We heard the mantra come from both the Bills general manager and the head coach in the days that followed Buffalo's overtime playoff loss to Houston.
"We need to score more points."
Though the Bills made significant strides on the offensive side of the ball in 2019, the area of performance that still lagged was points per game. Buffalo was obviously a playoff caliber team, but not when it came to scoring on a consistent basis. The Bills ranked 23rd in points per game last season with an average of just 19.6.
The 11 other playoffs teams last season averaged 26.6 points per game. That's exactly a one-touchdown difference.
But for the second straight offseason the Bills made a point of trying to improve the depth and talent of their offensive arsenal. Here are three reasons why Buffalo's point production should be on the rise in 2020.
Josh Allen improvement
In a quarterback-driven league, many prognosticators and experts believe the key to Buffalo becoming a perennial contender in the AFC rests on the advances that Josh Allen can make in his personal game. By now, most Bills fans are aware of the steps that Allen took to improve his deep ball accuracy mechanics to connect on more of those kinds of throws in 2020.
The good news is Allen feels his throwing mechanics are as consistent as they've ever been.
"I feel like it's kind of night and day," he said. "I think that even going back to last year just seeing some of the bad habits that would show up and the mistakes that I'm just like, 'Man, why am I doing this.?' I'm slowing some things down trying to let my hip go first, trying to correct some things at the top of my release and trying to stay kind of on the same axis, same plane here and it's been paying dividends and we're going to continue to work on it."
If Allen can connect on just a couple of more deep shots that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll calls each week it could make a significant difference in Buffalo's cumulative point total come the end of the season.
Pass catching ability
Helping in that vein will be the improved collective ability of Buffalo's receiving corps. Stefon Diggs is an elite route runner, with an 81.8 percent true catch rate. That combined with Beasley's rate of 79.8 and John Brown's rate of 78.3 figures to raise Allen's completion percentage for a second straight season.
Add in the large catch radius of receivers like Duke Williams, draft choices Gabe Davis and Isaiah Hodgins and tight end Dawson Knox and there is ample evidence that Allen should be making a lot more completions in 2020, which should keep the offense on the field longer to finish drives.
"We need to score points and that's been an emphasis and a theme that we've talked about since the end of the season last year," said McDermott. "I'm encouraged by what we've added personnel-wise to help us in that category, as well as the work that our offensive staff has done this offseason."
Scroll through to get a look at Buffalo's roster in numerical order as it currently stands. After making the playoffs in 2019, the Bills had some roster turnover with free agency and the NFL Draft prior to the 2020 season.
Third down answers
While Josh Allen was a league leader in converting 3rd-and-1 situations in 2019, the team's overall conversion rate on third down was not up to snuff. Buffalo ranked 24th in third down conversion percentage with a success rate of less than 36 percent (35.8%).
The problem area was 3rd-and-medium. From 3rd-and-4 to 3rd-and-7 the Bills converted just over 27 percent of their attempts (27.3%). But blessed with a consistent separator like Diggs and go-to type talents like Brown and Beasley, Allen should have answers in favorable matchups.
"As a quarterback, the more separation, the easier the throws are able to be made," said Allen. "He gets open and when you can rely on a guy to just get open and win his one-on-one matchups, it's a safety net, in my opinion. He's shown an ability to do this for the few years that he's played in the league. He's a big-time player and he's got the respect of every defense out there and again, when he can run routes and double move and get open and make plays that becomes a quarterback's best friend."
Red zone producers
Part of Buffalo's point-production problem in 2019 was their below average success rate in the red zone. Though they did convert almost 57 percent of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns, that ranked 17th in the league. They ranked 22nd in red zone touchdowns (25).
Again, what should help here are proven point producers like Diggs to add to Brown and Beasley in the passing game. Second-year players Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary came on late in the year as rookies and should serve as more effective scoring complements in the red area.
And perhaps in more specialized roles, rookie RB Zack Moss can gain tough yards and push the pile for a first down when necessary. Not only that he has a nose for the end zone after tallying 41 total touchdowns. Draft classmates Davis and Hodgins have comparable scoring potential with 23 and 20 touchdowns in three seasons of work respectively.
Coach McDermott knows college scoring production isn't the same as the NFL, but their scoring resumes are significant.
"You want receivers to be able to catch the football and score touchdowns, right? You want a running back that's had a history of production, year after year, carrying the football, breaking tackles," said McDermott of his skill position rookies. "They're right for the Buffalo Bills and there fits for us. It doesn't take long to be impressed by the receivers, the way they catch the ball in contested areas and then with Zack [Moss], what he's been able to do year after year, in gaining a lot of yards."
Why the points will come
Buffalo won't have an easy task in raising their point production based on the caliber of defenses they face in 2020. Ten of Buffalo's games are against teams whose scoring defense ranked in the top half of the league. Six of those games coming against top 10 scoring defenses.
But the Bills are as well equipped to make plays as they've been since the early 2000s, and that has them encouraged about what lies ahead.
"Me being in year three, in the same system, having such a good rapport with Coach Daboll, knowing what we do and what we don't like," said Allen. "I think if you look at our pieces like Dawson Knox and Motor (Singletary). They're going into their second year in the same system. They had a lot of success last year as rookies and they're only going to continue to get better. The addition of Stef (Diggs), an elite playmaker that is going to do some great things for us and then John (Brown) and Cole (Beasley) and now I think are going to have even more opportunities with Stef out there. Defenses are going to pay more attention to what else we've got on the field.
"I'm excited. It's not added pressure in my mind. I think it's going to make things actually a little easier, because the guys that we have in place, and what they can do with the ball in their hands."
Camp Countdown, presented by Connors & Ferris, will examine some of the more pressing questions facing the team on the field, and players who could make a difference as the team makes its final preparations for the 2020 regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We'll examine these issues one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully seek some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 29th and the opener on Sept. 13th.