BUFFALO, N.Y. [WKBW] — Welcome to the NFL offseason.
For Buffalo Bills fans, these conversations have been had for a few weeks now. But after watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, some important ideas were reinforced.
With some clarity on the NFL salary cap [approximately $180M according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter], the roster talk will start to pick up. Like many teams, the Bills won’t have a ton of wiggle room unless they get creative and part ways with some notable players. We’ll save that discussion for another day, but while watching the Super Bowl, two major things stood out:
The Bills need to add pass rushers and they need to be more effective in the run game.
How many times have we heard games are won and lost in the trenches? Sunday was the perfect example. The Bucs pressured Patrick Mahomes on 29 of 56 dropbacks and they barely blitzed. When you’re getting that kind of production without having to blitz, you’re going to be able to contain an offense. Or in the case of the Super Bowl, shut down one of the most prolific teams in NFL history.
When looking at the Bills roster, they have some effective pass rushers with Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, and Ed Oliver. But they need to get better and younger on the defensive line.
Hughes had a very strong season and despite his $9.45 million cap hit in 2021, I’d expect him back. I’m not sure if we can say the same for Addison. He had some flashes but finished with just five sacks in 15 regular-season games played. Sacks will never tell the entire story but his first year in Buffalo left a lot to be desired. If the Bills part ways with Addison, they’d save about $6 million next year.
If A.J. Epenesa takes strides in his second season that will help, but the Bills should be looking to add someone else and I expect they will.
As for the running backs, the Bills need to be more effective on the ground. That doesn’t mean they need to run the ball more, it just means when they do run, they need more production.
"I think it's unfair to look at the running backs to point blame on the running game," Bills GM Brandon Beane said during his end of the season zoom call with reporters. "There were times this year where we were one guy away, again, whether it was a tight end or it was a lineman, and it's a big gainer," Beane added. "And you're going like, gosh, if we just get this guy blocked. We had that at times. I'm not saying there's no blame. Sometimes the running back missed the hole, but it's one of those things you have to practice. You've got to emphasize it. You've got to work on it. And that's something that we'll definitely look at, but I'm not looking at Devin Singletary and Zack Moss thinking those guys came up short for us."
Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones were exceptional for the Bucs, both averaging more than five yards per carry. Against the same defense, Devin Singletary, albeit on only six attempts, averaged 2.8 yards per carry in the AFC Championship game.
I’d bet both Singletary and Moss are back again next season — the question becomes will there be another running back joining them that isn’t currently on the roster.
Tampa Bay laid out a blueprint on how to beat the Chiefs. It won’t be easy to replicate, but with some adjustments and improvements, it’s not crazy to think the Bills could be the team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February of 2022