Football is back and so is hope for the fans of the Buffalo Bills. A 2017 offseason for the Bills saw drastic changes in the organization from top to bottom. Following two Rex Ryan filled seasons that saw the team go a combined 15-16 ownership cleaned house with new coaching and management. The hope of Bills fans is now thrust upon the shoulders of new head coach Sean McDermott. More imperative to the product on the field are the countless transactions that took place in an offseason that saw over 35 players from last seasons Bills squad depart.
Roster turnover is nothing new for a Bills team that continues its 17-year playoff drought. For the 2017 unit, hope lies in the form of the enormous upside many of the young Bills players have. High upside, something that was lacking from a team a season ago especially on the offensive side of the ball. Stocking up on talent, the Bills brought in fullbacks Mike Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco to add to a rushing attack that has been top in the league over the past two seasons. The backs will look to not only give a boost blocking but also pick up some of the carries that will be available following the departure of Mike Gillislee. “Mike’s playing both fullback and halfback and has had a nice camp so far. [He] came into camp in shape,” explained McDermott.
Most notably for the Bills offense are the additions to the passing game that at times was one of the worst in the league a season ago. The 37th pick in this year’s draft, Zay Jones can play an enormous role in this passing attack that has been looking for a number two option behind Sammy Watkins and even number one when considering his injury history.
“You don’t find a lot of young receivers that can manage the mental part of the game that way. He’s had a nice camp to date,” said McDermott. “I like how he’s catching the football and you watch him get better and better each day in understanding the system and understanding what it’s going to take to play at this level.”
The biggest changes in accordance to the roster were also in one of the Bills’ biggest problem areas, the defense, specifically the secondary. A secondary that gave up nearly 3,600 yards in the air suffered big losses in that of starting safety and corner Corey Graham. Looking to fill the voids will be big free-agent acquisition Michael Hyde as well as first round pick Tre’Davious White.
“We’re excited about what we’re seeing and there’s a lot more football to be played, but for a rookie, he’s done a really good job up to this point,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “He’s shown in college, and he’ll show it here as well – we’re seeing it in practice – that when something like that happens, someone catches the ball, he’s a quick learner. He makes adjustments in midstream so we’re not really concerned about some of those things that might happen now. It’s more important that he learns and continues to progress, but he’s shown ability to have a short memory and you’ve got to have that at the corner position in the National Football League.”
Though perhaps not receiving as much fanfare as White, second-year players Kevin Seymour, Reggie Ragland, and Shaq Lawson look to be the future of this defense. In a defense under a new coach and following a down year these rising talents can take on substantial roles in this defense. Ragland and Lawson, in particular, look to stay on the field following a rookie season that saw them both miss time due to injury. These injuries provided the opportunity for veteran Lorenzo Alexander to have a career year and provide valuable leadership on the field.
For a Bills team looking to put a halt to their seemingly never-ending playoff drought, strong performances in training camp are a good start. Continued success and improvements from all throughout the organization are essential to the success of the 2017 season. With the start of the season barely underway, players, coaches, and fans alike all know to take every day and every play in stride.
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