We’ve come a long way in our Buffalo Bills Team of the Decade exercise, and ten of our 11 defensive slots have been set. We need one more player, and to pick the candidates for this final vote, I had this criteria: The player had to be a runner up from one of the previous polls, and they had to net at least 15% of the vote. That ended up generating a very short list of contenders, but I think you’ll agree that the remaining options represent the best of the best. First, let’s review how we got here.
Defensive lineman was an easy choice, with Kyle Williams running away with 99% of the vote in his poll. Marcell Dareus cleaned up with 83% of the vote in round two. Jordan Phillips pulled 11% of that vote.
Tied with 48% of the vote (separated by literally 2 votes out of 1,170 cast!) are Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. Both edge rushers made the team. Lorenzo Alexander was the runner up with 2% of the vote, and we’ll talk about him next. Shaq Lawson only received one vote, so he doesn’t qualify.
Tremaine Edmunds was the clear-cut favorite at linebacker, and Lorenzo Alexander claimed a spot by beating Matt Milano 46-34. Preston Brown was the next runner up at 12%.
At cornerback, we had successive landslides. First by Tre’Davious White, then by Stephon Gilmore over the remaining competitors. Leodis McKelvin was the runner up with 12% of the vote.
Safety was by far the biggest battle. Jairus Byrd was the first selection, claiming 42% of the vote. In round two, Micah Hyde was picked over Jordan Poyer by a 47-42 margin. Behind them was Aaron Williams at 8%.
All in all, this exercise leaves us with a two-man battle for the 11th spot on our defensive roster. Who will you pick?
Buffalo’s fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Milano immediately stood out as a rookie with his relentless motor and his plus-movement skills. The Bills sat him behind veteran Ramon Humber on the depth chart, but he forced his way onto the field. Over the past three years, he’s been an impact defender for this team. While Tremaine Edmunds locks down the middle, Milano roams around the edges of the box, runs with tight ends, and dives into the backfield to blow up running plays. He’s irreplaceable in the Bills’ defense. The Bills have one core linebacker and one “flexible” linebacker—should the defense get one more linebacker to round out the 4-3?
Overall stats: 33 games started, 228 combined tackles, 26 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 18 passes defended, four interceptions.
Speaking of irreplaceable, Poyer has played nearly 100% of snaps over the past three seasons for the Bills. He stacks up as one of the most productive Bills playmakers of the past decade. The team asks him to play a variety of roles in the box, in the slot, out deep, and he attacks those jobs with burning energy. He stepped up big time in his first major starting role, and the Bills rewarded him with a contract extension this offseason. The Bills already have Jairus Byrd and Micah Hyde defending the backfield. Could Poyer be the chess piece that completes a deadly nickel defense?
Overall stats: 47 games started, 302 combined tackles, 17 TFLs, four forced fumbles, five sacks, 22 passes defended, 11 interceptions.
Two deserving candidates, but only one can join our All-Decade team. Who are you going to pick?
Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade team: Defensive flex
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