The Buffalo Bills are going to the AFC Championship game. Just let that sink in, Bills Mafia. The once perpetual, lovable losers are now one win away from the Super Bowl. Not only that, but they earned everything this season (their 13-3 record, AFC East title, playoff wins, etc.). They have won because of star players and big plays. However, their success is in “The Process”. This year was a true team effort. They went out every week and played (and won) for each other.
Football fans and pundits, like myself, always talk about the stars like Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and Tre’Davious White. However, it is a team sport. It’s fine to have LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh on your team, but you cannot win consistently without Ray Allen and a solid supporting cast. So, in that spirit, I would like to highlight six of the more overlooked players from the 2020 Bills. The All-Pros of “The Process”, those who made key contributions with minimal opportunities or expectations. So, without further adieu, here is your 2020 All-Process Team.
Teamwork makes the dream work.John Maxwell
Reggie Gilliam earned a roster spot due to his athleticism and positional flexibility. Those attributes would come in handy as Gilliam played 7% of Buffalo’s offensive snaps and 42% of special teams during the regular season. On offense, he recorded two receptions, 16 yards, and a touchdown. He also made the key blocks on Josh Allen’s touchdown run against Denver. On special teams, he had two tackles and a forced fumble. Ultimately, Gilliam’s biggest contribution to the team was his work ethic and team-first mentality, which made him a favorite among teammates, coaches, and fans alike.
Isaiah McKenzie literally did everything on offense for the Bills. He recorded 44 offensive touches (including kick/punt returns) for 419 yards and seven touchdowns on 282 snaps. McKenzie ended the regular season tied for the most punt return scores and third-longest punt return in the NFL. He was also third on the Bills in receiving touchdowns. As Jay Skurski noted in a recent article, McKenzie also made a defensive contribution in 2020, playing the role of Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson on the scout team during practice.
Ike Boettger was Sean McDermott’s pet project, spending the last two seasons on the practice squad/inactives list. In 2020, he finally got his shot at left guard and did an admirable job. He committed only three penalties and did not allow a single sack in 623 snaps, earning a 65.3 overall grade from PFF. Furthermore, there were a couple of games where Boettger was rated as Buffalo’s best lineman. He earned a 94.1 grade against New England (per Nick Wojton) and a 79.1 against San Francisco (per Matt Parrino). So far this postseason, he has not committed a penalty or allowed a sack in 115 snaps; good for a 67.3 grade.
Justin Zimmer was an integral part of the defensive line rotation in 2020. He recorded 21 tackles (three for loss), one sack, seven quarterback hits, and one forced fumble in 12 regular-season games. He had countless key plays, including the game-clinching forced fumble against New England in week eight and two blocks on Micah Hyde’s interception (vs. San Francisco). He also had a big impact on last week’s game against Baltimore. According to Anthony Prohaska of Cover 1, Zimmer had three quarterback pressures (two hurries and one hit) as well as the third-best run defense and fourth-best pass rush grades from PFF; all on just 28 snaps. Furthermore, he is an absolute athletic freak.
Tyler Matakevich was a low key stud on special teams and in mop-up duty on defense. As Adam Nannini, chief editor of BF, likes to say, Matakevich was a “tackling machine”, tying his career-high with 23 this year. (He also set a career-high in passes defensed with two.) Additionally, he provided experience and leadership in the special teams’ corps.
While Dean Marlowe has spent his whole career in McDermott’s defense, it’s still surprising that he made a significant contribution this year. The “Process Protégé” made several key plays, including two second-half interceptions Week 17, the game-sealing fumble recovery week eight, and a sack on Cam Newton week 16. (Legend has it that he has psychic powers.) He also split his time [almost] evenly between defense (230 snaps) and special teams (214 snaps). In all, he recorded 22 tackles (two for loss), three passes defensed, 1.5 sacks, and two quarterback hits.
* Supplemental Articles:
- Matt Parrino (New York Upstate): Bills’ Ike Boettger, Unselfish and Determined, Shined on National Stage in Starting LG Opportunity
- Jay Skurski (Buffalo News): Why Isaiah McKenzie was an Unsung Hero in Win Over Ravens
- Zach Vaughn (Buffalo Fanatics): Buffalo Bills 2020 Mid-Season (+ 2 Games) Awards & Superlatives; End of (Regular) Season Awards & Superlatives
- Nick Wojton (Bills Wire): PFF: Bills O-Line was NFL’s Best in Week 8
What do you think? Who made your All-Process Team? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@zvaughn2712).