The 2018 season was one filled with highs and lows for the Buffalo Bills. The team lacked talent on the offensive side of the ball and they ultimately finished with a 6-10 record. After an offseason that saw massive overhaul to multiple position groups, expectations are high. With training camp just six weeks away, here’s a look at five Buffalo Bills players that have the most to prove heading into the 2019 NFL season. This doesn’t necessarily mean these players are on the hot seat, but they will be pushing to either make a name for themselves, prove doubters wrong, or solidify a significant role for themselves.
QB Josh Allen
There might not be a more scrutinized quarterback in the NFL than Buffalo’s Josh Allen. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was one of the most highly criticized prospects to enter the league in recent years. After a rough start to his rookie season, Allen was exceptional down the stretch. Now, heading into his second season with an upgraded supporting cast and one full year of experience in Brian Daboll’s system under his belt, Josh Allen is looking to prove that he does, indeed, belong.
In 12 games, Allen completed 52.8-percent of his passes for 2,074 yards, averaging 6.5 yards-per-attempt. He threw 10 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, adding 631 rushing yards and eight scores on 89 carries.
The Bills retooled their offensive line, making Mitch Morse the highest-paid center in the NFL. They added veteran offensive tackles Ty Nsekhe and LaAdrian Waddle, who will compete with rookie second-round draft pick Cody Ford to man the right tackle position. Veteran guards Quinton Spain, Jon Feliciano and Spencer Long were added to compete with Wyatt Teller for both starting jobs alongside Morse.
Allen will also benefit from the additions of speedy wideout John Brown, who has proven himself to be a lethal downfield threat. Cole Beasley is one of the NFL’s premier slot receivers and he’ll be a reliable target in the middle of the field for the Wyoming product. Zay Jones and Robert Foster showed good chemistry with Allen during the second half of the 2018 season and both should see their production increase.
The table is set for Josh Allen to prove himself worthy of his top-10 draft status from a season ago.
RB LeSean McCoy
Veteran running back LeSean McCoy has long been one of the elite ball-carriers in the NFL but his 2018 season was one to forget. He posted the worst statistical season of his career, gaining 514 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 161 carries (3.2 yards-per-carry). The Bills desperately need an improved rushing attack if they hope to take pressure off of Josh Allen, who led the team in rushing. Buffalo added future Hall of Famer Frank Gore as a free agent to help push McCoy and provide him with a respected voice in the locker room. They also added T.J. Yeldon, a big, athletic runner that’s proven to be quite the weapon in the passing game.
In the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Bills drafted Devin Singletary, a small, but shifty and quick rusher that amassed 4,287 rushing yards, scoring 66 touchdowns while averaging six yards-per-carry during his collegiate career at Florida Atlantic University. McCoy is the expected starter heading into the 2019 season, but unlike last year, his leash will likely be short as Buffalo has added quality depth to the position. Now is the time for McCoy to prove that he still is capable of being a top-10 running back in the league.
LT Dion Dawkins
Dion Dawkins is heading into his third year with the Buffalo Bills after being selected with the No. 63 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. As a rookie, Dawkins played at a high level, ultimately making former left tackle Cordy Glenn expendable. But in 2018, his play took a step back, likely due to the losses of Richie Incognito and Eric Wood, two quality veterans that lined up next to him.
Pro Football Focus ranked Dion Dawkins as Buffalo’s third-highest graded offensive player in 2018, but the Temple product will be expected to take his game to the next level if he wants to solidify himself as Josh Allen’s blindside protector for the foreseeable future.
DE Shaq Lawson
The Bills declined to pick up former first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson’s fifth-year option for the 2020 season, meaning that the former Clemson star is entering a contract year. Lawson has failed to live up to his high draft billing, In three years, Lawson racked up just 76 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles and eight pass breakups. In 2018, he enjoyed the best season of his young career, though. He played in 14 games, making six starts and tallied 30 tackles, five tackles for loss, four sacks, 12 QB hits, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Lawson knows that this will be a make-or-break season and with fellow defensive end Trent Murphy penciled in as the starter opposite Jerry Hughes heading into training camp, he’ll have an uphill climb if he is to earn the contract that he’s surely seeking.