For their first primetime home game of the 2023 season, the Buffalo Bills will host the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.
The Giants, who could be without star running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones, have gone 1-4 so far this season after making it to the divisional round of the 2022 NFC Playoffs last season.
"Good solid football team," said head coach Sean McDermott before Wednesday's walk-thru practice. "I mean, they've had some injuries and when you look at our last season, they went in and won in the Wild Card round in Minnesota. They've got good schemes, good coaches and, we've got a test in front of us on Sunday night."
The Bills defense is preparing as if Jones will start the game. Jones was held out of practice Wednesday with neck soreness and is considered day-to-day.
"We're gonna watch film as if he's playing and we'll prepare accordingly," said safety Micah Hyde. "Tyrod [Taylor] is the backup, another guy that we've been with in the past and he can get it done also. So we're just gonna watch whatever plays are on the screen and we're gonna prepare for those players."
McDermott and the Bills will be going against an old friend in Giants head coach Brian Daboll. Daboll served as the Bills offensive coordinator from 2018-21, helping Allen develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
In Allen's rookie year, he finished with just over 2,000 yards, 10 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. In Daboll's final year as Buffalo's OC, Allen had over 4,400 yards, 36 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
"He's meant so much to me in my football career and in my life for that matter," Allen said. "When you look at the grand scheme of things in terms of football and how to handle being a quarterback in this league, relying on the knowledge he has and the guys he's been around in his career, I spent a lot of time with him."
McDermott said that he was aware that Daboll could have insight on the Bills' offensive or defensive tendencies but did not express any concern for it affecting Buffalo's game plan.
"When you have people leave your place or you leave another place, that's what happens," McDermott said. "Good things happen when you're productive, and so he went on to get a head coaching job. But we've coached against coaches before that we've been around, and so you're always aware of it. But our focus, respectfully, needs to be on us."
The Bills' game against the Giants will be their first full game without two key defensive starters in linebacker Matt Milano and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. It will be their first home game since losing cornerback Tre'Davious White to a season-ending Achilles tear.
In wake of the injuries, the Bills signed cornerback Josh Norman to the practice squad and elevated linebacker A.J. Klein to the 53-man roster. The experience both veterans bring to the table will help the young players on the Bills defense.
"You can't replace [Milano, Jones and White]," said quarterback Josh Allen after practice Wednesday afternoon. "It's hard to have somebody come in and be just as good as them. But I think this front office has done a good job of picking the guys that we've picked and this coaching staff is going to do a good job of coaching these guys and putting them in positions where they can succeed. So, it's next man up."
Norman played with the Bills in 2020, but started his career in Carolina with McDermott as his defensive coordinator.
"Another guy that still has the passion and desire to play," McDermott said. "He's a guy that always brought a lot of juice, a lot of energy to the team and teams he's been on. He does a great job taking the ball away, and he's a sound tackler. So we'll see where it goes physically at this point from here."
McDermott added that Norman could serve as a leader for the younger defensive backs on the roster because of his own career path, which began in Carolina with McDermott as his defensive coordinator.
"When we were in Carolina, he got off to a little bit of a slow start – I should say we got off to a little of a slow start in terms of just him not being on the field early" McDermott said. "And then he learned some things and adjusted the way he needed to adapt his style of play to the team, and the rest is history. … The credit goes to him and the adjustments he made early on because he wasn't on the field early on, and those are great lessons he can share with young players."
On the mend
While the Bills defense is without White, Milano and Jones, LB Von Miller returned to the field for the first time since tearing his ACL last November. Miller played on a pitch count against the Jaguars but said that he has continued to improve after Wednesday's walk-thru.
"I feel good health wise," Miller said. "It just felt good to be back out there with the guys and I said after the game, it's just a good spot for me to be able to build on. Still not where I want to be physically and moving how I want to move, but it's a great spot to build on and continually grow in that area and just learn who I am and how I play all over again."
McDermott, who has emphasized the caution the Bills are taking as Miller ramps back up from injury, said that the 12-year veteran has shown his commitment to returning to the field in a safe manner.
"It's going to take some time," McDermott said. "I think at the end of the day, if anybody can come back, he can do it. I mean, he's just so committed to his craft and is such a pro and he finds every little inch each week to establish or find a competitive advantage that he can use to help him perform at the highest of the high levels like he's done his whole career."
The Bills will wear their red Color Rush jerseys this week in the first home primetime game of 2023 at Highmark Stadium.