2019 NFL Season Preview- Buffalo Bills
There was no miracle finish to save the Bills this season.
A year after sneaking into the playoffs and ending their 17 year drought, Buffalo stumbled out of the gate to lose seven of their first nine games and never came close to competing.
Quarterback Nathan Peterman proved his rookie season was no fluke and played horribly throwing two touchdowns and seven interceptions, including two pick sixes. He was released in mid-November. Running back LeSean McCoy had the worst season of his career rushing for just 514 yards and 3.2 yards per carry. This was mainly due to the poor offensive line and defenses not respecting the Bills passing game. Chris Ivory didn't fair much better and Marcus Murphy couldn't be trusted in pass protection. Tight end Charles Clay was a huge disappointment with just 21 receptions and lost his starting job. Jason Croom took over and produced better on fewer snaps. Wide receiver Zay Jones made a nice jump after an underwhelming rookie year by leading the team in every major receiving category. Isaiah McKenzie was acquired off waivers in November and proved to be a nice find with value as a receiver, punt returner, and runner on jet sweeps. The offensive line was a disaster all season. After losing three starters from 2017, the Bills had no one to pick up the pieces. Left tackle Dion Dawkins took a step backwards after a promising rookie season and led the team with 11 enforced penalties. Center Ryan Groy and guard Vladimir Ducasse began the year as starters but both were benched.
The Bills had a nice rotation on the defensive line. Defensive end Jerry Hughes is one of the league's best at pressuring the quarterback and led the team with seven sacks. Shaq Lawson showed improvement in his third season with four sacks and two forced fumbles. Trent Murphy and Star Lotulelei were free agency disappointments as Murphy dealt with injuries and Lotulelei made little impact. Other than the starting three, the linebacker corps has no depth. Linebacker Matt Milano had six forced turnovers before breaking his leg. Lorenzo Alexander was the team's defensive MVP at age 35 and did a little bit of everything. The secondary had the leagues best pass defense and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer were a big reason why. Cornerback Tre'Davious White slipped in play a bit, but he is still a rising star.
Kicker Stephen Hauschka went 22 of 28 on field goals but four of his misses came when he was dealing with injuries. The team used three different punters of the season and all were below averaged.
Despite the star studded defense, defensive tackle Kyle Williams was the team's only Pro Bowler. Williams made his sixth Pro Bowl in his 13th and final season, finishing with five sacks and a reception on offense.
The rookie class has some ways to go, but Buffalo believes they are the future. Quarterback Josh Allen was thrust into the starting lineup before he was ready thanks to the implosion of Nathan Peterman. Allen has a long way to go as a passer with a 67.9 passer rating but he led the team in rushing with 631 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds played 90% of the snaps on defense and led the team with 121 tackles. Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips wasn't much of a difference maker, but he was solid as a rotation man and the team hopes he can be Kyle Williams' successor. Cornerback Taron Johnson was a solid nickel corner before a shoulder injury ended his season. Guard Wyatt Teller showed promise in the ladder half of the season. Wide receiver Ray- Ray McCloud made little impact with just five catches. Undrafted wide receiver Robert Foster was one of the biggest surprises of the season. After playing in the first six games and only making two catches, he was cut and resigned to the practice squad, promoted back to the main roster and flourished as he finished with 27 receptions for 541 yards. Undrafted cornerback Levi Wallace was another revelation as he became a starter over the final seven games.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Despite the regression to a 6-10 record, head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane feel the team is on a better path as they dealt with nearly $70 million in dead money. The hope is that with a more forgiving salary cap, the Bills will be able to add the pieces they need to get back into the postseason.
Notable Additions- RB TJ Yeldon, RB Frank Gore, WR Cole Beasley, WR John Brown, WR/RS Andre Roberts, TE Tyler Kroft, TE Lee Smith, G Spencer Long, C Mitch Morse, DE Eli Harold, CB EJ Gaines, CB Kevin Johnson, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Kurt Coleman
Notable Departures- QB Derek Anderson, RB Chris Ivory, RB Taiwan Jones, WR Deonte Thompson, TE Logan Thomas, TE Charles Clay, T Jordan Mills, DT Kyle Williams
Bills 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the ninth overall pick in the draft, the Bills have some key pieces to replace if they expect to make it back to the postseason. Especially at wide receiver, offensive lineman, and cornerback.
The Bills had one of the weakest receiving corps in the league and need a true number one target for Josh Allen.
The offensive line was in need of three new starters. Mitch Morse and Spencer Long help, but the jury is stilt out on Wyatt Teller.
Buffalo liked what they saw from Levi Wallace over the final seven games, but it would be ideal to have another defensive back to push him further.
On draft day, Buffalo ended up selecting the best player on the board in Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver with the ninth overall pick. Oliver was viewed as the top pass rushing defensive tackle in the draft, but lacks the size most teams look for in a interior lineman.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Cody Ford, G, Oklahoma- top pass blocking guard, durability concerns
Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic- Runs hard and aggressive, smaller than ideal
Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss- Workout warrior speed and explosiveness, never scored a touchdown in college
Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida- Top run defending outside linebacker, built more like a safety
Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami- Best run support safety prospect, lacks bulk for the position
Darryl Johnson, DE, North Carolina A&T- Long limbed, stiff in lower half
Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College- Solid route runner, poor blocker
Notable Undrafted Free Agents:
Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo- Phenomenonal size and arm, poor accuracy
Ed Oliver Highlights
What To Expect
Even with all the changes made in the offseason , there is still a long road a head for the Bills.
Josh Allen showed great athleticism in his rookie year, but he still has to improve his accuracy if he expects to get Buffalo back in postseason. LeSean McCoy is on the last year of his deal and must turned 30. Whether he's capable of returning to his 1,000 hard form has yet to be seen and its an enigma to know what Frank Gore and TJ Yeldon will bring to the table. Devin Singletary looks to be the running back of the future. The team drafted two tight ends and signed two more in free agency with the hopes that at least one will be a productive target. The Bills have a variety of wide receivers, but it is still unknown if any are capable of being the number one man. There are still some concerns with the offensive line. The team hopes Dion Dawkins can return to his rookie form and that Cod Ford can emerge into a top guard.
The defensive line should continue to have one of the deepest units in the league. I see Ed Oliver taking the starting job from Star Lotulelei and playing alongside Harrison Phillips. There are still issues with depth at linebacker with Vosean Joseph being the only viable addition to the corps. The secondary has some nice added depth with EJ Gaines while Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer should continue to be one of the top safety duos in the NFL.
Buffalo made a lot of the right moves in free agency and the draft, but I see them finishing third behind the Jets and Patriots.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 6-10