This article is part of our Team Previews series.
Buffalo fans know all about wings of course, and they're hoping the freshly-stocked offense will take flight while the defense continues to bring the heat. The attack has been overhauled in support of second-year QB Josh Allen, and the defense keeps getting better, with the addition of yet another first-rounder.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
This offseason brought a ton of new faces to Upstate New York, including as many as eight new starters on offense, with a particular focus on the line. "We were unhappy with our O-line play...and if nothing else we were going to fix that this year," said GM Brandon Beane. Dion Dawkins returns to anchor the left side – though he may have to compete with free-agent acquisition Ty Nsekhe – and other free-agent signees could man each of the interior positions, most notably Mitch Morse at center. There will be strong competition for both guard spots with Quinton Spain, Jon Feliciano and Spencer Long as new faces with good odds. The favorite to start at right tackle is highly touted second-rounder Cody Ford, drafted 38th overall out of Oklahoma. Big-body free agent tight end Tyler Kroft will eventually pitch in at the end of the line and should make his presence felt as a blocker while attending to his pass-catching chores. Protecting QB Josh Allen in his second season and giving him time to work should do wonders for an offense that ranked 30th in points last year and generated just 174.6 net passing yards per game. The offense performed well on the ground – heavily based on Allen's 631 rushing yards – but in 2019 the team will look to air it out more as Allen gains experience.
The Bills turn to their defense to control games, particularly against the pass. In an increasingly pass-centric NFL, the team allowed a league-low 179.2 yards per game through the air in 2018. Additionally, the unit ranked No. 2 in total yards allowed at just 294.1 per contest. And they've only gotten better. This is a defense that features first-round picks from each of the last four drafts. With the No. 9 overall selection this past April, the Bills happily selected dynamic defensive tackle Ed Oliver. The two-time All-American instantly shores up the Buffalo run defense and also should provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With his top-level athleticism, Oliver will give defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier plenty of flexibility. The defensive line also features Jerry Hughes, Star Lotulelei, Shaq Lawson and Trent Murphy. The real strength of the defense is in coverage, with one of the better linebacker corps in the league to go along with a strong secondary. The starting trio at linebacker includes Matt Milano and Lorenzo Alexander on the outside, with 2018 first-round draft pick Tremaine Edmunds in the middle. The headliner in the secondary is the team's top pick in the 2017 draft, Tre'Davious White, who's complemented by the talented safety duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
No longer is it just the LeSean McCoy Show in Buffalo. The Bills added several notable skill position players to the offense, mixing in veteran presence, speed, hands and youthful spark. The biggest name is Frank Gore, who at age 36 enters his 15th NFL season. At that level of experience, you'd think he's just playing out the string, but Gore's 722 rushing yards in 2018 were more than anyone had in Buffalo, and his mark of 4.6 yards per carry was much better than either of the two primary backs in the Bills' ninth-ranked rushing attack. Beyond Gore and McCoy, it's shaping up as a four-way backfield. The team added rookie Devin Singletary, who in three years at Florida Atlantic had 4,287 rushing yards and 66 scores on the ground. Meanwhile, veteran newcomer T.J. Yeldon snagged 55 passes last season in Jacksonville. New aerial weapons will attack all three levels of the defense. John Brown brings his defense-stretching speed from Baltimore and will challenge Josh Allen to overthrow him deep. Cole Beasley arrives via Dallas and will work the middle of the field for the Bills out of the slot. At tight end, Tyler Kroft arrives from Cincinnati to handle his share of short routes and goal-line patterns. Additionally, the team selected Dawson Knox in the third round to back up Kroft, who at press time is bouncing back from a broken foot.
PIVOTAL PLAYER: Josh Allen
Allen, last year's No. 7 overall pick, led the Bills to two fourth-quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives as a rookie. He showed a flair for the dramatic and surprising athleticism, amassing 631 yards and eight TDs on the ground in just 12 games. With one campaign in the books and a full offseason, there's reason for optimism in Year 2.
RISING: John Brown
Brown has been a tease for years, but Josh Allen's deep ball should pair well with the pass catcher's world-class speed. Though he's not your prototypical No. 1 wideout, Brown will attempt to fill that role in Buffalo.
FALLING: LeSean McCoy
Shady only averaged 3.2 YPC in 2018, and 2019 is his age-31 season. The team's brass keeps saying McCoy is the No. 1 back, but plenty of options reside behind him if the Bills decide he's no longer bell-cow material.
SLEEPER: Tyler Kroft
Kroft put up seven touchdowns two years ago, and the Bills are looking for red-zone options. At 6-6 and 252 pounds, Kroft fits that bill. The top job is his to lose once he can prove his foot injury is behind him.
KEY JOB BATTLE – PRIMARY RUNNING BACK
It's been the LeSean McCoy show in Buffalo for years, but there may be a new sheriff in town...or, well, several sheriffs. The running back depth chart in Buffalo is a confounding one, and it's a situation that should continue to develop into the season. The question from a fantasy perspective is whether any one of the four top options will be given a bell-cow role in 2019. Newcomer Frank Gore, who turned 36 in May, actually outgained McCoy in 2018 with 722 yards rushing versus McCoy's 514. Additionally, Gore ran for 4.6 YPC, while McCoy managed only 3.2. T.J. Yeldon also was added to the mix in free agency, though he figures to be more of a pass-catching option. The most intriguing name, though, and one to keep an eye on is rookie third-round pick Devin Singletary. Throw his 4.66 40-time out the window and look at the college stats – in three years at Florida Atlantic, Singletary averaged 6.0 yards per carry and 1.7 rushing touchdowns per game. It's a crowded depth chart, but considering the mileage on the graybeards' odometers, Singletary could be a steal in 2019.
DEVIN SINGLETARY – RB (Rd. 3, No. 74 – Florida Atlantic)
Productive in college, could climb an aging RB depth chart quickly.
JOHN BROWN – WR (from Ravens)
Burner who can take advantage of Josh Allen's massive arm strength.
COLE BEASLEY – WR (from Cowboys)
Slot receiver should have plenty of room to do his work.
TYLER KROFT – TE (from Bengals)
An offseason foot injury has stalled his opening act with the Bills.
FRANK GORE – RB (from Dolphins)
Will serve as LeSean McCoy's top backup.
T.J. YELDON – RB (from Jaguars)
Adds depth and a viable pass-catching alternative to the backfield.
CHARLES CLAY – TE (to Cardinals)
Declining journeyman heads to the desert.
CHRIS IVORY – RB (FA)
Veteran running back averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in 2018.
THE INJURY FRONT
Robert Foster, WR – Held out of minicamp with a foot injury, Foster is said to be healing nicely and on track to be a full-go in training camp. Still, a foot concern is something to monitor when it comes to a speed merchant like Foster. As a rookie last year, the 6-2, 196-pounder developed a strong chemistry with first-year QB Josh Allen, flashing 4.41 speed and delivering two games with 100-plus receiving yards.
Zay Jones, WR – An undisclosed injury in early June held Jones out of practice, but all signs at this time point to him being ready for training camp. He led the Bills in targets, catches, receiving yards and touchdowns last season, but he'll now be working in the context of a re-tooled wideout corps that welcomes newcomers John Brown and Cole Beasley.
Tyler Kroft, TE – Kroft was brought in as a free agent from Cincinnati to handle the Bills' starting tight end gig, but he suffered a broken foot in May and was subsequently given a recovery estimate of 3-to-4 months. The timeline leaves him still sidelined as training camp approaches and questionable for Week 1. If Kroft is unavailable to start the coming season, added opportunities will be available for Dawson Knox, Jason Croom, Tommy Sweeney and Lee Smith.