1 - Bills bolster 'D' in McShay’s latest mock
It wasn’t an unfamiliar sight seeing Buffalo’s defense bail the team out of games this past season. However, the Bills still have holes to fill on that side of the ball in the upcoming draft.
In Todd McShay’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft 2.0, he has Buffalo bringing in two defensive players from Alabama. McShay’s projection is that the Bills pick linebacker Rashaan Evans with the 21st overall pick. He then has Buffalo selecting defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne at No. 22.
Evans enjoyed a four-year career with the Crimson Tide. The 6-3, 234-pound LB shined in his senior season, totaling 74 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Here’s a brief evaluation on Evans by McShay.
Buffalo missed on LB Reggie Ragland (second rounder, 2016, traded to KC), but I think they go back to the well here. Evans is much more athletic than Ragland and really came on strong during the 2017 season for Alabama. He has great range in coverage and can play the run.
The Bills ranked 29th in run defense this season, so McShay’s projection of picking Payne 22nd overall could solve that problem. Payne had a three-year career in Tuscaloosa. He registered 102 tackles, five tackles for a loss, five passes defended, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble.
This is McShay’s take on the Bills drafting Payne at No. 22.
Payne’s sack numbers are underwhelming, but he’s a disruptive interior player. Just turn on the national championship game film; he seemed like he was in the backfield most plays. I believe he can be an every-down defensive lineman in the NFL and get pressure on QBs frequently. He’s also a playmaking run defender.
Rookies Matt Milano and Tre’Davious White made significant contributions to Buffalo’s defense in their first season with the team. Could Evans and Payne be the next duo to do great things with the Bills?
2 - Could Frank Reich be the next Colts HC?
After Josh McDaniels decided to opt out of the job as the Indianapolis Colts head coach, it appears that a former Buffalo Bills backup quarterback could be in the running for that role. That famous QB is Frank Reich, as he’s scheduled to interview with Indy on Friday.
ESPN’s NFL Insider, Adam Schefter, announced via Twitter that Reich is set to interview with the Colts.
Reich just wrapped up his 12th year coaching in the NFL. He’s been the Eagles offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. This year was undoubtedly his best yet, as it concluded with being Super Bowl LII champions.
Reich’s offense was on a roll all season long. They ranked highly in the following categories: first in passing touchdowns (38), third in points per game (28.6), third in rushing yards per game (132.2), and seventh in total yardage (5,852).
Perhaps Philadelphia’s most prolific performance came in their final game of the season. Their offense erupted for 41 points in their victory over the Patriots on Sunday. Reich’s offense also recorded 538 yards in the game, which was part of a Super Bowl record for most combined yardage (1,151).
Reich played a pivotal role in Carson Wentz’s MVP-like season before it was cut short due to an ACL injury. It makes sense that Indy wants him. He’d likely work closely with Andrew Luck, the Colts franchise QB.
Aside from Reich, Indy is also eyeing a few other candidates to be their next HC. The Saints assistant HC, Dan Campbell, is scheduled to interview for the job on Thursday. NFL Network Insider, Ian Rapoport, also mentioned that Buffalo’s defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier could be a potential candidate.
3 - Final special teams rankings from 2017
The Bills special teams were presumably the most consistent phase of the game all season. As a result, their unit ranked in the top-half of the NFL in 2017.
Buffalo’s special teams ranked 14th-best from this past season, according to Pro Football Focus. The trio of Reid Ferguson, Stephen Hauschka, and Colton Schmidt provided consistency in the kicking game. While Brandon Tate went on to be a top-10 return man.
Here’s what Eric Eager of PFF had on the Bills special teams from the 2017 season.
Free agent acquisition Stephen Hauschka was tied as our second-highest graded place kicker in the regular season, and his average starting field position of 24.0 allowed on kickoffs was helped by the stellar play of coverage men like Shamarko Thomas (nine special teams tackles).
Hauschka’s first season in Buffalo was nothing short of commendable. It seemed like he was breaking a different record each week. He became the first kicker in NFL history with consecutive games with multiple 53-plus yard field goals. As a result, in Weeks Three and Four he was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
For Schmidt, he was solid all season long. He ranked fifth in average return yards (5.5) on punts. Also, his 28 punts inside the 20-yard line ranked 15th in the league.
Tate did the majority of Buffalo’s punt returning in 2017. He ranked sixth in the league in average yards (9.7) per return. He’s had back-to-back strong seasons in the return game, as he cracked the top-five in the same category in 2016.
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