Even though the Buffalo Bills acquired over 20 new players during the offseason in hopes of improving upon their 6-10 record from the 2018 season, that doesn’t mean the team is without flaws. Buffalo’s front office did a fantastic job on paper of plugging holes in an attempt to construct a complete roster, particularly on the offensive side of the ball to assist quarterback Josh Allen as he develops. But with training camp starting next week, there are still some weaknesses that the Bills will hope to rectify during the preseason as they push to contend for the playoffs during the 2019 NFL Season. Here are the top three roster concerns we’ll be focusing on throughout training camp.
Coming off of the worst statistical season of his career, 31-year old running back LeSean McCoy is out to prove that 2018 was a fluke. Buffalo’s offensive line was atrocious and a big reason why McCoy managed to gain just 514 yards and three scores, averaging a paltry 3.2 yards-per-carry. The team made a concerted effort to prevent that type of performance again, signing center Mitch Morse to a four-year, $44.5 million contract in free agency while adding guards Quinton Spain, Jon Feliciano and Spencer Long, as well as offensive tackles Ty Nsekhe and LaAdrian Waddle.
The Bills also signed 36-year old future Hall of Famer Frank Gore, who is coming off a solid season that saw him produce 722 rushing yards at 4.6 yards-per-carry. T.J. Yeldon was also brought into the mix in free agency. The former Jacksonville Jaguars running back brings size, speed and pass-catching ability to the position group and rookie third-round draft pick Devin Singletary should push for snaps as well.
While McCoy is certainly penciled in as the starter entering training camp, Buffalo knows that they can’t afford a miserable showing on the ground if they hope to make noise in the AFC East this season, and fixing the errors from last year will be paramount to the teams success.
Is linebacker depth a legitimate concern?
Tremaine Edmunds was impressive as a rookie last year, tallying 121 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, seven QB hits, two interceptions, 12 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Matt Milano was spectacular, notching 78 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions, seven pass breakups and three fumble recoveries. Lorenzo Alexander, who played linebacker and defensive end also played at an extremely high level, giving Buffalo fans great hope for the linebacker unit heading into 2019.
However, as good as the three starters were, there is some legitimate concerns regarding the depth at the position. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano each missed time last season and it showed, with Julian Stanford and Corey Thompson being called upon to play significant snaps. The Bills signed Maurice Alexander and drafted a fast and physical, yet raw linebacker in Florida’s Vosean Joseph in order to round out the position group. While the additions are promising, they’ll hope that at least one of the backups can show enough throughout the preseason to give the coaching staff confidence in their abilities beyond just contributing on special teams. Nonetheless, linebacker will be an exciting group to watch in 2019.
Will pass rush show up?
The Bills’ defense struggled to get after opposing quarterbacks last season, recording just 36 sacks. However, with defensive end Trent Murphy fully healthy and Shaq Lawson playing for a new contract, coupled with the addition of No. 9 overall draft pick, Ed Oliver, Buffalo hopes that won’t be the case this year.
Coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier have high expectations for Murphy, who they signed prior to the 2018 season despite him still not being at 100-percent following a knee injury.
“(Trent Murphy) looks like he’s in a different mental space….There’s a lot that goes into that. He’s worked his butt off since he’s been back….He’s a big part of what we plan to do in effecting the quarterback,” McDermott said during the team’s mandatory minicamp.
The Bills hope Oliver can bring the same quickness and penetration ability that the retired Kyle Williams did from the three-technique defensive tackle spot, while Jerry Hughes, who was extended prior to OTAs should theoretically have an easier path to the quarterback due to the improvements across the defensive line. Nonetheless, the pass rush will be critical to the success of the Bills in 2019.