On the first day the entire team met together at One Bills Drive, quarterback Josh Allen and safety Jordan Poyer met with the media to explain their thoughts on the new protocols in place, expectations for the season and more.
1. Why Josh Allen is opting in and wants to deliver hope
This season, all NFL players have a tough decision to make surrounding COVID-19. The decision is whether to opt in or opt out. Star Lotulelei and E.J. Gaines are two Bills players who have chosen to opt out of the season. Quarterback Josh Allen explained there's no hard feelings for those who choose to opt out, and they will continue to support those who aren't with the team during the season. Allen chose to play this season because of his passion for the game and the feeling it brings to fans.
"My reason I'm opting into play is one, I love this game," Allen said. "Two, I think it's a great opportunity to give this nation hope and allow them to see us go out there and do what we do. We know that Sunday is a very special day in the lives of lots of people around the world, a lot of fans around the world. One, it's our jobs, and two, it's my passion to play this game. There are obviously some things that we're sacrificing and risking our health and whatnot to do this, but at the same time we want to play football. We're built and wired as football players, and we want to play. So we're going to do everything necessary that we can off the field to ensure that we do have the season."
Allen explained the players have agreed upon a team-first mentality this season. He is confident that his teammates will do the right thing off the field and out of the facility in order to stay safe.
2. Competition in a year with no OTAs or preseason games
Without minicamps, OTAs and preseason games, the team is searching for ways to replicate competition and valuable lost reps. Allen said it's tough getting started slowly by going through walkthroughs because he wants to create competition by going full speed and getting timing down with his receivers. The quarterback explained even though there are less reps, he doesn't feel like there's added pressure.
"I'm taking every rep as game-like as possible, making sure that I'm going through my reads correctly," Allen explained. "In OTAs if I make a mistake and I throw something here or there, it's not that big of a deal. But here I'm treating it like it means a lot to me because it does. I have to continue to keep doing that. I'm very hard on myself, I'm a very harsh critic on myself. I think that's going to help me during this time span where I'm going to feel like I'm getting better because I'm doing things the right way, making the right decisions, trusting my guys to make some plays."
Allen shared what his home setup looks like—a film room where he can watch endless amounts of film to make up for lost reps with mental reps.
3. Year 3 improvements
We've all heard it — this team can only go as far as Josh Allen takes it. Seems like a lot of pressure on one person, but Allen knows the areas he needs to improve in and the pressure isn't too much. The quarterback said he made progress in this offseason by focusing on a few things in California that he will continue to work on at One Bills Drive.
"Personally I want to be better at taking care of football," Allen said. "Making better decisions, especially on the early downs and not putting ourselves in situations where it's third-and-long. I know that we had a lot of success in third-and-long last year, but it's not a great way to make a living. So early down success, finding the open receiver down low, finding my back more when I need it and stop trying to force balls down field."
Allen said getting to go up against a high level defense every day will make the entire offense better by Week 1.
4. Virginia trip helps defense bond
Just like the offense did in Florida, some of the players on the Bills defense met up in Virginia to train together in June. Poyer said the time together was very valuable in creating a better connection with each other. The group spent time working on positional drills, and made time to focus on getting the younger players up to speed.
"It was like we didn't miss a beat," Poyer said. "The communication was there. Guys were out there working. I was surprised with how, I wasn't surprised because I know guys on this team, just being able to go out there and see we treated it like a practice and see Tremaine take the linebackers. We got the DBs together, we did our individual drills. We brought everybody together, we did quarterback-vision drills, we did run fits, we did formation recognition.
"Just seeing the communication between the guys, seeing the younger guys learning. They've only been in virtual meetings, but you can see that they have been studying and are asking questions, the right questions. It's very promising. There's going to be a lot of hard work and dedication coming into a season to get to where you want to go, but it's very promising and I think everybody's excited to be back here and get to work."
5. Coaches have done a great job providing the blueprint
Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane described the lengths they and the staff at One Bills Drive has gone to in order to make sure everyone has a safe and healthy environment when they're at the complex. Poyer said the staff has done a great job explaining what the players need to do in order to stay safe in the facility and at home. Due to protocols, Poyer explained the team is ready to adapt by day.
"I think just us as players, just being able to continue to adapt to how they're handling things in the front office to and passing it along to us," Poyer explained. "And then, it's up to us to apply that in our daily lives and apply that as you go home. Our families all understand what we're going through, and they understand it. They're just as much a part of it, of our team success, as we are. I think our coaches and staff have done a great job kind of laying out the blueprint as to what to expect. We're just going to continue to build off of that, and I think that we're heading in the right direction so far."
Monday was the first day the team was at the complex together, and Poyer said the differences in the facility from this season to last are night and day.
6. Expectations to build off last season
The Bills defense has expectations to remain one of the best in the league this season because they return several starters. Some of those starters, Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano, are also a year older and wiser. When you throw that into the mix with new defensive line additions who provide versatility, the expectations may seem even higher. Poyer feels their goals as a defense are attainable because many key pieces have been together in the defense for years.
"It's just a matter of continuing to build off of what we've built the last two/three years here," Poyer said. "We obviously still have that bad taste in our mouth from the Houston game. That should be enough to fuel us coming into this season and understanding what we need to do to get over that hump. I love the pieces that we have. I love the additions that we brought in. We're going to continue to work to get over that hump, and like I said the ultimate goal is to bring a championship to Buffalo. It's going to take hard work and dedication. We have the right guys on the team to do that."
The players know the expectations for themselves and from the coaches are far higher than the public. Poyer said the important thing is making sure the young players are taking valuable reps, especially in a season where the rookies didn't participate in OTAs or minicamps.