Each week, theScore will go division by division, highlighting which three players’ performance will most impact their team’s season in 2017.
Tyrod Taylor is quite simply the driving force behind the Bills. Whether the Bills contend for a playoff spot or fade into oblivion is largely based around his ability to elevate the team. Taylor shattered all expectations of him over the past two seasons and after sifting through a messy contract scenario, he’s now tasked with ending the longest active playoff drought in North American team sports.
The Bills installed a run-heavy scheme over the past two seasons and it’s somewhat unclear whether they’ll run a similar offense under new head coach Sean McDermott. In any event, Taylor’s ability to escape the pocket and punish defenders who lose contain is an asset to the running game, making it hard for opponents to diagnose their scheme.
Taylor proved to be an efficient passer inside the pocket and will be asked to propel the Bills’ receiving group that includes Sammy Watkins, who is still fighting through a lingering foot injury and 2017 second-round pick Zay Jones. Whether it’s fair or not, the Bills are living and dying with Taylor.
Kyle Williams has been the heart and soul of the Bills’ defense since joining the team in 2006 and remains the central pillar of the scheme entering next fall. Lined up as a nominal defensive tackle, Williams is imperative to the Bills’ approach against the running and passing game, and will be counted on more than ever to stabilize the front seven.
Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the fourth-best interior defender against the run last season and remains an above-average pass-rusher at his position. Williams is the most consistent player in the Bills’ front seven and while Marcell Dareus is more talented, he’s also a mercurial option that takes plays off. Buffalo is integrating a host of first- and second-year players into the rotation and Williams is expected to act as the lone constant as the defense incurs some inevitable growing pains.
It may seem somewhat unfair to post a rookie on this list, but that’s the scenario Tre’Davious White enters after the Bills used their first-round pick on him. After Stephon Gilmore departed to the Patriots in free agency, White will have ample responsibility in trying to become a shutdown corner while he acclimates to the professional game.
White will be paired alongside Ronald Darby, who regressed badly last year after a standout rookie campaign in 2015. It’s likely that Darby will usually get the opponent’s top receiver while White takes on their second threat, lined up at left cornerback. White earned first-team All-SEC honors during his final year at LSU and is as pro-ready a cornerback as there was in the 2017 draft. It’s now on him to immediately live up to his draft billing and become the face of a revamped Bills secondary.
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