The Bills’ approach to team building seems short-sighted after another loss to the Bengals

The Bills’ approach to team building seems short-sighted after another loss to the Bengals

The Buffalo Bills took a measured approach in the offseason last spring. After signing quarterback Josh Allen to a contract extension, the team decided it would avoid a major blowout in free agency and through the trade market.

And that’s pretty much what happened. They added good players like Leonard Floyd and cornerback Rasul Douglas.

But bona fide stars? Not much.

At the beginning of the season, the big idea might have been something like this: Allen will get better and that will make everyone better. Maybe they’ll have to deal with a big departure like Tremaine Edmunds (who left for Chicago in free agency). But perhaps a slew of their picks on defense can help fill the gaps.

The plan itself It appears to have holes.

This big idea is starting to seem like a mistake. General manager Brandon Beane had to start trusting Allen in a more significant way. You can’t blame Ben for that. Allen deserved his huge deal, that’s how the NFL works. Allen is one of the three most talented QBs in the NFL. But it’s one thing to be talented, it’s another thing to be great. Right now, Allen is more the former than the latter.

If he was truly great, the Bills wouldn’t be 5-4. If Allen were great, he wouldn’t have thrown five interceptions in a row. Many of them have been excused. He technically threw just two turnover-worthy passes during that span, according to Pro Football Focus. This means that not all objections are to him.

But Sunday night?

There’s no blaming offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. There is no blaming the recipient. There is nothing to prevent it from being protected. This one is entirely on Allen. It is difficult to understand why a midfielder cannot control himself. His first-quarter interception was the equivalent of poor decision making with even more surprising, terrible execution. He threw down the sideline to Gabe Davis trying to beat a safety who was coming down to help. But because it was such a small window, Allen tried to punt the ball into the gap and the speed led to a lower trajectory that led to the ball going straight into the hands of defensive back Cam Taylor Britt.

It’s arrogance from Allen.

It is the arrogance of the bill.

He does the same thing over and over again and expects a different result. Allen does this on a play-by-play basis. The Bills did it from a team-building perspective. And on both levels, it sparked another disappointing game against the Bengals, who embarrassed the Bills in the postseason (resulting in the quiet departure of defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier that looked like a firing).

Finally, we can see what Stefon Diggs is saying.

He wanted change. He had to be reassured that not changing was a good thing. But his frustrations appear to be justified.

Bills receivers are tired of seeing Buffalo bring it back. Diggs has seen Buffalo get eliminated from the playoffs early, and he’s tired of it. He wanted to see big changes this season.

Now, it’s not as if the Bills haven’t made changes to the offense. They drafted tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first round last April and guard Cyrus Outorness in the second round. Both players started and contributed against Cincinnati. But their involvement isn’t exactly a fast track to a Super Bowl title: two high picks at tight end and a guard. Kincaid, for example, committed a rookie foul, fumbling in the fourth quarter against the Bengals during a game in which he also led the team in receiving yards. With young players, you can take the good and the bad. But this year, the bill shouldn’t have to do that. They have to look ready — or at least more ready than that — for the Super Bowl.

This doesn’t seem to be enough. Not yet, at least.

The hardest pill to swallow is actually that Bell’s offense isn’t their biggest problem. It’s easy to say, The bills should have been signed DeAndre Hopkins. They should have traded for him Jerry Judy. Well, they should have. But also, Hopkins didn’t stop Joe Burrow from throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns. And Jeudy wasn’t going to stop Trevor Lawrence from throwing for 315 yards and a touchdown — or even Mac Jones from throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns (his best game in a disastrous season).

All of these QBs beat the Bills this year. (Yes, even Jones.)

The Bills’ defense has been a mess, especially in the secondary. Cornerback Tre’Davious White was down for the season and Buffalo had no answer. Now, she traded for Douglas at the deadline. He may need some time to adapt. But this is not so Just CB1’s problem, which isn’t Douglas’ problem anyway. It is more than CB2. The secondary as a whole is not playing well, including former Pro Bowl tight ends Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Just look at Sunday night, when Boyer allowed a touchdown to Irv Smith and a third-and-10 conversion to Tyler Boyd in the first half (on a drive that ended in a touchdown).

Then there was the fourth-down conversion in the first half. It will remind Bills fans of their playoff loss to Cincy — for all the wrong reasons. Buffalo failed to count Jamar Chase.

I get it it’s 4th and 1 and the Bills were expecting a run. I realized Buffalo was in the zone defense and Chase was able to find an opening. But…it’s Chase. You can’t simply lose track of it.

The Bills are still struggling to deal with Burrow, who is not going anywhere. Buffalo can’t figure out how to control Allen’s aggressive decision-making — not since Brian Daboll left. And Allen isn’t going anywhere. (And he shouldn’t do that.)

Buffalo will have to start thinking about whether its coaching lineup is up to snuff. If Frazier’s departure doesn’t overhaul the defense and Daboll’s exit has led to such a decline in Allen’s decision-making, it raises some questions about the current makeup of the staff.

Coach Sean McDermott and Dorsey will definitely be on the hot seat if the team continues to look like this. Heck, if the Bills keep looking like this, these two coaches will likely be out. McDermott and Dorsey need to get back to winning regular season games, first and foremost. But this may not be enough for them to keep their jobs. The Bills were supposed to compete for the Super Bowl. They weren’t supposed to struggle to stay above .500.

Here’s the biggest problem: The Bills’ finances are starting to look out of control. Their salary cap space exceeds the cap by between $30 million and $40 million, depending on whether you look at Spotrac.com or OverTheCap.com for the salary cap numbers. It’s not like they’ll be free to make major changes to this roster next year. They’re kind of designed to get it working again – again.

It’s a scary prospect. The Bills have long struggled with the Bengals, let alone the Chiefs. But most of all, bills have conflicted with bills. It is time for them to make the development push they have been talking about for the past 18 months. Allen and McDermott have to fix this problem, or big changes are coming, the kind that won’t be generous to McDermott.

Before joining FOX Sports as East Asia correspondent, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @HenrysMkina.

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