1 - ‘Zo: We’re in a window to do something special
For most NFL players in their mid-30s, a 6-10 season can be disheartening.
Players typically don’t have a whole lot of shelf life left once they hit 35 or 36 years of age. Veterans who are in the twilight of their respective careers are typically in “win-now” mode, and naturally, rebuilding years can be discouraging.
For linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, however, Buffalo’s 2018 campaign was not discouraging. Instead, it left the 35-year-old with hope for the future, as he saw considerable growth out of two of the team’s pillars.
“I really loved the way Tremaine [Edmunds], being in that locker room, watching his growth, I’ll remember that,” Alexander said during a recent appearance on One Bills Live. “Him and Josh [Allen], really, watching the growth of that rookie class. I think those guys are going to be staples of this organization for a long time.”
Alexander is confident that the team’s young core will continue to progress, something that will allow the team to bounce back in the 2019 season.
“They still have so much growth to go, and they have that ability,” Alexander said. “I’m really excited for those young men, [Josh and Tremaine] in particular. I think just our football team in general, because we do have a core of young guys that really developed last season. That’s probably another memory I’ll have, just the growth, because I really think this last year was a pivotal season as far as this organization going to where it wanted to go.
“Obviously we went to the playoffs the first year, kind of got that off our back and reset it in a way, and now you have a nucleus of young guys that are really going to carry this organization for the next four or five years. We have a great window right now to really do something special.”
2 - Bills finish 2018 with Top 10 secondary
Following a 2017 season in which the group emerged as one of the league’s best, expectations were high for Buffalo’s secondary entering the 2018 campaign.
Though few figured it would actually be possible, the unit exceeded expectations in its second year together. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer put their ball-hawking abilities on display again, combining for six interceptions. Tre’Davious White showed progress in his sophomore season, totaling 54 tackles and eight pass deflections. Levi Wallace and Taron Johnson also showed promise in their rookie campaigns, cementing themselves as foundational pieces for the Bills.
Consistently solid outings from its defensive backs allowed Buffalo to finish the 2018 campaign with the league’s best passing defense. The Bills allowed an average of just 179.2 passing yards per game last season.
Pro Football Focus has recognized Buffalo’s defensive excellence in their 2018 NFL secondary rankings. The Bills came in at number 10 on the outlet’s list, with analyst Michael Renner attributing the unit’s success to the strong play of White.
“After a dominant rookie season, Tre’Davious White was once again stingy in year two. He was given the task of following around opposing number one receivers in seven separate games this year and still only allowed 357 yards and 30 catches for the entire season.”
The Bills are one of just two AFC East teams to finish in the top 10 of PFF’s rankings. Fueled by the quality play of Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty, the Patriots came in at number two on the list.
3 - Bills often delivered pressure on 3rd down in 2018
It’s often said that games are won or lost on third down.
Third down situations are highly-anticipated mini battles that often have a direct impact on the outcome of a specific game. The team that finds itself on the winning end of more third-down situations often finds itself on the winning end of the contest itself.
Buffalo’s defense was effective on third down throughout the 2018 season, allowing its opponents to convert on just 74 of 203 third-down situations. Their third-down efficiency can largely be attributed to their aggressiveness, as according to ESPN, the Bills applied pressure to opposing quarterbacks on 39.1 percent of third-down situations.
Only seven defenses applied pressure on a higher percentage of third downs.
Buffalo’s efficiency on third down can be at least partly credited to Lorenzo Alexander, who often checked in as an interior rusher on third down situations. The 35-year-old finished the 2018 campaign with 55 tackles and 6.5 sacks.