Bills offense faces numerous questions coming out of bye week

October 18, 2017
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Good news Buffalo Bills fans. Your favorite team emerged from the bye week still sitting in a playoff spot thanks to plenty of average teams in the AFC. 

The current standings and the upcoming schedule would certainly give you reasons to feel optimistic, but now for the bad news. The Bills have numerous questions in regards to their offense and one wonders if it will be a weekly struggle for them to get more than 14 points. They’ve averaged just under 18 a game so far.

As the Bills come out of the bye week, there are so many unknowns about the offense it feels like we have just emerged from the preseason and anxiously await some answers from real games. I think it's a lot to ask of a defense to hold opponents to an average of 13 or 14 points a game over an entire season, so if the Bills are going to end their 17-year playoff drought, the offense will have to improve its collective game.

First and foremost, the Bills have to get their running game going. LeSean McCoy rushed for 110 yards and five-yards per-carry in Week 1 against the New York Jets. Over the last four games, McCoy has totaled just 169 yards and 2.6 yards per-carry. His longest run in those four games is 14 yards. I don’t think McCoy is slowing down though.

What ails the Bills' running game is the blocking up front, the adjustment to the new blocking scheme and the lack of any passing game which is allowing defenses to load up and stop the run. We’ve seen bits and pieces of that run game, in the second half at Atlanta and even the first half in Cincinnati, but a team designed to be run first has to solve this problem right away. I’d expect to see a tweak to the blocking scheme. The Bills worked in some power runs during the loss to the Bengals and my guess is that will continue.

I’d also expect to see Tyrod Taylor run more, whether they are designed runs, zone read calls or more runs when he gets out on the edge and is deciding whether to use his arm or legs.

I’d also like to see the Bills find a more explosive option at number two running back than Mike Tolbert. A Jonathan Williams-type player would be nice to have.

When it comes to the offensive line, you’d think the Bills are just starting training camp. There’s an open competition at both left tackle and right guard. It's not a good thing to be five games into the season and still be trying to figure out who the best five guys are to play up front. If Dion Dawkins shows he can handle the left tackle job, I wonder if the Bills move Cordy Glenn to right tackle as an upgrade over Jordan Mills.

The Bills need to get some life back in that run game because, odds are, the passing game isn’t going to flourish anytime soon. At least not until Jordan Matthews and/or Charles Clay return to the lineup. The loss of Clay is a big problem. He was their most effective deep threat and big time security blanket for Taylor, who I think doesn’t have any confidence throwing to any of the wide receivers. Why would he with that group being practically invisible. Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Kaelin Clay and Brandon Tate have a combined 14 catches for 154 yards.

No opposing defensive coordinator is losing any sleep while trying to figure out how to handle those guys. When Matthews gets back, that will help. After all, he has a proven body of NFL work, but it's not like he was lighting it up before the thumb injury either. Nick O’Leary has shown the ability to get open and a solid pair of hands, but he isn’t the threat that Clay is at tight end.

The numbers aren’t pretty for the Bills' offense. Going into Week 7, Buffalo is ranked 27th in points per-game, 31st in total yards per-game, 30th in pass yards, 30th in first downs and they have the fourth-highest percentage of three-and-outs. Unless you get a defensive performance like the Denver Broncos from two years ago, I just can’t see how the Bills will win enough games to earn a playoff spot with an offense like that.

If you’re looking for a possible bright spot, I’ll give you one. On paper, based on NFL rankings, the Bills will face “easier” defenses the rest of the season. Three of the Bills' first five opponents (Carolina, Denver and Cincinnati) are ranked top-10 in fewest points and total yards allowed per-game. Only one remaining opponent (Miami) is currently in that top-10.

Keep your fingers crossed, Bills fans.