1. One element on offense that could be Buffalo's key to success
Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield looked into quarterback Josh Allen's progression as an NFL QB going back to when he was a prospect coming out of Wyoming. The piece touches on what made teams interested in Allen, how he has grown in the NFL and what could happen to lead to more success in year three. Schofield explained if there was one thing obvious about Allen as a prospect, it was his arm talent.
Given his arm strength, many believed his best fit in the NFL was in a vertical-based, downfield system. It made sense, thanks to the velocity he can generate on throws to all levels of the field, plus the fact that as his mind acclimates to the faster pace of play, these route designs will give him a second or so more to decipher what the defense is showing him, and make the right decisions with the football.
Schofield goes into detail about Allen's second year where offensive coordinator Brian Daboll had the QB build up a new part of his game.
But a strange thing happened a season ago: Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll turned Allen into more of a timing- and rhythm-based passer, rather than a Mad Bomber in the shadow of Daryle Lamonica. Rather than pushing the ball downfield, Allen was much more successful working underneath showing the timing, rhythm and anticipation that was lacking from him as a prospect.
As Allen approaches his third season with the Bills, many eyes are on his deep ball accuracy. Schofield thinks Buffalo is in a good position due to a certain new receiver who excels in the downfield game.
Now consider what the Bills did this offseason, particularly at the wide receiver position. They traded for Stefon Diggs, perhaps one of the top downfield receivers in the game. Last year, Diggs was targeted on 29 throws downfield (again, defined as 20 yards or more) which tied him for third-most in the league. What did he do on those 29 targets? 16 receptions (the most in the league) for a league-high 635 yards and six touchdowns, which was also a league-high.
With such a downfield weapon at his disposal, the onus is on Allen to improve those vertical passing numbers. His success – or failure – in doing so will go a long way in telling the story of the 2020 Bills' offense.
2. Could this Bills defensive player breakout in 2020?
Bleacher Report released an article this week naming a breakout player for each team in the 2020 season. Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs would be an easy fit for this category, but B/R thinks someone on Buffalo's defense will light it up this season.
Buffalo Bills: DT Ed Oliver
Ed Oliver is a young defensive tackle cut from the Aaron Donald mold. He's undersized at 6'1" and 287 pounds, but he more than makes up for it with an explosive first step off the snap.
The Bills made Oliver the ninth overall pick in the 2019 draft, and the young 3-technique had his moments as a rookie, finishing the year with 43 total tackles and five sacks.
That was just a tease of things to come with Oliver.
It's hardly unexpected that Oliver got off to a slow start in the NFL. At the University of Houston, Oliver was more often than not miscast as a two-gap lineman who lined up directly over an offensive lineman. He even spent time as a zero-technique nose tackle, which is a complete waste of his disruptive talents.
Oliver needed time to learn to play the one-gap role he's much better suited for. And as the season wore on last year, you could tell he was becoming more comfortable—four of his five sacks came after Buffalo's Week 10 bye.
One of Oliver's best games after the Week 10 bye was on Thanksgiving in Week 13 against the Cowboys. The defensive tackle had two sacks, one forced fumble, one pass defended and four total tackles.
3. Why Lorenzo Alexander thinks the Bills are ready for four primetime games
Newly retired Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander joined Stadium Network to share what he expects out of Buffalo in the upcoming season. Alexander thinks the Bills are ready for four primetime games and the attention that comes with it due to the maturity of the locker room.
"Of course the Bills are going to be ready," Alexander said. "In the first year I would say maybe not. It was Sean's [McDermott] first year, he was a new head coach. Over the last three years they have brought in a lot of veterans, established a playoff caliber culture and environment that is bred to talk about the process and not really the result. These people, they are going to be ready. They are led by Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds. These guys are going to be ready to go no matter when it's time to play."