Dear Bills Mafia,
The Buffalo Bills are back to being the hunter and not the hunted.
The focus on the journey and not just February has cleared up.
The pressure from national pundits has been parked.
The “Super Bowl or Bust” narrative has evaporated.
So, let’s get back to wrapping our football-loving arms around the experience and not looking to skip beyond the plot development.
Join me in taking a deep breath, sitting back, and relaxing as I guide you through the Top 10 Most Important Bills NOT named Josh Allen for the 2023 NFL season.
For this series, I asked the crew to NOT give me the best players on the team, but to take some time and think of the most important players. I’ll give you a sneak peek into mine: I have Spencer Brown as my No. 1. Why? If he can become a legit starting level RT, the Bills’ line goes from below average to average or better with the flip of that switch. That was the microscope through which we examined these rankings.
Now that the stage is set, here is what you can expect in the following articles:
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— Cover 1 (@Cover1) July 25, 2022
Five members of the Cover1 crew provided a top 10 list. This is where I developed my player rankings. A first-place vote was worth 10 points, and a tenth-place was worth one point, with the scale continuing in between. I compiled those numbers for each Bills’ total, for our final 1-10 rankings. In the articles, you will see the total points and if the player received a first-place vote(s).
If you’re reading this article, I believe you’re a fan beyond opening the box score on Monday (or the day after the game) morning and deriving your opinions from simple stats. While counting stats gives us a quick look at who is excelling at surface stats, analytics peel back the layers a bit further. Here we will check out Pro Football Focus (PFF), utilize Football Outsiders with their DVOA, dip our toes into NFL’s Sports Info Solutions (SIS), slide into Pro Football Reference’s approximate values, and more.
While I believe analytics do a better job of painting a precise picture of a player’s contributions, counting stats are still important. Here is the area where we look at the box score numbers most fans are familiar with; yards, touchdowns, interceptions, tackles, etc. I will break those down from a historical perspective, versus their position, and seasonal ranks.
Let’s agree that anyone can put a list together. I could task my 8-year-old daughter with naming ten Bills players. What sets this apart is the in-depth commentary provided for each ranking. In the following pieces, the staffers gave a sentence or two shining some light on why they scored each Bill where they did, providing you, the fan, with some explanation of the rankings aside from guiding you strictly to numbers and analytics. This is where I believe Cover 1 sets itself apart.
Others Receiving Votes:
The following players did not receive enough points to sneak into the Top 10, but did receive at least one point:
Micah Hyde: “You could plug either Jordan Poyer or Micah Hyde into this spot, I’ll take the latter. The Bills need at least one, preferably both, of their stud safeties to be on the field for the majority of the 2023 season. Having Hyde specifically reduces the long balls opponents can hit on the Bills while simultaneously making all the players in front of him better,” – @UberHansen.
DaQuan Jones: “DaQuan Jones’ impact perhaps shows up more on film than it does in the box score. He’s not only a stout run defender and deceivingly strong pass rusher, but his presence allows Buffalo’s defense to function as intended. His ability to occupy blockers not only opens up more opportunities for fellow defensive linemen and pass rushers, it also allows the linebackers and, by proxy, the secondary, to properly operate. He was perhaps most noticed last season in a game he didn’t play — Jones missed the Divisional Round matchup with the Bengals, and the Bills visibly could not stop Joe Mixon or get consistent pressure on Joe Burrow. Jones maintaining his level of play will be crucial for Buffalo’s defense in 2023, especially as the unit adjusts to life without Tremaine Edmunds and Leslie Frazier,” – @kylesilagyi.
Tyler Bass: “Maybe a bit of a dark horse for a Top-10 important player for Buffalo, but Tyler Bass is exactly that. He’s a Top-5 Kicker in the league, and he’s not #5, providing the Bills with a weapon that they can unleash in critical moments of games. Bass will be called upon multiple times to drill game-winning/tying kicks in 2023, and the importance of him accomplishing just that cannot go understated,” – @UberHansen.
O’Cyrus Torrence: “Bills run game was solid over the second half of 2022. Plugging in a road grader could make the Bills run game a force,” – @SportsRoc2.
Leonard Floyd: “If the Bills get Rams Leonard Floyd, the Bills will have three top-half of the league pass rushers,” – @SportsRoc2.
Poona Ford: “A legit one technique to clog the middle and free up EDGE like Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, Leonard Floyd and co. was one of the biggest needs for the Bills this offseason and Brandon Beane struck gold in signing Ford away from the Seahawks. The Texas Longhorn product tips the scale at over 310 lbs while standing 5’11”. He’s a massive bowling ball standing on a pair of redwood trees for legs. Now that you have a visualization, let’s get into the meat of his football card. Ford recorded 35 tackles last season, including 14 hurries and three sacks. Pro Football Focus (PFF) has his missed tackle rate at 7.9% which ranks 19th among qualified (50% of snaps) DTs, just ahead of some dude named Aaron Donald. What might make Sean McDermott the happiest is that Ford wasn’t flagged on a single play in 2022 while accounting for 15 stops.” – @GregVorse
Mitch Morse: “Mitch Morse is unquestionably the unsung hero of Buffalo’s offensive line and is debatably the best player of the unit. He makes a noticeable difference when on the field, and the quality of the unit’s play visibly drops when he’s off it. The issue throughout Morse’s career, however, has been an inability to stay healthy. He has had six documented concussions throughout his eight professional seasons. Morse staying on the field will be paramount in the Bills’ offensive line taking a step forward this season, and on a human level, I simply don’t want to see this man suffer another concussion,” – @KyleSilagyi.
James Cook: “To quote a wise Cover 1 writer who may or may not be authoring this series, ‘don’t pay attention to what Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane say, pay attention to what they do.’ They’ve spoken for years about their desire to lessen the physical toll that quarterback Josh Allen takes in the ground game, but this year, they’ve actually made a concerted effort to protect him, signing former Dallas guard Connor McGovern to a healthy contract in free agency before selecting O’Cyrus Torrence in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. This could signal a shift toward fewer designed runs and less running, in general, for Allen, and if this is the case, James Cook is going to see an increase in usage. The former second-round pick was a complementary back for Devin Singletary last year, and while he still figures to be part of a committee this season, he’s now the lead back. More production out of Cook will allow Buffalo’s offense to become more well-rounded while taking some of the weight off Allen’s shoulders, proverbially and literally,” – @kylesilagyi.
Tre White: “He is supposed to be the Bills’ alpha corner. Bills need him to return to form,” – @SportsRoc2.
Ed Oliver: “He has been paid. It is time to play like it,” – @SportsRoc2.
Taron Johnson: “It’s becoming more and more likely the Bills are going to field a relatively light defense in 2023. It’s also unlikely that Buffalo sees any real movement away from Nickel+ this season, escalating the importance of Taron Johnson as a Slot CB and Pseudo-LB. Johnson must continue to dominate in his role, otherwise the Bills could see a significant drop off in their defensive versatility and efficiency this season,” – @UberHansen.
Now that you’re salivating like me at a prime rib buffet, we will start the list at No. 10… dropping Friday.