1 - Micah Hyde not satisfied with No. 2 ranked defense
Improving defensively was a major goal for Buffalo in the 2018 season.
The team finished 26th in total defense in the 2017 season, allowing an average 355.1 yards per game. Under a defensive minded head coach in Sean McDermott, the Bills’ defense expected to make a massive leap forward in the 2018 campaign, and they were able to do so.
Buffalo’s defense allowed an average of just 294.1 yards per game in the 2018 season, finishing second in total defense. Though the unit made massive strides in their second year under McDermott, veteran safety Micah Hyde was not satisfied with where the team finished in the rankings.
“Little disappointed,” Hyde said. “I’m disappointed about that, about number two. Nineteen yards, 19 yards, that could’ve been, I don’t remember a pass off the top of my head, if I gave up more than 19 yards, but it’s just unfortunate. We definitely wanted to be number one. We take pride in that. Number two is good, but we wanted to finish number one.”
Buffalo’s defense did finish at number one in one category, however - passing defense. The Bills gave up an average of just 179.2 yards through the air per game, 15.4 yards less than the second-place Jaguars.
Seeing themselves atop the league in passing defense has provided the secondary with a bit of extra confidence entering the offseason.
2 - Jordan Phillips: Buffalo is the place to be
The players who become fan favorites in Buffalo are often the ones who embrace the city, who wear their hearts on their sleeve and fight for the people of Western New York each and every Sunday.
For Jordan Phillips, representing the people who cheer him on is a foundational part of his game.
“Buffalo’s great,” Phillips said. “I love the atmosphere. The fanbase is a big part of my game, and I haven’t seen anything better than the Bills Mafia.”
Phillips, who joined the Bills after being waived by the Dolphins in Week 5, quickly became a fan favorite in Buffalo thanks to his intensity and crowd-oriented style of play. The 26-year-old quite obviously enjoyed playing in front of the always-raucous New Era Field crowd, often dancing and motioning to the crowd after making a play.
It was the noise and energy of the Buffalo crowd that propelled Phillips to a solid 19-tackle season. He was a key rotational piece in a Bills’ defense that constructed a stellar season, finishing second in total defense.
Buffalo’s already-elite defense is only growing to improve as it matures, according to Phillips.
“Our defense speaks for itself,” Phillips said. “We’re a great defense, I’m not sure where we finished in the rankings. Number two. That speaks for itself. What else can you say? Why wouldn’t you want to be here? We’re young, we have a lot of talent. We’ve got a lot of guys that love to play ball. Buffalo is the place to be.”
3 - Tre White finishes 2018 as ‘lockdown’ corner
‘Sophomore slump’ is an oft-used term for a reason. Too often fans see a young player take a step back following a breakout rookie campaign, largely tempering the sky-high expectations they had garnered.
Fortunately for Buffalo fans, cornerback Tre’Davious White did not go through a sophomore slump in 2018. He instead built upon what was a stellar rookie campaign, cementing himself as one of the brightest young defensive backs in the NFL.
White started all 16 games in his second season, totaling 54 tackles, eight pass deflections, and two interceptions. Statistically, this was a step back from his rookie season, a campaign in which he tallied 69 tackles and 18 pass deflections. This can be attributed to White’s relative lack of looks, however. Opposing quarterbacks were well aware of White’s prowess in the 2018 season, and they largely kept the ball away from him as a result.
When White was targeted, however, he was one of the league’s best cornerbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, the former LSU Tiger allowed a reception on just one out of every 17.5 coverage snaps. Only Richard Sherman, Casey Hayward, and Patrick Peterson finished the 2018 season with a superior reception per coverage snaps average.
White’s lockdown-caliber play benefited Buffalo’s secondary as a whole. A desire to keep the ball away from White caused quarterbacks to target the team’s other defensive backs, who were largely able to answer the call. Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson finished the season as two of PFF’s top-five rookie cornerbacks.