You had an idea where this was headed last Saturday when Duke Williams was added to the Bills’ 53-man roster.
In the eyes of those who saw him in training camp and during the preseason games, when he caught two touchdown passes, the promotion came five weeks later than it should have.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound wide receiver who starred at Auburn and in the Canadian Football League was waived in the cut to 53 players, made it through waivers, then was re-signed by Buffalo … but to the practice squad.
Meanwhile, Zay Jones was on the active roster but hardly producing to the level that would be expected of the 37th overall pick two years earlier. That changed four days ago when tackle Conor McDermott was waived and Williams was added to the roster.
He paid immediate results.
Sunday against the Titans, Williams caught all four balls thrown his way, including a 7-yarder for the winning touchdown in a 14-7 victory. Jones didn’t make an appearance on offense, except for one snap. And on Monday he was traded to the receiver-needy Raiders for a fifth-round draft choice next spring.
The deal was a somewhat embarrassing concession by coach Sean McDermott that he had erred in trading up seven spots to take Jones – the Rams got a third-round pick while Buffalo received a fifth-rounder and got to move up – who had set the NCAA FBS record of 399 career receptions at East Carolina.
The mistake fell to McDermott who managed that draft several weeks before Brandon Beane was hired as general manager.
Jones, whose father, Robert, was a linebacker for the Cowboys for 10 seasons, helping Dallas win three Super Bowls, struggled as a rookie logging only 27 catches with two touchdowns. He was beset by injury that off-season and had a bizarre meltdown in a Los Angeles high-rise during that span. In Season 2, his 56 receptions with seven TDs seemed to indicate that he might be the player the Bills had hoped, especially since he’d always been a willing blocker. But this year, in four games, he made no impact with a mere seven catches for 69 yards and no touchdowns.
It all created the perception the only reason Jones was on the roster – and Williams wasn’t – had to do with McDermott’s reluctance to concede he’d traded up to make a flawed draft selection.
To his credit, though, when confronted with Jones’ lack of production, he brought Williams on to the roster and Beane quickly swung a deal sending the wideout to Oakland which alleviated the potential for locker room tension.
A LOOK at the NFL standings has to be a delight to Bills fans.
It’s not without irony that Buffalo, at 4-1, has the second-best record in the AFC, but happens to be in the same division with New England (5-0) which has the conference’s top mark.
Indeed, five weeks in, there are only two NFL unbeatens, the Patriots and NFC’s 49ers (4-0).
As of now, the Bills are the AFC’s No. 1 playoff wild card. Three 3-2 teams are a game back and positioned for the No. 2 spot, either Houston or Indianapolis, whichever didn’t win the South division, and Oakland in the West.
But, with a dozen weeks to go, this has already been a bizarre NFL season.
The Colts went into Kansas City and shut down Patrick Mahomes and the then-unbeaten Chiefs – a great win for former Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich – and the Raiders rallied past the favored Bears in London.
And, a coach has already been fired. Jay Gruden, brother of John, Oakland’s coach, who got such a big win a day earlier, was dispatched by Washington (0-5) on Monday.
Meanwhile, Buffalo’s remaining schedule has taken an even softer look that it appeared originally. There are two games with Miami (0-4) and one with the Jets (0-4) in the division plus Denver (1-4), Washington and two Rust Belt rivals on the road – Pittsburgh (1-4) and Cleveland (2-3) – off to a slower-than-expected start.
One Dolphins game, plus the Jets, Broncos and Redskins are at New Era Field.
The rest of the schedule is at Dallas (3-2) and New England and home with Philadelphia and Baltimore (both 3-2).
The season has a long way to go, but for Bills fans who have known nothing but playoff failure for 18 of the past 19 years, it’s refreshing to speculate about postseason possibilities without having to rationalize them using some convoluted formula involving other teams’ schedules.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)