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'We have a farm system here' | Young players step up in Bills' victory over Houston

Jaquan Johnson (46) celebrates with Micah Hyde (23) and Stefon Diggs (14). Buffalo Bills vs Houston Texan at Highmark Stadium October 3, 2021. Photo by Ben Green
Jaquan Johnson (46) celebrates with Micah Hyde (23) and Stefon Diggs (14). Buffalo Bills vs Houston Texan at Highmark Stadium October 3, 2021. Photo by Ben Green

Trust in the youth.

Heading into the Week 4 matchup against the Texans, the Bills had a few injured starters that weren't able to play. The young players on this Bills team stepped up and made big plays which helped the team beat Houston 40-0. 

Defensive backs Cam Lewis and Jaquon Johnson filled in for Taron Johnson and Jordan Poyer and both players had big games in the shutout win. Lewis had five tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass defensed and one forced fumble, all career highs for Lewis. Johnson snagged his first career interception and had one pass defensed. 

Team captain Micah Hyde complemented both defensive backs after the game. 

"Quan (Jaquan Johnson), since day one coming into this organization, has worked his (butt) off," Hyde said. "There was no doubt in my mind that he was going to go out there and ball out. Same thing for Cam. We call him 'Buffalo Cam.' He's from here. He's been working his (butt) off too."

Both Lewis and Johnson have been on the team since 2019 and have had the opportunity to learn from a skilled and talented defensive backs room. This is the third career start for Lewis and the first for Johnson. Lewis believes that the Bills group of defensive backs is the best in the league. 

"We believe that any of our [defensive backs] right now from the active roster to the practice squad can go play on anybody's team," Lewis said. "When we get that opportunity, I feel like we show that every time the guys are elevated. When [Jaquan] goes in or Damar goes in, and we just play our ball and that's Buffalo Bills football. DBs, we pride ourselves for being the best in the world and we try to go out there and show it."

The Bills defense held the Texans to 109 total yards of offense with only six first downs and a 11% conversion rate on third down. The team was able to plug and play different defenders and still play at a very high level throughout the game. The defense had Texans rookie Davis Mills confused which led to him only completing 11 out of his 21 pass attempts for 87 yards and four interceptions. Tremaine Edmunds knows this is only the beginning for the young players on the team. 

"First of all, I just want to congratulate those guys," Edmunds said. "I'm extremely happy for those guys the way they prepared throughout this week. They were real confident when they stepped out on that field. That's what you look for in guys who are stepping in. Those guys were ready. That goes back to the preparation they put in; guys were able to make plays, not just being out there, but making plays that dictated the game."

Since Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane took over in Buffalo, depth has always been a point of emphasis as they built up this football team. Most positions on this team have had great depth for a couple of years and this season they are the deepest. With Sunday's game as a prime example, the Bills kept on rolling even with a few starters out. As a veteran, Hyde appreciates that this team values having depth and knows the importance of it. 

"The other day, we talked about how we have a farm system here," Hyde added. "It kind of feels like college. You've got the seniors; you've got the guys underneath us that are just working, and they can't wait for their opportunities. Today was one of them. But can't say enough about Quan (Jaquan Johnson) and Cam. These guys are the Buffalo Bills through and through. Put their head down and work and come out with each opportunity and ball out."

Lots of smiles and good vibes from Buffalo's 40-0 win over Houston.

On offense, Bills rookie Spencer Brown started the first game of his career and did a good job protecting Josh Allen. He is just another one of the Bills' 2021 rookie class that has already seen game time and has brought value to this team. Teammate Zack Moss was impressed by Brown's performance in his first start.

"He did a good job stepping in," Moss stated. "Being a rookie, he handled his business the right way. So, it was fun to go out there and play with him. He's a really good player so definitely looking forward to a long season with him."

The Bills are set up for long-term success with the stars they have on the roster along with the depth players following and learning behind them. For all the young players that filled in on Sunday it is crucial for their development to get starts in games that matter and will help them become better football players. Coach McDermott had no doubt that these players were up for the challenge against the Texans.

"The depth that we have on our football team is important," McDermott said. "Give the coaches credit – they had the players ready to go – and give the players credit. Those guys had themselves ready to go. And I would throw Ike Boettger in there as well, filling in for Jon there. That's what you've got to be able to do. This is life in the NFL, it ebbs and flows."

Ed Oliver thinks defense still has more to prove.

The Bills defense continued their hot streak to start off the 2021 campaign. Through four weeks the Bills defense held teams to an average of 216 yards per game and have only allowed 44 points scored. With two shutout wins in the first four weeks of the season, the Bills joined the 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the 1990 Washington Football Team as the only teams to do so since 1990. Even with all the success, Ed Oliver knows they have to keep getting better in order to achieve their goals. 

"We really ain't proven nothing," Oliver said. "It doesn't matter until you get into them later months. The playoffs, that's what I found out in this league, it don't matter what you do right now, it's about how you play then. We building up to play well then. We just putting the reps in, getting the work in, so we know what time it is when we get there."

Allen on Dawson Knox

Dawson Knox continues to have the best start to a season in his tenure with the Bills. Against Houston, Knox had a career-high five receptions for 37 yards and two touchdowns. It's the first time in the tight end's career that he's had multiple receptions in a game and the 25-yard touchdown was the longest touchdown reception of his career. Josh Allen has seen all the work Knox has put in and is so proud to see it translate on the field this season.

"You see the progression and how he's done everything right," Allen said. "Whether it be blocking, whether it be pass catching to running routes. He just finds ways to get open. I have supreme trust in this guy right here and he's only going to continue to get better. … You can't not trust him because he works so hard and he continues to make plays for this team."