It's Friday, which means it's time for another edition of our Friday afternoon Buffalo Bills mailbag. Most of you justifiably have Jairus Byrd on the mind this week, so our first two questions deal with that ongoing situation - which you can track here if you're not up to date. Props to those of you, however, who came up with questions unrelated to Byrd!
If you have a question you'd like answered in this weekly feature, send the inquiry off to buffalorumblings at gmail dot com. Thanks, as always, to those of you that sent in questions this week!
I know you wrote about it earlier this week, but I'm curious how you think snaps would be distributed between Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams in a regular game if Jairus Byrd holds out. Thanks! - Kevin
As unsettling as it is to write, my belief is that Aaron Williams would be the top safety on the depth chart. He has more field experience than any other safety not named Byrd on the roster, and is probably the best physical talent of the bunch, as well. He'd be an every-down safety, and ideally, he proves himself capable of wearing different hats and being versatile enough to move around the lineup.
Given that Williams is playing safety for the first time as a pro, it's fair to assume that Searcy would be a starter, since, you know, he's played that position professionally. If things go well with Duke Williams, he offers better athleticism and more versatility, and could take away some of Searcy's reps in similar fashion to the way that Searcy stole reps from his predecessor last season. But if Byrd sits out, it's hard to envision Searcy not in the starting lineup, at least initially. Duke Williams could be a sub-package complement until he's ready for full-time duty.
There's been a lot of hype around Stephon Gilmore lately, about him becoming a shutdown corner this year. Do his chances of meeting those expectations dwindle if Byrd isn't in the lineup? - Brandon
Yes. Absolutely. Even if these expectations are a bit rich right now - Gilmore was much better as a rookie than people surmised in the immediate aftermath of last season, but has a ton to clean up in his game before he even approaches the "elite" conversation - he has the look of a player that, down the line, will make offenses cognizant of throwing the ball his way. Byrd is already that player. Taking him out of the lineup puts more pressure on Gilmore to become not just the team's unquestioned best defensive back, but a player for opponents to avoid. There's a ton riding on this 22-year-old's shoulder, even before we talk about how the Byrd situation factors in.
Brian, you spend a lot of time defending Brad Smith in comments even though he sucks and is way overpaid. Why do you think he should still be on the team this year? - Dave
Don't hold back, Dave.
Smith, in my opinion, is exactly what you want in a reserve receiver - he's experienced, talented, and can walk into the lineup and produce. He also offers game day utility from his reserve receiver position; we know he's capable of being an explosive return man, and he played on 16 of every 29 snaps on special teams last year not just returning kicks, but covering them and blocking for others, as well.
My only defense of Smith is this: he offers value to the team, and it's nonsensical to write him off as a roster casualty because he's overpaid. I'm not keen on the Bills trying to force a developmental player into that role at the expense of a couple million dollars. Smith can help this team win football games. If the Bills decide that he doesn't offer enough value for his salary, then so be it. Just don't count the guy out.
How do you think Torell Troup fits into the defensive tackle rotation this season, if at all? - Tony
Right now, it's hard to imagine that he fits into any sort of rotation at all - the Bills are going to have their hands full enough trying to find reps for top reserves Alex Carrington and Alan Branch as it is. Troup's first hurdle is to make the team, which may not be particularly easy to do given that many of his defensive line teammates offer more positional versatility. But it's also worth mentioning that Buffalo's run defense was awful; if the team thinks that he can help shore up that particular facet of the defense, they might go out of their way to find a spot for him. Troup seems like a good kid, so it's hard not to pull for him to overcome all the crap he's had to deal with over the last couple of years.
When I look at the Bills depth chart you made, the toughest position for me to understand is inside linebacker. Can you explain why you have certain guys lined up where you do (especially Arthur Moats and Marcus Dowtin)? - Stan
Join the club: the team has such a hodgepodge of player types and talent levels at linebacker that it's hard to figure out exactly where they'll play until we see it first-hand in camp. I tried to separate outside linebackers from inside first - Moats and Dowtin qualified as inside guys because they're more of a traditional linebacker build than some of the converted defensive ends I listed outside - and then sort them in rough order of how I believe they'll line up, team-wise, in camp. No matter where we slot these guys on a depth chart, however, each and every one of them will be playing multiple positions, even if it's just swapping between the middle and the weak side of the alignment.