Of all three division rivals to the New England Patriots in the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills by far present the greatest challenge in 2020.
With the New England Patriots about to embark on their first season since 1999 without Tom Brady on the roster, it’s a perfect time to reset and take stock of the situation — both around the team and around the NFL at large.
Where better to look first than within the AFC East?
We first spoke with Brian Miller from PhinPhanatic to discuss the state of the Miami Dolphins heading into the 2020 NFL Draft and beyond. Then we talked with Paul A. Esden Jr. from The Jet Press about New York and where that team is right about now.
Today, we’ll conclude our look around the division with Brandon Croce from BuffaLowDown.
The Bills played the Patriots extremely tough in both of their meetings in 2019. Now that Tom Brady is gone, it’s fair to wonder if Buffalo has naturally closed the gap and overtaken the Patriots as the favorites to win the division this season.
Here are our five questions we posed to Croce regarding Buffalo:
1.) Just how excited is Bills Mafia over the trade acquisition of Stefon Diggs last month?
This was by far the highlight of the offseason and really ramped up the expectations for this team. The addition of Stefon Diggs is really going to impact so many facets of this offense and what offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is able to do.
Diggs is an excellent route runner, and he immediately becomes that go-to receiver for Josh Allen while also taking coverage away from John Brown and Cole Beasley. The speed that Diggs has is going to force safeties to play just a little further back, too, which will open up running lanes a bit for Devin Singletary, underneath routes for Cole Beasley, and even the middle of the field for Dawson Knox to operate.
This was a move that the Buffalo Bills desperately needed to make, and they got what seems to be the perfect fit.
2.) Do the Bills have the top receiving trio in the league now in Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley?
There are a lot of teams that have better duos, but that list dwindles very quickly when considering that third option. At this point, prior to the NFL Draft, it is hard to argue against the Bills having the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL.
Everyone knows what Diggs brings to this team, but John Brown and Cole Beasley really had good years last season. Brown finished with over 1,000 receiving yards and Beasley had 778 receiving yards — plus they combined for 12 touchdowns.
3.) As exciting as Josh Allen has been over his first two seasons, his passing accuracy numbers still aren’t great. How can he improve in this metric in 2020 and beyond?
Josh Allen took a big step from Year 1 to Year 2 with about a 6% increase in his completion percentage this past season. I think part of that was the fact that he just had better wide receivers that were able to get open a little more and give him a bigger window to make a throw.
However, towards the end of the year, teams really started to clamp down on John Brown, and Allen struggled as a result. The addition of Diggs should be able to help Allen in this regard — not only because he is an excellent receiver, but also because he’ll pull coverage away from Brown and Beasley.
The talent he is surrounded with, plus the play-calling of Daboll, gives Allen an opportunity to take another jump in this area.
4.) What are the biggest areas of need for the Bills in this draft?
The three biggest needs for the Buffalo Bills are going to be defensive end, running back, and cornerback. The Bills found veterans to fill a need at defensive end with the signing of Mario Addison and at cornerback with the additions of Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines, but they could use youth at both positions still.
None of the players they signed are long-term answers, and the Bills would benefit from finding some younger players that can compete for years to come. At running back, the Bills like what they have in Devin Singletary, but every NFL team needs two, if not three, good running backs to shoulder the load.
5.) Many are predicting this might be Buffalo’s year to claim the AFC East over New England. Do you agree or disagree, and what do you project as far as the Bills’ overall outcome this season?
The New England Patriots have been the dominant force of the AFC East for nearly 20 years, and until someone beats them, it is hard to bet against them. On paper, the Bills roster is just as talented, if not slightly more, than the Patriots.
The loss of Tom Brady certainly gets the headlines, but New England also lost a lot of talent on that defense with the departures of Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy.