This week's Bills Mailbag leads off with what might happens with the team's coordinators this offseason, and also touches on potential playoff matchups, using the starters against the Jets and the 2020 road schedule. Let's get to it ...
Sam Ruggiero asks: Reports are starting to heat up that Leslie Frazier is a leading candidate for a head-coaching job. If that happens, who would the Bills acquire or promote for that job? Happy New Year and great job giving Bills fans a chance to ask questions!
Jay Irving asks: Jay, I keep seeing Leslie Frazier and Brian Daboll on potential head-coaching candidate lists. How likely is it that either gets a head-coaching position and is there a natural replacement for either on the existing staff?
Jay: I’ll believe it when I see it in regards to either Frazier or Daboll becoming a head coach. In Frazier’s case, I believe his past experience as a head coach actually hurts him. The trend in recent years has been toward younger, offensive-minded coaches. Frazier is neither. The Bills’ offense under Daboll has been improved, but it still ranks 24th in the league in yards and 23rd in points. If Josh Allen takes a huge step forward in 2020 and shows without a doubt he’s a franchise quarterback, I’d consider Daboll a strong candidate at that point, but not until then.
As for potential replacements, one interesting name I keep coming back to on defense is Ron Rivera. Sean McDermott’s former boss with the Carolina Panthers, Rivera is currently unemployed. If he doesn’t land a head-coaching job, I wouldn’t be surprised to see McDermott reach out to him.
Will Winterrowd asks: Do we ever have to worry about losing Sean McDermott? If the Philadelphia job opened down the road, for instance.
Jay: Never say never, I guess, but it’s not something I’d lose sleep over. I believe McDermott is genuine when he talks about how much he’s come to like living and working in Western New York. He’s also working for an ownership group that has shown a willingness to spend, most recently by constructing a new training facility. McDermott seems to have a solid working relationship with General Manager Brandon Beane, too. It’s hard to believe McDermott would want to go anywhere, or the Bills would be willing to see him leave.
TNFP69 asks: Do the Bills or any other team send video of things that they think the officials missed or called wrong to the NFL, like moving the football, spiking the ball at the other team after a two-point conversion (I thought that was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty). It’s hard to watch one-way officiating.
When and who does the future schedules? Can we finally get two home games at the end of year and one being New England instead of them getting two and we have to go there along with other division teams? Our weather is the same as their weather.
Jay: The Bills and every other team can send videos to the league on plays they believe should be reviewed. I’m not sure whether the Bills sent either of the above plays, but they can send any play they want. As for the future schedule, that is done by the NFL. The last time the Bills ended the season with consecutive home games was 2015. It has been a trend that the Bills visit New England late in the year, with a game in Foxborough in the final two games of the regular season for three consecutive seasons as the league has emphasized division matchups in the closing weeks.
Rick asks: Why would Sean McDermott risk playing Josh Allen or any other starter that could be replaced for what essentially is a preseason game? I would have the seven that are usually inactive active and have seven starters inactive. Use Allen only if Matt Barkley gets hurt.
Jay: That’s a fantastic question, Rick. I’m with you in that I would not play Allen in this game. Here is what McDermott had to say about it this week: “It’s big picture, it’s where we are as a team. Certainly, there’s a lot of different ways you can go about it. I’ve been around it and where we are for this team, this year, and where we are trying to go, we feel like this is the right thing for this team, this year and in this situation. We have work to do and we will continue to work this week to put our team in the best position possible moving forward. Listen, they are not all going to play the same amount in the game so we are going to be smart with that. It’s important that we get working fundamentally and we are working in terms of execution and we stay sharp as can be. That’s where we are on that.”
I’d expect the Bills to treat this like a preseason game, meaning the starters get a few series before turning things over to the backups. I agree on the point about inactive players. Those guys should be up this week to get some game reps.
Rick McGuire asks: Let's assume the Bills win a playoff game this year. Based on next year's much-harder schedule (L.A. Rams, San Francisco, Kansas City, Seattle, Pittsburgh), what do you think NFL analysts will predict for 2020? Do you think their outlook will be viewed as more pessimistic or optimistic by others?
Jay: I think the view will be more optimistic, especially considering the vast amount of salary-cap space available in the offseason to make improvements. Basing season predictions on the future schedule is risky, because things change. For example, the Bills’ game against Pittsburgh this season looked a lot different with Duck Hodges at quarterback and not Ben Roethlisberger. I agree with your main point, though, that at least on paper, next year's schedule looks much tougher than this year’s. One wild card to next year’s prediction is what happens in New England. If Tom Brady doesn’t return to the Patriots, that could lead to some big swings in projections for the AFC East.
Ed Helinski asks: With the Bills’ six wins on the road during the regular season, in your estimation, can this success continue into the playoffs?
Jay: I think it can – especially if the opponent ends up being Houston. The Bills’ defense did a solid job against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson last season. The offense crumbled after Allen got hurt and Nathan Peterman came in – imagine that – but is better this year. Allen has also been good in domes in a small sample size to start his career. I’m not as optimistic if the Bills end up facing Kansas City in the first round. That Chiefs’ offense is a machine.
Matthew Corey asks: 1. Most disappointing Bill on offense and defense? 2. Do you see Singletary being more involved in the passing game? 3. 2020 road game we should be looking to book?
Jay: On offense, it’s easily Robert Foster. It’s baffling to me that the Bills never found a way to get him more involved. It’s a tougher pick on defense, but I’ll go with Trent Murphy. He has the fourth-highest cap hit on the team, but has just three sacks. Murphy does have one interception and has forced and recovered two fumbles, so it’s not like he’s been invisible, but it’s fair to say his impact has not quite lived up to his salary. ...
I don’t see Singletary being more involved in the passing game this season. His hands have been questionable. Among running backs with at least 26 targets, Singletary’s drop percentage of 14.7 ranks second in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He has five drops on 39 targets. …
There are no bad options on the 2020 road schedule. It’s absolutely loaded. Las Vegas has obvious appeal if you’re into that sort of thing. San Francisco, Denver and Arizona are all on the list. If the AFC South game ends up being in Nashville and you want to stay closer to home, that was an amazing experience this year. That would be my suggestion.
Bill Perry asks: What backups do you see getting the biggest increase in playing time? And tangent to that, how is safety Jaquan Johnson looking?
Jay: I see all the backups getting an increase in playing time, but the biggest figures to go to rookie defensive end Darryl Johnson Jr. Shaq Lawson has been ruled out of the game with a hamstring injury, leaving the Bills with just three healthy defensive ends. The Bills will want to limit the amount of snaps for Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy, so I’d expect Johnson to play nearly the entire game.
As for Johnson, he hasn’t played on defense. We don’t get to watch the team portion of practice, so it’s hard to say how he’s developed. He is clearly ahead of Dean Marlowe, though, and plays a lot on special teams, so in that sense the coaching staff has been pleased with him. Safety is a tough position to crack on the Bills’ roster in terms of playing time with Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde playing at such a high level.
Paul G. Waas asks: What is the biggest weakness of our third and fourth receivers – route running or blocking?
Jay: It might be something they can’t help – size. That’s why Bills fans have been clamoring for Duke Williams so hard (no questions this week about Williams, by the way. You are all slacking). If we consider Andre Roberts to be the fourth receiver, and in terms of playing time he has moved into that role lately ahead of Foster, I would not consider blocking a weakness at all. In fact, that’s why I think he’s in that role.
Michael Lenhard asks: Since no home playoff game this year, how hard will you be tailgating for the last home game? I’m thinking you’re all in for Red Pinto, the bowling ball and mustard/ketchup coverage? Am I correct?
Jay: This is fantastic idea, Michael. I wish you would have pitched it to my boss sooner.
the big game asks: The mailbag segment is real good, what is the worst question you received?
Jay: There are no bad questions, only bad answers.
Louis Stromberg asks: Jay, happy holiday (rhyme). In honor of Gregg Williams rolling into town with his infamous Bountygate scandal, please rank the following gates: Golden Gate Bridge, Bill Gates, tailgates, Antonio Gates, Gabriel’s Gate. Happy new year! You’re the man, Jay.
Jay: First of all, thanks Louis! I appreciate the levity you bring to the mailbag each week. Here we go: 5. Gabriel’s Gate – Went there on a recent wing tour. Wasn’t impressed. 4. Antonio Gates – Great player, but the Chargers could never get it done. 3. Golden Gate Bridge – Seeing it in person a couple of years ago before the Bills played the Raiders was awesome. 2. Bill Gates – A guy giving away like $40 billion to charity probably deserves to be higher on the list, right? Sorry, Bill, but No. 1 has to be tailgates. It’s Buffalo. Happy New Year to you all!
Story topics: Andre Roberts/ Bills Mailbag/ Brandon Beane/ Brian Daboll/ Darryl Johnson Jr./ Dean Marlowe/ Devin Singletary/ Duke Williams/ Jaquan Johnson/ Jordan Poyer/ Josh Allen/ Leslie Frazier/ Micah Hyde/ Nathan Peterman/ Robert Foster/ Sean McDermott/ Shaq Lawson/ Trent Murphy