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5 questions with Buffalo Rumblings: New stadium, Brian Daboll, more

What can we learn about the Buffalo Bills

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills
Going to a Bills game in Orchard Park is a unique experience.
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

With the New York Giants traveling to western New York this weekend to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football, we turn to SB Nation’s Buffalo Rumblings for our weekly ‘5 questions’ segment. Matt Byham answers the call.

Ed: This game is a homecoming for Brian Daboll. How do Bills fans feel about Daboll and about Ken Dorsey, the man who replaced him as offensive coordinator?

Matt: Like any fan base, ask 10 people the same question and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. Despite that, I’d say that, overall, most of Bills Mafia has nothing but fond memories of Brian Daboll — and many wish he was still the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. Why? Well, because some believe that Ken Dorsey isn’t doing a good enough job in the role, despite the numbers. Countless people will grasp as tightly as possible to that one play every game that doesn’t go well — the one that seems ill-timed, or involving too much out-of-the-box thinking. That one flaw can ruin the rest of a game for Dorsey... in the eyes of his naysayers. This is true even if he calls a near-perfect game that sees every key player (I know, everyone’s a key player) meaningfully involved and successful. I’d say the book is still out on Dorsey, whether that’s fair or unfair.

I tend to believe he was a wise choice to succeed Daboll, having worked under him — and due to the fact that Josh Allen went to bat for him... that is essentially told the team that’s who he wanted to be his next OC. This is just his second season in the chair, and all things take time. He deserves more time, and his scheme(s) is/are evolving. He’s shown a fair amount of creativity. Sure, I’d love to see more downfield use of tight ends Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox, but all things in time. No one’s ever perfect, but too often sports fans expect that it has to be or a change needs to be made that will make things right.

I had shared this info elsewhere, but it’s topical to re-share again here:

Allen under Daboll in 2021:

  • 409-of-646 (63.3%) for 4,407 yards (259.2 ypg). 6.8 yards per attempt
  • 36TDs (5.6 TD%), 16 INTs (2.3 INT%)
  • QB rating 92.2, QBR 60.7

Allen under Dorsey in 2022

  • 359-of-567 (63.3%), for 4,283 yards (267.2 ypg). 7.6 yards per attempt
  • 35 TDs (6.2 TD%), 15 INTs (2.5 INT%)
  • QB rating 96.6, QBR 73.4

Ed: The Bills play in an antiquated stadium that some might call “quaint.” There is, though, something different and special about attending games there. Is there any worry that some of that will be lost when the new stadium opens in 2026?

Matt: I could wax poetic about the current stadium for thousands of words. The stories I have from what feels like far too many years ago now. The look on peoples’ faces the first time they see the men’s bathrooms. Yes, it’s quaint, if ever a word can be used for a stadium that once held over 80,000 fans. While it lacks the same “charm” found in Fenway, the vibe is similar in that it’s really just about the game, not the place. You don’t go there to see the house, you go for the family. Bills Mafia have made the place legendary — long before the Mafia was a thing — and the weather occasionally offers an assist. The suburb of Orchard Park literally swallows up the current stadium. It’s a unique setting that keeps the crowd far more die-hard than most places. True, lifelong fans who live nearby think of the team like family.

I have to believe that most of what has made the Bills’ home... home, will be whitewashed in the new place across the road. New stadiums tend to be all about the amenities — the stuff that, in the end, distracts you from the actual game. That’s not to say what the Bills currently have is terrible — but the infrastructure is on borrowed time. It will be sad when they tear down the current stadium. But at the same time, the stories of it being built on top of a sacred Native American burial ground have led many to believe the site is cursed, and the most superstitious of fans can’t wait for it to vacate the land. Bills tickets are still among the most affordable of all NFL seats, but that’s certain to change with the new building, and the added PSLs.

I’m also team retractable roof, and that’s not happening. It’s not as though ownership couldn’t fund the extra it would cost, it’s just that it would set a precedent that 31 other owner(groups) would dislike. When you have a generational QB like Josh Allen, who plays best in perfect conditions, a roof option makes sense. I could go on about the benefits of a roof in Western NY, but I’ll cut it (admitted already not very) short for now.

Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster and put him into Buffalo’s starting lineup, who would it be? Why?

Matt: Without a second thought it’s running back Saquon Barkley! I’ll admit that I didn’t relish the idea of trading for him in the past due to the cost of doing business. But more than that, I was concerned they wouldn’t properly utilize him and then end up losing him in free agency — and then have no Barkley, and be out picks/any financial investment used to bring him in on a rental.

I also don’t believe for a second that Daboll would be nutty enough to send Barkley packing. But his talent and ability to take over a game are of the generational variety. The Giants are a completely different team with Barkley in the lineup, which isn’t news to Giants fans or anyone paying attention to the NFL. But Barkley does have an injury history and that’s exactly why we’re seeing teams so unwilling to pay them (running backs) their just due. Still, I’m picking him first if he’s an option.

Ed: Of the former Bills who are now on the Giants’ roster — quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins, running back Matt Breida, cornerback Nick McCloud and edge defender Boogie Basham — are there any the Bills should not have allowed to get away?

Matt: Well, that depends on who you ask. Since this is a question for me, I’d say of those listed Tyrod Taylor is the one player who I wish was still with the Bills. Not as a starter, but as Allen’s backup. Taylor is first and foremost a great guy, humble, kind, and more. He’s also an efficient quarterback who, while he won’t make many game-changing plays on any given down — also doesn’t put the ball up for grabs often. I’m glad Taylor got a real shot with Buffalo and that he was QB1 when the team broke the 17-year playoff curse. He will always have that, and he’d have had more if only injuries didn’t derail a promising late-career surge after he left Buffalo.

There’s a bit of a cult following with some members of Bills Mafia who believe Isaiah Hodgins was a huge miss on the Bills’ part. I, however, don’t see it the same way. Hodgins was buried deep on Buffalo’s roster because of the talent ahead of him. When he left for the Giants, he joined a team that had a coach who knew him, so he had a head start in making an immediate impact. Additionally, I believe the competition surrounding him with the Giants lacked quite a bit compared to the Bills’ options. Hodgins’ success is fantastic and he’s another player who’s easy to root for. I just think that he was caught in a numbers game where he wasn’t enough of a difference maker to stand out above those ahead of him.

Man, Boogie Basham. What a wasted pick for the Bills. He just never really had a fit in Orchard Park, NY. When the Bills selected him, right after drafting edge rusher Greg Rousseau in the first round, many people covering the Bills were confused. It felt like doubling down on finding a solution to get to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. I’m not a fan of drafting players who might be the key to one opponent, one player. (Mind you, that’s my feeling here — not that One Bills Drive would tell you the same is true.) But when Basham struggled and the Bills were still chasing the top of the AFC, they went all in and paid dearly for edge rusher Von Miller. So instead of drafting a player who’d have made a difference elsewhere with far less talent, they had a struggling Boogie and a very expensive Von. Miller is incredible, and he’s helped the defense in so many ways, but his addition spelled the end of Basham in Buffalo. The trial and error was costly, given his second-round status, lack of production, and the route general manager Brandon Beane felt he needed to take in signing Von Miller. Ugh. I hope he does well with the Giants. It’s often about fit. That’s on the coaching staff to identify, first and foremost.

There have been others to leave the Bills for the Giants as we know. Wide receiver Cole Beasley might rate as a regret in some regards, but he’s not the same Bease at this stage of his career. Tight end Tommy Sweeney never took off with Buffalo. He had a rough go of it with COVID-19, and myocarditis, and then additional injuries.

Ed: The Giants are two-touchdown underdogs according to DraftKings Sportsbook. They should not win this game. Is there a path for them to do that, or at least keep it close? What might that look like?

Matt: Oh for sure there’s a path. That whole thing going ‘round Elon’s social media experiment right now about teams returning from London and not taking the bye immediately after, and 11/11 times being tied or trailing into the 4th. Not great odds for the Bills. Plus, it’s Daboll. If anyone knows Josh Allen, it’s Daboll. The question is if he, as an offensive mind, knows what it’s going to take on defense to stop Allen’s game, and if the Giants have the right personnel.

With the late-week injury reports, we know quarterback Daniel Jones won’t play. With Taylor taking over QB1 duties, it’s possible the Giants find a rhythm where it appeared lacking in Jones. The kid’s got a ton of talent, but it feels like the organization has failed him with that offensive line, even when considering injuries. I have to wonder if Jones has gotten the David Carr treatment.

The Giants for sure can keep things close if they play (or adopt) similar defensive methods the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars employ. The Bills offensive kryptonite appears to be athletic 3-4 defenses. While Allen was on fire in Week 2-4, that was against teams that didn’t play 3-4 base, and allowed a ton of underneath stuff to beat them. Allen’s numbers looked great at the end of the London game, but he was held in check until the fourth quarter. If the Giants can force those underneath throws and tackle as soon as the catch is made, they’ll stifle the offense, and potentially frustrate Allen into looking deep in situations that might not favor the Bills.

While this game may feel like a major mismatch, anything’s possible. The Bills are without key defenders at every level of the defense: Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, linebacker Matt Milano, and cornerback Tre’Davious White. For White, it’s already season-ending as he recovers from a torn Achilles. With Milano (broken leg, potential knee issue) and Jones (torn pectoral), it’s at least a month, and potentially much later in the season — if not season-ending in nature. Losing those three, is going to change Buffalo’s defense. Their numbers will naturally regress. Milano is damn near irreplaceable, but so is Jones who’s made everything click on D. The key is to keep the ball away from Allen and Diggs. Do that, and victory is anything but certain for the Bills.