The Bills defense ranked at or near the top of almost every defensive statistic last season and when the season came to a close the ranked as the second-best defense in the entire NFL. In order to repeat that success, these five playmakers will need to lead the way.
Poyer is entering his third season with the Bills and has started all but one of the last 32 games at safety. Poyer has had the two best seasons of his career with the Bills and was second on the team in tackles last season with 100.
Fellow safety Micah Hyde is encouraged by the group the defense has and works well with Poyer to give opposing offenses different looks.
“We have a good understanding of what we are doing on the football field,” Hyde said. “We’re always talking and communicating and that goes for whoever is on the back end. As long as we keep communicating and keep talking we can be a great defense.”
Quarterback Josh Allen gave rave reviews of Poyer and Hyde, after having to compete against them every day in practice.
“I really believe that Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are the two best safeties in the NFL,” Allen said. “Our defense is already strong and they’re only going to improve as we get closer to the season.”
Oliver has yet to take a snap in the NFL but the expectations for the No. 9 pick in the 2019 NFL draft sure are high. Oliver is set to take over at the three-technique defensive tackle position with Kyle Williams retiring. But, Oliver knows he’s going to have to work to get to Williams’ level of play.
“What do I think when I hear that I’m Kyle Williams’ replacement? I think that Kyle Williams is a great player,” Oliver said. “I think Kyle Williams will wear a gold jacket one day. I just want to come in and compete and help the team in any way possible. I don’t even think about that. Kyle Williams is in a league of his own that I haven’t even come close to touching. I just want to come in and compete.”
Oliver is also going to need to beat out veteran Jordan Phillips for the starting job. He has a relentless motor on the field, the same way that Williams had. Oliver will have to prove his doubters wrong his first season and show he’s capable of producing the same numbers he did at the University of Houston.
Arguably the Bills’ best edge rusher last season, Hughes will need to show he’s capable of producing the same numbers he did as he enters his age 31 season. Hughes recorded his highest sack total since 2014 with seven this past season and the Bills expect better production with more talent around him after signing him to a two-year extension this offseason.
With the retirement of Kyle Williams, Hughes is now the longest tenured Bill.
“Honestly it feels good to a have an organization, an owner, a GM and a head coach who really believes in you and is really excited for me to be back here in this building with the team and with the guys so we can build this relationship early,” Hughes said. “That way, come September we are out there having fun. We are pinning our ears back, we understand how to communicate and how to work on the field and I think that’s a great testament to what they do up front but also what you need to build a championship winning team.”
Johnson, who saw action in 11 games as a rookie last season while posting 42 tackles, three passes defensed and an interception, saw the most reps with the starting unit as the nickel corner during offseason workouts.
Johnson is over the shoulder injury that caused him to miss the last four games of the 2018 season. While the job is currently his he’ll have competition with free agent signee E.J. Gaines and Siran Neal for snaps. But the thought of a healthy Johnson after an impressive rookie campaign has most expecting bigger and better things.
Edmunds is at the heart of the Bills defense, entering his second season at the middle linebacker spot. He led the team in tackles (121) his rookie year and now takes on advanced roles in play calling and pre-snap adjustments.
Edmunds is still one of the youngest players in the NFL despite entering his second season. He turned 21 in May.
“Just the whole NFL experience. I was young coming in and learning a new system, so I have a year under my belt now. So now, it’s about going back and fine tuning what I did last year and what we did as a team,” Edmunds said. “Learning from there, sitting down with the guys, getting more into depth with it now. Talking more football, more situational work since everybody now has a foundation. We’re all kind of on the same talk now as we got through it a little bit last year. But just going from there and getting better.”
Edmunds still has room to grow as a player and has the potential to be a star in the NFL. With Lorenzo Alexander guiding Edmunds, the best is yet to come from the 2018 first-round pick.
Click through to see the best black and white photos from the team's offseason practices.