Bills HC says overlooked safety has 'asserted himself' into leadership role

Buffalo Bills safety Taylor Rapp has ascended into a leadership role in the team's revamped secondary.
Cincinnati Bengals punter Brad Robbins (10) and Buffalo Bills safety Taylor Rapp (20) chat after the fourth quarter of the NFL Week 9 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023.
Cincinnati Bengals punter Brad Robbins (10) and Buffalo Bills safety Taylor Rapp (20) chat after the fourth quarter of the NFL Week 9 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

The safety position has been one oft-spoken about throughout Western New York this spring, a new occurrence given the Buffalo Bills’ long-standing continuity at the position.

Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have manned the team’s defensive backfield for the last seven seasons, combining for 202 starts, three All-Pro selections, and two Pro Bowls throughout their time in Orchard Park. They were paramount in the implementation of the Bills’ now-lauded culture; some of the first free agent signees of the ‘Sean McDermott era,’ Buffalo simply does not accomplish the success it has over the past several seasons without the stalwarts putting a lid atop the defense.

That type of continuity at any position is rare; at safety, it’s almost unheard of. Reality—and father time—were going to catch up eventually, and ‘eventually’ came in the 2024 NFL offseason.

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Buffalo moved on from both 33-year-olds in the spring, freeing up financial flexibility while simultaneously allowing younger players to ascend into more featured roles. The Bills made a few prominent moves at safety following the departures of Hyde and Poyer—signing former Kansas City Chiefs defender Mike Edwards before selecting Utah safety Cole Bishop in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft—but going overlooked in the frenzy was the re-signing of Taylor Rapp, who inked a three-year extension with the Bills after spending the 2023 season with the team as a depth defender.

Rapp appeared in 16 games for Buffalo last season, starting four while tallying 50 tackles and one interception. He hasn’t been a name oft-mentioned by the Buffalo faithful throughout the spring, perhaps due to the fact that he’s not new; after signing a defender from the defending Super Bowl champions and investing a premium draft pick into the position, it’s easy to overlook the player who was already on the roster.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott is not falling victim to the 'shiny new toy' fallacy. While speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp, McDermott heaped significant praise on Rapp, stating that the 26-year-old has taken on a leadership role within the secondary before implying that he’s already shored up one of the team’s starting safety spots.

“Last week, in particular, [Rapp’s growth] really stood out,” McDermott said. “Last year, when T-Rap got here, new system, different environment in the room, and he did a great job of understanding his role and excelling at his role. 

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“Now, new role this year, and I hate to say 'role' because roles aren’t really defined until everybody makes the team, but at this point, Taylor’s really stepped into that role, and I would say asserted himself from a leadership standpoint, a little bit, and a communicator standpoint, which is huge in that backend where, next to him, who is it going to be? Mike Edwards was brought in; Mike’s on the injury report, as well, and hasn’t been really practicing, and then the other pieces that are competing back there. It’s interesting to see, but necessary from a communication standpoint.”

Rapp taking it upon himself to step into a leadership role in the secondary is encouraging to hear considering the turnover the unit saw in the offseason; in addition to Hyde and Poyer, Buffalo moved on from Tre’Davious White in the spring. The 29-year-old cornerback started 82 games for the Bills throughout his seven seasons with the Bills, acting as a distinct, but trusted voice within the unit.

A factor that’s perhaps gone a bit overlooked in offseason discussions about Rapp is his experience; though only in his mid-20s, he’s started 52 games throughout his career, even starting all 17 games for a Los Angeles Rams team that won the Super Bowl in the 2021 NFL season. His signing with the Bills as a depth defender last spring was viewed as an odd move, by some, and suggested that he had ambitions of succeeding either Hyde or Poyer as a starting safety in Buffalo; ahead of his second season in Orchard Park, it looks as though this plan may come to fruition.

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Kyle Silagyi