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Top 5 things to know from Bills HC Sean McDermott's press conference at the NFL Combine

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is in full swing as several head coaches and general managers met with the media on Tuesday. Bills head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane spoke to several local and national media members ahead of meeting with several prospects throughout the week.

Here are the top five things to know from McDermott's press conference.

1. McDermott evaluating what to do without Leslie Frazier in 2023

On Tuesday morning, the Bills announced Leslie Frazier has decided to step back from coaching as the Bills defensive coordinator this upcoming season. 

McDermott says Frazier will be missed this year as he's done so much for the defense since he arrived in 2017. The Bills HC explained it will be hard to replace the consistency he brought to the team as someone who had prior experience in a head coaching role.

"I thought he did a really good job with our defense," McDermott shared. "It's a long and hard season. So, he decided to take a year off here. We want the best for him."

When it comes to filling the role of defensive coordinator and defensive play caller, McDermott says they are beginning to weigh their options.

"We're just getting started with that in terms of evaluating who and what," McDermott added. "So, the internal evaluation will continue. We'll just keep taking it one day at a time. I'm extremely confident in the guys that we have and the coaches that we have already in our building, so we'll just see where it goes."

When asked if McDermott could take on the play calling responsibilities since he has done it before, McDermott said he wants to do what is best for the team.

"That's a big part of the consideration there," McDermott said. "That (play calling) is my background. To have this happen on the offensive side, it would not be as big of a consideration, obviously. But again, we'll take it one day at a time and do what we feel is best for the team."

Whether it's McDermott calling plays or looking to hire someone else outside of the building, McDermott said he wants to go through this process the right way and not rush anything.

"I like to do my research to try and make the best possible decision," McDermott said when asked if he would consult someone like Andy Reid who calls his own plays. "Some of that will be calculated and factored in. Andy is one of them that has done it a high level. The offense, to me, is a little bit different than the defense because some of the game-management pieces come up typically when you're on the offensive side as opposed to the defensive, but again, I think that's all part of the information that we factor into this decision."

McDermott said they aren't sure yet if Frazier will help consult the defense.

"We'll see," McDermott said of the possibility. "I can't verify anything because it's new, but we'll see how that cadence works itself out."

2. McDermott is confident in the new additions to his staff

The Bills have added a few new coaches to their staff ahead of the 2023 season – Joe Danna joins on as the safeties coach, Al Holcomb will be the senior defensive assistant and Adam Henry will be the Bills new wide receivers coach. 

McDermott said he "feels good" about all the additions to his staff this season. The HC has yet to work with Danna, who was with the Texans as their safeties coach in 2022.

"Joe Danna came well recommended," McDermott said. "I've never worked with Joe, but he came well recommended, and he's been in the NFL a long time with multiple different teams and coached the safety position in particular. And, he's developed players, all the while. So he's been a great addition to our staff to this point. He's been in the building, and we've been working together on some things and he's off to a great start."

Danna comes to the Bills with 15 years of NFL coaching experience. While McDermott hasn't coached with Danna before, he does have a lot of prior experience with Holcomb. The two coached together in Carolina from 2013 to 2016 when McDermott was the defensive coordinator and Holcomb was the linebackers coach.

"Al Holcomb and I have worked together, and Al has been a coordinator before," McDermott said of Holcomb. "He's coached multiple positions on the defensive side. He was with me on the staff in Carolina when we went to the Super Bowl, so he's a great addition."

Holcomb was the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals in 2019 and the Panthers from 2020 to 2022.

With Chad Hall's departure to Jacksonville, the Bills hired Henry to fill the void. Henry spent 2022 as Indiana University's co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.  

"I think the biggest thing with Adam is he's developed players at all different levels, college, pro and then pros that are like an OBJ, and then you've got some household names that aren't as much of household names and he's developed those players as well," McDermott said of his new coach. "So I think that's what you really look for in a coach is someone that can take what they have and make it better, and so that's what we feel like we have in Coach Henry."

Henry has also had stops with the 49ers, Giants, Browns and Cowboys where he served as their wide receivers coach.

3. Offensive evaluations from 2022

While there was plenty of continuity among offensive players in 2022, you can't say the same for the offensive coaching staff. During his presser, McDermott pointed out the fact that the Bills had multiple new coaches in big coaching roles on offense this past season. 

Ken Dorsey was a first-year play caller and offensive coordinator, Joe Brady was a first-year NFL quarterbacks coach and Aaron Kromer was in his first year as offensive line coach under McDermott.

"A new offensive coordinator, a new o-line coach and a new quarterback coach, all in one season, and you go 13-3," McDermott said. "That's hard to do. That said, much work remains."

McDermott thinks the success Dorsey had in his first season as Buffalo's OC is a great starting point for year two.

"The thing I know about Ken is he's an extremely hard worker," McDermott shared. "He's smart, he's talented. There's a first year for all of us in anything we do, and then the good ones make adjustments as you move forward and you learn from the highs and you learn from the lows. And so, it makes you better as you move forward, so I'm extremely confident in Ken."

Just like Dorsey, McDermott thinks there's plenty that Kromer can learn from this past season to help the team in 2023.

"I thought year one for Coach Kromer was a positive one, a productive one for us," McDermott said. "I thought what you saw was the running game really start to gain traction through the mid to latter part of the season with James (Cook) and what he did as well as Devin (Singletary)."

While McDermott was pleased with the run game at the end of the season, he did add there's room to improve.

"There was also some times when I felt like our quarterback got affected a little bit too early," McDermott said. "So those are things that we have to continue to adjust and address moving forward."

When figuring out how to mesh the success of the run game in one half of the season and the success of the passing offense in the other, McDermott said the offensive staff is hard at work.

"That's what you got to hammer out in the offseason," McDermott said. "Now, that's what you do, you kind of reestablish who you are, what your identity is, and what you want it to be about as you move forward into each new season. And that's where we're hard at work now. The offensive coaches are, if they're not already out here (in Indy), they're on their way out here shortly. 

"But my involvement in that is also we're gonna roll our sleeves up and find the adjustments that we need to make, do the necessary research in those areas, and then grow our offense and move us forward as a team."

4. McDermott: You never replace a player or person like Tremaine Edmunds

Tremaine Edmunds is another big name for the Bills that is set to become a free agent soon. McDermott said it's been fun to watch the linebacker grow as he was drafted at just 19 years old and became the second youngest player to be drafted in NFL history.

"He was such a young player when we first got him out of the draft," McDermott said. "And he's still a young player with his age. But to watch him mature and grow on the field, off the field has been a true joy as a coach. I can tell you that he's a class act."

When thinking of the option that Edmunds could move on to another team, McDermott said you can't replace a player like him.

"You never replace a person or a player like a Tremaine Edmunds, if that's where you're going with that," McDermott said. "Again, we've just got to take it one day at a time and see how it all fits together here."

In his five seasons with the Bills, Edmunds has posted more than 100 total tackles in every single season. He has a total of 565 total tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, 35 passes defensed and five interceptions in his five-year career.

When looking at the depth at the linebacker position, McDermott pointed to Terrel Bernard as someone who needs to have a great offseason.

"Terrel got a little bit of time last year at different positions," McDermott said of the rookie linebacker. "He may have gotten some time at mike, but the most of it was outside, I believe. So, I thought he did some good things. He was mostly used in a special teams capacity. And then Tyrel Dodson got more time at mike but then also touched the outside positions from time to time as well. So, both are good players."

Bernard played in 16 games in 2022 and posted 16 total tackles. Dodson racked up 28 total tackles in 16 games this past season.

5. McDermott is looking forward to see what rookies have to offer in sophomore season

Where will the Bills go with the 27th pick in the first round of this year's NFL Draft? Many mock drafts have Buffalo choosing a wide receiver or a running back with their first pick. While there's always the possibility of it being either of those positions, McDermott likes what he has at both those spots.

"We're confident the guys that we have," McDermott said of the wide receivers on the roster. "I really liked some of what (Kahlil) Shakir did last season for us, and I think he'll take another step for us this offseason into Year 2. And so that'll be a big thing for us. But we look at every position just like we do every year, and if we think a player can help us, ideally we're in a position come draft time where you can take the best player available."

Shakir finished his rookie season with 10 catches for 161 receiving yards and one touchdown in 14 games played.

McDermott thinks running back James Cook can also take a step forward in year two with the Bills.

"I like James Cook, (he) had a really good first season -- in particular, the back half of his first season," McDermott said. "And we look forward to getting him back at the proper time and seeing what he can do in Year 2 for us."

Cook had 89 carries for 507 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and 21 catches for 180 receiving yards in his first season with the Bills.

With Jordan Poyer becoming a free agent and Damar Hamlin's future in the NFL not certain, the Bills could have some competition at the safety position opposite of Micah Hyde this season. McDermott and Brandon Beane have both said Christian Benford offers versatility and position flexibility, but for now would like to keep him at one spot.

"I would say that our plan right now is to start Christian at corner, and we'll see where it goes from there," McDermott said.

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