Matthews: Jumping Off Bills' Bandwagon

posted by Bob Matthews -

NFL DRAFT FIRST ROUND: JUMPING OFF THE BILLS’ BANGWAGON

Sorry, I can’t buy into the prevailing theme that the Buffalo Bills had a terrific first round in the NFL draft Thursday night.

One thing I liked: Trading up from No. 22 to No. 16 to select versatile Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Obviously, a position of need for the Bills. He’ll turn 20 soon and figures to start right away. In a few years, he’ll likely be a star. Great pick.

Two things I did not like:

The AFC East-rival Jets foiled Buffalo by securing the No. 3 overall pick in a pre-draft trade with Indianapolis. It worked out perfectly for the Jets as they wound up with USC’s Sam Darnold, the safest pick among the four so-called (not by me) “franchise quarterbacks”.

Buffalo entered the draft with six picks in the first three rounds – two in each round. They’ve added two players and have only one of those six picks left to use on Friday: No. 96. The gap of 80 picks (from Edmunds at No. 16 to No. 96) seems huge for a team with so many holes on the roster.

One thing I don’t understand at all: The confidence the Bills and most of their fan base seem to have in quarterback Josh Allen.

He has great size (almost 6-foot-5 and around 237 pounds) and an arm described as a “bazooka” or a “howitzer.” He also has decent mobility. Unfortunately, his accuracy is the huge question mark. He’s never had it. Even at Wyoming, where one would’ve expected him to be a dominant player. Other knocks on Allen include “play-making under pressure” and “struggles with timing and anticipating throws.” No big deal, right? Can those deficiencies be corrected?

I’m not impressed that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and the Cleveland Browns were touting Allen as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft or that Sports Illustrated and USA Today’s NFL Draft Preview were among the periodicals with the same speel. I wonder if the Browns and a few other teams were using Allen as a decoy and it worked.

This might not be fair, but let’s compare Buffalo temporary starting QB AJ McCarron’s career numbers at Alabama to Allen’s at Wyoming:

McCarron – 40 games as starter...36-4 record...686-of-1,026 (66.9 completion percentage) for 9,019 yards; 8.8 yards per pass attempt; 77 TD passes; 15 INT; 162.5 rating.

Allen – 26 games as starter...16-10 record...365-of-649 (56.2 completion percentage) for 5,066 yards; 7.8 yards per pass attempt (including a dismal 6.7 last season); 44 TD passes; 21 INTs; 137.7 rating.

McCarron, of course, was playing for the best team in college football. He had stellar pass protection and elite complementary offensive skill players. He also was a great college quarterback at the highest level. He was second for the Heisman Trophy as a junior and First-Team All-America as a senior.

Allen was Second Team All-Mountain West in 2016 and honorable mention in 2017.

Some other numbers for Allen: In four games against Boise State, Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon in 2017 and 2018, he was 60-of-123 (.500) for 558 yards, with 2 TD passes and 10 interceptions. He didn’t exactly step up against better competition. Some of his best games last season were against Gardner Webb, Texas State, Utah State and New Mexico (combined record 16-33).

To be fair, Allen didn’t have a stellar supporting cast on offense at Wyoming. Four star players left after the 2016 season. Wyoming’s strength was defense last season. Allen didn’t have great receivers to throw to in 2018, but for the most part, he wasn’t facing big-time college defenses, either.

There is a wide range of opinion on Allen. Phil Simms (CBS Sports) said Allen was “the best quarterback in the draft and I don’t hesitate at all.” NFL.com compared him to former Tennessee Titan Jake Locker, a highly-rated QB with a big arm who flopped.

I’ll be rooting for Josh Allen, but for now I’m among those who wonder why so many people seem to believe he is destined to be Buffalo’s “franchise quarterback”.

A few more thoughts on NFL Draft Day 1:

Arizona did Buffalo a favor by trading up to No. 10 to beat Miami to the punch for quarterback Josh Rosen. Facing Darnold (Jets) and Rosen (Dolphins) four times per season might’ve been a tall order for the Bills.

I don’t blame the Bills for picking Allen instead of Rosen, who is the more polished passer and more likely to play right away. Rosen’s two concussions last season can’t be discounted. How many more could he have before he’d need to quit for a slightly less high-paying but much safer job?

The Bills will open the 2018 season September 9 at Baltimore. It will be interesting to see if the Ravens will have figured out how to use No. 32 pick Lamar Jackson in their offense.

The big story in Cleveland’s training camp figures to be the battle for starting QB between No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield and veteran Tyrod Taylor. The fans and media figure to favor Mayfield for his obvious advantage in accuracy on short- to medium-range passes.

TALE OF THE TAPE: KNIGHTHAWKS AT THE BANDITS

The Rochester Knighthawks can clinch a spot in the National Lacrosse League playoffs with a victory Saturday night at the Buffalo Bandits. The Bandits also need the victory and a crowd of at least 15,000 is expected at Key Bank Center.

If the K-hawks lose to Buffalo, they could only make the playoffs only if East Division rival Georgia loses both games it will play this weekend (not likely): home against hapless Vancouver (2-15 record) Friday night and at New England Sunday.

(Unfortunately for the K-hawks, they’re the only team in the nine-team that didn’t get to play Vancouver this season...they were 2-0 against the NLL-best Saskatchewan Rush).

Here’s how Rochester and Buffalo measure up entering Saturday night’s regular season-ending big game:

Records – Rochester 9-8 (including 4-4 on the road)...Buffalo 8-9 (including 4-4 at home)

Goals by – Rochester 221...Buffalo 219

Goals allowed – Rochester 197...Buffalo 225

Goal differential – Rochester +24...Buffalo -6

Penalty minutes per game – Rochester 14.59...Buffalo 17.76

Power play percentage – Rochester 61.9 (39-for-63)...Buffalo 54.2 (45-for-83)

Penalty killing percentage – Rochester 48.1 (37-for-77)...Buffalo 52.9 (45-for-85)

Shots per game – Rochester 54.82...Buffalo 55.53

Shots against per game – Rochester 52.59...Buffalo 55.88

Faceoff percentage – Rochester .655 (266-of-406)...Buffalo .460 (236-of-513)

Average home attendance – Rochester 6,760...Buffalo 13,570.

The Bandits have tremendous potential firepower with Dhane Smith, Shawn Evans and Mitch Jones...The K-hawks play better defense and have a significant advantage in goal with five-time NLL Goalie of the Year Matt Vinc...Rookie faceoff specialist Jake Withers is another big plus for Rochester.

Rochester is 38-27 all time in 65 regular-season games against Buffalo, including 15-15 at Buffalo.

This season, the Knighthawks are 2-1 versus Buffalo: won 21-11 in Rochester December 23 and won 17-19 in Buffalo February 24...Buffalo won 16-14 in Rochester February 3.

STEPHEN CURRY’S RETURN HUGE FOR THE WARRIORS

Golden State’s Stephen Curry had his first full practice this week after missing 14 games with a left knee sprain. His return figures to bolster the team’s relatively poor three-point shooting in the playoffs.

Three-point shooting for the Warriors:

Regular season – 39.1 percent (tops in the NBA)...11.3 for 28.9 per game.

Playoffs – 33.6 percent (12th among the 16 teams)...9.4 for 28.0 per game.

The Houston Rockets also have slipped in the playoffs:

Regular season – 36.2 percent...15.3 for 42.3 per game (by far the most in both categories).

Playoffs -- 34.6 percent (11th among 16 teams)...15.0 for 43.4 per game.

YANKEES ARE HEATING UP AT THE DISH

The New York Yankees are breaking out the big bats after a slow start this season.

The Yankees enter Friday night at the Los Angeles Angels on a six-game winning streak to boost their record to 15-9. They lead Major League Baseball in home runs (39), runs 146), total bases (392), on-base percentage (.352) and slugging percentage (.475).

Shortstop Didi Gregorius, an early-season candidate for American League MVP, lead the Yankees with 9 HRs, followed by Aaron Judge (7), Gary Sanchez (6), Giancarlo Stanton and Tyler Austin (5 each), Miguel Andujar (3), Aaron Hicks (2), and Brett Gardner and Brandon Drury (1 each).

The Yankees are on pace to hit 263 HRs. The team record is 245 (set in 2012).

The Yankees play three games at the Angels and four games at Houston before returning home. They’ll host the Boston Red Sox (19-5 record) May 8-9-10.

SHORT SHOTS

The NHL expansion Vegas Golden Knights could be THE sports story of the year. They crushed San Jose 7-0 Thursday night and are 5-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs and outscoring opponents 14-3.

Former Rochester Knighthawks superstar John Grant Jr. has been selected the state of Colorado’s High School Lacrosse Coach of the Year for all classifications.

2015 International League MVP Matt Hague (.338, 33 doubles, 11 HRs, 92 RBI for the Buffalo Bisons) and 2017 Rochester Red Wing (.297, 30 doubles, 10 HRs, 65 RBI) will complete the Thruway circuit as a member of the Syracuse Chiefs. He was released this week after a slow start with the Tacoma Rainiers (Pacific Coast League). The slumping Red Wings could’ve used him now.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, April 27

Corey Seager (24)...Keenan Allen (26)...Alfred Blue (27)... Roland Williams (43)...Herm Edwards (64)...George Gervin (66)...Chuck Knox (86).

Saturday, April 28

Blake Bortles (26)...Dillon Gee (32)...David Freese (35)...Josh Howard (38)...Nicklas Lidstrom (48)...John Daly (52)...Barry Larkin (54)...Mark Bavaro (55)...Hal Sutton (60). Jessica Alba (37), Penelope Cruz (44), Jay Leno (68) and Ann Margret (77) are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, April 29

Jonathan Toews (30)...David Lee (35)...Jay Cutler (35)...pro wrestler Aksana 36...Sterling Hitchcock (47)...Andre Agassi (48)...Curtis Joseph (51)...Reggie Miller (53)...Mike Babcock (55)...David Fenyves (58)...Gary Cohen (60)...Jim Ryun (71)...Johnny Miller (71)...Luis Aparicio (84). Uma Thurman (48), Michelle Pfeiffer (60), Daniel Day-Lewis (61). Jerry Seinfeld (64) and Willie Nelson are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

April 27

65 years ago (1953), pro wrestler Freddie Blassie introduced the term “pencil neck geek”...62 years ago (1956), heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired undefeated...35 years ago (1983), Nolan Ryan passed Walter Johnson as the all-time strikeout king...21 years ago (1997), Nancy Lopez won the LPGA Chick-Fil-A Charity Championship.

April 28

88 years ago (1930), the first pro night baseball game was played in Independence, Kansas...52 years ago (1966), the Boston Celtics won their 20th NBA Championship, 4-3 over the Los Angeles Lakers...51 years ago (1967), Muhammad Ali refused induction into the Army and was stripped of his heavyweight title...33 years ago (1985), Billy Martin was named manager of the New York Yankees for the fourth time...30 years ago (1988), the Baltimore Orioles lost their 21st straight game.

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