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Buffalo Bills Season Report Card: Work to do Before Team can Truly Contend Again

As long as they have Josh Allen, they'll always be in the picture.

The first question the Buffalo Bills now have to ask themselves after every season is: Does quarterback Josh Allen have enough weapons?

The answer, based on what they proved in 2021, is yes.

The next question is: Do they have enough overall quality players to contend for a championship.

The answer, based on what they proved in a brutal playoff collapse at Kansas City, is maybe.

With those answers in mind, let's get to their 2021-22 season grades.

Quarterback: A

If you want to nitpick, you can say that Josh Allen held the ball too long at times, leading to some costly interceptions and/or sacks that could have cost the Bills homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

But that's every top quarterback in the NFL.

In the end, you gratefully accept whatever blunders he may make to enjoy everything else he brings, which is a cannon for a right arm that became more accurate as the season wore on, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame that can move like a running back and punish would-be tacklers, unconditional love for his teammates that is reciprocated and a deep connection with the Bills Mafia.

Oh, and he was even more magnificent in the playoffs than he was in the regular season, completing 48 passes on 62 attempts for 637 yards and nine touchdowns against no interceptions in two games. He added 134 rushing yards on just 17 attempts.

Running back: B

Is Devin Singletary Thurman Thomas? No.

Can they win with him? Absolutely. The third-year player finished with career highs in carries (188), yards (870) rushing TDs (7) and receptions (40).

Singletary emerged from a collection of backs who all were given a chance to claim the top spot.

Zack Moss (96 carries, 345 yards) finished second and Matt Breida (26 carries, 125 yards) a distant third.

The Bills did not draft a running back last year. They almost certainly will this year.

Tight end: B

This proved to be a breakout season for Dawson Knox, who essentially was the only tight end on the team to see any real action.

He produced career highs of 49 catches, 587 yards and nine TDs.

Knox still drops too many passes to be considered an elite NFL tight end, but he's one of Allen's most dependable targets and likely has a rich future with this team.

Next up: His second contract, which could be a complicated negotiation. Fr now, he's due to play out the final year of his rookie deal with a base salary of $2.51 million, according to Over the Cap.

Wide receiver: A

Although the numbers weren't quite the same, Stefon Diggs (103 receptions, 1,225 yards, 10 TDs) and Cole Beasley (82 receptions, 693 yards, 1 TD) were just as productive, if not more, than the year before, when they were named first-team and second-team All-Pros, respectively.

What's more, the only reason their statistics didn't match 2022's was Allen's enhanced option package that featured the emergence of Knox, the continuing development of Gabriel Davis (35 catches, 549 yards, 6 TDs) and Isaiah McKenzie (20 catches, 178 yards) and the addition of veteran Emmanuel Sanders (42 catches, 626 yards, 4 TDs).

Davis is the rising star here. He became the first player in NFL history to catch four TD passes in a playoff game in Buffalo's overtime loss at Kansas City Sunday night. He has explosive speed and led the team with an average of 15.7 yards per reception.

Offensive line: B-

Hit hard by injuries, COVID-19 and changes made on the fly to the starting unit, this group nevertheless came out the other side in much better shape than it went in.

Rookie right tackle Spencer Brown was introduced as the first new starter in Week 4. That change forced Daryl Williams inside to right guard, pushing Cody Ford to the bench.

Ryan Bates originally was an injury replacement for Jon Feliciano but played so well that he kept the starting job. His contract has expired, however, which should make for an interesting offseason.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins was named to his first Pro Bowl and finished the season as the fifth-highest-graded player on the team at 79.4.

This group went four straight games without allowing a sack of Allen before the streak was broken in the playoff loss.

Defensive line: C+

Almost every individual had great moments or stretches of brilliant play. The problem was consistency and, in Star Lotulelei's case, availability.

Rookie first-round pick Greg Rousseau (50 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 10 quarterback hits) had a solid but not spectacular year. Second-round pick Boogie Basham was able to crack the rotation for just eight games.

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Mario Addison, at age 34, led the team with 7.0 sacks.

Ed Oliver (41 tackles, 4.0 sacks, team-high 14 QB hits) was great at times in his third year. But did the former first-round pick play well enough overall to justify a contract extension, which he's eligible for now? The jury is still out.

Vernon Butler simply disappeared. Though he played in 10 games, he was barely noticed and was inactive for both playoff games.

Linebacker: B

Once again, Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds handled almost all of the duties, with A.J. Klein coming in as a third LB when necessary to counter strong running attacks.

Milano, who last offseason signed a new contract, performed as expected, with 15 of his 86 tackles coming behind the line of scrimmage, including 3.0 sacks.

Edmunds led the team with 108 tackles. Though not a favorite of the Bills Mafia or Pro Football Focus, the coaches and the front office still like what he brings. Because of that, they picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which calls for $12.6 million guaranteed in 2022.

Plus, you kind of get the feeling the New York Jets would have been glad to pay him if the Bills did not.

The feeling here is that Edmunds does a lot more good than harm, and that some of that good isn't picked up by the untrained eye and can't be measured by analytics.

Secondary: A+

Safety Jordan Poyer remains in search of his first Pro-Bowl berth but was named an Associated Press first-team All-Pro this season. That's actually a more prestigious honor and serves as long-overdue recognition for the way he and fellow safety Micah Hyde work to control the back end of the league's top-ranked defense.

Tre'Davious White, lost for the season during a Thanksgiving game at New Orleans, remains an elite cornerback in this league, and Levi Wallace earned the No. 2 spot by holding off Dane Jackson in the preseason.

Taron Johnson is one of the league's top nickel corners as well.

This is the team's finest position group, and that shouldn't change in 2022.

Special teams: B

We'll start with the good: Second-year kicker Tyler Bass keeps proving himself to be one of the finest in the league. He was 28-for-32 on field goals and perfect on all 51 extra-point attempts.

A big part part of that, general manager Brandon Beane pointed out Wednesday, was the soft hands of holder and punter Matt Haack.

This brings us to the mediocre: Haack as a punter. He struggled with length and in certain other situations and just did not always make great contact with the ball.

However, opponents averaged just 5.6 yards per return. That's a number anyone can accept.

Neither Isaiah McKenzie nor rookie Marquez Stevenson could hold on to the job of primary kick and punt returner, although both flashed at times.

Stevenson averaged 9.4 yards on punt returns. McKenzie added a 75-yard kickoff return and had a kickoff return for a touchdown called back by a penalty in a three-point loss at Tennessee.

Coaching: B-

Head coach Sean McDermott has been a Godsend since his arrival in 2017, building a winning culture inside and outside the building. There's no disputing that.

However, the defensive and special-teams dysfunction in the final two minutes of Sunday night's playoff loss at Kansas City proves that as close as this team may be to a Super Bowl, it will never get there if it doesn't manage specific game situations better.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll continued to be instrumental in the development of Allen. He will be missed if he gets a head-coaching opportunity.

McDermott, a former defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers, has repeatedly said the Bills' defense is Leslie Frazier's. And the defense was ranked first in the league.

What we keep coming back to, though, is Buffalo's 0-6 record in one-score games in 2021.

That's completely unacceptable and will get you knocked out of the playoffs every year.

Front office: A

General manager Brandon Beane hasn't been perfect with his personnel decisions. Nobody is.

He is, however, in lockstep with McDermott on the kinds of players they believe are necessary to build and sustain a winning program.

The proof is in the contracts. Milano re-signed with the Bills last offseason, knowing he could have made more elsewhere. And he wasn't the only one.

When players want to be in Buffalo so much that they'll sacrifice money to remain, you know you're doing something right.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.