One loss is no need to panic. But the 42-16 thrashing at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, who had barely practiced this month, should have the Buffalo Bills thinking about taking some of the strain off quarterback Josh Allen and the defense.
The Buffalo Bills have some concerns
Like the Seattle Seahawks (5-0), the Buffalo Bills (4-1) are leaving their defense on the field a little too long. There are two differences that somewhat negate each other. The Seahawks have the incomparable Russell Wilson at quarterback, which allows them to overcome shortcomings on the other side of the ball that aren’t an easy fix. On the other hand, the Bills’ defense should look sturdier once linebacker Matt Milano is healthy.
The Bills, then, should be looking at their offense to see what they can do to take some of the load off Josh Allen. Their third-year quarterback is having a big year about one-third of the way through the season with 14 touchdown passes and just three interceptions – including one on a baffling call by officials in the Rams game and a tipped ball vs. Tennessee.
The Bills sacrificed some draft picks to acquire receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings, and it was smart. Diggs opened the door to the first three 300-yard games of Allen’s career. What they need to do now is to add some muscle to the running game.
The Buffalo Bills are near the top of the NFL in yards per game, but they’ve been doing it on Allen’s arm. They’re 28th in rushing yards per game and 26th in yards per carry. Couple that stat with this: Buffalo’s offense is the best in the league with a 57.8% conversion rate on third downs but the defense is allowing opponents to convert more than half the time, too.
The conclusion: The Bills need to chew up more clock to keep opposing offenses off the field. The way to do that is to chew up more yards on the ground.
The NFL trade deadline is approaching
We’re far enough into the season that where statistical anomalies have smoothed out. The Buffalo Bills possessed the ball for 41:17 in their Week 1 victory vs. the New York Jets, which wasn’t sustainable. Through five games, the average remains a solid 31:44.
They can improve that number with more productivity in the running game, and that’s presumably why the Bills confirmed they were taking a look at Le’Veon Bell, the disgruntled running back released by the New York Jets.
Bell would have come with some significant baggage attached but the free agent would have been a cheaper acquisition than what will be offered leading up to the Nov. 3 trade deadline. Still, Bell’s averages of 3.2 yards per carry and 7.0 yards per reception last year should be worrisome. The fact that Bills coach Sean McDermott was even contemplating adding Bell is telling.
Buffalo running back Devin Singletary is doing an OK job with 238 yards and one TD on 61 carries this season, though he’s not getting nearly as much pop as when he ran for 775 yards on 151 carries as a rookie. But Singletary is only 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, and injuries limited him to eight games as a rookie.
Singletary is backed up by T.J. Yeldon, who in his sixth season. Yeldon has some value as a pass-catching back, but his best work as a rusher was as a rookie and he’s never been on the field for 60% of the offensive snaps in a season.
What would it take to pry Gus Edwards loose?
If the Buffalo Bills want to upgrade their running game, then they could do worse than asking the Baltimore Ravens what they would want for Gus Edwards, who is an interesting combination of productive and expendable.
Tenth-year running back Mark Ingram has posted three 1,000-yard seasons in the past four years. Though he’ll turn 31 by the end of the season, it’s not an “old” 31. Ingram has never carried more than 230 times in a season and isn’t a heavy-duty pass-catcher. As such, he could still be producing in 2023.
The Ravens also have J.K. Dobbins, a second-round pick from Ohio State who has 126 yards on just 16 carries as a rookie and needs to be utilized more.
In between the two sits Edwards, who ran for 700 yards in each of his first two seasons and has a healthy 192 yards on 34 carries this fall. Edwards might never be a No. 1 back with the Ravens or the Bills, but he would be more useful to Buffalo than he is to Baltimore right now.
Draft picks are a precious commodity, and a team like the Minnesota Vikings – who may be without Dalvin Cook for an extended time – could outbid the Bills. Buffalo lost its fourth-rounder in 2021 as part of the Stefon Diggs trade but owns an extra pick in the fifth round and potentially a conditional selection in the seventh.
Edwards came into the league as an undrafted free agent, but he has value now. Would the Ravens take a No. 3 and a No. 5 from Buffalo for Edwards and a sixth-rounder? Would the Bills go that steep?
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.