The Bills plan on starting undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel at quarterback in Week 1, but they're still NFL analyst Mike Mayock’s dark-horse team this season
ANDY DEGORY: What sleeper team do you have on your radar this season?
MIKE MAYOCK: In Buffalo there’s some excitement. A year ago, people didn’t understand that they were a tough mismatch. Forget the quarterback for a second. Scott Chandler is a better tight end than people think—especially in the red zone. Stevie Johnson is a mismatch out wide. C.J. Spiller had a great year last season. They’re a tough matchup. Now you bring in those two wide receivers they drafted—Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. One is vertical guy [Goodwin], and the other is a great route runner [Woods]. More weapons. EJ Manuel looked really good when I visited their camp. If he can function behind their offensive line—it’s not great, but it’s pretty good—if he can get the ball distributed they’re going to be a better team than people think.
DEGORY: What storyline are you looking forward to following most this season?
MAYOCK: It became apparent to me as I went around to training camps, and from what the coaches were talking about—the tempo and pace that teams are trying to play at. It’s generated by what the Patriots did last year, using part of the Chip Kelly system. So for me, the whole tempo thing is going to be a storyline this year. Chip Kelly is going to try to play at warp speed. The Patriots got seven or eight more snaps per game than any other team in the league last year. I think other teams want that. Every camp I went to has a version of that warp-speed tempo. With all these teams trying to run it, I’m really interested to see how the defensive coordinators handle it. One of the things that system does, if you move fast enough, it can take a talented defensive coordinator out of the game. I hear about all the zone-read stuff, but I think a bigger story is tempo.
DEGORY: There are a lot of young general managers who have been hired in the past few years. What’s behind this youth movement?
I’m a big believer in any kind of hiring—whether it’s a coach, GM, or CEO in the business world—to forget the age. Value the experience, but get the right guy. I think when you see guys like Thomas Dimitroff, who was trained very well in New England and then went to the Falcons. [Jaguars GM] David Caldwell came from a similar background as Dimitroff. There are GM trees, just like there are coaching trees, and I think we are seeing the residue of that. At the end of the day, hire the right guy. I don’t care if he’s 40 or 60.