Tremaine Edmunds Jersey

ORCHARD PARK – Brandon Beane has said numerous times over the past few weeks while scouting at the East-West Shrine Game and then the Senior Bowl that the Buffalo Bills will not be drafting for need come April.

“I promise you, drafting for need is a mistake that can set franchises back, and I’m not going to do that as long as I’m in charge here,” the Bills’ general manager said at his season-ending press conference on Dec. 31.

He then reiterated that philosophy last week at the Senior Bowl, saying, “We’re at nine (in the first round) and we’re going to take the best player on offense or defense and we’ll continue to do that in round two, three and beyond.However, drafting for need was exactly what Beane did in his first draft with the Bills in 2018, and it’s a good thing he did because he may have set in place two foundational cornerstones upon which to build.

Expertly working his way up the board via trades, Beane filled two gaping holes on the roster in selecting quarterback Josh Allen at No. 7 and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds at No. 16.

Allen’s future is a bit polarizing because there are many people — fans, media, analytics gurus — who wonder whether he’ll ever become a true franchise quarterback. Edmunds, on the other hand, seems like a player who will blossom into a star as his career progresses.

It’s true that Edmunds had a topsy-turvy rookie season and there were certainly moments when he looked lost, but let’s also remember that the 6-foot-5, 250-pound freak of an athlete is the youngest drafted player in NFL history.He can’t even legally purchase an adult beverage until May 2 and he’s half Tom Brady’s age, for crying out loud. Yet, in his first season, he led the Bills with 121 tackles and 12 pass breakups, had two interceptions and two forced fumbles, and he was on the field in the chaotic middle of the Buffalo defense for more than 96 percent of the snaps in the 15 games he played.

“I think everybody forgets, especially if you’re around him all the time because he’s so big, that he’s 20,” Beane said. “He’s still growing into his body, believe it or not. But mentally, this was a big step. A lot was asked of him that was not asked at Virginia Tech. For all that was thrown at him, I thought he really progressed.”

Progressed to the point where, late in the season, now retired defensive tackle Kyle Williams essentially slid into the passenger seat and handed the keys to the car over to the newbie 15 years his junior.

On Thursdays of game week, Williams would gather the entire defense for a meeting without the coaches to go over situations and responsibilities, and prior to the Bills hosting the Jets in Week 13, he told Edmunds to run the session.

“The guy that’s in that position, in a perfect world, is kind of your bell cow,” Williams said of middle linebackers. “He’s communicating the ins and outs of the defense to everybody around. He’s the quarterback of the defense.”

Having played three-quarters of the season by that point, Williams — already knowing that he was going to announce his retirement — thought Edmunds had earned the opportunity to prove that he could handle more responsibility.

“There’s a couple things that have to come before he can step in front of a group of guys and lead them,” Williams said. “He has to have production, he has to be accountable, he has to work the right way. Those are things he’s done well. I think he plays hard, he prepares the right way, and he’s in a natural position that if you can cultivate it and you can be that type of guy, it’s a natural leadership position. Hopefully it will help him grow a little bit more.”

Beane loved that proverbial passing of the torch, and he believes it will boost Edmunds’ confidence as the 2019 season approaches.There were times that he was still hesitant during the year,” Beane said. “But he has the growth mindset. He’s a great kid, as you know. He’s not content with where he’s at. He’s one of those guys that you almost have to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing good.’ He’s so hard on himself. He focuses on the three or four plays he missed versus the 15 or 20 that he nailed.”

What impressed defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier more than anything was that Edmunds did not play middle linebacker at Virginia Tech. He had to learn the nuances of the position during a whirlwind NFL baptism, and now that he has one full season where he experienced a little bit of everything, Frazier can’t wait for year two.

“Bob Babich, his position coach, and I talk about that often,” Frazier said. “Sometimes we’re having meetings and we talk about all the things that we put on his plate, and then you realize how young he is. And the fact that it’s a new position, because he was an outside linebacker in college. Now, you’re a middle linebacker in the National Football League, so young at what he’s doing. To see his growth is just incredible. You have high hopes for his future. He’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Josh Allen Jersey

Where would Josh Allen’s basketball skills rank among NFL QBs?

Josh Allen was a football, baseball and basketball star at Firebaugh high school in his hometown back in California. Allen like many other quarterbacks played multiple sports, but ultimately decided on football to be the one they fully pursue. But what if NFL quarterbacks decided to trade in their cleats for high tops and the turf for hardwood? And what if they all decided to compete in a 1-on-1 basketball tournament just like March Madness? Well, Sports Illustrated put together the list of who would be starting as the No. 1 seed like Duke and Gonzaga in this year’s tournament, and who would be well on their way towards the NIT.

Josh Allen didn’t make the cut as a No.1 seed. Those marks went to Nick Foles, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Sam Darnold. But Allen was labeled a legit contender. Allen was a 6-1 guard in high school.

Allen starred at tiny Firebaugh (Calif.) High, and his coach said he could have played both baseball and basketball at the next level. He has the size and showed in his rookie season that he’s got speed. But it’s his 33.5-inch vertical at the combine that’s really intriguing.

Allen is listed in the same category as Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck. Allen is the new kid on the block, just like another Buffalo team looking to make a splash in the tournament this year and would probably shock some of the “blue-bloods” of the QB world like Roethlisberger and Ryan with his talent. The NCAA tournament tends to lean towards teams with veteran talent, but it isn’t always surprising to see a well-coached group of young players make their impact.

Still, even though the list is just for fun it’s important to remember that no other quarterback in the NFL has a hashtag of him showing off his hops.

Bills one of most improved offensive lines

Coming into the offseason it was obvious the Bills were going to address their needs on the offensive line. Through the first week of free agency Buffalo has already added four new players to bolster the group. Five if you count early free agent signee Spencer Long after he was a cap casualty of the New York Jets. The handful of moves has completely changed the appearance of the starting five that was seen on opening day this past season. Pro Football Focus has already labeled the Bills as one of the most improved despite them all not even taking a snap together.

The Bills completely revamped their offensive line with the addition of C Mitch Morse, T Ty Nsekhe, G Spencer Long, and G Jon Feliciano. While Long and Feliciano are more depth signings, Nsekhe and Morse can be game changers. Morse is one of the best pass-protecting centers in the NFL and earned an 81.2 pass-blocking grade last season, while Nsekhe has excelled as a backup in Washington and was one of our favorite value signings this offseason.

PFF currently projects the Bills starting offensive line to be Dion Dawkins at LT, Wyatt Teller at LG, Mitch Morse at C, Spencer Long at RG and Ty Nsekhe at RT.

Could the Bills go defense with the ninth pick?

Conor Orr released his first mock draft of the season for Sports Illustrated’s MMQB. This is the first mock draft released since the initial wave of free agency as they try to find the players who best fit each of the teams’ holes and trying to match them with the characteristics that their coaches prefer. On top there were no surprises with Kyler Murray to Arizona and Nick Bosa to San Francisco but they do have the Bills going in a direction most don’t with defensive tackle Ed Oliver from Houston.

Oliver will be a top-30 visit in Buffalo, and gives Sean McDermott a lot of moving parts up front. His 84 pressures over three seasons (a number that got better each year) is pretty significant. He averaged almost two tackles for loss and four pressures per game during his final year in Houston. I suppose receiver works here too, though D.K. Metcalf would work best with a seasoned quarterback in my opinion.

Orr has Metcalf going 16th to Carolina, but others like ESPN’s Todd McShay have the Ole Miss receiver going to Buffalo at No. 9.

Oliver impressed at the combine with a good mix of athleticism and strength. He was third among defensive linemen with 32 bench reps, third with a 36-inch vertical and tied with Michigan’s Rashan Gary for the number one broad jump at 10 feet.

Oliver only played in eight games for Houston this season, due to injury, but managed 54 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks.

Kyle Williams Jersey

STORRS — Perhaps Kyle Williams could have opted to suit up at one of the Division II or III football programs in Connecticut and could have earned regular playing time in the secondary as early as his freshman year. The former Hamden Hall star took a much more challenging path by being a non-scholarship player at UConn.

With one season remaining Williams has three tackles to his credit, but if the events transpiring during UConn’s spring practice serve as a peek into the future, Williams could see more time in the defensive backfield in the 2019 season.

Williams spent the early part of spring drills getting work with the first team and seeing time with the top group when five or six defensive backs were on the field.

“I got reps at the corner and the dime package so I am just trying to show my worth at either position so when the season comes I will be able to be ready and contribute,” Williams said.

Williams is one of the few experienced options at the cornerback position along with junior Tahj Herring-Wilson. Freshmen Ryan Carroll, Shamel Lazarus, Jeremy Lucien and Keyshawn Paul all started at least one game at cornerback as true freshmen and there was a three-game stretch in the middle of the season when both starting outside cornerbacks were players just several months removed from graduating from high school.

Lucien missed spring practice due to offseason shoulder surgery so it remains to be seen how his role and those of the other rising sophomores develop under new defensive coordinator Lou Spanos and with Darrell Perkins back to coach the defensive backs. Paul was first player mentioned when UConn coach Randy Edsall was asked if any players surprised him during the first 14 spring practices. More young defensive backs will arrive in July so Williams has no guarantee of his playing time in the fall. Still, he is doing what he can to help his younger teammates adapt to college life both on and off the field.

“Just try to teach the guys consistency whether it is in the building, in the classroom or in your social life how everything affects everything,” Williams said. “It is just a giant circle when it comes to our lives as student-athletes so just teaching them consistency, being about your business when we are in the building studying film, in practice or in the classroom.”

Williams is already seeing his hard work paying off with the quality reps he is seeing in spring drills and he has no regrets about the path he chose.

“I am enjoying this experience because there are a lot of guys who came in with my class are all from the same area, we are all from Connecticut and a lot of guys who were here before me are from Connecticut and went through the process,” Williams said. “Matt Walsh, he is from Hand, he went through the same process as me. We talked a lot my freshman year about the process and how you have to grind it out and eventually you will be rewarded.”

UConn will scrimmage on Friday in the final spring practice of 2019. The decision was made to start spring practice a little early and not have a spring game. Edsall said he is happy about making that change. He’s said he has seen progress in offense, defense and special teams. Much of work, especially on defense, was focused on picking up a new defensive system. There will be extra time for players to take part in the conditioning program and to heal up from injuries. Edsall said there are no new long-term injury concerns heading into the final practice. Running backs Kevin Mensah and Art Thompkins were held out of Thursday’s practice with lower-body injuries and won’t take part in the scrimmage.

UConn is hosting what it is calling an open house and fan fest on April 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on campus with tours of the Burton Family Football Complex and Shenkman Training Center. There will be mini-clinics conducted, an autograph session and question and answer session with players and coaches. Admission is free.

LeSean McCoy Jersey

The Buffalo Bills had six captains in 2018: Patrick DiMarco, LeSean McCoy, Kyle Williams, Lorenzo Alexander, Stephen Hauschka, and Taiwan Jones.

Could Bills quarterback Josh Allen be included in that bunch sooner rather than later? Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane, in an interview with Adam Schein on Mad Dog Sports Radio, hinted at just that.

“(Allen) is a guy who has the intangibles you want as a quarterback,” Beane said. “He’s a big time leader. I think he will… year two walking in as the guy, he will feel himself. Hopefully he shows that he earns that ‘C’ on his chest.”

The reasoning Beane discussed for why he believes Allen could be a captain was a hot-button topic when the Bills introduced their new free agent signings last week. Most of them, including wide receiver John Brown, said the first person they heard from on the Bills was their new quarterback after word got out that they had signed.

“Josh called them within minutes of it getting out. They really thought that was cool. It was good for me to hear that Josh had taken that initiative to call those guys and welcome them,” Beane said.

However, the decision on the ‘C’ might not be up to Beane. Usually it’s up to the team’s coaches or it’s voted on by the players in the locker room. Of last year’s listed captains, two are on defense, two on special teams and two on offense.
Via Williams retiring and Jones remaining unsigned, there’s two vacancies for captains. However, DiMarco and McCoy are returning, so they might keep their captaincy, unless the Bills want to go off-beat and want to give another ‘C’ out on offense.

But if that’s the case, or in one way or another Allen is given a captaincy, you can bet that Buffalo’s head coach in Sean McDermott is on board. This past December, he already came out and said it: Allen’s a locker room leader.

“Josh, Josh is the leader,” McDermott said. “That’s a little bit different for a rookie to be the leader, but the position he plays and the way that he’s played and earned their respect, he’s the leader on the offense.”