This week's Halloween-inspired Bills Mailbag is heavy on questions about quarterback Josh Allen. It also hits on Sean McDermott's contract status, Devin Singletary's usage and the team's screen game – or lack thereof. Let's jump in ...
Rick McGuire asks: If we had drafted Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson two years ago, or Lamar Jackson last year, would we be a better team right now with our current supporting cast of coaches and players? All three were available before Josh Allen was drafted. Just saying!
Jay: Of course they would be better. Mahomes was the MVP last year! Watson and Jackson are MVP candidates this year. If you were picking one player to start an NFL franchise, Mahomes is the obvious selection. Passing on him should haunt the Bills – just as it should the nine teams ahead of them in the 2017 draft.
As a quarterback who does a lot of his damage on the ground, Jackson’s long-term viability is fair to wonder about, but he’s clearly outperformed Allen to this point of the season. It will be interesting to watch those two on the same field later this year at New Era Field.
Tom asks: Do you think it’s too early for the Bills’ management team to start wondering if they missed when they drafted Josh Allen?
Hamburg Overhead Throws asks: Josh Allen has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league again this year. At what point are we actually allowed to talk about it?
Jay: It’s never too early to start thinking about that. Finding a franchise quarterback is the single most important job for a general manager. I’m sure Brandon Beane analyzes Allen’s performance closer than any of us after every game. That doesn’t mean I think the Bills are anywhere close to being ready to move on from Allen. He’s made 18 career starts in the NFL. Coming into the draft, it was suggested that Allen would need significant development time. He hasn’t received that yet. With the possible exception of Jackson, all of the teams that drafted first-round quarterbacks in 2018 – Sam Darnold with the Jets, Baker Mayfield with the Browns and Josh Rosen with the Cardinals – should be wondering if they missed. The Cardinals already know they did by trading Rosen to the Dolphins and taking Kyler Murray No. 1 this year.
As for the second question, it’s fair to talk about it now. Allen ranks 23rd in completions (134), 20th in attempts (223), 23rd in yards (1,493), tied for 27th in yards per attempt (6.7), tied for 20th in touchdowns (9) and tied for sixth in interceptions (7). It’s debatable whether that makes him “one of the worst quarterbacks in the league,” but there’s no doubt those numbers have significant room for improvement.
Austin Batchelor asks: Do you think the Bills will draft a quarterback to compete with Allen to push him to grow? Not a first rounder, but a guy in like the second or third round?
Jim Eimer asks: This regime should be willing to draft competition for Josh Allen this offseason. That’s where past regimes have failed. Do you anticipate the Bills staying all-in on Allen beyond this season? He’s been OK. He’s not worthy of being considered a franchise quarterback from my standpoint.
Jay: I don’t think they would draft a quarterback early. This is a delicate time in Allen’s career. The team is understandably going to give him every chance to succeed, as it should. Using that early of a draft pick on a quarterback would send a message to both the team and its fans that the front office isn’t sure Allen is the guy. That’s not a message it wants to send.
It goes back to the theory that teams should draft quarterbacks every year. I understand it in theory, but it’s not realistic. At some point, a team has to commit to building around a quarterback. The Bills have done that with Allen. In my opinion, it’s not time to pull the plug.
Mike Canfield asks: Is Josh Allen seeing ghosts?
Jay: Great Halloween tie-in, Mike! At times, he probably is. I really didn’t have an issue when Darnold said that earlier this year against the Patriots. It’s not all that uncommon of a term in football. It means he was having trouble recognizing New England’s disguised coverage. He’s not the first young quarterback Bill Belichick has done that to and he won’t be the last. It’s just not a big deal to me, and the idea it will follow Darnold throughout his career seems absurd. Whether he ever becomes a franchise quarterback will have precisely nothing to do with that comment.
Kevin Kresse asks: Is it realistic to expect Josh Allen can take it to another level this season with nine games to go? It is said he works hard and is very smart, but does he have the coaching and players on offense to take it to another level, say to that of a top-10 offense.
Jay: That’s a big ask. The Bills are 19th in total yards per game right now and, more importantly, 24th in points per game (19.1). I don’t see them making the jump into either category, but they might not have to. If the offense can get close to the league average in scoring, the defense should be strong enough to carry the team to the playoffs. My expectations for what they’ll do when they get there would be low, but a postseason berth would undoubtedly be a step forward for the franchise. As for whether Allen can take it to another level this season individually, there is no reason he shouldn’t. The team has added better players around him, and with each game he gets more experience. If he doesn’t get better from here, it’s a troubling sign.
Joe Zanghi asks: Is it fair to say 2020 is big year for McBeane with contracts up in 2021 for extensions? As Allen goes, will that seal another deal or be cause for change up top?
Jay: There is no question 2020 will be a big year for the franchise. It will be Beane’s third draft class, the fourth year in the same defensive system and the third year in Brian Daboll’s offense. With that continuity will come the expectation of results. The Bills also will have plenty of money to spend any way they want in free agency to address roster deficiencies. As always, Allen’s performance will be the most important factor in the team’s success or failure. If he takes big strides, good things should follow. If he takes a step back, it’s fair to wonder about the futures of both the front office and coaching staff. They all know that, too. Right now, it’s too early either way to say with any certainty what will happen.
Anthony Angrisano asks: If the Bills get into the playoffs, would you think about extending Sean McDermott in the offseason? If not, then when would you?
Jay: McDermott still has two years left on his contract, so right now I would say no. My answer on that would change if the Bills got into the playoffs and somehow went on a run to the AFC championship game or beyond. Short of that, I’d see if McDermott and Co. can build on the success they’ve had this year in 2020 before offering an extension. If he can, a deal can be done before the 2021 season starts. That way he would avoid lame-duck status.
ATV3 asks: Any tricks or treats in the future for the Bills re-signing their own free agents to be?
Jay: The Bills are near the top of the league in projected salary cap space for 2020, so re-signing their own should not be a problem. It’s simply a matter of how they get prioritized. No. 1 on my list would be defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who is having a breakout season with five sacks. Phillips is making himself a good deal of money this year, but again, the Bills will have it available. Next would be Shaq Lawson. He’ll never be the dominant pass rusher the team hoped he would be when it used a first-round pick on him, but Lawson has carved out a role as a rotational defensive end. After that, I’d look at left guard. Has Quinton Spain done enough to be re-signed, or do the Bills feel like that’s a position that can be upgraded? The remaining nine games will help answer that question.
Eric Tichy asks: Are the Bills simply worried Devin Singletary is a liability (fumbles, prior injury) or do they really think Frank Gore is the No. 1 while bringing the new kid along slowly?
Jimi Barrett asks: When will Brian Daboll realize he needs to start featuring Singletary?
Jay: The latter. Singletary fumbled just once on 261 rushing attempts last year at Florida Atlantic. He hasn’t shown anything that would make me believe the Bills are worried about his ball security. At least through the first half of the season, the team has been more comfortable with Gore getting the bulk of the carries. We’ll see if that changes over the final nine games. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
TNFP69 asks: Did the Bills trick us with their fast start or will they treat us with a strong finish and playoff spot?
Jay: I still expect this team to make the playoffs. Games against Washington, Denver, Miami and the Jets look to be there for the taking. Handle business in those, and the team is at nine wins. That means finding one more win against Dallas, Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh or New England. I expect that will happen, as well. Ten wins should easily make the AFC playoffs this year.
Beth from Buffalo asks: Why don’t we run more screams, I mean, screens?
Sam Ruggiero asks: Halloween tricks: When do the Bills set up a scream, I mean, screen pass with our mobile offensive line leading the way for Demon, er, Devin Single-Scary? Halloween treats: The Bills finally blow out an inferior opponent and beat the Washington Dead-skins by three touchdowns!
Jay: I wouldn’t hold my breath on the screen pass. My colleague, Mark Gaughan, crunched the numbers, and it’s just not a big part of the Bills’ offense. Mark found that the Bills are just 5 of 8 for 23 yards on screens to running backs this season, and just 6 of 8 for 11 yards on screens to receivers or tight ends.
The Bills weren’t good on screens last year, either. They were 13 of 19 for 46 yards, with six tackles for loss. They completed all 15 passes to wide receivers, but for just 82 yards. It’s simply not a big part of the offense, or at least it hasn’t been in 25 games with Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator.
As for your prediction, it could certainly happen. I picked the Bills, 27-13. Washington is an inferior team starting a rookie quarterback, but the Bills have not shown an ability to blow out anybody out this season.
Louis Stromberg asks: In honor of the most likely start of Dwayne HaSKINS, let’s go ahead and have you rank the following skins: potato skins, shirts and skins, skinny jeans, dry skin, Principal Seymour Skinner (Simpsons).
Jay: 5. Dry skin – I mean, nobody likes that, right? 4. Potato skins – When done right, these can be delicious. I’ve seen them too many times, though, when it’s just, like, a potato cut in half. No thanks. 3. Principal Seymour Skinner – It’s been years since I watched "The Simpsons." I know some people love it, but I’m indifferent. 2. Shirts and skins – I love a good game of pickup, but shirts and skins is easily avoidable. Not everybody needs to see that, so bring a light and dark shirt. Problem solved. 1. Skinny jeans – I was late to the trend, but my wife convinced me to give them a try. She was right. They look better than the regular kind. Thanks for all the questions this week!