NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 3

29 Jan

Part 3 of our annual Buffalo Bills’ season review deals with the defense. Coach Sean McDermott made a major change here in 2023. Former coordinator Leslie Frazier was eased out, and McDermott took over calling the defense on game days. The regular season results of that move were positive. The Bills maintained a high ranking, but at the same time finished second behind the Ravens in sacks and ranked high in turnovers produced, producing more “splash plays” that McDermott desired. However, in the playoff loss to the Chiefs, the unit was once again gashed, in many ways due to a rash of injuries, especially at linebacker.

Here is a position-by-position look at the defense and special teams:


Defensive Line


Defensive line play was spotty, but mostly adequate, in 2023. On the interior, Ed Oliver signed a new contract and showed that he deserved it with All Pro-caliber play all year. With almost no players signed beyond this season, this is another area that might require an infusion of youth through the draft. A priority should be put on trying to re-sign Oliver’s running mate, DaQuan Jones. He’s a valuable run stuffer whose presence is sorely missed when he’s not on the field. All of the other spare tackles – Tim Settle, Poona Ford, Linval Joseph, Jordan Phillips and practice squad player Eli Ankou – are replaceable. On the outside edges, the team has to live with Von Miller’s contract, so they can only hope he returns to some semblance of his former self in 2024. At his advanced age that might be a big ask. Greg Rousseau is a solid edge rusher who also is good against the run. The club would be wise to try to re-sign A.J. Epenesa, who flashed in a limited role at end. One of Beane’s free agent one year gems, Leonard Floyd, led the team in sacks and might price himself off the Bills’ roster next season. Like his running mate Phillips, Shaq Lawson has probably worn out his welcome, and would only be brought back as a depth piece at a minimum contract. The coaching staff seems to like the future possibilities of Kingsley Jonathan, so he could move into a more prominent role next season.




This group was a MASH unit at season’s end in 2023. They were heavily victimized by Pat Mahomes in their season-ending playoff loss. However, the pairing of Matt Milano and Terrel Bernard bodes well for the 2024 season. Milano is an All Pro and Bernard is trending in that direction after a stellar campaign this year. An unknown to start the year, he took on the “green dot” role of calling the defense and excelled at it. As for backups, having to step into major spots this year will help players like Tyrel Dodson, Baylon Spector and Dorian Williams next year. Old friend A.J. Klein will likely be sent back out on vacation in 2024, and Tyler Matakevich is strictly a special teams player. His role could easily be transitioned to another player like Spector or Williams if the team needs to free up a roster spot for another position.


Defensive Backs


Suddenly, the back end of the Bills’ defense is growing old. Starting cornerback Tre’Davious White will be entering his 8th season next year, and he has become injury-prone. The Bills would be smart not to count on him returning, at least not at the beginning of the year. The safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer has served the team well since 2017, but their partnership may be coming to an end as both are well into their 30s. Dane Jackson, like Levi Wallace before him, has been a serviceable corner for years. He is a free agent and like Wallace, may be allowed to walk. With Hyde and Poyer aging out, it would behoove Beane to try to bring Taylor Rapp back again. Even without White, the Bills have 2 adequate starting corners for 2024 in Christian Benford and trade deadline add Rasul Douglas, who is a ballhawk. In reserve there is still Kaiir Elam, who has struggled but still has plenty of potential to revive his career next season. The Bills have an All Pro at slot corner in Taron Johnson, an invaluable member of their defense. Cam Lewis has established himself as a versatile piece. He can play safety or nickel corner, and is a core special teamer. In my opinion the team may be underutilizing Siran Neal. A vet who can play both safety and CB and is a top gunner on special teams, he should see more time on defense, especially when injuries happen. With possible openings at safety next year, can Damar Hamlin make a push to get into the lineup?


Special Teams


The Bills’ special teams were not special in 2023. Deonte Harty’s punt return touchdown that changed the momentum of the division-clinching win over Miami was the highlight.


  • Allowing a game winning punt return TD against the Jets on opening night
  • 12 men on the field vs. Denver
  • Blocked field goal in wild card game that resulted in the punter getting hurt
  • Missed field goal to end the divisional playoff game

Placekicker Tyler Bass had an alarmingly mediocre season in 2023. At the very least, the team has to bring in competition for him next season. No free pass to the roster as he’s had so far in his career. Punter Sam Martin was equally inconsistent, bad to start the year, then hit a very strong stretch late, only to fail in the playoff loss coming off a hamstring injury. Competition for him would be a smart move also. Long snapper Reid Ferguson is a keeper. I can’t recall any bad snaps for him in his career here. Buffalo could look to add some zip to their return game next year. Harty gave them one amazing and very important lift in the season ender, but overall the return game was below par. Maybe the return of Nyheim Hines will help, but a late round flyer on a speedy return guy might be an option.

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