1 – Bills run game could be difference maker
The Bills could be a dangerous team this season for one reason – the run game. According to Cynthia Frelund, of NFL.com, the Bills could be a surprise team to watch this season. Predicting that the Bills will finish 8-8, she said the offense of Buffalo could continue to be one of the most efficient in the NFL.
The biggest factor in her reasoning is the play of LeSean McCoy. The veteran running back ended last season with 1,267 rushing yards. This was in the Bills run-heavy offense, which boasted one of the best offensive lines in the league. Frelund said that McCoy averaged 1.44 yards per carry before a defensive player was within a yard of him. That led the NFL by far last season, and was one of the biggest reasons he could carve defenses for long runs.
The Bills rushing attack can't only be attributed to McCoy however. Frelund said the running ability of Tyrod Taylor is unmatched by any other quarterback in the NFL. The Bills third-year starter has led NFL quarterbacks in rushing the past two seasons.
The player Frelund thinks will elevate the unit to even higher heights is fullback Patrick DiMarco. The "underrated difference maker" was a big factor in the Falcons having one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL last season. Further, statistically he was the highest rated blocking fullback in the NFL last year.
The addition of DiMarco to the Bills run game may raise it to a whole new level. With the potential of the Bills offense being more effective, they could be a very difficult and dangerous team to play this year.
2 – Jordan Mills cementing position
Heading into the final preseason game, it appears as though Jordan Mills has won the battle at right tackle. The fifth-year veteran has started at right tackle for the Bills for the last 21 games. With the pick of Dion Dawkins in the second round of the 2017 draft, it signaled to many that the Bills were looking to push Mills. Although his play has been solid enough to garner a starting position, Mills wouldn't say the battle is over.
"I'm out there right now," said Mills. "My mindset is I'm a starter, and I'm a starter every day, and I'm just going to keep getting better every day. But training camp went really good. It's been great getting to know the new staff and my teammates."
Battling for a chance to start in the NFL is nothing new for Mills. He started his career in Chicago, and appeared to have a very bright future. After an impressive rookie season, an injury hampered his play in his second year. He struggled to regain the form he showed during his first season, and was later released.
He was signed by the Bills part way through the 2015 season. He earned five starts, and showed he still had the capability to start in the NFL. Last season, Mills started every game at right tackle, but struggled to find consistency throughout the season. For that reason, he was placed into a battle with the rookie Dawkins in training camp.
Although Mills wouldn't say he thought he won the battle, he did admit he is always trying to work on his weaknesses.
"You have to work on everything," said Mills. "You have to find something in each aspect of the game – pass game, run game – that you need to work on. Everything can get better like your hands and feet. Being an offensive lineman, you can't just pick one thing to work on, you can't just get better at one thing. Every situation, as an offensive lineman, will come up every game."
Mills knows with the potential of Dawkins close by on the depth chart he will have to put in a good performance every week this season to retain his role.
3 – Dawkins dominates at tackle
With Cordy Glenn unable to play in the third preseason game, rookie Dion Dawkins was moved to the left side. In a more familiar position, the rookie dominated. According to ProFootball Focus, he was one of the highest graded rookies this past week.
Getting the start at left tackle, Dawkins once again showed that he's a dominant force as a run blocker. He put up a 90.0 run blocking grade (90.0 and above is consideredelite), making this the second consecutive week that he put up a run blocking grade north of 90.0 (he had a 94.2 run blocking grade last week against Philadelphia). Dawkins held his own as a pass-protector, surrendering just one hurry on the night, if he can build off that while continuing his dominance in the run game he might just be the missing piece that elevates Buffalo's offensive line into the top-3 conversation.
Although he may be unable to start at right tackle, as he is still adjusting to the position, it may only be a matter of time until he's a regular in the Bills line-up. On the side he most comfortable with, Dawkins was able to show his natural talent.
If Glenn's nagging injury persists into the regular season, Dawkins could find himself as a starter on the Bills line.