1 - 'Continuity' the reason why Bills' defense has found success
It's often said that players make considerable growth between their first and second professional seasons. In their first offseason, players have the opportunity to look back on the knowledge they gained during their rookie campaign, utilizing it to set themselves up for perennial success.
This same notion can be applied to head coaches and the schemes that they deploy. Though Sean McDermott led the Bills to a 9-7 record in his debut campaign, the defensive minded-head coach could not lead his defense to a dominant season. Buffalo finished the 2017 season 26th in total defense, allowing an average of 355.1 yards per game.
Having a better understanding of the players on his roster and of his own ambitions, McDermott altered his scheme in the 2018 offseason. The alterations paid off, as the Bills finished the 2018 season with the second-best defense in the league, allowing an average of just 294.1 yards per game. Buffalo's defensive unit was the league's best against the pass, holding opposing offenses to just 179.2 yards through the air per game.
According to veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, continuity is what allowed the Bills' defense to progress in the 2018 season. The fact McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier were able to further install their scheme last season only helped the team, per Alexander. The two coaches will return for the 2019 season, something that Alexander feels will help the team take another step forward.
"That's probably the biggest part of our success is just that continuity," Alexander said. "It's the carryover, the comfort, the confidence in knowing who your coaches are, knowing the team, pays huge dividends. You can just look at my play from year one in this system to year two, I got a better idea of what the scheme was asking me to do, and the coaches learned how to utilize my talent to best fit this scheme.
"We went from a middle-of-the-road pack to the number two defense overall. There's still a lot of things that we can work on, especially the red zone, where we want to take a leap forward to really put ourselves in an elite class of defense next year."
2 - Eric Wood 'learned a lot' from Bills' new OL coach
There will be a familiar face roaming the halls of One Bills Drive next season.
The team announced the addition of Bobby Johnson to their coaching staff on Tuesday. Johnson, who will serve as the team's offensive line coach, most recently served as the assistant offensive line coach in Indianapolis, guiding the Colts' line to an excellent season. Indianapolis allowed a league-low 18 sacks in the 2018 campaign.
Johnson actually got his professional coaching start in Buffalo, serving as an assistant offensive line from 2010-2011. During his initial stint with the Bills, Johnson worked with Eric Wood, a center who anchored Buffalo's offensive line from 2009-2017. Wood has fond memories of his time with Johnson, and the praise that the coach has received from players from around the league only reaffirms the former Pro Bowl center's excitement for his return.
"When I had him in Buffalo in 2010 and 2011, he was an assistant offensive line coach, so he didn't necessarily command the room the entire time," Wood said during a recent appearance on One Bills Live. "But I did learn a lot from him, and I really enjoyed working with him. A lot of times with an offensive line, you'll split into tackles and interior guys, or maybe the centers will go off and do their own thing and the guards and tackles will work combinations, so there is value in having two guys in the room that can contribute, and Bobby was definitely one of those types.
"He's gone on, he's been a tight ends coach, he's been an assistant offensive line coach again. I reached out to other guys to get their opinions as well, and I know Lee Smith, who was in Buffalo, had him out in Oakland. Lee loved him. Then Rodney Hudson, their Pro Bowl center, also made a pretty strong recommendation for him. Just because I hadn't been around him in a bunch of years, I wanted to get their opinions. I'm really excited to get Bobby back."
3 - Jeremiah Sirles 'really wanted' to be part of Bills' future
Before leaving One Bills Drive for what he feared was the final time, Jeremiah Sirles had an honest conversation with Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane.
"Me and the GM chatted after exit meetings, and [we] both looked at each other," Sirles told The Bills Wire's Jeremy Juhasz. "He asked me, 'Do you want to be here?'"
The veteran lineman replied with three simple words: "Would love to."
Sirles' wish came true, as he inked a one-year extension with the Bills on Wednesday afternoon.
The 27-year-old initially joined Buffalo's roster in late September, signing as a free agent after reaching an injury settlement with the Panthers. He was active for 12 games throughout the 2018 season, often coming in as an extra blocker in addition to seeing time at guard.
Though he was only with the Bills for three-quarters of the season, he feels as though the team built a solid foundation in the 2018 campaign, something he was eager to be a part of.
"I'm really excited," Sirles said. "I'm super excited. Last year, they gave me an opportunity where I came in off the street. I really wanted to be a part of it moving forward."