AFC East rival Buffalo Bills made a splash by trading an injured linebacker, Kiko Alonso, to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy. The move makes a lot of sense for Buffalo, but the New York Jets should not be hindered by this blockbuster deal,
The Jets and Bills play two times a year as AFC East rivals. The Bills took both games in the series last year, an area the Jets will have to improve on to become more competitive in their division. The Bills finished a respectable 9-7 while the Jets stumbled to 4-12 last season.
On paper, the addition of LeSean McCoy gives the Bills a much more dynamic offense. One of the league’s best running backs, amassing 6,792 rushing yards and 2,282 receiving yards. There’s no denying McCoy is an explosive running back and he’ll look to translate that to Buffalo’s offense.
Buffalo features a stellar defense and a bright, young receiver in Sammy Watkins. What it doesn’t feature, however, is a true NFL-caliber quarterback. Florida State product E.J. Manuel has shown flashes at times, but was relegated to the bench last season for Kyle Orton. With Orton retired, Manuel looks poised to retake the position as outside quarterback options are thin.
What happens when an offense has a quarterback who routinely can’t find his open receivers? They rush the ball. A lot. And LeSean McCoy, who will be 27 years old at the season’s start, already has 1,461 rushes in his career, as well as over 600 in the past two seasons. He may not be too old yet, but his body has a lot of wear and tear over six NFL seasons.
This wear has not taken full effect yet, but McCoy failed to enjoy the success of his career best 2013 season last year. He experienced a 300 yard drop, a shift from 5.1 to 4.2 yards per carry, and a dip from nine to five rushing touchdowns, all while getting only two less carries than the previous year. He also fumbled three times, not terribly concerning but a step up from one the season before.
Buffalo hasn’t exactly been a premier location for the league’s best running backs in the past few seasons, but rather a stepping stone. Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl running back had two 1,000 yard seasons to begin his career, but immediately fell off. Current free agent C.J. Spiller enjoyed an amazing 2012 season with 1,244 yards, but has been under or mis-utilized for a large part of his Bills career. Buffalo has had a hard time getting consistent production from the running back position.
It’s also noteworthy to add that McCoy will incur $33 million in salary cap hits over the next three seasons. The Bills can certainly afford this, but it may become a burden as McCoy approaches 30 years old and the Bills look to retain their young stars.
Does all this add up to McCoy being a bad running back? Certainly not, but it’s important to put in perspective what McCoy brings to the Bills and how it will affect the Jets.
Assuming the Jets can add a cornerback or impact defensive player this offseason, the defense will be pretty stout. One of the team’s biggest strengths is its defensive line, highlighted by Sheldon Richardson and Muhamed Wilkerson. These two defensive anchors can both rush the passer and stuff the run.
The Jets were fifth in the league in least rushing yards allowed, giving up only 93.1 yards per game. They also ranked sixth overall defensively, meaning it was generally very hard to move the ball against New York. McCoy would fare not much better than the rest of the league’s running backs, and would likely find little success rushing the ball against the Jets.
McCoy should make the Bills a better team, but without a quarterback, he doesn’t really pose a threat to the Jets. The Jets can stuff the box and dare E.J. Manuel to beat them with his arm, something he is seldom capable of. McCoy has also most likely reached his peak with his career year in 2013. If he is indeed on the decline, he won’t even be a threat if the Jets build a true contender in the next few years.
In the short term, trading for McCoy is a “sexy” move by the Bills that’s sure to satisfy the fan base. But the Bills aren’t ready to contend without a great quarterback and by the time they’re ready McCoy will likely be far past his prime.
It’s always unsettling to hear that a divisional rival has signed one of the league’s premier players at a given position. But when that player doesn’t have a solid quarterback, has likely already peaked, and plays a position your team counters very well, there’s no reason to be scared. LeSean McCoy will not ruin the Jets future any time soon.
EDIT: The Bills have reportedly traded for Vikings QB Matt Cassel. While Cassel has proved capable at times, this does not alter the quarterback concerns for LeSean McCoy