This week’s Bills Mailbag is the Thanksgiving leftovers version. I’m thankful for the questions you all send my way each week, but sometimes can’t fit them all in. Here, we clean up the leftovers, starting with a pair of questions dealing with Josh Allen’s use of the no-huddle offense.
Let’s dig in …
Michael Lenhard asks: The game is SO much different now than when Jim Kelly was playing. Does his tutoring really help Josh Allen as much as the Bills say it does playing wise, or is it just Jim’s attitude about, "Hey, I threw three picks, but we can still go win this game. Shake it off and throw a touchdown!"
Thomas Larsen asks: Has McDermott ever toyed with the idea of using the old K-Gun style offense (no huddle) with Allen? I think he is smart enough to handle it.
Jay: To Michael’s question, Kelly isn’t tutoring Allen on anything like technique or footwork (at least that I know of). Rather, as Thomas refers to, they have watched film together of the K-Gun offense. In a recent interview with WGRZ-TV, Allen said this year’s Bills team has incorporated some of those plays into the offense.
I don’t believe the Bills will ever go full K-Gun, with Allen calling his own plays the way Kelly used to. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, however, does give him the freedom to do that at times. The Bills have also implemented a lot more no-huddle in recent weeks.
In my mind, the biggest impact Kelly can and has made on Allen is being a mentor and friend. They’ve spent time together at Kelly’s hunting camp in Ellicottville, and the Hall of Famer has tried to help Allen understand he needs to take charge on the field. In that sense, I agree with Michael. One thing Kelly never lacked is confidence.
IDon’tTrustTheProcess asks: Do you think Lee Smith returns to a more prominent role in the tight end group for his blocking, despite the penalty-plagued season he’s had thus far, or will Tyler Kroft assume that role?
Jay: It depends on game plan, but it’s becoming apparent that rookie Dawson Knox is going to dominate the number of snaps at tight end, leaving Smith and Kroft to play depending on the situation. Against the Cowboys, Knox was on the field for 52 snaps, compared to just 14 for Smith and 12 for Kroft. With the Bills not changing their offensive personnel as much in recent weeks – sticking with a lineup of three receivers, one tight end and one running back – the snaps for Smith and Kroft don’t figure to go up much as long as the offense is producing the way it has.
Nicholas Pernot asks: Will Duke Williams stay inactive?
Jim Conover asks: Wouldn’t the Bills be better served dressing only Isaiah McKenzie or Robert Foster and Duke Williams? Feels like McKenzie and Foster are too similar and Williams would provide a nice red-zone target.
Jay: Barring injury, I don’t see Williams getting into the lineup any time soon. Robert Foster seems to be finding himself in the offense as of late. He played a season-high 28 snaps against the Cowboys despite suffering a hamstring injury just four days prior. McKenzie, meanwhile, has become the team’s No. 3 receiver. As long as he’s healthy, he’s staying in the lineup.
My guess is the Bills like Foster’s ability to play special teams and back up John Brown. Williams can play special teams, but he’s not as versatile offensively as Foster. As for being a red-zone target, the Bills prefer to throw the ball to Brown or Cole Beasley in those situations, and it’s hard to argue with that plan. Williams does have the size to be a jump-ball target, but that’s one of my least-favorite plays in football. I’m good with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll throwing the ball to his best receivers inside the red zone. That’s Brown and Beasley.
Jim in FL asks: Is it my imagination, or has Stephen Hauschka’s kickoff distance decreased over the past few weeks? Your thoughts on what’s up with him?
Jay: That’s the strange part of Hauschka’s struggles – his kickoff distance is fine. Against the Cowboys, he reached the end zone for touchbacks on all six of his kickoffs. Of course, it helped that the game was played inside. For the season, Hauschka has kicked off 57 times and recorded 35 touchbacks, a percentage of 61.4 that ranks 16th in the NFL. That doesn’t take into account the number of times Hauschka is asked to kick short for strategic reasons.
It’s on field goals of 50-plus yards that Hauschka’s leg strength seems shot. Even on the successful 51-yarder against Miami, it barely crawled over the crossbar. Same thing against Dallas – his 50-yard attempt went wide right, but barely was long enough. While the wind in Orchard Park may play a factor in home games, it doesn’t explain what is happening away from New Era Field. I said it during the game against Dallas – the Bills have a big-time problem on their hands with Hauschka if he can’t be trusted to make anything longer than 50 yards.
TNFP69 asks: How long do we keep all these players who are here because they play special teams and are good in the locker room, even if we are a very poor special teams unit?
Jay: Most likely, not all that long. Teams are constantly churning the bottom of their roster. For as much as coaches like to say they prioritize special teams, it’s always going to be more important to have impact offensive and defensive players. Those who contribute primarily on special teams will continue to be prioritized on the third day of the draft or in the second or even third wave of free agency.
MikeyG asks: 1. Given Colin Kaepernick has been out of the league three years, I'm not sure he is exactly as good as he was. Three years without reps is tough. What kind of contract could he expect? 2. Has the quarterback position in the NFL gotten too difficult?
Jay: Given that no team has made Kaepernick any sort of contract offer, it would be hard to see him getting anything more than the veteran minimum if a team was interested. As for the second question, I’d say quarterback has always been difficult. That’s why even average players at the position make crazy money. Case in point: The Bengals paid Andy Dalton $16.2 million this year! Quarterback is the most demanding position in professional sports, which is why so few can do it at a very high level.
Dave Universal asks: Bengals, Lions, Browns, Bills — who ends their streak of not winning a playoff game first? It’s been 24 years for Buffalo, right?
Jay: Given that the Bills are the only one of those teams that will make the playoffs this year, I’ll go with them. That would end a drought that dates back to the 1995 season, when they beat the Miami Dolphins, 37-22, in the wild-card round before losing to Pittsburgh. The Bengals and Lions don't look remotely close to even sniffing the playoffs, so the only other team I'd consider for this is the Browns. They have a lot of talent, but probably aren't getting into the playoffs this year, and I think the Bills could win a wild-card game against a team like the Colts or Texans.
Sam Ruggiero asks: Myles Garrett’s “helmet bashing” to Mason Rudolph made me think. Can an attacked player press legal charges — in this case, assault and battery? Or are aggressive players protected against criminal charges during a game?
Jay: There is nothing stopping Rudolph from pursuing criminal charges against Garrett, nor is he protected against being charged by the NFL. Nevertheless, it’s highly unlikely Garrett will face any charges. Rudolph has not indicated that he’s entertaining the idea, and in the tough-guy world of the NFL, he may not want to for fear of what it might do to his reputation. That may sound crazy to a reasonable person, but Rudolph might not want to come across as looking weak, even if what Garrett did could have left him with a serious injury. It’s not unprecedented for athletes to be charged criminally for something that happens during a game, but it very rarely happens. In this case, Garrett’s indefinite suspension seems like it will be the only punishment.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks for the questions. Buckle up for what should be a fun next month (and possibly more) of Bills football!