This is the ninth in a series of previews of the Bills at each position heading into training camp. This installment focuses on safeties.
The Bills are approaching the cornerback position a bit differently so far this offseason.
Another year and one basic fact about the Buffalo Bills' roster entering training camp rings true.
Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde form one of the best safety tandems in the NFL.
Though each is 30 years old and beginning his ninth season in the league, Poyer and Hyde are highly productive. During the regular season last year, Poyer had a career-high 119 tackles and two interceptions, while Hyde had 70 (second-most of his career) and an interception. In the playoffs, Poyer had 20 tackles and Hyde had 17.
Returnees: Micah Hyde, Jaquan Johnson, Jordan Poyer, Josh Thomas.
Newcomers: Damar Hamlin (draft), Tariq Thompson (undrafted free agent).
Departures: Dean Marlowe (Detroit).
With Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano as the centerpieces, the Bills focused on adding depth around them.
Key number: 4. The number of NFL defensive backs, including Hyde, with 17-plus interceptions and four-plus sacks since 2013. The others are Harrison Smith, Logan Ryan and Tryann Matthieu.
Top position battle: With the starting spots locked for the fifth straight season, the only competition is for two backup spots. The leading candidates figure to be Johnson and Hamlin. Thomas and Thompson will be in the mix, but probably won't survive the final cuts.
What to expect: As usual, the Bills will have a solid secondary, and Poyer and Hyde will be a major part of it. Their ability to help minimize deep throws is vital to the team living up to expectations as a serious Super Bowl contender. They do plenty to help allow Tre'Davious White, one of the NFL's top cornerbacks, to flourish. The defense was built from the back to the front, so all that the club is trying to do to enhance its pass rush – i.e. using its first two draft picks on defensive linemen – depends greatly on tight coverage at the back end.
How will General Manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott sort out the logjam of talent?
The Bills ask their defensive backs to be physical and strong in run support. Poyer and Hyde excel in that area. Having them healthy and available for a full season, which has been the case for most of their time with the Bills, is critical to the overall performance of the defense.
This remains a team driven by an explosive passing game and piling up points, as was the case when it ranked second in the NFL in scoring last year. Still, the Bills need to make significant improvement on defense, and the safety position will play a major part.