Will the extreme makeover pay immediate dividends?

September 5, 2019

Congratulations! You survived another NFL preseason.

With the way coaches were holding out starters and with a number of players not taking a single snap in any of the games, maybe this will be the last preseason we have to deal with. I’m sure none of you would shed a tear.

With meaningless football out of the way, we can now truly evaluate the 2019 Buffalo Bills.

The offseason was almost entirely about the offense and for good reason. The Bills have four new starters on the offensive line, two new starting wide receivers and entirely new groups at running back and tight end. That is a serious makeover. You don’t have to be a football genius to say the success or failure of the Bills season will depend on how the offense does.

There are reasons to feel optimistic going into Sunday’s opener against the New York Jets, but obviously the Bills have to prove they are a much improved offense.

The line should be better than it was last season, although there is some concern up front. First and foremost, Mitch Morse has to stay healthy. He was the big ticket pick up in the offseason and he should be a big part of that new look line making the Bills a better running team at the very least. I'm also worried about the lack of time the five starters got as a unit due to Morse and other player injuries as well as the shifting of rookie Cody Ford between guard and tackle. Head coach Sean McDermott didn’t rule out the possibility of doing that with Ford during the season.

So much for identifying the best five guys and playing them.

I bet you’re really excited, as am I, to see Cole Beasley and John Brown make their Bills debut. Beasley should be a huge addition for second-year quarterback Josh Allen. He’s very good at finding a soft spot against zone defenses and he can flat out beat people in man coverage due to his outstanding route running ability. Beasley has a very reliable pair of hands and is also adept at making plays in traffic. Allen and Beasley have already shown signs of developing a good chemistry. Brown is known for being a speed guy and deep threat but over the course of the summer he showed the ability to get separation on various other routes.

If Zay Jones takes another step in Year 3 and Robert Foster picks up where he left off in the second half of last season, the Bills will have their best group of wide receivers in a long time.

Speaking of a long time, the tight end position has been a problem spot for the Bills forever. It would be nice for them to get a legitimate threat at tight end and provide, yet, another weapon for Allen, in what we hope will be a real NFL passing offense.

An injury sidelined Tyler Kroft, and Lee Smith is here for his blocking so we shall see what a pair of rookies can do. Dawson Knox got off to a good start at camp before getting injured, but seventh round pick Tommy Sweeney opened some eyes with his performance. It's a big ask at this point since rookie tight ends don’t typically make a big impact and both players are down the list, in terms of pecking order for passing game options, but both bear watching to see how they develop.

The Bills were flat out awful when it came to running the ball last season. It isn’t a good sign when the quarterback leads the team in rushing but that was the case in 2018.

With LeSean McCoy’s departure, it appears the Bills will go with the running back by committee approach with Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon.

Gore has shown no signs of slowing down and provides the Bills with a strong north south runner. I’m not sure how many touches Yeldon will get. His role might be bigger as a pass catching back than a runner.

The "X factor" guy is Singletary, who general manager Brandon Beane was thrilled to get in the draft. Singletary is not a fast runner but he has shown good vision, decision making, cut back ability and quickness to this point. Once the Bills were sold on Singletary, it made it easier to release McCoy. I would expect Singletary to have the most carries by the end of the season.

The opener is a very good test for the Bills' offense. Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (yes, the former Bills head coach) usually puts together a strong defense and he will certainly have some exotic looks that could confuse a young quarterback. Allen will likely see a fair share of blitzes, so we will see if he’s made progress in terms of his decision making and ability to take what is being given.

The Jets cornerbacks look to be the weakest part of their defense, so hopefully Allen and company will make them pay. The Jets' defensive line, which includes guys like Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams and Steve McLendon, should be one of the better lines the Bills face all season.

This is also a big game as season openers go. The Bills and Jets both believe they can contend for a Wild Card spot, and this contest checks a number of boxes on the tie breaker list like head-to-head, division record and conference record.

1 p.m. on Sunday can’t come fast enough. Enjoy the football season everyone!