Week 1 of the regular season will be here very soon and the Bills are still answering some unknown questions. In this Full Press Coverage Buffalo Bills roundtable, Managing Editor Brandon Ray (@brandon_ray79) and Full Press Coverage Bills contributor Scott Bryk (@skotbrick1970) sit down and answer the bigger questions regarding the Bills for the beginning of the season. We also have a special guest by the name of Tony Finaldi who gives their input about the Bills upcoming season.

 

1.) Which rookie will provide the biggest impact for the Bills in 2018?

Finaldi:

I’m going with Harrison Phillips. This guy led Stanford in tackles as a nose tackle. He’s excellent against the run and I think he’ll make an immediate contribution especially being taken under Kyle Williams wing. His strength makes him an excellent 2-gap guy.

The popular choice is probably Tremaine Edmunds, who could be the starting middle linebacker Week 1 at the tender age of 20. He’s an absolute freak, and in my opinion, the best linebacker in the draft. He can go sideline-to-sideline with anybody.
Bryk:
I believe that other rookies will play better and even possibly great, but the question which rookie would have the most impact on the team goes hands down to Josh Allen. He will be starting by game six as the tough schedule and mediocre play by A.J. McCarron, who will present the opportunity” for the spark” of a QB change purely by his average quarterback play at best. So, if Allen goes in then and lights it up and the winning streak gets the Bills into the playoffs, that is a huge impact deserving of the title. If he goes in there and becomes an interception throwing machine, that also is very impactful. Everything that Allen does, says, where he goes and how he plays will be analyzed under a powerful microscope. He will not be able to go see a movie or grab a slice of Nino’s Pizza or Duff’s chicken wings without it being covered by Channel seven in Buffalo, NY. Let’s say he does not start a game at all this year which is absolutely not going to happen. But if he does not play, he is still the rookie most impacting the team by not playing with everyone wondering what he woiuld do if he were in there. This is his city to lose. Until he loses the town, everything he says, whispers, consumers, reads, texts is for the world to know. That my friends, impacts the team in a much bigger way that super stretch armstrong at linebacker could pull off. As Tony said weeks back. No safety will win 6 games for you. That said, A.J. McCarron Nathan Peterman or Josh Allencan win or lose games based on the smallest of detail.
Ray:
It has to be the guy who the Bills somehow snagged in the late teens in Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds was projected to be a top ten draft pick and the Bills put themselves in great position to get their linebacker of the future. At 20 years old, Edmunds has a long career ahead of him and can provide the biggest impact for a defense that desperately needs to be upgraded.

2.) With an open competition, who will be the QB under center in Week 1?

Finaldi:

This is a tough choice. If it’s a true open competition, then I think A.J. McCarron gets the job. He should show that he is more seasoned and quite simply, better at this point in his career. There is reason to think however, that if it’s close, and the Bills brass believes they will have the same prospects for success this year regardless of who is under center, then starting Josh Allen makes sense since he is the potential future, and going into the following season he will no longer be a rookie but have all those reps under his belt.

Bryk:

It would not totally astound me if all three quarterbacks do not differentiate themselves from one another in camp. Allen can turn heads with the zip on the ball and just effortlessly make those throws to the outside or across the field or thread the needle based on pure power making the ball difficult to pick off. That said, McCarron can use his experience and leadership, command of the huddle and he looked darn good the very little he was asked to fill in for Andy “Drought ender” Dalton. Nathan Peterman once past the jitters has proven he is not afraid to throw the ball.  He may need to be reeled in a bit being the opposite of Tyrod Taylor in that he has all the confidence in the world in being able to find the receivers and hit them. He was very NFL ready from what Jon Gruden and others had said.Then he was named the starter and things absolutely did not go well. They went awful if I must say.

So, all three quarterbacks have their strengths and glaring weaknesses.  If they all play dead even shining in their areas of strength and needing work in their areas of weakness, if McCarron has a slight advantage he will take the job heading in to the season and if he struggles during that tough stretch, I believe the announcement that currently Allen is number three, will be long changed and he will be holding the clipboard at number two and can be the starter by week 6.  So yes Allen, Peterman and McCarron all could be the starters being the pure talent of Allen, experience and leadership of AJ or smart quick timing plays by Peterman. As I circle the wagon and really established nothing except they all could be  the starter including if Josh Allen looks even remotely capable I would think his talent would give him the nod.  But I will stick with my original theory and McCarron is the starter until week six when Allen comes in to display his talents and what he learned about the NFL in training camp and throughout the first half dozen contests.

Ray:

I think the man who will be under center will be Josh Allen. Yes, I’ve never been the biggest Allen fan but he seems to bring more to the table than McCarron and Nathan Peterman. McCarron does have the experience, but he could not beat out Andy Dalton as the starter with the Bengals and we all know what Peterman is known for based on what happened against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Maybe starting a rookie right away is not the best option for the Bills, or is it? Allen is supposedly the future of the Bills. Carson Wentz started for the Philadelphia Eagles is rookie season, Andrew Luck was the starter right away for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. Allen will need to compete no doubt about it, but we could see #17 under center against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1.

 

3.)  Is Zay Jones poised for a breakout season after a disappointing 2017 season as well as his arrest in Los Angeles?

Finaldi:

Like most, I have my doubts about Zay Jones. Even prior to his arrest, let’s face it, he didn’t exactly blow anybody away. In fairness to him though, for most of the season, there was no threat on the other side of the field to take some of the pressure off of him and that’s asking a lot of a rookie. If they can use Kelvin Benjamin as a true number one, then that might open things up for Jones, in much the same way as Sammy Watkins did for Robert Woods.
Bryk:
I think Jones has everyone expecting him to have a breakout season as far as fans go.  I personally, as many college records as he holds, did not see flashes of things to come on the positive side. Now Eric Moulds did not show anything until he broke out in year 3 or 4 and I believe it was after one year of Jim Kelly, one of Todd Collins and then he broke out under Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie and then went crazy with Drew Bledsoe when Peerless Price was the speed wideout.  On the opposite end of things, we had the late James Hardy who was supposed to be that big power receiver that would just go up and get the ball in traffic. He never did have the breakout year. So after those two samples, my opinion is everyone expects him to break out this season, and I am not one of them. We do not know who will be throwing the football. The Bills have a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll. Three offensive linemen are being replaced. I just do not see the passing game in year one being precise enough to aid in a breakout season.
Ray:
The only way that Jones can improve his game majorly is by playing out of the slot. While Jones has the potential to grow into a serious threat, he doesn’t show signs of being a true #2 receiver with Benjamin. Jones owns the all-time receptions record in NCAA because he played out of the slot.
Jones can become a serious playmaker for the Bills passing game if he’s used correctly.

4.) Going into his second season as head coach, and the first coach this millennium to lead the Bills to the playoffs, do you believe Sean McDermott will be help to higher expectations now?

Finaldi:

I don’t think coach McDermott will be held to higher expectations. After all, he’s essentially playing with house money this year. In his first year, he took the Bills to the playoffs and ended the drought. This year, his cupboard is a little more bare and I think that he’s got even more leeway than his first draft picks on the defense and got some key free agents on that side of the ball. There are really no excuses not to have a top-notch defense especially given his pedigree.

Bryk:

The head coach has fans expectations through the roof. They need to remember how many players he got rid of last year and this year and how much youth he will have on the roster.  His team was not any better than the Doug Marone team that was 9-7 or even the 8-8 team with Rex Ryan. The difference was the Bill Parcells affect. What I mean by that is Bill Parcells would go to any team and next thing they were in the championship game of the playoffs or even the Super Bowl. Attention to detail, not being sloppy, belief in the team…all very little portions of coaching that when combined overcomes small things. So aside from Dalton helping the Bills, they still were in the situation to be in. The coaching staff has just a bit of attention to detail and positive reinforcement, belief resulting in the tackles being a little bit more aggressive and the running to the ball just a tad bit harder.  Those little tiny things in the NFL equivalated to wins. There is a reason that Marty Schottenheimer won everywhere he went. Not championships, but he won during the regular season and made playoffs and other years won divisions.

Crazy motivating coaches strictly may win one championship if they are in the right place at the right time. But solid fundamental “trust the process” type coaches who are disciplined, firm fair and consistent, well they can take a team over and win some games right away. They just tighten up some loose ends. I think the Bills will not be superior to last year some fans hope. But I believe they will sneak in the playoffs again and be prepared for the following year which is the breakout year of a 12-4 record.

Ray:

McDermott is definitely not on the hot seat heading into 2018. I don’t think he’s anywhere close it to exact. Although, he seems to have a better stable quarterback situation this season compared to last year. The defense did improve a lot through free agency and the draft.

A big fault that could hurt the Bills is the receiving core. This group of receivers does not look to a threat to opposing secondaries. While the Bills may stick to a run-first offense, the ball still has to be thrown. Whether it’s Allen or McCarron, they need weapons to make plays on the outside to get the Bills in position to light up the scoreboard. McDermott and Brandon Beane upgraded the Bills in different ways, making them both safe for now but there is still much more room for improvement.

 

5.) Before the start of the season, the biggest concern for the Bills is…

Finaldi: 

The offense in general is probably the biggest concern. Obviously, the quarterback position. The offense scored three points against Jacksonville in the playoffs. Much of that had to do with quarterback. But it also had to do with Rick Dennison. They are very thin at receiver, and at some point, relying on LeSean McCoy to carry the load will likely catch up to the team. Buffalo lost two key starters and leaders on the offensive line which will present some initial proing on Shady to carry the load will likely catch up to us.
Bryk:
Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line.  Enough said. It is not as easy as morning radio says just by bringing some guys in. That line gelled being why they ran the ball so well for so long. They did that without the other team fearing our passing game.
Ray:
The biggest concern has to be the wide receiver position. The Bills seem to have their number one guy on Benjamin but that’s really it. Jones does not belong in the #2 spot, he fits more in the slot position. The Bills are super weak at wideout, in which it was a surprise they did not attack the wide receiver market as much as they should have. Even though the ball is ran a lot in Buffalo, this is a passing league. The Bills might have their quarterback now, but it’s time to get the weapons on the outside.
Brandon Ray is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL and the Buffalo Bills. Follow him on Twitter at @brandon_ray79 and @FPC_Bills for Bills coverage. 
Scott Bryk is a contributing writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the Buffalo Bills. Follow him on Twitter at @skotbrick1970.
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