely depends on what he does during training camp and the preseason. Truthfully, I’m a bit surprised by just how much attention Williams is generating among the team’s fans. He was in the Canadian Football League last year for a reason. That’s not to say he can’t or won’t make it, but just a way of keeping expectations reasonable.
CN asks: With mostly the same personnel returning on defense, what do you expect the Bills to do differently, if anything, scheme-wise to stay ahead of the competition.
Jay: Nothing. How’s that for an exciting answer? I don’t expect to see any major changes in the defensive scheme the Bills are running, for good reason. The team finished second in the NFL in yards allowed last year. That says something is working. While they do need to do a better job of keeping points off the board, there is no reason to make dramatic changes. Like every year, there will be new wrinkles. During the spring practices open to media, one thing I noticed was a good deal of blitzing from members of the secondary. One area the defense needs to improve on is pressuring the opposing quarterback, so perhaps coordinator Leslie Frazier will get creative in how he goes about accomplishing that.
Honor asks: Will they win at least one playoff game this year?
Jay: Just getting there would be an accomplishment, but I’m not ready to predict a playoff win. Back when the schedule came out, I predicted the Bills would go 9-7. Nothing has happened since then to make me waver. That might not be enough to make it into the playoffs, but a three-win improvement from 2018 would be a clear sign of things heading in the right direction.
Thomas Larsen asks: Is anyone on the roster to challenge Reid Ferguson or is he a lock to make the roster as long snapper?
Jay: I can’t say I saw a Reid Ferguson question coming in this week’s mailbag. That might be a good sign that it’s time for a break. To answer the question, there is no challenger for Ferguson. He might have the most job security of anyone not named Josh Allen on the roster. Thanks for all the questions!
Story topics: Andre Roberts/ Bills Mailbag/ Brandon Beane/ Cam Phillips/ Cole Beasley/ Da'Mari Scott/ David Sills V/ Isaiah McKenzie/ John Brown/ Josh Allen/ Kim Pegula/ Leslie Frazier/ Nick Easley/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Reid Ferguson/ Robert Foster/ Stevie Johnson/ Terry Pegula/ Tyler Kroft/ Victor Bolden Jr./ Zay Jones