1 – How Zay Jones found success against Miami in 2018
In the locker room following Buffalo’s 42-17 win over the Dolphins, Isaiah McKenzie spoke on behalf of the ever-humble Zay Jones.
“He’s the Dolphin killer!” McKenzie shouted. “That’s his name!”
In what was a breakout season for the sophomore wideout, two of Jones’ stronger outings came against Miami. In Week 13, he reeled in four passes for 67 yards and two scores, setting a career high for touchdowns in a single game.
Jones matched that total when the two teams met again, catching six passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 17 win. The first score came early in the game, an 18-yard touchdown reception that doubled Buffalo’s lead just seven minutes into the contest.
“It was a quick slant,” Jones said. “The idea is, if they’re bailing off and Josh [Allen] likes the look, he can put it on me real fast.”
Allen did like the look, as he threw the ball to Jones almost immediately after receiving the snap. Though the pass was a bit behind the second-year wideout, the ball placement actually helped Jones, forcing the defender to be out of position and giving Jones a free lane to the end zone.
“Yeah, I gave him a bad ball on purpose so he would have to spin out,” Allen joked. “He made a great catch. I threw it low and away and he made a heck of a catch, maybe got a guy to miss and b-lined it the corner of the end zone.”
Jones’ second touchdown reception came late in the fourth quarter. A wide-open Jones reeled in a beautiful 26-yard pass from Allen to seal the win for Buffalo.
Though satisfied with his personal production, Jones won’t remember the 2018 season finale as a game in which he caught two touchdown passes. He’ll remember it as the farewell of a role model.
“I think the most beautiful thing is to see a legend [Kyle Williams] and send him out on a high note, watch him, learn from him, have the success that we had that gives us the confidence and momentum to carry on what he’s left off,” Jones said. “It starts from the top, it starts with our coaches, coach McDermott, and goes through leaders like Kyle.”
2 - Tremaine Edmunds has ‘evolved’
In a 2018 season that went awry for the Bills, Tremaine Edmunds was eager to leave Buffalo fans with a good taste in their mouths.
The rookie linebacker was instrumental in Buffalo’s Week 17 win over the Dolphins, a victory that put the Bills at 6-10 on the season. In addition to notching a career-high 12 tackles, Edmunds recorded an interception and a sack in the win. He was sound in coverage and was effective against the run, rounding out what was a career-day for the rookie.
A first-quarter interception is what fueled Edmunds’ strong outing. The Dolphins left the 20-year-old without a receiver to cover on the play, allowing him to put his innate nose for the ball on display.
“I mean, I pretty much just dropped back into my zone and really didn’t have any work my way,” Edmunds said. “I was kind of just looking at the quarterback’s eyes, so I kind of cheated to it and made a play on the ball.”
Edmunds’ strong season finale is a promising sign for the future, according to head coach Sean McDermott.
“I thought he played fast,” McDermott said. “I saw him pulling the trigger. He got off to a good start with that impressive interception over the middle there early. He was making some big time plays in the run game as well.”
“To do what he’s been able to do and evolve the way he’s evolved, it’s another good sign for our young players. Early in the year his plate was full being the middle linebacker. So it was good to see him cut loose, play fast and play his style of football.”
3 - What Kyle Williams means to Harrison Phillips
Harrison Phillips received an opportunity that few players do - he was able to play alongside and learn from a player that many believe he’s a near replica of.
Kyle Williams was a player that many analysts used as a comparable for Phillips in the lead up to the 2018 draft. Pundits cited his work ethic and heart as two of the stronger parts of Phillips’ game, making the ever hard-working Williams a natural comparable for the prospect.
When the Bills selected Phillips in the third round of the 2018 draft, the defensive tackle was in disbelief, as learning from Williams had been a dream of his for some time.
“I could get real emotional talking about him,” Phillips said. “It’s remarkable. I haven’t had time to talk to him yet, I’m looking forward to really letting him know how appreciative I am. When I first got drafted here, I was just infatuated with what he was; a five time Pro Bowler, starter, 13 years in one place, all of these big contracts. Got to know him more, almost some fear, you know, I’m coming in, how’s this whole thing going to be? Kind of revered him.”
As Phillips and Williams grew closer, the rookie began to respect the veteran as a person, not just a player. Phillips will forever be grateful of everything that the now-retired Williams provided for him.
“Always infatuated, always kind of looking at him, trying to eavesdrop on everything that he said,” Phillips said. “He would look at me and I would be staring at him. That infatuation, the more I got to know him, the longer I got to be around him, the infatuation turned into admiration. I admire the guy.”