Welcome to the inaugural Buffalo Bills mailbag column.
I'll try to do one of these interactive pieces every couple of weeks throughout the offseason, and if they're well received, I might be able to answer some Twitter questions in article form during the glorious in-season months.
For future reference, you can ask me a question at anytime on Twitter for this feature—just use the hashtag #AskCTrap.
OK, let's get to it.
That's hard to say right now, Dave, but I have to think Marrone will be looking for a more considerable upgrade at both the guard and right tackle spots.
One of the major mistakes Marrone made in his first season as an NFL head coach—there's bound to be some bumps along the way, especially early—was his faith in Colin Brown at left guard to begin the year. (Don't forget, though, Doug Legursky hurt his knee in the preseason, which didn't help.)
J.J. Unga saw some time in the late stages of the 2013 campaign, but I don't view him as anything more than guard depth—which can be important—next season.
With clear "holes" at left guard and right tackle, I think the Bills will address both spots in free agency and/or the draft.
Those two positions are integral, especially when you want to run the football often and you're dealing with a young, developing quarterback.
Remaining atop the league in that niche statistical category would be unlikely, but I do think Marrone and offensive coordinator Nate Hackett are dedicated to running the football. Will more than 50 percent of those runs come up the middle?
I think much of Buffalo's propensity to call interior runs for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson was due to the consistent run-blocking struggles of right tackle Erik Pears.
With Cordy Glenn at left tackle—a more than capable road-grader—and the upgrade at right tackle I mentioned above, the Bills should have more designed outside runs in the playbook in 2014.
Not really. To me, Da'Norris Searcy is much more of an Aaron Williams than a Jairus Byrd. He had his ups and downs in coverage in 2013 but his versatility proved to be his most vital asset.
While I believe Searcy could stand in as a free safety for the Bills, I don't think he's the ideal type of defensive back to have as the last line of defense.
However, we have to keep in mind that if Byrd signs elsewhere in free agency or is traded, whoever replaces him almost assuredly won't be as good.
I do believe Buffalo's front office has a plan in place if Byrd isn't retained. Free agent Louis Delmas, who's spent his entire NFL career with Jim Schwartz in Detroit, seems to be a logical insurance option.
Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks are safeties on the roster as well.
#AskCTrap Scale of 1-10, how dire is finding a true #1 WR this offseason, either via FA, draft?— Kris Settle (@Kris_Settle) February 15, 2014
Finding a "No. 1 pass-catching option" is more vital than pigeonholing the need for a wide receiver or tight end. Stevie Johnson is a very good receiver and I firmly believe Robert Woods has a bright future, especially with the rapport he showed with EJ Manuel in 2013.
Quite obviously, Marquise Goodwin will assume the role of downfield speedster.
But there's probably not a "true" No. 1 pass-catcher on the Bills right now.
Whether it's a "joker" tight end like Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro, a monstrous red-zone target like Troy Niklas or Austin Seferian-Jenkins or one of the "power forward" wideouts like Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo—more specifically, Manuel—needs that go-to guy who can routinely come down with the football in key moments and get six points on the board when the Bills get inside the red zone.
It doesn't have to be an enormous target, though. Sammy Watkins is only 6'0'', but his suddenness, agility and blistering speed make him someone with WR No. 1 potential.
Robinson is one of my favorite receiving prospects in the 2014 class, a view I share with many. While I don't think he'll run exceptionally fast, he has desirable size at 6'2'' and 220 pounds with 9.5-inch hands and proved to be a pretty dynamic open-field runner at Penn State.
He very well may be high on the Bills' draft board because there's a good chance he'll be available after Round 1.
Robinson is a similar prospect to Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews.
I'll admit, it's not easy scouting or even watching safety play live because of TV angles that desperately need to be modified, but that's another story.
Interestingly enough, one of my close friends is a huge, well-informed Florida State fan, and I watched nearly all of the Seminoles games with him this season.
Joyner was one of FSU's most productive defenders, a "always around the football" player.
I haven't heard or read the suggestion to move him to safety, probably because he's closer to 5'9'' than 6'0'', but I like that outside-the-box thought.
Heck, Byrd was a cornerback at Oregon.
There are a lot of "ifs" here, however.
If Byrd isn't retained, and if the Bills don't add a safety in free agency, I do think Joyner could be a mid-round target for cornerback and, like you proposed, safety depth. He moves very well and diagnoses quickly.
Enjoy the NFL combine, folks. Remember, send any Bills questions to #AskCTrap.
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