Can LeSean McCoy return to form?
Calling the Bills offense “anemic” last season was an insult to people suffering from anemia. Buffalo ranked 30th in total yards, 31st in passing yards, 20th in touchdowns, 31st in interceptions and 30th in points. Even the Bills’ No. 9 run game was deceiving with LeSean McCoy (three TDs, 3.2 yards per carry) having by far the worst season of his career and Josh Allen’s 631 scrambling yards skewing reality. To put things in perspective, Buffalo had games in which it scored three, zero, five, six and nine points; had 10 games where it failed to hit 200 yards passing; and had six games where it failed to rush for 100 yards. Basically, an offense can’t play worse. GM Brandon Beane was so disgusted with his offense that he attacked that side of the ball like a hungry man at a 24-hour buffet during the offseason. Of the 19 unrestricted free agents he signed, 15 play offense.
Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 draft, showed flashes that he could be the franchise QB the Bills have sought since the days of Jim Kelly. In his 11 starts, Allen’s arm strength was never questioned, though his accuracy (52.8 percent) was. His running ability was a major asset (eight TDs), and the Bills will continue to build on that aspect of his game. So how can Allen stay on an upward trajectory? For starters, unlike a year ago in Week 1, he has two very capable veteran backups in Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley.
Then comes protection. The Bills will likely have four new starters on their line. Center Mitch Morse, who protected Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, is the only lock at his position. Spencer Long, Jon Feliciano, Ty Neskhe, Quinton Spain and rookie second-round pick Cody Ford will battle it out for the two guard spots and the right tackle job, with Dion Dawkins returning on the left side.
Allen will also have better receivers to throw to, after the addition of free agents John Brown, who adds speed and experience, and Cole Beasley, one of the league’s better slot men while in Dallas. Robert Foster was a bright spot as a rookie in 2018 and is an emerging deep threat. Zay Jones (seven touchdowns) had his best season but remains a complementary piece.
With the release of veteran Charles Clay, the starting tight end job is wide open for third-round pick Dawson Knox to seize. Collectively, the Bills still don’t have a No. 1 receiving threat and will try and go about it by committee.
The same is true at running back, where Buffalo is hoping to get one more useful season out of McCoy, who turns 31 in July, and future Hall of Famer Frank Gore, 36, whose leadership the Bills value highly. Gore had a better year in 2018 (with the Dolphins) than McCoy. Frankly, McCoy needs a very good training camp to remain on the roster. Marcus Murphy, Jacksonville free agent T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary, a 5'7" highlight reel at Florida Atlantic, are among many younger options should McCoy and Gore finally hit the wall.
After five games scoring in single digits, the Bills could have as many as eight new starters on offense. It’s a fresh look and sorely needed. The keys are a new-look line jelling quickly and a deep passing game developing to take advantage of Allen’s arm. Buffalo has missed 18 of the last 19 postseason parties, so it’s not like there’s the weight of expectations on head coach Sean McDermott. But time waits for no man in the NFL.