Formerly of ESPN, NFL analyst Matt Williamson came out with his offseason “State of the Buffalo Bills” address this week and he cautions fans of the team about the drive to the playoffs and breaks down each position group. Of particular concern to Williamson is the aging running back room and the wide receiver corps.
“Yes Bills fans, your team went to the postseason last year, but it wasn’t a playoff roster,” says Williamson. “Only six teams ended the regular season with a better turnover differential. Can that keep up? The Bills benefited from a very weak conference as well as excellent coaching, which of course is very exciting going forward. But the rebuild is still in [effect].”
On that, most would agree including general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott, who both said as much in the last few weeks. Buffalo had a very negative point differential in 2017, as well. It’s one of the reasons they traded Tyrod Taylor and revamped the front-seven. One glaring area of need is at wide receiver, where Buffalo lost Sammy Watkins last offseason and Deonte Thompson and Jordan Matthews this offseason.
Zay Jones and his 27 receptions are the highest returning figure in the group. Kelvin Benjamin caught just 16 passes in his six games. Andre Holmes and his 13 catches are back. That’s it. A combined 56 catches for 653 yards and six touchdowns is coming back to the wide receiver group.
Surely, some of that can be blamed on former QB Tyrod Taylor and some of it can be blamed on former offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, but those stats are alarming to say the least.
“The Bills group of pass catchers is also extremely worrisome. Zay Jones just had a run-in with the law and as of this writing; we don’t know how his availability. But Jones, after only one year, looks much more like a role player than featured receiver. Jones played the most snaps of any Bills receiver in 2017. Buffalo traded for Kelvin Benjamin and he certainly makes some plays, but he moves poorly and by no means is a top dog in an NFL passing game. Benjamin’s contract also expires after this upcoming season. Charles Clay is a fine receiver and can cause some mismatches. His 558 yards were the most by a Bills receiver last year. That trio along with Andre Holmes is one of the least impressive groups of receiving options in the league. No Bills wide receiver caught more than 27 passes in 2017. Think about that for a minute.”
Oh we’ve thought about it for longer than that.
If Buffalo is going to invest in a rookie passer, they could be following the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears models. Get the QB then surround him with talented free agents in Year 2. Buffalo has the cap space to do it in 2019, for sure.
We know now that Jones won’t be disciplined by the team for his L.A. incident, but the rest of Williamson’s concerns are valid and the free agent wide receivers don’t look too appealing. Hopefully Buffalo can keep some draft capital for the position.