One might wonder why the number one defense in the NFL could be considered a key for the Buffalo Bills to succeed in 2022. As painful as this may be, we must flash back to late January 2022. Only 13 seconds remained on the clock after Josh Allen found Gabriel Davis in the end zone to give the Bills a three-point lead. Instead of relieving the pain of the last 13 seconds, let us just state that any team, especially the number one defense in the league, should ever lose a game in which you score the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left.
After chewing on this for the entire off-season, the Bills look to get better on defense in 2022 to help them reach the Super Bowl. So how does a team that last season led the league in both points per game and yards per game allowed on defense? As good as there were in 2021, the Bills didn’t have a single pass rusher with eight or more sacks. With that in mind, there was still room for improvement for the Bills’ defense in 2022
The Buffalo Bills Defense Will Determine Success in 2022
New Acquisitions Bolster the Defensive Line
The team signed future Hall of Fame edge rusher Von Miller to improve their pass rush for 2022. The deal includes an average salary of $17.5 million through the first four years and $51.5 million guaranteed, $45 million of which come at signing. In 2015, he helped Denver win its third Super Bowl in franchise history, recording 11 sacks and four forced fumbles en route to being named MVP of Super Bowl 50. Last year, he had an outstanding postseason in helping the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl. For the postseason, he recorded 14 tackles, four sacks, and a forced fumble across four games. Now he arrives in Buffalo, hoping he can bring that little extra that the team needs in their pass rush.
— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) August 5, 2022
Adding Miller to the lineup will also help his fellow linemates, especially Ed Oliver, who is coming off a breakthrough 2021 season when he truly began living up to his No. 9 overall first-round draft status from 2019. Last season against the run, among 82 tackles who played at least 50% of his team’s regular-season run snaps, Oliver’s stop percentage (plays where he was primarily responsible for the stop) of 11.2 ranked fourth. However, he only ranked 18th in pressures, so having Miller lining up with him should improve that area. Miller’s presence should also help three young pass rushers, AJ Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, and Boogie Basham, take another step forward in their development.
Secondary Gets Reinforcements
The Bills may have to begin the season without Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White as he rehabs from an ACL injury. However, rookie Kaiir Elam looks to be a promising replacement until White is back, should he miss time. The former Florida Gator has hit the ground running in training camp as he has consistently been covering Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis in practice. Elam and the other secondary members have consistently paid attention to details from the start of OTAs. Elam has a solid pedigree as his dad, Abe, was a seven-year NFL veteran while his uncle, Matt, was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
Of course, the hope is that White will return at the beginning of the season since he is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He consistently lines up on the more difficult side of formations, which allows the other cornerbacks to thrive in their roles. Dane Jackson picked up some valuable experience while replacing White last season. The third-year defensive back will provide some insurance if White does not return as quickly as expected, then provided some needed depth when he does return.
“13 Seconds” Provides Motivation
While painful, the tough loss in Kansas City has provided the Bills with some motivation heading into training camp. To a man, the Bills, especially those returning on defense, have said they cannot get stuck worrying about what happened last year. However, they would like to replicate a great deal of the success they achieved last season when their defense finished number one in seven different categories. That would allow the team to view the “13 seconds” game as a memory, not a curse.
This would mean that the Bills have high expectations that they can repeat as the number one defense in 2022. That, combined with their potent offense, could lead them to raise the Lombardi Trophy next February in Glendale, Arizona, and finally bury all of the playoff heartbreaks of the past.
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