The Buffalo Bills feature a fantastic duo of safeties in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Hyde earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2018 after appearing in 15 games, recording 58 tackles with two interceptions, five passes defended, and one fumble recovery. Poyer enjoyed a career year for Leslie Frazier’s 4-3 defense last season, finishing with 100 tackles (nine for a loss) with four interceptions, six passes defended, three quarterback hits, two sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery while starting all 16 games.
Those two are a formidable pairing for Buffalo’s secondary. Beyond that, in this current pass-happy version of the NFL where quarterbacks are throwing more often and for more yards than ever before, teams need to have a slew of safeties to plug into their schemes.
Does Buffalo currently have a solid third safety option on the roster? The three other internal options at safety are all currently signed to team-friendly, low-cost contracts: Rafael Bush, Siran Neal, and Dean Marlowe.
Bush, 31, appeared in 15 games (seven starts), making 45 tackles with 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits. Bush, who carries a $1.8 million cap hit ($300,000 dead cap if cut), is a versatile member of the secondary who was Buffalo’s third safety and also the team’s Big Nickel slot cornerback who saw time as the Bills’ primary slot corner, too. Bush’s strength’s include rushing the passer and delivering punishing hits in the secondary. He needs to improve his coverage ability, but he possesses enough skill to warrant the first look as Buffalo’s third safety heading into the 2019 season.
Marlowe, 26, appeared in two games (one start), finishing with five tackles and one pass breakup. A former member of the Carolina Panthers, Marlowe was on Buffalo’s practice squad to start the season before being called up for the Week 5 match-up with the Tennessee Titans. Playing every snap of Buffalo’s 13-12 win, Marlowe came up with four tackles and a big pass breakup in the win. Signed for a $645,000 cap hit ($0 in guaranteed money), Marlowe should provide Buffalo with another low-cost depth option who knows Frazier’s defense. He is behind Bush in the race to be the third safety but can certainly contribute.
Neal, coming off a less-than-inspiring rookie season, is the other internal option at third safety. Neal, a fifth-round selection in 2018, contributed mostly on special teams. He appeared in all 16 games but logged only 15 snaps at safety compared to 249 on special teams. He finished with 11 tackles (two for a loss) with one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. His position is definitely not guaranteed next year and he is a distant third in terms of internal third safety options.
Buffalo’s safeties are a talented bunch, and as of now, Bills fans should feel confident that Bush could handle the third safety duties. Marlowe has shown himself to be effective in limited action in Western New York, while Neal is still a work-in-progress.