1 - What Bills can do to earn spot in Super Bowl LIV
This exact quote, or a slight variation of it, has been said by a number of Buffalo players, coaches, and executives over the past few months. Though the Bills are coming off a 6-10 season, their future appears to be incredibly bright. They have their franchise quarterback in place. Rookie wideout Robert Foster emerged as a reliable deep threat in the second half of the season. Buffalo finished the 2018 campaign with the league's second-best defense, allowing an average of just 294.1 yards per game.
With a talented young core, a reported $80 million in cap space, and 10 total picks in the 2019 draft, the Bills are in prime position to improve this offseason, perhaps setting up a return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
According to NFL.com writer Gregg Rosenthal, a trip to next year's Super Bowl isn't out of the question for Buffalo. In a recent article in which he looked at what each team can do in order to punch their ticket to Super Bowl LIV, Rosenthal identified the offensive side of the ball as the Bills' biggest area of need. The writer feels as though improving Josh Allen's supporting cast could allow the unit to improve next season.
"For Allen to succeed, every position group on the Bills offense needs to get better," Rosenthal wrote. "With huge holes on the offensive line and at wide receiver, [Brandon] Beane should invest free-agent dollars and draft picks in finding talent that fits with Allen. Buffalo has already announced that veteran RB LeSean McCoy, Allen's biggest supporter, will be back."
2 - Andre Reed on Josh Allen: We've got our QB
Just hours before the start of the 2018 NFL Draft, Andre Reed took to Twitter to express his support of quarterback Josh Allen, who, at that point, was still without a team.
"Good talk," Reed wrote. "Your future legacy awaits."
As fate would have it, Allen would end up in the same city where Reed constructed his Hall of Fame-career. Buffalo traded up to land the coveted signal-caller in the first round, hoping that Allen will one day lead the Bills to heights similar to the ones the team reached with Reed and company in the early 1990s.
Allen showed that he may one day be capable of achieving that task in his rookie season. He started 11 games throughout the 2018 campaign, throwing for 2,074 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was also lethal on the ground, rushing for 631 yards and eight touchdowns.
With Allen's rookie season in the books, Reed's support of Allen has developed into an admiration. To Reed, Allen did enough to prove that he's a franchise caliber player in his debut season.
"I love Josh, man," Reed said during a recent appearance on One Bills Live. "That kid is such a baller, it's what that team needs. I think the organization knows that they got the quarterback that they picked. He showed a lot of not only character, but he showed a lot of grit.
"In the middle of the season, he's running around, jumping over people, doing all that kind of stuff. You don't see that too much out of a quarterback. I think we've got our quarterback. Now it's up to the organization to get those playmakers on both sides of him."
3 - This Bills DE 'leveled up' in 2018
Expectations were not high for Shaq Lawson entering the 2018 campaign.
This is abnormal of a former first-round draft pick entering his third professional season. Lawson, however, hadn't really done anything to excite Buffalo fans throughout his first two campaigns. He started just one game in his injury-shortened rookie season, tallying 13 tackles and two sacks. He appeared in just 11 games in his sophomore campaign, totaling 33 tackles and four sacks.
The offseason signing of veteran pass rusher Trent Murphy pushed Lawson into a rotational role. The lessened workload actually benefited Lawson, however, as he constructed a breakout 2018 season in which he tied a career-high in sacks with four. He was also a menace with his hands throughout the season, batting down five passes at the line of scrimmage.
According to ESPN.com Mike Rodak, Lawson "leveled up" in the 2018 campaign, reaching a level of play that he had not attained before in his professional career. Lawson's performance demonstrated improved maturity as the fuel behind his breakout.
"The 2016 first-round pick looked to be a bust after he did not fit in former coach Rex Ryan's 3-4 scheme as a rookie and did not seem to be a culture fit for coach Sean McDermott in 2017," Rodak wrote. "That changed in 2018; Pro Football Focus graded Lawson as the NFL's 20th-best edge rusher. GM Brandon Beane said Lawson's professionalism went up 'leaps and bounds' in his third season."