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Buffalo Bills offense would take big hit if LeSean McCoy is suspended by NFL  4 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

You hear it from just about every NFL coach in mid-June when the last of the offseason OTA and/or mini-camp practices conclude and the players head out into the real world, the world outside the insulated bubble of team facilities, for six weeks of vacation.

They hope the players use their free time wisely, stay on top of their workouts and diet, don’t get hurt, and perhaps most important, stay out of trouble, so they can come back in late July ready to get after it in training camp.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said this on the last day of Buffalo’s mini-camp on June 14: “We’ll take a few weeks off; the guys get a chance to get away and catch up with their families and do a bit of traveling, but also really just refresh their minds. That’s an important part of this, making sure that everything’s squared away and everything’s buttoned up before we head back to training camp.”

The controversy LeSean McCoy finds himself in this week is not what McDermott, or anyone in the Bills’ organization starting right at the top with Terry and Kim Pegula, had in mind.

The images of McCoy’s former girlfriend that surfaced Tuesday morning were hideous and troublesome, to say the least. The Instagram post that accompanied the photo of a battered and bloodied Delicia Cordon, piled on even more horror.

McCoy, the star running back of the Bills who is also their best player, was accused of being responsible for the beating of Cordon – not by his own hand, but perhaps by instructing for it to be done — and the friend of Cordon’s who put up the post also alleged that McCoy has, in the past, beaten his son and his dog, and used illegal steroids.

That Instagram post was soon taken down on the direction of Cordon’s lawyer, but the fire was lit and smoke has been billowing all week, and now McCoy’s future as an NFL player, at least one in Buffalo, could hinge on whether any of these charges are proven to be true.

While the lawyers and police investigators sort it all out, the NFL and the Bills are also conducting their own investigations into the matter, and this could mean that McCoy will be placed on the league’s exempt list per the guidelines of its personal conduct policy.

It states that if McCoy is ultimately charged with a crime, or even if he’s under suspicion pending investigation which is certainly the case right now, he is subject to the exempt list and thus would be ineligible to participate in any team activities including practice and games until the issue is resolved.

The Bills are scheduled to report to St. John Fisher College on July 25 and their first practice is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 26. There seems to be a very good chance McCoy may not be there.

So, what does that mean on the field for the Bills? Not a whole lot right away because McCoy, a 10th-year NFL veteran who turned 30 years old Thursday, can obviously survive missing training camp practices and, should the process elongate deep into the summer, preseason games.

But come Sept. 9 in Baltimore, if McCoy is still unavailable to the Bills either because he remains on the exempt list or has already been suspended by the league for whatever length of time, a Buffalo offense that is already expected to struggle with McCoy, could be in real trouble without him.

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The Bills have running back candidates with varying degrees of NFL experience who can step in, starting with free-agent signee Chris Ivory. Ivory has played 95 games for the Saints, Jets and Jaguars, totaling 4,852 yards, 94 receptions for 743 yards, and 31 total touchdowns.

Bills fans know of Ivory from his time with the Jets when he had his best years, from 2013-15. He started 30 of the 46 games he played for New York (he had just 12 other starts in five years combined with the Saints and Jaguars) and had rushing seasons of 833, 821 and 1,070 yards.

“I’m just here to work hard and when my number is called, be ready to perform,” Ivory said when he signed with the Bills back on March 6. “I’m a physical guy. I can run between the tackles and I think I don’t get noticed as much for (what) I can do in space. Just be the guy that they can count on.”

Of course, he was speaking of the role he signed up for as McCoy’s backup. Whether Ivory can carry the load as the starter remains to be seen. He would be a decent stopgap, but he’s not nearly the threat McCoy is, certainly not as a runner and definitely not as a pass receiver.

Behind Ivory, there are four players who will be battling for probably two roster spots, three if McCoy is suspended. They are Taiwan Jones, Travaris Cadet, Marcus Murphy and Keith Ford. 

Jones and Cadet have logged the most NFL playing time. Jones has appeared in 74 games with the Raiders and Bills, though he has never started a single one and has only 183 career rushing yards along with 18 catches for 251 yards. Cadet has 72 games played (three starts) with the Saints, 49ers, Patriots, Jets and Bills, and he has served primarily as a third-down specialist in passing situations. He has only 180 rushing yards, but has caught 118 passes for 959 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Cadet is coming back from a gruesome broken ankle suffered in the Week 16 loss to the Patriots last year, while Jones suffered a season-ending broken arm in the Week 9 loss to the Jets. 

Murphy has played 17 games in three NFL seasons with the Saints and Bills exclusively on special teams and has no rushing attempts or pass receptions, though he did show some bursts of flash during the spring workouts and is considered a potential to earn a surprise roster spot. Ford is a 24-year-old rookie free agent out of Texas A&M.

The Bills have approximately $16 million in salary cap space, but that includes only the top 51 salaries, and does not include rookie first-round pick Josh Allen, who has yet to sign his contract. Still, there’s enough room to dip into free agency if they feel they need a better option, though the pool is pretty shallow.

Former NFL rushing champ DeMarco Murray is available, as is former three-time rushing leader and probable future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson. But Murray is 30 and Peterson 33; both are in clear decline and may not be worth the investment.

Eddie Lacy is only 27 years old, but after two promising 1,000-yard seasons with the Packers after they picked him in the second round in 2013, he has battled conditioning problems and has been released by both Green Bay and Seattle.

Other backs on the market include Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Jamaal Charles, Andre Ellington, C.J. Spiller, Bishop Sankey, Akeem Hunt, Branden Oliver and Alfred Morris, but this underwhelming group only illuminates the realization that this would not be an easy fix for the Bills if McCoy is suspended for any period of time.

 

 

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