After the Bills’ trade for Kelvin Benjamin, we delve into what they got in the 4th-year receiver and how he can succeed in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bills completed the shocking trade with just three minutes to spare before the 4 pm trade deadline. A third and a seventh round pick in the 2018 draft was sent to the Carolina Panthers for wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. This trade not only proved the Bills’ coaching staff is all in on ending the league’s longest playoff drought, but it also proved that they were confident in both Benjamin’s ability and his character.
Both Bills GM Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott were around for Benjamin’s first three years in Carolina, with McDermott serving as the Defensive Coordinator and Beane being the Assistant GM. Beane was involved in the scouting of Benjamin before the Panthers drafted the Florida State product in the first round. Regarding what the staff might have seen in the wideout, Benjamin had this to say following his first practice with the Bills:
Benjamin seems to be focused on positively influencing the locker room and building chemistry with his co-workers in Buffalo. But what is more important is how he will impact the Bills’ offense. Buffalo’s offense currently ranks 26th overall and 30th in passing. Can he come in and boost a WR group that has been struggling up to this point?
Through the first seven weeks of the NFL season, Buffalo ranked dead last in receptions and receiving yards by wide receivers, which was evident in their loss to the Jets on Thursday. New York was stacking the box and stuffing the Bills’ rushing attack and leaving receivers one-on-one on the outside all night. And, aside from a few intermediate completions, the Bills couldn’t find an answer until garbage time when the game was already well out of hand.
The Bills simply did not have the wideout personnel to beat that man-to-man look and this has been covered up both by pounding the rock and QB Tyrod Taylor extending plays. Taylor’s most consistent targets have been TE Charles Clay and RB LeSean McCoy. Clay is leading the team in receiving yards with 258 despite being sidelined since October 8th and McCoy is second on the team with 242 receiving yards. The Bills’ top two WRs this year have been Jordan Matthews (21 catches on 28 targets) and Zay Jones (16 catches on 44 targets). They have been short on wide receiver talent all season after the retirement of Anquan Boldin, the trading of Sammy Watkins and the disappointment of that Jones has been. Insert Kelvin Benjamin.
Buffalo is getting a 6-5, 245-pound first round wide receiver talent. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for with his big body and dependable hands. Aside from being sidelined with a torn ACL for the 2015 season, he has shown consistency with his output on the field in 2014 and 2016. In both seasons, he was around 1,000 yards and had at least 60 receptions. Benjamin is a legit red zone threat (8 career red zone TD’s) who has the ability to box out smaller DB’s. Here’s Coach McDermott on his new offensive weapon:
Benjamin’s ability to come down with the ball in traffic and in tight spaces will help out Taylor immensely, giving him a target in those man-to-man situations that the Jets took advantage of. Taylor has not trusted to fit many passes into tight spaces or thrown up many 50/50 balls to his receivers, which is why he only has 2 INTs this season.
However, we have seen Taylor develop a trust with Watkins when he was healthy and then this year with Clay. Taylor took the Bills offense to a new level in the second half of 2015 by giving Watkins more shots down the field and we saw this the first few weeks with Clay. The sooner that Taylor realizes that Benjamin is a talent that is worthy of being trusted, the sooner the Bills passing offense can improve.
The Bills got what they were lacking and satisfied a glaring need: a true number one wideout to the play the “X” in Rick Dennison’s offense. Dennison has said that Benjamin will be ready to play this Sunday at home against New Orleans, though it may not be an easy transition to a new team and a new offense. The Saints are giving up only 210.5 yards per game through the air and, given their explosive offense on the other side of the ball, Benjamin will most likely be thrown out into the fire in order for the Bills to keep up on the scoreboard.
It is known what kind of physical talent that Benjamin possesses, but what will be interesting to find out is how fast he can both adjust to this new west-coast system under Dennison and build a rapport with his new quarterback. Much of Benjamin’s immediate success will depend on how acclimated Dennison feels that he is to the offense as well as how much Taylor trusts his new target.
Edited by Joe Sparacio.
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