Looking toward the Bills' next season
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has begun to find his stride and needs to keep going
July is here. For many of us, summer is still in full swing, but for rabid football fans, the arrival of Bills training camp means it’s time to look toward fall. It’s the start of the third full season under the current regime of head coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane and it’s finally time for us to find out what these two men can do with a team built entirely in their own image.
There are just four players—Jerry Hughes, Shaq Lawson, Lorenzo Alexander, and LeSean McCoy—left on the roster from 2016, Rex Ryan’s last year in charge. The roster has been completely turned over. To get there, the Bills overachieved in 2017 by grabbing an unexpected playoff berth (and one that might have screwed up the team’s plans as they ended up trading up to draft Josh Allen). Then they suffered through last year’s cap jail, where nearly a third of their salary cap was dead money after the team cut and traded nearly every remaining piece of the previous regime, in order to give McDermott and Beane the flexibility to bring in “their” guys.
And did they ever. With something like $70 million to play with, McDermott and Beane brought in just under twenty free agents, which included rebuilding the offensive line led by Mitch Morse at center. And it was more than that. The team’s leadership has spent the past two seasons excising the team of players who didn’t fit their way of doing things and have brought in guys who “trust the process” and buy into the team’s culture. That’s a big deal, especially to McDermott, who might value character fits as much as schematic ones.
Ed Oliver more or less fell into the management team’s laps in the draft, filling the void left by Kyle Williams on the defensive line. Then we landed offensive lineman Cody Ford in the second round. Both players appear to slot in as impact players, and both will be given ample opportunity as starters in the 2019 season.
The Bills have the quarterback that they want as well. Allen had an up and down season in 2018, but ended on a high note. His arm was a bit inaccurate, as advertised, but his rushing ability was electric, and he was starting to find his stride in the passing game despite a dearth of targets to throw to. The team’s success in 2019 probably hinges more on him taking a step forward than anything else, but he’s the guy this team chose to ride with. They traded away assets to move up and select him when other options were available. He’s the guy and they need Allen to carry them to the promised land.
In short, it’s time for the Bills to put up or shut up; there are no more excuses. Expectations for this team nationally are all over the place but as of the end of the draft, you could still bet their wins total at six-point-five, meaning Las Vegas doesn’t think they’ll be much better, even if some prognosticators have applauded their offseason moves.
Sure, there are still holes, like a clear number one wide receiver, and there are questions about the ancient, creaky backfield, and who is going to play opposite Tre’Davious White at cornerback but, fundamentally, this is the team that the Bills braintrust wants to put on the field. Beane even said in the lead up to the draft that the Bills don’t have any glaring holes, but that means they won’t have many excuses if things go off the rails this season. The Bills also have the schedule lining up in their favor, with the ninth easiest strength of schedule. If you take out a week three game against the Patriots, they won’t see a top-tier quarterback until late October against Carson Wentz and the Eagles.
This team has everything lined up for it for once. All that is left is for the results to follow.