clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Buffalo Bills 2017 roster evaluation: Safety

New, comments

Examining Buffalo’s safety group heading into the 2017 season.

Going from Aaron Williams and Corey Graham to Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, the Buffalo Bills safety position will look significantly different in 2017 than it did a year ago.

And the safety group kicks off our Buffalo Bills 2017 roster evaluation series.


Depth Chart

Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Colt Anderson, Gary Shamiel, Jonathan Dowling, Joe Powell, Trae Elston, BT Sanders


Micah Hyde

Age: 26

2016 Stats: 56 tackles, 3 interceptions, 9 pass breakups, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble on 79.4% of Packers defensive snaps (817) in 16 games.

PFF Grade: 74.7

PFF Ranking: 52nd out of 111 cornerbacks who played at least 300 snaps

Athletic Measureables

Analysis: Hyde was the Bills highest-paid free-agent signing of the 2017 offseason. He was a swiss-army knife for the Packers during his four seasons in Green Bay and played plenty of nickel cornerback, which is why PFF ranked him among its corners. He has eight career interceptions, including three in 2015 and 2016 and made 12 tackles with two picks in three playoff games last season. Hyde is a strong run defender with reliable but not elite coverage ability. He’ll be McDermott’s interchangable safety-cornerback hybrid and can serve as Buffalo’s punt returner. Hyde is an underrated but valuable secondary member.


Jordan Poyer

Age: 26

2016 Stats: 36 tackles and 2 pass breakups, on 31.8% of Browns defensive snaps (354) in six games.

PFF Grade: 70.4

PFF Ranking: 70th out of 90 safeties who played at least 300 snaps

Athletic Measureables

Analysis: A collegiate cornerback with 11 interceptions in his final two season at Oregon State, Poyer was a seventh-round pick in 2013 and bounced from the Eagles to the Browns, ultimately earning a starting safety role in 2015. On 424 snaps that year, he had 37 tackles, two picks, and four pass breakups. His 2016 season ended when he lacerated his kidney. Based on his athleticism and some of his production in 2015, Poyer clearly has some potential if given an expanded role, which he’ll almost assuredly get with the Bills this season.


Colt Anderson

Age: 31

2016 Stats: N/A

PFF Grade: N/A

PFF Ranking: N/A

Athletic Measurables (from Pro Day in 2009)

Height / Weight: 5094 / 194

40-Yard Dash: 4.53

Vertical: 36.5”

Broad: 123”

Short Shuttle: 4.19

Three-Cone: 6.85

Analysis: A former UDFA from Montana, Anderson was signed by the Bills in 2016 mostly for his ability on special teams. He has a connection to McDermott, as the two spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons together with the Eagles. He missed the first two games of 2016 with a foot injury before being placed in season-ending IR. There’s not much to indicate he can play even a sub-package role as a safety but does have value on special-teams units.


Jonathan Dowling

Age: 25

2016 Stats: N/A

PFF Grade: N/A

PFF Ranking: N/A

Athletic Measurables

Analysis: Dowling, a former Raiders seventh-round pick, has actually been on the Bills roster for since 2015, but he’s never made an appearance on the field. At Western Kentucky, he had nine interceptions in two seasons with the Hilltoppers. He’s been a career practice squad player.


Shamiel Gary

Age: 27

2016 Stats: 1 tackle on 60 special teams snaps for Bills in 2016

PFF Grade: N/A

PFF Ranking: N/A

Athletic Measurables (from Pro Day in 2014)

Height / Weight: 5116 / 205

40-Yard Dash: 4.50

Vertical: 35.5”

Broad: 123”

Short Shuttle: 4.35

Three-Cone: 7.44

Analysis: Shamiel is a former UDFA from Oklahoma State who signed on with the Bills in 2016 after a stop in Miami with the Dolphins. He barely has any NFL experience but certainly has a fine opportunity to carve out a role in Buffalo’s safety group this season.


Joe Powell

Age: 23

2016 Stats: N/A

PFF Grade: N/A

PFF Ranking: N/A

Athletic Measurables (from Pro Day in 2016)

Height / Weight: 6001 / 191

40-Yard Dash: 4.80

Vertical: 30”

Broad: 119”

Short Shuttle: 4.40

Three-Cone: 7.31

Analysis: Powell has quite the story. A former safety at Globe Tech, he spent the 2015 season with the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the Professional Indoor Football League and won the defensive rookie of the year. That led to a 2016 campaign with the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League. Powell spent the last two weeks of August with the New York Giants before being waived. He was signed to Buffalo’s practice squad in October 2016 and inked a futures deal in January 2017.


Trae Elston

Age: 23

2016 Stats: N/A

PFF Grade: N/A

PFF Ranking: N/A

Athletic Measurables (from Pro Day in 2016)

Height / Weight: 5112 / 193

40-Yard Dash: 4.50

Vertical: 34.5”

Broad: 119”

Short Shuttle: 4.50

Three-Cone: 7.34

Analysis: Elston had a nice, four-year career at Ole Miss which culminated with a 70-tackle, five tackle-for-loss, four-interception campaign in 2015. He returned two of those picks for touchdowns. He went undrafted last year and spent time with the Saints, Buccaneers, and Browns before being claimed off waivers by the Bills on April 21. While we haven’t seen him on an NFL field, Elston’s college career indicates he has the ability to make an impact in the pros. His athleticism, however, suggests he could struggle carrying out many safety duties that tap into speed and quickness.


BT Sanders

Height / Weight: 6’0” / 195

Analysis: Sanders went undrafted out of Nicholls State in 2017. In his final collegiate season, he had 55 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. He’s a practice squad candidate.


Position Analysis

The safety group is, far and away, the thinnest and least “top-heavy” group on Buffalo’s roster. Hyde is a quality player with a versatile skill set ideal for McDermott’s defense. Like many “strong safeties” in today’s NFL, Hyde will push down to the slot on occasion and will even serve as a weakside linebacker in the increasingly prevalent “big nickel” sets. He’s a primary candidate to roam the intermediate middle of the secondary as a “robber” safety. Poyer has the twitchiness to cover ground quickly and was maturing into an adequate safety for the Browns before his 2016 injury.

There are obviously a fair amount of question marks with him. Beyond those two, everyone else in the Bills safety contingent has little-to-no NFL experience (notice all the “N/A” labels after Poyer).

McDermott publicly mentioned he wants defensive backs who excel as tacklers and are willing run defenders. Hyde’s PFF run-grade of 77.1 ranked 22nd out of 111 cornerbacks. Poyer had a run-defense grade of 81.6, which ranked 22nd out of 90 qualifying safeties.

This position needs an upgrade — or two — even by way of a veteran who’s at least played safety in an NFL game. If those reinforcements are added, they’ll likely arrive very close if not during training camp and would have a good chance to see a sizable role on the defense. McDermott has gotten effective play out of what many would call “lesser” safeties in his past — ex. Kurt Coleman, twilight-of-his-career Roman Harper — but the Bills safety position is the greatest team weakness right now.