As training camps are in full swing across the league. There is much optimism in the air for the Bills, as they start the season as a Super Bowl favorite for the first time since 1993.
With heavy expectations, the Bills will need as many hands on deck to make their Super Bowl aspirations a reality. These four Buffalo Bills players need to make a significant impact or at least be a key contributor, in some way, for the Bills to win the Super Bowl in 2021.
1. Ed Oliver
Ed Oliver NEEDS to take a huge step in his third year for the Bills to be serious contenders. Oliver was a top ten pick in 2019 and for the most part hasn’t lived up to expectations. Although, he has taken small strides to get better as pass rusher indicative by his improvement in pass rush win rate from his rookie year to last year where it went from 9.6% his rookie year to 11.6% in 2020. Ultimately, he finished the season with a 72.3 PFF pass rushing grade and finished with 79.5 PFF pass rushing grade on true pass sets which takes out screens, RPO’s and play action passes.
His issues stem from his play in the run game earning a 30 PFF run defense grade which is the fifth worst mark among all interior defensive lineman . Many Bills media personalities have attributed this to Oliver playing out of position most of the year which is simply false. He played 66% of his snaps at 3 tech alignment and only 6.2% of his snaps at 0 or 1 tech alignment.
If Oliver can improve how he deals with double teams in the run game and take another leap as a pass rusher. We could be looking at Ed Oliver being the breakout star on the Bills defense; to give the Bills that ever important interior pressure that opposing QBs hate the most and the Bills have been looking for since Kyle Williams.
2. Dane Jackson
THE BILLS NEED TO UPGRADE AT CB 2! And Dane Jackson has shown enough albeit in a small sample size, that he deserves a shot to upgrade that position.
Levi Wallace is admirable at the spot but is picked on far too much for the Bills to have consistent success against the better passing attacks they have to play this year (Buccaneers, Titans, Chiefs). Dane Jackson can at the very least take Josh Norman’s role and have an impact. Given how he went toe to toe with arguably the best WR in the league in DeAndre Hopkins and won on a solid rep. While also having solid ball production in very limited snaps, leaves one to ask; with more snaps what kind of impact are the Bills missing out on?
3. Rachad Wildgoose
Now this is definitely lofty expectations for a late round rookie who played in only two games in 2020. This is more for competition at the slot CB position. With the Bills running the most nickel defense in the NFL by a mile (90%) they have to get at least average play out of the position and an upgrade is definitely needed. Wildgoose played in a zone heavy scheme at Wisconsin while showing solid ball skills which other than pretty much two plays this year, lacked at the slot CB position. With many training camp reports saying that Wildgoose has been getting slot and outside reps. If Taron Johnson starts 2021 the way he started 2020, Rachad Wildgoose may become a key contributor soon than later.
4. Carlos Basham
There has been much optimism surrounding the Bills’ new edge rushers. Specifically, Carlos Basham due to the fact he’s been consistently making plays and even picked off Josh Allen in practice for a pick six.
Basham was the second round pick of the Bills in the 2020 draft, but he may be most be the most pro ready between him and Rousseau. He finished his college career with a 77.2 PFF pass rushing grade in 2020; and even more impressive is his 83.3 PFF pass rushing grade on true pass sets. His positional versatility, size, and explosiveness give him the high end traits that is needed to be an elite edge rusher in both facets.
If Basham gives solid contributions this season, along with Rousseau. The Bills could have a defensive line similar to the Giants in 2012 when the deployed their NASCAR package where they had four edge rushers on the field with Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Jerry Hughes, Carlos Basham, Greg Rousseau, and AJ Epenesa or Mario Addison would be scary for any OL to deal with.