Countdown to Bills Camp: The Secondary

July 17, 2018 - 6:00 pm
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Derek Kramer
@DerekKramerWGR

The Buffalo Bills are just seven days away from the start of training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, NY. With seven days left, we look at the 7 positional groups between the offense and defense. 

Today: THE SECONDARY

The Bills secondary was a pleasant surprise for a defense that thrived off of turnovers to mask some of the team's issues in their run to the playoffs. However, one group continued to remain steady from start to finish in the 2017 season in the pass defense. Buffalo ranked second best in the league in passing touchdowns allowed (14) and sixth best in interceptions (18) last season. While part of those strong numbers was due to a run defense that came unraveled, the league was put on notice of the play of cornerback Tre'Davious White and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, all of whom were values for what the team paid to get them. 

White was a first round pick at 27th overall in 2017, but was largely overshadowed by fellow rookie Marshon Lattimore of New Orleans. However, White proved to be a top young corner last season with 4 interceptions and 18 pass deflections.

Hyde signed with the Bills as a notable free agent last year, and came away with a Pro Bowl nomination (he had to skip the Pro Bowl due to injury). Poyer was unheralded in free agency, but paired with Hyde to form one of the league's better safety tandems. Hyde and Poyer each grabbed 5 interceptions last season. 

NOTABLE DEPARTURES: 

E.J. Gaines was a good cornerback in his lone season, as the Bills had an 8-3 record when he started, but had issues staying healthy, which justifed the Bills moving on from him. Gaines signed with Cleveland on a one year deal. 

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: 

Former Colts and Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis signed a one year deal with Buffalo to bookend with White on the outside. Davis is a two time Pro Bowler (2014 & 2015) and was named to the NFL's All Rookie Team back in 2009. 

Philip Gaines comes in from Kansas City to add depth. Gaines has started 16 games in 4 seasons with the Chiefs, but has mostly been in a support role and nickel corner. 

Safety Rafael Bush provides veteran depth behind Hyde and Poyer. Bush has played for the Broncos, Saints and Lions in 7 seasons in the NFL, starting 18 games in a reserve role.

Buffalo drafted cornerback Taron Johnson in the 4th round and defensive back Siran Neal in the 5th round. Johnson will compete for the nickel corner spot, while Neal is versatile and can play at cornerback or safety. 

WHAT TO EXPECT: 

The secondary comes in with higher expectations, with White coming into his second year as a starter, Poyer and Hyde forming a safety tandem that is getting more recognition and Davis coming into the fold with the track record he has put together. The pass defense was already good, but last year depth and a lack of a pass rush was a concern. Depth is no longer a concern at the moment with their free agent and draft acquistions, while the pass rush already looks to be upgraded after only tallying 27 sacks last year. 

Expect the pass defense as a whole to improve, even if the team dips in interceptions. The pass rush really couldn't get much worse last year, and improving that will aid the secondary as well. It wouldn't be wacky to suggest that two Bills can make the Pro Bowl this season, I'll speculate that White and Hyde will get to the 2019 Pro Bowl. 

UP NEXT: THE LINEBACKERS

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