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Bills Mailbag

What's the word around the league about the Bills' revamped O-line?

You have Buffalo Bills questions that you've submitted to me via Twitter @viccarucci. I have answers.

Let's get rolling.

TNFP69 asks: What is the the word around the league about the strength of the Bills' revamped O-line?

Vic says: I'd call it mixed.

Most NFL types with whom I've spoken are impressed that the Bills focused the heavy attention they did on improving the offense as a whole and the line in particular. They also believe the Bills have upgraded their overall talent up front, although the general feeling is that that isn't necessarily saying a whole lot.

Predictably, the acquisition of center Mitch Morse is drawing the best reviews. He is widely seen as giving the Bills as good a center as they've had since Eric Wood was performing at the top of his game – and perhaps even better. The hiring of Bobby Johnson as the new offensive line coach is also getting high marks. Although this is the first time Johnson has overseen the position after nine years of not graduating above an assistant offensive line coach, he has earned considerable leaguewide respect for his coaching skills.

Not surprisingly, another common theme associated with the Bills' offensive line – that developing chemistry could take a significant chunk of the regular season – is something I've heard from more than a few outside NFL observers.

MikeyG asks: What do the Bills look for in Josh Allen's first four games this year and mark it as "progress"? How do they then evaluate the next four games if he makes their first-quarter grade?

Vic: My sense is that the first measurement of Allen's progress – or lack thereof – in his second year as a starting quarterback will be wins. If the Bills start the season 3-1 or 4-0, Allen will get a share of the credit, even if his numbers are less than sterling. What he does right could be as much about what he doesn't do to cost them games rather than carrying the team on his back.

Of course, the Bills' decision-makers and everyone else who cares about the club's fortunes will pay close attention to Allen's individual numbers. They will want to see his completion percentage climb from the low 50-percent range to closer to 60, if not higher. They will want to see him be more judicious about when and how he runs. And they will want him to consistently show the command and leadership that go with being the undisputed starter.

I think the evaluation of Allen for the next four games will pretty much be the same as the first four, with the expectation that the challenges will only increase as opposing defenses gather more information on him and he faces either the task of preventing success from causing overconfidence or failure from causing divisiveness.

Matthew Corey asks: 1. Who has a better year: Matt Milano or Tremaine Edmunds? 2. Does Josh Allen get benched at any point in the year? 3. Strongest Bill? 4. Who on the coaching staff would be most likely a candidate for a head coaching job?

Vic: 1. It depends on the definition of "better." If it's strictly about stats, it's entirely possible that one could have more tackles or sacks or turnovers yet the other could have more of an impact to the overall success of the defense. I suspect Edmunds will make more splash plays, although I think they'll both be very much in the conversation for consistent top defensive player.

2. I'd be shocked if Allen wound up on the bench. Barring Nathan Peterman-like meltdowns, I suspect Allen will keep the starting job for the full season.

3. I'd be surprised if it wasn't Star Lotulelei.

4. Assuming the passing game makes a huge jump from the bottom of the NFL and Allen shows steady improvement through multiple seasons, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll would probably become a viable candidate at some point. That also assumes teams continue to place as high a premium on offensive coaches when filling the top spot on their coaching staffs as they did this year.

Jeremy Powley asks: What do you look forward to most and least about training camp each year? Any yearly rituals you have to do while at St. John Fisher or Rochester?

Vic: I always look forward to seeing lesser-known players gain attention through their on-field performance, finding out more about them and sharing that with readers. I'm not sure this qualifies as a ritual, but I do like working in a particular spot in the particular assigned dorm room I've had the past four years ... after hauling in a case of bottled water, putting liquid soap and hand sanitizer in their respective spots, and plugging in the coffee maker I bring from my home office on the first day.

Rick McGuire asks: Vic ... since you deal with the NFL more as a whole and not just the Bills, are there any players out there that you keep hearing teams may be looking to or willing to trade and if so, any that Brandon Beane may/should pursue?

Don Burt asks: I have often compared the Bills rebuild to the Bears. I would love to see the Bills make an all-in move much like the Bears did when trading for Khalil Mack. Obviously there is no Mack out there, but is there a move similar to that? And would the Bills be willing to make it? Jadeveon Clowney?

Vic: I've combined the two above questions, because the one potential difference-making player I could see the Bills possibly pursuing is Clowney, the Houston Texans edge rusher who is unhappily wearing a franchise tag. The Texans could be inclined to move him, and although I don't think it's likely the Bills will be a buyer, I would never rule out "Trader Beane" from sniffing around to see if there is a deal to be made. That's how he operates.

Why Clowney? In the last two seasons, he has 18.5 combined sacks, with at least a half-sack in 17 games. According to Pro Football Focus, Clowney has had 185 quarterback pressures over the last three seasons. That's an average of nearly 62 pressures per season. Additionally, Clowney, according to PFF, ranks second among edge rushers at stopping the run.

Joshua Smith: Despite the WR FA adds like John Brown and Cole Beasley, am I crazy for thinking Robert Foster emerges as a WR1 in 2019?

Vic: Not at all. I think Foster has as good a chance as any of the newcomers or incumbents to finish the season as the No. 1 receiver on the team. I do think, however, that the emphasis on Patriots-style/short-intermediate passing in Daboll's scheme should give the slot receiver, Beasley, the best chance to catch the most passes.

Parasauralophus: Is there any precedent for a team with as much offensive line turnover as the Bills finding success in their first season?

Vic: The closest most recent example I can find is the 2018 Indianapolis Colts, who began the season with three new O-line starters and one of them suffered a season-ending injury fairly early in the year, and they still ended up having one of the best lines in the NFL.

Bob Howard: Injury update on Hauschka and the state of the teams punters/kickers? We had a lot of injuries last year.

Vic: To my knowledge, Steven Hauschka is fine, as are the punters who were injured last year, Corey Bojorquez and Cory Carter. I'll take a closer look at the punting situation as part of our training-camp questions series that begins next month.

Thanks for all the questions this week.

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