The New York Jets take on the Buffalo Bills in East Rutherford, New Jersey today in the Jets 2019 season opener. Previewing this matchup, Corey Giacovelli of Buffalo Rumblings was kind enough to answer a few questions for me regarding the 2019 Bills.
1. The Bills struggled badly on offense in 2018, ranking 31st in yards and 32nd in touchdowns. What have the Bills done to address the issues on offense, and how improved do you think the Bills offense will be in 2019?
The team was just bad on offense last year but general manager Brandon Beane made it a priority to fix it. This season, the only two players that were starting week 1 last year that will be starting this year are tackle Dion Dawkins and receiver Zay Jones. Everyone else has been replaced by the likes of John Brown, Cole Beasley, and Mitch Morse just to name a few. We are expecting Josh Allen to take a decent size jump heading into year two because he has shown that he has been getting better mentally at the end of last season and in the preseason. He is able to get to his check downs faster and is anticipating more. Will Buffalo have a top 10 offense this year? Probably not, but I do feel that they can be a middle of the pack team which would be much better than last season.
2. Unlike the offense, the Bills defense was superb in 2018, ranking 2nd in yards allowed and 1st in passing yards allowed. The pass defense in particular was impressive. How do you see the matchup between Sam Darnold and the revamped Jets offense playing out on Sunday? What’s the best way to have success against the impressive Bills’ defense?
Unlike the offense, the defense is returning the majority of their starters. They did lose Kyle Williams to retirement but replaced him with first round pick Ed Oliver who looks like he can fill that whole right away. In week 17 last year, Darnold had an efficient game against the Bills going 16-24 for 170 yards but his connection with Robby Anderson ended up being the difference in that game. For the defense to be successful it will be up to third year corner Tre’davious White to lock down Anderson. The best way to beat the Bills defense is to be determined at this point because in the preseason the starting defense was dominant but only played a couple series at a time. At times, the run defense has been a problem in the past so seeing how the team reacts to Bell will be a big test for them.
3. Like the Jets the Bills have what they hope to be a franchise quarterback entering his second year in the NFL. Like Sam Darnold, Josh Allen had his struggles in his rookie year. He was effective running the ball but struggled in the passing game. What are your expectations for Josh Allen in his second year, and which young quarterback do you think will have the more successful NFL career, Darnold or Allen?
I want to keep expectations for Josh Allen low because he still has a lot of room to improved but everyone knows that this team will go as far as he goes. I expect him to be a lot smarter with the football this year. Having a security blanket like Cole Beasley will make Allen go for the 3-5 yard gains more often instead of trying to thread the needle for those big plays. When it comes to his running game, he should be running less since he did have some ball securities issues at times last year. The key to his running will be to avoid the big hits. As a rookie he wanted to lay the smack down on any defender but now he should be looking to give up the extra yards and slide to prevent injury.
As to who has a better career I think it will be a toss up between the two. I can see them both having excellent careers for years to come with their respective teams. The problem with both of these players getting to the elite category is the amount of times they will have to go through each other in the regular and possibly postseason. Being in the same division means there is a guaranteed showdown between these two twice a year that will affect their playoff chances greatly but it will be fun watching these two battle for the foreseeable future.
4. How does the Bills 2019 draft class look to you? Which rookies are Bills fans particularly excited about and why?
Our draft class is expected to make an immediate impact week 1 with the first three picks having a good chance to start on Sunday. First rounder Ed Oliver is a beast up front who has the hunger and desire to succeed. Second rounder Cody Ford has shown that he can be an anchor on the new and improved offensive line for the team. Then there is third rounder Devin Singletary who we are really excited about. We were confused as to why the team went running back in the third round but then he showed off his skills. He has improved and developed so fast that it made LeSean McCoy expendable to the team. One sneaky guy could be defensive end Darryl Johnson who was a seventh rounder. He is raw but he has the speed and athleticism to be an impact rusher coming off of the edge.
5. Predictions: what’s your prediction for this game (who wins, why, and by what score) and for which team will finish the season with a better record, Bills or Jets? Will either team make the playoffs?
It is going to be a hard fought game all around on Sunday but I will stay true to my team and will say that the Bills pull out the victory 24-21. This defense is nothing to sleep on and if they can hold Darnold and company while moving the ball on offense I feel they can pull it out. The difference may come down to field position like in the game last year but this time Andre Roberts is on the Buffalo sidelines. I can see both teams hovering with the same record at the end of the season in that 9-7 and possibly even 10-6 range. Both teams have made plenty of improvements to challenge the Patriots and I can see both contending for a playoff spot but I cannot say for sure if both will make it.