It's Friday, which means that Buffalo Bills fans that sent in questions for the weekly Buffalo Rumblings Mailbag have provided us with more excellent discussion-starters. (Programming note: starting next week, the Mailbag will move to Thursdays.) We still have three weeks to go before training camp starts on July 20, so keep sending those questions in to email@example.com. We appreciate everything that's sent in!
What would be considered a positive season for EJ Manuel?
Ryan D sends this one in, and I'm quite certain that if Ryan were to ask 100 different Bills fans this same question, he'd end up with 100 unique responses.
My answer to this question is simple (and therefore perhaps unsatisfying), and it's something that was alluded to in an article about Manuel from earlier this week: just be consistent enough to not hold the offense back. That, I don't think, is an overly ambitious goal; Manuel can achieve that level of play in his second season. Coaches prefer good or great players, but they can win with consistent players. If the Bills have a level of consistency at quarterback and can stay relatively healthy, they're more than talented enough to contend for a playoff spot.
Do you see the Bills going for someone like Jason Babin after training camp starts given the team’s lack of depth at the defensive end spot?
That will depend, I think, on what they see in the first couple of weeks of camp. Certainly, it would be surprising if they pursued a player like Babin before taking a long look at some of their other investments at the position. Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson and Jarius Wynn give them a nice trio of experienced players with varying skill sets, but if they end up deciding that Hughes should stay in a situational role and they want more pass rushing oomph than Lawson and Wynn will be able to provide, then sure, they'd kick the tires on some guys, Babin included.
Thanks for the question, Wallyvoodoo!
Can we discuss what Da'Norris Searcy does well? I see a thumper (big hitter), with substantially more experience than his competition. He is versatile, as evidenced by his stats last year. What are your feelings about his chance to not just be a seat filler, but actually play for us this year?
There should be very little doubt that Searcy is going to play a lot for the Bills in 2014, and it's quite possible that he winds up being the second-most used safety on the roster behind Aaron Williams. Even if he ends up a nominal starter, however, the Bills are going to have to find a way to account for his lack of range in deep coverage, which reader Pat in Erie did point out in this email. (Thanks for the question!)
One of the biggest reasons that the Bills signed Jim Leonhard right before the 2013 season began was their desire to use him in conjunction with Searcy. (The other? Mike Pettine wanted a proverbial coach on the field.) Jairus Byrd missed the first five games of the season, and Williams was forced to play cornerback in Weeks 3 and 4, so we only had a two-game opportunity to see the Searcy/Leonhard platoon in effect, but the basic idea was that Searcy was the starter, but Leonhard was the coverage safety.
In Week 1 against New England, Williams played all 91 defensive snaps while Searcy (60, 65.9 percent) and Leonhard (57, 62.6 percent) split duties based on Pats personnel. Both were on the field simultaneously in several situations, as Searcy was the dime linebacker. In Week 2 against Carolina, who possessed a much more run-oriented attack, Williams played 78 snaps (98.7 percent of total), Searcy nabbed 74 (93.7 percent), and Leonhard only saw 30 reps (38 percent).
If Searcy is a starter, then I imagine the Bills will discover the need to develop that sort of rotation again. Whether it's Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks or maybe even Corey Graham playing the complementary role in that scenario, the Bills can't simply toss Searcy into the deep portions of the field, because that's not his strength. No matter what, the Bills are going to play to Searcy's strengths, and they have already defined those.
What do you think about Chris Hairston playing right guard and being the swing tackle? If you have an injury on the outside, Kraig Urbik being first man up and moving Hairston outside.
That's a possibility, but not one that especially likely or particularly desirable. Continuity is hugely important to an offensive line, and it's concerning when a team has to double up on the amount of change they're making to the line as a whole when one player is injured. If Urbik starts and a tackle or guard gets hurt, Hairston is a plug-and-play option, and a one-for-one substitution. The proposal above, wherein Hairston changes his position and Urbik subs in for the injured guy, you're effectively creating two new starters to account for one injury. The former is much more preferable, in my opinion.
Thanks for the question, Leigh!
One last plug: if y'all would like to see something on your mind addressed in next week's Mailbag, send it on over to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!