1. T.J. Yates adds experience to the quarterback room
Tyrod Taylor is cemented as Buffalo's starting quarterback going forward, but there will now be some competition for the backup job behind him.
The Bills signed veteran quarterback T.J. Yates on Monday, and the six-year veteran is eager to bring his experience and his knowledge of Rick Dennison's offense to Buffalo.
"With experience comes a lot of different things and knowledge of different situations and being in different situations," Yates said in a conference call with the local media on Monday. "I've been in all types of them, from being the backup, to being the guy, to playoff games, to when stuff's going bad. Just try to help whoever I can as much as I can. It's always good to have as many veteran guys on the team as possible in my opinion because the more experiences you have in the league, I think it's better."
Dennison was Yates' offensive coordinator for his first three years in the NFL with the Houston Texans. During Yates' rookie season, he became the starting quarterback for Houston going into the playoffs. He led that team to its first playoff victory in franchise history and became only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game before the Texans lost in the next round. He says that while he is five years removed from those playoff games, the experience he gained from that season is invaluable.
"I started out my football career a little bit differently than most quarterbacks, getting thrown into the fire like that my rookie year. I learned so much that year from all the veterans that were around me in the quarterback room and coaches that were around me and just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could. Obviously, I haven't played much since then, but that rookie year, it kind of did a lot for me as far as my development mentally, as a football player. I remember that more over the years since then and just hopefully I can bring as much knowledge and leadership to this team as possible."
After taking a look at Buffalo's roster, Yates says that the way Dennison's offense is designed will be a perfect fit for the type of players that the Bills have.
"It all starts with the ground game and establishing the ground game," Yates said. "A lot of the offense plays off of that. I think it's going to be a great fit for us here with the running game and the running backs that we have because everything works off of that. The type of outside of the pocket stuff that is in this offense, I think, will be tremendous for Tyrod in how athletic he is and how versatile he is. [It's a] very explosive offense, and we have a lot of explosive players on this offense so I think it's going to be a great fit."
Yates spent part of last year with the Dolphins, even appearing for one play in the postseason. In addition to his four seasons in Houston, he spent a year with the Atlanta Falcons. The North Carolina product has thrown for 1,352 yards and six touchdowns in 18 regular season games.
2. McDermott seeking steady leadership in the locker room
Sean McDermott has certainly put his own, unique stamp on the Bills' organization since being named head coach in January.
ESPN’s Mike Rodak outlined some of the major changes that McDermott has overseen in hopes of restoring the player's focus and turning them into a playoff-caliber team.
One of the biggest changes that is already in the works is in regards to how the leadership structure will be organized around the team. While Rex Ryan had a new set of captains for each game, McDermott's approach will be different.
"McDermott aims for a steadier leadership by his players and will develop a "leadership council" toward that goal," Rodak wrote. "Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, the team's longest-tenured player, will certainly be among that group; he spoke to his teammates last week. "He said, 'Coach says be here at this time, be here at this time,' That's starts with being disciplined," (Kevon) Seymour said. "[Last year], if we had a run and coach said, 'Go put on your cleats, be back out here at 51 [minutes past the hour],' some guys probably didn't make the time. ... It's definitely a saying, if you're going to be here on time, you're late."
Some of the more minor changes have included the removal of certain items in the locker room, such as a pool table and video game consoles. Also in the locker room, McDermott has rearranged locker-room stalls. In the past, the locker room was organized by position groups. That has now changed. An example, according to Rodak, is that the lockers of guard Richie Incognito and cornerback Ronald Darby are now next to each other.
All of the changes are an effort to turn around the team's mindset and have complete focus heading into the 2017 campaign.
"One of McDermott's most popular tag lines since arriving in Buffalo has been "earning the right to win," which the former Panthers defensive coordinator sees as doing what is necessary on a daily basis to be successful," Rodak wrote. "To that end, McDermott has made frequent use of the word "process," even plastering his "Respect the Process" motto on the walls of the team's facility. Another motto? "Playoff caliber." That phrase has been put on players' T-shirts for the offseason workout program, as well as on the doors of the cafeteria for the team with the NFL's longest playoff drought -- 17 seasons."
3. Top draft prospect Myles Garrett is studying Bruce Smith film
Consensus number one draft pick Myles Garrett has been watching a lot of film since declaring for the NFL Draft, and some of that viewing has included Super Bowl-era Buffalo Bills material.
Garrett, a defensive end out of Texas A&M, is projected by most around the league to go first overall to the Cleveland Browns. In an interview with ESPN, Garrett said that he's been doing his due diligence by studying some of the game's greats at that position—including Hall of Famer and former Bill, Bruce Smith.
"Yeah, if I want to be the best, it has to start there," said Garrett. "When they put me at end, my D-line coach, Gonzo, told me to start studying those guys. So I did, from LT to Deacon Jones to Bruce Smith to Reggie White to DeMarcus Ware to J.J. Watt, then to all the big-time players across the line to the linebackers. From the very beginning, I wanted to be the best, whether it was sports or poetry."
Garrett registered 31 sacks and 47 tackles for a loss in 34 games with the Aggies.
While Garrett will surely be gone by the time the Bills pick at 10, Buffalo fans may still be happy to know what quarterback Garrett said he will be targeting the most when he enters the league.
"Tom Brady. He is supposed to be the GOAT (greatest of all time), so I want to take him down, show him the best can still get humbled sometimes," Garrett said. "Also because I'm a Peyton Manning fan."