Bills Must Go Back to the Drawing Board on Offense
Sunday’s loss to the Oakland Raiders was inexcusable. Sure, Oakland was at home, but on paper the Buffalo Bills were superior to the Raiders in most categories. I suppose that’s why games aren’t played on paper.
What went wrong for the Bills on Sunday? Just about everything that’s been going wrong for the majority of the season. Here are a few things that need addressed in the offseason.
QB: Kyle Orton’s stats don’t tell the whole story. His stat line (32/49, 329, 3 TD, 2 INT) doesn’t look bad, but his overall play was lacking on Sunday. Orton’s accuracy was once again all over the place. There were some big plays that Buffalo missed out on because of Orton’s accuracy issues. His two interceptions were also very bad. Orton tried squeezing a tight pass in on Charles Woodson and the defensive back intercepted the ball. His second interception was simply airmailed. Besides this, Orton and the Bills offense was dink and dunk dependent. This was the same reason that Bills fans were calling for E.J. Manuel’s head. With Oakland missing two of their top four cornerbacks, Fred Jackson should not have been leading the Bills in targets. Buffalo needs to try and upgrade this position in the off-season or at least add some competition. Buffalo hasn’t entertained the thought of playing EJ Manuel, which is very telling.
OL: Orton deserves heat for his overall play the last few weeks, but the offensive line was absolutely brutal on Sunday. Marrone called their performance the worst of the season. The line struggled in run blocking and pass protection. Buffalo’s running backs had 13 yards on 13 carries. Late in the game, the Bills faced a 3rd and 1. Instead of running the ball twice, Marrone opted for a short pass that went incomplete and a punt. It was clear that Marrone didn’t trust his offensive line to help the team pick up one yard in a crucial situation. While most felt like Marrone punted the game away at that point, he had no reason to believe in his line. The interior of the line was especially bad. The Bills need to address this position specifically in free agency. There are some intriguing guard options who are due to enter free agency. One option the team has? Moving Eric Wood over to guard and adding a center. Would the team do this? Who knows, but Wood may be better suited there. There’s also hope for the development of Cyril Richardson and Cyrus Kouandjio. Buffalo’s offensive line is a glaring weakness that must be addressed by the team. Perhaps a new offensive line coach is needed as well.
Offensive Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett sometimes takes too much blame. That said, his overall body of work isn’t impressive. The offense kept the Bills from a playoff spot this season. There’s no way around this. The defense is having one of the best seasons in years but the offense held them back. A competent offense would have led to wins against the Texans, Chiefs and Dolphins. After next week’s finale, Doug Marrone needs to relieve Hackett of his duties. The two are good friends, but football is a business. Find a competent offensive coordinator, perhaps a guy like Marc Trestman, and many fans will feel optimistic about their chances in 2015.
-I joked during the game that Buffalo’s top priority in the offseason should be cloning Marcell Dareus. Buffalo’s run defense without Dareus was no joking matter though. Dareus was mauling Oakland’s offensive line on Sunday. When he was in the game, the Raiders rushed the ball six times for five yards. Following Dareus’ injury? The Raiders rushed for 135 yards on 30 carries. Dareus is under contract for one more season, but paying the man now
-C.J. Spiller returned on Sunday and reminded us all that next week should be his last with the Bills. He rushed four times for -4 yards and had four receptions for 14 yards. Spiller is not a bad player by any means, but he’s just not a good fit in Buffalo. He has a player option to return to Buffalo, but if he’s concerned about his value on the open market, he should sign a one year deal with a team that will utilize him better.
-Will Doug Marrone ever learn from his conservative ways? It was previously mentioned, but his punt with 8:22 remaining in the game likely led to Buffalo’s loss. Buffalo failed to convert a 3rd and 1 pass to Chris Hogan but still only needed a yard. With the game on the line, Marrone should have called two consecutive quarterback sneaks to gain the one yard if needed. The Bills would have had a chance to get into field goal range or score a touchdown while taking valuable time off of the clock. The conservative play of Marrone is another reason why the Bills aren’t playing in a crucial Week 17 game. It’s unlikely that Marrone is let go, but someone needs to talk to Marrone in the Bills organization and push a more aggressive attitude in 2015.
-Could Jim Schwartz get a head coach job elsewhere in 2015? It’s certainly possible based upon his resume with Buffalo. The Bills should encourage Schwartz to stay by boosting his salary. The Schwartz/Bills relationship is a win-win for both parties and hopefully we’ll see them together again in 2015.