2018 NFL Season Preview- Buffalo Bills
For the first time this century, the Bills made it to the playoffs.
In the final week of the regular season, Buffalo finally ended their 18-year playoff drought (previously the longest active drought in the NFL and the longest active playoff drought among the four major professional North American sport leagues) with the Bills winning 22-16 over the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals upsetting the Baltimore Ravens 31-27. However, the Bills lost the wild card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars 3-10, extending their playoff victory drought to 22 years. The Bills are the last team since the NFL re-alignment in 2002 to make the playoffs.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor did an excellent job of protecting the ball running with it, but struggled to throw it due to the team's underperforming receivers. Running back LeSean McCoy adapted to the offenses new blocking scheme after a slow start. Tight end Charles Clay was the team's second leading receiver but was hurt a good chunk of the season and wasn't always 100% when on the field. Nick O'Leary is a decent backup, but dealt with drops and struggled as a blocker. The receiver corps needs an overhaul. Kelvin Benjamin managed only 16 catches in six games and Jordan Matthews landed on injured reserve after 10 games with a knee injury. Left tackle Gordy Glenn played in just six games due to injury while right guard Vladimir Ducasse and right tackle Jordan Mills were average at best. Center Eric Wood had another solid year but it was discovered that he had played a majority of the season with a serious neck injury that will force him to retire.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams had a solid 12th season and scored his first career touchdown as a fullback on offense. Defensive end Jerry Hughes only had four sacks, but did generate pressure and he is still the team's best pass rusher. Shaq Lawson has failed to stay healthy and has been disappointing as an edge rusher. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander s a valuable leader of the defense and special teams at age 35. Preston Brown tied for the NFL lead with 144 tackles and played 99.2% of the defense's snaps. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer were arguably the best safety tandem in the league.
The Bills produced three Pro Bowlers in running back LeSean McCoy, left guard Richie Incognito, and strong safety Micah Hyde. McCoy had an excellent season, finishing fourth of the league in rushing and remains the Bill's most dangerous offensive weapon. Incognito made his third consecutive Pro Bowl and fourth overall. Hyde was a great free agency signing, finishing with five interceptions on the season.
The rookie class brought both hope and disappointment. Cornerback Tre'Davious White had an outstanding season and led all rookies in passes defended. Wide receiver Zay Jones had four games were he didn't record a catch as he struggled to adjust to NFL coverages. Tackle Dion Dawkins was a serviceable replacement for Cordy Glenn as a run blocker but needs to improve in his pass protection. Linebacker Matt Milano was a nice surprise and became the starting weakside linebacker late in the year. Quarterback Nathan Peterman through five interceptions in his only start and looks like a career backup rather than future starter.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Going 9-7 and making the playoffs in his first season, head coach Sean McDermott has some big decisions to make if he expects to get Buffalo a return trip to the postseason.
After the season, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was fired. The team then hired former Alabama offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Daboll to be the new offensive coordinator.
Notable Additions- QB A.J. McCarron, RB Chris Ivory, WR Corey Coleman, WR Jeremy Kerley, T Marshall Newhouse, DE Trent Murphy, DT Star Lotulelei, OLB Keenan Robinson, CB Vontae Davis, CB Phillip Gaines, S Rafael Bush, P Jon Ryan
Notable Departures- QB Tyrod Taylor, QB/WR Joe Webb, FB Mike Tolbert, WR Brandon Tate, WR Jordan Matthews, T Cordy Glenn, G Richie Incognito, C Eric Wood, DT Cedric Thornton, LB Preston Brown, CB E.J. Gaines, CB Shareece Wright
Bills 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
Thanks to the Bills trading Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati, Buffalo now has two first round picks at 12th overall and 21st overall. With those picks, they have to fill voids at quarterback, defensive tackle, and cornerback.
Tyrod Taylor is now in Cleveland and Nathan Peterman was a disaster in the two games he played. A.J. McCarron could be the guy, but a young gunslinger should be a top priority.
Kyle Williams is a the latter half of his career and Adolphus Washington failed to step up. Star Lotulelei helps but he wasn't even the best defensive tackle for Carolina.
Tre'Davious White looks like a star, but the secondary lost E.J. Gaines and Shareece Wright. Phillip Gaines and Vontae Davis give good depth but Davis isn't a long term solution.
On draft day, Buffalo used their 12th overall pick to trade up to the seventh overall pick with Tampa to select Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. Allen has the strongest arm of any quarterback in this class, but has struggled with accuracy at every level. With their 21st overall, the Bills traded up to the 16th overall pick with Baltimore to draft Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds was seen as the best pass rushing linebacker in this draft, but can be overly aggressive causing him to guess wrong on plays.
The Bills also notably drafted Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips in the third round and North Carolina wide receiver Austin Proehl in the seventh. Phillips was extremely productive for a defensive tackle by recording 100 tackles in 2017, but his undersized frame might be concerning. Proehl has NFL bloodlines with his father, Ricky Proehl, playing 17 seasons at wide receiver, but his small stature will limit him in an offense.
Josh Allen Highlights
What To Expect
I hope Bills' fans enjoyed the 2017 season, because 2018 isn't looking good for them.
Their is a major concern at quarterback. A.J. McCarron has only started three games in four seasons, Nathan Peterman showed next to nothing last season, and Josh Allen is a project due to his accuracy issues. LeSean McCoy is 30, but he looks like he has a few solid seasons left him and Chris Ivory looks to be a more reliable backup. Kelvin Benjamin is in the final year of his rookie deal, so I expect him to play better this season to ensure he gets a new contract with Buffalo or become more attractive to other teams. The rest of the receiver corps is an enigma. Zay Jones had a rough offseason with arrests and injuries and Corey Coleman was injury prone in his two seasons in Cleveland. Hopefully Charles Clay and the rest of the tight ends can rebound to help the passing game and be serviceable run blockers. Considering the offensive line lost three players to free agency and retirement. It could be a rough season for the quarterbacks and running backs.
The additions in free agency and the draft look to give the defensive line a solid unit of players that will fit into a nice rotation. Adding Keenan Robinson and Tremaine Edmunds to the linebacker corps with Lorenzo Alexander should make the team forget about Preston Brown. Phillip Gaines and Vontae Davis will make solid complements to Tre'Davious White while Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer should remain a high level safety tandem.
Giving the questions at quarterback, I can't see Buffalo getting back to the playoffs this year and with all the bodies on the offensive line they lost, it will be next to impossible for LeSean McCoy to carry the team this season.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 6-10