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Bills Mailbag: Lack of a No. 1 receiver, a crowded backfield, signs of progress

Vic Carucci

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

Let's get rolling.

Dustin Nelson asks: What do you think of General Manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott's philosophy of not needing a true No. 1 wide receiver, and what does that mean for the WR group moving forward?

Vic: I don't have a particular issue with the thinking, although let's put some perspective behind it.

For one thing, it's easy to say you don't need a "true" No. 1 receiver when you haven't had one take a firm hold of the spot. For another, I'm inclined to think Beane and McDermott would be more than happy to have the receivers establish a pecking order, particularly after the free-agent additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley. That could very well happen through training camp and the preseason or (and I think this is more likely) into the regular season.

If it doesn't, it could mean the Bills have what they've pretty much had for a long time, which is a collection of ordinary pass-catchers. Keep in mind, though, that the development of quarterback Josh Allen will have plenty to do with how the receiving corps shakes out. As I've always said and I'll say it again: Quarterbacks elevate receivers, not the other way around.

Sam Ruggiero asks: Having that big a stable of running backs seems bizarre to me. Is LeSean McCoy merely here as trade bait during the training camps as a prime player to pull off a huge deal for, oh, say, a big-name receiver or offensive lineman?

Vic: It's going to be interesting to see just how the Bills sort out this crowded backfield. Beane has been as clear as can be that McCoy will remain the starter, something McCoy also told me emphatically will be the case. That means the plan would likely be to go with McCoy, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary. And did we mention that there's also a fullback on the roster named Patrick DiMarco?

The skeptic in me says one reason Beane, and to a certain extent McCoy, have pushed the notion that McCoy will remain the starter is to send a message to the rest of the NFL that he has value to the Bills and, therefore, should command something of value in return. But I've heard absolutely nothing to support the idea that the Bills are seeking to trade McCoy.

If they were to trade him, I wouldn't anticipate it being any sort of "huge" deal. Remember, other clubs are well aware of the Bills' surplus of ball-carriers and would be merely unloading a player who had his worst NFL season last year to make room for newcomers. That simply doesn't command a big-name player or high draft pick.

Rick McGuire asks: Vic ... there's a lot of pressure being put on Josh Allen this coming season to perform well. Fans are expecting a lot from him, especially now that the offensive line and receivers have been revamped. In your opinion, what are the realistic expectations fans should look for?

Vic: It's realistic to expect improvement, both in terms of his individual numbers and the win total with him behind center.

A year ago, expectations were fairly modest because he was not earmarked to be the starter from the beginning of the season. Now, Allen is The Man and must perform accordingly. That doesn't mean he should be expected to rise to the level of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger or any established top-level quarterback.

But it's reasonable to think he can be better at everything he does, beginning with throwing far more accurately. Seeing him take a backward step might not necessarily be a disaster, but it is going to raise the sort of questions that neither he nor the team's decision-makers will be comfortable hearing. And if Allen is slipping while fellow members of the Quarterback Class of 2018 are excelling, that will be an equally uncomfortable talking point.

Matthew Corey asks: Who leads 2019 Bills in rushing yards? Chances that training camp shifts to One Bills Drive permanently? Does Terry Pegula attend the road games?

Vic: 1. Assuming McCoy remains a starter, he should be the leader in rushing yards.

2. I think the chances that training camp will make a permanent shift from St. John Fisher College to One Bills Drive at least after the team's contract with Fisher expires in 2021 are pretty close to 100 percent. The ownership and front-office regime that favored the move from SUNY Fredonia to Fisher in the first place are gone, and far too much has been invested in the Bills' training facility to give up using it even for a couple of weeks in the summer. Plus, the boost to ticket sales and marketing/sponsorship efforts that having camp at Fisher was supposed to provide have pretty much outlived its usefulness.

3. Co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula attend road games.

David Dupler asks: Will Dawson Knox start Week 1 of the regular season?

Vic: It wouldn't shock me to see a rookie win the No. 1 tight end spot, especially with the limited competition at the position. Knox had some impressive moments in offseason workouts, but he will need to take that to another level in camp and the preseason when the tempo is up several notches.

Parasauralophus asks: Can anyone challenge Andre Roberts for the kick returner role in the roster, or is Roberts basically a lock to take up a roster spot for his abilities in that role?

Vic: I think it's pretty safe to call him a lock. That $3 million he reportedly will receive from his signing bonus and guaranteed salary this year is a major factor in his favor, along with the NFL-leading numbers he put up returning kickoffs and punts for the New York Jets last season.

Randy Reese asks: Is Kent Hull Hall-of-Fame worthy?

Vic: He's worthy of discussion. I can't say that the fellow Hall voters with whom I've discussed Hull's candidacy have given much in the way of strong feedback, although that has also been the case with other players from the Bills' Super Bowl era not in Canton.

I do think, however, that Hull and some of those other players could draw greater support once they move from the modern-era category to the senior category.

MikeyG asks: If Tyler Kroft is a no-go and has habitual foot issues, can the Bills recoup the cap-impacting salary in any way? TE is still going to be an issue.

Vic: Assuming you're asking whether the Bills would be in position to recover cap space as it applies to Kroft because his foot injury suffered during his first offseason practice stems from a history of foot problems, the answer is no. The Bills assumed the risk when they signed him, just as they did when they signed defensive end Trent Murphy last year after he missed the 2017 season with the Washington Redskins after suffering a serious knee injury.

Manraj Manny Deol asks: What record is acceptable for this regime of GM and coach to be seen as successful this year?

Vic: I realize seven or eight wins would technically represent an improvement over last season's 6-10 finish, but let's face it. Seven or eight wins will be viewed by a good number of observers as less about progress and more about a continuation of a vicious cycle of mediocrity that has defined the Bills for too long.

Frankly, after all of the investment that was made in free agency and the selection of likely immediate starters with the top two draft picks, defensive tackle Ed Oliver and offensive lineman Cody Ford, a record of 9-7 is probably at the minimum of what the majority of us paying attention to the Bills would call successful.

buffan92 asks: Who do you think is the favorite to get the starting CB spot opposite Tre White?

Vic: I'll go with the incumbent, Levi Wallace. He was more than solid last season as the fourth man at the position, and I think he has the mental toughness to stand up to the challengers (especially Kevin Johnson and E.J. Gaines) he'll face this summer.

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