1. Stefon Diggs + Cole Beasley rank here on this top pass-catching tandems list
It's no secret the Bills have some dangerous weapons on their roster as they head into the 2021 season. Wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley are two that belong in the conversation. So where does the duo rank among the NFL's top 10 pass-catching tandems ahead of the season? PFF ranked the 10 and the two come in at No. 5 for their production and grades from last season.
5. Stefon Diggs + Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills
Buffalo's passing offense returns the reigning highest-graded outside receiver, Stefon Diggs, and the second-highest-graded slot receiver, Cole Beasley.
After five years in Minnesota of very good, but not elite, play, Diggs finally earned that accolade in his first season with the Bills in 2020. He produced a receiving grade between 77.6 and 84.0 in each of his five seasons with the Vikings, always ranking inside the top 25, but he cracked the top 10 just once.
In 2020, Diggs was one of just four receivers with a 90.0-plus receiving grade in the regular season. He remained one of the most efficient contested-catch weapons in the game, posting a 60% catch rate on such plays to bring his percentage since 2017 to 60.5% — the second-best mark in the league.
Beasley is the NFL slot receiver prototype. He ran 88.4% of his routes from the inside last season, the third-highest rate in the league. On those reps, he racked up 2.31 yards per route and 938 receiving yards while hauling in 83.9% of his targets en route to a 90.8 receiving grade. All four marks ranked inside the top three among league qualifiers.
2. Could this young Bills defender breakout in 2021?
The Bills have some young defenders on their roster who were high draft picks from the last few seasons. Bills defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa was drafted by Buffalo in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The rookie played in 14 games and improved throughout his first season. That's one reason why CBS Sports thinks he can be a breakout player for Buffalo this season.
Bills: A.J. Epenesa, DE
A.J. Epenesa was arguably a first-round talent coming out of Iowa in 2020, but Buffalo was able to scoop him up in the second round. He appeared in 14 contests for the Bills during his rookie season, but played sparingly (27% of the defensive snaps). When given more of an opportunity in the later part of the season, however, Epenesa didn't disappoint. His lone start of the season came in Week 17, when he totaled a season-high three tackles for a loss along with a quarterback hit. The rookie also was a noticeable presence during the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs. As he heads into his second season, coach Sean McDermott will likely give Epenesa even more opportunity to grow within this defense. As Buffalo looks to contend in the AFC in 2021, Epenesa could prove to be a key piece along that unit to complement Josh Allen on the other side of the ball.
The second-year defensive lineman went on Bills Pod Squad and shared how he is feeling more comfortable this season by having a better understanding of the playbook. Offensive lineman Dion Dawkins and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier are two of several people who have seen improvements in his play as he prepares for his second season.
3. A storyline to watch ahead of Bills minicamp
The Bills begin minicamp today and there are several storylines to follow over the next few days. According to ESPN, one storyline to watch is how improved the defense line looks ahead of the 2021 season.
How improved is Buffalo's defensive line? It was clearly a point of emphasis for the Bills after drafting defensive ends with their first two picks in this year's draft. Toss in the return of 1-technique defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a full offseason for 2020 second-round pick AJ Epenesa and a second year under defensive line coach Eric Washington, Buffalo figures it did enough this offseason to apply the pressure on the AFC's premier offenses that it lacked last season. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques