There are a lot of expectations these days in Western New York. Niagara Falls sized expectations. The Buffalo Bills are young, stacked, and confident. Look no further than the man who would be MVP, Josh Allen. He’s broken records held by the beloved Jim Kelly, and no one (including Kelly) seemed to mind.
If we spin our idiom wheel, we’d use phrases like ‘football is a team sport’ and ‘you win as a team and you lose as a team’, and both are true, tried, and tired. Looking beyond Josh Allen, there are several people who need to step up this year if the Bills want to get back to the AFC Championship game and beyond.
Buffalo Bills Who Must Excel in 2023
1. Whoever is Calling the Plays on Defense
Leslie Frazier is gone, and I mean gone gone, not just ‘on a break’.
He may coach again, but I’d give the chances of Frazier donning a Bills hat again at about 10%. That said, somebody will be on the headset giving out schemes and coverage assignments. Given the embarrassing way the defense sort of showed up against the Bengals in the playoffs, this year’s defense will be under quite the microscope as the preseason shuffles along into the regular season.
Defense may not win championships, but it certainly loses them (the 2017 Atlanta Falcons have joined the call). The Bills offense may be prolific, but if the Bills are in shootouts week after week because the defense doesn’t play well, the Bills will be in for an exhausting season.
2. Stefon Diggs
If one were to describe Diggs’ offseason in a single word, that word would be bombastic.
Diggs wears his mood on his sleeve and has no filter when it comes to his opinions. You take the bad with the good as a Bills fan. You take loving his passion and commitment to the position and to winning, but his ‘say whatever I feel’ cavalier Twitter posts and outbursts are at times cringy and uncomfortable.
No one can deny the talent and leadership that Diggs brings, so most of the time fans will take the baggage with it. That said, this is a watershed year for Diggs. He’s been with the Bills for 4 years now; he knows the system, he knows the quarterback, and he’s been outspoken about wanting to win. It’s time for him to put his cleats where his conversation is and show out on the field as much as he shows up on social media.
3. Dawson Knox
I know, I know, the Bills used their first-round pick on a tight end. Shouldn’t we be talking about him? We are, in a way.
Knox has proven to be a serviceable target the last two years, but all of a sudden the NFL is stupefied over superstar tight ends. Maybe Dalton Kincaid will be that in a few years, but Buffalo needs a ‘better than average’ tight end right now. Kincaid should free up Knox to become more productive and dangerous in the high-scoring Bills offense.
If, as many pundits surmise, the Bills plan to run two tight end sets the majority of the time, Knox has got to take advantage and ball out. His time as TE1 in Buffalo may be short now that Kincaid has arrived, but he needs to prove he’s a capable and consistent weapon so that the Bills win now, and so that wherever he lands next has the confidence to pay him his worth.
4. Von Miller
Oh, what might have been for Buffalo. If Miller hadn’t suffered a catastrophic injury, how different would the Bills defense have looked, especially in that ill-fated snow playoff game in Buffalo in early January?
How much was really lost when Von went down? Von Miller defines synergy: he adds more than just his value to what he is involved in. His play is monstrous; his leadership is monumental. He needs to stay healthy, and as Coach Sean McDermott often reminds his players, to “Stay humble and hungry”.
If a healthy Von Miller can stay humble, he is going to feast on opposing offenses. The Bills will need him to channel all of that humility into a huge year. It may not even be too early to say that as Von Miller goes, so goes the Buffalo defense.
Buffalo seems poised upon a precipice, teetering, uncertain if they will fall back or surge forward. These four people may well hold the balance in their hands, and their importance cannot be overstated. The Bills and Bills Mafia together are holding their collective breath, hoping that finally, they can ascend to the mountain top.
Josh Allen, while superhuman, can only do so much. Iron Man needed the Avengers, Josh Allen needs some help too.
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