This week’s Bills Mailbag is stuffed full of questions about Mitch Morse, LeSean McCoy, the wide receiver competition and plenty more. Let’s get right to it …
Honor asks: The head coach and general manager talked a lot about deciding to get along even when they disagree strongly. Do you believe Sean McDermott was strongly against Brandon Beane signing Mitch Morse since availability was absent from his resume?
@_chadomalley asks: Is Morse going to be a bust free-agent signing?
Jay: I don’t believe Beane and McDermott would have been at odds over signing Morse. The team made him the highest-paid center in the NFL. That’s not like taking a flier on a guy. That’s a massive commitment that shows the team believes Morse would be a cornerstone of the franchise. If Beane and McDermott were at odds over that, I’d characterize that as more than a “slight” disagreement.
As for whether Morse is going to be a bust, it’s too early to say that right now. There is no getting around how troubling it is, though, that he has been diagnosed with another concussion – the fourth of his NFL career. Obviously, the team’s concern right now should be on Morse’s long-term health, which I’m sure it is. It seems like a good sign that Morse has been able to be around the team at practice even while he’s out, but beyond that, it would be pure speculation to comment on his recovery. Every player is different in how they recover from a concussion.
IDon’tTrustTheProcess asks: With the Bills’ window of opportunity now wide open with Josh Allen on his rookie deal and the team in a good place salary-cap wise, which top-level player or position would you like to see Brandon Beane make a play for this season to make a serious playoff run?
Biggest training camp surprise player at this point?
Jay: I’d like to see him convince Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement – and then have the Patriots trade him to Buffalo. I realize there’s a better chance of it snowing in Miami tomorrow, though, so my next-best idea is to call the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about Cameron Brate. The Bucs have a burgeoning star at tight end in O.J. Howard, which means they might be willing to move Brate, even though he has had 20 touchdown catches over the past three seasons. Since the Bills are shorthanded when it comes to 2020 draft picks – currently, they have just six – a player-for-player(s) trade might be an avenue to explore. The Bills look especially deep at running back and cornerback, so perhaps they can persuade the Bucs that way. Tight end would be the No. 1 position I’d try to address, with pass rusher a close second. The issue with that is the acquisition cost, which will likely be more than Beane wants/can afford to play.
As for the second question, I’ll go with wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud. I was less than impressed with McCloud’s rookie season, but he has been mentioned multiple times without prompting by coaches for the improvements he’s made this offseason. I’m not completely sold it will be enough to make the 53-man roster just yet, but he’s at least giving offensive coordinator Brian Daboll something to think about.
Sam Ruggiero asks: Appetizer – who are the last three bubble players to make the team? Entrée – Who is the No. 1 receiver – John Brown or Zay Jones? Dessert – Is Dion Dawkins the starting left tackle on opening day? After-dinner aperitif: What’s the Bills’ 2019 record?
Jay: Appetizer – I’ll go with wide receiver McCloud, linebacker Maurice Alexander and defensive back Siran Neal. McCloud has made a compelling case through the first week of training camp for the team to keep six wide receivers. Alexander has consistently been with the second team, and figures to be a big part of the special-teams units. Neal can play both safety and nickel cornerback, providing the flexibility McDermott craves.
Entrée – Given those two choices, I’ll go with Brown, but it depends on your definition of a No. 1 receiver. I expect Cole Beasley to lead the team in targets and receptions, although maybe not yards. In my mind, that makes him the No. 1. Before training camp, I would have said Robert Foster, but he has firmly been the No. 4 receiver through the first eight practices.
Dessert – Yes. Dawkins has taken the majority of reps with the starters since the beginning of camp, although the team has given Ty Nsekhe a look at left tackle lately. That appears to be more of getting Nsekhe ready to be the team’s swing tackle, though, and less of a serious threat to Dawkins.
Aperitif – I picked 9-7 when the schedule came out, and I’m going to stick with that. It’s imperative that the Bills get off to a good start, which is why I like the season opener at the Jets so much. That’s a team the Bills figure to be fighting for position with all year, so we will learn a lot about Buffalo right away.
Rick McGuire asks: With this being Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane’s possible make-or-break third season with the Bills, what kind of hook (if any) do you think Josh Allen has this season? Could you see him being benched if the team starts 1-5 or 2-6 in favor of Matt Barkley, or do they stick with No. 17?
Jay: There would be no coming back from benching Allen, which would be an admission of failure by the front office and coaching staff. For that reason, I say there’s no chance of that happening this year. As long as Allen is healthy, this is his team. I’d be shocked if the Bills got off to the start that Rick proposed, but if they did it would lead to a serious conversation about the leadership of Beane and McDermott. Consequently, that would also put Allen’s future as the starting quarterback in doubt. Unless the wheels really come off, though – something like a 4-12 record or worse – I’m thinking Beane/McDermott and Allen are back in 2020, even if they don’t make the postseason this year.
Matthew Dwyer asks: Should the Bills dangle LeSean McCoy if they can get a conditional second- or third-round draft pick. For example, if the Chargers make it to the AFC Championship Game, they give them a second.
Jay: If the Bills could get a second- or third-round draft pick for McCoy, they should do more than just dangle him – they should pull the trigger on the deal. Plain and simple, the Bills don’t need McCoy. They could go into the season with Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon as their top three running backs and be absolutely fine. McCoy is a luxury, depending on how luxurious you believe a 31-year-old running back coming off a 514-yard season in which he averaged barely more than 3 yards per carry actually is. If any team offered a top-100 draft pick for McCoy, I’d take it in a heartbeat.
Jeff Popple asks: We get a lot of passing game stats from training camp (chicks dig the long ball), but how has the run game looked? Is the line blocking? Is the defense still bad against the run?
Jay: That’s a tough question to answer when the team isn’t tackling. We can revisit this after Thursday’s preseason opener and have a little better idea. During the open practice at New Era Field on Friday night, the defense stood tall during a goal-line segment. I would expect that if Tremaine Edmunds can take a leap in his second year, the run defense will be improved. The offensive line is the toughest position to evaluate, since the individual responsibilities of each player aren’t known. The bottom line is the team better be much improved up front, though, after being almost completely rebuilt this offseason. I’d expect the running game to be better, but can’t say exactly how far along it is in that regard just yet.
Michael Zaso asks: Why is McCoy not meeting with the media?
Josh asks: Is Devin Singletary going to slowly push McCoy out of snaps?
Jay: It’s nice when you guys can answer each other’s questions in the mailbag. I grouped these two together because Josh’s question is one of the reasons that Michael’s question is being asked. Outside of talking to The Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci at the end of spring practice, it’s true McCoy has avoided the Buffalo media during most of the offseason. Clearly, he has his reasons, but doing so leads to speculation about why. Is he unhappy the team drafted Singletary? Does he still see himself as the starter? How would he feel about losing carries? All those are questions that will be asked, and he might not want to answer.
Jim Banko asks: Who makes the roster at wide receiver? Is David Sills a practice-squad candidate? And when is our golf rematch? I admit I lost on a missed two-footer, so I demand a rematch.
Jay: My top five at wide receiver are the same as pretty much everyone else who has observed the team during training camp – John Brown, Cole Beasley, Zay Jones, Robert Foster and Andre Roberts in that order. As mentioned above, McCloud is No. 6 in my mind, although there is a question about how many players the team can keep at the position. If the depth at running back or the injuries at tight end cause them to keep more players there, it decreases the likelihood of six receivers making the cut. Sills is absolutely a practice-squad candidate, as are Cam Phillips and Nick Easley. I’ve started to see Sills work in more the last couple of practices with quarterback Matt Barkley and the second team, so that can be taken as a good sign.
As for the golf rematch, you’re right to be haunted about that missed two-footer – which was uphill, by the way. Remember, Jim, putting is all about confidence. I’m ready whenever you are.
Thanks for all the questions this week!
Story topics: Andre Roberts/ Bills Mailbag/ Brandon Beane/ Brian Daboll/ Cam Phillips/ Cole Beasley/ David Sills/ Devin Singletary/ Dion Dawkins/ Frank Gore/ John Brown/ LeSean McCoy/ Matt Barkley/ Mitch Morse/ Nick Easley/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Rob Gronkowski/ Robert Foster/ Sean McDermott/ T.J. Yeldon/ Tremaine Edmunds/ Ty Nsekhe/ Zay Jones