The 2017 offseason has been a whirlwind for the Buffalo Bills. From hiring Head Coach Sean McDermott in January to re-signing Tyrod Taylor in March to making numerous draft day trades to the hiring of a new general manager in Brandon Beane, this offseason has been filled with newsworthy headlines. Below, Bills Insider Chris Brown and radio host John Murphy breakdown their review of the 2017 offseason and preview what's to come for training camp later this summer.
1. VETERAN WHO MOST IMPRESSED YOU THIS OFFSEASON …
John Murphy:I consider Marcell Dareus the most indispensable man on the Bills roster. If he can get back to his form of 2013-14, the Buffalo defense should also return to prominence. So far this offseason, Marcell has shown that he's matured and more serious about his craft than he has appeared to be the last two seasons. He seems focused and has worked hard to get in good condition during his regular appearances at the voluntary workouts.
Chris Brown: I would have to say Ramon Humber. I never really thought of him as an option at linebacker, but his straight line speed is impressive. We'll know a lot more when the pads go on, but he's in the mix for one of the starting outside linebacker positions.
2. MOST IMPRESSIVE BILLS PERFORMER UNDER THE AGE OF 25 …
CB: I'd go with Ronald Darby right now. As many plays as Tre'Davious White made in the OTAs and minicamp, part of the reason was because Darby's coverage was so good, quarterbacks were rarely throwing his way. He seems more locked in than ever and ready to lead the young cornerback contingent.
Murph: Rookie OL Dion Dawkins has stepped right in with the first unit since his first practice with the veterans in early May. The Bills have used him up front at left tackle, but he is likely to wind up challenging Jordan Mills for reps on the right side. His "position versatility" is key for the Bills as they put the pieces of the puzzle together on the offensive line. O-line Coach Juan Castillo says Dawkins is 'ready to start.' "The future lies wherever we need him," Castillo says. "Really it amounts to where we're going to need him."
3. MOST INTERESTING STORYLINE SINCE JANUARY 2017 …**
CB: It's probably coach McDermott's execution of his vision and changing the daily approach to the game every day. Already you can see that the messaging to the players has been clear and straightforward, and everyone in the locker room has fallen in line with the method McDermott believes is essential to success on the field.
Murph: It's an ongoing storyline—Sean McDermott's determined effort to bring a more serious, focused approach to the Bills. The culture change McDermott wants will take longer than a few months in the offseason and likely longer than just one season to implement. But the up tempo, businesslike approach to practice, the strong attendance at the voluntary spring workouts, and the no-nonsense, buttoned down approach McDermott has instilled in the team is already showing up.
4. MOST SURPRISING TRANSACTION …
CB: The ability of this franchise to keep Tyrod Taylor. The club was able to not only alleviate some of their cap concerns, but also kept their best option at the position going forward and convinced Taylor to bet on himself again.
Murph: The biggest surprise came on draft night. The move down 17 spots was a shock, although the Bills had made it know they would move down. Kansas City moved up to get QB Pat Mahomes and the Bills gave up a chance to get him and some other players they were thought to be interested in (TE O.J. Howard, for example). But the Bills filled an immediate need with CB Tre'Davious White and picked up an extra first rounder next year. The second most surprising transaction is the contract extension with QB Tyrod Taylor, a deal many thought they would be unwilling or unable to make.
5. MOST ENGAGING PERSONALITY AMONG NEW BUFFALO BILLS …
CB: Zay Jones. Interviewing him at the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine before the Bills drafted him, he's one of those players who just exudes a quiet confidence. There is no hesitation in the way he comes across. If it's possible to be confident and humble, he's it.
Murph: First round draft pick Tre'Davious White is not only a solid player, but an engaging, bright young man who is extremely well spoken. Two months after the draft, he maintains his upbeat, positive outlook. The birth of his son three days after the draft has made him even more happy and approachable.
6. BEST REVELATION ABOUT THE NEW COACHING STAFF …**
CB: They're willing to add things that have been successful for the team along with what they've done successfully in the past. A lot of coaches are very protective of their ideology when it comes to scheme. However, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and offensive line coach Juan Castillo know Buffalo's run game has excelled with some play concepts that they've never used before. The fact that they've been willing to incorporate some of those concepts into their offensive playbook speaks to their willingness to do what's best for the success of the offense.
Murph: It's the second stint in Buffalo for Offensive Line/Run game coordinator Juan Castillo. He's spent 23 years in the NFL and he's got a wealth of stories to share, including stories about his hometown, Port Isabel Texas, 40 minutes from the Mexican border. "Because I'm in the NFL, they think I'm the greatest thing," he says. "But I told them, 'my sister's a doctor—she's much more accomplished.'" Castillo says his hometown had a day named in his honor recently, and he took the opportunity to thank the folks in Port Isabel who helped his family after his father passed away.
"For me, it was humbling, but I went back and thanked all the people who helped my mom—the grocery store giving us credit, the pharmacy guy giving us credit, because we didn't have the money. It was a great opportunity to go back and thank them," Castillo says.
7. BEST OFF-THE-FIELD STORY …
Murph:Tough to top Shareece Wright's road trip—his 550-mile, $630-dollar Uber ride from Chicago to Buffalo a couple of weeks ago. Wright became a national celebrity once word got out about his desperate effort to make it to minicamp on time.
CB: Coach McDermott meeting with some of the most important players of the early 90's AFC title teams. His sit down dinner with Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Darryl Talley, Steve Tasker and Cornelius Bennett not only endeared himself to Bills fans for the respect he showed to the past for this franchise. He also took notes knowing this wasn't just one of the most talented teams ever, but one of the closest in terms of bond.
8. BEST REVELATION ABOUT THE NEW FRONT OFFICE STAFF …
CB: GM Brandon Beane is not afraid to hire the best he can find. Everyone in a front office or coaching position has an ego in the NFL. You have to have one to get to this level of professional sports. The problem some GMs run into is being reluctant to hire a high caliber personnel man for fear that he might replace them.
Murph: New GM Brandon Beane is a Tar Heel through and through. Born in North Carolina, a graduate of UNC Wilmington—and Beane has spent his entire professional career with the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte (19 years.). He was a likely candidate to replace Dave Gettleman as GM in Carolina eventually, maybe sooner rather than later. Beane says most people thought that was the plan.
"Most definitely," he says. "Everyone assumed at Carolina that's where I was going to be. Even my family assumed that. But I didn't want to close any doors. I wanted to investigate every option and see what was best. I just loved the whole setup here. I fell in love with Terry and Kim in the interview process and I couldn't turn it down."
9. MOST MEMORABLE STORY TOLD BY A GUEST ON THE JOHN MURPHY SHOW …
Murph: Backup cornerback Leonard Johnson had a solid spring on the field. But he has outside interests off the field in the kitchen. Johnson loves to cook and he plans on hosting a cooking TV show sometime down the road. "I try not to critique chefs, but I know for a fact any time I cook, somebody's critiquing me," he said on the show, shortly after he signed on with the Bills. "I just bounce around to homes of different teammates and cook at their place. I make a really good curried chicken."
CB: Zay Jones plans with his older brother Cayleb (WR for Minnesota) to go to L.A. to train with their youngest brother Levi, who is an incoming freshman linebacker at USC to help him get acclimated to the commitment college ball takes. Jones also said they want to bond now, knowing they'll be working far away from one another in the fall.
10. PLAYER YOU HOPE TO SEE STANDOUT ONCE PADS COME ON FOR TRAINING CAMP …
Murph:Back to Dareus again. The Bills desperately need him to be in shape, be focused, and play to his potential. The start of training camp would be a great place for "Mr. Big Stuff" to show how ready he is to be a dominant presence on the defensive line.
CB: Dion Dawkins. We know he's very athletic for a man his size. Now I want to see what kind of temperament he has when he can truly engage with defensive line both in the run and pass game.