While NFL offenses as a whole are moving the ball and lighting up the scoreboard at a record-breaking pace, the Buffalo Bills boast a historically poor unit. There is no shortage of articles and tweets you can read about how awful the Bills' offense is.
With an emphasis on solidifying the defense last off season, Buffalo did virtually nothing outside of drafting Josh Allen to improve the offense. As head coach Sean McDermott requests the media and fan base to trust and respect the process, criticism is warranted for not doing more to better the infrastructure around a rookie quarterback.
With eight games remaining on the schedule, enduring hapless offensive production is inevitable for the Bills. There are no quick fixes coming - Buffalo is simply over-matched because of it's lackluster personnel. The hope is in what Buffalo can get done in the offseason to make things better. With 10 picks in the coming draft and projected to have over $90 million in cap space, Buffalo will have all the resources needed to invest in its offense.
Can a turnaround be done in one offseason? Not completely, but look at what the Chicago Bears accomplished this past offseason. After drafting QB Mitchell Trubisky in the first round in 2017, Chicago faced plenty of criticism during the season for his underwhelming supporting cast. Chicago fluttered offensively and finished the season ranked 30th in yards per game and 29th in points.
Growth from Trubisky, an upgraded coaching staff and the additions of WR Allen Robinson, WR Taylor Gabriel, TE Trey Burton, WR Anthony Miller and OL James Daniels have resulted in the Bears' boasting an offense currently ranked in the top-10 in both scoring and yards.
Buffalo is hoping for similar results and here are some of the ways and pieces Buffalo could add for it could be accomplished.
Believe it or not, I like Brian Daboll as the offensive coordinator. The results have been awful but I put very little blame on him for the output. In Jon Ledyard's recent piece on the Trials and Tribulations of Young Quarterbacks, he did a great job of summarizing why.
"I’ve watched a lot of the Bills passing game, and been pretty impressed with Brian Daboll’s offense so far. He’s scheming guys open and giving Allen easy reads, while also utilizing plenty of play action concepts, the quarterback’s biggest schematic strength in college."
I don't think Buffalo has a coaching issue at all. Daboll couldn't have been dealt a worse hand and it's hard to envision any other coordinator getting more out of Buffalo's personnel.
Growth From Young Talent
There aren't many offensive building blocks to be found on Buffalo's roster but they do have three: QB Josh Allen, WR Zay Jones and OT Dion Dawkins.
Betting on his exceptional physical tools, GM Brandon Beane identified Josh Allen as the guy to hitch his wagon to. Allen developing is the single-most important element to Buffalo turning its offense around. Given the growth needed, the elbow injury that Allen is currently dealing with is robbing him of valuable game experience. Hopefully he can be back on the field soon, get more exposure and be coached through his struggles to jump start the process. Allen's intangibles and work-ethic are unquestioned which is encouraging, but he has to get significantly better which is to be expected at this point.
Growth has already been evident from second-year wide receiver Zay Jones. The Bills traded up for Jones in the second round and his rookie season was dreadful. With that said, he is only 2 catches away from matching his 2017 total in 7 less games. He's one of the few Bills receivers capable of creating separation and has the ceiling to continue his development into a top-3 option on a solid NFL offense.
Dawkins, Buffalo's other 2017 2nd round pick, has been outstanding since replacing Cordy Glenn last season in Week 3. He is developing into a quality left tackle and has the makings of a long-term stalwart on the unit.
Allen, Jones and Dawkins' development is critical to fixing the Bills' offense.
Bolstering the offense with known commodities to insert around the younger talent is something we can expect from Buffalo this offseason. 37 percent of the Bills' current roster is made up of rookies or second-year players so adding more veterans to the mix is necessary. Who could be available for the Bills to sign with its $90+ million in cap space? Here are the options slated to be free agents that I think are attractive.
- Rodger Saffold, Rams - Saffold has spent the last 9 seasons in the Rams organization and turned 30 in June. He would immediately upgrade the Bills' interior offensive line and is arguably a top-15 guard in the league.
- Matthew Paradis, Broncos - Paradis is 29 and one of the league's best centers. He would come at a steep price but it's nothing Buffalo couldn't work in given its available space.
- Ju'Wuan James, Dolphins - James has been a solid starter but has dealt with some injuries since becoming Miami's first-round pick in 2014. At 26 years old, James could lock down Buffalo's right tackle position.
- Daryl Williams, Panthers - Williams enjoyed a breakout 2017 season before suffering a preseason knee injury that has derailed his 2018 season. Beane/McDermott are familiar with Williams and he could come at a discount given his injury. He has long-term starting potential if he can build on his 2017 campaign.
- Trenton Brown, Patriots - Brown is a gigantic blocker with ridiculous length and good mobility for his size. He'll be 26 next season and is the current starting left tackle for New England after starting the previous 2 seasons on the right side for San Francisco.
- Others to Consider - Quinton Spain (Titans), Eric Kush (Bears), Mitch Morse (Chiefs), Ty Nsekhe (Redskins)
- John Brown, Ravens - Buffalo went after Brown last offseason but he opted to sign with Baltimore on a one-year prove it deal. On pace for 1,000 yards and averaging nearly 19 yards per catch, he's doing just that. This is the take-the-top-off the defense target Buffalo sorely needs.
- Tyrell Williams, Chargers - Williams has been a flashy, big play threat for Phillip Rivers. He has the size, speed and ball skills to become a quality starter in Buffalo.
- Devin Funchess, Panthers - A player Beane/McDermott are familiar with from Carolina, Funchess has illustrated steady growth throughout his career. He's enjoying the best season of his career as Cam Newton's go-to target.
- Others to Consider - Randall Cobb (Packers), Golden Tate (Eagles), Chris Hogan (Patriots).
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell and Raiders TE Jared Cook are other weapons who have some appeal but I don't believe Buffalo would have much interest in either.
If Buffalo could add two of those offensive lineman and at least one of the receivers, it would go a long way in turning the corner offensively.
Building the offense through the draft is the best way for Buffalo to engineer a sustainable unit with young talent. With 10 picks in the coming draft, Buffalo will have plenty of chances to add young offensive talent to the roster. With that said, the rising draft leans heavily in favor of defensive talent at the top of the draft. If Buffalo is on the clock in the early first round and can secure an elite defensive talent, Buffalo should not trade away from it or reach for an offensive player. Remember, Chicago used the No. 8 overall pick to draft LINEBACKER Roquan Smith before snagging WR Anthony Miller and OL James Daniels with it's next two picks.
Here are some potential Day 1/2 draft targets that could provide early returns. Each name is clickable to our player profile with scouting notes to learn more about them as players.
- Kelvin Harmon, NC State
- Collin Johnson, Texas
- JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
- Riley Ridley, Georgia
- N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
- A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Interior Offensive Line
- Dalton Risner, Kansas State
- Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
- Garrett Bradbury, NC State
- Jake Hanson, Washington
- Noah Fant, Iowa
- Kaden Smith, Stanford
- Irv Smith, Alabama
- TJ Hockenson, Iowa
- Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri