Givanni Damico | July 25th, 2019
Because the Buffalo Bills don’t play in a big market city or have a flashy superstar, people tend to overlook them. They made the playoffs two years ago with a bit of help from Tyler Boyd and Andy Dalton, but last year wasn’t quite as successful. They had a second-year head coach and a rookie quarterback with very little offensive line help. This year there are no excuses. Josh Allen has spent ample time in the Buffalo system to familiarize himself with the expectations of the coaching staff and of the fans. He also has some weapons and some protection now. Everything is set up for another Buffalo playoff appearance, but can they follow through?
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ESPN graded the Bills’ offseason as “above average” and that they fulfilled their offseason goals of building an offense around Allen. They added 14 players to the offense in free agency and drafted four as well. They signed Mitch Morse at center, Quinton Spain at guard and Ty Nsekhe at tackle while drafting Cody Ford from the University of Oklahoma. They made some smaller signings in Spencer Long, Jon Feliciano, and most recently, Isaac Asiata, for depth to the offensive line. Brandon Beane also brought in wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley and drafted tight end Dawson Knox to add to Allen’s arsenal. They added a few small pieces to their already strong defense as well.
Next Year’s Offense
Brian Daboll and Sean McDermott have now had a year to work together and with Allen. There weren’t very high expectations going into the year, especially considering many people already wrote Allen off as a bust before he could even step on the football field. Next year, we will see Allen with a solid offensive line blocking for him and for LeSean McCoy and company. There are more options for Daboll to play around with as well. He’s got a plethora of good running backs and wide receivers to watch in training camp and he will be a big part of the decision when the final 53-man roster is picked.
Not only did Buffalo make some pretty large moves in free agency, but they also made some smaller moves that could greatly impact the team. They added Tyler Kroft at tight end, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, who could start this year if he recovers from his broken foot. Andre Roberts was also added at wide receiver to be a kick return specialist. This was a great move for Buffalo considering he was first-team All-Pro at the position in 2018. These “under-the-radar” moves could make a huge impact on the 2019 season for the Bills.
Next Year’s Defense
It amazes me that everybody still finds a way to underrate the Bills’ stellar defense. They allowed the second-fewest total yards last season while having the best defense in football when it came to passing yards allowed with just 2,867. One area where the Bills struggled immensely last year was with their defense on kickoffs. They ranked dead last when it came to where the opponent started their drives. Opponents averaged a starting position at the 32.6-yard line; this is an atrocious number. They have new bodies on the field for kickoffs now which should drastically change this.
I don’t expect much of a change from the Bills’ defense last year because they didn’t add a ton of pieces and they didn’t lose a ton of pieces either. If their offense can step it up even a little bit, and if their defense plays at the same level, Buffalo is in a great spot for the postseason. But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, and Levi Wallace need to continue to lock down opposing wide receivers while getting help up front. Ed Oliver, the Bills’ first-round pick at defensive tackle, will also be an x-factor for the defense. Buffalo could have done a better job at pressuring the quarterback and plugging the holes for the running backs last year and Oliver can play a big role in that in 2019.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
Quarterback (3): Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Tyree Jackson
There isn’t much debate here. Allen is that guy for Buffalo. Barkley was solid as a backup against the Jets last year and is a good mentor for Allen while rookie quarterback, Jackson ahs a real shot to make the roster.
No, Shady is not going to be traded or cut. Last year was an outlier for McCoy. It was his worst season to date. He didn’t have much help in a system with a rookie quarterback, rookie offensive coordinator, and a pretty bad offensive line to block for him. Gore is another veteran presence who is great for rookie Singletary and all of the young players on the team. Singletary has a future with this team and will get plenty of touches this year. Yeldon isn’t a lock to make this team by any means. DiMarco is almost a lock to start at fullback which may make it hard for Yeldon or Marcus Murphy to find a spot on this team.
Foster was a bright light in the Bills’ less-than-subpar offense last year and has proven himself more than enough to have a big role on this team. Brown and Beasley were Buffalo’s two offseason moves at wide receiver (other than the specialist Roberts). These two are veterans will provide good leadership for younger players and are still able to produce on the field. Jones and McKenzie were also part of the team last season and did what they could with what they were given. Jones had his bad moments but this is his make-or-break year. Now is his time to shine.
McKenzie was a Swiss Army Knife last year for Buffalo. He did some work on special teams and on swing plays as a runner, as well as being productive at the receiver position. Roberts is a lock to make the team as a return man. Sills is my risky pick for this group. I have only heard good things from people within the organization about Sills and I do believe that his big frame and soft hands can be a nice change of space from the smaller speed guys and slot receivers on this team. He’ll need to shine at camp to make the 53-man roster, but he is right there in the running.
Tight End (3): Tyler Kroft, Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney
Kroft has a long history of injuries and inconsistent play but he will make this team. We don’t know if he’ll be ready for the regular season as he is still ailing a broken foot and his role needs to be determined. Knox was Buffalo’s third-round pick and is a very athletic pass catcher. I have Sweeney over Jason Croom as the third tight end because Sweeney is more of an all-around player while Croom is more of just a pass catcher.
There isn’t much explaining needed for the first six guys on this list. They are all locks and have proven careers (minus Ford) at the position. Which five will McDermott choose to start though? My prediction is Ford, Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Wyatt Teller, and Dion Dawkins. Asiata has been a solid player throughout his career while Buffalo just picked him up and he should play a nice role as a backup guard. The Bills paid Long this offseason against my best wishes. Long was a nightmare for the Jets, but since they paid him, I can almost guarantee he makes the team barring a disastrous training camp. Some people are predicting him to start, but there are five better guys to choose from right now.
Both Phillips are loved in Buffalo after just one season. Jordan was a great hype man for Bills’ fans last year and played well up front. “Horrible Harry” is a bad man upfront. He is a great run-stuffer which is what Buffalo needs. Lotulelei will also rotate in a lot as a run stopper. Oliver should be the best athlete on the defensive line as he can get to the quarterback as well as stop the run. This defensive line is the same group as last year, with the exception of Oliver, and they need to tighten up the run game this year.
The only player at risk here is Lawson who is in the final year of his rookie contract. He hasn’t been great thus far, but he also hasn’t been bad enough to cut. Like Jones, this is a make-or-break year for Lawson. Hughes and Murphy got to the quarterback last year and caused some turnovers and recorded 11 sacks between the two of them.
Alexander still has game at the ripe age of 36. He had a career-high in tackles last year with 74 as well as interceptions with two. He’s the heart and soul of this team and a fan favorite. When will this guy slow down? Edmunds was fantastic as a rookie last year and will only get better. Milano was great until he sustained an injury. In 13 games last year, he had 78 tackles, three interceptions, and seven pass deflections. Joseph was a great late-round pick for Buffalo out of Florida. I’ve only heard good things about him from people at the University of Florida and it sounds like it could be a steal for Buffalo. Harold was an under-the-radar signing. He will be a rotational player that provides solid depth.
White is another fan favorite and a proven elite cornerback. Wallace shocked everybody as an undrafted rookie last year. He was rated very highly by Pro Football Focus, not that that means much anymore, but he is another lock to make the team. Kevin Johnson and Gaines were free-agent signings who will provide good depth at the position and should get ample playing time. This is Gaines’ second stint with Buffalo.
Johnson was another rookie last year who proved himself as a playmaker who has more than enough ability to play a huge role on this team in 2019. Lewis might be one of the players that I want on this team most. Last year when the Buffalo secondary was riddled with some injuries, Lewis stepped in and played a fantastic cornerback. He didn’t have any interceptions but he forced two fumbles and didn’t get burnt by the players he was covering.
This position is the one that I’m most unsure of. Hyde, Poyer, and Johnson are locks for me with Alexander being an “almost lock” for special teams play. Neal didn’t have too many opportunities last year but he played well enough to return this year. Coleman is a great veteran presence who had several good seasons in Philadelphia and Carolina. He showed a bit of regression last year with the Saints, but Buffalo just needs him for depth; he can be a great rotational piece.
Special Teams (3): Steven Hauschka, Cory Carter, Reid Ferguson
When I go to training camp, I’ll be watching the punters just as much as everyone else. The competition between Carter and Corey Bojorquez will be interesting. Carter was very impressive at camp last year before he tore his ACL. Bojorquez had some solid punts when he got the opportunity last year but I like the potential of Carter a bit more. There are no questions about kicker or long snapper.
The Bills need to prove themselves this year. 7-9 or 8-8 record won’t do it this year. They have protection and weapons for Allen and the same defense that was very successful last year. Will they contend for the AFC East title? I’m hesitant to say yes considering that Tom Brady is still in the division, but they could fight for a wildcard spot easily. This team can surprise everyone if everything meshes for them.
When Brady finally hangs up the cleats (whenever that will be), Buffalo is in a good place to take over as the dominant team in that division. The Jets have a pretty decent roster as well, while Miami is in rebuild mode. Allen is the biggest x-factor of the team. He will make or break their success. Here is my record prediction with who they beat and who they lose to:
Record Prediction: 10-6
Wins: at NYJ, at NYG, vs CIN, at TEN, vs MIA, vs. WSH, at MIA, vs DEN, vs BAL, vs NYJ
Losses: vs NE, vs PHI, at CLE at DAL, at PIT, at NE
Questions and comments?
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