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2020 Team Report: Buffalo Bills

Last updated: Tue, May 19

Offensive Philosophy

Faced with an inaccurate quarterback who is electric with the ball in his hands (and a stellar defense built to keep games close), head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have built the Bills' offense into one of the most run-heavy units in the league. Allen frequently use the threat of the run to buy him some time and the Bills have surrounded him talented receivers with a high margin of error- acquiring John Brown last offseason and Stefon Diggs this one-to reduce the demands placed on Allen when he's throwing on the move. Buffalo's top running back generally hasn't benefitted from the run-heavy approach because the Bills prefer to rotate through several running backs. Any hopes that the departure of Frank Gore would result in a larger role for new starter Devin Singletary were likely dashed during the draft when the Bills spent a third-round pick on Zach Moss, likely signaling an ongoing commitment to a committee approach at the position.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Josh Allen
Backup(s): Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm [R]

Starting QB: : Josh Allen saw his completion percentage jump up 6% in his second year, but a 58.8% ratio is still not optimal for a starting quarterback in the NFL. However, the expectation is he will continue to improve especially with the team adding Stefon Diggs to the roster. His 66.3% reception percentage was higher than anyone Allen was throwing to last season, and adding him to a receiving corps with John Brown, should help the quarterback's completion ratio. Aside from that, Allen cut down on interceptions, hit on more passing touchdowns, and showed more poise in 2019. With a new weapon to take advantage of his arm strength and the continued judicious use of his scrambling ability, Allen has a great chance to take his game to the next level, pulling his team along with him.

Backup QB: Matt Barkley appeared in exactly two games last season, once when Josh Allen was hurt in Week 4 against the New England Patriots, and another time when the team rested Allen against the New York Jets in a meaningless Week 17 game. It wasn't pretty either time, as Barkley turned the ball over three times, though two against the Patriots were when the ball came off a receiver's hands. Still, he is a shaky backup option, so we should expect a free agent signing or draft pick to be added to the roster. Fromm was drafted in the fifth round and could end up being an upgrade from Barkley. He's more comfortable in structure and a contrast from Allen in playing styles.

Running Backs

Starter: Devin Singletary
Backup(s): T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones, Zack Moss [R]
Fullback(s): Patrick DiMarco

Starting RB: Gone are Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy, leaving second-year running back Devin Singletary to lead the way. While getting 151 carries compared to Gore's 166, he outpaced him by 176 yards in three less games, while compiling 775 yards on the ground, a 5.1 yards per carry average and a pair of touchdowns. He scored two more times as a receiver, snagging 29 of his 42 targets for 194 yards. GM Brandon Beane thinks Singletary could be the main back, holding the bulk of the carries, but we have yet to see the team draft yet, nor has T.J. Yeldon been healthy enough to push Singletary. One downside to the second year back is the fact that he was pulled in a lot of goal line situations, with Gore and Josh Allen getting the most carries. Singletary will likely give way to third round pick Zack Moss in short yardage and some passing situations to lower his ceiling.

Backup RBs: Yeldon has never recaptured the mojo he had in his rookie season with the Jaguars, though he did show well as a receiving back with the Bills last season. Still, any addition to the roster could mean curtains for Yeldon, who is earning $1.4 million if he is with the team this season. While Taiwan Jones is primarily a special teams guy, he could push Yeldon a bit for a backup position. He is more secure on the roster due to his ability to return kicks. Rookie Zack Moss was the Bills' third round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. A violent runner, Moss has good vision, balance and patience but doesn't seem to be able to discern when he needs to avoid contact. The way he hits and the amount of hits he delivers and takes has raised some durability concerns, but Moss is very good on passing downs and will give the team a short yardage back to replace Gore.

Fullback: DiMarco is a very good lead blocker and has served the team well in that way since he was signed in 2017. He rarely carries the ball, but that's not where his value is anyway.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley
Backups: Isaiah McKenzie (KR/PR), Robert Foster, Duke Williams, Andre Roberts (KR/PR), Gabriel Davis [R], Isaiah Hodgins [R]

Starting WRs: The Bills traded for Stefon Diggs, giving up this year's first, fifth and sixth round picks plus a fourth for next year, getting the Vikings receiver and a 2020 seventh rounder in return. Diggs should step into the top receiver role in Buffalo, without a stepback, as John Brown will pull coverage in the same way Adam Thielen could. Josh Allen is less consistent than Kirk Cousins, but has a more dynamic arm and while the fit isn't perfect, the speedy receiver should be able to take advantage of Allen's strengths, and help the young quarterback begin to reach his potential, and should see his target numbers, which dipped greatly last year, rise back up. If that happens, Brown is likely to see his targets drop from the 115 he had last season, although not necessarily in a massive drop, as he is bumped to second, while Cole Beasley is dropped to third banana. Brown was super consistent last year, setting personal bests in total yards with 1,060, targets with 115 and receptions with 72. This may take some time, however, as Allen and Brown are more familiar with each other than Allen and Diggs will be, especially if training camp and preseason are impacted by the COVID-19 crises. His role may deflate slowly if there isn't much time for Allen and his new receiver to get on the same page. Cole Beasley is likely to see a massive reduction of targets, as he will move to third receiver, Beasley was the second most targeted receiver in the red zone, while Diggs saw a drop in numbers from 18 in 2018 to just five in 2019. The one advantage Beasley has is that he works out of the slot, which is unlikely to change. That means he will see a solid amount of targets, even though it will be less than in 2019.

Backup WRs: Isaiah McKenzie was signed to an extension in March, but with the arrival of Stefon Diggs, he is going to be relegated to special teams and battling for the odd snap as the fourth receiver. His main competition will be Robert Foster, who was also re-signed back in early March with a one-year contract. Foster battled a toe injury last season, which might have hampered his upside, but he has a lot to prove to leapfrog McKenzie after a disappointing second season in the league. Duke Williams has good size which is useful in the red-zone, but the team seems to view him as more of a blocker than a receiver. There's room for him to beat out McKenzie or Foster, but he's going to really have to step it up early to get that chance. Andre Roberts is a special teams player who will remain just that unless injuries decimate the Bills' receiving corps. An All-Pro returner in 2018, Roberts may not have equaled that measure in 2019, but has more than enough talent to give the Bills great field position in 2020. Fourth round rookie Gabriel Davis is a big-bodied target who flourished last season when the UCF offense worked to create opportunities for him. He's good along the sidelines, but can struggle with gaining space due to limited experience running more than a handful of routes and a lack of quickness in and out of what routes he does run. Like Davis, the fifth round pick Hodgins out of Oregon State, does his best work at the catch point and he could be in contention to replace John Brown before the end of his rookie deal.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dawson Knox
Backups: Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, Jason Croom

Dawson Knox had the best year of any Bills tight end, relatively speaking, far and away seeing more targets than anyone else and playing in more games. That said, the athletic tight end has the inside shot if he can fix parts of his game and become a more consistent weapon. Tyler Kroft came in from Cincinnati last year, broke his foot and didn't play until Week 7. He was stuck behind Knox after that, but could emerge as a factor in training camp. If he doesn't he may end up getting moved along with his contract. He has upside, but he has to show it. Tommy Sweeney got a chance to start in Week 1 and did OK, only to disappear right after. If anything, he is likely to survive as a decent blocker. Jason Croom spent 2019 on Injured Reserve after a preseason injury. He was signed to a low-risk, one-year contract and has a tough fight to remain on the roster.

Place Kicker

Stephen Hauschka, Tyler Bass (R), Kaare Vedvik: Hauschka enters the second year of a two-year, $8 million dollar deal, but he has competition. He was 21 of 23 from 49 yards or closer, with only one miss from under 40, but only made one of five kicks from 50+ yards, which was his lowest number of long distance attempts since the Bills signed him in 2017. Hauschka was an acceptable 30 of 32 on extra points. The team signed Kaare Vedvik in the offseason and drafted Tyler Bass in the sixth round, so Hauschka will have to win a kicker battle to keep his job. Vedvik failed to make the Vikings roster after they traded a fifth-round pick for him last preseason and then flopped when the Jets gave him their kicker job. Bass is accurate but he hasn't been tried often from distance. He looked good at the Senior Bowl and could prove to be fine from 50+ in the pros. The offense is on the way up so the eventual winner could be worth a look as injury/bye fill-in material.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie

The Bills find themselves in an enviable position on special teams with reliable veteran Andre Roberts handling both punt and kickoff returns and experienced depth behind him in Micah Hyde and Isaiah McKenzie.

Punt Returners: Andre Roberts, Micah Hyde

The Bills find themselves in an enviable position on special teams with reliable veteran Andre Roberts handling both punt and kickoff returns and experienced depth behind him in Micah Hyde and Isaiah McKenzie.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: OT Dion Dawkins, OG Quinton Spain, C Mitch Morse, OG Jon Feliciano, OT Cody Ford
Key Backups: OT Ty Nsekhe, OL Ryan Bates, OL Spencer Long, OL Evan Boehm

The strength is at tackle, as left tackle Dion Dawkins grades as a Pro Bowl snub and is negotiating for a new contract. Second year right tackle Cody Ford plays with edge, fined by the league for a penalty in the playoff game. Center Mitch Morse, left guard Quinton Spain and right guard Jon Feliciano all have been thriving in the man power scheme. Their cohesion score is perfect, as all five starters return from last season.

Team Defense

The Bills posted 23 takeaways and 44 sacks last year and stifled opposing offenses to the tune of the third least yards and second least points allowed in 2019. Their entire team should take a step forward this year with Stefon Diggs added on offense and the hope of even better play from their line and Josh Allen. On defense, Mario Addison should boost the pass rush along with second round pick AJ Epenesa and utility lineman Quinton Jefferson. Second corner remains an issue with a Josh Norman resurgence as Plan A, but even with that weakness, they should remain a top team defense in leagues with yards and points allowed scored. They are being overdrafted in the top five in leagues that don't include yards/points allowed scoring, so don't overspend if you are in a stripped down D/ST scoring system.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jerry Hughes, DE Mario Addison, DT Ed Oliver, DT Star Lotulelei
Backups: DE A.J. Epenesa[R], DE Trent Murphy, DE Quinton Jefferson, DE Darryl Johnson, DT Vernon Butler, DT Harrison Phillips, DT Corey Liuget

Starting DL: This is a strong and deep group, although some of the key players are reaching the age when declines in performance would be expected. Jerry Hughes remains an effective two-way player at 32, but has only averaged 5.5 sacks over the past five seasons and his tackle numbers fell off dramatically in 2019. The Bills signed veteran Mario Addison in free agency to provide a boost to their pass rush. He's averaged nearly 10 sacks/year for the past four seasons in Carolina and should be an upgrade over Shaq Lawson. Ed Oliver was a top-10 pick in last year's draft and has breakout potential if he can build off an impressive rookie season. He might miss some time if the league chooses to suspend him after an offseason DWI and unlawfully carrying a gun incident. Star Lotulelei has very limited fantasy value but helps tie up blockers on early downs to make things easier for the players around him.

Backup DL: A.J. Epenesa was considered a first-round talent who the Bills landed late in round 2 and provides some much-needed youth to the edge rusher position. Trent Murphy hasn't made much of a contribution during his two years in Buffalo and could be released in a cost-cutting move. Darryl Johnson was a late-round find a year ago who showed promise as a developmental pass rusher. Quinton Jefferson was a quality depth signing and versatile player who can contribute both inside and outside. Vernon Butler was also signed from Carolina and will help offset the loss of Jordan Phillips, who collected 9.5 sacks a year ago. Harrison Phillips returns from injury and should compete with Corey Liuget for a rotational role.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Tremaine Edmunds, WLB Matt Milano, SLB A.J. Klein
Backups: ILB Tyler Matakevich, OLB Maurice Alexander, OLB Corey Thompson, OLB Vosean Joseph

Starting LBs: Despite already having two full years of experience, Tremaine Edmunds is still just 22 years of age. He's a strong LB2 due to his all-around ability and could become one of the best at the position with continued development and more big plays. Matt Milano has shown steady improvement and become a core piece of this defense since becoming a starter late in 2017. He is underrated against the run and strong in coverage, which should keep him in a three-down role and a viable fantasy LB3. Following the retirement of Lorenzo Alexander, the Bills brought in another former Panther in A.J. Klein to replace him on the strong side. He won't provide much as a pass rusher but is an experienced professional who can fill a role as an early down run stopper.

Backup LBs: There is limited depth behind the starters, but Tyler Matakevich has some experience from his time in Pittsburgh. Maurice Alexander figures to backup Matt Milano on the weakside while Corey Thompson and Vosean Joseph are primarily special-teams contributors.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Jordan Poyer, FS Micah Hyde, CB Tre'Davious White, CB Levi Wallace
Backups: CB Josh Norman, CB Taron Johnson, CB E.J. Gaines, CB Siran Neal, CB Dane Jackson [R], S Kurt Coleman, S Jaquan Johnson, S Dean Marlowe

Starting DBs: Jordan Poyer has been an elite fantasy safety since joining the Bills in 2017 and is likely one of the safest choices at the position. Although slightly undersized for the role, he tends to play closer to the line of scrimmage and has proven to be one of the best playmakers in the league. Micah Hyde is often listed as the strong safety but is more valuable playing in coverage. As his tackle numbers have fallen off the past two years, he hasn't been able to offset them with enough big plays so his fantasy production has underwhelmed. TreDavious White is one of the few elite cornerbacks who can still be a reliable every-week fantasy starter. Although quarterbacks may try to avoid him, he remains active by shadowing top receivers while also playing a zone defense that provides plenty of chances to make plays on the ball. Levi Wallace was very productive in 2019 but will have to fend off new competition for the starting role due to some uneven play last year. Josh Norman was signed in free agency to a 1-year contract for $6 million and had success playing under Sean McDermott in Carolina.

Backup DBs: Josh Norman's level of play fell off in Washington, but he should fit better in the Bills' zone-heavy scheme. Taron Johnson has been an effective nickel back during his brief career but has also missed significant time due to injuries. E.J. Gaines missed last year to injury but had some success with the Bills back in 2017. Siran Neal has shown some promise as a big nickel while Dane Jackson brings some added competition as a late-round pick in this year's draft. Kurt Coleman has plenty of starting experience but has lost a step at this point. Jaquan Johnson is a promising developmental safety who could be ready for a bigger role if either starter goes down with an injury.