Sean McDermott’s Buffalo Bills have a lot of familiar faces on his bolstered defense.
After going 17 consecutive seasons without making a postseason appearance, head coach Sean McDermott has led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs two of the past three years. And now the team looks to win both a division title and a playoff game for the first time since 1995.
Quarterback Josh Allen hopes to take another step forward in his third season. Devin Singletary is now the main man in the backfield and general manager Brandon Beane gave up plenty to acquire big-play wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings.
He joins John Brown and Cole Beasley and gives Allen another big-play option. Last offseason, the organization bolstered an offensive line in need of help and it paid off in a big way.
This year, Beane put an emphasis on adding to a defensive unit that was one of the best in the league but was still in need of assistance. And he and McDermott brought aboard a few familiar faces in cornerback Josh Norman, linebacker A.J. Klein and defensive linemen Mario Addison and Vernon Butler.
All four one-time Carolina Panthers figure to be starters this season, with Butler supplanting Star Lotulelei after the latter opted out this season. Defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson was a free-agent addition from Seattle and he and Addison have already formed quite the mutual admiration society.
“For an old guy, he can move,” laughed Jefferson recently via Jenna Callari of WKBW Buffalo. “Just watching him work and picking his brain and how he goes about rushing the passer and some of the moves he uses. Ten years in, he’s still moving like a young guy.”
“Quinton is a beast,” added Addison. “Quinton is one of those guys that’ll fool you. You think he can’t play on the inside, but when he gets in there, he’s beasting people.”
It’s also worth noting that the club used its top selection in April on Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa, a second-round pick.
How good can the Buffalo Bills defense be in 2020?
The transformation on defense has been steady. In McDermott’s first season in 2017, the Bills were 26th in the league in total yards allowed per game while only three teams in the NFL allowed more yards on the ground.
One year later, Buffalo finished second in total defense, first against the pass, but was a mediocre 16th vs. the run. This past year, McDermott’s squad allowed only 259 points and 27 offensive touchdowns.
There were a solid 44 sacks (16 by the combination of Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson, now members of the Cardinals and Dolphins, respectively) and 23 takeaways. And only two teams in the NFL allowed fewer total yards per game. But the run defense was still an issue and inconsistent at best.
In 10 wins, Buffalo allowed 86.3 yards per game on the ground. In six losses, McDermott’s team allowed 131 yards per game rushing. And in the frustrating overtime Wild Card loss to the Texans, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s unit (which sacked Deshaun Watson seven times) allowed Houston to run for 141 yards.
This was already a defense that included Pro Bowlers such as linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and cornerback Tre’Davious White, the latter also earning All-Pro honors as well and a player then has impressed Norman (via Jared Dubin of CBS Sports.com). There’s also promising Ed Oliver, who finished with five sacks as a rookie in 2019.
With a slew of veteran additions familiar with McDermott and with the defense in another year of his system, the Buffalo Bills’ defense is on course to have a huge year. And perhaps the biggest showing of any defense in the league in 2020.