This time we’ll be focusing on the Buffalo Bills as they seek to improve upon one of their strongest seasons in recent memory. Buffalo finished with a 10-6 record, grabbing the first AFC Wildcard spot. Even more importantly, they were well within reach of the division champions New England.
That’s vital as times are changing in the East. The Patriots no longer have Tom Brady – instead, they’re now likely stuck with a rookie QB and a weak roster top to bottom. That could push the Bills one step further towards their first title since 1995. The Jets and the Dolphins, the other two contenders, have added upgrades but are behind Buffalo in the depth department.
Let’s get to their signings. The Bills had a good offseason, which helped them add impactful players while giving up limited assets. They still gave up a first, a fifth, and a sixth-round pick for Stefon Diggs, which shortens their horizons before the upcoming draft. However, getting Diggs to a team that lacks receiving options, it was more than worth it.
Also, they marked gradual improvement in the pass-rush and kept together with a solid offensive line through free agency. Starting guard Quinton Spain was brought back after missing just six games in the past four years. With the Bills in 2019, he played 100 percent of all offensive snaps. Mario Addison was added to the D-Line after recording at least nine sacks in four straight years in Carolina. AJ Klein and Vernon Butler also had a decent season before coming to Buffalo, among other notable signings such as Quinton Jefferson and the returning E.J. Gaines.
1. Can the Defense Play Up to Its 2019 Performance?
The Bills were sensational last year. One of the main reasons was their defensive unit, which proved to shut opponents down more and more as the campaign progressed. The team ranked second in the least allowed points, third in total yards, tenth against the passing game, and tenth against the run. Also, their pass-rush ranked 12th with 44 sacks.
Their free-agency work proved that Sean McDermott‘s team is heading towards building up in that component. Keeping a convincing unit consistent is difficult, but rarely is the response as good as improving the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. Mario Addison was excellent in his last year with the Panthers, and that wasn’t even his best career season.
Only 11 sacks in 2017 were a better figure than the 9.5 sacks he managed in 2019. Also, he sacked opposing passers nine times in both 2018 and 2016. It’s a significant upgrade considering that Trent Murphy and Jerry Hughes, the two DE in a 4-3 scheme, recorded 9.5 sacks combined in 2019.
If you’re the Bills, it gives you the perfect tool to cover up Tre’Davious White, given that he regresses to the mean. White was one of the best corners in the NFL, allowing a mere 45.0 passer rating and making the Pro bowl. Meanwhile, Levi Wallace also had a good season. They both could turn out to carry their success into 2020, but it’s challenging to get better. If they start to fall off, the pass-rush definitely could make up for it.
2. Can Devin Singletary Step Up?
McDermott used Singletary a lot in the 2019 preseason, and he didn’t disappoint. After the Bills cut LeSean McCoy, Singletary was expected to make a run and receive a decent share of the running workload.
The veteran Frank Gore prevented that from happening to a certain extent. Singletary started eight games, took part in 12, and was on the field for exactly 50 percent of the time on offense. Given those numbers on the field, his 775 yards and 64.6 per game were beyond satisfying.
Singletary, a 2019 third-round selection out of FAU, went under the radar. However, he has the makings of a back that can carry an offense even by getting most of the rushes.
To put his impressive showing in perspective, Singletary averaged 5.13 yards per carry. The record for a rookie RB (at least 150 carries) is 5.67 (2006 Maurice Jones-Drew), meaning he was 15th on that graphic. His season wasn’t nearly as historic given his limited share compared to the others above him. Nevertheless, McDermott should give him the starting job and even probably run the offense through him despite acquiring Diggs to boost the passing game.
3. Is the Absence of a First-Round Pick a Problem?
Stefon Diggs was added to the receiving core while a first-round pick went to Minneapolis. Is Stefon Diggs worth a first-rounder? Barely but probably, yes. Are the Bills willing to give up that and even more? You can be sure about that. Knowing they might not be as short-handed at wide receiver, as teams like the Eagles, they still needed another piece to consider it reliable.
The only problem: what now? The loss of a selection in the first round of the NFL Draft (Pick 22) may not be such a tragedy after all. That’s because the Bills don’t have that many holes in their roster. They didn’t really have many except for wide receiver before free agency. In fact, any first-round wide receiver will most certainly be less reliable than an experienced receiver like Diggs. Yes, even guys like Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs.
Bills’ first pick is Pick 54. They might also consider picking the leftovers of the historic wide-receiving draft class of 2020.
Despite spending significant money, the Bills are still flexible, with about $20 million available in the salary cap. They’ll be able to acquire the depth they need on the market and be good in that department. Therefore, the draft might be less significant this year than most years for Buffalo. Needs of importance include the defensive line, as well as perhaps another RB to back up Singletary.
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