NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 3

30 Jan

Part 3 of our annual Buffalo Bills’ season review deals with the defense, a unit that puts up impressive statistics and rankings each season, then has epic failures in the playoffs. Coordinator Leslie Frazier’s troops have put up these shocking numbers in their last 3 postseason defeats – 107 points and 1,403 yards allowed. That averages out to 36 points and 468 yards per game. Not exactly numbers that reflect a championship contender. Here is a position-by-position look at the defense and special teams:


Defensive Line


The play of this unit can best be described as inconsistent. GM Brandon Beane signed a big ticket item in Von Miller, and he delivered until an injury ended his season. The Bills were never able to deliver a consistent pass rush after he was gone. Greg Rousseau had 8 sacks and was stout enough against the run, and A.J. Epenesa chipped in a quiet 6.5 quarterback traps. You could argue that their production was limited by the Bills’ use of a heavy D line rotation. The other edge rushers on the roster are Shaq Lawson and Boogie Basham. Both played hard when they got their opportunities and Basham is still growing as a prospect, but it’s possible that the team isn’t in a rush to bring Lawson back. The interior line was boosted by the free agent signings of DaQuan  Jones and Tim Settle, especially Jones. He was solid in taking on double teams and freeing up Ed Oliver to make more plays. His absence in the playoff loss had a negative effect on the defense as a whole. It’s debatable whether Oliver has lived up to his draft status, but like Basham he still has room to grow. Does the team have time to wait for that growth? His contract will be an issue soon. The last interior defender is veteran Jordan Phillips. He flashed some good play during the season but is only on a one year contract and lacked the one ability that coach Sean McDermott insists is most important – availability. He missed considerable time due to injury.




For a team that regularly plays a scheme that uses only 2 linebackers, the Bills were awfully heavy on the roster at the position. Matt Milano is a bonafide All Pro and Tremaine Edmunds had his best season and is the leader of the defense. His contract is up and it’s not a certainty that the Bills are willing to cough up big dollars to keep him. There has to be a reason why they spent 2 draft picks on the position last year in Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector. Both of those rookies made the squad but only played on special teams most of the year, as did veterans Tyler Matakevich and Tyrel Dodson. A.J. Klein was brought back as added depth during the season but it’s doubtful if he is back. My expectation for 2023 is that the team beefs up the roster at other positions and doesn’t carry 7 backers so there will be subtractions, the question is who will they be?


Defensive Backs


There are 13 players in the mix as this season ends on the back end of the defense. Let’s sort through them, starting with the safeties. Micah Hyde missed most of the season due to injury but was practicing and ready to play at season’s end. He was sorely missed and will be a welcome re-addition next season. However, the Hyde/Jordan Poyer tandem days may be over. Poyer, who was a warrior playing through injuries all year, is about to test the free agent waters and is likely to get an offer Buffalo won’t be willing to match. The depth behind these 2 veterans is full of question marks. Siran Neal is almost strictly a special teamer now, Damar Hamlin’s future as a player is in serious doubt after his horrific incident, Jaquan Johnson got his opportunity to start and never took hold of it, leading to the team bringing back Dean Marlowe as a stop gap who wound up starting. Marlowe played admirably but he is just that, a stop gap. That leaves Jared Mayden, a late-season signee who is a complete unknown. Post-season press conferences revealed that the team is considering moving impressive rookie Christian Benford from cornerback to safety. That move could work out but it’s really just more uncertainty. Cornerback is in good hands going into 2023. Tre’Davious White is back and should be even better, rookie Kaiir Elam looks like a keeper even though the coaches held him back in his development. Taron Johnson is arguably the best slot corner in the NFL, and Dane Jackson is solid. His play may have been better than White’s this year. Cam Lewis also dependable, one of the guys on the roster who is a valuable special teamer but also can actually play the position they’re listed at on the roster. Of course, Benford and Neal can also fill in here in a pinch.


Special Teams


The Bills put a premium on the special teams, maybe too much so. Veterans like Taiwan Jones, Matakevich, Dodson, Kumerow, Neal and Tommy Sweeney have contributed little at their respective positions. Maybe it’s time for younger players like Bernard, Lewis and Spector to infiltrate those spots, freeing up roster spots for important weapons elsewhere. The specialists are all good, solid pros. Long snapper Reid Ferguson, kicker Tyler Bass and punter/holder Sam Martin are a good unit that work well together. It is possible the team brings in competition for Martin, who is 30+. Beane’s trade for Nyheim Hines upgraded the return game also.

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