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91 players in 91 days: Cornerback Levi Wallace

Last year’s CB2 enters 2020 with a long-term vote of confidence even with some short-term competition

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills boasted the NFL’s No. 3 defense in terms of yards against in 2019, trailing only the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. In terms of points allowed, the Bills were No. 2, behind only New England. Much of that defensive success came as a result of the Bills’ ability to stop the pass.

While Buffalo was a “modest” No. 10 in rush yards allowed, the team continued its trend of absolutely stifling pass defense, allowing only 195 yards per game through the air. The Bills were one of four teams to allow under 200 passing yards per contest in a league that continues to emphasize the aerial attack.

While one of the team’s cornerbacks understandably receives most of the accolades, his counterpart has done a pretty nice job throughout his young career, as well. In today’s installment of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile the team’s second corner in 2019.

Name: Levi Wallace
Number: 39
Position: CB
Height/Weight: 6’ 179 lbs.
Age: 24 (25 on 6/12/2020)
Experience/Draft: 3; undrafted
College: Alabama
Acquired: Signed with Bills as UDFA on 5/1/18

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Wallace enters the final year of his initial UDFA contract, which was a three-year pact that totaled $1.71 million. In 2020, Wallace carries a salary-cap hit of $750,000.

2019 Recap: Wallace played a full 16-game slate in his second year, and he finished fourth on the team in total tackles with 76. According to Pro Football Reference, Wallace missed more tackles (12) than anyone on the team other than Matt Milano (16) and Taron Johnson (13). He also made his first two career interceptions, adding nine pass breakups and four tackles for a loss, as well. He started every game for the Bills in the regular season, and he played 76% of the team’s defensive snaps. An ankle sprain suffered in the regular season finale against the New York Jets kept Wallace out of Buffalo’s playoff loss to the Houston Texans in January.

Positional outlook: Wallace finds himself in the midst of a battle for playing time with a pair of veterans in Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines, each of whom signed with the Bills this offseason. The team also drafted Dane Jackson in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft to go along with Tre’Davious White, Cam Lewis, and Taron Johnson.

2020 Offseason: Wallace practiced in the week leading up to Buffalo’s playoff game, so there should be no lingering after-effects from the ankle injury. While making the most of his time social distancing, Wallace live-streamed himself playing Fortnite to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

2020 Season outlook: Wallace was Buffalo’s “zone corner” last year, as he is much better suited to playing that style rather than man-to-man, where he often struggles due to his lack of strength. His rotation partner last year, Kevin Johnson, left via free agency, but the Bills added depth by signing Norman and Gaines. Adding multiples corners would seem to indicate that the team doesn’t view Wallace as the answer across from White, an All-Pro choice last year, but I don’t see it that way. If the Bills wanted to replace Wallace, they’d have done so by drafting a player far earlier than the seventh round or they would have spent money on a younger corner to line up across from White. Norman is a reclamation project who might pan out in a familiar defense, and Gaines is a solid player when healthy...but he’s never healthy. All signs point towards Wallace having an opportunity to cement himself as the long-term Robin to Tre’ White’s Batman in the Bills’ dynamic secondary.