Bills roundtable: Let the expectations, worrying begin for 2024 roster


Staff member

Florida State wide receiver Keon Coleman catches a pass for an overtime touchdown while being covered by Clemson cornerback Jeadyn Lukus last season. Associated Press file photo

With the bulk of free agency and the NFL draft in the rearview mirror, News Bills writers Jay Skurski, Ryan O’Halloran and Mark Gaughan tackle a few of the issues facing the team.

Q: What are your expectations for the Bills’ top two draft picks, Keon Coleman and Cole Bishop?

Coleman is going to be one of the Bills’ top three receivers, which means he’s going to play a lot. He’s not going to approach 90% of the snaps, like Gabe Davis, or 150-plus targets, like Stefon Diggs, but with both of them gone, Coleman will have every opportunity to earn a prominent role. The one thing that might keep Coleman’s snap counts down is more use of two-tight end sets with Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox on the field at the same time, because that takes a wide receiver off the field. Even then, however, Coleman’s body type suggests he will have a role, especially if he can prove to be an adequate blocker. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 catches and 800 yards seems reasonable.

I see Bishop following the same path as O’Cyrus Torrence did last year. When the Bills drafted Torrence, they had a capable veteran, Ryan Bates, penciled in to start at right guard. Instead, they went to training camp, and Torrence won the job outright. The coaching staff didn’t stand in the way of a rookie earning playing time. With Bishop, a similar situation is shaping up. The Bills could start veterans Taylor Rapp and Mike Edwards at safety, but if Bishop goes to training camp and proves he’s the better option, there is no reason to hold him back. I say he starts in Week 1.

Mark: I expect Coleman to take some time to hit his stride in the NFL. Davis had 35 catches for 599 yards and seven TDs as a rookie. I think a realistic, hopeful comparison for Coleman is Allen Robinson, who had a nice career for the Jaguars and Bears. He had 48 catches as a rookie, albeit in an offense very different from Buffalo’s. I’ll go 45 catches for 720 yards, a healthy 16-yard average, with five touchdowns.

Bishop will start a lot of games for the Bills in his career. Yet the Bills may want to ease him into the action as a rookie because experience is so critical at the safety position. Rapp is signed to a three-year deal. Sixth-year safety Edwards is playing on a one-year deal. I think Bishop’s role to start the season will be as a third safety in a dime package, similar to what Rapp did last year. Bishop starts by December. Mark him down for 40% of the defensive snaps.

Ryan: I expect Coleman, who turns 21 later this month, to be a sponge when the Bills swing the mega-deal for San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel. Oh wait, that’s not going to happen? Very well, my expectations for Bishop are higher than they are for Coleman. Bishop will immediately be the Bills’ dime player (six defensive back personnel) and I expect him to replace Edwards by midseason. As for Coleman, Mark’s projected statistics seem right.

Q: After free agency and the draft, are the Bills still the favorite in the AFC East?
Las Vegas oddsmakers say yes, I say no. My pick post-NFL draft is the New York Jets. Obviously, the Jets are a risky pick due to the health of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who turns 41 in December. But the Jets won seven games last season and lost five one-score games with Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian and Tim Boyle combining to start 16 games. The Jets’ defense is the best offensive or defensive unit in the AFC East.

Jay: Yes. As long as quarterback Josh Allen is in his prime, I’m sticking with this pick. Allen has owned the Dolphins, and Miami is the second-best team in the division. The Jets’ defense is great, but the circus around Rodgers (will he run for vice president? What cockamamie conspiracy theory will he promote next?) makes that team impossible to believe in. The Bills have gotten younger − and cheaper − but I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing.

Ryan: I’ll stick with the Bills as the class of the AFC East even with Rodgers back healthy for the Jets. I like the Bills’ offensive line and their skill-position personnel better than what the Jets have on their depth chart. Miami will take a step back out of the playoffs and New England will again draft in the top three next year.

Defensive end Von Miller, hitting the elbow of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in a 2022 game, needs to regain his old form for the Bills. Harry Scull Jr., Buffalo News
Q: What’s the biggest worry position on the Bills’ roster?
Defensive line pass rush. It’s not crazy to think Von Miller can recapture the form he showed the first 11 games of the 2022 season. But he has to prove it at age 35. It’s not crazy to think Greg Rousseau can take a good step forward from his five-sack season in 2023, now that Leonard Floyd isn’t taking away some prime pass-rush opportunities from him. But Rousseau has to prove it. The defensive line’s rotten performance in the playoff loss to the Chiefs is hard to shake from the memory.

Jay: Wide receiver. The Bills said themselves you simply don’t replace a Stefon Diggs on your roster ... and then they proved it. Coleman might be a nice addition, but he’s unlikely to match Diggs’ production as a rookie. The Bills are banking on Khalil Shakir taking another big step forward and offensive coordinator Joe Brady knowing how to best utilize Curtis Samuel. Maybe that all comes together, but on paper, the collection of weapons at wide receiver for Allen is a worry.

Ryan: The depth chart at left guard is David Edwards, who was a backup last year … and then who? Alec Anderson was around last year but didn’t play. The Bills need to be sure they start training camp with trust in their depth so if Edwards gets injured, they don’t have to move center Connor McGovern back to the spot he played last year.

The Bills' collection of weapons at wide receiver for quarterback Josh Allen is a concern. Harry Scull Jr., Buffalo News

Q: Who is a veteran free agent the Bills should sign in June?

I’m not expecting any Leonard Floyd-type move. I liked the addition of former Jaguars defensive end Dawuane Smoot on Friday. He’s a younger Shaq Lawson type. If you look at the defensive line roster, the Bills needed a little more stoutness for specific matchups, like San Francisco and Baltimore. Obviously, the fans would like some more insurance at wide receiver. I think the signing of Chase Claypool, who has underachieved in his short career, is going to have to suffice. Why bring in an Odell Beckham Jr. (who signed with Miami) when he’d only steal quality reps from Coleman, whose development you need to fast-track? Keep repeating this mantra: younger, cheaper.

Jay: Dalton Risner. As Ryan astutely pointed out above, interior depth along the offensive line is a concern. Risner would allow the Bills to keep McGovern at center − you don’t want to be moving him around − if something were to happen to Torrence or Edwards. A former second-round draft pick in 2019, Risner turns just 29 in July.
Ryan: I’ve been pounding the drums for All-Pro safety Justin Simmons since he was cut by Denver in March. The Bills could make him this year’s version of defensive end Floyd – a proven veteran signed to a one-year deal late in the offseason. Simmons would allow the Bills to bring Bishop along at their preferred pace.