I'll start this week's Bills Mailbag with an admission: I was wrong.
Initially, I thought the NFL conducting business as (somewhat) usual during the coronavirus pandemic was poor form.
After watching last week's draft broadcast, though, I stand corrected. The three-day event proved to be just what sports fans needed. Seeing players achieving their childhood dreams surrounded by their families in their childhood homes was terrific. So, too, was NFL general managers and head coaches surrounded by their families as they worked.
A big congratulations goes out to all of those who worked on making the telecast possible. Credit to Commissioner Roger Goodell, too. He's usually an easy punching bag, but Goodell has provided steady leadership in a time when the NFL has provided a much-needed break from everything going on around us with the pandemic.
The amount of money raised by the NFL during the telecast – nearly $100 million – was staggering.
Sports have understandably taken a back seat right now, for good reason. The draft reminded me, though, just how much they matter -- and how much I miss them. Here's to hoping the games are safely back soon.
Onto the mailbag ...
Jim Majka asks: Do you think that Brandon Beane outsmarted Bill Belichick by drafting Jake Fromm in the fifth round (No. 167)? The next quarterback that was selected after the Bills was in the sixth round (No. 189), seven picks after the Patriots drafted a guard at (No. 182).
Jay: Not at all. The Patriots drafted a kicker – a kicker! – eight spots before the Bills took Fromm. If Belichick had any belief of Fromm being a potential starter for New England, there is no way he would have passed on him at that point for a kicker. We’ll see who ends up being right about Fromm. The Bills don’t need him to become a starter, either. If he can be a trusted backup, that’s a successful fifth-round pick.
Ed Helinski asks: In your estimation, does the Bills’ running back situation have enough and the correct amount of depth?
Jay: Yes, they’re in very good shape there. Investing back-to-back third-round picks on the position is significant. Obviously, we’ve yet to see Zack Moss in a professional setting, but his running style looks like it will be a perfect pairing with Devin Singletary. I also like T.J. Yeldon as a third running back. A former second-round draft pick, he has plenty of talent. No. 4 running back Taiwan Jones should be a key contributor on special teams, and as we saw last year in the Bills’ playoff loss to Houston, he can contribute from time to time on offense. There there is last year’s training camp star, Christian Wade. It’s premature to expect Wade to make the 53-man roster, but it will be interesting to see how far he’s come with a year of learning the NFL game under his belt. Barring injury, running back looks set.
Jonathan Gall asks: With the addition of Zack Moss, should the Bills still use Devin Singletary as their feature back?
Jay: At least at the start, yes. Singletary deserves to be the starter heading into the 2020 season. If Moss can beat him out for the job at some point, that’s great, but that’s tough to see right now. Singletary averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season. He brought a big-play element to the offense. He showed he’s capable of carrying 20-plus times, but the most he got in a single game last year was 21. Can he handle 25 or 30 carries a game? At 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, he’s not the biggest guy in the world, so that’s less certain. That’s where Moss comes in. He should come in and be able to handle 10-15 carries a game right away. If he shows after that he’s deserving of more, great.
TNFP69 asks: What’s your feeling on Josh Allen doing offseason workouts with other quarterbacks from our division. Pros and cons, please.
Jay: I don’t have any issue with it. Allen and the Jets’ Sam Darnold have been training together for years. I can’t imagine they are exchanging game plans. Allen’s offseason priority has been improving his deep ball. It’s not like that was any sort of secret. I don’t see Darnold being able to ascertain anything that would benefit the Jets’ defense. Allen and Darnold having a friendship and training together is not anything worth worrying about.
Dave Russell asks: At what point do the Bills bail on training camp at St. John Fisher to focus on a less disruptive, more controllable quarantine camp at their facility?
Jay: If it was up to me, they already would have done that. This is my opinion only, but I fully expect the scenario Dave presents here to play out. The writing has been on the wall for the Bills to move training camp back to their facility for a while now. That’s what happens when ownership sinks $18 million into a performance center on site. With two grass practice fields just outside the fieldhouse, the Bills have everything they need to conduct training camp at home. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic provides a built-in reason for skipping Fisher this year in the name of public safety. I would not be surprised if that’s the end of training camp in suburban Rochester moving forward.
Oak Coleman asks: Do you think the Bills will carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster?
Jay: I do. Without any spring practices and without knowing what training camp will look like, it’s hard to predict that Fromm will have enough of an opportunity to beat out Matt Barkley for the backup job. There is no way the Bills are releasing Fromm, though, so the only option is to carry three quarterbacks. Here is what coach Sean McDermott said Thursday about expectations for Fromm as a rookie.
“There's a long runway for all these rookies,” the coach said. “I know everyone wants to say was this a good draft class or was it not a good draft. There's grades out there. I always laugh that the day after the draft or the night of the last pick of the draft, because someone puts out their draft grades and then the next person puts them out. I think that's part having fun with it, right? We won't really know, as you guys know – you’re veteran reporters – you won't really know for multiple years between what happens from the time they're picked to how they develop.
“But with Jake, what we can talk about is what we know about Jake and it's well-documented the type of person he is, the type of player that he's been. The competition that he's faced and what he's done at Georgia. He's played at a high level. He's won a lot of games and I know that he's committed to coming in and really being the best teammate that he can be. Earning every last inch of what he gets here and I think that's a great way to start.”
Fromm making the team is going to put a squeeze on another position because the Bills carried just Allen and Barkley last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Beane again looks to make a trade or two before final cuts. The Bills have more than 53 players good enough to be on an NFL roster. That’s a credit to Beane and his personnel staff.
Rick McGuire asks: In my opinion, if the Bills were to shock the NFL and sign Andy Dalton, their chances of not only winning the AFC East increase by 50%, but so do their chances of being AFC champions. Dalton would provide great backup experience and signing him would keep him from Bill Belichick and New England. Agree?
Rollwithit71 asks: Should we explore improving our backup quarterback situation? Barkley has not been impressive when he has played regular-season snaps.
Steven A. Danaher asks: With the Bills appearing to be all in for the foreseeable future, would it make sense to sign a proven veteran like Cam Newton ? As backup insurance/similar style of play to Josh Allen. Coach/staff familiar with him. An injury to Allen could derail what should be a promising season for this team.
Jay: Ask yourself this question: If you’re, say, Andy Dalton or Cam Newton, why would you want to sign with the Bills? You know that the franchise is committed to Josh Allen as the starter, so what would be the purpose? This isn’t a situation like in New Orleans, where Jameis Winston agreed to a deal to be Drew Brees’ backup. Spending a year learning from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time makes sense for Winston. Newton is a former league MVP. What is Allen going to teach him? Beane believes Newton is looking for an opportunity to start. The quarterback knows he’s not going to get that in Buffalo.
The problem for both Newton and Dalton is that opportunity doesn’t look like it’s available with many teams. After scanning last year’s standings, here is my list of teams that could use a starter, or might at least consider a change: New England and Jacksonville. Every other job is either settled or has a competition already set up. The Patriots can play hardball and still get either Newton or Dalton at a bargain-basement price. Would one of those quarterbacks be an upgrade over Barkley as the Bills’ backup? They both would, but they would have to be willing to sign in Buffalo, and Beane would have to be willing to pay them.
Brenda Alesii asks: Every time I hear the name Epenesa, I think of epinephrine. Given his second-round selection, will A.J. Epenesa give the Bills’ defensive line a “shot in the arm"?
Jay: He better, Brenda. A second-round draft pick doesn’t have to be a starter right away, but he should be a contributor and develop into a starter pretty fast. Epenesa joins a deep defensive line in Buffalo. The Bills have the luxury of giving him time to develop. With Trent Murphy in the final year of his contract, there is a clear path to a starting job for Epenesa. A reasonable expectation in his first year is 40% of the defensive snaps.
Gerald Beamish asks: Why don’t we just go for it and sign Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year deal?
Jay: How many defensive linemen can one team play, Gerald? This is similar to the quarterback questions. Assuming Clowney is going to take a one-year deal to rebuild his value and hit free agency next year, Buffalo might be the last place to try and do that. McDermott rotates so much on the defensive line that there is very little chance he’s going to put up the numbers needed to earn the type of contract he’s angling for. Thanks for all the questions this week!