Before getting into the football side of Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White potentially opting out of the 2020 season, let’s start by saying it is completely understandable for a husband and father of young children to protect his family by limiting the risks of potentially being infected by the coronavirus.
Athletes are testing positive across the world of sports. Not wanting to take any risks is more than reasonable.
With that being said, losing White would be a monumental loss that could change what kind of contender the Bills are this season. There aren’t a lot of players that would have that kind of impact on a well-coached team with so many starting jobs filled with good to great players.
Obviously losing the franchise quarterback in Josh Allen would do Buffalo in. The only other player that might have a similar impact on the team is White.
The Bills’ secondary with White on the field is top-three in the league. He is, arguably, the best cornerback in the NFL, maybe only behind New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
If Buffalo loses that kind of piece, the secondary might go from a major strength of the team to a major weakness.
That is exactly what happened to head coach Sean McDermott’s defense when he was the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2016. After losing Josh Norman, a top cornerback at the time, Carolina’s secondary gave up 20 plays of 20-plus yards in the first six weeks of the 2016 season. A 15-1 team that made the Super Bowl a year prior was suddenly 1-5.
When you have an elite CB1 that can shadow an offense’s top weapon for four quarters, the CB2 and slot cornerback don’t always have to be stars. A defense can get away with an older Norman, or the inconsistent Levi Wallace as starters. If those are the top two corners on the defense? Teams are going to pick on that kind of weakness all game.
Last season in Washington, Pro Football Focus ranked Norman 115th out of 119 cornerbacks with a coverage grade of 43.4. Wallace ranked 71st in his second season.
A defense that gave up the fourth-least passing yards per-game in 2019 suddenly might be extremely susceptible to big plays down the field.
Having a strong defensive mind in head coach Sean McDermott would help mask the loss of White. So too would a top-tier safety duo in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The pass-rush improvements up front won’t hurt either.
Get to the quarterback faster so the defensive backs don’t have to cover as long. It works the opposite way too, however. It will be hard for the defensive line to create pressure if it only takes a few seconds for a wide receiver to get open.
White has until the NFL’s opt-out deadline on Thursdat at 4 p.m. ET to make a decision. What he decides will have a significant impact on who the Bills will be in 2020.
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