The Bills have put a wrap on their spring workout sessions and practices and get a five-week break until training camp. Here's what we've learned about Buffalo's roster and outlook for the 2023 campaign.
1 - Value the theme in free agency
Brandon Beane has made his share of splash moves during his tenure as Bills general manager from the Stefon Diggs trade to the Von Miller signing. But as the roster has matured with more players on second contracts, like Josh Allen, Beane and his personnel department were forced to go with a value approach to free agency this offseason.
The tight cap situation Buffalo faced kept fan expectations low in terms of roster improvements. Beane, however, was not only able to re-sign Jordan Poyer, which was believed by many to be unlikely, but shrewdly added talent on a budget.
One big contract went to free agent guard Connor McGovern, but beyond that Buffalo's personnel department acquired necessary pieces to upgrade the talent level and depth of almost every position on the roster and made it a stronger one than they had last year.
2 - Tre'Davious White looks back to his All-Pro self
The Bills endured a tremendous amount of adversity last season, from the untimely loss of Dawson Knox's younger brother to a relocated home game, to generational snowstorms and an unthinkable number of player injuries. Before the season even started, Buffalo was without their top cornerback, Tre'Davious White, who was still recovering from an ACL injury the previous Thanksgiving. It took a full calendar year before White returned to the field off the first major injury of his career. And though White's presence in the lineup certainly helped, he didn't look like the same lockdown corner he's been his entire career.
That's all changed now. Even though it was spring football with no pads, White had an approach in practice that resembled the dedication and intensity we've grown used to seeing in his play. His teammates and coaches have noticed too.
"He's worked extremely, extremely hard, which I don't take for granted," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Knowing him, knowing his level of commitment, his level of level of dedication, being the player that he knows he wants to be, he's just a young man who wants to be great. He is one of our hardest workers. So I think he's had a good spring and will continue to work this offseason and this summer to get ready for training camp."
Keep an eye out at St. John Fisher because takeaway Tre' looks like the one we all remember prior to his injury.
3 - Buffalo's defense trending toward aggressive
Almost everyone that has been asked the question has responded with a similar answer. What kind of approach should we expect from Buffalo's defense with Sean McDermott now in charge of play calling?
Aggressive has often been the one-word answer. But how will that look?
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, in an appearance on ‘One Bills Live,' tried to paint the picture.
"I think you look at aggressiveness in a couple of different ways," Jeremiah said. "Do you want to send extra bodies? Yeah, that's one form of aggressiveness. The other way is to say we've got really talented guys across the front so we're going to eliminate the thinking and not have them sit and read. We're just going to get guys on an edge and go. I think Sean will mix and match that up depending on the opponent. People hear aggressiveness and think it's going to be cover zero and they're bringing everybody every snap. I don't think that's what he'll do. But I think he'll pick his spots with some of those versatile pieces on the back end."
4 – Three starting jobs with heavy competition
There don't appear to be many open starting roles to be had on Buffalo's loaded roster, but there are three that figure to have fierce competition in training camp. Middle linebacker, right guard, and the number two cornerback role.
The role left behind by Tremaine Edmunds could involve as many as four to five candidates. Unless the coaching staff definitively whittles the pool down, Terrel Bernard, Tyrel Dodson, A.J. Klein, Baylon Spector and rookie Dorian Williams could all get a look at it.
At right guard, Ryan Bates is the incumbent, but two much larger guard candidates are in the mix in proven starter David Edwards and second-round pick O'Cyrus Torrence. Are the Bills leaning in favor of a bigger and thicker offensive interior to improve the integrity of the pocket and to more effectively run between the tackles? If so, there could be a change there.
And with Tre'Davious White healthy and ready to assume the number one corner role from the start of the season, Christian Benford, Kaiir Elam and Dane Jackson will battle it out for the second cornerback spot outside.
5 - Size and depth a focus for the lines
Buffalo's head coach has time and again stated that it starts up front. The club put that mantra into practice with their offseason acquisitions. A pair of proven starting guards in Connor McGovern and David Edwards were signed in free agency, and the Bills fortified the ranks of their offensive line interior using a pair of draft choices on O'Cyrus Torrence and Nick Broeker.
Defensively, after being unable to land a defensive tackle in the draft they signed a proven defensive tackle in Poona Ford and in June added a pass rusher who ranks in the top 10 in sacks over the last three seasons in Leonard Floyd.
"As we say all the time, roster-building is a 12-month thing," said Beane. "Things are always out there."
6 - Miller still targeting Week 1
Many have said that Von Miller is a freak of nature. So, to see him successfully return from a partially torn ACL in just nine months to play in Week 1 might not be a shock, but it would be remarkable.
"If I can go, I'm going to be able to go," said Miller. "The plan is to get some practice reps so I can be ready for Week 1. I'm not a believer in just showing up to the game and rushing. What I've got to do, I've got to get my practice shots out there on the football field, so I definitely have to have some work in training camp. What that entails, I don't know. How many reps will it be? I don't know, but I'll have some reps in training camp to help get me ready for Week 1."
Miller admits that the team's athletic training and medical staffs will ultimately rule on what he can and cannot do in training camp and for the regular season. What he did state for certain is the latest he'll return is Week 6.
7 - Kincaid a key to offensive shift
Even though Buffalo's offense finished second in the league in total yards and second in scoring, there were still times last season when the offensive execution looked like a heavy lift. Part of the problem was a lack of a consistent threat in the passing game in the middle of the field.
Top draft pick Dalton Kincaid figures to alleviate that problem. A sure-handed and savvy route runner, Kincaid figures to provide some of the 'easy button' type throws that Josh Allen relied on Cole Beasley to give him the previous three seasons.
Kincaid also figures to boost the amount of two tight end personnel groupings deployed by offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey knowing that Dawson Knox has been a popular touchdown target of Allen the last two seasons with 15 total touchdown catches in that span.
8 - Height a new priority for the receiving corps
Last year, Buffalo's average height for their receiver contingent was 5-9. This season the projected average height is 6-0. The three-inch difference may not seem like much on the surface, but just watching the receiver group work in practice they are a much taller group.
The offensive staff clearly prioritized size to the personnel department. With the exception of free agency signing Deonte Harty, who is 5-6, there isn't a receiver under six-feet tall. Seven of the team's 13 receivers on the roster are 6-2 or taller.
With the increase in taller, longer corners in the league, the Bills are clearly trying to have an answer at the receiver position.
9 - Backs with ball security
Much has been made of the fact that Buffalo got bigger and stronger at the running back position with two proven inside runners in Damien Harris and Latavius Murray.
Certainly there is a desire for the run game to be more effective in gaining yards between the tackles and in possibly taking the load off Josh Allen in short yardage situations.
One part of the acquisition of these two veteran backs is their long track record of ball security.
Harris has just three fumbles in 449 career carries for a lost fumble rate of .006 percent. He's played more NFL seasons than he has fumbles (four). Murray meanwhile has just three fumbles in his last five seasons covering almost 900 carries (893) for a fumble rate of .003 percent.
Devin Singletary was a reliable producer, but ball security was an issue as indicated by his 13 fumbles in his four seasons with Buffalo.
Coach McDermott is a stickler for ball security and for good reason. A season after the Bills ranked second in the league in giveaways, he's undoubtedly looking to improve the care of the ball wherever he can.
10 - Quietly confident
The Bills have quietly observed the offseason maneuvers of their divisional and AFC counterparts. Headlines were seized by the Jets with the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers and Miami and New England made major coordinator changes on defense and offense respectively.
Those teams can certainly make a case that they have improved and closed the gap on the three-time division champion Bills, but what's been lost is how Buffalo's roster is more talented and deeper than the one they fielded last season.
No one outside of Western New York has really noticed, but the team is quietly confident that they'll be among the top AFC contenders again this season.
"I think people see that we've been close," said Beane. "Obviously, we haven't achieved what we're looking to, that ultimate goal. But I think we've shown progress. We've shown that we're going to be competitive."
Scroll for must-see photos of Bills players arriving at One Bills Drive for the start of Mandatory Minicamp on June 13, 2023.