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2019 Team Report: Buffalo Bills

Offensive Philosophy

When quarterback Josh Allen was drafted last year, he was greeted with skepticism as a passer. His performance as a rookie showed those concerns to be justified. But Allen dazzled as a runner, becoming the sixth player in history to top 200 pass attempts and average 50 yards per game as a rusher, (joining Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Terrelle Pryor). Given Allen's skills as a rusher, (and the questions still surrounding him as a passer), it makes sense for Buffalo to continue leaning on last year's motion-heavy, gap-based rushing attack to carry the offense while Allen picks his spots on throws down the field.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Josh Allen
Backup(s): Derek Anderson, Matt Barkley, Tyree Jackson [R]

Starting QB: Josh Allen's rookie season was a rollercoaster, with some very good moments-such as his 224 yard, three touchdown game in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins-and some bad moments-such as his two interception, 151 yard game in Week 4 against Green Bay. One of the knocks on him when he entered the draft was accuracy, something which plagued him in his 2018 season as he accrued a 52.5 percent completion rate. He especially struggled in third down and red zone situations. The question is whether his issues were only of his own making or if the lack of weapons around him made it even worse. The answer to that will be the difference between success and failure. Two marks in his favor are his elite-strength arm and top shelf athleticism. Despite starting just 12 games, Allen had the highest yardage of any rusher, with 631 yards and by far the most rushing touchdowns with 8. The Bills will continue to run him, especially with LeSean McCoy on the wrong side of 30, slowing down and only the ageless Frank Gore to pick up the slack behind him.

Backup QB: Anderson played just two games for the Bills last season, throwing no touchdowns, four interceptions and 465 yards on 42 completions. If Anderson is in the game, things are grim. Entering his 14th year, Anderson has completed just 54.3 percent of his passes throughout his career, and while his percentage has been better over the latter half of his career, that's mostly because he throws far fewer passes than when he was a starter. The Bills are hoping Matt Barkley, who they signed to a two-year contract back in December, will take the second spot over Anderson. He did well in his only start, a Week 10 win over the Jets where he was 15 of 25 for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jackson was the 2018 MAC Offensive Player of the Year and South Team MVP at the Senior Bowl. A strong armed passer who isn't afraid to go deep, he's got a lot of accuracy problems. They might be something he can overcome, but Jackson is a project.

Running Backs

Starter: LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore
Backup(s): Devin Singletary [R], T.J. Yeldon, Marcus Murphy, Keith Ford, Senorise Perry, Christian Wade
Fullback(s): Patrick DiMarco

Starting RB: Last season, the Bills split carries between LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Ivory was cut in March,but rather than his carries going back to McCoy, it's likely the load will go to Frank Gore. McCoy will still get the bulk of the carries and he's only a year away from a 1100-plus yard season, but as he's on the wrong side of 30 and saw his production take a significant dip, with his YPC falling to 3.2, there's every reason to believe he's not getting 200-250 carries ever again. And that's before you factor in second-year quarterback Josh Allen's ability running the ball. Gore had a better season in the same amount of games and almost the same amount of carries last year in Miami, though he only found the end zone once. At 36, the wheels could come off at any time but every year we say that and every year he performs. If he's healthy and no drop off, he will eat into McCoy's numbers. At this point, neither looks like a long term option for the Bills, so there could be an extra body in the mix after the NFL draft as they try to look forward.

Backup RBs: TJ Yeldon signed a two-year contract with the Bills on April 22, which tells you the team is worried about their depth. It also is a clear indication that this is going full on Running Back by Committee. Unless there is an injury, Yeldon is unlikely to do much other than mop up. The team did take Devin Singletary in the third round, a sign that they like him to potentially start down the line. He's excellent at breaking tackles and a has a workhorse mentality. When both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory were out for Week 15, Marcus Murphy was tapped to take their place and he promptly dislocated his elbow. Prior to that injury, which pretty much finished his season, Murphy hadn't shown all that much over the course of 52 carries for just 250 yards. Keith Ford showed some flashes last season in a game against New England when he totaled 33 yards on just seven carries, but he's had so few opportunities it's hard to gauge what that means. Senorise Perry followed Frank Gore north, but unlike Gore, Perry has never shown much, with just eight carries over a three year career. In reality, nobody here seems to provide depth and stability, and the Bills remain thin at the position.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Zay Jones, John Brown, Cole Beasley
Backups: Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie (KR/PR), Andre Roberts (KR/PR), Ray-Ray McCloud, Victor Bolden, Da′Mari Scott, Cam Phillips, Duke Williams

Starting WRs: Zay Jones was pretty terrible during his rookie year, but showed improvement last season, catching 54 percent of his targets for 652 yards and seven touchdowns. It looks like he and quarterback Josh Allen have some chemistry, and as Allen improves, so should Jones' numbers. Even though he did well in 2018, he never had a 100 yard game and was under 70 yards in all but two games. That's a concern, as were the struggles against better cornerbacks. He might have some players who can pull coverage off him though, with John Brown and Cole Beasley arriving in town. After a 1000 yard season for Arizona back in 2015, Brown struggled both to repeat that total as well as stay healthy. Last season in Baltimore, Brown made it through the season in one piece, totaling 715 yards, though he did struggle once Lamar Jackson took over. Brown will give Allen another deep threat along with Robert Foster, which will help the Bills take advantage of their quarterback's arm strength. Cole Beasley should be a great fit in the slot, and he aught 75 percent of his targets last season. He can adjust to the ball well, and if Allen can finesse his short and intermediate game, Beasley could eat up defenses.

Backup WRs: Robert Foster will compete with John Brown for vertical targets after a solid rookie season. Both he and Brown have to prove they can repeat their success in that arena, Brown has the veteran experience so Foster will have more to prove. Foster's upside remains high, however, and he's someone to watch in camp. After an All-Pro special teams season for the New York Jets, Andre Roberts has signed with Buffalo and will compete for work with Isaiah McKenzie. Undersized Ray-Ray McCloud didn't show much in his rookie season, but didn't really see much opportunity either. That said, he has more ability, and therefore a leg up, on Victor Bolden, Da′Mari Scott, Cam Phillips, and Duke Williams, all of whom did nothing last year and are probably bodies for workouts.

Tight Ends

Starters: Tyler Kroft
Backups: Jason Croom, Lee Smith, Dawson Knox [R]

The tight end position in Buffalo is very shallow, with not one standout between former Cincinnati Bengals Tyler Kroft, and Lee Smith or home-grown Jason Croom. Croom appears to be the best receiving tight end, while Smith is likely to be relegated to blocking. Kroft missed most of 2018 with a broken foot, but the team is hoping he can make good on his three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal. The team moved up to take Dawson Knox in the late third. The ultra-athletic Ole Miss prospect was barely used behind three NFL-bound receivers and he also had some durability issues, but the team sees him as a two-way tight end with upside.

Place Kicker

Stephen Hauschka: Hauschka posted career lows in field goals and extra points as part of a very sluggish Buffalo offense in 2018. His conversion rate on kicks from 40 and beyond was the lowest of his career, so Josh Allen and company don't deserve all of the blame for Hauschka's 2018 decline. Most of the misses came after a Week 14 injury, and there are no indications that the team is dissatisfied with his performance in any way. He is a bounceback candidate along with the Bills offense, but not worth drafting in typical leagues.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, Marcus Murphy

The Bills have an absolute bounty of two-way return specialists with Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, and Marcus Murphy all under contract heading into 2019. All three players have at various points been the primary punt and kickoff returner for their teams, and any one of the three could handle duties for Buffalo, though Roberts has the longest track record of the three.

Punt Returners: Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, Marcus Murphy

The Bills have an absolute bounty of two-way return specialists with Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, and Marcus Murphy all under contract heading into 2019. All three players have at various points been the primary punt and kickoff returner for their teams, and any one of the three could handle duties for Buffalo, though Roberts has the longest track record of the three.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Wyatt Teller, Ty Nsekhe
Key Backups: Spencer Long, Cody Ford [R], Jon Feliciano, LaAdrian Waddle, Russell Bodine

Notes: Left tackle Dion Dawkins is the only holdover starter from last season's unit, which could have as many as four new starters from last season. Center Mitch Morse is a huge upgrade at the pivot, but he has missed time with concussions. Both guard spots are up for grabs and likely will be a battle between Quinton Spain and Spencer Long on the left side and Jon Feliciano and Wyatt Teller on the right. Ty Nsekhe will battle second round draft pick Cody Ford and LaAdrian Waddle for the right tackle spot. The Bills' front offense devoted resources to rebuilding this unit and a great deal of veteran talent was acquired through free agency. This should pay off in the future, however, the lineup needs to stabilize in the short term before their grade can rise from the low-tier of the rankings.

Team Defense

The Bills were a bottom third fantasy defense in 2018, with the surprising outburst at Minnesota and a strong game vs Houston early in the season to pique interest among streamers, and they had some stifling performances that were rewarded in leagues that score yards and points against. The team still has a problem spot at corner opposite Tre'Davious White and needs to find consistency opposite Jerry Hughes on the defensive line, but they drafted Ed Oliver in the first round, who is the closest thing you'll find to Aaron Donald in terms of pure athletic ability at defensive tackle. Buffalo opens with the Jets and Giants so they're not a great leadoff in a streaming approach, but they'll be useful when they face the Dolphins twice mid-season and we'll probably be considering them in other weeks.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jerry Hughes, DT Ed Oliver [R], NT Star Lotulelei, DE Shaq Lawson
Backups: DE Trent Murphy, DE Eddie Yarbrough, DT Harrison Phillips, DT Jordan Phillips

Starting DL: Jerry Hughes played some of the best football of his career in 2018 and finished with 30 solos and 7 sacks for the first time since 2014. At 31 years of age, he is past his prime but should remain a key piece of the defense and the team's best pass rusher. The Bills were fortunate to see Ed Oliver fall to them at #9 in the draft. He should be an instant starter at the three-technique and has the potential to become a dominant interior pass rusher in time. Star Lotulelei has limited fantasy value as a 2-down run plugger, but his presence does help make things easier for those around him. Shaq Lawson solidified his role on the team with a solid season last year and capped it off with 2 sacks in week 17. He's better against the run than rushing the passer, however, and will likely split time with Trent Murphy.

Backup DL: Trent Murphy was signed to provide a boost to the pass rush but was limited by injuries last year. He'll compete for a starting job in camp and could surprise if healthy. Eddie Yarbrough is a solid backup who has played well during his limited opportunities thus far. Harrison Phillips can play either tackle position and figures to be a key piece of the rotation up front. Jordan Phillips was signed off waivers from the Dolphins last year and provides additional depth inside.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Matt Milano, MLB Tremaine Edmunds, SLB Lorenzo Alexander
Backups: ILB Julian Stanford, OLB Maurice Alexander, OLB Eli Harold, OLB Vosean Joseph [R]

Starting LBs: The Bills have a talented young pair of fast 3-down linebackers to build around. Matt Milano was a late-round pick who quickly developed into an above-average starter last year before suffering a late injury. He's a very capable coverage linebacker and playmaker, but he has some room to grow in terms of his tackling and run defense. Tremaine Edmunds just turned 21 years of age but the 2018 first round pick certainly looked like a budding star towards the end of his rookie season. He can do everything well and comes into the season with top-10 fantasy potential at the linebacker position. Lorenzo Alexander proved last year that he still had more to give but is clearly nearing the end of his career. He's a versatile piece who the coaches can use in coverage or as a pass rusher when necessary.

Backup LBs: There isn't a lot of proven depth at this position but Julian Stanford figures to return as the primary backup at MLB. Maurice Alexander is a converted safety who can try to carve out a role in some sub-packages. Eli Harold has starting experience as an edge defender and figures to back up Alexander while also seeing time at defensive end. Vosean Joseph is another fast, athletic linebacker who should find a home on special teams with a chance to develop into a starter.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB TreDavious White, SS Micah Hyde, FS Jordan Poyer, CB Kevin Johnson
Backups: CB Levi Wallace, CB Taron Johnson, CB E.J. Gaines, S Rafael Bush, S Siran Neal, S Jaquan Johnson [R]

Starting DBs: TreDavious White had a very strong rookie season and then was even better as a sophomore. He often matched up against the opposing team's #1 wide receiver and played shutdown defense, although a lack of targets limited his fantasy production. The safety tandem is among the best in the league and both players are relatively interchangeable. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have combined for 16 interceptions over the past two seasons and each has top-10 fantasy potential. Although neither is a prototypical in-the-box run defender, their range and cover skills make them perfect for today's NFL. The other cornerback spot was a revolving door last year but they have several capable players who will compete for the job in camp. Kevin Johnson has the most experience from his time in Houston but he has had difficulty staying healthy.

Backup DBs: Levi Wallace enjoyed a very strong rookie season in 2018 and could certainly provide a long-term answer at CB2. Taron Johnson took over the nickel corner role as a rookie last year and is the early favorite to remain in that role. E.J. Gaines returned to Buffalo after an injury-plagued season in Cleveland and gives the Bills excellent depth at cornerback. Rafael Bush is an experienced backup at safety who has seen time in sub-packages as the 'big nickel'. He'll likely be pushed by 2nd-year pro Siran Neal and rookie Jaquan Johnson.

Last modified: 2019-05-22 16:05:22