Taking a look back at the Bills “defensive” approach to the off-season

Photo of Brandon Beane and QB Josh Allen (background) from clutchpoints.com.

It’s week nine in the NFL season, and with the Bills sitting at 2-7 the pitchforks are officially out in Buffalo. According to some because the Bills have a “defensive” coach, they simply “ignored the offense”. Yes, the Bills did focus most of their limited resources on defense but there are reasons why. Not to mention they found several pieces (Matt Milano, Taron Johnson, Harrison Phillips, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde) at bargain prices.

The Bills knew they were going to draft their future franchise quarterback. Combine that with yet another new Offensive Coordinator and scheme, and it’s going to be a process (yes, I wrote THAT word). The defense was much closer to a finished product and while bringing along a young quarterback and rebuilding the offense, the defense has to be competitive to keep the team in games.

This season is about the development of young players, everyone at One Bills Drive is on the same page with their plan. It was laid out to ownership from the beginning. Finally making the playoffs and breaking the dreaded drought was great but it seems to have given fans an unrealistic approach to where this team should stand. Make no mistake about it, the Bills are in the tear down stage of a rebuild.

Going back to free agency, offensive players were at a premium. Quarterbacks and receivers were awarded big contracts the Bills couldn’t offer. Offensive line options were also limited. The Bills also lost two of their starting lineman due to injury. They may have been able to find a better replacement for Eric Wood given the time frame but you have to factor in the financial situation. Richie Incognito didn’t “retire” until mid-summer, which left another gap to fill and limited cap space to do it.

Photo of DT Star Lotulelei from NewYorkUpstate.com.

On the surface it looks like they handed out big contracts to their free agent acquisitions Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy, but those two players only account for roughly $11 million in cap hits for 2018. The Bills chose to take on the majority of their dead cap figure (roughly $58 million) in 2018 versus spreading it out and limiting themselves in the future.

It takes more time and resources to build an offense because offensive talent is at a premium. Several positions now on offense around the league are receiving record breaking contracts. There is also less offensive talent to go around. Yes, the Bills did take a defensive approach in the off-season but they have not forgotten about the offense.

General Manager Brandon Beane spoke openly about addressing the offense in a recent interview with Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. The Bills know they need to bring in talent on offense and they set themselves up to do it with $90 million in cap space and ten draft picks in 2019.

As ugly as this season is, it could actually help the Bills going forward, especially if they end up with a top-ten first round pick. There are several approaches to building an offense and it’s up for debate when a young quarterback should be brought in versus the pieces around him.

Photo of QB Josh Allen from sportingnews.com.

With their potential franchise quarterback in place, the Bills now have the freedom to build around Josh Allen. Brandon Beane is now on the other end of the spectrum by not needing to move up to take a quarterback, he can stay put on their pick or trade down to collect more assets. Aside from how Josh Allen turns out, this off-season is critical for the future of this regime.

Mistakes were made, but it’s still too early to be thinking about handing out pink slips. Let’s not forget Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott are new to their roles and should get some kind of room for error. There is no regime in the NFL past or present that has had a 100% success rate when building a roster. Going forward, the thing to look for is if they learn from their mistakes. With all the resources they have for 2019 and beyond there will be no more excuses.

Editor’s babble: It’s easy to say during the preseason that we should keep our expectations low because the Bills are rebuilding. What happens when the games are played and the team looks like a hot mess? We don’t seem to be able to stomach the growing pains. We turn on each other and the inevitable social media meltdown ensues. All the lip service about patience goes out the window. Suck it up, Bills fans. It’s time to see who really has the patience to put their actions where their “mouth” is. Thanks to Erik Smeal for his contributions to our blog. You can find Erik on Twitter @Buffwagon819. 

About Erik Smeal

Born and raised in Buffalo NY. Army Veteran. Die hard Bills and Sabres fan for 30 years.

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