McDermott hoping to build more continuity throughout his lineup this season

Sean McDermott spoke with the media before entering his third training camp as Bills head coach

Brayton Wilson
July 25, 2019 - 3:23 pm

Photo: Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills)

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott is entering his third season with the Bills after being hired back in 2017.

In his first season at the helm, his team defied the odds and extinguished any thoughts of tanking to make the playoffs and ending an 18-year playoff drought.

Last season was a bit of a re-building year for his squad with a rookie quarterback under center and a number of other new names and faces on the offensive side of the ball. The Bills ended up finishing the season with a 6-10 record, but ended the season on, what some might call, a high note with the way the team performed heading into the final weeks of the season. The defense ended the season as the second-ranked overall unit in the National Football League, while the offense looked to get better game-by-game under the direction of Josh Allen at quarterback.

McDermott is hoping to change the script heading into the 2019 season. That all starts with this year's training camp, which opened up on Thursday at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York.

The Bills coach believes that getting away for training camp is key to building team chemistry that is so detrimental to sustaining success throughout the course of a season.

"Brandon [Beane] and I have said it over and over again, we believe in going away to camp," McDermott said in a press conference with the Bills general manager before Thursday's practice. "We really appreciate what St. John Fisher means and the campus, the people and the hospitality they extend here to us. As it relates to building our team, it's important that we can go away and build some fellowship time off the practice field as much as on the practice field and come together as a football team. The gaps in the schedule offer us an opportunity to do that.

"The value out-weighs the cost, in terms of going away. I'll draw this analogy where as a family, I think you learn about your family when you go on road trips. I remember being packed into that station wagon years ago on that 20-some hour drive from Pennsylvania to Iowa to see my relatives and I think we learned about our family on that trip. It's no different here. We're a family, and I believe you learn something from these unique experiences that brings you together and brings you closer as a football team. That's where I stand right now on it."

Last season was a struggle on offense as the unit ended up being one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NFL to begin the year, but started to build some consistency towards the end as Allen got more comfortable under center.

The Bills added a number of players to the mix this offseason with an importance of adding more weapons on the offensive side of the ball.

Players like wide receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown, and running backs Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon and Devin Singletary were brought in to provide Allen with some weapons to distribute the ball to and move the ball down the field. At the same time, players like Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe, Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain, Spencer Long, LaAdrian Waddle and Cody Ford were added to the offensive line to protect Allen and allow him and the running game to make better decisions with the ball.

In addition, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll returns to the fold and will continue to work with Allen to develop his game even more in his system.

McDermott hopes that with the new additions, as well as the continued growth of Allen in Daboll's system, it will allow the offense to build the continuity that he'd like to establish in Buffalo moving forward.

"Would we like to have more continuity? Yes," McDermott said. "That's the part of building it up the right way where you have to add players, and you look at teams who have won, particularly in our division, there's been a ton of continuities. There's strength in that where in that staying power, where guys know where you start in the first day of the install is not, 'hey, this is how you get into your stance.' I'm being extreme with that example, but that is one of our challenges right now is the lack of continuity on the offensive side, and we understand that."

This year's training camp is a whole different story from when the Bills went to St. John Fisher College last July.

McDermott found himself with a three-way battle for the quarterback position between Allen, second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman and veteran A.J. McCarron. That ended with Peterman winning the starting job, Allen earning the second-string position and McCarron being traded to the Oakland Raiders.

This time, there is no question as to who the starting quarterback is, as well as who stacks up behind Allen on the depth chart.

"[It's nice to have] more clarity around who our quarterback is, obviously, and [it feels] good about where Matt [Barkley] is at this point. I'm interested to see how Tyree [Jackson] progresses through this camp and preseason," McDermott said. "It's nice to have a player in his second year that you feel good about; that now we can talk more about educating Josh on the NFL game and situational football. It's not as much about answering some of the unknowns as much as it is developing him as an overall and complete football player at this point."

In his rookie season, Allen had his struggles with a 52.8% completion percentage in 12 games played with 2,074 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, he displayed the abilities to be a difference maker under center for the Bills, and proved to many that he can grow into a possible long-term leader of the franchise.

As for the defense, they have the chance to build on its continuity in the third season under McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

A large number of players from last year's group are returning for the 2019 season with the biggest exception of veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who retired after a 13-year career spent entirely with the Bills. However, players like linebacker Lorenzo Alexander are back to provide some leadership for the young group. Alongside Alexander is a second-year linebacker in Tremaine Edmunds, who has been regarded as a mature 20-year-old with the potential to take a step next season as a leader in his own way on the defense. Others who will go a long way to providing leadership and continuity this season includes defensive end Jerry Hughes, linebacker Matt Milano, cornerback Tre'Davious White, and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.

McDermott knows that getting a number of those bodies back for a second or third consecutive season will go a long way towards building a formidable defense for 2019 and beyond.

"Each year is different, but with that said, we've got to continue to build the foundation, but also take steps to improve what we do and how we do it," McDermott said. "A lot of that I'm looking for is little bit more of an edge to our defense. There's obviously some areas we need to improve on from last year, but this is a different team, this is a different defense. That continuity should work to our advantage, in terms of cohesion and communication."

The defense will see a couple of new faces on the roster this upcoming season, but a number of them will serve in depth roles, ready to jump in when called upon.

However, one player who hopes to have an immediate impact with the Bills is defensive tackle Ed Oliver.

The 21-year-old was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and will be fighting for a starting job on the defensive line with players like Jordan Phillips and Harrison Phillips. With the University of Houston, Oliver was a perennial playmaker who used his speed and quickness to cause havoc in the backfield. In his three seasons with the Cougars, he put up 192 total tackles to go along with 53 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.

Although the hype is felt by many with Oliver and his future in Buffalo, McDermott is focused on getting his rookie defensive tackle ready for his first season in the NFL.

"He's a rookie, and this is his first day of real practice. It's a journey," McDermott said. "It just takes some time. He'll have to go through really everything that the rookies go through, in terms of getting themselves acclimated to the NFL. There's a jump. There's a gap between major college football and the NFL. He's got a long way to go right now."

The Bills will return to the practice field on Friday at 9:45 a.m. at St. John Fisher College. The practice is free and open to the public.

You can listen to Beane and McDermott's entire press conference below:

Comments ()