Here is free sampling of the type of content available by signing up for BNblitz.com. You get a free two-week trial when you join and a can get a Consumers gift card if you sign up for a year.
The Buffalo Bills had one Pro Bowler in their secondary last year. A compelling case can be made that they should have had three.
One of the first things coach Sean McDermott did when taking over is rebuild the back of the Buffalo defense. The team did that by signing safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde in free agency, then drafting LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White in the first round. Hyde made his first Pro Bowl after finishing with 82 tackles, 13 passes defensed and five interceptions -- all career highs. Poyer's numbers were actually better: 95 tackles, 13 passes defensed, two sacks, five interceptions and one touchdown. White, meanwhile, built a strong case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, finishing with 69 tackles, 18 passes defensed, four interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, which he returned for a touchdown.
Together, they are the backbone of a defense that expects to take a big step forward in its second season under McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. To learn more about how the Bills' secondary was able to be so good, so quick, their expectations for this season and what they like most about playing for the Bills, The Buffalo News sat down for a roundtable discussion with Hyde, Poyer, White and newcomer Vontae Davis, signed in the offseason as a replacement for the departed EJ Gaines.
The Buffalo News: Let's start with the obvious one: How were you guys able to jell so quickly?
Micah Hyde: I think we all just like to compete. We all like to have fun. I think all of our characteristics fit well together. Our ultimate goal is to go out there and make plays. We want to see each other make plays, which is more important. That doesn't happen a lot in this league. When guys are put in the same room, you know, there's competition between them, whether it's how much money they're making, or playing time, all that stuff. With us, we just want to see each other succeed. Speaking personally, I want to see these three all have All-Pro years. Go out there, ball out, because ultimately it's going to help this secondary, help this defense, help this team."
Jordan Poyer: "To piggyback off of that, we all compete in the meeting rooms, on the field. Speaking for myself, that chemistry goes off the field, too. We hang out with each other off the field, and I think that builds that bond when you get on the field and you're able to trust the guy next to you. The fourth quarter, you don't want to let that guy down. Especially with the amount of communication we have to do in the secondary, I think it's huge to have that camaraderie off the field."
BN: Jordan, I'll use a baseball analogy for you. The relationship between pitcher and catcher, that communication, is there some similarities there with the way you guys talk to each other?
Poyer: "I guess you could say that. I hadn't ever thought about it that way, but it's a good way to put it. We're all on the same page. We watch film without the coaches, on our own. We'll talk to through things, how we see things, that way on Sundays, we're able to play that much faster."
Tre'Davious White: I think everybody has something to prove. Micah coming from Green Bay, he wanted a long-term deal, didn't get it. Jordan being a low draft pick, feels like he deserved better than that. Then Vontae coming from Indy, where he got cut. Everybody has a motive, and I feel like that brings us closer together. I feel the same way about being drafted low. Everybody's hungry, and everybody wants to see each other succeed, like Micah said. I'm fortunate to play with these guys. Jordan did it at a high level last year, Micah was a Pro Bowler. Vontae's been in the Pro Bowl and covered some of the best receivers in the league over the last years. It's just an honor for me to learn from these guys, because they've been doing it at a high level. Each of these guys played corner, so I can take something from each of their game."
BN: Vontae, it seems like you've been able to fit right in. Have they made you feel welcome?
Vontae Davis: "For sure. Being in this league for a while, it's rare you get to be in a defensive back group like this, with so much young talent. Coming in here, these guys already had a good relationship. That was really intriguing to me. I just fit right in, and these guys, if I didn't know them, I would have thought they've been playing together longer than just a year. I mean, that was really impressive to me."
BN: So who gives Vontae the most grief for being the 10-year vet?
Hyde: "That's gotta be Tre (laughter)."
White: "That's 'Uncle V,' man. He's been doing it for a while, so I call him 'Uncle V.' He's been doing it 10 years, so that's my uncle. You see him on the practice field, he's gotta oil up ... he's rusty at the beginning, but as the day goes on he loosens up a little bit. It takes him a while to get loosened up. That's Uncle Vontae."
BN: Micah, I saw you made a crack about him covering Randy Moss. You said 'how old are you,' right?
Hyde: "Yeah, Vontae played with Reebok jerseys. Yeah, he covered Randy Moss. He's been in the game for a while. Shoot, we was probably in early high school."
White: "Man, I was 12 years old!"
Hyde: "I was a senior in high school when he was just making a name in the league. That's crazy to me, just to think, because I've learned so much from my senior year of high school all the way through college and I'm going into my sixth year in the league, and this dude's been playing the whole time. Dang, that's wild."
White: "He was wearing tennis shoes when they was playing on AstroTurf."
Hyde: "He had no knee pads, no thigh pads."
BN: Vontae, I'm sorry I had to do this to you.
Davis: "Man, this happens every day."
Hyde: "You know the teams that have the throwback jerseys. Like, that was their jerseys when he started."
White: "When the Bills was in those dark blues, that's when he was doing it. We done changed logos and everything since he been in the league."
Davis: "I mean, one day, they all going to have a chance to be in my position. I'm going to be calling them, like, 'How does it feel to be the old man now?' "
BN: There's something to be said for the experience that he brings to the room, though, right?
Hyde: For sure.
BN: Do you guys feel underrated as a group?
White: "Definitely. Especially 21 (Poyer)."
Hyde: "Yeah, for real. I'd say 27, too (White). I just think, ending last season, coming to Buffalo and it being a blessing. You know, Green Bay didn't want me, all that stuff. All that paved the way here. Toward the end of the season, I was kind of getting the glory, but these two (Poyer and White) were playing their best football they've played in their lives. Seeing 'Po' go out there and ball every single week, especially his situation in Cleveland and everyone doubting me. And then Shaq (Tre'Davious' nickname) just balling out all season. He wasn't even really in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year. To me, that was crazy. For this dude, I tell him every day, the sky is the limit. Go get it. You can be the best corner in this league. Easily. I definitely feel doubted.
"The NFL comes out with all these secondary stuff -- best corner, best safety, best secondary, best defense, best team -- the Buffalo Bills, we're never mentioned."
Poyer: "The way we came into last season, obviously being a new group, we had expectations for ourselves, but we didn't know how far we could take it. After having that season, I think each and every one of us has our own goal, but as a unit, you know, we have high expectations. How we practice, how we run to the football, how we watch tape. The outside noise is one thing, but like last year, we believe in ourselves that we can be the best. One of our coaches (safeties coach Bobby Babich) every day tells us, 'This is going to be the best group in the National Football League.' "
Hyde: "When he first started saying that, I was like, 'Dude, I don't know what to expect.' "
Poyer: "He says it every day to us. We take that to heart. We understand what the outside world is saying, this and that, but we have high expectations of ourselves, and we want to live up to those expectations. That's why we work as hard as we do."
BN: Why do you think that is? Is it Buffalo's a small market? The Bills don't get the national run that other teams do. If you look at stats alone, you guys were right up there, so do you think it's a Buffalo thing?
White: "I feel like that's old Buffalo. This is new. I feel like that was the old, being overlooked and things like that, but they're going to have to notice this year. We had two safeties combine for 10 picks, and that led the league, and then you count myself, I led the league in fourth-quarter takeaways. They going to have to notice, regardless of whether it's a small market or big market. They going to have to notice that. It's out there now. We're not going to catch anybody by surprise this year. We're going to get everybody's best shot. We took the ball away at a high level last year and I think that's not going to slack off. The way we practice, the way we watch tape, the way we break on the football and run to the football, the sky is the limit for us."
BN: You said 20 picks, right?
White: "Yeah, 20 picks. So if we get 20 picks between us, that's 20 takeaways. Our goal is two takeaways a game as a defense, so if we get 20 between us four, with the seven guys we've got up front, that's an easy 12. Uncle Kyle (Williams), cousin Jerry (Hughes) and we got 'Uncle Zo' (Lorenzo Alexander) on the outside at linebacker? Yeah, that's easy. We can easily get 32."
Hyde: "You got a lot of uncles."
White: "So yeah, we get 20 picks, it's going to be hard for us to lose games."
BN: So what can be improved in Year Two? It's the second year in the same defense, which has to help. You guys played at a high level last year, but from what I'm gathering, you think you can take it up another notch, right?
White: "Most definitely, I feel like we can take it up, because we've got more depth. Rafael Bush, man, he is a player. He can come in for either of these guys (Hyde and Poyer), and he also can play nickel. He can come in and the intensity level is going to be exactly the same. I think he's leading the team in takeaways this offseason, so the guy's a ballhawk. He's going to be a great player for us this year. He's going to make a lot of plays for us, and it's not going to be a surprise to us, but it's going to be a surprise to everybody else. ... It's just not going to be us four. We've got guys that can come in at any time and make plays for us."
BN: Micah, you host the secondary for film sessions and stuff like that, right?
Hyde: "Yeah, we did that. Yep. Yep."
BN: Tre's got to take his shoes off when he comes in, right?
Hyde: "Yeah, especially Shaq. For sure. He tried to walk in the house with his shoes on. That's not happening. My wife is not letting that happen."
BN: In Micah's bio, "detail oriented" is one way you would describe yourself. Do you guys see that in him?
Davis: "For sure, yeah."
Hyde: "Everyone summed it up, we had a good season last year and all that stuff, but like, we all have higher expectations for ourselves. Looking back, watching the film from last season, I really don't think I played that great. I don't think I did that good. I've got Bobby Babich's voice in my head when I'm watching film. 'I'm messing up this play, I'm messing up that play.' You know, sure, I got a pick on this play, but sometimes watching the film after you get a pick, that whole game, you're like, 'Man, I did terrible.' You know, I got a pick, but the game was awful. We all have so much higher expectations for ourselves than what the coaches put on us or what anybody else on the outside world puts on us. I think that's what keeps us striving to improve."
BN: "You guys voted Jordan for the Ed Block Courage Award. Jordan, I know you said that's one of the things you might be most proud of. What do you guys think of the comeback he made last year — I know you didn't play with him the year before, but you know what he went through — how impressed were you that he was able to do that?
White: "I was super excited. Not even knowing him that well before them. When I was coming out, when I was in college and even back to high school. I was watching guys who was getting All-American and things like that. He was an All-American his senior year at Oregon State. Seven picks, but still didn't get drafted as high as he should have. Then having the injury that he had two years ago, cutting his season short, last year was a big deal for him. I'm happy for him. Now he's getting the recognition that he deserves, I feel like it's going to motivate him even more. He's just scratching the surface as far as playing safety, because he was a corner coming out. He's got a long way to go to reach the height he can reach."
Poyer: "Appreciate that, Tre."
Hyde: "With 'Po,' I kind of knew 'Po' before we got here, just through a mutual friend, so we had met a few times. When we both got here to Buffalo, we just made a promise to each other, 'Like, let's go out here and just ball. We've both got overlooked behind for the longest time. Let's just put that behind us.' I remember the first few times on the practice field, this dude was talking to me like, 'Hey, watch for me, or look out for this. When they go to motion, they're going to do that.' The communication before plays, it just helps you out so much, and that's what he does. Our mutual friend said he used to do that back on his old team, so I was like, 'OK, we'll see.' I realized what Poyer brings to the table, and it's his leadership and hard work. He's always the last person off the field, and I think that's what makes him who he is. He's going to work harder than the person in front of him. Even if he gets beat, he'll watch it and go out there and work harder. That's just the player that he is."
BN: Jordan, you all had your own motivations last year. Was part of yours showing everybody you could make it back from that injury?
Poyer: "For sure. Everybody has their reasons why they play the game. Everybody has their motivation, why they go out there on days like today -- it's hot as hell. You've got to find something that motivates you to go out there and do what we do. For me, it was being a seventh-round pick, getting cut in Philadelphia, going to Cleveland and them not wanting me back. Then coming to Buffalo and having an opportunity out here, for me that's what it's always been about -- taking advantage of the opportunity you have in front of you, and I think all these guys throughout their career have done that. That's why we're sitting here today."
BN: Vontae, coming back from injury has got to be your motivation this year, right?
Davis: "For sure, in this league, you're always going to go through something. The main thing is how you respond. That's it. Like he was saying, everybody in this group responded from something. Right now, we've got a great opportunity together to create another story and even leave a legacy here in Buffalo. That's what it's about."
BN: What kind of a career can Tre'Davious have?
Davis: "He reminds me of myself. He's goofy. He comes in and plays all the time. Sometimes I've almost got to smack him in the head, like, 'Tre, be quiet -- let me watch some film.' That's who he is, though. That's his personality. If he wasn't like that, there's something wrong. Then we have to talk to him. He brings that energy to the group. That's a good quality to have. Even though he acts like that, he loves football. He shows it out there on the field. To be that young and have his work ethic, it's very impressive to me. He's got a chance to do some special in this league."
BN: What do you guys like the most about this group?
Poyer: "I feel like we bust our (expletive). ... We all have our own individual goals, as well as our goals for the secondary, and we understand that it's going to take hard work to get there. I think it shows on the practice field, and it carries over off the field in the meeting room. I admire the guys in this group, because there's a lot of leaders. Even though Tre's coming off being a rookie, he's still a leader on this football team. Vontae's being a vet, he's a leader on this football team. Micah, (expletive), I damn near try to do everything Micah does. He's a Pro Bowler, you know what I'm saying? I want to get to that level. I admire the work these guys put in day in and day out. I want to work just as hard for them."
BN: Is part of that picking each other up if you're having a down day?
Hyde: "I tell Po all the time, 'Hey bro, I need you today.' Sometimes he says it to me. Shaq, he's out there screaming and yelling. He's like 17 years old, so everything is just happy go lucky with him, but every now and then there's days. We wake up at 7 o'clock in the morning, you didn't get that much sleep, and so you just need somebody to pick you up. We have each other, on this defense and on this team -- with Zo and Kyle, those guys are role models to me, just the way they go about their days and the way they've went about their careers and how they play the game. I look at guys like that, and maybe some guys look up to us like that."
BN: Tre, now you told me in June, when you won, your neighbor would bake you chocolate chip cookies. Are you sharing those with the group?
White: "No! Those are personal things."
Hyde: "We're all married. He's the one who's not married, so he needs someone to cook for him."
BN: Jordan, were you in Micah's wedding this offseason?
Poyer: "I was at Micah's wedding."
White: "I was there, too."
Hyde: "Yeah, Shaq stole the show."
BN: On the dance floor or what?
White: "I was acting like I was on the practice field."
Hyde: "It was fun. I was glad these two were able to make it. It was an awesome time having them there. Just an awesome experience."
BN: Vontae, you've got some experience in the division. What do you remember about that when you were with the Dolphins and how much are you looking forward to experiencing that?
Davis: "Yeah, they've welcomed me with open arms here. When I was in Miami, it was a rivalry. It was always tough to come to play in Buffalo, so I'm looking forward to being on the other side."
BN: What have you guys told him about playing in Buffalo?
Hyde: "I love Buffalo. I absolutely love Buffalo."
White: "It's the fans. Any time you can have a snow storm and people still out there screaming your name and being there throughout the whole game, you're in a special place. In this city, when we win, it feels like Monday mornings, the sun is always out. Everybody's so happy. When we lose, the sun is not out. ... As a football team, when we can win games, it elevates the whole town. With us going to the playoffs last year, you could just tell."
Hyde: "They needed it. They're dying for it."
White: "People showing up at almost 2 o'clock in the morning at the airport, in freezing cold weather to congratulate us."
Poyer: "For just making it."
White: "It wasn't about the team no more, it was about all of Western New York. That's something that I'll always remember. I want to continue to do that for years to come."