ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- As the Buffalo Bills prepare for training camp opening Wednesday (July 25), don't think head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane are patting each other on the back for helping to end the Buffalo Bills' embarrassing 17-year playoff drought, think again. That's not happening.
"That's not in our DNA," said Beane. "We're wired to win every day. You watch (McDermott) out there, the practices, do you see any less? I mean, the tempo, everything they've got to a T. If anything, we said, 'We've set the standard. If we drop down, we're pointing it back on ourselves. If anything, we've got to try to make it an even harder standard.'"
The problem is, the Bills could very well take a step back in 2018 because they have some big question marks on offense, some young players stepping into key roles on defense, and a September schedule that features road games at Baltimore, Green Bay and Minnesota, with a lone home game against the Los Angeles Chargers. It's an awfully tough way to start for a team that will be feeling its way at the beginning.
The truth is, the Bills probably shouldn't have made the playoffs last season. They finished 9-7 despite being outscored by 57 points, then needed a veritable miracle in the form of an Andy Dalton touchdown pass in the waning seconds at Baltimore that gave Cincinnati a shocking victory that simultaneously knocked the Ravens out of the postseason and ushered the Bills in through the back door.
This season, the Bills have no idea who their starting quarterback is going to be. No. 7 overall pick Josh Allen, free-agent signee AJ McCarron, and holdover backup Nathan Peterman will battle it out, and they have all of six regular-season NFL starts on their cumulative resume.
There is a great unknown regarding the availability of star running back LeSean McCoy, Buffalo's best player. A criminal investigation is ongoing in Georgia that will determine if McCoy had anything to do with the July 9 robbery and subsequent beating of his former girlfriend, who was living in a home that he owned. Until the matter is resolved, it's possible McCoy won't be able to be with the team, and if he is found to have any involvement, he could face a suspension by the league.
The wide receiving corps is woefully short on playmakers, which certainly won't help the situation at quarterback, and the offensive line must replace its three best players, Eric Wood and Richie Incognito (both retired) and Cordy Glenn (traded).
On defense, the Bills should be pretty solid. They have upgraded their defensive line with the free-agent acquisitions of tackle Star Lotulelei and end Trent Murphy, plus the drafting of tackle Harrison Phillips in the third round to join the likes of Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson. They also filled a huge need with their second first-round pick, No. 16 overall, when they grabbed middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
And in the secondary, second-year cornerback Tre'Davious White will build on an outstanding rookie season, as will the safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer who combined for 10 interceptions in 2017.
McDermott and Beane have built up some good will from a fan base that was thrilled they ended the drought. There's really no outside pressure, so if the Bills do indeed fall short of the playoffs, it will be viewed as a necessary part of the process as the organization continues to lay its foundation in place.
"We made some huge strides last year, but behind the scenes, even sometimes in plain view, you've seen the mistakes we've made and we've probably made twice as many that you haven't seen," said McDermott. "So, we're not perfect. We've got, as you've heard me say before, a lot of work to do."