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Fan Mailbag: What Rams-Chiefs means for future of Bills offense

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The Monday night game between the Rams and Chiefs, which became the first game in NFL history in which both teams scored 50 points have Bills fans worried about Buffalo’s offense keeping up with the Joneses.

The Los Angeles offense as well as the Kansas City offense did not morph into unstoppable forces overnight, as I point out below while also outlining that the Bills have taken initial steps to move in that direction.

We also cover your questions about the anticipated use of Buffalo’s 2019 cap space, the recent resurgence of the offensive line and the next step with Kelvin Benjamin.

Remember you can always send your questions to me @ChrisBrownBills

1 – From @lophus89: Many people are describing the epic Rams-Chiefs game as ushering in a new era in the NFL. Is the team that Beane, McDermott, Frazier, & Daboll are building in Buffalo in a position to succeed in such an era, should it emerge?

CB: I think the Bills are on the right track, drafting a mobile quarterback who is physically gifted, but there are a lot of pieces that must be acquired to accomplish the kind of offensive production we’re seeing with the Rams and Chiefs.

For the Chiefs the final piece of the puzzle was Mahomes, but it was put together over a series of years drafting above average offensive linemen, drafting Travis Kelce, drafting Kareem Hunt, taking a chance on a questionable character player in Tyreke Hill and then acquiring Sammy Watkins, though that hasn’t panned out as effectively.

Additionally, Andy Reid hired former colleague Brad Childress for the sole purpose of mining plays from the college ranks and around the league as his “spread game analyst.” He also hired Chris Ault (2013-2015), the former head coach at the University of Nevada, as a consultant.

Ault coached Colin Kaepernick in the spread offense with the Wolfpack making Kaepernick, at the time, one of the only QBs in college football history to rush for 4,000 yards and throw for more than 10,000 yards in a college career.

The Rams also had a steady build, signing veteran linemen in free agency (Sullivan, Whitworth) and a wide receiver (Robert Woods). They traded for Sammy Watkins, and then traded for Brandin Cooks and drafted the likes of Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds.

Sean McVay was arguably the final piece as head coach.

The point is neither the Rams, nor the Chiefs became offensive juggernauts overnight. It took place over the course of three years or so before it all reached critical mass.

For the Bills, their offense needs to acquire offensive line and wide receiver talent in free agency like the Rams did in their building block stages.

They may want to consider adding a consultant that can canvas the college football and pro football landscape to find the latest examples of successful offensive plays that can win consistently.

And they have to draft well to get the cornerstone pieces for their offense that can contribute early at an affordable price, much like they have on defense (White, Edmunds, Johnson, Milano).

Perfect example is the Chiefs. Their top four weapons – Hill, Hunt, Kelce and Mahomes – cost $10M on their cap combined. Only Kelce is on his second contract and making big money. That’s what drafting well can do for your team.

The Bills can get there, it’s just going to take some shrewd building by GM Brandon Beane and his personnel staff.

2 – From @Mikeybeit: Chris, with Bills having a ton of cap space this up and coming off season. Can u envision the Bills being active in FA/trade market? Possibly be in the L.Bell sweepstakes?

CB: Knowing the Bills intend to keep LeSean McCoy in the fold for the 2019 season, as stated by GM Brandon Beane in a local television interview, I would not expect Buffalo to be pursuing Le’Veon Bell. While players like Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley have sparked the debate up again about the value of a top flight running back, I’m more in the camp of grabbing a perfectly capable back in the middle rounds that offers versatility (receiving ability).

Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt (3rd round pick), Arizona’s David Johnson (3rd round pick) or Chicago’s Tarik Cohen (4th round pick) are all great examples.

Aside from your desire to add Le’Veon Bell, I do believe the Bills will be aggressive, but relatively responsible in free agency. I think they realize they’re at a point where they’ll have to overpay for a key addition or two (WR, OL) and then try to avoid any bidding wars on free agents beyond that.

They don’t want to get into the same problems that plagued the team under the previous regime signing players to cost crippling contracts that left them limited in adding other pieces they needed to the roster.

Pay to fill a few holes and then maybe a budget signing or two. After that it’s about drafting well.

3 – From @GoBills12: Why did our O-line look so good last week and can we continue to expect this at all?

CB: Against a quality Jets defensive front Buffalo’s offensive line had their most consistent performance of the season. Wyatt Teller was a welcome addition of grit and toughness at left guard and the front five did a great job of resetting the line of scrimmage two yards downfield with regularity.

As coach McDermott has said numerous times this season, the O-line has not effectively established the line of scrimmage and won their one-on-one battles up there. That compromises the blocking scheme in the run game as well as pass protection.

Will it continue against one of the best defensive fronts in football?

I don’t know.

The Jaguars are stingy in surrendering yards and go two deep with Pro Bowl caliber talent on their defensive line. Calais Campbell is a mismatch against anybody and Malik Jackson is a quality interior pass rusher. Yannick Ngakoue is also underrated off the edge.

If the Bills O-line can duplicate what they did against the Jets, they will certainly be trending in an encouraging direction.

4 - From @Yhosh: What is the business logic of keeping KB? Is this an effort to avoid saying they’re eating dead cap, a hope to luck into a compensatory pick, or do they actually think he can help the team?

CB: Kelvin Benjamin is a tricky situation. Benjamin’s contract is guaranteed, so the Bills would be paying him if he was on the roster or not.

What is clear is his production is nowhere near where the Bills hoped it would be. As much as the revolving door at quarterback, due to injury, has been a factor in Buffalo’s passing game, Benjamin has had his share of opportunities to make a difference.

One observation is that Benjamin’s playing time the last four games has gone down from 79 percent of the snaps to a season low 51 percent in the Jets game.

That could continue knowing how eager the offensive staff is in getting younger receivers on the field. The addition of Deonte Thompson could also eat into playing time for Benjamin going down the stretch.

So if he’s not off the roster, he may at the very least be on the field less than he was in the first half of the season.

5 – From @Bromandudeguy2: They have to go all out on offense this off season...I hope.....right?

CB: I think your assumption is a relatively safe one. I do anticipate they’ll use a good portion of their cap dollars to solidify the number one receiver role and upgrade a starting position on the offensive line (likely guard or tackle).

They also need help at tight end and a running back in the middle rounds of the draft is a reasonable expectation. Their decision at backup QB will be an interesting one this offseason.

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