Back-to-back seasons with a top-three defensive ranking in the NFL, 80.4 percent of defensive snaps returning, new pieces who addressed immediate needs and a win-now attitude — these are a few things that have helped shape the Bills defensive mindset for 2020. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has challenged his defense to rise to a new level this year, one that involves getting to the quarterback and creating more turnovers.
"For the last two years I know, especially the secondary, we've had some of the top secondaries in the league and overall defense as well," cornerback Levi Wallace told media over a Zoom call. "I think it's just making that next step into getting more turnovers. Coach Fraizer's done a great job of challenging us to get more turnovers this year, and we have to get the ball out. We have to create more opportunities for our offense this year."
Why this year? Of course any team wants to build upon the previous year's success, but there's a different vibe to the defense heading into training camp. Continuity between this year's group and last year's team has instilled an elevated level of confidence. The group's mindset is to win now. For Wallace, it's his third season in Frazier's system which has led to more confidence in his craft.
"There's definitely an edge and this is year three, we've been together for so long now," Wallace explained. "We've pushed each other for so long. We feel so comfortable with each other now. We can't be complacent now. Now it's no more guessing and figuring out who goes where, what goes where--now's the time. If we're going to go for it, we got to go for it now. That's our mindset every day, every practice, even in the weight room we put in extra work."
Scroll through to see the top photos from Buffalo's stadium walk-through on Aug. 7, 2020.
Even though the team hasn't put on pads yet, offensive players can see the defense's sense of urgency in their actions.
"Our defense has been great since I've been year, and the year before I came they were great," offensive lineman Quinton Spain said. "It just keeps building, adding pieces and getting strong, getting faster. Most of the players have been in the system so they know what it is. It'll be a step faster now, they'll get the calls out quicker because everybody's on the same page. You can tell right now how they are explosive, running to the ball, all of it. I'm pretty excited to see what the defense is going to do this year."
The entire defense is drenched in excitement knowing what's in store for them this season if they can create more opportunities for their offense by taking the ball away more.
"I think last year we had a really good season, we left a lot out there," defensive end Jerry Hughes explained. "So I think that the team is really understanding that we have a great group of guys, great chemistry on the team.
"We understand every day that we step foot in this building, it's finding different ways to make ourselves better to improve our game so we can take the division from the New England Patriots because we know it sits and it hangs out in Foxborough. We know how important this year will be just for all of us moving forward because we were able to make it to the playoffs last year, fell short in the first round. But certainly we understand that if we can win our division, that makes our road moving forward, a lot easier."
They believe taking the division is attainable because it's one that is based on the team, not individuals.
"There's no egos on this defense," Wallace said. "I can't speak on the offense, but I'm sure that there's no egos over there either. But everyone wants everyone to do the best because it's all we have at the end of the day--to go out there and try to do our best to win the championship.
"So we lift each other up, especially in these environments with COVID anything can happen, injuries can happen. We have to make sure that fifth guy on the roster is ready to go out and play on a Sunday if an outbreak were to happen. That's our mindset. It's about a team at the end of the day and that's what we're here to do and that's what we're built for."