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The Buffalo Bills season ended a few weeks ago in the AFC Championship game. But with Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs finally over, the dust finally feels… fully settled.
Since we’ve now completely crossed the finish line of the 2020 season and are now full steam ahead into the offseason, here are six takeaways & thoughts on the Bills:
Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette. Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
“Playoff Lenny” was pretty fun to watch if you paid attention in the postseason, right? What Leonard Fournette did with the Bucs is essentially what the Bills will be looking to do with their running game in 2021… and what they had hoped to get in their own recent postseason run.
Tampa Bay was not a good team rushing the ball during the regular season. In fact, they were the fifth-worst team in the league at doing so, averaging 94.9 yards per game. That’s the same as the Jaguars. But when they needed it, they got it from Fournette, who averaged 4.69 yards per carry in the playoffs.
Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane already said at his end of season press conference that he wants to make improvements in the rushing attack this offseason. What he’s looking for is what the Bucs got. It might involve a different type of running back than Fournette, but being able to count on a running game appeared to pay dividends
Pass rush need is real
The final two games (at least for the Bills) this season put a huge spotlight one thing: Their pass rush.
On defense, the Bills never really consistently generated one. Buffalo did have 38 sacks which was better than 16 teams… but if you want a Super Bowl title, you have to be a… better than average team, right? That’s what the Bills’ pass rush was in 2020… average.
In terms of Buffalo’s own final game, a complete onslaught by the Chiefs’ front-seven caused Bills quarterback Josh Allen to have his worst game of the season against pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.
As if the light on that issue wasn’t bright enough, the Super Bowl saw the Chiefs allow 29 pressures on Patrick Mahomes compared to the Bucs’ offensive line letting only four up on Tom Brady. The results were apparent, and changes might be coming to the Bills in this area. Names to watch: Mario Addison, Vernon Butler and Quinton Jefferson.
Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)
How about that O-line?
Let’s stick in the trenches for a moment, but switch gears to the offense.
For the most part, the Bills offensive line was consistently average in 2020. PFF named it the 10th best unit in the NFL this season, but that seems generous.
We’ll level with the Bills on one thing, the offensive line was much better at pass protection this season as opposed to run blocking. That terrible effort against the Chiefs truthfully seemed like an… one-off bad game.
We already touched on the running game… and while maybe a better rusher than Zack Moss or Devin Singletary could pay off, finding all-around offensive linemen would help even more. Aside from Dion Dawkins at left tackle, everyone should be evaluated for a potential upgrade. We only leave Daryl Williams out of that circle because he’s a pending free agent.
Keeping Williams might help, but guard play was spotty at-best. Find players consistent at both pass protection and run blocking across the board. Mitch Morse at center could even be considered here. He’s the second-highest paid guy at this position in the NFL… he should play like it. Maybe help next him will help.
Another field goal lesson
Different circumstances? Yes… but the Super Bowl was a second lesson for Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott on why field goals just won’t cut it against good teams. The Chiefs were smoked by the Bucs because they simply only had field goals. Did those go down because they were surprisingly settling for them like the Bills and McDermott were in the AFC title game? No, but the same sentiment is there.
Hopefully that further proves a point to the Bills on fourth down in 2021.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Dear NFL, if you’re listening…
Whoever at the NFL offices that this might reach, can you guys please figure out the salary cap situation already?
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the salary cap for next season was projected to drop and the league and players association agreed to a cap floor of $175M, meaning it will not go lower than that. Most recently, reports indicate that it might be as high as $185 million… then another report says $180M.
These couple of million make a big difference. It could decide between choosing between two players. Not only that, the Bills are right on the fence of either being over or under the cap as Spotrac reports the Bills would be $3.9M under it if it’s set at $185M.
Typically the NFL sees the cap raised by a few million each year and teams can bank on that. Not thanks to COVID.
So many decisions hinge on this and the league and players association have to get their act together. Some speculate this might not be figured out until only days before free agency begins on March 15.
It still might potentially take a month to get this number? C’mon people…
A molehill, not a mountain
Thanks to Allen’s emergence this past season, most observers of the Bills knew the team would have things… a little easier for them this offseason. They have their face of the franchise in place while many teams in the NFL do not.
Check that: They have their potential MVP in place while nearly every team does not have that.
Since we last saw the Bills on the field, we got more evidence of this… considering Buffalo’s QB finished second in MVP voting last weekend. What a time to be alive when the Bills have such a guy on their roster?
Not only that, we didn’t even mention the likes of Stefon Diggs here. No wide receiver played better than he could have in that Super Bowl.
Not much of a takeaways but more a thought: The Bills are sitting pretty as we now patiently wait for them to get another crack at at title in 2021.
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