As the players returned to One Bills Drive at approximately a 90 percent attendance rate, head coach Sean McDermott is looking forward to the first preparation phase for the 2023 campaign for a host of reasons.
Calling the plays on defense represents the biggest change to how the team will be run on game day knowing that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and special teams coordinator Matt Smiley will both be entering year two in their roles. McDermott is excited about getting back to shouldering that responsibility.
"First and foremost, we've got a really good staff on the defensive side, and the offensive side, special teams as well. But I wouldn't be able to do this without a really strong staff on the defensive side in particular," McDermott said. "It's almost like you've got to have kind of a two-track mind. One as a head coach, and then also as a defensive coordinator. But it's been great to this point. I was excited yesterday to get in the room a little bit, that group, the defense, and kind of rolling up my sleeves and getting back to wearing that hat again. So I'm excited about it."
When asked what sparked his excitement, McDermott explained how the process of coming up with new schematic answers and different approaches are what does it.
"It's part of how I got here," he said of calling plays. "So I just think you'll be in the defensive staff room, having those critical conversations that come up solving problems, trying to evolve where we need to evolve, and where the game is going. And then working hand in hand with our players. Again, that's been mostly the assistants to this point. Then together with the staff figuring some things out and it just feels good. It feels natural. And we'll see where it goes in the future."
McDermott is also looking forward to the team's middle linebacker competition, which currently includes four candidates on the roster in Terrel Bernard, Tyrel Dodson, A.J. Klein and Baylon Spector. Bernard and Spector offer the least experience at the position, but Buffalo's head coach doesn't view that as a negative.
"There are some unproven guys, or lack of experience in that room to some extent, at that position, but I think that's also exciting," he said. "It presents an opportunity for someone to step in and show us what they've got. (Terrel Bernard) did get some valuable snaps last year, albeit not a ton on defense that is but I'm excited about that. And I think those guys are as well. We're going to give them a chance to come in and show us what they've got. We know (Tyrel Dodson) has a little bit more (experience). So we'll be aligned in terms of what we're looking for, and they have total clarity on what's expected in the job. And so I think that presents an opportunity for someone to step in and show us what they've got."
Knowing that position calls the defense and with McDermott as the new defensive coordinator, a lot will have to be pulled together in a short amount of time.
"When you wear that hat at that middle linebacker position there's a lot that goes with it," McDermott said. "Not necessarily play-calling, but more checking the defensive communication, and all that goes with it. So leadership on and off the field. So I think that said we talked about priorities, some of those rank higher than others."
Check out the best photos as Bills players arrive at One Bills Drive for the start of voluntary offseason workouts on April 17, 2023.
It's possible that there could be additions to the middle linebacker competition by the time the Bills reach the end of the NFL draft next weekend. That role is one of the bigger holes to fill on Buffalo's roster. But McDermott remains confident that the roster will remain strong by what they've drafted in the recent past as well as what could be added in the near future.
"We've lost guys before, and I think that's where if you're doing things right, if you're drafting well, and developing and that's the important piece, but drafting well is huge," he said. "We've got to draft well, and we have to develop those players that we draft, and they have to produce and that's an important piece of sustaining success."