Welcome back to the work week, Buffalo Bills fans! I hope everyone had an enjoyable long weekend and a great holiday yesterday.
Our return to Bills blogging starts with this mailbag post, comprised of questions submitted to us via Twitter. We take these questions on a routine basis via email and Facebook, as well, so if you have a Bills-related question that you'd like to see us flesh out a bit in these weekly posts, drop us a line there and we'll look into it.
Today's quartet of questions start with a distinct running back vibe, before twisting off to the defensive side of the ball and then ultimately back to, yes, quarterback. Let's talk about the Bills!
@BuffRumblings tough Q: are Bills better off w/o Fred this year, and instead use his spot on a younger player who can improve nxt few years?— CHRIS ROSE (@sprewell13348) May 26, 2015
Let's start at the top: LeSean McCoy is not only going to handle the biggest workload, but also play the largest percentage of snaps for the Bills at running back. Conservatively, we can expect McCoy on the field for 65-70 percent of snaps, which is a large chunk for a feature back in today's NFL.
Still, 30-35 percent of snaps for the second back is no small role, and the Bills are not in a position where they can sacrifice quality at that spot in the name of fulfilling some other agenda. Until further notice, Fred Jackson is easily the second-best running back on this roster. He can still play. The team is probably going to keep four backs again, given how injury-prone the position is and how run-heavy their offense will be. There is definitely going to be room for Jackson on the roster this year, barring a steep drop-off from him athletically this summer. Knowing Jackson, I wouldn't count on that.
Rolling with the logic from the previous question, let's assume that McCoy and Jackson are occupying two of four running back positions on the final 53-man roster. Bryce Brown, then, would be competing with the likes of Anthony Dixon, Karlos Williams, and perhaps even John Conner for a role. Four competitors and two positions gives Brown 50-50 odds of making the team, then, right?
Working in Brown's favor: he might be the best pure runner of that group, plus the fact that general manager Doug Whaley would very much like the player that he flipped a fourth-round pick for a year ago to make the team. Working against Brown: game-day utility. Dixon is an outstanding special teams player. Conner can play on teams, too, and Williams is expected to make an impact there, as well. Brown spent a large chunk of the 2014 season inactive precisely because the team preferred not to use him on special teams. That gives him a flimsier CV than the rest of the competitors, and the highest bust factor, as well.
"Starter" is a tough way to phrase that question, because a lot of that decision comes down to how players fit into personnel packages. You've nailed the six guys that are going to be on the field a ton, but there probably isn't going to be a seventh that is package-omnipotent in the front seven. The "starter," therefore, could simply be the seventh guy on the field based on who the opposing offense is using.
If the situation calls for an extra defensive lineman, my money is on Alex Carrington being that guy. If it's a third linebacker that's in order, Ty Powell seems like he'll have a leg up. And if there's an extra tight end flexed out into the formation, Manny Lawson could be called upon. Of those three, I'd expect Carrington to see the most playing time, but barring injury, it's tough to imagine he'd be on the field enough to justify being labeled a starter.
@BuffRumblings there is some hype starting to ramp up around Tyrod Taylor. Is it valid?— carl binger (@carbin14) May 26, 2015
If by "valid" you mean to ask if the hype is a predictor of future success, then probably not. Tyrod Taylor is far from a sure bet to emerge as the Bills' starting quarterback, let alone produce at an above-average clip if he does so.
But if the question is simply inquiring as to whether or not Taylor is a legitimate factor in the quarterback competition? All signs point to an emphatic yes. Coaches don't use words like "dynamic" about potential starting quarterbacks in the spring unless they're sufficiently impressed by what they're seeing on the field and in the meeting room. The expectation is that the Bills will strive for the best level of consistency from the position they can attain - which is why most are penciling in Matt Cassel as the starter - but it's entirely possible Taylor gives them that this summer.
Regarding the Bills' quarterback position: it's probably best to keep an open mind through, say, mid-August. (Except where Jeff Tuel is concerned; it's pretty clear he's not going to be directly involved in the competition.)
Thanks for the questions this week, everybody! Remember to send in anything on your mind to email@example.com for next week's edition of the mailbag.