The Buffalo Bills defensive unit will rank in the top five this season.
To a casual fan this statement might sound like an outlandish take, but to anyone that paid attention to the Bills defense last year it will resonate as fact. Last year, the team’s defense was already in the top 5 and after this offseason the unit will only be even better.
Last season, the defense ranked second in total yards and third in yards per play at 4.9, according to profootballreference.com. Even more impressive, the team let up the least amount of passing yards in the league by several hundred yards.
The team’s top passing defense was led by a highly skilled secondary in Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. The young trio looks to continue their level of production in 2019.
The three only combined for eight interceptions last year, but made their presence felt in other ways. Poyer had 100 tackles, Hyde 58 and White 54. They also combined for 15 passes deflected.
The only question mark is who will line up opposite of White, but between Kevin Johnson, Taron Johnson, E.J. Gaines and Levi Wallace, one will secure a starting job.
On the defensive line, Jerry Hughes looks to continue his high level of production. Last season, Hughes had the highest pressure rate in the league, according to NextGenStats.NFL.com.
Hughes recently signed a two-year deal to keep him in Buffalo until 2022. Hopefully he can continue to pressure opposing quarterbacks and force turnovers.
Elsewhere on the line, the team has a few question marks, but loads of potential. After the retirement of longtime Bill Kyle Williams, someone has the step up. The logical choice is first-round pick Ed Oliver. Oliver has even been compared to Ram’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald, though it is way too early in his career to set expectations so high.
Also on the line, Star Lotulelei is expected to plug rushing lanes and occupy blockers as he did last year. As for the other defensive end position, it is up for grabs. Shaq Lawson could takeover and show he was worth a first round pick several years ago, or Trent Murphy could capitalize on his potential and dominate opposite Hughes.
For the linebacker core, young standouts Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano should play at a high level while veteran Lorenzo Alexander mentors them. Edmunds performed well at middle linebacker in his rookie season racking up 121 total tackles, two interceptions, two fumbles and two sacks. Edmunds showed great potential and leadership skills by leading the defense at the age of 19.
Milano exploded last year in his sophomore season before breaking his leg in week 14. Despite missing several games, Milano still compiled 78 tackles, three interceptions and a sack. Alexander, though aging, should continue to pressure the quarterback and contribute to the defense.
Overall, the defense only lost Williams from last year, added talent and young players gained experience. If last year’s squad was a top 5 defense, this years unit could easily be top 3 if they get off to a hot start.
Look for the defense to lead the team while a young offense tries to come together. This unit will keep the team in many games this year and will secure several wins for the Bills.