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What are the Buffalo Bills’ biggest concerns after Week 1? Which ones are overreactions?


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What are the Buffalo Bills’ biggest concerns after Week 1? Which ones are overreactions?


The Buffalo Bills’ 22-16 loss to the New York Jets on “Monday Night Football” was an ugly one that sent angst through Western New York. Josh Allen mentioned Wednesday that watching the film helps players remember it’s never as good or bad as they thought it was. 

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s one game and we’re not going to let it turn into two,” Allen said. 

Some of what went wrong for the Bills can be written off as one bad game against a team that has their number. But which concerns that popped up are legit? Which are overblown? The Athletic’s Tim Graham and Matthew Fairburn explore the biggest concerns facing the Bills coming out of Week 1.

Josh Allen plays out of control too often

Graham: Overblown, for now. For a few years, the Bills have been trying to rewire Allen’s brain so that he’ll stop running as much, but what if that’s simply what makes him so special? They want him to preserve his body by taking fewer hits, not take so many chances that can lead to turnovers and become more of a pocket passer. That has been the mandate almost every offseason since he became the starter, and every season he runs for a bunch of yards and touchdowns anyway. This offseason felt different, however, with Sean McDermott and Allen harping on the fact those changes finally will happen. Monday night, you could almost see Allen thinking his way through plays in which he previously would have run in a heartbeat. Thinking even a nanosecond too long is problematic against a defense like the Jets, and with their pressure being hotter and their coverage tighter than most teams, we saw Allen crumble. If he cannot get comfortable enough between his helmet’s earholes to play instinctively, then this will turn into a legitimate problem that could sink Buffalo’s season.

Fairburn: Allen is the reason the Bills are a Super Bowl contender, so I think the concern over his game on Monday night is a bit overblown. However, it’s fair to wonder if his risky style of play will limit his ability to come through for the Bills in important moments. There’s no doubt the Jets’ defense is a problem for Allen and not every defense will be that problematic. I’d expect Allen still will give a lot of defenses fits, but the worry is whether the best defenses will be able to figure him out in pivotal games. As Tim mentioned, Allen’s running ability and bravado as a passer are what make him a special talent at the position. To an extent, it feels as if the Bills have to live with some of the negatives that come with that. But it’s fair to say Buffalo’s upside as a team depends on Allen’s ability to play within the structure of the offense when needed and eliminate some of the poor decision making that is creeping back into his game.

The Bills still need a reliable No. 2 wide receiver

Graham: Legit. While laudable and encouraging he earned his teammates’ votes to be a 2023 captain, and while he did have a nice preseason, Gabriel Davis still must demonstrate over the coming months he can be a go-to complement. Davis, after all, dropped 7.5 percent of his catchable targets last year, sixth-worst among receivers. It was a team-wide problem: Pro Football Focus charted Buffalo for the most drops per game and most yardage squandered through drops. On Monday night, Allen was focused on Stefon Diggs, but it worked. Of Allen’s 41 attempts, 13 went to Diggs for 10 catches, 102 yards and a touchdown. The next busiest wideout was newcomer Deonte Harty, whose four targets led to three catches and 9 yards. Davis caught two of his four targets for 32 yards, but one catch per half isn’t going to cut it. We’re still learning how Ken Dorsey will utilize tight ends Dawson Knox and rookie Dalton Kincaid, but they were on the field for 84 percent and 80 percent of the snaps, respectively, underscoring Buffalo’s newfound 12 personnel desire. 


Fairburn: Overblown. Allen has gotten by with worse wide receiver groups than this one. He appears to have two solid tight end options in Knox and Kincaid, and Buffalo is going to run plenty of 12 personnel. I still have faith in Gabriel Davis. He played through injury last season and works as hard as any player in that locker room. I don’t want to write him off after one bad game in which his quarterback looked lost against a gnarly secondary. Allen was under siege and turned to his most trusted target, Diggs, early and often. We’ve seen what Davis is capable of in moments and there’s no doubt he needs to be more consistent, but the best quarterbacks elevate those around them. Between Davis, Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty, the Bills have invested in wide receivers. It’s on Allen to develop the necessary trust with those wideouts and on Dorsey to figure out the best way to use them all. I’ll reserve judgment until we see this group against a lesser defense.

The offensive line – with two new starting guards (including a rookie) – will take a step back this season

Graham: Overblown. I don’t want to start with the guards, however. Right tackle Spencer Brown still remains the biggest question mark to me, especially after second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence’s splendid summer. Of the 83 tackles who played at least 20 percent of his team’s snaps last season, Pro Football Focus rated Brown 76th. Although the Jets gave the entire O-line fits Monday night, Brown had the worst night. He allowed a sack and opened overtime Monday night with a false start that contributed to the three-and-out. I’m convinced left guard Connor McGovern in the coming months will prove a decisive upgrade to Rodger Saffold, who made the Pro Bowl last year on reputation. Anyone who watched Saffold on a game-to-game basis recognized the need to replace him.

Fairbrun: The concern with Brown is legit, but the rest is overblown. The best thing that can happen to the Bills’ offensive line is getting Dion Dawkins to return to Pro Bowl form. He looked like he was ready to do that on Monday night. O’Cyrus Torrence looked rock solid at right guard, and it’s hard to envision McGovern being worse than Saffold. Mitch Morse is the steady hand in the middle. The biggest variable is Brown, who still hasn’t eliminated enough of the bad moments in his game. The trouble is he’s playing a position where it’s tough to hide. At right tackle, he’ll see some quality pass rushers. Allen needs to be able to trust him to hold up.

Ken Dorsey’s play-calling will not allow the Bills to reach their potential offensively

Graham: Overblown. As the Bills try to transform the way Allen is hardwired, Dorsey will need to adjust how he calls the plays that keep the swashbuckling quarterback as healthy as the front office demands. But Dorsey proved himself last year, overseeing the NFL’s second-best offense in points per game and yards per play, first in third-down percentage and ninth in redzone TD percentage. And the Bills managed all that despite obvious offensive line deficiencies and dropped passes galore. That said, Dorsey is tasked with putting Allen in the best position to succeed. He and Allen must discover a rhythm that works for them both if Allen’s not supposed to run anymore.

Fairburn: Legit. I think Ken Dorsey is a fine offensive coordinator, but Jordan Palmer was on Colin Cowherd’s show Tuesday and mentioned it’s “less about what Ken Dorsey isn’t and more about Brian Daboll.” He went on to say Daboll is one of the smartest coaches in football, particularly at teaching the quarterback position. As Tim pointed out, Dorsey showed he can run an offense that will put up elite numbers last season. What I wonder about is whether he can get through to Allen in the same way Daboll was able to. Some quarterbacks are better with a certain coordinator, and it’s so hard to quantify. A lot of what Daboll did during the week is stuff nobody sees. It’s also tough to quantify how important his presence and play-calling was to Allen on game days. Maybe it’s that unknown that gives me some concern that the offense has a certain ceiling under Dorsey.


Sean McDermott taking over defensive play-calling duties will be too much to handle and ultimately hurt the defense

Graham: Overblown-ish. One game doesn’t forecast the entire season, but there was little reason to criticize McDermott after Monday night’s performance. On an emotional stage, with New York commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks on primetime against a future Hall of Fame quarterback making his heralded Jets debut, the Bills’ defense played remarkably well. In the McDermott-Allen era, the Bills are 31-4 when allowing 18 points or fewer through four quarters. Despite Allen’s four giveaways, it took Garrett Wilson’s miraculous catch against Tre’Davious White’s excellent coverage and the third overtime punt return TD in NFL history for the Jets to win.

Fairburn: This is overblown when it comes to the defense. The early signs are that the Bills’ defense will be just fine with McDermott calling the shots. It might even be a better, more aggressive group than it ever was under Leslie Frazier. What we need to see play out, however, is whether McDermott taking over the defensive play calling will have a negative impact on his ability to make the best game management decisions. Even if McDermott calling plays is a positive for the defense, it might not be a net positive for the entire team. 




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