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Bills HC Sean McDermott shares these updates on defensive play-calling, new staff hires + more ahead of the 2024 NFL Combine


INDIANAPOLIS — Bills head coach Sean McDermott took time out of his busy Combine schedule to meet with media members on Monday afternoon. The head coach's schedule is more packed in Indianapolis this year due to being named to the NFL's Competition Committee. Buffalo's HC said he's spent about 12 hours in meetings with the committee over the last two days.

McDermott shared updates on player health, the offensive and defensive coordinator positions, why the combine is valuable to him and much more. Here are the top things to know from his press conference.

Why Bobby Babich was the right fit for DC

The Bills didn't have a defensive coordinator on staff last season because McDermott held the defensive play calling duties but decided to add one to their staff ahead of the 2024 season.

Buffalo went in-house with the hire and promoted their linebackers coach Bobby Babich to the DC role at the end of January. Babich has served on the coaching staff since 2017 and has held multiple positions. McDermott said it wasn't just one interview that won him over, it was seeing Babich coach over the last several seasons.

"I've had a chance to be around Bobby for a number of years," McDermott shared. "And that interview has taken place over a number of years, not just one sit down. Bobby's always been a highly energetic young coach, comes from a coaching family and a coaching background. I just have always been impressed with Bobby's curiosity about the game, offensively, defensively as well, obviously.

"And then, he's got a vision for what and how he sees the defense not only now but also moving forward."

His vision and knack for developing players is also something that doesn't go unnoticed, and McDermott is hoping that translates to his new role as well. Babich was Buffalo's safeties coach from 2018-2021 and linebackers coach from 2022-2023 and did an incredible job of coaching players to perform as their highest level.

Babich helped develop safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer into becoming one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. The two combined for 22 interceptions while Babich was their position coach.

The DC also aided in expanding the game of linebackers Terrel Bernard and Tyrel Dodson last season. Bernard was in his first season as the full-time starter at MLB and had a very productive season. The LB became only the fourth player since 1982 to record at least six sacks, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries in one season. Dodson stepped into a starting role after Matt Milano was injured and racked up 70 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two and a half sacks.

"He's had success, developing players at more than one position, which is impressive," McDermott said. "At first it was with Micah and Jordan at the safety position. And then, he moved to the linebacker position and did the same with Terrell Barnard and Tyrel Dodson, just to name a few. That's been impressive when you can take players and help them develop, that's a sign of a good coach."

McDermott also thinks Babich is the right fit for defensive coordinator because of his defensive perspective.

"What Bobby has also displayed along the way has been a big picture perspective for defensive football, and how the front ties to the back end," McDermott shared. "I'm excited to see his signature on this defense and how he wants to grow it. And of course, I'll be helping him do that as well."

When it comes to who will be calling the plays, McDermott said they will talk about it.

"We'll make that decision when we need to," McDermott said. "Right now, we're just one step at a time."

If Babich gets an opportunity to become the play caller, McDermott said one of the most important credentials is being able to think on your feet.

"It's either have it, or you can acquire a little bit of it," McDermott explained. "But I think Bobby's got it, but it remains to be seen to some extent, as well. It's a projection on my part. But I love the fact that Bobby has the ability to see the game in two dimensions, right?

"Two and three dimensions, because that's an important piece of this. He's coached two levels of the defense, the only one he hasn't coached is the defensive line. But yet, when you work with the linebacker position, you're working in some ways with the defensive line with run fits and working off of stunts and games up front. So, I think Bobby's done a good job of that. And I'm excited to watch him grow into this coordinator role as well."

What to expect from Joe Brady's first full year as OC

In late January, the Bills announced that interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady would lose the "interim" tag and be named the teams' next offensive play caller. McDermott said that Brady's energy was among the reasons behind the promotion.

"That personality bleeds into your unit that you're coaching or your position that you're coaching and so I want our players to have that fire," McDermott said. "I want our players to have that type of personality, that energy daily and Joe has that."

McDermott added that, with a full offseason, Brady would get a chance to build on the success the Bills had offensively in the second half of the 2023 season. 

"Terminology will change a little bit, trying to maybe do some things a little bit differently behind the scenes off the field," McDermott said. "And then on the field, I'm sure there will be a lot the same because it's what's worked and it's what's worked with Josh. But then there will also be some new things that you want to do or want to evolve with."

In addition to promoting Brady, the Bills brought on Ronald Curry as the team's quarterbacks coach. Curry, who has coached in the NFL for 11 years, spent two seasons working with Brady in New Orleans.

"That comfort level was important for Joe and for us moving forward here and so I'm excited about that and excited to see also some of the evolution of our offense this offseason while not also getting too far away from what's been good for us and what's been good for Josh."

Prospect evaluation

The 2023 season served as a reminder that, despite being rookies, first year players can play a big part in a team's success, as tight end Dalton Kincaid and offensive guard O'Cyrus Torrence both played integral roles on the Buffalo offense.

"It's a young man's game right now with the amount of rookies that are playing and playing impactful snaps around the league," McDermott said. "We need our young players to come in and be ready to play and able to play and so I think that's an important piece of it for us here that these interviews, we really get to the bottom of who these players are not just as players but who they are as people in their DNA."

One of the benefits of the NFL Combine is it gives coaches a chance to get to know players beyond the tape they have put out from their work on the field. McDermott said that body language was an important characteristic to consider when determining which prospects to add to a roster.

"It's just as important as anything when you're out there," McDermott said. "We talk a lot about it in our building and, through your body language, you're either adding to us or you're taking away from our environment."

McDermott also noted that their approach to the draft, in which they possess the 28th overall pick, would be based on the developments in free agency.

"You have to know your own roster, that's important," McDermott said. "You've got to know that in order for you to make the necessary adjustments moving forward or acquiring certain players because it fits together like a puzzle."

Injured player and free agent updates

In addition to speaking on the draft and other preparations for next season, McDermott gave updates on cornerback Tre'Davious White and linebacker Matt Milano, who both suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the season.

McDermott said that each player was improving as they worked through their respective rehab programs.

"Both are doing well, both working extremely hard and I mean, I see those guys almost every day, sometimes more than others just based on their rehab schedule or their doctor's appointments," McDermott said.

McDermott was asked about safety Micah Hyde and wide receiver Gabe Davis, who became free agents in the offseason.

"I think just say the word 'Micah' around Buffalo and people smile," said McDermott. "He's had a huge impact on our organization and a huge impact on the community. He's a class act around not only Buffalo but the NFL."

McDermott also said he had not heard from Hyde regarding the 11-year veteran's plans to play next season.

Regarding Davis, McDermott recalled the growth Davis displayed from a prospect at the Combine to a game-changing player.

"Watching him get into our building and develop and grow and have an impact on our team on the field but also off the field as well," McDermott said. "He's an incredible human being, he's done a phenomenal job for our team and for him to be voted captain this year, I think that really speaks volume of his impact on our team."

The 2024 Free Agency signing period will begin at 4 p.m. on March 13.