At the conclusion of Friday’s practice, the Buffalo Bills have officially made it through a week of preparation in the 2016 regular season. The Bills have a matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on tap, in what should be a pivotal game for them against a Wild Card contender for the AFC playoffs.
After taking in the full week at One Bills Drive, I’ve got seven Bills thoughts to offer up. And hey, just for good measure, three other random musings, too:
7 Bills Thoughts
1) Bills’ silence on Seantrel is deafening
- A feel-good story for offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson quickly disappeared once it was reported that he was facing a four-game suspension for usage of marijuana — in what the player’s agent told ESPN was used for medical purposes to treat his battle with Crohn’s disease. I’ve made my initial thoughts on it pretty well known, thinking this is just another tone deaf move by the NFL, especially considering some of their recent decisions over the past several years. More so than that, I found a specific angle of this to be pretty interesting: the Bills overall lack of response to the story in any capacity. When Rex Ryan was asked about it on Wednesday, he wouldn’t go anywhere near the discussion, offering up next to nothing as a response. Once again, when the suspension was announced, Rex Ryan said that he’d stand by the league’s statement — which in essence, was just making it known that Henderson was suspended — which is also an essential non-comment. Furthermore, in the team’s press release, the Bills didn’t offer a statement — even though they did so in both the case of Karlos Williams and Marcell Dareus. Even when asked about it by the media in both cases, Rex Ryan had more to say than what he offered up on the Henderson situation. The lack of comment, in this case, really feels as though its in silent support of their offensive tackle. Henderson’s agent went off on the NFL, and in my mind, rightfully so. However, as good as it would have been for the Bills to stand in support of Henderson with public comment, but they also have to play the game a little bit. A silent protest, or perhaps a protest behind closed doors, might do more for their cause than anything. So yes, while the Bills lack of comment initially seems odd, it certainly doesn’t seem that way when you weigh all the evidence.
2) Is Wood’s restructuring a precursor for Gilmore?
- According to Field Yates at ESPN, the Bills were busy at work with the interior of their offensive line. Yates reported that the Bills not only restructured starting center Eric Wood’s contract, but that they extended reserve interior lineman Patrick Lewis’ deal through the 2017 season. We’ll stick with the news about Wood, since that’s the more relevant to the bigger picture. With that restructure, it will save the Bills a reported ~$2.5 million on the 2016 salary cap, and according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, brings the team’s current cap room to over $12 million. There is an obvious question there: What are the Bills clearing cap room for? The Bills have only one notable free agent remaining to speak of: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore. However, I think he’ll need to prove to be more of a playmaker in the regular season if he’s going to get the type of money (think Josh Norman) that he and his representation likely thinks that he’s worth. However, if the Bills wanted to re-sign him, they now have the flexibility to do so. Even if they don’t spend it on Gilmore, they can roll over all that cap room into 2017, especially seeing as how Tyrod Taylor’s jump in cap hits comes into play. In 2016, his cap hit (all according to Spotrac.com) is $6.92 million, and that number jumps up to $15.9 million in 2017.
3) Bills winning the Super Bowl in 2016?
- Do I have your attention? And no, that wasn’t a typo. Sam Monson, an analyst over at ProFootballFocus.com that does fantastic work, went out on a pretty interesting limb when the entire staff was asked for Super Bowl predictions. Here’s a snippet:
“Anybody can tell you that the Packers or the Patriots will win the Super Bowl, and I’m guessing many of my colleagues have, but I want to go for the big-money pay off. The Oakland Raiders have become too popular, but when you go to the long-odds teams, the one with the shot to make something special happen, to me, is Buffalo.”
So, Super Bowl winners? No, I think that’s a little too lofty — though I respect the mindset in trying to hit a home run as opposed to just doing what everyone else is doing. I do, however, think this collection of players and coaches can put together a season to push for the playoffs. If 10 wins will do it and get a team into the playoffs, I think they are completely capable of that win total, considering all the talent they have on the roster — specifically on offense. Count me in for playoff talk, Sam, but Super Bowl talk is where I’ll fold my hand. Much respect, though.
4) The new Kyle Williams
- When the Bills get to their game on Sunday, I think one of the more underrated storylines to track for this roster will be what we’re going to see out of Kyle Williams. He has been a stalwart on the defensive line for such a long time, that immediately you think to yourself “Oh, Kyle Williams? He’s a really good player that can make big plays.” However, there is at least a brief moment to hesitate this year for two incredibly real factors: First, he is coming off a significant knee injury which can never be ignored, and especially when you consider the next part. Second, is a 33-year-old defender, and eventually, the decline in abilities has to come at some point — that’s just life in the NFL. It’s certainly a big year for him, too — and he needs to show well. Williams still has two years left on his deal, but if the Bills wanted to release him following the upcoming season, they would save nearly $7 million on the 2017 salary cap. So, keep an eye on No. 95 and see if he’s still the same guy we’ve come to know over the years. If he struggles, then keep these facts in mind.
5) The backup RB share
- One of the more popular questions Bills fans — and fantasy football players, too — have is about what will happen past LeSean McCoy. He is the clear cut No. 1 running back on the roster, and he will be getting a pretty large workload in regards to total touches in Greg Roman’s offense. So, which of Mike Gillislee and Reggie Bush will be the main backup? My answer: Both of them will. At this point in their careers, Gillislee and Bush excel in different areas. For Gillislee, he’s the better runner between the tackles. For Bush, he’s a much better pass catching option — and there’s the looming concern from the coaches that they want to keep him fresh for punt returns and when he is out there on offense. So, to the fantasy football crew, I’d probably steer clear of both guys for the time being. Essentially, it’s two different guys in one role right now — the volume just isn’t there. But from a team perspective, that works out quite well to have three capable backs.
6) Bush in punt return trouble?
- I found the signing of wide receiver Brandon Tate to be a fairly curious one, considering that they brought Reggie Bush in to be the man that fielded all the punt returns for them. Tate has been a notable punt and kick return specialist for the Cincinnati Bengals over the last five seasons, so bringing him in might suggest the Bills are in some way unhappy with their returners at the present moment. Bush hasn’t done anything to stand out in that role during both practice and the preseason games, but that might be more in the way of knocking off rust and not wanting to get hurt. Either way, I’ll be especially interested to see if Tate is active on Sunday. If he is, you could see him back there earlier than anyone would have expected.
7) All eyes on the right side of the OL
- There’s no questioning the Bills left side of the offensive line. Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, and Eric Wood are three solid starting commodities in the NFL. It’s the right side of the line that needs to prove quite a bit in 2016. Second-year player John Miller will be the starter at right guard once again, and there is at least some optimism that he’ll improve off of a poor rookie campaign. Miller, as the Bills have noted several times, was injured for much of the season and is now healthy. Additionally, Miller had an incredible personal struggle last year, learning of the death of his mother while over in London last year, which you can’t help but think weighed on his mind during last season. Miller will have a stiff test in the first week of the season against a good Ravens defensive line. At right tackle Jordan Mills will have to show well, because the Bills are fairly happy with third-year player Cyrus Kouandjio. The former second-round pick started to inspire some confidence from the coaching staff in him after how well he played in place of the injured Glenn at left tackle. If Mills gets off to a slow start like he did in 2015, Kouandjio is most definitely an option.
3 Other Musings, Too
1) Carolina’s convenient concussion protocol
- It was pretty alarming late in the game of the Carolina-Denver contest. Cam Newton was absolutely rocked by the Denver defense with a clear helmet-to-helmet hit, with under just one minute to play while the Panthers were down by one point. Newton stayed on the ground and rolled around a bit before getting up and staying on the field. However, if the game is taking concussions more seriously as they say they are, then how in the world does Newton not get evaluated for a suspected concussion after that hit? We see that being the case at all other times, but why not there? Believe me, I read all the takes about the potential outrage of taking him out of the game only to find that there was no concussion. The point is, even if you suspect it, wouldn’t the league want to ensure their player’s safety above all else — regardless of who it is, when it is, and what the situation is? Is Newton a huge draw to the game? Sure he is, but from a humanistic standpoint, I’d rather see him get checked for a potential brain injury than take another chance of him getting his brain rocked by a Denver defense again. Or maybe that’s just me.
2) CFB slate is a dud, but FCS offers the best game
- If you look over the college football schedule this weekend, there aren’t any games that standout between a pair of ranked teams. In fact, the FBS division is pretty ho hum. But, allow me to make a pitch for FCS, because there is a whopper of a game on the way Saturday afternoon. The top team in the land, North Dakota State — the school that just brought us Carson Wentz, who is now starting for the Philadelphia Eagles at quarterback — is up against No. 8 Eastern Washington in a huge non-conference battle. And Eastern Washington, with a high-powered passing attack, could give North Dakota State a pretty good game. It’s at 3PM on ESPN3. Give it a look if you’re bored of the major college football.
3) Train-wreck — and can’t miss — television at its finest
- I had the esteemed pleasure of finishing up Bachelor in Paradise this week, and my oh my… it’s so cringeworthy that you just can’t turn away. I am here to admit it: I, Joe Buscaglia, am an avid Bachelor series watcher. I understand if this directly harms our friendship — I really do. Sometimes, with shows like that, it’s just good to log off the brain for an hour or two and laugh at some of these nonsensical situations. I’m sure I’m not alone here in watching that show, so I’ve got a Bachelor In Paradise power take for you: Of the three engaged couples, I think the one that has the best chance of lasting is our favorite cringe-inducing erectile dysfunction specialist Evan and his formerly stiff-arming (of him) fiancée Carly. I base that solely on the edited down programs, and have no other basis for this opinion. Reality television, folks.
Bob your head to this: Descendent Of The Stars by Action Bronson
I know you aren't planning on wearing those shorts out of the house, young lady. pic.twitter.com/sP14rtYVJ0
— chaps (@UncleChaps) September 6, 2016
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