1 - Kyle, ‘Zo connect McDermott’s message to players
Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott often talks about a “standard,” a level of excellence that he expects his players to live up to on and off the field. On a roster full of high-character players that match McDermott’s blueprint, there are two veterans who perfectly exemplify the sideline boss’ standard, who carry themselves in a way that McDermott expects to be universal.
Kyle Williams and Lorenzo Alexander act as the heart and soul of the Bills’ roster. On the field, the pair of 35-year-olds play at a high level, both starting at key positions. In the locker room, Williams and Alexander serve as an extension of McDermott, making sure that the coach’s message resonates with the rest of the roster.
“They’re doing a real good job,” McDermott said. “Two of my biggest leaders at the player level that really connect my message to the locker room. Kyle’s been here for a number of years, and I think he feels the direction of this organization, he feels the direction of this team. He’s been a big part of it this past year and a half. The same with Lorenzo and what he’s done, the way he’s prepared himself, the roles he’s played. It’s all I could ask for as a head coach.”
Both Williams and Alexander epitomize what a leader should be. On a defense that’s manned by young and inexperienced players at a multitude of positions, the two veterans serve as field generals, players that the young defensive core can go to for guidance. With a combined 25 years of professional experience, Williams and Alexander are tremendous mentors, as well, consistently sharing their wealth of knowledge with their teammates.
“Both of those guys are the heartbeat of this defense and this team,” safety Jordan Poyer said of the two defenders. “Those guys are huge leaders, very vocal leaders and guys who are respected in this locker room.
“Both of them love the game. You’ve got to love the game to, one, even play it here and right now, but two, to play as long as they’re playing at the level they’re playing at.”
2 - Lack of playoffs has motivated Bills to work ‘harder’
For some football teams, being eliminated from playoff contention signals the end of the season.
For the Bills, it simply added more fuel to their fire.
“I don’t know if you guys will believe me when I say this or not, but I feel like everybody around here has been working harder,” safety Micah Hyde said. “It’s really weird to see, weird to say, but I feel like everybody, whether it’s the coaches, players, we’ve all been out at practice working even harder. We just want to get the wins to end the season.”
Buffalo hasn’t given up on its season since being eliminated from playoff contention in Week 14. Instead, the team has been motivated to put more effort in, to solidify the fact that they won’t be back in this situation next year.
Resiliency is a trait that the Bills have showcased throughout the entire 2018 campaign. At times, the season appeared to be lifeless. Back-to-back blowout losses to start the season had some fans thinking that they were in for a long autumn.
Never a team to simply lie down and quit, the Bills battled back and worked to grind out hard-fought victories. Though Buffalo sits at 5-10 with one week remaining in the 2018 campaign, they feel a foundation rooted in an unrelenting drive to succeed has been forged.
Buffalo’s work ethic is something that has head coach Sean McDermott confident in the team’s direction.
“One thing that I think could be said for this football team is that they play hard,” McDermott said. “And that doesn’t always happen, even though you think it should, it doesn’t always happen. These guys know that they’re part of something that’s being built, they know that they’re a part of something that could become something special.”
3 - How Zay Jones has grown in second season
Zay Jones entered the 2018 season with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Coming off a rookie campaign in which he caught just 27 passes for 316 yards, the wideout was eager to establish himself as a legitimate NFL receiver, to show his coaches that he was still the receiver they traded up to select in the second round of the 2017 draft.
Jones lived up to his own lofty expectations in his sophomore season, making considerable strides toward becoming a reliable target. Through 15 games, the 23-year-old has reeled in 50 passes for a team-high 559 yards and five touchdowns. He’s established himself as a foundational piece for the Bills, a player that the team can build their offense around moving forward.
Jones’ increase in production can be attributed to his overall growth, according to the second-year wideout.
“[I’ve grown] in numerous ways,” Jones said. “Just being better with the ball. Better leader. More confidence. Better route craft. Just adding more versatility to my game, adjusting to a different offense but just taking it in and doing the best that I can. I think I’ve made a lot of leaps, and I think it’s been evident from last year to this year how well I’ve progressed.”
After struggling in his rookie campaign, a breakout sophomore season has provided a much-needed boost to Jones’ confidence.
“My rookie season felt like it took forever, but this one really flew by,” Jones said. “Guys are always saying ‘Cherish it, it goes by quick.’ You don’t truly understand that until you go through a season like this. Last week of this season, it’s really surprising because it really did go by fast.”