Since the arrival of Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, the Buffalo Bills have had a top-class secondary in terms of production and name value. In 2017 the Buffalo Bills made a lot of moves to both clean house and make additions to begin the rebuild. That offseason, the Bills signed Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde in free agency, then drafted Tre’Davious White in the first round.
When August rolled around, Brandon Beane started wheeling and dealing. The Buffalo Bills traded a presumed core member of the secondary, 2015 second-round draft pick Ronald Darby. On the same day, the Buffalo Bills traded Sammy Watkins to the Rams for E.J. Gaines. At the time this was a bit of a head-scratcher. However, that 2017 secondary of White, Gaines, Poyer, and Hyde were outstanding. They combined for 15 interceptions and 53 pass breakups that season.
The point I’m trying to make is, sometimes what the fans think is best, isn’t always what’s best. I and most of Bills Mafia were clamoring for the Buffalo Bills to draft a Cornerback. Obviously, to compete for the CB2 spot opposite of White. As we all know by now, the Buffalo Bills didn’t draft a defensive back until the 212th and 213th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This article will emphasize the depth options in the Buffalo Bills secondary. If you’re interested in the full breakdown of the secondary, you can check out my detailed article on this group from last month.
The group that keeps this thing going in the secondary is the three-headed team of White, Poyer, and Hyde. They have all been in Buffalo playing together for McDermott and Leslie Frazier since 2017. They all understand this defense and how to play with one another.
With that being said, there is cause for concern when it comes to the depth behind them. I made my point above about Wallace and Jackson competing for CB2. However, what happens if White gets injured? Suddenly Wallace and Jackson are the two starting corners. While they could be a sufficient Cornerback duo, it’s not a duo I would prefer to have forced into starting roles.
The Buffalo Bills did sign a couple of undrafted free agent Cornerbacks that I’m excited to watch this preseason. These being Nick McCloud and Olaijah Griffin. Griffin actually reminds me a lot of Levi Wallace because they are both a bit more slender and lanky. The former USC Trojan plays very physically despite his slight frame and could benefit from adding onto his frame.
McCloud on the other hand started his collegiate career at NC State. After tearing his ACL in 2019, he transferred to Notre Dame for the 2020 season. McCloud is more towards the athletic type of cornerback that we have all been hoping to pair with White. I’m excited to see what both UDFAs can do this preseason. Adding depth to the back end of the Cornerback room will be very important as the season continues.
What is far more concerning is the depth behind Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. As of right now, each player on the depth chart behind Hyde and Poyer at the safety position is 25 years old or younger. The player with the most experience is 25-year-old Jaquan Johnson. However, in his two seasons on the Buffalo Bills, Johnson has yet to eclipse a five percent share of defensive snaps. Most of his contributions have come on special teams. This leads me to believe that inexperience could be an issue behind Hyde and Poyer.
With that being said, I really like the two rookies the Buffalo Bills brought in: Damar Hamlin and Tariq Thompson. Both players have great football intelligence and natural instincts. They are always at or around the ball at the end of every play. Not only do they have the motor to get to the play, but they also understand where to be on the field and when to be there.
I’m not comfortable with either being thrust into a starting Safety role. However, I do like the type of players they brought in as youthful depth to the position. I say this because, although the depth is inexperienced, I’m glad the rookies they brought in play smart. That bodes well for their development, especially under a couple of true professionals like Hyde and Poyer. I’m very excited to see what Hamlin and Thompson can contribute to the 2021 Buffalo Bills defense.
Which UDFA has the best chance of making the final roster?
I think that all three of the defensive back UDFAs the Buffalo Bills signed this offseason have a chance to make the final roster. It won’t be easy, but I do think it’s possible given the concerns I mentioned above about depth.
Griffin and McCloud will have every opportunity to prove that they can compete with the likes of Dane Jackson and Levi Wallace in training camp. However, one of them will have to outperform Siran Neal to really solidify a spot on the final roster. Given Neal’s ability and consistency on special teams, I believe he will be a tough guy to outperform in training camp. Could Griffin and/or McCloud compete well enough to put themselves into the CB2 competition? It’s possible, but I think another UDFA has an easier path to make the roster.
The UDFA that I think has the best chance of making the final roster is Tariq Thompson. I think he has the best chance because of his path to make the final roster coupled with his skill as a player. As I mentioned above, Jaquan Johnson hasn’t had much to hang his hat on when it comes to defensive opportunities and/or production. If Thompson can prove that he has foundational value on special teams, that puts him neck-and-neck with Johnson for the fourth safety spot on the roster. From there, it really comes down to which one between Thompson and Johnson shows more competence on the defensive side of the ball.
Air Raid Hour recap
Last night on the Air Raid Hour, I filled in for Judge and joined Tilt to talk about the Buffalo Bills secondary. We were also joined by a special guest, consistent chat member Randy Hardman. We had great conversations about the CB2 spot, Taron Johnson’s future in Buffalo, safety depth, and surprise cuts. If you liked this article, you’ll love the most recent episode of the Air Raid Hour. You can catch the replay linked and embedded above.
As always, go Bills!