All it takes is one poor preseason performance to get Bills fans fired up.
This week’s mailbag tackles questions on Zay Jones, Duke Williams, Josh Allen, the Bills’ punting competition and plenty more. Let’s dive right in …
John Jarzynski asks: Why is Zay Jones still in the equation? Because they drafted him?
TaRey Dillard asks: Would you take Duke Williams over Zay Jones? Better hands, bigger, better blocker, but maybe not a better route runner.
Jerrel S. Fox asks: Has Duke Williams done enough to make the team?
Jay: I’ve noticed a lot of this sentiment on my Twitter feed, and I have to say I don’t get it. Jones had 56 catches for 652 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Do people really want to cut him in order to keep Duke Williams? Jones can play all five receiver spots. I’m not saying he’ll ever be a superstar, but he’s proven himself as a capable NFL receiver. That’s more than can be said for the players behind him right now. The fact that he was a second-round draft pick probably does help his cause, but it’s not the only reason if he makes the team. He’s shown enough in his first two seasons to earn a spot, even if this summer has not been spectacular.
As for the idea that Williams has better hands, Jones had three drops on 59 catchable targets in 2018, according to analytics website Pro Football Focus. Other players with three drops (albeit on more targets) included Odell Beckham Jr., Keenan Allen, Tyler Boyd and Larry Fitzgerald. I don’t have enough evidence to suggest Williams would be vastly better than that.
To Jerrel’s question, I don’t think Williams has done enough at this point. There is still a week to go and one more preseason game, though, and he has definitely come on strong lately. I expect the decisions at wide receiver will go right down to the wire.
Jimmy Zolnowski asks: Why was Zay Jones playing so late in the game?
Jay: Sean McDermott said that the team didn’t feel like Jones got enough work or targets in the first two preseason games. Nevertheless, it always gets some attention when a starter is on the field in the second half of a preseason game.
Mark asks: One of these wide receivers is getting traded for an offensive lineman, right? Someone like Robert Foster definitely has a little value.
TimCookApple asks: What are the chances that Robert Foster and/or Zay Jones are not on the final 53-man roster?
Jay: It’s possible the Bills deal a wide receiver, but are you expecting an offensive line starter in return? I’m not sure that deal will be there. If the Bills want to acquire, say, a reserve tackle, that might be possible, but there always seems to be a general offensive line shortage around the league. The same can’t be said at wide receiver. Just look at the players who aren’t going to make the Bills, a team that got way-below-average production from its wideouts last year. The additions of Cole Beasley and John Brown will definitely help in that regard, but it doesn’t mean I’m eager to trade away a player like Foster. I’ve said since the end of last season that his physical traits give him the best chance of developing into a true No. 1 receiver. This summer has left many with doubts about whether that will ever happen, but the bottom line is I’m not ready to move on from him. He showed more than enough at the end of 2018.
As for Tim’s question, I have both Jones and Foster on my latest 53-man roster projection. I’m not convinced any of the players behind them on the depth chart are better options.
TNFP69 asks: Do you think the Bills might make a few moves before the cut down with some of their stronger areas to help strengthen the weaker ones?
Jay: I absolutely think Brandon Beane will look to do that, as he already has this summer by trading defensive end Eli Harold to the Eagles for offensive lineman Ryan Bates. There could definitely be another move or two like that in the coming week, although it’s important to keep in mind that the Bills have just six draft picks in 2020. If they are going to make a trade, I’m guessing Beane would prefer it to be player for player. The Bills look deep at running back and in the secondary, to name just a couple spots.
Fracking Sabres asks: Two quarterbacks on the roster or three?
Jay: Two. There are too many positional needs and better players to worry about than keeping Tyree Jackson around. If the Bills really think he has potential, they can put him on the practice squad. Jackson has not shown nearly enough in training camp and preseason to be considered for a spot on the active roster at this point.
Lisa Marinucci asks: I’m not seeing yet the progression for Josh Allen. Weapons are there, results are not. Thoughts on the offense?
Mark David asks: Should Bills fans be concerned about Josh Allen?
Jay: I’d say we should all be careful not to overreact to a preseason game, good or bad. Bills fans were riding high with Allen after the game against Carolina, then came crashing back down to earth with his performance against the Lions. It’s easy to understand why after watching Allen attempt to throw across his body to the middle of the field into triple coverage. It’s baffling that he continues to make that mistake, which shouldn’t happen at any level of football. When fans wonder if Allen’s decision making will ever reach the level it needs to, that play sets off red alerts. I disagree with the idea that Allen has not shown progress this summer, though. The Carolina game showed plenty of it. My big concern with the offense right now is the line. Without adequate protection, Allen will not be put in a position to succeed.
Jeff Landers asks: Glad Josh Allen got that one bad decision and throw out of his system in the preseason. What did he attribute that play to? Also, can you remind people the team wants to play its best football in January/February and not August?
Jay: Impatience. Here’s what Allen told reporters after the game: “Obviously, I wish I was a littler smarter with the football tonight. There was one play in particular we got bailed out there, but it’s something that I just can’t do and I know I can’t do that. … I understood that we wanted to run the ball and I wanted to take a shot. I can’t go with that mindset.”
So Allen is saying the right things about that play, but now he needs to back up his words with actions. As for the reminder, Jeff, you took care of that.
BigD asks: When Josh is forced to scramble right, which causes him to throw across his body toward the middle of the field, why don’t the Bills send receivers deep along the right sideline, utilizing his rare arm strength? If the ball isn’t caught, it’s out of bounds. If nobody is open, throw it away.
What are your thoughts on Ed Oliver’s game against the Lions? I wasn’t even sure he played.
Jay: The last part of the question about Allen is correct. He simply should have thrown the ball away. On those scramble drills, it’s common for receivers to work their way back to the quarterback. Sometimes they can go the other way, although I’m not sure if the Bills coach it a certain way. Regardless, Allen can’t make that throw.
As for Oliver’s game, he got 30 defensive snaps and did not make it into the stat sheet, so classifying it as a quiet game is fair. I’m not overly concerned about it, though. He’s been stellar this summer.
Christina Nedley asks: Any update on where ex-New England punter Ryan Allen might end up?
bk asks: Are there any other punters named Corey we could pick up?
Jay: Not really, although I get where the question is coming from. Neither Corey Bojorquez or Cory Carter have made a particularly strong case to win the Bills’ punting job. Allen has vast postseason experience, having won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, and is still just 29 years old. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he expects to see Allen punting again in the NFL. Plenty of Bills fans seem to want that to be the case with Allen coming here, but so far the team has not made that move. We’ll see if that changes before the start of the regular season.
gscool89 asks: Is Matt Barkley elite?
John Jarzynski asks: In what scenario do you see the Bills replacing Josh Allen with Matt Barkley?
Jay: I can see that we’re winding down in a hurry here. (Injury is the only scenario).
@BuffaloWins asks: Would you trade Christian Wade for Zach Ertz?
Jay: Joe, didn’t you announce on Twitter you were done watching preseason football last week? You tweeted more than I did during Friday’s game. Stick to your guns, man.
Sidney Pegula asks: Why? Why do we do this? What is it all for? What does it mean?
Jay: The one thing it means for me is I need to stop asking for mailbag questions at 11:30 p.m. on Friday nights after preseason games.
Brian asks: That game (stunk), right?
Jay: Sure did. Thanks for all the questions this week!
Story topics: Bills Mailbag/ Brandon Beane/ Christian Wade/ Cole Beasley/ Duke Williams/ Ed Oliver/ Eli Harold/ John Brown/ Josh Allen/ Matt Barkley/ Robert Foster/ ryan bates/ Sean McDermott/ Tyree Jackson/ Zay Jones