Here's the Bills news of note for Jan. 5th.
**1 - New head coach will impact 'Zo's decision
**Pro Bowl OLB Lorenzo Alexander will be an unrestricted free agent come March after signing a one-year deal with the Bills this past offseason. He'd like to re-sign with Buffalo, but there are a lot of factors that will be weighed in that decision. Chief among them is who the new head coach will be in 2017.
"I would definitely love to be a Buffalo Bill next year," Alexander said. "Obviously we haven't talked about anything just yet. Everything is really fresh, but I will definitely weigh my options and see what happens. Coaching change, who's back, there's a lot that goes into it. So once my wife and I have all the facts and everything is laid out we'll make the decision that's best for our family."
Alexander said his family adapted well and enjoyed the past year in Buffalo. But right now the team doesn't have a definitive direction without a head coach in place. That's why the veteran linebacker will wait for the first big decision to be made at One Bills Drive this offseason.
"We have to wait for that person to be in place and then from there it trickles down," said Alexander. "Obviously Mr. Whaley has to figure out who he wants in here. He'll bring in somebody who matches his direction in terms of what he envisions. Then that person will have to emulate that and bring whatever personal characteristics they have as a football coach and that has to permeate throughout this whole team. And everybody has to fall in line and get behind it. That's ultimately how you create change, which equates to winning. And winning resolves everything."
2 - Richie gives keys to beating PatriotsThe Bills were one of only two teams this season to beat the Patriots in New England. Granted it was without Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo available, but you can't fault Buffalo for New England's injuries.
In any event, Bills G Richie Incognito in an appearance on the MMQB Peter King podcast, was asked to give the keys to beating the Patriots in the playoffs.
"Number one is control the ball," said Incognito. "Run the ball and keep yourself in manageable third down situations, convert third downs and stay on the field.
"The second thing is limit big plays by Tom Brady.
"The last thing is score in the red zone. When you get down there you cannot kick field goals. You have to convert those into touchdowns."
Incognito said he and his Bills teammates realize their win back in Week 4 is viewed with an asterisk knowing Brady and Garoppolo were unavailable. But it didn't take away from the good vibes it gave him and his teammates to get a win up there.
"That day definitely sticks out for me. That was a lot of fun," Incognito said. "I had never gotten a win up there in Foxborough, albeit without Tom (Brady) in the lineup. It was a great day. We went out and we were physical with them. We got our run game going and we started getting chunks of yards. That opened up our passing game.
"What we really hurt them on was all the intermediate stuff. A lot of underneath routes and we kept chipping away in the run game and by the fourth quarter those three, four, five yard runs turned into eight, 10 and 12 yard runs. It was a hard fought game and we got out of there with a 16-0 win. I thought we could've gotten more points, but in typical New England fashion they let you go up and down the field, but once you get in the red zone they tighten up and force you to kick field goals."
Incognito had an interesting opinion as to why teams struggle so much when they play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the regular season or the postseason.
"Besides Tom being Tom and just being a great player and getting the ball out quick, the 'X' factor when you play the Patriots is everyone is really cognizant of the fact that they're so good on offense and defense that everybody plays tight when you go play the Patriots because everybody is afraid to make a mistake.
"When you make a mistake against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick they're going to make you pay. If you have a turnover or get caught in a wrong defense… teams get up there and they play tight like that because they know they have to play close to a perfect game and if they make a mistake the whole house of cards comes falling down."
The Patriots will have home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
3 - Clay more involved than some thoughtThere were a lot of complaints by outside observers about the lack of Charles Clay's involvement in Buffalo's offense through the course of the 2016 season. The truth is Buffalo didn't throw the ball all that much. They were last in the league in pass attempts (474) and completions (286), which is why no receiving target on the roster had any eye-opening statistics. That being said, Charles Clay still led the team in passing targets for 2016.
Clay led the team with 93 targets with just one other teammate remotely close to him in that category. Robert Woods had 82 targets on the year. No other receiver even reached 70.
Clay also led the team in red zone targets with 14, making eight receptions inside the opponent's 20-yard line including three for touchdowns.
The slew of injuries that led to games missed for Sammy Watkins (8), Robert Woods (3) and Marquise Goodwin (1) certainly allowed for more opportunities for Clay, who missed just one game for the birth of his son.
Nevertheless at season's end, Clay let the team in receptions (57) and receiving yards (552) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (4).