Before we start with this Bills question and answer with Mike Tanier, one of our country’s finest football analysts, I want to remind you that the Football Outsiders 2016 Almanac is now available if you're interested. It’s worth the money.
Now, onto the questions...
Buffalo Rumblings: Which pass-catcher on the Bills roster is best suited for the No. 3 WR spot and why?
Mike Tanier: I was very high on Dez Lewis after the Senior Bowl in 2015 and am glad to hear he had a great offseason after a lost rookie year. He has the leaping ability and body control to be an excellent deep threat. The No. 3 receiver in Greg Roman's system won't catch 75 passes. He needs to draw coverage and force safeties to account for him. He has to be able to generate 2-catch, 55-yard-type stat lines.
I thought Kolby Listenbee was overrated by the cool kids on Draft Twitter, but if he gets healthy (he was hurt when I visited the Bills) he has the skills of a situational deep threat. Marquise Goodwin is still the fastest human I have ever seen close up, and I covered a little international track and field. I love rooting for him, but I don't think he will ever be dependably healthy.
BR: Should the Bills incorporate more screen passes to Sammy Watkins in 2015 based on the awesome YAC ability he displayed in college?
Tanier: They should, once they create a situation in which he is not drawing the attention of the entire defense. It's hard to create "plays in space" for a player who is always going to command a top cornerback, usually with a safety over top of him.
BR: How should we expect LB Zach Brown to play in 2016?
Tanier: I think he's over his head now that he is a likely starter with Reggie Ragland's injury. He's been an adequate nickel linebacker in the past. He would have looked a lot better replacing Ragland in obvious passing downs.
BR: What part of Tyrod Taylor’s game could improve the most and which is the most vital for him to take the proverbial next step?
Tanier: Progressing down to the second and third reads is key for him. Taylor can throw strikes to his primary receiver, and once he is running he can either gain yardage himself or find receivers in playground situations. He needs to smoothly check away from that first read and get the other targets involved. The Bills were obviously impressed by his classroom progress (I am writing this on the day Taylor's extension was announced), so that's a positive sign. Quarterbacks do often progress in this area after a season or two's worth of starts. Ben Roethlisberger started as a one-read-and-run guy and slowly developed into much, much more.
BR: What should we expect from a healthy LeSean McCoy in 2016?
Tanier: Big plays on runs to the outside and screens. Too much dancing and bouncing outside on plays designed to go up the middle. McCoy should always playing with a complementary power back at this point in his career, though that big-play capability still makes him a 20-touch player.