The Buffalo Bills just went through some intense offseason reconstructive surgery. It was a face-lift of sorts, and now the offense has curves in all the right places.
They brought in Percy Harvin, an explosive slot receiver during the rare moments he’s been used properly. They signed tight end Charles Clay, who’s another dynamic option fresh off two straight 600-plus yard receiving seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
And the shining jewel was running back LeSean McCoy, who came through a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s only a season removed from recording 2,146 yards from scrimmage, and adds yet another level of versatility to an offense that was very much in need of it.
McCoy is now in a position to repeat or better that career single-season high output purely because of sheer volume. Just ask another member of the Bills backfield.
“I don’t know exactly what my role is going to be,” fellow Bills running back Fred Jackson told Sal Capaccio of WGR 550. “They say they want Shady to get 300-plus carries next year, so that’s a guy you’re feeding the ball all the time.”
It is indeed, Fred, and anything less would signal offensive doom.
Not because the Bills would be wasting a potential prime season from McCoy after giving him the fifth-highest yearly pay among running backs (though they would be). And not just because McCoy is a multi-threat weapon who can be utilized creatively.
No, they need to ride McCoy because he’s the best blanket to hide Buffalo’s impending quarterback catastrophe.
The Bills also signed Matt Cassel this offseason, the same Matt Cassel who completed only 57.7 percent of his passes at an average of 6.0 yards per attempt for the Minnesota Vikings in 2014. EJ Manuel is also still around and clinging to a career after he was wretched enough to be replaced by Kyle Orton.
Then there’s Tyrod Taylor, who’s thrown all of 35 regular-season passes over four NFL seasons. Yet in the most damning depth-chart statement of all there are people within the Bills organization who believe Taylor has a chance to start Week 1, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
It all adds up to what will have to be an unconventional approach in today’s still passing-mad NFL. The quarterback will have to be hidden in Buffalo, and made to matter as little as possible.
The Bills have structured their offense around that concept while stockpiling skill position players who excel in space. Harvin, Clay and McCoy can quickly turn short catches into long gains.
But McCoy needs to lead that charge after proving he can shoulder a heavy workload, and thrive under it.
Over the past two seasons McCoy has led all running backs with 626 carries. During that stretch he was second in both rushing yards (2,926) and yards per game on the ground (91.4). He posted those numbers during two straight 300-plus carry seasons without missing a game.
Riding that galloping workhorse makes sense for the Bills financially, too. McCoy’s new five-year contract gives him $26.5 million guaranteed, but none after the 2016 season.
The Bills are paying a 26-year-old running back for prime production during what should be his prime seasons. If he’s not carrying the offense McCoy will fail to justify his dollars.