The band is back together in Buffalo. The trio of Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and John Brown, who helped Josh Allen to superstar status, are back like a crew of retired bank robbers returning for “one last heist.” Of all the players that the Buffalo Bills have parted with throughout Josh Allen’s career, no player absence has been more noticeable than Cole Beasley.
Though the underlying statistics may still be top 1/3rd of the NFL, most Bills fans will tell you the offense hasn’t felt the same. Beasley added a certain automaticity to the offense. A feeling that, no matter what, on third down, Beasley would run the perfect route, Josh would find him, and the drive would keep going. Expecting the Cole Beasley of 2019, 2020, and 2021 may not be realistic, but can the trusted vet be what it takes to get the Bills over the top?
How has 2022 Gone for Beasley?
There is little to write about Cole Beasley’s 2022 season so far. He was signed by Tampa Bay on September 21st, played in two games, and “retired” on October 5th. He played in two games for the Buccaneers. In those two games, he caught 4 passes on 5 targets for 17 yards, picking up one first down. His passes came in the same area of the field he made his living in Buffalo – within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Where he fits
It has been challenging assessing the Bills’ offense this season. Despite the frustration of fans, the underlying numbers of the Bills’ offense are largely similar, if not better, than 2021. Overall EPA is up. In areas where Cole Beasley most directly impacts the game, the short area of the field and third down, EPA and passer rating for Josh Allen has increased. The target share of passes in the short area of the field differs by 1%. The same goes for the percentage of those throws that go for first downs.
So again, I ask, why do what fans feel and what the numbers tell us differ so significantly? One possible point of frustration? Drop rate, particularly in the players tapped to fill Beasley’s role. In 2020 and 2021, Cole Beasley had a drop rate of 2% and 5.3%, respectively. Compared to the current options, the Bills would take that kind of consistency in a second. This season, Isaiah McKenzie has a drop rate of 9.5%. Dawson Knox has a drop rate of 7.5% (which is actually an improvement for him from the last season.) This may be the source of the Bills’ fan frustration, the lack of trusty hands in the slot position, as opposed to how it is currently being used.
So, getting to the reason you clicked on this article – how will the Bills’ offense use Cole Beasley? What kind of impact can he have? For Beasley, his potential role doesn’t change much. The same opportunities to produce in this 2022 offense will be similar to the 2020 and 2021 offenses. If Cole Beasley’s physical regression is minimal, and if he can reintegrate into Ken Dorsey’s offense, Cole Beasley could return to being Josh Allen’s trusty safety blanket, which has been missing this year.
To quote Jean-Baptiste Alphonse, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”