2018 Buffalo Bills Recap
The Bills finished the 2018 Season with a 6-10 record, but the Bills aren’t too far away from making serious progress and being a contender for years to come. I breakdown the state of each position group one by one, along with the coaching staff and possible offseason plans.
This team will only go as far as Josh Allen will take them. I’ll be the first to admit this past season has been a whirlwind of emotions at the quarterback position. I wasn’t sold on the Josh Allen selection this past April. Very few quarterbacks are able to improve upon their completion percentage from collegiate level to the NFL. In today’s NFL, it’s all about efficiency, and completing 65% of passes is just a small part of that. For what he lacks in accuracy, he makes up for it in his running ability. Obviously, Allen will need find ways to win from the pocket and cannot scramble his entire career. I like the Bills resigning Matt Barkley to a two year deal. Barkley will be a solid backup and should defiantly be able to relate to Allen about the hype and pressure that comes with being a big time quarterback. Derek Anderson was also resigned, but don’t be shocked if he doesn’t make team coming out of training camp. Most teams don’t carry a third quarterback and I expect the Bills to do the same.
The lack of a consistent running game really hurt the Bills this year. Some of the blame should be placed on the subpar play of the offensive line, but guys like Beane and Daboll should have some of the blame fall on their shoulders as well. LeSean McCoy is a great running back, however, his time here in Buffalo may be up. Yes, the Bills have repeatedly said that McCoy is in their 2019 plans, but to me it sounds a lot like “we’re willing to move him for the right price”. In an age where teams are getting younger across the board, the Bills buck that trend when you look at the backfield. McCoy, Ivory, and Murphy are all older than 27 and Murphy is the only one still in his twenties. The Bills will have their pick from several players to add to this group this offseason whether it’s from the draft or free agency.
Nearing the top of the Bills’ offseason wish list will be retooling the Wide Receivers. The options the Bills rolled out for most of the season just cannot cut it at this level. The development of Josh Allen is all too important to not give him the proper players around him. At this time, the Bills, in my eyes, don’t have a number one wideout. Currently, the free agent market doesn’t provide a clear cut number one option, but several players have the ability to make real contributions on their new teams. Guys like Tyrell Williams and Adam Humphries are just two names to keep an eye out for. Additionally, whoever the Bills bring in whether it’s during free agency or the draft, should complement current Bills such as Zay Jones, Robert Foster, and even Ray-Ray McCloud. None of those names exactly jump off the page, which clearly articulates my point on how the Wide Receiver room needs some serious attention.
Moving on to the Tight End group. The collection of Charles Clay, Jason Croom, and Logan Thomas is underwhelming, and should be a focus of the Bills this offseason. It’s no secret that young Quarterbacks, like Allen, need to rely on big bodies to throw across the middle. Charles Clay will be due roughly $9 million next year, which is second most on the team according to contract website Sportrac.com. That is an outrageous amount of money for a player who is past their prime and also only had 21 catches for less than 200 yards during the 2018 season. Jason Croom has the ability to be a reliable backup in the league, but in no way should be be expected to take full control of the position group. Logan Thomas has also likely played his last down for the Bills, as they can find other cheaper, younger, and more versatile players to be the third Tight End.
The offensive line is a work in progress, but could be very easily be fixed this offseason. I believe the Bills only have two starting lineman currently on the roster (Dawkins and Wyatt). That leaves the Center, Right Guard and Tackle to be determined during camp. The Bills have John Miller, who is an unrestricted free agent who they could resign if they want. Miller should have a small market for him given his age, experience, and his run blocking ability. Jordan Mills, could also be resigned, but I truly believe the Bills will look to upgrade that position either during the draft or free agency. Mills is decent, but not great, and that fact makes it very easy to comprehend why the Bills may want to look elsewhere. Ryan Groy and/or Russell Bodine could be brought back into camp, but only to compete for their starting job or to be a reserve lineman. Similar to Mills, I think it’s too easy to upgrade that position, so it would once agin probably make the most sense if they just moved on.
Kyle Willams’ retirement leaves the Bills a big hole to fill. Thankfully, the Bills have Harrison Phillips in waiting, who should take over the starting role next to Star Lotulelei. Furthermore, players like Jordan Phillips should also be able to play in a reserve role once again. Lotueleli and Harrison Phillips may not be able to provide the pass rush the Bills need or want from the position, and they may look elsewhere to fill that need. Lastly, Shaq Lawson could bounce inside to help provide supplemental pass rush if both Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes return to their starting roles on the outside as well. I would like to see the Bills draft a player on the defensive line to help provide some depth and add another element teams have to account for. That said, free agency may not be able to produce the needed results at a reasonable price tag. Possibly looking to the draft, maybe the third or fourth round could give the player the Bills need to help push this group over the edge.
From a leadership standpoint, the Bills really need to have Lorenzo Alexander return. Having Alexander back in the mix and playing him in a reduced role next to Edmunds and Milano would be a dream situation for the Bills. Early reports after the season ended indicated mutual interest between the two for a possible return. I fully expect the Bills and Alexander to work something out. If he was brought back, Alexander could probably play 20-25 snaps a game, mostly in pass rushing situations. If Alexander plays in a reduced role, the Bills will need another starter in the works. Guys like Stanford and Thompson provide solid depth options for the Bills, but will most likely need one more given the retooling of he special teams.
Similar to many other positions, Cornerback is no different. The Bills have talent, mostly just Tre White and Taron Johnson, but guys like Levi Wallace and Ryan Lewis also provided a spark when called upon. Overall, this group is a little on the young side for me, and I fully expect the Bills to look for a veteran during the offseason. Someone needs to step up and play opposite of White and as of right now, I’m not sure if that player is on the Bill's’ roster. Maybe Levi Wallace can assume that role, but the sample size is just too small to take that sort of risk in today’s NFL. If he ends up winning the job in camp, so be it, but in the meantime, the Bills should really try and add another player just in case.
Both Micha Hyde and Jordan Poyer are pillars in this defense, and by all accounts should continue to be. I really like the versatility and grit these guys bring. This group does however have significant depth issues. Siran Neal and Dean Marlowe may not be the most reliable options if either Hyde or Proyer went down for an extended period of time. On the other hand, Rafael Bush proved he can be a decent backup, but I have some questions regarding if he’ll be able to keep his step as he ages. If he ends up losing a step or two, that will spell trouble for the Bills if they don’t address the depth in the offseason. Expect the Bills to at least kick the tires with other veterans or another late round draft pick.
This year’s special teams were just atrocious. Stephen Hauschka was the only bright spot until he was injured on a cheap play, which negatively affected his ability to kick the ball. Hauschka converted on just 78% of his kicks, but I think he would have made two of his week 16 and 17 misses, which would have improved his field goal percentage up to 85%. Corey Bojorquez will most likely be the Bills punter during the 2019 season, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bills brought in someone else to compete for the starting job. Lastly, Special Teams coordinator, Danny Crossman needs to be fired. His unit was a weak point for the Bills and that is not the phase you allow teams to beat you in.
Overall, I think Sean McDermott is the coach this team and fan base needs. His defensive background brought the Bills back to prominence, finishing the year with a top-5 defense. If he is able to add another piece or two on that side of the ball, that unit should be just as good, if not better next year and years to come.
Brian Daboll led the Bills to the 31st best offense in the game, but look at the talent he had to work with. Derek Anderson simply just couldn't play during the games he needed to start, and depth at the offensive line, wide receivers, and tight end were all questionable. On top of that, by far and away the Bills best option at quarterback, was a player everyone knew was raw coming out of college and needed to sit for a year to be adequately brought up to speed. Instead, the Bills were forced to play Allen, which ended up not being the worst case in the world. It could have been much much worse, believe it or not.
Defensively, Coach Frazier should get credit for leading that side of the ball to a top-5 level. However, having his play calling abilities pulled for part or the rest of the season should still be used against him. The Bills defense is good, but they were gashed during some games against the run. That will need to be fixed if Coach Frazier sticks around, or if he gets another crack at being a head coach elsewhere in the league.
As of now, the Bills have nine unrestricted free agents. That list is headlined by Lorenzo Alexander and John Miller, and Jordan Mills, but everyone else are role and situational players. Theoretically, the Bills will not have any issue resigning people they want largely due to the fact they have approximately $88 million in salary cap space. That is third best in the entire league and I fully expect the Bills to be big players this offseason. Most teams try and take a shot at a Super Bowl run when their quarterbacks are still on their rookie deal. It seems as if the stars are aligning just as Beane and McDermott envisioned it a few years back. That needed two things: get a franchise quarterback and fix the roster constructed under Ryan and Whaley.
Throughout this offseason, we will continue our coverage of the Bills with blogs about free agent predictions and signings, pre and post draft coverage, and any other news surrounding the Bills and the rest of the NFL.