When Micah Hyde looks back on the Buffalo Bills’ 2018 season, he sees a core reason the team took such a significant backward step after reaching the playoffs the year before.
“Last year, we didn’t know our identity, we really didn’t,” Hyde said.
He was speaking by phone this week from San Diego, where he and his wife recently moved into a new home. The move has presented the typical challenges that come with going from one dwelling to another, and torrential rain has brought its share of gloom.
But the Bills’ safety is looking forward to the chance for redemption in the 2019 season. He’s looking for the team to find the focus and consistency he saw mostly missing from all aspects of last year’s squad.
“Defensively, we had some ups and downs,” Hyde said. “Offensively, we were trying to find a quarterback. And special teams, it was the same thing; we weren't really sure what our identity was. So I think, going into this season, we need to find that identity quicker, in training camp, so in Week 1 we’re ready to go.”
In between, there will be offseason workouts, and this year Hyde is using some of the time before training camp that he’ll spend in Western New York for a charitable endeavor. The first Micah Hyde Charity Softball Game is scheduled for 1 p.m. June 2 at Sahlen Field.
Tickets for the game – which benefits Hyde’s IMagINe for Youth Foundation and will feature the safety and his Bills teammates – go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, through the Buffalo Bisons’ ticket office. They can be purchased in person or by calling 1-888-223-6000.
The foundation’s website says: “There are thousands of schools that don’t have the funds to maintain sports programs. As a result, it leaves countless children deprived of participating in athletics. We want to change that. With the support needed, we will empower all kids facing financial hardships to thrive by providing necessary resources to help achieve academically and athletically.”
In the latest edition of “One-on-One Coverage,” Hyde, as part of an effort to promote the game, spent some time talking with The Buffalo News about the event as well as Bills- and football-related topics.
Buffalo News: What’s the back story of this charity softball game?
Micah Hyde: Number one, when I was in Green Bay, this event was held every single year. It’s at a good time, because it’s kind of a dead period in the NFL. OTA stuff’s going on, but the fans aren't really involved. So it kind of brings the fans to the players and we’re able to just go out there, play softball and just hang out.
When I was in Green Bay, it was huge. It was sold out every year, all the players participated in it and they had a blast. So I wanted to bring that same thing to Buffalo because I know how much everybody in Buffalo’s going to enjoy it. And the fans are more passionate about their football than in Green Bay, so I'm excited for it. Our foundation, IMagINe for Youth, provides support – whether it’s for kids or communities or teens or whatever – with sporting equipment, or even schools with academic (materials).
BN: Your partner at safety, Jordan Poyer, was a standout baseball player who could have been a pro in that sport. You, too, were a pretty good baseball player yourself.
MH: Growing up, I loved baseball. Played in all the youth leagues, travel ball, AAU, traveled all over the Midwest. There was no summer day when I didn’t have baseball. I was pretty passionate about it. I played through high school. I was a shortstop and sometimes pitched.
But I made my high school coach pretty mad after my freshman year. He wanted me to continue on playing baseball, and I said, “Look, Coach, I know I'm not 6-5, so I'm not going to be a basketball player, but I think I’m going to take the football route.” I still played my sophomore, junior and senior year, but my coach knew not to have me do all the extracurricular (baseball) activities in the summer.
I miss it, that’s for sure. I was definitely going to give Poyer a little challenge on social media about maybe a home-run derby ... I’ll probably get whooped, but if the fans get involved, they get involved. It’ll be a nice, fun little event. For the game, it’s offense vs. defense, and we already know this: The defense is going to whoop up on the offense.
BN: What’s your outlook on where the defense is headed in 2019?
MH: I love our defense, every guy on it, our coaches. I love what we’re able to do, how we compete in practice every day. I like the way that (General Manager) Brandon (Beane) and (coach) Sean (McDermott) have built this defense with just good guys, high-character guys willing to learn, always wanting to get better. Yeah, we finished second in the league (in yards allowed) or whatever it was, but just we felt like we didn't play nearly as good as what we could have.
Obviously, that's something that we're trying to work toward and we're never going to meet our expectations, honestly, until maybe we have the No. 1 defense and win the Super Bowl. As of right now, we feel like we can always get better. They’re going to add some pieces to complete this defense and we’re going to continue to work.
BN: How optimistic are you that you have your franchise quarterback in Josh Allen?
MH: I just think we have a lot of respect for Josh and what he's able to do. We love that he's our quarterback. A lot of people around the league are saying he’s inaccurate, all this other stuff. No, we love Josh and what he's able to do, his leadership, and the sky's the limit for him. So we understand that, and as a defense, we know that we’ve got to go out there and get some stops for him.
We're all looking forward to this season. We know Sean and Brandon are going to put the pieces together. Whether it’s free agency or through the draft, they're going to get some guys just like they did last year and the year before. We're going to add those pieces with the leaders that we have, such as Zo (Lorenzo Alexander). Unfortunately, Kyle (Williams) stepped away, which you can't replace, but we still have some leaders on the team. Obviously, guys like Poyer and me, we're going into our seventh year.
So we're trying to take these strides. We're not happy with the season we had last year, but also just making the playoffs (isn’t enough). We want to go deeper and I think that’s what Sean and Brandon are trying to build.
BN: There was instability at the cornerback spot opposite Tre’Davious White last season. Levi Wallace started there for the final seven games, but how comfortable are you with the state of the secondary?
MH: Whenever you have guys that can step in and play week in and week out, that are competing, that’s your friend because it's only going to make the secondary better, the defense better and the team better. So that being said, we know we can add plenty of pieces.
Yeah, Levi stepped in and did an awesome job for us and we loved every minute he played, and he's only going to get better. But a lot of people are sleeping on the fact that Taron Johnson had a very good rookie season, but it was cut short due to (a shoulder) injury. So getting a guy like him back, throwing him in the mix, getting some more depth – whether it’s for safety, nickel, corner, it doesn't matter – we’re definitely going to be excited for whatever they do for our secondary.
Then, on top that, we have our coaches. Sean's a former safety and a safety coach, so he knows the secondary. He's always in our room, popping in and make sure that we're being taught right. And as long as that's the case, we have no room to slack or not get better because of the motivation from the coaches.
BN: Two years ago, you were a free agent and ended up getting a career breakthrough with the Bills, along with Poyer. This year, there are a bunch of other safeties hitting the open market. What’s your advice to them?
MH: For me, it was a blessing in disguise. I definitely appreciated the love from Buffalo and the coaching staff and everyone else has given me. But I think that when you’re in another organization for many years, as I was in Green Bay for a while, and not be wanted back, it's kind of a sting. It kind of hurts.
Feeling comfortable throughout the season and all that stuff and then when something crazy happens, you say, “Oh, I’m going to another team, I’ve got to start all over, I've got to meet new people, I’ve got to learn a new playbook, I’ve got to do all this." It kind of hurts, it is kind of different, it’s weird.
So my words to the wise to a lot of people that are going through it right now is basically just handle your business, it’ll all work out in the end. I love the situation that I was put in, I love the situation that I’m in now. So it’ll all work out.