If Rex Ryan hadn’t meddled with the 2016 draft, Dak Prescott would be the starting QB of the Buffalo Bills. Think about that. That draft class, which included Shaq Lawson, Reggie Ragland, Adolphus Washington, Cardale Jones, Jonathan Williams, Kolby Listenbee and Kevon Seymour will go down as a total bust for the Bills organization. Yet, much of that would have been forgiven if the Bills had netted Dak. This is brought up to point out that it’s the little things that matter in the draft. These little important things, that Buffalo absolutely refuses to acknowledge.
Rex Ryan had it in his head that a dinosaur-era, 2-down thumper would set his defense on fire and demanded that Buffalo race up the board to select Ragland. The spineless Whaley bowed and Buffalo traded their 4th round pick (117) to the Bears to move up 8 spots to get Rex’s man. What isn’t talked about, is that Whaley had done well beyond due diligence on Dak Prescott in his pre-draft process. The volume of meetings the Bills camp had with Dak clearly indicated an affinity for the QB. With 117 gone, Buffalo’s remaining 4th was a compensation pick at 139, which couldn’t be traded at the time. Dak was selected with pick 135 by the Dallas Cowboys, Whaley missed his man, settled for Cardale “I didn’t come to Ohio State to play school” Jones, and the rest is history.
A lesson to be learned in draft value and patience. A lesson to be learned in regards to coach/GM roles. A lesson made ever more painful by the fact that Buffalo moved up from 49 to grab a LB only to watch Pro-Bowl regular Deion Jones get picked at 50. A lesson learned. Right Buffalo?
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…. Terry? Kim?
This will not end well.
Buffalo: January 11, 2017. Buffalo is riding an epic 17-year playoff drought so it’s time for a shake-up. Currently Buffalo has a foul mouthed, meddling, defensive-minded, rah-rah, head coach who teaches a defensive system so complex that players can’t understand the checks and a spineless sub-mediocre GM. Why not, let’s get crazy! Hire a family-faith-football mouthed, meddling, defensive-minded, rah-rah, head coach who teaches a very simple defensive scheme and let him hire a lackey GM so coach can play football Czar. Buffalo, change is scary, but this level of change avoidance is going to require intervention.
The list of coaches playing GM is long enough that we know it’s a terrible idea in the salary cap era. Banking your football future on the hopes that you’ve found the next Belichick is a bad idea. It’s like banking your finances on winning the lottery. We all know this. We’ve seen this play out. We watched Holmgren go from Super Bowl coach to laughing stock, we’ve watched Chip Kelly quickly and absolutely ruin the Eagles team he inherited. That’s the typical outcome. And may I remind you that mere meddling cost you Dak Prescott. So, if you think McDermott is going to be the exception to the norm: Warning the remainder of this article is going to really hurt.
Enter Coach McDermott, the lame duck era of the Doug Whaley tenure and a few highly comical group photos. (Just type in McDermott Pegula Whaley into a google image search) First off, you can spot a coach in complete control from a mile away. They immediately build a pipeline to their old squad and add players they like who embody the culture they want to bring to their new team. Notice, none of that has to do with talent. They also rush to sign fullbacks and kickers to ensure the basics are covered. They love veteran players who are over the hill because you can trust professionals. Lastly, they make sure they have a mature QB because we are going to win right now. All of this is going on while GM Whaley has slightly less power than the Queen of England.
Then we get to where it gets toxic. Coaches in full control butcher draft value. The board does not come to them, they go take what they want. If you are right, you can get away with that, but it requires perfection. Buffalo didn’t stay perfect for very long. Would you like a franchise building block QB in Mahomes or Watson? That’s not a win now move so cue the trade down adding a future 1st and pick 91. That’s the debatable part as the value was acceptable. Tre’Davious White was a fantastic pick at 27. Then it gets ugly. The 3rd rounder (91) gets shipped with 44 to go get Zay Jones. (Strangely they traded up 4 picks ahead of Carolina who also took a WR.) That wasn’t worth the trade up. In fact, he is a bust. Even before you factor in his hotel nonsense, a bust. Then they trade up again (75, 149, 156) to grab Dion Dawkins. (Strangely they traded up 1 pick ahead of Carolina who also took an OL.) Dawkins is a great pick but they have now used 5 picks on a bust and a gem. Staying at 44 could have just as easily netted Dawkins and 75 left WRs such Henderson, Stewart or better yet, Godwin on the board. This would allow for 91 149 and 156 to further add depth but that’s not what coaches playing GM do. Buffalo concludes a 6 pick draft, after having 10 picks at one point. Spitting up value as they go along and destroying their future from within.
Side note, how come Buffalo never got hit with tampering charges for using Carolina’s draft board? How did Buffalo and McDermott get that sensitive information? Less than two weeks later Brandon Beane is hired away from Carolina to be Buffalo’s new GM. Oh, that’s how. Like a game of NFL Risk, Carolina has conquered Poland. The joke of Carolina North is not a joke and they brought their template with them. The good news for Bills fans is that Carolina has been using analytics properly when it comes to roster composition and playing calling schematics. The very bad news for Bills fans is that Carolina North doesn’t seem to know how to interpret those numbers.
When I say Carolina defense, you say Kuechly and Short. Carolina defense, crickets. Buffalo currently doesn’t have either of those pieces filled. Without Short there is no pass rush. Without Kuechly there is no defense. Eagle DT penetration is what the rush concept is built upon and no matter how much you love Phillips and Williams (I love Williams more than most Bills fans) you can’t make a case that they are anywhere near the caliber of Short. If Short is not producing Carolina’s defense can’t produce pressure. As for Kuechly, well if you watched Dallas’ defense without Lee last year, or KCs defense without Berry, or Carolina’s defense in 2016 when they went 4-6 with Kuechly and 2-4 without him, then you know how this is going to go. Breaking in rookie CBs Carolina was exposed for 29.3 points in the first 6 games going 1-5. Following the bye the secondary had gelled and they went 3-1 allowing 17.5 a game. Kuechly goes down due to concussion issues and the last 6 games they allow 26 points per game. You need a Luke Kuechly or this defense is a gaping whole in the middle. He is an eraser. In gambling, when he is out, you bet against Carolina. Knowing this, it is not at all shocking that Buffalo spit up more draft capital to trade up for Edmunds. McDermott has even compared him to Kuechly but that is nothing short of blatant sacrilege. Even with his addition Buffalo’s MLB situation has digressed from last season team and here’s why. Edmunds is a smart player, Edmunds is a whale of an athlete, Edmunds can play man and can blitz but Edmunds has absolutely horrid footwork and zero instincts. Edmunds runs a 4.5 40 time and its clear as day when you put on the tape and watch him in man coverage or blitzing. As soon as he has to read, react, diagnose you instantly see a change. He knows the system, and he knows the checks which means this is not an issue caused by too much thinking. It’s footwork and instincts. He falls out of his stance like a gust of wind is pushing him over and he doesn’t cover any ground in the first second of the play. Nothing has changed in regards to that. In the dress rehearsal vs the Bengals he was in no man’s land constantly and only showed up when the Bengal backups came in because his natural catch up speed was enough to succeed. This is not a trait that fixes itself. Footwork can be cleaned up but instincts are something you have or you don’t. McDermott has stated Kuechly struggled like this at first and simply put, Kuechly didn’t even look like this in college. It’s night and day. Preston Brown is a slow plodding uninspiring Mike but at least he played to his 4.8 timed speed. The athleticism of Edmunds is useless at Mike because his diagnosis is causing him to play slower than Brown played last year. For a team already hindered by poor talent at nickel CB and a misused Alexander, that is debilitating. The pass rush is not fixed and the middle of the defense is still open for business. Basically teams facing buffalo should follow the same attack game-plan as last year. Run off tackle and pass liberally. So much so, that if a team is running the LB read RPO, Buffalo can forfeit and save themselves the trouble. Rest assured, while this is not a good value pick, it’s also not a wasted pick. Edmunds will eventually man the Thomas Davis SSLB role and play at a high level. He can be the next Anthony Barr. He can edge set, he can man carry, he can blitz but asking more of him will be a wasted venture that Buffalo needs to correct in 2019.
Don’t worry, that’s only the good side of the ball.
Do WRs matter in the Carolina template? Not really, so that’s good news right? Unfortunately no. The template for Carolina’s offense is an analytical matchup based toolbox of mixed talents. Mixed talents is the part that Buffalo doesn’t seem to get. Goodwin would have filled the Ginn role beautifully, but you let him leave. Watkins would have been the perfect weapon to float throughout the WR slots to exploit the gaps the scheme creates but he didn’t jive with coach and was traded away. (Granted it would have been a very expensive weapon and the scheme can succeed with lesser talents.) What you have is Benji the big bodied possession 1, and Zay the physical blocking slot WR. A four slot toolbox with two dull tools. That means McCloud needs to be the moving matchup piece and Foster needs to be the deep threat burner? That’s not enough of a threat to move a defense out of their comfort zone. Ask Carolina themselves, who have been waiting for Samuel to be the Ginn replacement they terribly miss. Holmes is a Benji backup and Kerley is, well Kerley. That’s not enough folks. It’s also imperative that you have a TE who can attack the deep middle box out a window against the zone. The closest thing you have to that is Croom who is more Dickson than Olsen. Aside from TE, this is an easy fix. So easy that it makes you wonder why they didn’t fix it. Might have had something to do with trading away 8 draft picks.
Maybe it’s about the RB? Not in the slightest. The system uses them up and spits them out. Carolina was running Stewart and Whittaker in their best version of this template. They also struggled to run the ball with their RBs. McCaffrey is a new evolution in the template due to the added matchup issues it causes. It allows for a second gap exploiting weapon on the field. It’s an expensive addition but it is not necessary, much like Watkins. One costs a top 10 pick, one costs sixteen million dollars. Buffalo actually sits pretty here with McCoy and Murphy. They also paid Ivory for some crazy reason. It’s a position that could have been upgraded cheap and easy if they didn’t trade away 8 picks.
It’s Cam right? In part yes, and also no. Let’s start by discrediting Cam and then get to the good stuff. As a passer he is wildly inaccurate and has bouts of wandering mechanics that he’s never been able to shake. There are two games every year that his mechanics wander so badly that he makes it impossible for his team to win. However, to his credit, he has a huge arm and (when your entire system is based on forcing teams into a zone defense and bending that zone to open windows where big bodies can gather yards and athletes can pull YAC) that is vital. It takes less timing and skill to pierce a zone defense with a big arm. This is not rocket science. That sounds a lot like Josh Allen who you spit up a ton of draft capital to get. Feeling warm and fuzzy Buffalo? Don’t. He shouldn’t play this year. He’s not close to ready and if you play him he will take an incredible beating. What makes Cam special is fear. Cam, due to his athleticism, further forces teams into zone. He forces rushers to take contain angles. He forces teams to spy. He scares them to death with his ability to get out of the pocket and run. That is his most impactful talent. The ability to cause fear. That is what skews the numbers game in Carolina’s favor and breaks defenses. Does that sound like Josh Allen? Not so much. He’s a fine athlete for a QB, but Cam is an elite athlete. Jackson and Watson are the only QBs in the league who can hold up to Cam.
The defining trait of the Carolina template is the offensive line and Buffalo’s OL is horrible. Not 2017 Cincinnati Bengals horrible but Buffalo did try to upgrade their OL by signing Bodine (Who Cincy didn’t want back.) and Newhouse. (I’m stunned he’s not in Canada yet.) That’s terrifying stuff guys and they made the final roster! It’s not fair to judge the Bills OL by their dress rehearsal as Newhouse starting in the place of Dawkins is a factor that can’t be overlooked. Unsurprisingly, Newhouse was a tire fire in a dumpster. However, by Carolina standards, this offensive line is putrid. Groy is a backup, Miller got benched last year and Mills just keeps on doing just enough to keep his job. Losing Incognito and Wood is a devastating turn of events that puts this season on ice.
This will not end well.
Don’t believe me? Vegas posted this team as a 6.5 win team and professionals obliterated the under. Vegas dropped it to 6 wins and the money kept rolling in. The -210 juice on under 6 wins is the biggest on the board. Don’t call it a tank year, but it’s a tank year. Peterman’s a sacrificial lamb and you’ll be buying $6 tickets in November.
Which is why the PR machine has fired up in Buffalo and spewed the excuse story that this is a step back year because Whaley messed up the cap. “Beane is a cap savant and is saving Buffalo from cap hell.” Complete and utter BS. Whaley had Dareus on the roster with 60 million over 4 years remaining. Instead they have 13 million dead cap on Dareus, and 39 million invested in Lotulelei over the next 4 years. That comes to a 2 million dollar savings over the next 4 years and a 5th round pick. Is that worth the substantial talent drop? Is Lotulelei even worth 50/5 when Poe is worth 27/3? No and no. He’s a Panther though. Whaley had no say last year when Tyrod’s 7.5 million dollar poison pill was acquired. Cordy Glenn was owed 40/3 and his talent hasn’t been replaced. It will be next year for 15 million per year when McDermott pulls in his next Panther recruit, RT Daryl Williams. Is Eric Wood’s 10 million dollar cap hit Whaley’s fault? He was extended after Beane was hired. Corey Coleman or AJ McCarron? That makes up 46.6 million or the 53.2 million in dead cap. 6.6 million dollars of cap hit that was Whaley’s fault. Yet, the new cap guru wants you to blame his predecessor? The cap guru that did nothing this offseason but backload deals. Lotulelei and Murphy spike by 9 million dollars combined next year. It’s always brilliant to push cap down the road when you are in a tight spot and lack talent. They actually want Buffalo fans to believe this!
McDermott is in a very dangerous situation. Buffalo is in a very dangerous situation. McDermott is a rah-rah coach that cracks the whip. That doesn’t work when there is no carrot in sight and this season will be ugly. His only objective this year is to avoid his team tuning him out. If he can’t accomplish that, he has one foot out the door. That is a very common path for fire and brimstone coaches. Buffalo is then in a dire situation. McDermott has his lackey in place and 80 million dollars of cap space to blow in the attempt to save their jobs. You thought Whaley put you in cap hell?
Even if Buffalo tanks badly enough to secure Ed Oliver, and god only knows another trade up is coming for a CB or MLB coach falls in love with, there are still a slew of holes to fill. You could invest 40 million in the OL to catch up to Carolina. Another 12 mil for the Mike/CB of his dreams. 10 million on a speed wide out seems to be the going rate. Benji gets a 6 million dollar raise because you don’t want to lose him. Still need that TE. Allen or bust. That leaves 12 million to go for depth because you can’t expect them to hold enough picks to draft it. It could be done well if the proper targets are available, or it could be Buffalo plunging into bidding wars and overpaying to get the best of what’s available in the door. Judging by the additions that Buffalo has made in the last 2 years:
This will not end well.