The Bills revamped their defensive line this free agency period with many new additions to the unit. One of the newest Buffalo Bills, DaQuan Jones, grew up encompassed by Bills fans. For him, this is the closest thing he's had to a homecoming since he's been in the NFL.
"I wanted to try to be somewhere closer to home," Jones said during his press conference via Zoom. "I have a lot of family that's never been to a lot of my games, just being in Tennessee and being in Carolina last year, not a lot of people got to come and see me. It was one of the closest teams to home and at the same time, you gotta look at that roster and see what you guys did last year. I definitely wanted to be a part of that.
"… Growing up in Binghamton, it's like three and a half hours away, I was surrounded by Buffalo fans. My first ever game was actually a Buffalo Bills game. Been here a couple of times. To me, it gives me a very home feeling. It feels very much like home. I can't wait to get down there again to really explore it better."
Jones' first football game was the 2007 home-opener against the Denver Broncos. The Bills lost 15-14 and the game is remembered most by the unfortunate career-ending spinal injury that Kevin Everett suffered at the beginning of the second half. At the time, Jones wasn't a Bills fan, but he appreciates how his NFL journey is beginning to circle back around to where it all began.
"I wasn't really into football like that believe it or not growing up," Jones said. "But my high school coaches were die-hard Bills fans. They took me to a Bills vs. Denver game when I was in seventh grade. It was quite an experience and something that's coming full circle, being in Year 9 and being able to play in Buffalo and that being the first game I'd ever been to."
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Jones believes that he can add a lot to the Bills defensive line. He started his career playing defensive end before switching to nose tackle the last three seasons. The Bills' coaching staff love their players to be versatile and that's exactly what Jones brings to the table.
"I've really played all across the ball," Jones said. "So, I really can help in a lot of areas with my knowledge of different techniques. Really, I consider myself a jack of all trades. I kind of do it all. I'm continuously growing, I'm looking forward to future challenges.
"… Once OTAs start, I'll be able to go in that room and really sit down with the coaches, and really understand what they expect of me. Going forward I'll have a better answer then. But right now, I just want to come in and do my job, do my part, and whatever way I can help the D-line I will do that.
When Jones can game plan with his fellow defensive linemen later this spring, he's excited to work next to high-caliber players like Ed Oliver and Von Miller.
"You see on film, [Ed Oliver] plays with his hair on fire," Jones shared. "He fires off the ball every snap and is very impressive. I can't wait to help him any way I can and help him learn the game even better than he knows it now."
"To be able to have a talent like that on the D-line is very exciting," Jones said about Miller. "I cannot wait to get in that room and be around those guys, get to know them, and show what we can do."
Another division rival coming to Buffalo
So far, the Bills have signed four players that were on another AFC East team last season. Duke Johnson and Greg Mancz from the Dolphins and Shaq Lawson and Jamison Crowder from the Jets.
Crowder, who started his career in Washington, has gotten a good look at what the Bills have been building since he started playing for the Jets in 2019. He knows this team is close to winning it all, and he wants to be a part of it.
"The thing that really attracted me was I was playing against Buffalo the last few years and just kind of seeing how close they've been to competing for a Super Bowl," Crowder told the media via Zoom. "And going against the guys when I was in New York, knowing how that defense played and having the guys on the offensive side of the football. That's why it's a great opportunity for me to come in and try to contribute."
Here's a list of players the Bills have signed in free agency this year.
Jamison Crowder believes there are unlimited possibilities for this Bills offense
For as good as the Bills' offense has been the past two seasons, it's not crazy to think that they might be even better in 2022. The team has many talented weapons at their disposal for Josh Allen. Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Dawson Knox have proven to be productive in this offense, and with the addition of Jamison Crowder and O.J. Howard this offseason both positions have only gotten more talented.
For Crowder, it reminds him of when he first got to Washington in 2015.
"I came into a room with guys like DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, and Jordan Reed," Crowder shared. "Obviously, the more weapons that you have around a good quarterback, it only advances the opportunities for the offense to be successful. So, I definitely see a lot of opportunities and see a lot of good that can come out of me being able to join a team. So, I'm looking forward to it and just can't wait to get out there, learn the offense and be ready to play."
Buffalo is a special place for Shaq Lawson
Shaq Lawson is also enjoying a kind of homecoming back to Buffalo. Lawson, who was drafted by the team in 2016, spent the past two seasons in the AFC East with the Dolphins and the Jets. After being released by the Jets before the 2021 Week 18 finale, Lawson made it known that he wanted to come back to Buffalo, and he finally got his wish.
"I was interested in coming back," Lawson said. "It was a special place before I left, and I didn't want to leave at all. I just made a family decision. So, when I had the opportunity to come back, this team has been special since I left. They had won a lot of games.
"Josh Allen is one of the best quarterbacks. The defense is No. 1. So, it's just been, since I left, and watching from the other side, it's just been like, man, I've been missing special since I've been in the division the last couple of years."
Fellow defensive lineman, Jordan Phillips, just signed back with the Bills last week after two years away in Arizona. The two have a great bond and were very productive together back in 2019. Phillips had 9.5 sacks and Lawson had 6.5. They are both glad to be back in Buffalo and teammates once again.
"He played a major part in me coming back," Lawson shared. "When me and Jordan were there, we both fed off each other, we ended up leaving at the same time. So, me and Jordan always kept in contact after the years we played at Buffalo with each other. Man, it's always great to go back with a guy you know, bringing a lot of energy to it. Me and Jordan bring a lot of energy to the defensive side. We get the crowd into it and everything like that."
Shaq Lawson is happy to be back in Leslie Frazier's defense
The Bills' former first-round draft pick played his best football in Buffalo before leaving in 2019. He racked up 16.5 sacks, 38 QB hits, and 25 tackles for loss. One of the reasons for the drop-off in Miami and New York was that he changed positions.
With having three seasons of prior experience around Leslie Frazier and the Bills' defensive scheme, the pass rusher should be able to hit the ground running when the pads come on later this year.
"That defense fits me well because it's an attack defense," Lawson said. "It's a four-down front. When I left here, I went back to an outside linebacker. So, getting back to more comfortable things I'm doing. Coach Frazier and those guys know me well. They know how I play and things like that and they know what I'm good at.
"Just always going back with a guy you have a great relationship with as D coordinator and as a coach, it's just special to come back with Frazier. Every time I see him when I used to play him, I'm like, `Man, I've been missing the defense sometimes.'"