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These are the season grades for the key starters on the Buffalo Bills offense in 2019.
The Buffalo Bills entered this past season with almost an entirely new offense from a season ago. In fact they only had two starters, left tackle Dion Dawkins and fullback Patrick DiMarco, for their Week 1 game against the New York Jets that also started the first game of the 2018 season.

The Bills front office was aggressive this past offseason, both in free agency and through the NFL Draft, and had new additions like John Brown, Cole Beasley, Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox all play pivotal roles this season.

These new weapons helped Josh Allen take the next step in his career and the offense showed flashes but lacked consistency. They finished the year 24th in total yards, 26th in passing yards but eighth in rushing yards.

These are the grades for the key players on the Buffalo Bills offense in 2019.

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills hired former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington on Friday to become their defensive line coach.

Washington has 12 years of NFL coaching experience. His future with the Panthers was uncertain under newly hired coach Matt Rhule.

Washington succeeds Bill Teerlinck, who left Buffalo this week to become Virginia Tech’s defensive line coach.

In Buffalo, he’s reunited with head coach Sean McDermott and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Washington coached Lotulelei as the Panthers defensive line during McDermott’s tenure as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Washington is best known as a defensive line specialist. He will oversee a unit that helped Buffalo make 44 sacks — the most in five seasons — and had seven in a 22-19 overtime loss to Houston in an AFC wild-card playoff on Saturday.

Buffalo, however, was inconsistent against the run despite allowing the third-fewest yards offense in the NFL last season.

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Heading into Sunday’s game against thew New York Jets, Buffalo Bills defensive end Trent Murphy had three sacks on the season. That would have been the lowest total since his rookie season, but the veteran had other ideas.

On Sunday, Murphy took down Jets quarterback Sam Darnold twice to raise his season sack total to five. That also earned Murphy a $350,000 bonus according to Tim Graham of The Athletic. This is an incentive built into his contract.

Murphy totaled four sacks in 2018.

It’s only the second two-sack day of his career and first as a member of the Bills. Murphy received extended playing time thanks to an injury to Shaq Lawson and extra rest given to Jerry Hughes. He played 72% of the defensive snaps, the third-highest percentage on the year.

While Murphy hasn’t reached the lofty expectations of Bills fans following his signing as a free agent, he’s been steady and a good “process” guy in the locker room and weight room. With Lawson hitting the free-agent market, it wouldn’t surprise us if Murphy is back next year even with a salary of $6 million and a cap hit approaching $9 million.

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Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson might become “former Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson” in a few weeks.

Lawson had his best season as a professional in 2019, notching 6.5 sacks, second-most on the Bills (Jordan Phillips, 9.5) and he led the team with 13 tackles for loss.

But Lawson wants to set the bar even higher in 2020, regardless of the team he’s on. Lawson took to social media this week and moved things up.

“Great year, but I am coming for 10-plus sacks,” Lawson posted.

While a pending free agent, Lawson did express a desire to return to Buffalo during the team’s locker cleanout day, saying he’d “love” to be back. However, Lawson also indicated that he would have to make an understandable “business decision,” as well.

Most importantly, Lawson doesn’t appear to be taking this personal. The Bills could have locked Lawson up for next season, but declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. That’s something that Lawson said motivated him to have a career-year.

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The Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets have battled through rainy, windy conditions in a sloppy game reminiscent of a preseason tilt thus far. At the half, the score is 3-0.

For the Bills, their number-one goal was to exit the game with everyone at full health. That won’t be the case, as cornerback Levi Wallace suffered what appeared to be a fairly serious ankle injury in the first quarter. He is doubtful to return this week, but he was unable to put any weight on the ankle at all, so his status for next week looks doubtful, as well.

Josh Allen started the game for Buffalo and was largely ineffective for his two series, although he wasn’t asked to do much. Frank Gore leads the team in touches, as he has run the ball effectively all afternoon. He has six carries for 26 yards, and he also leads the team in receiving, catching three passes for 16 yards thus far.

Buffalo’s backups on defense have held the Jets’ starters on offense in check, as the team could only muster a field goal. Kicker Sam Ficken also missed a 51-yard kick on the team’s first drive. Sam Darnold has completed 15-of-23 passes for 122 yards. He also was intercepted by Wallace on the play where the latter injured his ankle. Le’Veon Bell has 12 carries for 45 yards, and Jamison Crowder has five catches for 39 yards.

Defensive back Siran Neal briefly left the game with what appeared to be a stinger, but he was back on the field later in the second quarter. The Bills have employed a heavy rotation thus far, with multiple backups seeing more time than normal. Jaquan Johnson had an interception nullified by a Kurt Coleman personal-foul penalty. Darryl Johnson Jr. has seen a majority of the snaps at defensive end. Julian Stanford has played middle linebacker. Lorenzo Alexander was given a curtain call in the first quarter. It’s been a quintessential Week 17 game.

Matt Barkley threw an interception at the end of the first half, giving the Jets an opportunity for more points heading into intermission. However, Ficken missed his second field goal, this one from only 34 yards out, leaving the score 3-0. His make came from 30 yards out.

This is your second-half thread, ladies and gentlemen. Go Bills! Stay healthy!

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Taron Johnson and Joey Banks go way back.

“It was in Pop Warner, but we weren’t friends. We didn’t become friends until probably high school,” said Johnson, Buffalo Bills cornerback.

“We played for two different Pop Warner teams growing up. Obviously I played for the better team. We got close in high school. We started training with the same group of guys in high school and it just grew from there, the relationship just grew from there,” said Banks, University at Buffalo safety.

Growing beyond their home of Sacramento, California as they continued their football careers.

“When I was getting recruited I always said that I’d probably end up somewhere where I never expected and Buffalo for sure somewhere I never expected to be,” said Banks.

Banks transferred to UB in 2018, a few months before the NFL Draft.

“I was in the cafeteria, the student café, eating, watching the draft with some other teammates and Buffalo was up on the clock and I seen Taron Johnson go across the screen. I said, ‘Hold on, what? He’s coming to Buffalo too?’ It was just crazy how it happened. I didn’t believe it, but I was super proud of him,” said Banks.

“When it happened it felt kind of unreal already and then it wasn’t until probably about 30 minutes later I’m like, ‘Oh, Joey, we’re going to be in the same area.’ That just made me even more excited to come,” said Johnson.

That bond tested during their first fall in town, both fighting injuries, but leaning on each other to work through them.

“Just control the things that you can control. Don’t worry about the stuff that’s going on on the outside because that can play with your mind and might put negative thoughts into your head or you might second guess yourself sometimes. But if you just focus on controlling the things that you can control, and helping him and him helping me get through that, it kind of helps,” said Banks.

“I know just talking to him that what happened to me, yeah, having surgery, OK, but I can definitely get through it. I can definitely come out a better player, a better person, when I’m healthy again. Even when I was out five weeks when I pulled my hamstring, even with that, he just helped me stay in it, ‘Just keep focusing and control what you can control.’ That was the biggest thing with me, him being in my ear talking to me about that because for a while when I was hurt, it was just kind of messing with my head a little bit,” said Johnson.

Both bounced back this season, with Johnson back in the slot for 10 games with the Bills and Banks a first-team All-MAC corner for the Bulls.

A perfect finale that Johnson believes should bring Banks right where he is once again.

“I told a couple scouts, though. I already told a couple scouts that he’s a dog. I’m not just saying this. I’ve watched him play since seventh grade, sixth-seventh grade and he can play in the NFL. I know that. And hopefully I have the opportunity to see him, whether he’s on this team or he’s on some other team and has an opportunity to play,” said Johnson.

Just like Pop Warner back in Sacramento.

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Barnburner NFL playoff games between Houston and Buffalo are apparently the rule.

In a roller-coaster AFC wild-card game, the Texans outlasted the Bills 22-19 on Saturday afternoon at NRG Stadium.

Ka’imi Fairbairn made a 28-yard field goal with 3:20 left to send the Texans to the next round.

The Texans (11-6) will next play at Kansas City (12-4) at 2:05 p.m. Central time next Sunday in the divisional round. The Texans beat the Chiefs 31-24 on Oct. 13 at Arrowhead Stadium.

For Houston’s long-suffering NFL fans, Saturday’s game was particularly sweet payback 27 years and one day after the Oilers blew a 35-3 lead in a 41-38 overtime loss at Buffalo in 1993 that remains the biggest collapse in NFL playoff history.

Turnabout was fair play, with the Texans overcoming a 16-point deficit during the second half. In eerie fashion, this game played out just like the one from 27 years ago: the visitors took a double-digit lead in the second half, the home team rallied to take the lead only to see the guests force extra time before the hosts prevailed in overtime.

On the third possession of overtime, the Texans finally broke the stalemate. On second and 6 from the Bills’ 44, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson bounced off a blitz by Bills safety Siran Neal and also escaped a tackle attempt from linebacker Matt Milano.

Watson then found reserve running back Taiwan Jones for a 34-yard catch and run to the Bills’ 10. Fairbairn booted the winning field goal on the next play to keep the Bills (10-7) searching for their first playoff win since 1995.

Earlier in the drive, Watson, who finished 20-of-25 for 247 yards with one touchdown pass, converted a third-and-18 situation at the Texans’ 19 with a pass to running back Duke Johnson to maintain possession.

The Texans had a chance to put the game away, but Buffalo stopped Watson on a fourth-down quarterback sneak at the Bills’ 30 with 1:16 left. Texans coach Bill O’Brien eschewed a 47-yard field goal attempt that, if successful, would’ve forced the Bills to score a touchdown to win.

Given another chance, Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen drove his team to the Texans’ 29 in 11 plays. and Stephen Hauschka then made his fourth field goal of the game, a 47-yarder with five seconds left, to force overtime.

Watson gave the Texans their first lead of the game after they got the ball at their own 26-yard line with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter trailing 16-11.

On the second play of the drive, Watson found DeAndre Hopkins for 41 yards up the left sideline to put the Texans at the Bills’ 28.

Six plays later, Watson hit Carlos Hyde coming out of the backfield for a 6-yard touchdown pass to give the Texans their first lead. Watson then found Hopkins for the 2-point conversion and a 19-16 advantage with 4:42 remaining.

Trailing 16-0 late in the third quarter, the Texans finally put together a scoring drive. They went 75 yards in nine plays, with Watson scoring on a 20-yard designed run in which he carried Bills defenders into the end zone the final few yards with 1:33 left in the third.

Watson then ran in the ensuing 2-point conversion to draw the Texans within 16-8.

On the Bills’ next possession, Whitney Mercilus forced an Allen fumble at midfield that Jacob Martin recovered. The Texans were able to turn that into a 41-yard field goal by Fairbairn to get within 16-11 with 10:59 left in the fourth quarter.

The Bills seized the early momentum during the first half, scoring on their first drive with some bold play-calling.

That included a 42-yard run by Allen to the Houston 20 on a play in which Texans linebacker Brennan Scarlett inexplicably had his back turned to the line of scrimmage at the snap.

Two plays later, wide receiver John Brown threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to an uncovered Allen leaking out of the left side of the formation for a 7-0 lead with 11:41 to go.

The Texans drove into Buffalo territory on each of their first two drives only to punt.

The first possession saw O’Brien challenge a non-call on third down for pass interference only to lose. He then eschewed a 55-yard field goal attempt on fourth down to punt.

The Bills then tacked on two 40-yard field goals by Hauschka during the second quarter, with the second coming with nine seconds left in the half.

As they left the field, the Texans were booed off the field, as they were during home playoff losses in 2015 and 2018.

After Tre’Davious White forced and Tremaine Edmunds recovered a Hopkins fumble at the Texans’ 38 early in the third quarter, the Bills turned it into another Hauschka field goal, this one from 38 yards with 6:08 left, to up their lead to 16-0.

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Welcome to 2020, Bills fans! We may be less than 24 hours into the new decade, but it’s safe to say it’s off to a solid start. The playoff bound Buffalo Bills are heading to Houston for a Wild Card matchup this Saturday, Jan. 4, and we know you’ll be right there with them. A global fan base that needs no convincing, Bills fans never waver when it comes to supporting their team – even if that means going behind enemy lines. As fans prepare to descend upon on Houston, here are a few fun facts we already know about the faithful making the trek.

Bills fans will go the extra mile
1,482.9 miles: The distance to Houston from Buffalo.

22 hours, 45 minutes: The drive time from Buffalo to Houston.

Bills fans will see a couple of firsts
1st: The first NFL game to be played in the new decade.

1st: The first time the Bills will take the field in Houston for a playoff game.

Bills fans believe their team is worth the wait
728: The number of days since Buffalo’s last playoff appearance on Jan. 7, 2018, against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game resulted in a Jags “W,” with a 10-3 final score.

24 years, 6 days: The amount of time that’s passed since Buffalo’s last playoff win, which was on Dec. 30, 1995, at the Miami Dolphins.

Bills fans will be surrounded by good company
2: The number of Bills Backers Chapters that call Houston home. The Houston Bills Backers and the North Houston Bills Backers will combine forces to put on one epic weekend for their regular guests and incoming visitors. Expected to bring in droves of fans for their two planned events, these chapters mean business when it comes to gearing up for game day.

On Friday, Jan. 3, the festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. with a block party hosted by the Houston Bills Backers. It will be held at their permanent spot, Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill, which is located at 2000 Bagby St., Suite 106, Houston, Texas. The fun will continue Saturday with a pregame party that is sure to impress. The Houston Bills Backers will provide a designated space where fans can pay to park and set up their tailgate. Opening as early as 8 a.m., the lot is within walking distance of the stadium, making it a great option. For more information on Bills Backers Chapters, visit here.

Bills fans will have access to local favorites
Those joining the celebration will feel right at home as they enjoy Labatt Blue products, which have been shipped with care by the Houston Bills Backers, and other Buffalo staples.

Bills fans traveled near and far to support the team during their Week 5 game against the Titans. Scroll through to see photos of the faithful.

Bills fans will get back to these players’ roots
7: The number of Bills players that are Texas natives: WR Cole Beasley (Little Elm), DE Jerry Hughes (Sugar Land), C Mitch Morse (Austin), T Ty Nsekhe (Arlington), DT Ed Oliver (Houston), Vincent Taylor (San Antonio), LB Corey Thompson (Missouri City).

4: The number of Bills that played college ball in Texas: Cole Beasley (Southern Methodist) Jerry Hughes (Texas Christian), Ty Nsekhe (Texas State) and Ed Oliver (Houston).

3: The number of Bills players, coaches and staff that spent time with the Texans: CB Kevin Johnson (2015-18), defensive backs coach John Butler (served as defensive backs coach for Houston from 2014-17), Bills Senior Personnel Advisor Brian Gaine (Texans general manager 2018-19, director of player personnel 2014-16).

Our kind of people.

We love you, #BillsMafia! #GoBills

— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 16, 2019
Bills fans can witness team history
1: The number of wins needed for head coach Sean McDermott to join Marv Levy (11), Lou Saban (2) and Chuck Knox (1), as the only Bills coaches to win a playoff game.

60: The total minutes in regulation on Saturday, Jan. 4, separating the Bills from the NFL Divisional Round.

26 years, 11 months, 19 days: The time that’s passed since Buffalo’s last road playoff win on Jan. 17, 1993, against Miami.

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Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips felt like he was a Pro Bowl snub and things didn’t get any nicer when the NFL’s All-Pro teams were named on Friday.

The 27-year-old led the Bills with 9.5 sacks and added another 31 tackles. He also had a forced fumble.

Still, Phillips wasn’t named an All-Pro of any sort as cornerback Tre’Davious White was.

Following the announcement, Phillips wrote “0 (zero) respect” on his social media account via Twitter:

0 respect lol

— Jordan Phillips (@bigj9797) January 3, 2020

After not making the Pro Bowl earlier this season, Phillips went on social media and had a laugh about it, literally:

Instead of Phillips, the Rams’ Arron Donald and Steelers’ Cam Heyward took home the honors. The Falcons’ Grady Jarrett and the 49ers’ DeForest Buckner took second-team honors.

And if you’re wondering, should Phillips really be mad since he didn’t even make the Pro Bowl? Well, Justin Simmons is an example of that. The Broncos safety wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl, but he was named a second-team All-Pro on Friday.

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On Saturday afternoon, the Texans will make their fourth appearance in a Wild Card weekend game in the last five years. This fourth matchup will feature the Texans against one of the best up and coming teams in the NFL – the Buffalo Bills. These two have never met in the playoffs as it’s just the second trip to the postseason for the Bills in the last twenty seasons. Then again, it’s the second appearance in the last three years as the Bills made a legendary trip to the playoffs in 2017, but lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Wild Card matchup two years ago.

Here’s the thing about those two trips to the Wild Card round for the Bills. There’s just one offensive starter (left tackle Dion Dawkins) and four defensive starters (Jerry Hughes, Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde) that’ll start on Saturday against the Texans that started in their 2017 Wild Card game vs. Jacksonville. GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott re-made this entire roster over the past two seasons and that change is evident in that just five starters remain from two short years ago.

The Bills offense will feature three rookies and second-year quarterback Josh Allen, entering his first playoff start. This offensive unit has been explosive and productive at times but hasn’t completely dominated games this season. Outside of the two wins over Miami, the Bills have scored 28 points or more just once. In fact, since the win over Dallas on Thanksgiving, the Bills haven’t scored more than 17 points in four games and have lost three of those four contests.

So, the offense can have its moments, but the defense is one of the best in the league at all times. They’re stout on the front (Star Lotulelei and Jordan Phillips), but they also have some quick interior players as well (Ed Oliver and Corey Liuget). They have as good a linebacker group as there is in the league (Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano and Lo Alexander). But, the star of this unit is the secondary. White is arguably the best corner in the league and hasn’t given up a touchdown in coverage all season long. The safety duo of Poyer and Hyde is outstanding and there are very few back ends with a safety pair like that. This defense gives up yards grudgingly and was gashed, so to speak, by just one team all season long – the Philadelphia Eagles. When the Texans faced the Bills last year, they sacked Deshaun Watson seven times and yielded just 216 yards of total offense. So, yeah, it’s going to be tough, to say the least.

Without further ado, let’s get to know the AFC’s fifth seed and top Wild Card team – the Buffalo Bills

2019 Schedule – Record 10-6

W, @ New York Jets 17-16

W, @ New York Giants 28-14

W, Cincinnati Bengals 21-17

L, New England Patriots 16-10

W, @ Tennessee Titans 14-7

W, Miami Dolphins 31-21

L, Philadelphia Eagles 31-13

W, Washington Redskins 24-9

L, @ Cleveland Browns 19-16

W, @ Miami Dolphins 37-20

W, Denver Broncos 20-3

W, @ Dallas Cowboys 26-15

L, Baltimore Ravens 24-17

W, @ Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10

L, @ New England 24-17

L, New York Jets 13-6

Bills Offense (in 2019):

Rushing yards per game – 128.4 ypg (8th in the NFL)

Passing yards per game – 201.8 ypg (26th)

Total offense per game – 330.2 ypg (24th)

Turnovers lost – 19 (12 INT, 7 fumbles lost)

Projected Bills Starting Offense:

QB – Josh Allen

RB – Devin Singletary

FB – Patrick DiMarco

WR – John ‘Smoke’ Brown

WR – Cole Beasley

TE – Dawson Knox

LT – Dion Dawkins

LG – Quinton Spain

C – Mitch Morse

RG – Jon Feliciano

RT – Cody Ford

Other Key Offensive Pieces:

RB – Frank Gore

WR – Isaiah McKenzie

WR – Robert Foster

TE – Tyler Kroft

Keys to Stopping the Bills Offense:

1. Realize that no play is done until the Bills ball carrier is down on the ground, starting with Allen, the 6-5, 235 lb., gun-slinging playmaker. These Bills don’t go down easily on first contact.

2. Force the ball out of Allen’s hand before he’s ready to throw it. In other words, hasten the decision-making process for the second-year starting quarterback. Also, when Allen is on the move, NEVER quit in coverage because that’s when he’s probably at his best. Two of the top three throws that I saw him make late in the season occurred when it appeared he was just trying to run away from the rush. Remember 2018 too… he was pressured all the way to the sideline and threw back to the middle of the field to Shady McCoy for a huge gain. When some quarterbacks are on the run, the play is just about over. When Allen’s on the run, the adventure is just beginning.

3. Singletary is a key to everything they do offensively. In the last six games, he had 14+ carries and was targeted 19 times in the passing game, including eight targets against the Baltimore Ravens.

4. Beasley is an issue, a major one. The Texans faced him last year when he was playing in Dallas, but he wasn’t Dak’s go-to guy then. He is that for Allen, in particular out of bunch sets in the red zone or down on the goal line. Think Julian Edelman and treat him as such in the slot.

5. With a nickname like ‘Smoke’, there’s little secret to John Brown’s game. Down. The. Field. The Patriots chose to double him at times and he ran by both guys. Anticipate his deep routes and stay on top throughout the play.

Bills Defense (in 2019):

Rushing yards allowed per game – 103.1 ypg (10th in the NFL)

Passing yards allowed per game – 195.2 ypg (4th)

Total offense allowed per game – 298.2 ypg (3rd)

Turnovers generated – 23 (14 INT, 9 fumble recoveries – Bills are +4 in TO margin)

Projected Bills Starting Defense:

DE – Trent Murphy

DT – Jordan Phillips

DT – Star Lotulelei

DE – Jerry Hughes

LB – Matt Milano

LB – Tremaine Edmunds

Nickel – Taron Johnson

CB – Levi Wallace

S – Jordan Poyer

S – Micah Hyde

CB – Tre’Davious White

Other Key Defensive Pieces:

DT – Ed Oliver

DE – Shaq Lawson

DT – Corey Liuget

CB – Kevin Johnson

S – Siran Neal

OLB – Lorenzo Alexander

Keys to Winning vs. the Bills Defense:

1. Do not quit on blocks until the whistle blows. That sounds like some fifth grade Pop Warner advice, but that’s where the Bills get teams – they never stop coming. They are relentless to the football and that’s led to sacks and forced fumbles. (Oh, and as an aside, they LOVE to attack the ball with a punch out, so ball protection must be top of mind at all times.)

2. The Patriots hit them with some 21 personnel and smash mouth in between the tackles, especially when the Patriots needed it in the fourth quarter.

3. The Bills do an excellent job playing responsibility football on quarterback run game and such, so find different wrinkles to capitalize on their discipline.

4. Pass catchers must be ready to battle for every pass at the catch point. There are going to be no free catches on Saturday, to say the least.

5. How can the Texans stretch this defense vertically? In crunch time last year, Will Fuller V beat man coverage for a key pass interference in the end zone. The number of positive deep plays the Texans can create will open up underneath areas in the passing game. The Bills linebackers are so long, athletic and disciplined that they’re hard to beat in the intermediate passing game, so space is needed between them and the safeties behind them.