BBD Staff Writer: Glenn Gifford
While attending Wednesday evening’s Bills practice, I had a “Eureka!” or “A-ha!” moment. I was fortunate that this moment lasted for more than two hours; previous “Eureka!” moments that I’ve experienced were usually short-lived events that occurred while taking freshman algebra.
The moment was early on during 7-on-7 drills yesterday when I realized that Marquise Goodwin, a third-round pick rookie wide receiver and kick return specialist from Texas, should be a starting wide receiver for the Bills offense. To say that Goodwin’s performance on Wednesday was spectacular would be an understatement.
He stuck out on the St. John Fisher College field like a roach on a wedding cake. I began to ask myself why Goodwin was not starting as a wide receiver for the Bills. There is not one wide receiver on the current Buffalo Bills roster with the upside Goodwin has.
Speed and Run After the Catch
Goodwin’s speed is incredible, a realization I confirmed when he was about halfway through his first touchdown run and was running away from defensive players who only a second earlier had an angle on him. He is able to make players adjust their pursuit angles. Once defensive players have to do this, tackling the opponent becomes more difficult.
Not one Bills defensive back came near Goodwin on his first touchdown Wednesday. It looked initially like a play where Goodwin would be angled out of bounds. A few seconds later, he was in the end zone and people were singing the “Shout” song.
I looked at my 16-year-old son and said “Did you just see what he did?”
My son’s response: “T.J. who?”
Goodwin’s second touchdown was even better. Goodwin caught a routine slant pass from Kevin Kolb with only a small amount of separation. That small amount of separation was all that Goodwin needed. He scampered 50 yards in about five seconds, leaving the Pittsford crowd in a buzz.
Goodwin has shown the ability to break a long play each time he touches the ball. His performance as a kickoff returner versus the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, which included a 107-yard kickoff return touchdown, was proof of this.
I get the same feeling when Goodwin has the ball as I do when C.J. Spiller carries the ball. At any moment, either player could break a play in the open field into a touchdown.
Why not bring that type of explosive playmaking ability on the field every play? During an interview with BuffaloBills.com reporter Chris Brown last month, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett alluded that he would put his top five offensive players on the field. Goodwin is in the Bills’ top five. No doubt!
What about T.J. Graham?
Graham, a second-year wide receiver from NC State, is being outperformed by Goodwin in my opinion.
The highlight reel was brief. His only touchdown catch of the season came in Week 3 versus the Cleveland Browns. He also made a very noticeable mistake versus the New England Patriots, when he ran a route improperly and it turned what could have been a game-winning touchdown into a game-clinching interception for the Patriots.
The overdrafted Graham did nothing last year to make fans think that he was the long term answer at wide receiver. He didn’t make the Bills think so either. Buffalo would not have made such a commitment this year to acquiring receivers through the draft if they were confident in Graham’s ability.
Officially, Graham had 31 receptions for 322 yards in his rookie season. These are not numbers that jump off the page, and in no way should these numbers make Graham the incumbent to win the No. 3 receiver position for the Bills.
A year older does not mean better. In short, Goodwin has been consistently better in the camp practices I have attended. He should be rewarded with the chance to start in Friday’s preseason game versus the Vikings and throughout the season. He has also outperformed Chris Hogan and much-hyped undrafted rookie Da’Rick Rogers.
Underutilized at Texas
A common opinion coming out of Texas was that the Longhorns did not utilize Goodwin properly during his collegiate career. The knock was that Texas focused on a running attack and did not take advantage of the receiving weapon they had in Goodwin.
If you take a quick view of Goodwin’s college highlights below, you will notice a commitment to the jet sweep.
I fear that the Bills will underutilize Goodwin as well. Keeping Marquise on the sideline and relegating him to be a kick return specialist is a waste of his talent.
I also noticed a new wrinkle in the Bills offense at camp. Instead of Goodwin, Chris Hogan was getting reps running Hackett’s version of a jet sweep or reverse. Why? Do the Bills really need to make up a play for Hogan to justify his position on offense?
Bills fans were miffed when C.J. Spiller was denied carries in order to give Fred Jackson snaps at running back last season. Hearing reports of C.J. being “winded” even further angered Bills fans who wanted Buffalo to cash in their winning Spiller lottery ticket. The Goodwin argument is no different!
I am all in on Marquise Goodwin. I have seen enough in my multiple camp visits, reading daily reports and watching him play versus the Colts to believe that he should be a starter in Buffalo’s new offense.
If Buffalo is going to commit to putting the best five offensive players on the field at once, Goodwin should be on the field. However, Goodwin may be under-utilized and relegated to being a kick return specialist to start the season. The latter, in my opinion, would be a mistake.
It is my hope that Buffalo gives Goodwin the chance he has earned with consistently stellar camp performances. Rookie Kiko Alonso is in line to start at inside linebacker, while rookie Robert Woods is in line to start as the No. 2 wide receiver. It is time for Goodwin to be rewarded for his efforts.
Alonso is the correct choice for the starting role over Arthur Moats. It has nothing to do with loyalty and years of experience, it’s about the level of talent. Goodwin has shown more talent than any other #3 wide receiver on the Bills during training camp.
This talent should be rewarded by a starting position with the team. He has earned it. He should be rewarded for his efforts. Some other receivers might be upset if he moves up the depth charts, but to that I respond: “Too bad!”