Welcome to the Week 3 Bills Mailbag. Let’s tackle your questions …
Brenda Alesii asks: I have been impressed with Greg Rousseau’s dominance on the defensive line. Do you think he’s taken that proverbial next step and will continue to be a force? If so, is it attributable to consistent coaching and his maturation now?
Jay: Rousseau was on his way to a big season in 2022 before suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 9 against the Jets. As we saw with Gabe Davis, that injury can linger for an entire season, so it’s fair to think Rousseau’s second half would have been a lot more productive if he wasn’t hurt. Even on a field full of athletic marvels, Rousseau’s size and movement skills stand out. At 6-foot-6 and 266 pounds, he has the size to be an elite run defender, which he’s been through two weeks. For more on that, see the Scouting Report in today’s issue. Rousseau has six pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus, so the next step is for him to reach the quarterback and get in the sack column. He’s on the way to becoming the player the Bills hoped he would be when they drafted him in the first round, but there is still room for improvement. The coaching he has received from Eric Washington and the mentoring from Von Miller have played in that. Rousseau has always been a mature player, even going back to when he was a rookie.
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John from Sanborn asks: What do you think about moving Kaiir Elam to one of the safety positions? With Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde possibly out after this year, it seems like a good move and a way to get some results out of a first-round draft pick.
Jay: There has not been any talk publicly about the possibility, but I understand the question, John. Safety is a position with a long-term need, meaning beyond this year. What’s interesting is the Bills had talked previously about possibly using Christian Benford at safety, but that was before he became the No. 2 cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White. As long as Benford holds onto that job, it seems unlikely the Bills would move him. Right now, there has been no indication the Bills plan on training Elam at safety. As I wrote last week, it’s likely there comes a time that he is needed this season, so the best thing for all parties right now is the coaching staff continues to work with Elam during the practice week. There would be no harm in trying Elam at safety, but I wouldn’t expect such a move to be made until after this season at he earliest, if it happens at all.
Luigi Mike Speranza asks: Considering the Commanders’ excellent front four, do you expect more quick passes and screens from Josh Allen on Sunday? Maybe up the running attack too?
Jay: Both of those are reasonable expectations. The weather forecast is looking a bit better after it showed the possibility of heavy rain earlier in the week. A rainy game would seem to favor the Commanders, although the Bills were excellent in the run game last week. As for Allen, he’s about in middle of the league in time to throw, at 2.84 seconds on average, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. His average completed air yards of 3.9, however, ranks just 29th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks. That shows Allen is completing a lot of shorter passes. In other words, he’s taking what the defense gives him. Washington’s secondary is a weakness, and the Commanders have given up some big plays early this season, so if the Bills’ offensive line can hold up against Washington’s pass rush, I expect this is a game Allen may look to push the ball down the field a fair bit more than he did last week. Of course, he has to be smart when he does that, so as to not repeat what happened in Week 1 against the Jets.
Jeff Miller asks: We bring in a defensive lineman because he is a good run stuff, or can get to the quarterback on passes. Why can’t they be expected to be good at both?
Jay: The hope is they are good at both … but those players make a whole lot of money. Ed Oliver is a good example for the Bills. He got paid this offseason, and to his credit, has been a force through the first two weeks. Oliver has eight pressures and five “stops” according to analytics website Pro Football Focus. A “stop” is defined as any tackle that constitutes an offensive failure depending on down and distance. A dynamic interior pass rush is the best way to disrupt opposing quarterbacks, so the defensive tackles who are best at that – the Rams’ Aaron Donald and the Chiefs’ Chris Jones, to name two – command massive contracts. When a team finds a defensive tackle who is good at both stopping the run and rushing the passer, they have to pay up accordingly.
Ed Helinski asks: In the next four weeks the Bills play Washington, Miami, Jacksonville (in London) and the New York Giants. Please get out your crystal ball and tell us how many the Bills win during this stretch?
Jay: I’ll say they go 3-1 during this stretch to reach the six-game point of the season at 4-2. I have them beating Washington and the Giants, and then see a coin flip games against the Dolphins and Jaguars. I’ll go with a win at home against Miami and a close loss in London.
Dan De Fediricis asks: Raiders linebacker Robert Spillane was all over the field last Sunday, making 14 tackles, including a sack of Josh Allen. He was signed to a two-year contract this offseason for $9 million, which seems reasonable. Did Brandon Beane miss an opportunity there?
Jay: At the moment, no. Terrel Bernard has looked fine at middle linebacker. He made an interception last week against the Raiders. His advanced stats from PFF aren’t great, but he had a very good game against the run in Week 2. It’s fair to think Bernard’s play should improve as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable with his job. It also helps that Matt Milano has looked every bit like an All-Pro the first two weeks.
Ron Jacobs asks: I have noticed many of the NFL head coaches are bald or going bald. Is this a requirement or an occupational hazard?
Jay: Definitely an occupational hazard. I feel their pain as I slowly lose the battle against a receding hairline. Thanks, Ron, now I’m feeling self-conscious.
Jim Miller asks: Who is a better writer, you or Mark Gaughan?
Jay: That’s easy. Mark is. I might be a little longer off the tee, though.
Louis Stromberg asks: In honor of the Bills playing in Washington, D.C., this week, please ranking the following DCs. AC/DC, DC comics, the Wildcat formation, “The Birdcage,” redcoats.
Jay: 5. Redcoats. Go USA. 4. “The Birdcage.” RIP, Robin Williams. 3. DC Comics. Batman is the best superhero, but that’s another power rankings for another time. 2. The Wildcat formation. Legendary for a time. 1. AC/DC. Apparently, there is an AC/DC tribute band in Buffalo. I’ve got to check them out sometime.
Thank you for all the questions this week. As a reminder, they can be submitted via X to @JaySkurski of by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rousseau is on the way to becoming the player the Bills hoped he would be when they drafted him in the first round, but there is still room for improvement, Jay Skurski says. Read More