The acquisitions the Bills have been able to make have head coach Sean McDermott breathing a bit easier about some of the holes he and GM Brandon Beane acknowledged on their roster at the close of the 2018 campaign. Now with a host of new talent added via free agency, Buffalo’s sideline boss likes where things are headed.
“I feel better today than the day I walked in the door,” said McDermott. “I’ve been around two situations like this. Once in Philadelphia with Andy (Reid) and once in Carolina with Ron (Rivera). I know how this cycle works. Each one is a little different.
“Coming in here we had a team that was a little bit older. A team that had some leadership on it, but we weren’t able to re-sign a lot of guys when we got here because we were challenged with the salary cap and with a lack of development with players. So when you take over a team, there are a lot of different situations. Sometimes you have a quarterback, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you have a good salary cap situation, sometimes you don’t. Overall, we had a lot of areas that we needed to address. That first year I felt like our team really came together.”
The Bills overachieved in 2017 and ended the playoff drought. Salary cap constraints kept them from making moves they might’ve normally made to enhance the roster last offseason, leaving them dependent upon more young talent than they probably would’ve liked.
“Last year we were extremely young. I think it’s hard as you’re going through it, but it’s part of the process of getting it right,” McDermott said. “We’ve could’ve gone into year two and kicked that (salary cap) can down the road and continue to do what’s been going on, which was spend, spend, spend and yet (not win).
“So as a coach and I’m sure for Brandon, going through that last year being so young, it was hard because we want to win, believe me. The growth that comes out of that and the positives of it was you watch the energy and enthusiasm of the football team over the last six or seven games and the way they played and the experience they got. Now we’re going to use that experience, energy and enthusiasm to continue to carry us forward as we continue on the climb.”
More leadership on shoulders of Allen and Edmunds
As rookies, Buffalo’s two first-round draft choices played in natural leadership positions at quarterback and middle linebacker respectively. Now with a year under their belt and a lack of young veterans on the roster, the leadership mantle with be squarely on the shoulders of Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds.
“We’re trying to put a team together and the bottom line is Josh is a big part of that,” said McDermott. “His leadership and Tremaine’s leadership will be key to our success, at a young age, because there’s a gap with what we had last year. Year three and year four players, there was an absence of that in our locker room. We’ve added there somewhat in free agency, but Josh and Tremaine on the offensive and defensive side are two young players who are going to have an added amount of responsibility from a leadership standpoint this year.”
As Allen accumulated more starts and performed down the stretch he exuded more leadership on offense, and the now retired Kyle Williams passed the leadership torch late last season to Edmunds. Now both young talents will need to be front and center in leading their respective units.
Pieces in place to help Allen succeed
At the close of the 2018 season, GM Brandon Beane clearly stated his top priority was to get some help for Josh Allen on offense. Thus far in free agency, 12 players have been added to the offensive side of the ball. Yes, there is still the task of blending all the new talent together, but as head coach Sean McDermott sees it, the pieces are in place to help aid Allen in pushing his game forward.
“When you look at successful quarterbacks over the course of time, the commonality the last 15 years with successful quarterbacks are usually offensive line play and guys who can get separation on the perimeter,” said McDermott. “Whether it’s a tight end, a slot receiver or outside receiver those are two commonalities of successful quarterbacks. We needed to upgrade some of those areas.”
Buffalo did that signing five offensive linemen in free agency and four receivers, counting CFL free agent Duke Williams and returner Andre Roberts.
“You’ve got to have a well-balanced team in order to be a legitimate threat in this league year in and year out,” said McDermott. “Even though I have a defensive background, I’m not a proponent of trying to win games 7-6 every week. That’s a hard life to live. There are few teams that have been able to do that and progress deep into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. You’ve got to be able to score points in this league.”
The Bills appear to have more playmakers to effectively accomplish that on a weekly basis come the regular season.