The Bills 2018 offseason is approaching the next phase as the players begin spring practice – also known as OTAs – on Tuesday, May 22. Before the players take the field for workouts, One Bills Live radio hosts Steve Tasker and John Murphy opine about the Bills offseason moves thus far and what fans should look forward to in the coming months.
Most important acquisition this offseason …
Steve Tasker: The most important acquisition was offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. I have always thought that coordinators were the guys that most affected what happens on the field and with the offensive rebuild and new faces on that side of the ball in key spots, Daboll is in position to make it all work.
*John Murphy: *The Bills most important acquisition this offseason is clearly quarterback Josh Allen. It’s the earliest in the draft the franchise has selected a quarterback, and the fact that there were four other quarterbacks chosen in the first round indicates the array of choices available to Brandon Beane and the team. Allen has the potential to be a difference making performer for the franchise for a decade or more.
New player with the best chance to dominate in 2018 …
*Tasker: *Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. This is a totally new and improved front seven for the Bills and it all starts with the guys down inside. Lotulelei could be the catalyst that leads to the resurgence of the pass rush in two ways. First – stop the run to force third-and-long situations; Second – his ability to collapse the pocket on the inside will close the door on opposing quarterbacks’ ability to avoid the edge rushers. Lotulelei may not put up big numbers in tackles or sacks but his dominance would mean a successful year for the entire defense.
*Murph: *There are several new players with a chance to make big contributions to the team this year. The new player with the best chance to dominate is free agent DT Star Lotulelei. His experience in the league indicates that Lotulelei will not be flashy or put up big defensive numbers, but by anchoring down the middle of the Bills defensive line, he could become the key to a defensive resurgence.
Most interesting player to watch this spring will be …
*Tasker: *Tremaine Edmunds. He will be the young player that will leap off the field and into the eyes of the public. His size, speed and the responsibility he is going to earn will put him in the middle of more than just the Bills defense.
*Murph: *I’ve got two players I’m most interested in—both first round draft picks. Allen’s development will be a key storyline through OTAs and minicamp in the next several weeks. And the Bills are counting on Tremaine Edmunds to step in and start at middle linebacker. They’re likely to ask him to call the defenses and get players lined up. His development will be one of the most critical stories to follow in the run up to training camp.
Rookie you hope makes the 53-man roster …
*Tasker: *Austin Proehl is one rookie that I hope makes the 53-man roster. Let’s just say he reminds me of another 5-9, 182-pound kid from a long time ago.
*Murph: *I’m anticipating most of the Bills draft picks will be around in some form; last year all of them made the roster. With that in mind, I’m hoping undrafted rookie Gerhard de Beer sticks around. His unique background, growing up in South Africa and attending Arizona on a track and field scholarship, give him an interesting back story.
Player with the best chance to make ‘the leap’ in 2018 will be …
*Tasker: *Zay Jones. After a less than impressive rookie season he still sits at the top of the wide receiver depth chart. The fact that he is still one of the most prominent options at wide out means he has more than enough opportunity to make the most of it. A lot can change in one year and Zay Jones is poised to prove he can make a long career here in Buffalo.
Murph: **I’m expecting a big leap from second year wide receiver Zay Jones. He started 10 games last season and caught 27 passes, but I think the Bills expected more from Zay Jones last year, and they need much more from him this year. His solid record of production at East Carolina cannot be ignored. His NFL family background should provide him with the right foundation to excel in the league. He’s only 23 years old now, but he’s got to take the next step forward to become a legitimate starting wideout in the league.
Best player personality fans will want to know more about …
Tasker: Harrison Phillips. This guy has presidential qualities. His time at Stanford is littered with impressive accomplishments that had nothing to do with being a good football player. We all need to see more of this guy.
Murph: New offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse has eight years in the league with four different teams. He won a Super Bowl in Green Bay and has been a starter in several previous NFL stops. But it’s his off-field interests that make him fascinating. He’s attended several technology events all over the country, including South by Southwest in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Newhouse seems to have an avid interest in issues away from the game.
Position coach with the hardest job this spring …
*Tasker: *The position coach that has the hardest job this preseason is Bill Teerlinck. Can any of us imagine walking into a room populated with big bad dudes who have played a bunch of football in the NFL and have been assembled because they were sought after as the best available? Tough room.
*Murph: *Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has to install a new offense with new quarterbacks at the helm. Nathan Peterman returns, but he only made two starts last season. He’s got to find some answers at wide receiver and put in place new offensive approach not as heavily dependent on Shady McCoy and the run game. He’s got his work cut out for him.
Riskiest personnel move made this offseason …
*Tasker: *This team doesn’t make risky moves. The moves all seem well thought out and defensible. This front office has a plan and they stick to it. I like where they are. But if I had to pick one move, maybe standing pat at wide receiver – with the exception of the two draft picks they made in the late rounds. It was a weak draft for the position but they still picked-up two possible contributors.
*Murph: *The quarterback moves present the biggest risks for the Bills. Trading away Tyrod Taylor, the starter for the last three years, put the team in position to find some answers under center. They waited until day two of free agency to sign AJ McCarron, who’s got some impressive work done in limited starting action in the league. And with several different first round options in front of them, they chose Josh Allen as the first rounder, trading away draft picks to move up in the draft to get him.
The quarterback moves are calculated and shrewd, but they carry plenty of risk, and plenty of reward if the Bills are right.