WELCOME BACK: star lotulelei. The $24.7 million free-agent defensive tackle is new to Buffalo but not to coach SEAN MCDERMOTT, who was his coordinator for four seasons with the Panthers. The 6'2", 315-pound Lotulelei will pair with KYLE WILLIAMS, perhaps football's craftiest run-stopping lineman, to form a formidable interior front that should ease the burden on 20-year-old TREMAINE EDMUNDS, the 16th pick from Virginia Tech, who must lead a linebacker corps made up of lower-drafted youngsters and journeymen.
Defensive end JERRY HUGHES is the only Bills pass rusher who can consistently disrupt the quarterback, so McDermott must keep applying pressure through scheme.
Three players are key to Buffalo's coverage changeups: safety MICAH HYDE, a sound, opportunistic pass defender who can operate anywhere from the slot to centerfield; free safety JORDAN POYER, who can toggle between different alignments; and cornerback TRE'DAVIOUS WHITE, a rising star who understands zone techniques at left corner and can travel with top receivers in man-to-man. VONTAE DAVIS, signed from the Colts, also stabilizes the No. 2 corner spot, leaving nickel slot as the secondary's only area of concern.
If quarterback A.J. MCCARRON couldn't supplant a mediocre Andy Dalton during four years in Cincinnati, it's unlikely he'll keep first-round pick JOSH ALLEN off the field for long. Allen is 6'5" and 237 pounds, mobile, strong-armed and sometimes wildly inaccurate. He's similar to Cam Newton, the QB McDermott and GM Brandon Beane know well from their years together in Carolina.
It might be next year before coordinator BRIAN DABOLL can implement all major aspects of his offense. Not only are the Bills inexperienced at QB, but they're also weak up front. Last year's O-line lacked athleticism, and now its two best players, left guard Richie Incognito and center Eric Wood, have been replaced by men who'd be backups on most teams—VLADIMIR DUCASSE at guard and either RUSSELL BODINE or RYAN GROY at center.
2017 RECORD 9W 7L
SI'S 2018 PREDICTION 4W 12L
29th PATRIOTS [Monday]
AT AGE 30 the super agile LESEAN MCCOY shows no signs of decline. Now the Bills have a nice complement of backups in thumper CHRIS IVORY, signed from Jacksonville, and 2017 midseason pickup TRAVARIS CADET, a versatile pass catcher.