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Bills Mailbag: The stadium debate, Josh Allen's accuracy, tight ends and more

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

Let's get rolling.

Kevin Thompson asks: Regarding the new stadium debate: is a downtown stadium the best use of valuable real estate? Isn’t the practical solution building a new stadium in the parking lot next to the existing one like many other teams have done? Your thoughts?

Charles Roberts asks: Let’s consider the possibility of a major overhaul of New Era Field — one that puts it out of commission for a season or possibly two. Is UB Stadium ready to serve as a temporary home for the Bills? And does this nudge UB to make a few stadium upgrades of its own?

Vic: I've combined these questions for obvious reasons.

I'll defer to the experts in real-estate development on the question of whether building a new stadium downtown or even next to New Era Field makes sense from a land-value standpoint. Speaking as someone who has lived in this community for a long time and has been a close observer of the NFL for even longer, I have my doubts that a project of that magnitude would be put in place or completed at any time in the near future. I think it has far too many financial/political hurdles to clear to gain immediate traction.

For all the Pegulas have invested in the community, I struggle to believe they'd see the wisdom in simply supplying the bulk of the massive funding that would likely be required to build a facility that almost certainly carries a price tag close to, if not greater than, the $1.4 billion they spent to buy the team. And for what? To fill the place maybe a dozen times per year?

They have sought expert advice on the best solution and feedback from a fan base that undoubtedly would have to make some sort of contribution in the form of personal seat licenses and, generally, a far more expensive game-day experience to make a new stadium a reality. Maybe I'm talking with the wrong people, but I have yet to hear anyone – ranging in age from early 30s to late 50s – express how excited they'd be to shell out a whole lot of cash to watch the Bills play in a new stadium. Most say just the opposite. And, no, it is not for the silly and tired "you can't ruin the tailgate experience, that is the only reason most people go to the games." False! Tailgating never has and never will be the primary driver of attendance. If it was, the Bills wouldn't have taken the smart steps to curtail the moronic behavior of a small percentage of people by making it more costly to park buses and putting other restrictions on the so-called "magnet" for their games.

Terry Pegula: New Bills stadium would be 'scaled-down ... Buffalo style'

 

My idea of a practical stadium solution – and one I would guess the consultants they've hired would include on their list of possibilities – is removing the upper deck of New Era Field as part of another renovation, with an increase in ticket prices to offset the lost seats and to help fund the work. The Bills have poured $18 million into an amazing, state-of-the-art expansion of their training facility. Logic would strongly suggest they keep their entire operation right where it is, and continue to invest there to maximize its viability. I fully expect training camp to eventually move from St. John Fisher to One Bills Drive with the emphasis of those late-July/early-August weeks to be on actual training rather than a geographical marketing tool that has lost its usefulness.

The question of how an overhaul of New Era Field might affect the Bills' home schedule is one I admittedly haven't given a whole lot of thought. I'd only be guessing on how long something like that would take to complete, although I suppose it is entirely possible it would create conflicts with the game schedule.

Could UB's stadium, with a seating capacity of about 29,000, serve as a temporary home away from home for some or all of the Bills' games? It's hard to picture, but I don't have a better idea at the moment. And with the state involved, as it likely would be with a large-scale upgrading of New Era Field, it would seem to make sense that UB's facility could benefit to some degree.

Bernie Dennis asks: Josh Allen gets dinged because of his completion percentage... some say it’s because of his long-ball predisposition.... some say he lacks touch on short throws ... others say he’s just inaccurate... what do you think?

Vic: I don't believe that Allen's proclivity to unleash deep passes is a specific cause for inaccuracy. The same goes for what he does on shorter throws.

At the root of Allen's less-than-sterling completion percentage is his footwork. That's something quarterback guru Jordan Palmer began addressing with Allen since they started working together in preparation for the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bills' coaches have continued to make it a major part of the work they've done with Allen.

I have no idea if there will be a drastic improvement or any improvement at all. The Bills don't, either, although they have no choice but to expect that will be the case, because the alternative is too dreadful to ponder.

Phoenician Nick asks: Will Dawson Knox be starting week 1? I think we stole that guy. When I hear comparisons to Travis Kelce and George Kittle, I can't help but be optimistic.

Jeffords The 3rd asks: What is the best way to get these young tight ends ready for the NFL season? Rookie TEs tend not to make an impact in their rookie year but we will be depending on 1 or 2 rookies.

Vic: Another obvious question combo.

A number of Bills fans have expressed optimism (and maybe a fair amount of wishful thinking) that Knox can have a major impact in his first NFL season. I wouldn't rule out his becoming an immediate starter, but counting on it probably isn't realistic. Nor is the expectation that he'll be a huge difference-maker right away.

Until Knox or someone else at the position proves otherwise, tight end ranks as one of the bigger question marks on offense. However – and I realize this isn't much consolation – I'm not sure the Bills are any worse off at the spot than they were entering last year's training camp.

MikeyG asks: Wondering what kind of scheme the Bills will be running with all the new additions on offense? Do you think they will push the ball downfield more?

Vic: I expect the scheme to remain pretty much what it was last year, because Brian Daboll is still the offensive coordinator. The idea behind the additions was to help the Bills do what they were doing in 2018 better. And what they were doing was a version of the New England Patriots' offense, which Daboll knows thoroughly from the many years he spent as an assistant coach with the team.

I don't know that there will be a greater effort to push the ball downfield so much as to have the passing game keep functioning as an extension of the running game, with an emphasis on high-percentage short/intermediate throws. The offense is designed to methodically move the chains by forcing the defense to try to cover as much space as possible rather than constantly seeking chunk plays. If all goes as planned, Cole Beasley becomes something similar to Julian Edelman, while tight end also plays a more integral part of the passing game.

And if all goes as planned, Allen will be trusted to run the offense at more of a hurry-up pace, something Daboll allowed him to do during the offseason when Bills' coaches also sought input from one of the game's all-time hurry-up masters, Jim Kelly. That, too, is a large part of the Patriot formula to discourage defensive adjustments and create mismatches in coverage. Expecting Allen to run it or do pretty much anything as a quarterback at the level of Tom Brady is foolish, but you have to start somewhere.

Don'tTrustTheProcess asks: The new OL development could be a lengthy work in progress. The Tyler Kroft injury also hinders the expected improvement on offense. Is there any concern on how Josh Allen’s development will be impacted and how the coaching staff will mitigate their effects?

Vic: It would be hard to believe Allen's progress wouldn't be adversely affected if the line took its sweet time coming together and the injury to Kroft or anyone else on offense lingered. Still, I'm more inclined to believe Allen's development will have far more to do with Allen than those around him.

Geno Allport asks: Any chance we trade for Jadeveon Clowney? They do need a RB in Houston.

Vic: Not seeing it. Although Clowney doesn't figure to have any future with the Texans, I don't see them seeking any sort of one-for-one trade for LeSean McCoy (who I assume you're thinking the Bills would look to ship to Houston).

Rick McGuire asks: Vic ... I know this is a "way too soon" question, but what position do you think the Bills might target in round 1 of the 2020 draft based on possible weaknesses on the current roster? Tight end perhaps?

Vic: My way-too-soon answer is outside linebacker, given that Lorenzo Alexander plans for this to be his final season and I don't see an obvious replacement in the wings. Assuming there isn't some spectacular prospect available, I don't see tight end being a first-round priority.

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