For eight of the first nine games in 2018, the Bills offense was historically bad. Just about everything that could have went wrong did. They were forced to start their rookie quarterback in week two after an awful performance during week one by Nate Peterman.
Despite showing some early flashes, Josh Allen still struggled in several areas, but he still managed to help lead the Bills to two wins against the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans before the unthinkable happened and he left the game versus the Houston Texans with an elbow injury.
The Bills then had to put out a quarterback carousel that made children and adults shed tears. With yet another Nate Peterman appearance and luring Derek Anderson out of semi-retirement it didn’t go well at all. They did get an inspiring performance from another fresh signing, Matt Barkley in a blowout win over the New York Jets.
Quarterback wasn’t the only issue with the Bills offense, the offensive line was possibly the worst in the league in 2018. No one notices the offensive line until it’s bad – well everyone noticed last season.
The Bills offensive line struggled to provide any pass protection, along with failing to open any holes for the running game, which produced its worst output in several years. Also, let’s not forget the wide receiver struggles that led to some significant turnover during the season and ended up becoming an almost completely different unit than the one that began the season.
All these struggles led Brandon Beane to sign an arsenal of free agents during free agency this year, in hopes of fielding a competent NFL offense and getting help for his young quarterback. Beane literally signed players at every position on offense during free agency with the exception of quarterback. With free use of the salary cap without limitations for the first time since coming to Buffalo, the Bills almost completely reconstructed the offensive line, adding two solid veteran wide receivers, a veteran tight end, and two veteran running backs.
There were reviews on both sides of the fence with these signings, some have criticized the Bills for not signing any “elite superstars” but there are many examples of shelling out big cash in free agency not working out. Instead, the Bills chose to sign quality NFL players that are ready and willing to put in the work required to achieve success on the field. Of course this is all on paper for now and there are still several questions.
Can the Bills bring their passing game from the bottom of the league for the last several years to a competitive level? Can the Bills resurrect the running game that took a big step back in 2018? Can Josh Allen take the next step?
These are all valid questions going into the season. Although the Bills have only conducted OTAs and minicamp, reports were Josh Allen had his ups and downs throughout off-season workouts. but looked more comfortable running the offense.
The accuracy concerns still follow Allen going into year two, but he is capable of making throws most other quarterbacks can’t make. Can a quarterback improve accuracy? In Allen’s case that remains to be seen, but one thing he can improve is his decision making. He needs to use the full compliment of his offense and make defenses defend the whole field.
From Robert Foster and John Brown’s ability to stretch the field – Zay Jones and Cole Beasley’s ability to work the underneath routes – to LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, and T.J. Yeldon all capable of getting involved in the passing game as well as the running game. Add in promising rookies such as Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox, as well as some creative schemes from Brian Daboll and opposing defense could have a hard time defending against the Bills in 2019.
Now I’m not expecting the Bills to light up the scoreboard, but if we could see an improvement from bottom of the league offense to somewhere in the middle of the pack could help improve the win total by a few games and put the Bills in the hunt for a wild card playoff berth in 2019. A key to improving the offense is resurrecting the running game and several of the offensive line signings are known for their run blocking ability.
A lot of people questioned whether or not LeSean McCoy has “lost it” after last season’s performance. While he may not be the McCoy from five years ago, I still believe he has some left in the tank.
His running style combined with the performance of last year’s offensive line was not a good recipe for success. McCoy has never a north/south runner, he relied on his vision and elusiveness to find open holes and last year they were few and far between. The hope is with an improved offensive line and more capable run blockers, along with a fresh scheme from Bobby Johnson, McCoy can benefit and regain the form we are more used to seeing from years past.
There were many critics when the Bills signed veteran legend Frank Gore during free agency, but it’s easy to see why they would want to add Gore to the roster. Gore brings a strong leadership presence to the locker room, he’s very effective at pass protection, capable of catching passes out of the backfield, and is still productive in the power running game.
Devin Singletary was highly productive in college and hopes to bring that with him to the NFL. Being able to learn from veterans such as McCoy and Gore will be instrumental for Singletary’s development. Add in the T.J. Yeldon signing and the Bills have a talented and crowded backfield. The Bills brass have mentioned several times about their commitment to the running game, hopefully that’s a running game that doesn’t feature Josh Allen as the leading rusher.
For the offense, this season is about progression. Josh Allen taking the next step forward, an improved offensive line, a rejuvenated running game, improved wide receiving core. On paper, the plan Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott laid out is on schedule. Now the plan needs to be executed on the field.
Editor’s babble: While the OL will take some time to gel, this offense should be vastly improved over last season. Many thanks to Erik Smeal for his contributions to our blog. You can find Erik on Twitter @Buffwagon819.