As training camp and the preseason fast approach, Buffalo Bills fans are filled with optimism for what the 2018 season has in store. With that optimism comes a focus on the players that could see an uptick in their productivity (John Miller perhaps) or continue their top-tier play (Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde, for example).
Unfortunately, I have to be Debbie Downer, because with the rise of some players will come the fall of others. Whether because of a lack of productivity or a decreased role, some Bills players are on the path to a sub-par 2018.
1. RB LeSean McCoy
First of all, as McCoy continues to fight allegations of robbery and assault, there is nothing as of this writing that indicates he will miss any playing time. However, as we have all seen in the past five years or so, Roger Goodell and the NFL office don’t necessarily need proof or charges brought against a player to make him miss games. Because of that and the Commissioner’s Exempt list, there is a chance Shady could miss some games, which is part of the reason he topped this list.
Aside from any possible legal troubles, McCoy is facing father time square in the eyes. Yes, Shady can shake any defender, including the unbeaten one, but he will eventually will be dragged down.
McCoy just turned 30 on July 12, and that seems to be the magic number for running backs falling off a cliff when it comes to production. Shady was a vital part of the Bills’ 2017 offense, and seemed like he had plenty left in the tank, but when running backs hit the wall, they hit it hard and with little warning. Injuries that could be played through begin to linger. That “Cut on a Dime” ability eventually won’t be quite as effective.
Couple those two factors in with an offensive line that is going through a major overhaul and it seems to add up for a regression in 2018 for #25.
2. Cornerback 2
By almost any measure, E.J. Gaines had a fantastic year in 2017 when he was on the field. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded out as an 86.6 and allowed only 90 yards after the catch.
Unfortunately, Gaines took his talents to the revamped Cleveland Browns, which left a fairly large hole opposite Tre’Davious White. Buffalo signed a well-known name in Vontae Davis, but even before his injury-plagued 2017 season, Davis was showing signs of decline. In 2016, when he played in 14 games, he had a PFF rating of 47.3, which ranked him 98 out of 109 qualifying corners.
If Davis stays healthy, the hope is he returns to the form of 2013-2015, but that is a big ask of the 30-year old. Even if he plays at an average level, that would still be a regression from the position when compared to what Gaines provided in 2017.
Gone is three-year starter Tyrod Taylor, who despite his shortcomings led the Bills to the playoffs for the first time this century. Some will argue the Bills will be better as an offense because one of the trio of Josh Allen, AJ McCarron, or Nathan Peterman will provide more aerial fireworks.
Not so fast.
The biggest area Bills fans can expect to see a regression is with turnovers from the signal caller position. In his three years, Taylor threw for 18 total interceptions. That’s a year for Eli Manning. If we take the average of six per season, and bump it up to the league average which falls between 11-12, that is an extra 5-6 possessions for opposing teams. With the style Buffalo currently plays, keeping games close and winning with the running game and defense, those lost possessions could pose a big problem.
In addition to a likely uptick in turnovers, the new signal caller will be inferior when it comes to mobility. Say what you want about Taylor, but he made plays with this legs that 90 percent of the QBs in the NFL couldn’t. Whether it be scrambling for first downs or making defenders miss in the backfield before finding a receiver downfield, Tyrod helped mask some issues the offensive line had in pass protection.