1. How Sean McDermott plans to ingrain new players into Bills’ culture
If one were to construct a list of Buffalo coach Sean McDermott’s most oft-used words - “culture” would likely sit atop it.
The now third-year sideline boss feels as though a tangible culture is crucial to the success of a football team. He wants his roster to be a tight-knit group, a family that will play for each other instead of simply with one another.
Throughout the past few months, the Bills’ ‘family’ has grown considerably.
Buffalo has signed close to 20 new players thus far this offseason, the majority of them coming on the offensive side of the ball. A number of the new Bills have already commented on the team’s family-like atmosphere, praising the work-based culture that McDermott has formed.
However, ingraining a large number of players into the team will not be an easy task.
“At this point, right around, probably just less than half of the team are new to us and the Buffalo Bills organization,” McDermott said as the Bills’ spring workouts kicked off Monday. “That presents a challenge. There have been a lot of teams over the years that have put talent in the locker room, but haven’t been able to develop that talent or bring them together.
“Number one, the challenge is on our players to get to know one another, and for us to get to know them. Also, for us to do different things to try and build that team, that bond, that chemistry that so embodies good teams.”
Helping the team’s new players adjust is a task that McDermott has already undertaken. He’s devoted the first part of OTAs to team-building.
“The great part about today is that there’s a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm around what we’re doing,” McDermott said. “Then the new players we have in the building, added those players to the players that were already here, it’s a nice mix. It’s fun to watch guys find their routine this time of year, and get to know one another.
“That’s really what phase one, for us, a big piece of it is all about. For guys that may have played on opposite teams, now to be side-by-side in the locker room and share stories, get to know one another, build that love for one another that embodies all good football teams.”
2. First phase of spring workouts about ‘starting from scratch’
Though the team could not take to the field in full pads, Buffalo’s roster made progress as a whole as spring workouts started on Monday.
Sean McDermott used the first day of OTAs to reinstall core concepts, helping the team re-learn the ideas he’s built his football team on.
“This, phase one, allows us an opportunity to really go back and review and start from scratch,” McDermott said. “We talk about boulders, kind of a boulders and rocks and pebbles type of analogy in how we teach and our progression in our classroom.
“Right now’s the time to go back and really master the boulders, the foundation of what we do offensively. It’s neat to see the room in there, that everyone’s very eager to learn and go back and build that strong foundation.”
A “strong foundation” is what quarterback Josh Allen built in his rookie season, displaying tremendous athleticism while also throwing for 2,074 yards. McDermott is excited to see the team’s offense re-learn its key concepts throughout spring workouts, something that will hopefully result in improvement next season.
“Brian [Daboll] and I spent a lot of time this offseason and, again, starting from scratch,” McDermott said. “Taking inventory of what we did well and what we didn’t do well. Same with the offensive staff, Brian and the offensive staff.
“We really start from there today and we move forward one step at a time. Putting Josh [Allen] in a position to develop, putting Josh in a position to succeed - there’s a lot that goes into that, and today’s just the first step in that process.”
3. How involved will McDermott be in the draft?
Next Thursday’s NFL Draft will be a bit of a strange experience for Sean McDermott - the Bills will be “playing,” so to speak, but the head coach won’t be calling the shots.
Instead, general manager Brandon Beane will be the one guiding the team through the three-day extravaganza. Though McDermott won’t be the architect of Buffalo’s haul in the 2019 draft, he’s been incredibly involved in the pre-draft process, exploring a number of possible scenarios with the team’s front office.
“I’m sure every team’s different,” McDermott said. “There are a lot of conversations that take place between the scouts, with [assistant general manager] Joe [Schoen], Brandon and the scouts. In terms of my involvement, really it’s conversations that take place with Brandon and myself as well as Joe. We just play the ‘what if’ game, what if this happens? What if that happens? Are we sure this player, we’re comfortable with him here?
“You just go through different options that could come up so you’re prepared. No different, in a lot of ways, to me, when you prepare for a game. It just so happens there’s only one game, and that game is in about a week and a half here. It’s a great opportunity for us to improve our football team.”
The Bills enter the 2019 NFL Draft with the ninth overall pick. McDermott is confident in his front office’s ability to exit Nashville with a talented player on night one.
“Where we sit at [pick number] nine, I’ve been at nine before, there’s a lot of good football players at nine,” McDermott said. “I’m excited to get to next weekend, I really am. I know Brandon and his staff have put in a lot of work. This is, as you know, a culmination of a year’s worth of work, basically all in one weekend, all in three days, for the most part. It’ll be another step for us as a team, and I’m excited for it.”
Bills players arrived back at One Bills Drive on Monday, April 15, for voluntary offseason workouts. Click through to see photos of your favorite Bills players.