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About zanthrax54

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  1. Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images What’s going to happen at right tackle in training camp? The Buffalo Bills invested plenty in their offensive line last offseason, signing seven players, drafting one, and handing out contracts that totaled just over $87 million. Only one player, Dion Dawkins, even remained on the 2019 roster after playing along the offensive line for the 2018 Bills. This offseason, they kept their top four offensive tackles from a year ago and added a former All-Pro to the mix while trying to upgrade the depth at the position. It’s going to be intriguing how all of it shakes out, and players that have done very well in the league could find themselves on the chopping block. Today, we take a look at the offensive tackles on the Bills’ roster. Dion Dawkins Contract status for 2020: Signed; final year of rookie deal ($1,331,030 million cap hit; $295,589 dead cap charge if cut) Age: Turned 26 on 4/26/2020 2019 Playing time: 16 games, 16 starts, 1016 offensive snaps (95%), 60 ST snaps (14.5%) Key 2019 statistics: 7 penalties against, 54 yards allowed, 3.5 sacks allowed, 24 sack yards allowed, 1 target, 1 catch, 1 yard, 1 touchdown Dawkins has been a great teammate and a steady force in the locker room since the team traded up in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft to select him. While he hasn’t been as good as his predecessor at left tackle, Cordy Glenn, he has been something Glenn was not in his last season with the team—available. Dawkins has not missed a game in his career, and this year, he only missed one snap in a meaningful game (he sat against the New York Jets for much of the regular season finale, but that was by design). He improved this season in terms of penalties taken and sacks allowed, but the total in each category was still higher than you’d like to see in a “franchise” left tackle. He isn’t going anywhere in 2020, but with his rookie deal set to expire at the end of the season, it will be interesting to see what type of salary he commands. For a healthy left tackle who’s still quite young, Dawkins can expect to command a salary in the range of $12-$15 million per season and could sign an extension during the season. Cody Ford Contract status for 2020: Signed; second year of rookie deal ($1,705,413 cap hit; $3,445,401 dead cap charge if cut) Age: 23 (24 on 12/28/2020) 2019 Playing time: 16 games, 15 starts, 739 offensive snaps (69.1%), 59 ST snaps (14.3%) Key 2019 statistics: 7 penalties, 70 yards allowed, 3.5 sacks allowed, 22 sack yards allowed One-half of a platoon at right tackle, Buffalo’s second-round choice acquitted himself very well at times. He was outstanding, for example, against the Denver Broncos and Von Miller, one of the league’s best pass rushers. In the playoffs against J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, he held his own, although both players ended up making impact plays on the game. While some folks think he’d be better at guard, it’s pretty clear the Bills like him at tackle and he’ll get every chance to win the job outright this summer. Ty Nsekhe Contract status for 2020: Signed; final year of two-year contract ($5.2 million cap hit; $1.5 million dead cap charge if cut) Age: 34 (35 on 10/27/2020) 2019 Playing time: 10 games, 1 start, 359 offensive snaps (33.6%), 36 ST snaps (8.7%) Key 2019 statistics: 5 penalties, 30 yards allowed, 0 sacks allowed The veteran was half of a platoon at right tackle in his first year with the Bills, and he was clearly the better half of that platoon. Nsekhe has absurdly long arms, and his ability in pass protection far exceeded that of his rookie counterpart Ford. He suffered an ugly ankle injury against the Miami Dolphins, but he was able to return not only for the regular-season finale, but also to play in the Wild Card game against the Houston Texans. Even though the Bills could save quite a bit on the cap next year by cutting Nsekhe, who turns 35 during the 2020 season, they would be wise to allow him to finish out the contract. Ryan Bates Contract status for 2020: Signed; second year of rookie deal ($585,000 cap hit; $0 dead money if cut) Age: 23 (24 on 1/14/2021) 2019 Playing time: 8 games, 0 starts, 78 offensive snaps (7.3%), 27 ST snaps (6.5%) Key 2019 statistics: 1 penalty, 5 yards allowed, 0 sacks allowed Bates was acquired via trade with the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2019 preseason when the team needed tackle depth. He is easily Buffalo’s most versatile offensive lineman, as he is literally able to line up at any spot along the line. The team lists him as an “OL,” but we’re counting him among the tackles for balance purposes. He serves as a great camp body at worst next year and, at best, he’s someone who can be kept as the last offensive lineman on the 53-man roster in case of injury. He was a great find for Beane and company. Victor Salako Contract status for 2020: Signed reserve/future contract on 1/6/2020 Age: 26 (27 on 11/4/2020) 2019 Playing time: N/A (began year on IR with New York Giants; signed to Bills’ practice squad on 10/31/19) Key 2019 statistics: N/A Basically all we know about Salako is already written above. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017, but he’s yet to appear in an NFL game. He’s a camp body. Daryl Williams Contract status for 2020: Signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract this offseason ($250,000 dead cap hit if cut) Age: 27 (28 on 8/31/2020) 2019 Playing time: 16 games, 12 starts for Carolina Panthers Key 2019 statistics: 1 penalty for 5 yards, 11 sacks allowed Williams had a down year for the Panthers after switching to the left side of the line, which is why he came so cheap to Buffalo. He was a second-team All-Pro in 2017, though, and if he can return to form back on the right side, Buffalo might have a steal that can play right guard or right tackle. He could be the opening day starter or he could be a roster cut or anywhere in the middle. Brandon Walton Contract status for 2020: Signed three-year undrafted free agent contract this offseason Age: Turned 22 on 3/18/2020 Playing time: Played in 44 games in his college career for Florida Atlantic University Walton is a depth option and possible practice squad candidate for Buffalo after playing both right tackle and left tackle at FAU. He blocked for Bills RB Devin Singletary when the pair were in college together. Trey Adams Contract status for 2020: Signed three-year undrafted free agent contract this offseason Age: Turned 23 on 3/4/2020 Playing time: Started every game for Washington University in 2019 The two-time All-Pac-12 tackle went through a myriad of injuries in his college career and ran a very slow 40-yard dash at the Combine, resulting in his fall to UDFA status. (At one point he was talked about as having first round potential). He could be a big hit for the Bills, but he could also be off the roster in the first cut down. Positional Outlook The pieces are here for a solid groups at offensive tackle. Dawkins is locked in as the left tackle, but what’s going to happen at right tackle where conceivably Ford, Nsekhe, and Williams all have a shot to start. Will Buffalo keep five offensive tackles on the roster, especially with Bates having the ability to play multiple positions? Will they give a young guy a chance? They are going to be cutting NFL-caliber offensive lineman regardless (or perhaps GM Brandon Beane can orchestrate another OL trade in late August). Our guess following the draft was that they would keep all five; Dawkins, Ford, Nsekhe, Williams, and Bates. In a year of uncertainty, Buffalo would have certainty at this position. Then Adams would be a priority practice squad signing. View the full article
  2. Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports Even as a sixth lineman, he made a lot of money. Every team overpays for free agents. It’s the nature of the business that you can’t always predict future results, and even if you do, you sometimes end up overpaying for them. The Buffalo Bills are no exception and during the 2019 season they had a group of underwhelming players. Number five on our list is tight end Lee Smith. Smith had a valuable role as the sixth offensive lineman on the team but didn’t provide a great value for the team. He played fewer than 30% of the offensive snaps and fewer than 18% of the special teams snaps. He barely eeked out Tyler Kroft in terms of snap count despite playing in five more games than the injured Kroft. (He even played fewer snaps than the actual sixth offensive lineman, Ty Nsekhe.) He finished the year with just four catches on five targets for 31 yards and a touchdown. (A staggering 1.9 receiving yards per game). He also had nine penalties on the season despite those low snap numbers. Smith’s cap hit of $3.5 million was 22nd among NFL tight ends, but his production was far from that level, even if you take into account how good he is at blocking. Teammate Tyler Kroft made more ($5.11 million) but starter Dawson Knox ($700,545) and reserve Tommy Sweeney ($519,046) made considerably less. Jimmy Graham led the league at $12.6 million. The Bills spent a third-round pick on Knox a year ago and a seventh on Sweeney, but didn’t add any players this offseason. It will come down to Brian Daboll and how much he values having a sixth offensive lineman like Smith on the team. He’s scheduled to count $3.25 million against Buffalo’s salary cap in 2020. Bottom Ten Bang for the Dollar Bills, 2019 10. K Stephen Hasuchka ($5.025 million) 9. DE Jerry Hughes ($12.95 million) 8. FB Patrick DiMarco ($2.15 million) 7. DT Star Lotulelei ($11.5 million) 6. DE Trent Murphy ($8.8 million) 5. TE Lee Smith ($3.5 million) View the full article
  3. Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images What might the turnover situation look like for the Bills this season? As noted in last year’s guesswork, turnover differential is one of the better statistics when it comes to wins and losses in the NFL. Buffalo Rumblings noted earlier this year that the +4 differential from 2019 was likely a contributing factor in the playoff-worthy season for the Buffalo Bills. That look at differential didn’t really give a good prediction for the upcoming season, so let’s remedy that situation. Takeaways Last year Now that we have the latest season charted, let’s take a look at what I went on record with for my 2019 predictions. Citing stability in coaching and very little roster turnover on the defensive side of the ball, I said: “The mid-20s is a very reasonable guess. With a projected league rate of about 21 takeaways per team, that would make for a third year over the average.” That was a close one. At 23 takeaways, mid-20s is about right, though I admit I usually think of the mid as 4-6 range in a series. Using my own definition then, I was one off. I’ll take it. 2020 predictions Just like I noted last year, volatility of this metric does seem to be decreased with team stability, including both coaches and players. On the coaching side of things there’s not a lot of change to note. The biggest shakeup is the addition of Eric Washington as the defensive line coach. On the player side, Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips are gone from the defensive line. Harrison Phillips should return after last year’s injury. A.J. Epenesa, Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler should significantly change the line. A.J. Klein could shake up the linebackers, and Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines could make the secondary more interesting. A significant flux of players could be problematic in a year with so many distractions and shortened time to get ready. That should balance out with everyone else’s offenses going through the same struggle. At least it will if we trust assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and head coach Sean McDermott—which I do. My best guess is a slightly more disruptive line and no drop-off on the back end of the defense. I’ll be a little more firm in my guess this year and say that I think mid-20s is the floor. I don’t think a major jump is likely, but I’d be shocked with any major dip here. Giveaways Last year Guesses on offense have the ability to be quite a bit more data based, with the quarterback the primary driver of giveaways. By the time I had made this prediction I had already modeled Josh Allen’s potential improvement from year one to two. Additionally, the 2019 guess had the ability to remove the woeful Nate Peterman and Derek Anderson turnover rates. As a result, I felt improvement was coming and even opened the door wide to drastic change with this: “For interceptions, modest improvement is likely to occur. This would lower the giveaways by one or two over the course of a season. Based on the decade of data, it’s not unthinkable that Allen can cut his interception rate in half. That would lead to a drastic change in giveaways, possibly all the way into the teens.” Allen’s interception rate went from 3.8% to 2.0% and as a result of that you can see that the giveaways did in fact drop “all the way into the teens.” Analytics FTW! 2020 predictions I think turnovers are going to go up a little bit, likely to the low 20s. That might sound weird because I’ve gone on record before that I don’t think Josh Allen’s interception rate improvement was a mirage. Allen only had two interceptions after the Week 6 bye, which included a brutal stretch of games against elite-level defenses. On the other hand, if Allen wants to take the next step and improve his output in other areas like yards per attempt and touchdown rate he’ll need to take some more chances. I could see him sticking right around nine interceptions again, give or take a couple. More importantly though is the fumble problem. Credited with four losses, Allen was incredibly lucky to keep the other ten that were put on the ground. Adding up all these factors I don’t see how the Bills do much better than average, which should be around 21 giveaways across a season. If my best guesses turn out to be good ones, that puts the Bills on the positive side of the ledger again, which is almost always great news. View the full article
  4. Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images Programs just don’t have the resources or willingness to do what needs to be done. As the entire country longs for reliable semblances of normal life like live sports, the first televised football games that would be coming are likely not going to take place, says Dr. Zach Binney, an epidemiologist from Oxford College at Emory University. NCAA football graces our TV screens in late summer a few weeks before the NFL starts and primes the pumps for pro fans. However, with COVID-19 still raging on and several outbreaks hitting different summer workouts for college teams around the country, the college football season is in jeopardy. Dr. Binney recently shared his thoughts on an episode of the Chat with NickBat podcast on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network. “In college I think it’s a lot harder because there is no way you can establish any kind of bubble, just being realistic. And most programs don’t have the resources or the willingness to even do regular testing as we’ve already seen with outbreak after outbreak at summer workouts. So I’m definitely somewhat pessimistic for college football.” said Binney. “I think the NFL has the resources to pull it off but we’re still waiting on the details of their plan.” Some sort of sequestering of players or isolation in a bubble has become a mainstay of plans for sports leagues looking to get their games going again. It seems reasonable that different college programs are going to have different resources to handle the expenses needed to put their student athletes and coaches into whatever safety protocols are necessary. What happens if only a portion of schools are able to handle the rigors necessary to field a team? Do highly coveted players from schools not fielding a team get to transfer to schools that are? How is the eligibility of student athletes effected adjusted to be fair? Questions abound as to how NCAA football could take place in 2020. Experts like Dr. Binney’s pessimism is both understandable and disappointing for football fans hoping to see games anytime soon. View the full article
  5. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images Buffalo’s top 2020 draft pick figures to play a key part in the team’s defensive line rotation The Buffalo Bills have invested more resources in their defensive line than any team in the NFL. According to Spotrac, Buffalo has $61.6 million tied up in their defensive line for 2020, nearly $9 million more than their closest competitors, the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only did Buffalo spend “beaucoup bucks” (hat tip to Mr. Musico for that phrasing) on their defensive line, but they also have invested premium draft choices along the line since head coach Sean McDermott arrived in 2017. The Bills have selected two defensive linemen with early picks in McDermott’s three drafts. In today’s installment of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile Buffalo’s top draft choice in 2020—a second-round pick looking to break into the Bills’ defensive line rotation immediately. Name: A.J. Epenesa Number: 57 Position: DE Height/Weight: 6’6”, 280 lbs. Age: 21 (22 on 9/15/2020) Experience/Draft: R; selected by Buffalo in the second round (No. 54 overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft College: Iowa Acquired: Second-round draft choice Financial situation (per Spotrac): Epenesa’s rookie contract is a four-year pact worth a total of $5,877,299, of which $2,711,550 is guaranteed. For the 2020 season, Epenesa carries a cap hit of $1,068,600. 2019 Recap: Epenesa had a strong junior campaign, building on what was a stellar sophomore season the year prior. In 2019, Epenesa tallied 49 tackles, including an absurd 14 tackles in one November game against Nebraska, and he also managed 11.5 sacks on the year. Epenesa forced four fumbles, made 14 tackles for a loss, and knocked down three passes at the line. For his efforts, The Athletic named him First-Team All-America, and the Associated Press named him Second-Team All-America. Epenesa declared early for the draft, and most mock drafts had him going in the first round. After testing poorly at the NFL Scouting Combine, his stock plummeted, and Buffalo was able to scoop him up at No. 54 overall. Positional outlook: The Bills are loaded at defensive end, as they return Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy, the team’s top two from 2019 in terms of playing time at the position. They added Mario Addison to replace the departed Shaq Lawson. Darryl Johnson Jr. and Mike Love also return. Buffalo’s other defensive ends are Jonathan Woodard, Bryan Cox Jr., and Quinton Jefferson, who is primarily a defensive tackle but is listed as the more generic “defensive lineman” on the team’s official roster. 2020 Offseason: Epenesa took part in Denver Broncos All-Pro Von Miller’s pass rush summit this summer. 2020 Season outlook: Epenesa will probably wind up as either the team’s third or fourth defensive end this year. With Hughes and Addison essentially guaranteed to make the roster, it really comes down to whether the team wants to keep Trent Murphy or release him and roll over nearly $8 million to the 2021 salary cap. If Buffalo keeps Murphy, that will limit Epenesa’s playing time. If they release the veteran, then that clears the way for Epenesa to slot in as the team’s third defensive end. Sean McDermott has said that Epenesa can slide inside to play defensive tackle on obvious passing downs, as well, which is another way that the rookie can earn more playing time. With a limited offseason, though, it will be tough to ask him to learn multiple positions in his first year in the league. This much is clear: Epenesa stands to make an immediate impact with the Bills as a rookie. View the full article
  6. The Bruce Exclusive podcast Cover Art | Josh Rawdin Bigger isn’t better; it’s just different On this episode of “The Bruce Exclusive”, Bruce takes on the myth that more height is always better when it comes to cornerbacks. What are the positives and negatives of height as it relates to cornerbacks and is there a sweet spot for cornerbacks in the NFL? What advantages do shorter cornerbacks have? The Buffalo Bills cornerbacks are almost exclusively 5’11” and 6’0”. It’s pretty remarkable how consistent the measurement is. #Bills #goBills #BillsMafia Subscribe to the Buffalo Rumblings podcast channel featuring Billieve, Blitzed Bills, Buffalo Rumblings Q&A, Breaking Buffalo Rumblings, The Bruce Exclusive, Chat with NickBat, and Circling the Wagons: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Google Play | Spotify | Podbean | iHeartRadio | TuneIn | Megaphone Ask Alexa or Google Home to play the Buffalo Rumblings podcast! Editor’s note: If you’re reading this in Apple News, you’ll need to click over to a web browser to hear the audio. View the full article
  7. Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images Plus, where does Buffalo rank on the list of most complete teams in the NFL? The Buffalo Bills are understandably excited about their top three wide receivers, as Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley should form one of the top receiving corps in the NFL. In today’s edition of the Buffalo Bills daily links, we examine the state of the backups to figure out what kind of depth the Bills have at receiver beyond their big three. We also discuss where the Bills rank on the list of the league’s most complete teams heading into the 2020 season, explore which Bills are at a disadvantage because of the league’s shortened NFL preseason schedule, discuss why quarterback Josh Allen thinks tight end Dawson Knox will be a match-up nightmare, hear why Diggs isn’t comfortable with the NFL starting up amid COVID-19 concerns, vote on Buffalo’s head coach and best team of the 2010s, and much more! Bills must find out how much depth they have at WR | Bills | buffalonews.com Are the Bills in good shape beyond their set-in-stone top three of Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley? Can Gabriel Davis catch on quickly and make impact as Bills rookie? | Bills | buffalonews.com “We just liked the way he competes, thought he had a really good year,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said after drafting Davis. NFL's most complete teams in '20? Ravens, 49ers, Chiefs top the list - NFL.com Heading into the 2020 season, which NFL teams are the most complete? Adam Schein spotlights nine organizations, including Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Camp Countdown 2020 | 3 reasons why Devin Singletary will excel in 2020 - BuffaloBills.com In the sixth article in their Camp Countdown series, the team’s official website assesses Devin Singletary’s chances of improvement in his second season. 8 Bills at disadvantage because of shortened NFL preseason - newyorkupstate.com The NFL cut half of its preseason and that means some bubble players and new additions are going into 2020 at disadvantage. Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen: ‘Matchup nightmare’ Dawson Knox will easily be top-10 tight end in 2020 - newyorkupstate.com John Brown isn’t the only Bills player who has high expectations for Dawson Knox in 2020. Stefon Diggs Doesn't Feel Comfortable With NFL Starting | WGR 550 SportsRadio Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs said that he doesn’t yet feel comfortable with the NFL starting up amid so many unknowns and questions. Bills’ Stefon Diggs on starting season amid COVID: ‘I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable starting back up’ - newyorkupstate.com The Bills traded multiple draft picks including their 2020 first rounder to acquire Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings in March. Stefon Diggs admits to concerns about NFL’s plan to resume play | Sports | buffalonews.com The Buffalo Bills receiver said during a series of tweets that he misses and loves football, “but there’s so many unanswered questions with this upcoming season.” Poloncarz: I will not call Bills' stadium 'New Era Field' | WGR 550 SportsRadio Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz does not plan to call the Buffalo Bills' football stadium "New Era Field" after the company's decision on Wednesday to layoff nearly one-third of its Buffalo workforce. Poloncarz says he will not call the Bills stadium New Era Field any longer | News | buffalonews.com Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the company doesn’t deserve to have its name gracing the stadium after its treatment of local employees. Expert NFL stadium rankings: Breaking down the league’s top, bottom five – The Athletic Which stadiums came out on top? Which ones are worth avoiding if possible? (Subscription required). Camp Countdown 2020 | Who will be the starting right corner? - BuffaloBills.com In the fifth article of their Camp Countdown series, the team’s official website looks at three players who will compete for a starting job at right corner this season. Tremaine Edmunds weighs in on the state of AFC East - BuffaloBills.com Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds joins "NFL NOW" and gives his thoughts on how the AFC East will shake out in a post-Tom Brady world. Coming This Fall: John Brown - BuffaloBills.com Coming This Fall: John Brown, aka Smoke, leaves defenses baffled when he disappears during his routes, only to return in the end zone. NFL Teams Preparing to Limit Fan Attendance If Safe | WGR 550 SportsRadio As the NFL prepares for the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, teams are figuring out ways in which it would be safest to allow fans to attend games. Buffalo Bills’ Jon Feliciano and Reid Ferguson rightly criticize NFL for prohibiting jersey exchanges in 2020 - newyorkupstate.com Feliciano raises a good point. Don’t expect Josh Allen’s next contract to look anything like Mahomes’ deal | Sports | buffalonews.com The ten-year contract extension signed Monday by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has the potential to be worth more than $500M. Allen, Diggs named biggest 2020 fantasy busts by ESPN | WGR 550 SportsRadio Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs were named as the biggest fantasy football bust candidates by a panel of ESPN analysts. Former Bills QB Warren Rabb plays role in LSU championship celebration | Sports | buffalonews.com Joe Burrow, who quarterbacked the Tigers to their fourth national title, is getting his rings by way of the guy who quarterbacked them to their first. Featured on Buffalo Rumblings Buffalo Bills’ 2020 training camp preview: Tight ends - Buffalo Rumblings The Bills have some young players with big potential here. Training camp previous of the Buffalo Bills roster: Safeties - Buffalo Rumblings Buffalo has two of the league’s best, and one has a new contract. Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade team: Head coach - Buffalo Rumblings Who was the best coach of the past decade? Plays that defined 2019 Buffalo Bills: Home games quarterfinals - Buffalo Rumblings Vote and decide which play will be the defining moment of the 2019 season Plays that defined 2019 Buffalo Bills: Away game quarterfinals - Buffalo Rumblings We kick off our tournament to crown a play to define the season with away games. 91 Buffalo Bills scouting reports in 91 days: Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud III - Buffalo Rumblings The 2019 camp standout looks to make the team in 2020. The Bruce Exclusive: the myth of running to set up the pass - Buffalo Rumblings A myth no matter how you slice it. Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade Team: Season of the decade - Buffalo Rumblings Which year was the best year of the past decade? View the full article
  8. Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images Buffalo has two of the league’s best, and one has a new contract. The Buffalo Bills boast one of the NFL’s strongest secondary groupings. The team struggled against the pass in 2017, which was the first year head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier arrived. Since that initial season, they have steadily improved as the team’s “brain trust”—which includes general manager Brandon Beane—has had time to add players to the system. In 2017, Buffalo was ranked No. 20 in total passing yards against. In 2018, they were No. 1, and this year, they were No. 4 overall. As players have become more comfortable in the system, the team has thrived while defending the pass. Much of that success is due to an incredibly strong safety tandem. When the Bills hired McDermott, two of the team’s first free-agent moves involved signing a pair of safeties. That duo came with some question marks, but since arriving in Buffalo, each player has been fantastic. With two outstanding, versatile safeties in the fold, the Bills have been able to disguise their intentions pre-snap while trusting their playmakers to do what they do best. In our latest look at the state of the Bills’ roster, we profile the safeties—a deep group that stands among the best in the NFL. Jordan Poyer Contract status for 2020: Signed; Two-year contract extension this offseason adds to final year of previous deal ($8 million cap hit; $9.4 million dead cap charge) Age: Turned 29 on 4/25/2020 2019 Playing time: 16 games, 16 starts, 977 defensive snaps (94.3%), 132 ST snaps (31.9%), 7 offensive snaps (.65%) Key 2019 statistics: 104 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 3 pass breakups, 2 interceptions The second of Buffalo’s two free-agent safeties signed in 2017 has actually been the better of the two for the duration of his time in Orchard Park. Poyer’s versatility makes him a great chess piece for McDermott and Frazier, and they use him in a variety of ways. Poyer is used as an edge blitzer, an in-the-box defender, a deep safety, a “robber” in short zones—truly, he can do everything asked of him. Poyer earned a nice contract extension this offseason which makes him the 12th-best paid safety in the NFL, in terms of average salary. Micah Hyde Contract status for 2020: Signed; fourth year of five-year deal ($6.7 million cap hit; $3.2 million dead cap charge if cut) Age: 29 (30 on 12/31/2020) 2019 Playing time: 16 games, 16 starts, 969 defensive snaps (93.5%), 62 ST snaps (15%) Key 2019 statistics: 72 tackles, 1 tackles for loss, 1 QB hit, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 2 pass breakups, 1 interception While Poyer has been the top dog in Buffalo’s safety rotation, that doesn’t discount just how good his counterpart, Hyde, has been. Another versatile player, Hyde can do everything Poyer can do, which makes the Bills’ defense that much harder to diagnose. Since their safeties are so interchangeable, it allows the team to disguise its intentions without putting themselves in compromising positions. Hyde has two years left on the five-year contract he signed in 2017, so an extension probably won’t come to him until at least 2021, if at all. Siran Neal Contract status for 2020: Signed; third year of rookie deal ($731,504 cap hit; $143,008 dead cap charge if cut) Age: 25 (26 on 8/4/2020) 2019 Playing time: 15 games, 1 start, 174 defensive snaps (16.8%), 242 ST snaps (58.5%) Key 2019 statistics: 27 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble The second-year man had a much better season than he did as a rookie, mostly due to opportunity. He was essentially a special-teams player only in his rookie year, but he served as the “Big Nickel” this season—a role in which he showed great comfort throughout the year. He’s yet another late-round find on defense who was drafted to fill a very particular role, and he has done so excellently. His development will be exciting to watch as he continues to play out his rookie contract. Dean Marlowe Contract status for 2020: Signed; inked a one-year deal this offseason ($1.425 million cap hit; $250,000 dead cap charge if cut) Age: 27 (28 on 7/25/2020) 2019 Playing time: 9 games, 2 starts, 108 defensive snaps (10.4%), 90 ST snaps (21.7%) Key 2019 statistics: 9 tackles, 1 pass breakup Marlowe is a very good reserve safety and has been in the system for a long time. The Bills rewarded him with a new contract this offseason but it’s notable that they didn’t use their Restricted Free Agent tender, instead offering him a contract for one year. He could be the team’s top reserve safety or on the outside looking in. Jaquan Johnson Contract status for 2020: Signed; second year of rookie deal ($631,085 cap hit; $138,255 dead cap charge if cut) Age: 24 (25 on 11/6/2020) 2019 Playing time: 13 games, 0 starts, 53 defensive snaps (5.1%), 181 ST snaps (43.7%) Key 2019 statistics: 3 tackles The exciting young safety had next to no opportunities to make an impact on defense, but he looked good in his one game’s worth of action against the New York Jets in the regular-season finale. Johnson instead contributed on special teams covering kicks. He has great athleticism and, long-term, may be someone the Bills are looking at to replace one of the top safeties in the rotation. However, that wouldn’t be until at least 2021—and hopefully, it’s not even until later than that. Garrett Taylor Contract status for 2020: Signed; first year of a three-year undrafted contract ($613,333 cap hit; $10,000 dead cap charge if cut) Age: 23 2019 Playing time: 13 games for Penn State Key 2019 statistics: 84 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT & 1 TD, 2 passes defended, 1 FF for Penn State A possible addition to the Big Nickel conversation, Taylor is an intriguing undrafted free agent prospect. With a loaded roster, it’ll be tough for him to crack final cuts. If he does it, it is probably by bypassing Johnson. A practice squad candidate, for sure. Josh Thomas Contract status for 2020: Signed; first year of a three-year undrafted contract ($618,333 cap hit; $25,000 dead cap charge if cut) Age: 23 2019 Playing time: 13 games for Appalachian State Key 2019 statistics: 72 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 TD return, 3 passes defended A captain who started 27 games for Appalachian State, Thomas fits the PROCESS mold. He wasn’t invited the the NFL Scouting Combine and the App State pro day was cancelled because of COVID-19, so he didn’t get a chance to impress in the pre-draft process. He’s another practice squad candidate. Positional Outlook The top two are set in stone, with the rest of the safety position a little bit up in the air. Marlowe would seem to have a pretty strong hold on the third safety job because of his experience. Neal has been playing nickel corner a lot, so maybe he doesn’t even belong in this position group preview. Can Johnson make a big enough leap in year 2 to make Marlowe expendable in favor of a younger safety? The devil is in the details of the safety position beyond the dynamic duo of Hyde and Poyer. View the full article
  9. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images A twitter suggestion has us diving into a statistical what if that we’d be happy to see come to fruition As regular readers for the last couple years have seen, Buffalo Rumblings has tried to predict what Josh Allen’s future will look like based on analytical models. Here’s the prediction and results from his rookie year to second year. The year-two-to-three projections are out, but the results obviously aren’t in. If you remember, or clicked the links, the year three projections aren’t exactly a thrilling proposition. But what if there was a good reason to doubt them? The Premise I received a message from Patch who made a request on behalf of all of #BillsMafia on Twitter. It’s a thought I’ve seen before and Patch laying it out again was the straw that broke the “What if” camel’s back. The idea is that Josh Allen entered the league with very little experience as a passer. Allen really had only two seasons of live action in Wyoming with a mere 649 passes to his name. That’s 400 fewer than Lamar Jackson, 500 less than Rosen, and less than half that of Baker Mayfield. The argument then becomes that Allen’s rookie year might be more like a third year in college and that we should treat his year two from last season as his “rookie” stats. Now I want to be very clear on this. The original sample included 37 quarterbacks. Some of them, like Carson Wentz, had even fewer passes attempted (612). The original grouping represented enough of a range in experience where this exercise is more “for novelty purposes” only. Methodology Here’s what I did. Since I’m an eHoarder, I found my old year-one to two Excel workbook and saved a copy to mess around with. Ultimately though this is basically the same data set from the first attempt at this. The only change is that instead of Allen’s rookie numbers on the left of each graphic he’s been replaced by “What if” Josh. That’s nothing more than his year two numbers. I retained the original look of the charts and terminology to pretend there was some sort of math-related time machine. That means the “low” and “high” numbers represent the edges of what could be considered a normal change. The average is the exact average. Yards/Game Allen averaged 193.1 yards per game in 2019 and applying average changes from the rookie projections he’d be expected to increase nearly 20 yards per game. One thing to note reading this is that 254.7 yards per game would also be considered “normal” but so would a pretty big regression. This is much nicer than the year-two to three model, which guessed a perfect average change of about five yards. The best case for rookies (Blake Bortles) would put Josh at just under 300 yards per game. However the best case for year two players (Matt Stafford) would tack on another 30 yards per game. If Allen replicated his first jump, he’d end 2020 averaging 213.4 yards/game. Yards/Attempt The rookie projections for this metric contain a good amount of wiggle room but perfect average is a very tiny bump in productivity. The second-year projections were also a change of 0.1 but regression was perfect average. I think it’s safe to say we’d all prefer him to get better, not worse. The range is better for rookies too as the “high” end for the year-two model tops out at 7.5 yards/attempt. Jared Goff’s rookie increase represents the best case and would easily make Allen a top-end starter if achieved. Matt Stafford represents the best-case sophomore player jump and is a more realistic 8.7. If Allen changes the same amount he did last season, it would result in 6.9 yards/attempt. Completion Percentage This is the metric where Allen made the biggest leap from year one to year two and actually exceeded the high end of projections by 0.1. If he were to do that again Bills fans would be ecstatic with 64.8 completion percentage. That increase would put him in striking distance of the best-case scenario for rookies (Christian Ponder). It’d be even better to match the second year best case of Carson Wentz. If Allen matched that he’d hit 68.2%. Touchdown Percentage This is definitely a stat we’d like to see improve. The second-year to third-year model predicted regression of 0.7% as a perfect average outcome. An increase of 0.9% is the preferred of course, so cross your fingers he follows the rookie model. While an increase could be considered normal in both models, the rookie “high” range is also better. The best case of Nick Foles’s 6.2% jump is highly doubtful but it’d be nice to see. Andrew Luck’s 2.5% sophomore increase is more likely and something we should all still be very happy about. Allen actually improved by 1.2% last year, which would give him 5.5% for the 2020 season. Interception Percentage Here’s another one where the rookie model is a strong preference. Both had a perfect average change of 0.4% but in opposite directions. While the sophomore model has an excellent high end of 0.8% and best case of 0.5% (Matt Ryan), both pale in comparison to the rookie changes. It’s possible that Allen could throw zero picks, but for the best-case scenarios the second-year data is the safer bet. Here’s a fun one. If Allen matches his change in this metric from last year he’d end up with a 0.2% interception rate. That would be around 500 passes, which is possible for a season with only one interception. Conclusion This is pretty straightforward. The rookies tended to improve quite a bit more than the second-year players. Because of that, the one model is definitely a lot nicer to look at. I’ll reiterate that I stand behind the original model and don’t see a compelling reason to think of Josh Allen’s rookie season as anything other than a true rookie year. That said, I won’t be angry to be wrong on this one. View the full article
  10. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Who was the best coach of the past decade? Through the 2010s, the Buffalo Bills had four different head coaches. Six, actually, if you count the last game of Perry Fewell’s interim coaching on January 3rd, 2010, and Anthony Lynn’s one-game audition at the end of 2016. Chan Gailey coached the team from 2010 to 2012, Doug Marrone helmed it in 2013 and 2014, Rex Ryan in 2015 and 2016, and Sean McDermott closed out the decade from 2017 to 2019. There’s no question who the favorite from this list is. But we’ll profile each of these head coaches before sending up the poll. Chan Gailey How he arrived: Gailey was hired in the wake of the “Inner Circle” imploding, along with general manager Buddy Nix. It wasn’t a popular hire: fans had been hoping for a big splash with someone like Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, or up-and-coming defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. The sell: Gailey had two years of head coaching experience and an 18-14 career coaching record. He was a skilled offensive mind, heading to a team that fielded embarrassing offenses for years under Dick Jauron. He promised to move the team back to the 3-4, away from Jauron’s increasingly unpopular Tampa 2 system. His philosophy: He shied away from big-name assistants and big-name players, especially early on. A creative offensive mind, he embraced spread concepts and the Wildcat package. On defense, first he supported a 3-4, then he insisted the defense was “multiple,” then he hired Dave Wannstedt to coach a straight 4-3. The results: Bad. In his first season, the Bills opened 0-8, finished 4-12, and landed the third overall pick. 2011 started with a 5-2 record, then the team collapsed down the stretch. In part due to crippling injuries, they finished 6-10. The team went all-in on the 2012 season and signed star DE Mario Williams, but they were still bad. They were 3-6 at midseason, and finished 6-10 for the second straight year. Gailey was fired after that season. Overall record: 16-32, 20.8 points scored per game, 27.0 points allowed per game. Doug Marrone How he arrived: The search included coordinators Ken Whisenhunt, Ray Horton, and Mike McCoy. College coaches Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone were on the list, as was former head coach Lovie Smith. Marrone ended up the winner, and fans were optimistic. The sell: Marrone revived the Syracuse football program down the Thruway. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator for Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints. He spoke about delegating playcalling duties, hiring experienced coordinators, and generally treating his first-time NFL head coach gig as a supervisory role. His philosophy: While Marrone had young, creative Nate Hackett as his offensive coordinator, his scheme and game-day process was conservative and run-heavy. On defense, he allowed the coordinator to dictate the plan. Between Mike Pettine and Jim Schwartz, that gave the Bills a terrifying, smothering, and aggressive defense. The results: Marrone didn’t improve the Bills’ record in year one, breaking in a rookie quarterback. But the defense impressed, to the point that Pettine was hired as the Cleveland Browns’ head coach after that year. In year two, Marrone’s hire of Schwarz paid dividends and the defense ascended to “elite.” The offense was still stuck in the mud, and Marrone promoted Kyle Orton to start after four weeks to improve performance. The team finished 9-7 and missed on the playoffs thanks to a poor conference record. Marrone later resigned in the wake of Ralph Wilson’s death earlier in 2014, and the uncertainty with his contract status. Overall record: 15-17, 21.3 points scored per game, 21.2 points allowed per game. Rex Ryan How he arrived: A coaching search led by the Pegulas and Russ Brandon covered nearly a dozen options, all with NFL coordinating or head coaching backgrounds. They looked at a mix of offensive and defensive candidates. Teryl Austin, Darrell Bevell, Jim Schwartz, Mike Shanahan, Hue Jackson, Josh McDaniels, and Dan Quinn were among the names. Ultimately the group was enamored with Rex Ryan. Fans were cautiously optimistic. The sell: Ryan had been a loudmouthed coach of a division rival, but he also seemed to have a formula for unsettling Tom Brady. His hybrid defense seemed like it would work similarly to Mike Pettine’s excellent results. He immediately embraced the local culture (wrapping his pickup truck with a gaudy Bills logo) and put the whole league on notice, verbally. His philosophy: Loud, arrogant, and complicated. His defensive playbook was notoriously difficult to master, with hundreds of different blitz packages. He hired an offensive coordinator (Greg Roman) with a similar tome on offense. Both organizationally and on game day, he made choices by gut feel. Some examples: His weekly rotation of captains, his choice to hire his brother, and his decision to fire Greg Roman after two games in 2016 and promote Anthony Lynn. The results: The team wasn’t bad, but they weren’t great either. The 2014-2016 Bills teams were (in theory) filled with talented draft picks and free agents, but no one gelled and the team could not win games when it counted. Ryan went 8-8 in his first season, and was fired near the end of his second season with a 7-8 record. Overall results: 15-16, 24.8 points scored per game, 22.8 points allowed per game. Sean McDermott How he arrived: A relatively compact coaching search featured McDermott and Anthony Lynn as front-runners. The Bills were looking for up-and-coming coordinators to elevate to a head coaching role, and they zeroed in on McDermott. It was a bit surprising to see the team eschew the option of continuity with Lynn, who coached a game as the interim head coach. But fans were excited about a relatively new coordinator with a strong resume. The sell: McDermott had a strong background, both coaching the Carolina Panthers’ defense and working on Jimmy Johnson’s defensive staff with the Philadelphia Eagles. After the Rex Ryan circus, McDermott’s measured, organized approach was supposed to right the ship. He filled his staff with experienced coaches. He preached character, toughness, and a process of continuous improvement. The philosophy: Process-driven. His 4-3 defense was a simpler flowchart, but used pre-snap disguises to generate pressure. The offense began as a West Coast system, but McDermott later moved on from Rick Dennison and adopted an Erhardt-Perkins playbook with Brian Daboll. The team’s playcalling and game planning was conservative to start, but opened up over the years. The results: Two playoff appearances in three years. The Bills blew up their whole roster, but with some luck and clutch play, backed into the playoffs in McDermott’s first season with a 9-7 record. Year two featured more roster overhaul and a rookie quarterback, and the offense was horrific. The Bills finished with a 6-10 record. In 2019, with a fuller roster, things turned around. The team finished 10-6 and qualified for the playoffs again. Overall results: 25-23, 18.4 points scored per game, 20.7 points allowed per game. Now, place your vote: Which man was the best head coach of the past decade? Editor’s note: If you’re viewing this on a mobile news app, you’ll need to go to your web browser to vote. View the full article
  11. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports Vote and decide which play will be the defining moment of the 2019 season? Now that we’ve established a play to define each game of the 2019 season, it’s time to crown a season champion. This time we’ll focus on the home games with bracket seeding determined by the percentage of votes each play received. Note that we voted to eliminate the Week 17 New York Jets game to make a cleaner bracket. Rather than have lopsided brackets, the Wild Card game is included here. Remember the premise. Someone who missed the entire Buffalo Bills season asks you how it went and you only get one play to illustrate or “tell the story” of the entire year. Which play will help facilitate the narrative? Although each play is accompanied by a narrative of my choosing, it isn’t necessarily the only one. Editor’s note: If you’re using a mobile news app, you’ll need to click to the article in your web browser to vote in the polls. Dawson Knox angry run (86%) The most dominant play of the season was also the most dominant play in the “Defined” series. The play itself is a good stand-in for team culture and effort as Dawson Knox wills his way forward. vs. Tre’Davious White sack (44%) The Buffalo Bills’ defense seems like a star-studded cast for fans of the team. Arguably the biggest star is Tre’Davious White. When the Bills imposed their will against opponents it was usually the defense doing the imposing, which is definitely shown here. Tre’Davious White interception (74%) The Bills rarely dominated a game from start to finish, with team efforts pulling out a lot of exciting victories. Even against a team the Bills were supposed to beat this momentum-shifting interception from Tre’Davious White (again) was necessary. vs. John Brown TD (47%) In the games where the Bills did light up the opposing team, it was naturally a result of a well-balanced team effort. Josh Allen and the new-look 2019 offense were both major parts of the story. John Brown is a good candidate for biggest offseason addition on offense. Missed sack (71%) Essentially the last play of any significance for the Bills in the 2019 campaign enters the tournament as the third seed. Missed opportunity is a pretty good way to illustrate a season in which the Bills narrowly lost to elite teams and made a Wild Card exit after running up an early lead. vs. Josh Allen incomplete to John Brown (58%) Or if you prefer your razor’s-edge narrative to be on the offense’s shoulder this incomplete to John Brown might be the way to go. This play has a lot of similar story lines as its opponent above but points the finger in a different direction. Blocked punt (69%) This particular missed-opportunity play gives us yet another option. Inconsistent special teams play was definitely a thing in 2019. This play also subtly can be used to talk about a defense that held a Tom Brady-led New England Patriots team to nine points—and an offense that lacked explosion. vs. Long touchdown run allowed (59%) Another play on the failure side of the ledger and another subtle story to tell. The only loss by more than a single score, the failure highlights a game plan in which the Bills outsmarted themselves, pointing toward room for learning. Editor’s note: If you’re using a mobile news app, you’ll need to click to the article in your web browser to vote in the polls. View the full article
  12. Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images The 2019 camp standout looks to make the team in 2020 The Buffalo Bills have a stacked wide receiver group. The last time that you could really say that about Buffalo, arguably, was...2004? 1991? Whether you pledge your allegiance to Eric Moulds and Lee Evans or you stand with Andre Reed and James Lofton, one thing is clear: from top to bottom, the 2020 Bills’ receiving group has the potential to be among the top receiving corps in franchise history. While it may be a bold statement to compare a receiving corps that has yet to play together to one that features two Hall of Fame players (as well as a fantastic third wideout in Don Beebe), Buffalo’s top three receivers for the 2020 season all have a very particular set of skills—talents that make them a nightmare for defensive backs and defensive coordinators. That bodes well for the Bills. But for the players in the positional group who are on the roster fringes, it just means fewer available spaces for them to stick with the team. In today’s edition of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile a former Bills draft pick who was released and has returned for a second attempt at joining the squad. Name: Ray-Ray McCloud III Number: 13 Position: WR Height/Weight: 5’9”, 190 lbs. Age: 23 (24 on 10/15/2020) Experience/Draft: 3; selected by Buffalo in the sixth round (No. 187 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft College: Clemson Acquired: Signed to Bills’ practice squad on 10/17/19 Financial situation (per Spotrac): McCloud III signed a reserve/future contract with the Bills in January. That two-year pact is worth a total of $1,415,500, of which $5,500 is guaranteed. If McCloud III makes the roster, he carries a salary-cap charge of $752,750. 2019 Recap: McCloud spent the offseason, training camp, and preseason with Buffalo, and he looked pretty good throughout camp. I was lucky enough to go to camp for two days last year, and I remember being impressed with how much better McCloud looked. The coaches talked him up throughout camp, and he performed pretty well during the preseason, making nine catches for 97 yards (on 15 targets) in exhibition action. Ultimately, McCloud didn’t make the team, but he was claimed on waivers by the Carolina Panthers in an inverse of what’s become the normal way I write that sentence. McCloud exclusively served as a return man in Carolina, returning ten punts for 82 yards and eight kickoffs for 174 yards—but he managed to fumble on three of those 18 returns. He was released by the Panthers on October 15, and he signed to Buffalo’s practice squad two days later. He played a vital role in helping the team to prepare to face Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, simulating the hyper-athletic quarterback in practice for the Bills. While Buffalo lost that game against the Ravens, they were able to contain Jackson, and when the Tennessee Titans beat Baltimore in the playoffs, they said that their game plan came from watching film of what Buffalo did earlier in the season. Positional outlook: McCloud finds himself in an even deeper wide receiver room than the one he couldn’t rise to the top of last year, as the Bills have added Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and Isaiah Hodgins to returners John Brown, Cole Beasley, Andre Roberts, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, and Duke Williams. Nick Easley, who was cut at the end of the preseason last year along with McCloud III, rounds out the group. 2020 Offseason: Nothing new to report. 2020 Season outlook: I’d be shocked if McCloud were to make the team this year, since his two roles on an NFL team (a gadget player and a return man) are occupied by stronger players who beat him out last year in McKenzie and Roberts. It’s not even certain that either of those two players will make the final roster, so unless he’s improved significantly, consider McCloud III a long-shot at best this summer. View the full article
  13. The Bruce Exclusive podcast Cover Art | Josh Rawdin A myth no matter how you slice it On this episode of “The Bruce Exclusive”, Bruce tackles three possible meanings to the phrase “run to set up the pass” and outlines why he believes all three interpretations to be a myth and that running does not set up the pass in the NFL today. It’s a cliche you’ll often hear from announcers and commentators, but is it actually true? Bruce breaks it all down in his latest episode. #Bills #goBills #BillsMafia Subscribe to the Buffalo Rumblings podcast channel featuring Billieve, Blitzed Bills, Buffalo Rumblings Q&A, Breaking Buffalo Rumblings, The Bruce Exclusive, Chat with NickBat, and Circling the Wagons: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Google Play | Spotify | Podbean | iHeartRadio | TuneIn | Megaphone Ask Alexa or Google Home to play the Buffalo Rumblings podcast! Editor’s note: If you’re reading this in Apple News, you’ll need to click over to a web browser to hear the audio. View the full article
  14. Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images The Bills have some young players with big potential here In an attempt to add weapons for second-year quarterback Josh Allen, the Buffalo Bills overhauled their tight end position entirely in 2019. Buffalo released Charles Clay, who had signed a big contract prior to the 2015 season. They drafted two players and signed two more, as not one person who played tight end for Buffalo in 2018 did so in 2019. This offseason, they did the complete opposite as they didn’t add a single new player. Sure, they flirted with veteran Greg Olsen, who ended up signing with the Seattle Seahawks, but they obviously didn’t throw a ton of money or promises his way to get him to show up. In our initial look at the Bills’ position groups heading into training camp, we profile the tight ends—a group where people think they know what will happen, but with plenty of intrigue. Tyler Kroft Contract status for 2020: Signed; restructured contract this offseason from a three-year to a two-year deal ($5,412,500 cap hit; $5 million dead-cap charge if cut) Age: 27 (28 on 10/15/2020) 2019 Playing time: 11 games (3 starts), 244 offensive snaps (22.8%), 71 ST snaps (17.2%) Key 2019 statistics: 6 catches (14 targets), 71 yards, 1 TD Signing Kroft came with some big-time risk, and that risk was realized almost immediately for Buffalo. After missing much of the 2018 season with a broken bone in his foot, Kroft had the exact same injury occur on his first practice of 2019 OTAs with Buffalo. Then, when the big veteran was set to return from the injury in September, he injured his ankle, delaying his Bills debut even more. Kroft finally played in his first game on October 20 against the Miami Dolphins. He caught his first pass a week later against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he caught his lone touchdown of the season on Sunday Night Football to put the Bills ahead for good against the Pittsburgh Steelers. To call his first season in Buffalo disappointing would be an understatement. In March he restructured his contract virtually ensuring he’ll be in Buffalo in 2020. His salary became fully guaranteed, but it was reduced by $1 million, and the third year of his contract was voided, making 2020 the final year of his deal. Lee Smith Contract status for 2020: Signed; second year of three-year deal ($3.25 million cap hit; $1 million dead-cap charge if cut) Age: 32 (33 on 11/21/2020) 2019 Playing time: 16 games (5 starts), 319 offensive snaps (29.8%), 71 ST snaps (17.2%) Key 2019 statistics: 4 catches (5 targets), 31 yards, 1 TD The veteran blocking specialist returned to Buffalo for his second tour of duty, and he was a familiar face on the Bills’ heavy packages throughout 2019. The frequency with which offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called for those packages dwindled as the year progressed, however, leaving Smith an underutilized player who struggled to keep out of Skarekrow’s penalty harm articles. Smith had eight accepted penalties against him this year, most in the league, for a total of 51 yards. We took a deep dive into how the Bills used Smith last year, and it’s a compelling case for keeping him around as the sixth OL. Still, hard decisions will be made around roster cutdowns and this vocal leader on the offense and media darling could be on the outside looking in. Dawson Knox Contract status for 2020: Signed; second year of rookie contract ($849,045 cap hit; $616,635 dead-cap charge if cut) Age: 23 (24 on 11/14/2020) 2019 Playing time: 15 games (11 starts), 646 offensive snaps (60.4%), 76 ST snaps (18.4%) Key 2019 statistics: 28 catches (50 targets), 388 yards, 2 TD One of two rookies Buffalo selected in the third round to bolster the offense, Knox showed flashes of immense potential in his first year in the NFL. His athleticism is ridiculous, as is his stiff arm, which he used so effectively that he earned the nickname “Rambo.” He earned the starting gig after Kroft was injured, and he performed so well that he remained the starter even after the veteran returned from injury. Knox scored two more touchdowns this season than he did in his entire collegiate career, as he was overshadowed at Ole Miss by other NFL-worthy receivers like A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf. While he had issues with drops (Knox led all NFL tight ends with six this year), he is a potential breakout stud for the 2020 season. Tommy Sweeney Contract status for 2020: Signed; second year of rookie contract ($609,046 cap hit; $72,138 dead-cap charge if cut) Age: Turned 25 on 7/1/2020 2019 Playing time: 6 games (1 start), 129 offensive snaps (12.1%), 5 ST snaps (1.2%) Key 2019 statistics: 8 catches (13 targets), 114 yards A seventh-round draft choice out of Boston College, Sweeney had an impressive preseason and, thanks to the injury to Kroft, he was on the active roster for the first six games of the season. He was inconsistent, which isn’t a surprise given his draft status; however, he showed up well enough that the team should give him the chance to make the roster, even if his role as the inactive-on-game-day-player is the same next year as he grows into a potential replacement for Smith. Nate Becker Contract status for 2020: Signed reserve/future deal on 1/7/2020 (Two-year deal; 2020 cap hit $514,000 with $8,000 dead-cap charge if cut) Age: Turned 24 on 3/24/2020 2019 Playing time: N/A Key 2019 statistics: N/A A Lee Smith clone, Becker is a big-bodied blocking specialist who did little to distinguish himself during training camp and the preseason. He was on Buffalo’s practice squad all year—something that could very well happen again in 2020. Jason Croom Contract status for 2020: Exclusive-Rights Free Agent; can be signed at league minimum for his service time (2 years) Age: Turned 26 on 2/28/2020 Playing time: N/A Key statistics: N/A Croom is the proverbial ace in the hole here, as the Bills were able to stash the wide receiver-turned tight end on injured reserve thanks to a hamstring injury suffered during the first week of OTAs. A stellar athlete, Croom emerged as a good target during the 2018 season, hauling in 22 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. He gives the Bills a solid athletic option who could help stretch the middle of the field along with Knox. Can he do enough to distinguish himself during a weird training camp? Positional Outlook It looks like a lot of status quo here, but there is some intrigue. Knox is a lock to make the roster and Kroft’s contract makes it pretty likely he’s going to stick, as well. (A team could theoretically trade for his guaranteed-money contract if Buffalo really wants to get rid of him.) After those two is where the intrigue really exists. Do the Bills value the sixth OL enough to keep Smith on the roster over a younger player at a position where depth is more necessary? Probably, but it’s at least a question worth asking as they open up the playbook with Stefon Diggs. Did Tommy Sweeney do enough in 2019 to stick in 2020 over a healthy Croom? The Bills don’t owe either of those guys anything at this point so it should be a straight competition. Can Becker do enough to show that Smith is extraneous? It’s not likely, but he could still be working on developing his role for the future. In the April roster projection, we had the Bills staying status quo with Knox, Smith, Sweeney, and Kroft and cutting Becker & Croom. The COVID-19 shutdown has something to do with that by keeping familiarity, but all six players were on the team a year ago so it’s less of an issue at tight end. This is a position where we could see the Bills play some roster games in 2020. The group that makes the initial 53-man roster might not be the same group that plays in all the games this year, as they churn the roster due to opponent, injuries, and other factors. Guys like becker, Sweeney, and Croom could be on the roster one week and off the roster the next week if there is a need at another position or they want a different style of tight end for that week’s opponent. View the full article
  15. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Which year was the best year of the past decade? When we ran this exercise for the Buffalo Bills of the 2000s, the goal of picking a single season was “to find the single best team the Buffalo Bills fielded in the last ten years.” You can use your own judgment to choose, but we’re continuing the tradition as we look back on the past decade and picking a single great year to represent the Buffalo Bills of the 2010s. Here are your choices: 2014 Buffalo Bills The Bills began 2014 with a 2-2 record, when head coach Doug Marrone made the pivotal move of the season: he benched 2013’s first round pick, EJ Manuel, for veteran Kyle Orton. It signaled that Marrone had no confidence in his “handpicked” young quarterback, and to his credit, Orton did outplay Manuel and turn in one of the better passing seasons the Bills have seen this century. The Bills had trouble putting together strings of wins, and hovered around .500 for most of the season. They weren’t in playoff position by the end of the year, but they did finish with a 9-7 record. That was the team’s first winning record in a decade (2004). High point: This was either entering the bye week with a 5-3 record, or the consecutive 38-3 and 26-10 stompings to set up a 7-5 record with four games remaining. The Bills would play their remaining weeks to a 2-2 sheet, however, with critical losses to the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders dooming their playoff hopes. Memorable moment: Kyle Orton, following the last game of the season, tells reporters he’ll be right back and leaves the locker room. He never returns, choosing to retire that day. Doug Marrone takes a page from his book and quits his job on New Year’s Eve after the end of the season. 2015 Buffalo Bills Morose Marrone is out, and Bold and Brash Ryan saunters into One Bills Drive to take his place. The 2015 season featured massive hype and the breakout debut of Tyrod Taylor (and Lorenzo Alexander’s own Pro Bowl season). It also fizzled when the team couldn’t sustain a winning streak for its life. Taylor really was remarkable in that first season. He scored 24 touchdowns, only turned the ball over five times (four interceptions, one fumble), and paired with LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams (with Greg Roman directing the action) to set up the league leading rushing offense. Unfortunately, the defense just didn’t gel. Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus regressed in a significant way from their All-Pro 2014 season. The team allowed at least 30 points in five games, all losses. High point: The Bills score 22 unanswered points against Ryan’s former team and defeat the New York Jets to advance to 5-4 on the season. With three winnable AFC games on the docket, they could be in line for a playoff run. However, the Bills would go 3-4 in their remaining games on the season. Memorable moment: Oh man, how can I pick just one? It’s thanks in part to Ryan that we debuted our April Fools headlines gag series. Let’s go with the IK Enemkpali saga, where he punched his teammate, was suspended and cut by the Jets, signed with the Bills, and was named a team captain by the time the Bills played the Jets. 2017 Buffalo Bills We all know why this season’s here. It’s the one that threw the monkey off its back, the one that kicked out the elephant in the room. This team made the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. Bold and Brash? More like “belongs in the trash.” The new hotness was the methodical, intense former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. He immediately transformed the team in a major way, cutting and trading many of the team’s former players and replacing them with older journeymen. It was a confident, almost arrogant plan, but McDermott told fans to “trust the process”. Somehow... he wasn’t wrong. The team embraced the chip on its shoulder and started with a 5-2 record, the best start since 2011 (oh what a year that was). Then they lost their next three games, including two weeks where they were outscored 101-34, and things looked bleak. But the Bills won four more games, all by one score, and snuck into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. High point: On New Year’s Eve, the Bills stave off a desperate Dolphins comeback attempt to win 22-16 and finish the season with a 9-7 record. Hours later, with the Bills on the brink of playoff elimination, Andy Dalton completes a touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd to defeat the Baltimore Ravens and send the Bills to the playoffs. The Bills would later lose 10-3 in an ugly defensive battle against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Memorable moment: Take your pick: The Nate Peterman game. During a blowout loss to the Saints, McDermott benched Taylor for a rookie fifth round pick, who threw a touchdown in garbage time. Then he announced Peterman as the starter against the LA Chargers. It was a bloodbath. Peterman threw five interceptions on 14 attempts and the Chargers ran away with a 54-24 blowout. Yet somehow this team finished the season with a 4-3 record after that point. Snowvertime. The Bills-Colts game, with snow in the forecast, turned into a full-on blizzard as the game began. No one could find the markers on the field. Teams had to shovel out snow to attempt field goal kicks. Taylor was hurt, so Peterman returned as the starter, but he also suffered an injury. Emergency quarterback Joe Webb somehow found Deonte Thompson for a 34 yard completion when it counted, and LeSean McCoy scampered through the snow for the game-winning touchdown in overtime. 2019 Buffalo Bills 2017 proved the Buffalo Bills were capable of reaching the playoffs. 2018, then, became about setting the Bills up for success, and 2019 was to prove that the Bills deserved to be there. It was Sean McDermott’s and Brandon Beane’s third season at the helm. The Bills narrowly escaped with a 17-16 win on opening day, but otherwise they were... doing fine? The team started 3-0, and narrowly lost 16-10 against New England. The Bills made it to the goalline against the Patriots, but Josh Allen was out with a concussion and Matt Barkley couldn’t seal the deal. Allen returned to action the next week to lead the team to a 14-7 win over the Tennessee Titans, then the team hit a groove. The Bills won 7 of their next 10 games to reach 10-4 and qualify for the playoffs. They failed to maintain a lead against the Patriots in week 16 (which would’ve had the team in position to win the division) and lost to the Jets in a game where they rested their starters before the playoffs. The Bills then advanced to the wild card round, where they built a 16-0 lead against the Houston Texans - only to see it all collapse over the second half of the game. They would ultimately lose 22-19 after Deshaun Watson miraculously escaped a sack and hit Taiwan Jones with a pass to put the Texans in field goal range. High point: The Bills, flexed to Sunday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers, intercept Duck Hodges four times to set up a 17-10 win. They advance to 10-4 and qualify for the playoffs with two weeks remaining in the season. Memorable moment: The Bills played their first Thanksgiving game since 1994 and confidently announced to the world “we’re back”. Buffalo scored 26 unanswered points, dominated the Dallas Cowboys on offense and defense, and Josh Allen ate a turkey leg in the post-win interview. You need to pick one of these seasons to represent the Bills of the past decade. Which will you choose? Vote below! View the full article
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