The Buffalo Bills are in a very interesting position coming into this season. Brandon Beane and company brought in 18 players on the offensive side of the ball alone this offseason, but there is still plenty of turnover from last year’s team and a solid group of young talent ready to make an impact for Buffalo this season.
Zay Jones struggled his rookie year and early rumblings around the Bills’ fan base were that he may be a bust. Although he is the FBS all-time leading receiver, Jones struggled at times in 2016 catching the ball. In year two his numbers doubled, catching 56 passes for 652 yards and seven touchdowns.
The former second-round pick out of Eastern Carolina has shown flashes of being the player he was in college. A prime example being against the Miami Dolphins in week 17 where Jones caught six passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns while primarily being covered by pro bowler Xavien Howard. Jones’s footwork has only gotten better since coming into the league in 2016 and, assuming that trend continues, his route running and ability to create separation at the line of scrimmage will be a problem for corners across the AFC East and around the league.
With another year of chemistry with second-year quarterback Josh Allen, expect Jones to be Allen’s go-to guy early in the year and be a consistent target throughout the season. Ideally, those targets will be spread out later in the year with the additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley. Given another year under his belt and some veteran leadership in the wide-receiver room, Jones is poised to have his best year to date. Look for him to make a splash in 2019.
On the defensive side of the ball we have Levi Wallace. Wallace came in as an undrafted free agent who started seven games for the Bills in 2018 and filled the void the team had at the CB2 spot late in the year. Wallace finished the year as Pro Football Focus’s highest rated rookie corner in 2018. Coming in at 6’ and 180 lbs you would like to see Wallace put on some weight as he struggled with bigger receivers downfield. Wallace is a sound tackler and showed that he can be a reliable second corner and play well in the box.
With E.J Gaines returning to Buffalo and former first-rounder Kevin Johnson joining the mix, it will be interesting to see what kind of role Wallace takes on and who wins the second corner spot come opening day. But With Gaines’s injury history, it’s likely that we’ll be seeing a lot of Wallace in multiple roles this year. Look for him to make an impact regardless if its at nickel or out wide.
Finally, the elephant in the room is Josh Allen. Based on what we've heard from head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane, Allen is way ahead of schedule coming into year two. After being thrown into the fire Week 1 after an abysmal first half by then-starter Nathan Peterman in 2018, Allen’s play was erratic at best with more valleys than peaks.
However, after his return from injury in Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Allen had fans starting to see why Beane moved up in the draft to get him at number seven—pulling out a win and finding ways to make plays that didn't seem like they were there to be made. The last six weeks of the season were far better than the first and Allen’s development and play-making ability were becoming more and more visible. Given a revamped offensive line and reliable targets,
Allen is fully equipped to take the next step and become the face of the Bills’ offense. While the last six weeks were promising, the looming question in the back of every Bills fan’s head remains: Is Allen the guy? Year two is where they’ll get their answer.