Facing a steep challenge in the AFC East, the Bills stocked their defense in the draft. Evan Majewski examines the Buffalo Bills offensive outlook by taking stock of their roster and seeing how the pieces fit with a Tyrod Taylor in his second year as the starting quarterback.
Coming into the 2015 season, the Buffalo Bills switched to the power offense after hiring former 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Roman’s playbook is run heavy, using play action concepts, and relying on efficient passing. It was obvious that the new offensive coordinator was committed to the running attack in 2015, finishing first in rushing yards and 28th in passing yards.
Second-year starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor is looking to take Roman’s offense to the next level, as he will be asked to do more this season. Taylor displayed a skill set that can be built upon with experience. He has above average arm strength, delivers the ball with accuracy, and provides athleticism at the quarterback position. He has shown that he makes fast and smart decisions with the football. However, look for Taylor to develop as a game-manager and passer as he develops mentally and technically as a quarterback. Roman would like to open the passing game a bit more through Taylor and give him more freedom in the offense. Mix in Taylor’s dangerous play-making ability, and we could see a nice progression and a solid season from him, perhaps earning himself a nice long-term contract before the 2017 season.
To go along with their dynamic passer, the Bills have been able to put together a very solid running back corps, led by veteran LeSean McCoy. McCoy’s elusiveness and play-making ability will wear out defenses, as it has for years. Some are concerned with his age and workload, but McCoy is still a dangerous player with the ball in his hands. Don’t expect him to post huge numbers, but he should continue to make a difference as the lead back. Second-year player Karlos Williams, who rushed for 517 yards and seven touchdowns in a strong rookie season, will complement McCoy using his strong, explosive, and downhill style to finish off defenses late in games. Williams has great speed and balance for his size (6’1” 230 pounds), and he is able to use contact to his advantage. Fifth round pick Jonathan Williams from Arkansas could work out to be a late-round steal, as his stock fell because of a foot injury. Williams showed he had one-cut quickness and balance to perhaps be effective at the next level. Add Taylor’s speed and rushing ability into the equation, and the Bills could finish among the top of the league in rushing once again.
Led by left tackle Cordy Glenn, who agreed to a long-term deal this offseason, the Bills will have the same look at offensive line. Glenn allowed only four sacks in 2015, and has proven he is one of the top players at LT in the league. The 2015 signing of veteran guard Richie Incognito capped off a very solid left side, which excelled under Roman’s scheme. Coming into his ninth year, Eric Wood looks to solidify the line at center. Don’t be surprised if Buffalo looks to add a veteran free agent to plug into the young right side in order to use both sides of the field in a more balanced fashion.
Number 1 receiver Sammy Watkins looks to come back healthy from his recent foot surgery and lead the receiving group. The health of Watkins seems to be the make-or-break factor for Buffalo’s offense, as he has displayed the ability to be a star. Watkins runs crisp routes and beats coverage with ease using his explosiveness in and out of breaks, and has a special ability to track the football. After the catch, the gifted receiver uses his speed and vision to become a home-run threat on every play. Robert Woods will serve as the number 2 receiver, as he looks to have a productive season in the final year of his contract. Woods also runs good routes while excelling in the intermediate part of the route tree. When healthy, he has shown he can be a solid complementary receiver with the ability to get open at critical times. With nagging injuries in 2015, look for Woods to be a bit more productive in 2016. Buffalo’s third receiving spot is open for grabs going into training camp. Veteran receivers Jarrett Boykin, Greg Little, and Leonard Hankerson all look to solidify themselves in the rotation, along with second-year player Dezmin Lewis who perhaps has the upside to prove himself this preseason. A top heavy receiving corps will allow number 1 tight end Charles Clay to be a primary target for Taylor, and he could have a big season for the Bills. Clay is effective in both the running and passing game, serving as an above-average run blocker and great receiver. He also has excellent athleticism for a tight end, and uses it to get open. His unique run-after-the-catch ability for a tight end can make defenders miss in the open field. With Roman’s two and three tight end packages, backups Jim Dray and Chris Gragg will be mostly used in the running game.
Roman and a healthy Buffalo Bills offense have a solid core to build game plans around. In his second year as a starter, the progression of Taylor will be a large factor in the balance and overall effectiveness of the Bills offense. Most predict Buffalo’s running game to be reliable, but a more productive passing game will take this offense much further in 2016.