1 - Lawson took 'step in the right direction' in 2018
His talent level was never brought into question. His ability to stay healthy, however, was.
Injuries prevented Shaq Lawson from establishing himself as a premier pass rusher throughout his first two professional seasons. During Buffalo's organized team actives last June, head coach Sean McDermott almost challenged Lawson, stating that it was "time that he steps up."
'Step up' is exactly what Lawson did in his third professional season. Consistently playing at full health for his first time as a Bill, the former first-round draft pick recorded 33 tackles and four sacks. Lawson put his athleticism on display throughout the season, often jumping over the offensive line to bat down passes. He finished the 2018 season with a career-high five pass deflections.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has been with the Bills throughout the entirety of Lawson's tenure with the team. The 35-year-old feels as though Lawson matured tremendously in the 2018 season.
"Shaq grows on you once you get to meet him and know him," Alexander said during a recent appearance on One Bills Live. "He's a little silly, still growing and maturing. He definitely took a step in the right direction. Really love his passion and want to get better. He's going to continue to get better and continue to grow."
Both Lawson and Alexander train in Arizona in the offseason. The veteran is excited to work with his teammate throughout the summer.
"He did a great job, and he's going to continue to get better," Alexander said. "I know this offseason he's going to be down in Arizona, so we'll get a chance to hang out and continue to work together, as well."
2 - What the WPMOY Award would mean to 'Zo
Buffalo fans know veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander as a game changer, someone who makes an impact on the field each and every week.
Off the field, Alexander often makes an impact, as well. Alexander gives back to the Buffalo community through the ACES Foundation, an organization that he's the president of.
The 35-year-old has been recognized for his work in the Western New York region, as he is Buffalo's nominee for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. According to the NFL's website, the WPMOY Award annually "recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field."
Now a nominee for a fourth time, Alexander feels as though he could win the award this year.
"I'm older," Alexander said during a recent appearance on One Bills Live. "Normally they give it to guys that are a little bit older, who have been around for a while and have set a consistency of serving. I think I have a good chance."
While Alexander would be honored to win the award, providing the Buffalo community with $500,000 in winnings would be a crowning achievement for the veteran.
"Obviously winning the award gives finances and resources that you can bring right here to Buffalo," Alexander said. "There are a lot of worthy organizations that I've worked with; the Belle Center, South Park High School, and many others that the Bills organization has worked with and we've vetted and gotten to known and built relationships that this money could help.
"At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to in my mind, as far as providing resources and programs that impact lives, kids lives, families lives, and changes trajectories as far as whether people can overcome certain things that were out of their control in the first place."
3 - The impact that Buffalo fans made on Jeremiah Sirles
He wasn't even off an NFL roster for a day before the Bills contacted him.
"Being able to have the opportunity, I mean Buffalo was contacting me and my agent literally the second I got an injury waiver," offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said during a recent appearance on the BillsWire Podcast. "They were like, 'Hey, once he's healthy, let's work out, let's figure something out.' It was cool to have them be the team that was really that interested in me."
Sirles signed with the Bills in late-September, just a few days after the Panthers released him from their injured reserve list. The veteran lineman saw time in 12 games throughout the rest of the season, often coming in as an extra blocker. His versatility made him a plug-and-play lineman, someone who the Bills used across the offensive line when needed. Sirles started five games for Buffalo in the 2018 season.
Though he was only with the Bills for a few weeks, Sirles took immediate notice of the Buffalo fan base, its passion and love for the Bills making an impact on the 27-year-old. A pending free agent, Sirles is eager to re-sign with the Bills, as he wants to experience what the energy in Buffalo is like when the team qualifies for the postseason.
"You can really tell, like, when we become a playoff contention team in the next few years, that city's going to go nuts for us," Sirles said. "It's really exciting to be a part of . . . I'm a free agent this year so there's no telling if I'll be back or not, but if I am, I hope to get to spend an OTA there, get to know the city a little bit more, and just engage with the fans a little bit more because they're awesome people."