What we learned from Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane at the Senior Bowl

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MOBILE, AL. Senior Bowl week — the first significant step forward in the offseason. The Bills brain trust is in Mobile, Alabama watching 114 of the draft prospects go through a week of pro practices and then asking them questions.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott fielded a variety of questions Tuesday in between the first two practices of Senior Bowl week. Here are some of the highlights.

1. MCDERMOTT’S COACHING STAFF ALMOST COMPLETE

The Bills have yet to name a new wide receivers coach, and Sean McDermott says he’s still “going through the process” on that hire.

However, McDermott hired former Bills assistant Bobby Johnson as the new offensive line coach last week. Johnson has been in the league for nine years, but this is his first shot at being the coach in charge of the offensive line.

“Bobby’s been around the league a long time,” McDermott told the media in Mobile. “He coached offensive line in college, he’s been an assistant o-line coach in the league.”

“Bobby is a student of the game, he embraces the growth mindset. You spend five minutes with him and you’re going to be able to connect rather quickly. That’s the type of guy he is and the type of teacher he is.’

 McDermott also has high regard for his new special teams coordinator Heath Farwell. He’s only coached three seasons, but he played special teams at a high level for ten years.

“We decided to go with a young guy with great energy and we take a leap of faith that he’s going to continue to grow and learn, and in this case, we can grow our own,” McDermott said about Farwell. “I liked the energy he brought to the interview. I liked the thirst for knowledge and taking advantage of situations.”

2. BILLS HAVE NEEDS, BUT THEY WON’T DRAFT FOR NEED

It’s the start of the shopping season for Bills scouts and personnel department execs. They have ten draft picks to use this year. And they have needs.

But GM Beane says when it’s time to take the names off the draft board in three months, the Bills personnel needs will not be the deciding factor.

“I’m always going to be emphatic about that, “Beane says. “And people might say, well, last year you needed a quarterback and you drafted one. My answer to that would be at 21, we moved up to where we had to be to get that. If we had stayed at 21 and just taken whatever quarterback was left, that would have been drafting for need.”

“We’re at nine and we’re going to take the best player, offense or defense. We’ll continue to do that rounds two, three and beyond.”

3. SENIOR BOWL A LOT DIFFERENT FROM LAST YEAR FOR THE BILLS

A year ago, the Bills focus at the Senior Bowl was on the quarterbacks. It was all about the quarterbacks. First round picks Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen were here, and GM Brandon Beane says he spent most of his time at the Senior Bowl observing and evaluating quarterbacks. He’s not doing that this year and he’s OK without the QB focus.

“It’s better,” he said. “It’s a stressful thing to do and go through—just the uncertainty. Last year we were sitting here at 21 and 22, and you’re going, ‘man there are some good guys out there, but how do you get up in the top ten and how far do you have to go.’ It’s weird—this year we’re in the top ten and we don’t need to be. It’s funny how it all works out. It’s nice to be able to focus a little bit more of our energy on all the positions.”

Each year, the Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Alabama, gives NFL hopefuls another chance to showcase their skills. In honor of the 2019 game, which will be played this Saturday, Jan. 26, we take a look back at current Bills players during their time at the Senior Bowl.

4. BILLS LOOKING FOR EVEN MORE LEADERSHIP FROM ‘ZO

The Bills wasted no time getting veteran LB Lorenzo Alexander locked down with a one-year contract extension. They signed him last week, before he even got close to the free agent market in March.

The reason—his high level of play last season and his continued leadership.

“His leadership for our organization is big,” McDermott says. “It’s big for me and it’s big for our team to able to bring a guy like Lorenzo back for another year.”

“When you look at the impact of losing Kyle—that’s a tough guy to replace. I don’t think you’re ever going to replace Kyle Williams. But a guy like Lorenzo, he’s been around Kyle and has his own way of doing things—his own personality, his own leadership style in his own right.”

5. JOSH ALLEN ALREADY BACK TO WORK WITH PALMER

One of the top QB prospects at the Senior Bowl, UB’s Tyree Jackson, told reporters in Mobile he’s been working out already with QB guru Jordan Palmer at his QB Summit Camp in California. His teacher? Josh Allen’s guy, Jordan Palmer. And Jackson says Josh Allen is already back at work at the camp in Southern California.

That’s good, according to Sean McDermott.

“We respect and trust what Jordan does out there and understanding Josh’s relationship and trust with Jordan, I think that relationship is a good one,” McDermott said. “We’ll be in touch with Jordan and make sure we’re synched up there as much as possible in terms of terminology, technique, things we feel like he needs work on. Josh already went out there equipped with much of that when he left Buffalo.”

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