I cannot believe that the Bills actually beat the Seahawks! This game felt like last year’s Dallas game; I felt that they had a chance to win, but I didn’t think they would dominate them in all three facets. (My family also celebrated Thanksgiving on both occasions.) Offensively, the passing game was on point as seven different players had a 20-plus yard reception. Defensively, the Bills were able to pressure Russell Wilson to the tune of five sacks and four turnovers. (I already issued an apology to A.J. Klein on Twitter, but there may be something else in the works.) On special teams, Andre Roberts, Tyler Bass, Darryl Johnson, and Siran Neal all came to play (*bottles clanking in the distance*).
There were so many people I did not mention who made significant contributions this past week. However, I feel that there is a player who has been generally overlooked for far too long that deserves a full article. Jordan Poyer has been a stud for Buffalo since he joined the team in 2017. In fact, his story reminds me of a local fan favorite from the drought era: one George Wilson. In this week’s installment of “2020 Vision”, we will explore the parallel careers of these two Bills safeties.
Looking into the Magic Mirror
Their Long, Arduous Journeys
George Wilson entered the NFL as an undrafted wide receiver in 2004, signing with Buffalo’s practice squad early in the season. In 2005, Wilson would make his first professional appearances for the Bills on special teams but would not record a single catch. Wilson would transition from receiver to safety, a position he had never played, in order to stay in the league. After spending all of 2006 on Buffalo’s practice squad, Wilson would make the active roster the following year. He would go on to become a team captain as well as a mainstay on defense and special teams until his release following the 2012 season.
Jordan Poyer was drafted in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. However, his time there would end after only three games. Poyer would then spend the next two-plus seasons as a backup safety and special teamer in Cleveland before getting an opportunity to start full-time in 2016. Unfortunately, his year ended prematurely due to a lacerated kidney, and he would join the Bills as a free agent. Like Wilson, he has since become a mainstay in Buffalo’s secondary and was named a team captain for the 2020 season.
All-Pro Production Goes Unrecognized
George Wilson was a very productive safety with Buffalo. In seven seasons at the position, he tallied 12 interceptions, 25 pass break ups, 410 total tackles (seven for loss), four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and three and a half sacks. Additionally, he had three 100-plus tackle seasons and is one of a handful of Bills safeties to record consecutive multi-sack seasons.
We all know that Jordan Poyer has done well in Buffalo. In three-plus seasons, he has already recorded 12 interceptions, 24 pass break ups, and 381 total tackles (21 for loss). He has also forced and recovered four fumbles and has had seven sacks. Poyer, like Wilson, has had consecutive multi-sack seasons for the Bills, tallying at least two in three of his first four years. Additionally, he has already had two consecutive 100-plus tackle seasons and will likely have his third this year. (He is on pace for 140 total tackles in 2020.)
While Poyer’s numbers far exceed those of Wilson, neither safety received recognition for their work outside of Buffalo. They never had, or haven’t yet received, any Pro Bowl invitations or All-Pro honors. There could be a variety of reasons why Wilson and Poyer were snubbed, but one looms large.
Playing in Others’ Shadows
Both players were part of notable safety tandems in their respective times. George Wilson is best remembered for his time opposite Jairus Byrd. In 2009, when Wilson recorded four interceptions and his first 100-plus tackle season, the rookie Byrd had nine picks and earned a Pro Bowl nod. He stole the show that year and would become the face of the defense from then on out.
Meanwhile, Jordan Poyer is part of one of the league’s best safety duos with Micah Hyde. While they are generally thought of as a duo, Hyde has received league-wide recognition, making a Pro Bowl in 2017. Statistically speaking, Jordan Poyer had the same number of interceptions and pass break ups as Hyde, tallied more tackles that season, and was not even as an alternate. He is also overshadowed by Tre’Davious White, who (like Byrd) has become the face of the defense.
Looking into the Crystal Ball
To quote the famous scribe and thespian Lin-Manuel Miranda, both George Wilson and Jordan Poyer were “young, scrappy, and hungry” players who were “not going to waste their shots”. Each took unique paths to starting jobs in Buffalo, led the team by example, and were overlooked despite their on-field work. I would argue that Jordan Poyer will be a better George Wilson. He has almost surpassed all of Wilson’s statistical marks at this point. Plus the Bills are AFC contenders for the near future, and Poyer has shown no signs of decline, so he has ample opportunities to earn league-wide recognition. In the meantime, let us enjoy Miranda’s masterful work as Poyer and Buffalo’s secondary continue to dominate opposing pass offenses.
* All player stats provided by Pro Football Reference.
What do you think? Is Jordan Poyer the next George Wilson? Let me know on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).