Five Players the Bills Need to Step Up


It’s no secret that the Buffalo Bills haven’t assembled the deepest roster in the NFL. The team lacks depth in several obvious position groups (e.g. wide receiver, offensive line), but if the Bills plan to be successful in 2018, they’re going to need some backups to step up and have more than just a behind-the-scenes role. Here’s a look at five of the non-starters the Bills will need to step up in hopes of turning Sean McDermott’s second season into another success:


Chris Ivory, RB: LeSean McCoy is still one of the top running backs in the league. However, he’s also another year older, so Buffalo was wise to bring in a veteran back like Ivory to help with some of those touches. Ivory (30 years old) isn’t a young man himself, but he’s been a proven running back for some time. Although he struggled with Jacksonville last year, a change in scenery and backing up one of the league’s best could work wonders for the nine-year vet. Of course, in addition to Ivory, the Bills need either Travaris Cadet or Marcus Murphy to step up and be a consistent change-of-pace back on third downs or in long yardage situations.


Jeremy Kerley, WR: Admittedly, it was hard to select any of the receivers on Buffalo’s roster without knowing who would start this season. Going with Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones as the starters — barring any other offseason moves — I chose Kerley because he has a proven track record and the ability to lead a younger group of wideouts. Like Ivory, Kerley’s production was way down with the Jets last season, but he is just two years removed from a 64-catch, 667-yard season. Kerley is also the early favorite to get touches as the kick and punt returner, and those extra opportunities should give him plenty of chances to contribute for the Bills in 2018.


Shaq Lawson, DE: Barring any changes in training camp and the preseason, Lawson has lost his starting role to newly-signed Trent Murphy. Despite this, the Bills will — and should — be relying on some production out of their former first-round selection. Despite showing early promise, Lawson is seemingly heading towards the ‘bust’ category if he doesn’t start getting after opposing quarterbacks at a higher clip. His snap count will be diminished next season, but he still should get his chances when the Bills want to use him off the edge. By all accounts, Lawson was one of the hardest working and most improved players at minicamp, but the Bills will need him to bring that onto the field next year.

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Logan Thomas, TE: Ever since the Bills signed Thomas in the waning weeks of the Rex Ryan era, there’s always been the expectation that he could develop into a threat in the NFL. To this point, it hasn’t happened. However, with those question marks at the wide receiver position and a new offensive system, there’s no better time for Thomas to take that leap. For all the holes on the offense, Buffalo has built up a talented unit at the position. Charles Clay is very effective when healthy, and Nick O’Leary has proven to be reliable in key situations. To date, Thomas has six catches for 67 yards with the Bills, and while there is no concrete reason to believe that he will break out in 2018, he will certainly be given the opportunity. The six-foot-six, 250-pound converted quarterback is the tallest player on the team’s roster.


Phillip Gaines, CB: The two starting cornerback roles will belong to Tre’Davious White and Vontae Davis, but Gaines is still expected to play a big role in the secondary at the nickel position. He’ll be battling rookie Taron Johnson for that job, but regardless of who plays in those types of defensive situations, the Bills will still rely on Gaines in their defensive rotation. Although he only started 16 career games over his four seasons with Kansas City, he has shown several flashes of being a reliable cover guy during that time. The depth in the Bills’ secondary was tested last season, with players like Shareece Wright underperforming when called upon in pass situations or because of injuries. The Bills will certainly rely on Gaines to give them a bit more than Wright did, while also hoping Taron Johnson can develop into an NFL-caliber player.