1. OC Brian Daboll has confidence in his running back room
One big question going into the first game is how snaps will be divided amongst the running backs. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said the roles between the three running backs can change week to week.
“They all have roles and what those roles are, I think, will be defined by what you can do on a week to week basis,” Daboll said. “But, they are all smart. Obviously, some guys have a lot of experience, some have some and some have none. The three guys we have, we have confidence in them.”
The trio will go up against a Gregg Williams defense that is known for its exotic blitzing. Veteran Frank Gore is at the helm of having the most experience against NFL defenses. Rookie Devin Singletary will get his first taste of an NFL defense on Sunday, but Daboll says he has had some experience of picking up blitzs in college.
“He made his mark by running the ball. Didn’t have many opportunities in the passing game, but you get an evaluation on all the things you need to see. So, he’s going to have to do a good job of that when the live bullets start coming.”
Singletary will lean on those who have been there before in Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon. Daboll says each running back has different skillsets and can be used in different situations. Yeldon, who has not gotten as much attention as Gore and Singletary, sticks out as the bigger running back in the group.
“No, we haven’t forgotten about him,” Daboll said. “That’s why he’s on the roster. He’s a big back, I think he’s probably a little bit different than the other two guys. We were talking about it yesterday, you’ve got one guy here, one guy here and one guy here. Different skillsets, whether that be in the run game or the passing game. He’s a back we feel good about and one of the reasons he made the roster. We feel that he can contribute both in the run game and the pass game.”
2. Veteran Trent Murphy talks to defense about opener
Several players have talked in the offseason about how excited they are to have Trent Murphy back and healthy with the skillset he provides on the field. Murphy is also an important player to have in the locker room because of his veteran leadership. With a rookie in Ed Oliver making his first NFL start on Sunday, Murphy wanted to talk to the defense about what to expect in season opener.
“He talked about what opening day can be like,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “Also, what that week of preparation would be like for some of the young guys who have never gone through an opening day’s preparation throughout a week. Some of the things he said was not feeling like you have to do anything out of the extraordinary. Just being patient and poised throughout the week and practicing the same good habits they practiced through OTAs and training camp.”
Frazier thinks it’s important for players, especially rookies, to hear advice like this coming from vets.
“Some of the things Trent said if those guys adhere to him, I think they will be able to go out and let the nerves calm a little bit and just be themselves,” Frazier said. “Ed [Oliver], is one of those guys. We will talk about it again because there really is nothing like opening day in the NFL, it’s a lot different than opening day in college.”
Feeling more comfortable with his teammates, you can often look to the practice field and see Oliver having fun with the defense. But when Sunday’s game kicks off, hopefully with not too many nerves, Oliver will become a different person on the field.
“You see when he gets between the white lines, he’s a different guy when it comes to performance,” Frazier said. “That’s one of the reasons why we drafted him where we did, so he knows when to really ratchet it up. Just like Trent said, you don’t want to put so much into this game and forget about the fact that we have 15 more. So, there’s a balance in our preparation and his personal preparation. I think he will be ready when the time comes.”
3. Taron Johnson: I’m expecting a lot from our secondary group
Second year nickel corner Taron Johnson joined One Bills Live to talk about his off-season spent in Buffalo as well as the difference he sees in himself this year. Johnson battled a nagging shoulder injury last season that left him playing through pain. On top of being healthy as well as adding muscle this offseason, Johnson thinks having a year of knowledge in the league will help him come Sunday.
“When I got here, it was really just a whirl wind for me,” Johnson said. “I had to spend a lot of time in my notebook, watching film. The defense is not easy to learn at all, you need time to mess up. You need time to see different formations and things like that. All those things happening to me has definitely helped me become a better player.”
The 2018 fourth-rounder played outside corner in college. He will have his work cut out for him as he and the defense prepare to go up against versatile running back Le’Veon Bell. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier thinks Johnson's ready for the moment.
“He’s really good against the run,” Frazier explained. “He has the ability to be able to cover wide receivers, slot receivers as well. It’ll be a big challenge for him. They have a good slot receiver in [Jamison] Crowder, but we also have to ask him to fit the run game at times. He is one of those guys who has the versatility to be able to do both. To be able to cover and yet help us in run support, he creates value for us.”
Johnson says he likes to play fast and physical. With head coach Sean McDermott challenging the defense to be tougher this season, Johnson thinks the group is ready to collectively take a step forward in 2019.
“It’s a big year,” Johnson said. “I’m expecting a lot from our secondary group because I feel like we had a good year last year, we just want to keep taking it to the next level. We don’t want anyone to get complacent.”