1 – Beane and McDermott focused on creating long-term success
When general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott took over prior to the start of the 2017 season, they made it a point to establish a winning culture in Buffalo. After shedding contracts and adding some key value free agents, the Bills did just that; making an appearance in the playoffs for the first time since 1999. According to a recent article published by Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, the two had to resist the temptation to break the mold and spend money on big name free agents.
Lord knows the temptation was there for Sean McDermott. The 44-year-old Bills coach and GM Brandon Beane snapped the franchise's 18-year playoff drought last fall, their first in Buffalo, and got there by winning four of their final six. The arrow was pointing up, without question. Which makes their discipline all the more laudable in resisting the natural inclination to ride the momentum into 2018.
Despite the temptations, McDermott and Beane focused on identifying players with a strong work-ethic, a persistent mindset, and a team-first mentality. Along with key defensive contributors who were scooped up in the 2017 free agent market such as Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, the Bills added an under-the-radar running back who has impressed in 2018.
One young player who impressed in camp was versatile 26-year-old Marcus Murphy, who the Bills believe could play a Darren Sproles-type role (not to say he's Sproles) in the offense. What I love about him is how he first came on Beane's radar—as a Saints rookie in 2015, he returned a punt for a touchdown against a Panthers team that Beane was working for. The Bills GM kept an eye on him and last November scooped him up and put him on the team's practice squad. McDermott promoted him to the active roster before the team's final regular-season game, and now he's positioned for a nice role behind Shady McCoy.
"I'd love to look at it as the start of a foundation, laying that bottom floor of a culture," Beane said. "I don't think you can totally build a culture and have everything work perfectly in one season. But I do think setting a standard of an expectation, what we expect from the players, what they should expect from us, what we expect from the grounds crew, the equipment guys—that's what I would like to look back at, that everybody understands their role, and we expect everybody to work at this standard, at this level, and no matter what happens you have to keep it at that standard."
2 – Where Peterman ranks among the NFL-best in preseason stats
Heading into tonight's matchup against the Chicago Bears, the main thing on many fans' minds is the Bills quarterback battle. A.J. McCarron, rookie Josh Allen, and second-year Bills Nathan Peterman have fiercely competed for the right to be named the starting quarterback for week one in Baltimore. However, one of the three may be statistically superior throughout this preseason.
Nathan Peterman is tied for the league lead in passes 20-yards or more in the 2018 preseason with eight such throws. Peterman, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, and Eagles third-string man Nate Sudfeld are all tied for the lead in that category. Also, of quarterbacks who have thrown at least 40 preseason passes, Peterman has thrown for the highest completion percentage at 80.5%.
Bills fans will be able to see a bit more from McCarron, Allen, and Peterman in tonight's game, but Peterman has been the most productive of the three quarterbacks through three contests.
Peterman's stat line through three games includes him going 33 for 41 on passing attempts, throwing for three touchdowns and one interception that bounced through his intended target's hand, and a quarterback rating of 124.7.
3 – Former Bills CB breaks down Josh Allen ahead of tonight's game
Former Bills cornerback Jabari Greer, who signed with Buffalo prior to the 2004 season, played five seasons in Orchard Park. Although his situation as an undrafted free agent differs from that of Bills rookie Josh Allen's, Greer's experience in the NFL has allowed him to break down the young quarterback's game and mindset heading into his first NFL season.
"It is important that the younger players get under their [veteran player's] wings and learn what it means to play Buffalo Bills football," said Greer. "Buffalo is no longer going to catch people by surprise, they are a playoff team."
With the expectations turning up a notch, Greer says that the Bills are in good hands with Allen as the quarterback of the future.
"With [Josh] Allen, it seems like he has all of the intangibles," Greer said. "Also, he has a great arm, great presence in the pocket, and as long as he comes in and understands the expectations that he is going to have; he will be okay."
Greer won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2009, and notes that it is important to be able to adapt and to adjust if you desire to win at the highest level; adding that he sees some of that in Allen.
"Josh [Allen] looks good," said Greer. "He looks as if he can adjust on the fly."