The Buffalo Bills—coming off their first playoff appearance in nearly two decades—are looking to build upon a promising season under first-year head coach Sean McDermott. Entering year two, McDermott will need to improve an offense that ranked 29th in the NFL in yards-per-game, at only 302.6. After trading their starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns and their left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals—the Bills’ offense will be completely different in 2018. Let’s take a look at the Bills offense, position by position.
Quarterbacks: Nathan Peterman, AJ McCarron, Josh Allen
The Bills jettisoned three-year starter Tyrod Taylor to the Browns early in the offseason, leaving them with uncertainty at the position. The Bills signed former-Bengal AJ McCarron and have Nathan Peterman—a fifth round pick from 2017 who infamously threw 5 interceptions in his first career start for the Bills after Tyrod Taylor’s brief benching. But the most intriguing quarterback on the Bills is rookie Josh Allen—whom the Bills selected with the 7th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft via a trade-up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Allen possesses tantalizing size at the quarterback position and is bigger, faster and stronger than almost every quarterback in the NFL. Whether Allen’s size and skillset will transfer to the NFL is a different story, however, and the Bills would be wise to keep him out of the starting lineup for as long as they can. Having Peterman and McCarron should allow them to do this in year one at the very least, but don’t be surprised to see Allen start at some point this season.
Running backs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Taiwan Jones, Tavaris Cadet, Patrick DiMarco (FB)
LeSean McCoy has been extremely solid for the Bills over the past two seasons, rushing for 2,405 yards and 19 touchdowns. He added 109 catches for 804 yards and 3 touchdowns over the same time period. Entering his age-30 season, the Bills will need McCoy to continue to be the driving force of their offense—even behind an offensive line that will likely struggle next season. Behind McCoy, the Bills have Chris Ivory, Taiwan Jones, Tavaris Cadet, and Patrick DiMarco to pave the way. With so much up in the air surrounding who will be under center for the Bills, the Bills will be counting on their running game to succeed.
Wide Receivers: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Ray-Ray McCloud, Brandon Reilly
The Bills have one of the weakest wide receiver corps in the league. In six games for the Bills last season, Kelvin Benjamin managed just 16 catches for 217 yards and 1 touchdown. Rookie Zay Jones in 15 games hauled in 27 passes for 316 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is not the production you want to see out of your top two receivers, regardless of who your quarterback is. The Bills didn’t address the position in free agency or until late in the draft, and will need Benjamin and Jones to take a huge step forward in 2018.
Tight Ends: Charles Clay, Nick O’Leary, Khari Lee, Logan Thomas
In three seasons with the Bills, Charles Clay has produced seasons of 528, 552 and 558 yards. Although unspectacular, whoever is under center for Buffalo will be relying on him to be a consistent presence on the offense. His production may see an increase with a new quarterback running the offense. Outside of Clay, Nick O’Leary played nearly as many snaps as Clay (613 to 593,) but managed only 22 catches for 322 yards last season. He likely won’t be featured much more than he has been previously, and is certainly a backup caliber tight end. Logan Thomas and Khari Lee will compete for time behind Clay and O’Leary.
Offensive Line: Dion Dawkins, John Miller, Russell Bodine, Vladimir Ducasse, Jordan Mills
Heading into 2018, the Bills’ offensive line looks like it might be one of the worst in the NFL. After trading Cordy Glenn, and losing Richie Incognito, Eric Wood and Seantrel Henderson, the Bills’ line was left in shambles. Dion Dawkins is a solid tackle—ProFootballFocus gave him a 74.5 overall grade (71.8 pass block, 79.5 run block,) which is good enough to start for most teams. Jordan Mills is a decent pass protector (76.8) but struggles in the run game (38.0.) Russell Bodine struggled last season, posting an overall grade of 46.8. Likely starter at guard John Miller had a 39.1 overall grade in 256 snaps excelling in pass protection (80.1) but struggling greatly with run blocking (30.1.) The Bills will need to upgrade their line before the season starts or their new quarterback—whoever that may be—will find himself in trouble more often than not.
Will the Bills be able to improve upon their 29th ranked offense in 2018? Or will they struggle in year two of Sean McDermott’s tenure as head coach? All of their potential starting quarterbacks are complete unknowns, and there won’t be much help on offense outside of LeSean McCoy unless Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones step up. I find it hard to believe the Bills will return to the playoffs in 2018 with the talent they currently have on offense, but one of Peterman, McCarron or Allen may surprise us.