Business continues as usual as possible in the NFL.
That includes the release of the schedule for all 32 teams Thursday night. As you might imagine, that has generated a good deal of discussion. Fans of the Buffalo Bills have been busy plotting their path to the postseason now that the order of games is known.
That’s a good place to start for this week’s mailbag …
Brett Armstrong asks: Obvious question – record?
Jay: In my game-by-game predictions after the schedule was announced, I went with 10-6. The good news is, that might be good enough to win the AFC East – something the team hasn’t done since 1995 (which is amazing). Going 10-6 this year would be more impressive than going 10-6 last year given the additional travel demands and overall tougher opponents. There are only a couple of games I’m putting firmly in the “loss” category – Kansas City and San Francisco. Given that, I’d say 11-5 would be more likely than 9-7. I'd put their ceiling at 12-4, swinging losses I have predicted to the Jets and Broncos to wins.
BigD asks: You really believe the Bills beat the Patriots twice when we haven’t even been able to beat them once? I say we beat them once and beat the Jets twice. I also think we beat either the 49ers or Chiefs. Also, I don’t see them losing to Denver.
Jay: Without Tom Brady, the Patriots have a lot to prove. Don’t forget that their defense lost a lot, too. As for your prediction on a win over San Francisco or Kansas City, you’re more optimistic than I am. The Denver game is the one I went back and forth on the most. I see it being a potential letdown, especially after flying to San Francisco for "Monday Night Football," back home to face Pittsburgh and then back out west again. As for the Jets, they quietly finished last season strong. If the offensive line protecting Sam Darnold improves, I could see them challenging for a wild-card spot.
Anthony Jude Marohn asks: Do the players look at the schedule? Any games they get geeked over, if any?
Jay: Absolutely they do. Games against former teams and games in their hometown are always big draws. Players also look forward to the home opener.
Rick McGuire asks: Undrafted free agent offensive tackle Trey Adams whom the Bills just signed – in your opinion, higher odds that Brandon Beane landed a future starter or that Adams’ injury past will prevent him from achieving his potential?
Jay: More likely would be a failure to reach his potential. That would be the answer for any undrafted free agent, given the difficulty they face in making any 53-man roster, never mind one of a team coming off a playoff appearance. Add the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and what it will mean for reduced practice time, and it’s very difficult to project contributions from any rookie, drafted or undrafted.
Christopher Ryan asks: How many games will have fans?
Jay: There’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know.” That’s my answer here. I hope all of them. That would mean we’ve advanced to the point such gatherings are deemed safe by the medical experts. I’ll admit, it’s hard to envision us getting to that point by September, but we can hope.
Zach Kozoduj asks: With the additions from free agency and the draft, what does the defensive end/defensive tackle depth chart and game-day rotation look like?
Jay: Crowded. The starters, which is a term that should be used loosely based on how much coach Sean McDermott rotates on the defensive line, should be Jerry Hughes, Star Lotulelei, Ed Oliver and Trent Murphy. That leaves Mario Addison, Harrison Phillips, Vernon Butler and A.J. Epenesa as a second wave, with Quinton Jefferson as the ninth defensive lineman, bouncing between end and tackle where needed. That’s impressive depth built by General Manager Brandon Beane. The player most people will focus on is Murphy, given that he’s in the final year of an expensive contract and perhaps didn’t quite meet expectations last year. I’m of the opinion the Bills should keep Murphy. I like the idea of having quality depth up front. All it takes is one injury and that surplus is gone.
SportsRoc asks: What players on the back end of the roster might the Bills flip for some late-round draft picks (like last year with Wyatt Teller and Russell Bodine).
Jay: Look to the positions with the most depth. Wide receiver is one place to start. I consider Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis to be roster locks. That leaves Duke Williams, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Robert Foster and Isaiah Hodgins to compete for two, maybe three, jobs. As mentioned above about the defensive line, there is depth there, too. Players like Darryl Johnson Jr. and Mike Love face a big challenge to make the roster here, but perhaps they show during the season they are worthy of a job somewhere else in the NFL.
Ed Helinski asks: Beside maybe the quarterback position, what other team areas might be vulnerable to depth and injury that wrecks a 10-6 season or better?
Jay: Linebacker. If the Bills lose Tremaine Edmunds or Matt Milano, it would be difficult for the defense to function in the same way. Their ability to play all three downs offers McDermott a great deal of flexibility. Similarly, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer at safety would be tough to replace, given what they mean to the defense.
John Jarzynski asks: Any chance the NFL keeps the same format for the draft (anything that eliminates the hug)? Will “home field advantage” really exist without fans? Can you envision a situation here where Stefon Diggs sulks when Josh Allen repeatedly overthrows him on deep balls?
Jay: Like seemingly everyone else, I enjoyed seeing players in their childhood homes and coaches and general managers surrounded by their kids during the draft. I absolutely do not think that will become the norm, though. Assuming life is back to normal by next year’s draft – which is a fairly large assumption – I expect it will be business as usual for the draft and the league as a whole. Part of me thinks the positive reaction to this year’s draft comes mostly from the lack of any other live sports going on. As for home field advantage, I agree that it would be mostly lost without fans. Perhaps the Bills would have some advantage in playing with the different weather conditions presented in Orchard Park, but a lack of fans will make for a bizarre atmosphere – one that will negatively impact all home teams. Lastly, it’s a legitimate question about Diggs, who wasn’t shy about expressing his frustration at times with the Vikings. That’s something the Bills investigated and felt comfortable with. Time will tell if they properly evaluated that.
Paul Catalano asks: Your thoughts on Jake Fromm and where you see him this year – third string or beating out Matt Barkley?
Jay: Third string. With no on-field practices this spring, in my opinion Fromm won’t have enough time to mount a serious challenge for Barkley’s job. The Bills aren’t going to risk putting Fromm on the practice squad, though, since that would require the team to release him, thus exposing him to waivers. I can see Fromm spending the year on the 53-man roster, but not being active on game days.
Dale Zuchlewski asks: Can you tell us what Josh Allen’s offseason workouts have been like? If he gains some accuracy on his deep ball, the Bills will be a force to be reckoned with.
Jay: As he has since entering the NFL, Allen has gone to Southern California to work with quarterbacks coach Jordan Palmer. Earlier this offseason, Palmer did a podcast interview with Sports Illustrated and provided the following update on Allen’s offseason progress:
"Usually we’re throwing twice a week and building to four days a week as guys build to OTAs," he said. "I said, 'Let’s go back down to two because if we’re doing this indefinitely, I don’t want anyone to start peaking and getting their arm in great shape. Let’s just throw enough to work on specific things, but arm conditioning is not one of them. Arm care is.' Doing a lot of stuff before and after we throw, working on the foundational things that make up their throwing motion. Then they go with the trainers and are working on the rest of the body and movement. I’m always picking one thing to work on and once that becomes muscle memory, we move to the next thing as opposed to thinking about 15 things at once."
To Dale’s point, the deep ball has been a big focus during those workouts.
"Just focusing on keeping his shoulder level. If you look at him at any point right now, his shoulder level is going to be far more parallel to the ground, then horizontal then leaning back where the front shoulder tips up," Palmer said. "We’ve spent a lot of time and he’s talked to some other folks, too. We’ve put a plan together. We’re a month or two into it and I think it’s going to be a big improvement this year."
Louis Stromberg asks: Now that we’ve entered the month of May, please power rank the following mays: Mayonnaise, Maya Angelou, May the force be with you, the Mayflower. (Honorable mention submissions: “May Day” goal, Aaron Maybin).
With the Bills dominating the primetime schedule this upcoming season, please power rank the following primes: Prime numbers, Amazon Prime, prime rib, prime meridian, primer (for painting).
Jay: Louis gets two questions today, since he was late to last week’s party. 6. Mayonnaise. It’s gross, and nobody will ever convince me otherwise. 5. May the force be with you. Not a "Star Wars" guy. 4. Aaron Maybin. Yeah, he was a bust on the field, but he’s done some great things off it since then. 3. The Mayflower. 2. Maya Angelou. She once said, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated." That’s a pretty good message right now. 1. “May Day.” Any Rick Jeanneret call is usually going to be No. 1 for me.
5. Prime meridian. As far as dividing lines go for splitting the earth in two, it’s no equator. 4. Prime rib. Potentially hot food take: Prime rib is severely overrated. 3. Amazon Prime. My wife would rank it No. 1. 2. Prime numbers. If you need a refresher – these are numbers that can’t be made from multiplying other whole numbers. 1. Primer. There are few house projects that bring the satisfaction that painting does. Thanks for all the questions this week!
Story topics: A.J. Epenesa/ Aaron Maybin/ Bills Mailbag/ Brandon Beane/ Cole Beasley/ Darryl Johnson Jr./ Duke Williams/ Gabriel Davis/ Harrison Phillips/ Isaiah Hodgins/ Isaiah McKenzie/ Jake Fromm/ Jerry Hughes/ John Brown/ Jordan Poyer/ Josh Allen/ Mario Addison/ Matt Barkley/ Matt Milano/ Micah Hyde/ Mike Love/ Quinton Jefferson/ Robert Foster/ Sean McDermott/ Star Lotulelei/ stefon diggs/ Tremaine Edmunds/ Trent Murphy/ Trey Adams/ Vernon Butler