1. Managing raised expectations
Everyone has seen the bounty of 2020 prognostications on the Bills fortunes this season. Everything from AFC title contender to AFC East champion. Coach Sean McDermott has made sure to communicate to his players that they only need to focus on their responsibilities, not the outside noise about what they should or should not be.
"No one has higher expectations of themselves than I do of myself or our team does of itself so we respect those expectations but our focus right now is on the Jets," he said. "Whether we're the hunter or the hunted, that's for you guys out there to narrate and talk about. We're going to do our best to have a good week of practice and get ready for this Jets football team that's talented and had a great end to the season last year."
General manager Brandon Beane believes the predictions don't hold much water until the team achieves their own goals first.
"We're hopefully still trending up," he said. "We haven't won the division. And to me that's the goal we have to accomplish because we need to host playoff games here in Orchard Park. The only way we get a chance to do that is to win the division, and we haven't been able to take down the Patriots yet. Nobody has since we've been here so that's still the team we're chasing. We don't play them until the middle of the season, but I'm sure the Jets and the Dolphins are thinking the same thing. That's our goal. That's our focus. We've got to try and compete and win the AFC East.
"We are a different team. We're moving in the right direction, but we're zero and zero this year, and every year is a new year. We lost some guys, we've got some new pieces so we'll have to see how quickly this group jells."
2. Tre' White earned his extension
Anyone who has watched Bills football over the past three seasons likely knew this already. Tre'Davious White has been one of the most consistent players on Buffalo's roster since his arrival. It's that consistency and his playmaking ability that helped make him the highest-paid cornerback in the league this past weekend.
Beane only confirmed that the talented cover man worked for his new contract.
"I mean Tre' you want to talk about earning it. He's done it since the day he walked in here and just so happy for him and his family," Beane said. "Negotiations are never easy. It took us a little time, but as I said, way back when, this will happen at the right time and I'm happy we got it done before the season. He can take that off his shoulders and just play free and know that he's got financial security for his family. It's a commitment from the Pegulas to allow us to pay a player number one at his position. You don't get that opportunity often. Tre' definitely earned that, but it starts with Terry and Kim giving us those resources."
"Great to have the support of Terry Kim, to allow us to do this number one and also I thought Brandon did a great job getting the deal done, along with Tre's side as well," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Look he's a he's a young man that we drafted here a few years ago and he's done a phenomenal job both on and off the field. He brings a tremendous amount of energy to our team. And he's obviously well liked in the locker room. And so what more can I say about him in terms of the way he's handled his first three years."
3. Bills draft class fares well
Buffalo's draft class certainly had the deck stacked against this offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic. No rookie minicamp at One Bills Drive. No OTA practices, no spring minicamp and no preseason games. To the credit of some of the Bills youngest players they capably handled every detour in stride and convinced the coaching staff they deserved to be part of this year's roster in some capacity.
"They did a great job," said Beane. "We challenged them back in the draft, once we got them. We just said, 'Guys this is going to be an offseason like no other. You've got to do these things. We're going to lay out a plan for you.' Again we couldn't get them reps here with their teammates necessarily, but some of the guys got together.
"I know Gabe (Davis) went down to stay with John Brown for a little bit and then he and Isaiah (Hodgins) met up with Josh (Allen) and (Matt) Barkley in California. And then Zack Moss, joined those guys there and then the three of them went to Florida with the receivers. They did whatever they could to try to absorb this playbook and be around their teammates and you saw it when they showed up for camp. It wasn't too big for them."
Beane said top pick AJ Epenesa even came in for offseason rehab work on a hamstring injury and explained how Tyler Bass performed admirably in his kicking competition with veteran Stephen Hauschka.
The top six picks in Buffalo's draft class made the roster and seventh-round pick Dane Jackson is on the Bills practice squad.
4. Matt Milano wanted long term
In the wake of contract extensions for head coach Sean McDermott, Dion Dawkins and Tre'Davious White, the conversation outside the walls of One Bills Drive has shifted to another member of the 2017 draft class.
Buffalo's front office obviously thinks highly of the linebacker. When asked about Milano's future, Beane confirmed that the talented playmaker is someone they'd like to keep in a Bills uniform for some time.
"Matt's done everything," Beane said. "You start from him being a fifth-round pick, who's a converted safety-linebacker. He plays that that outside backer for us and matches up with running backs and tight ends very well and is a big part of our defense. He's one of those guys that just seems to find the ball being around it, whether it's scooping a fumble up, make an interception, timely sack whatever. So we love Matt Milano, and he's definitely in our plans. Again, we'll see long term if we're able to work something out, but we do hope to keep Matt here for the long term."
5. Stefon Diggs a seamless fit
When the Bills made the trade for Stefon Diggs this past March, they made sure to do their homework on the talented receiver. All that due diligence and background works appears to have paid off. By all accounts at One Bills Drive, Diggs has proven to be a seamless fit into the offense and locker room culture of the club.
"Stefon really did a great job of learning our offense," said Beane. "Davis Webb did a lot of stuff with Stefon this offseason to kind of help him learn the offense from virtual and things like that. He was a big part of that group that went down to Florida with Josh (Allen) and the quarterbacks and I think at that time there was a bond. There was a bond before that, but Josh called me and just said, 'Man, Stefon really fits our group. We love him. He fits right in, not only on the field, but off the field.'
"Since he's been here there's been great chemistry, great communication. Everything I've seen from him and John Brown and Cole Beasley is, we all want to do good things, so that we can open it up for others. We haven't played a game yet, but so far it's been a great match between Josh, and those three so we look forward to what they'll bring."
Photos of the 2020 Buffalo Bills. Meet the 53 is presented by ConnectLife.