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2020-05-01

Coach Sean McDermott by offseason upgrades

Image:-Buffalo Bills coach

When asked whether the Buffalo Bills have a roster built to win now, Sean McDermott didn't mind being put on the spot.

"You're beautiful, man," McDermott said during a video conference call Thursday, referring to a reporter. "Throw the high and inside quickball. Chin music. "And yet, for the first time since the Bills upgraded their roster in free agency and acquired recipient Stefon Diggs in a deal with Minnesota in March, he wasn't ready to swing away in addressing the media, before shortening secondary needs in the NFL draft last weekend.

McDermott would just go so far in recognizing that the current roster of the Bills is the deepest it has been since the job was taken over three years ago.

"Listen, we are definitely beyond where we were when I came here," he said. "You want to be able to say that, and that is part of the goal."

However, the proof is still months away given the challenges facing him and the rest of the NFL when they wonder when teams will be allowed to start practicing because of the coronavirus pandemic. And games are yet to be played.

What's not in question, at least on paper, is the Bills finally resembling a contender based on a variety of factors for a team coming off in three years from their second playoff appearance.

Buffalo's roster has continuity, with all but four regulars coming back from last season. And whatever holes might have been, a series of offseason additions were shored up, including defensive end Mario Addison, defensive tackle Vernon Butler, linebacker A.J. Klein and Josh Norman, cornerback.

Following Tom Brady's departure, it is enough for some to regard the Bills as the chic pick to replace the New England Patriots atop the AFC East standings.

The acquisition of Diggs alone was important, because it has the potential to improve an offense led by Josh Allen that had difficulty scoring. Buffalo failed 11 times last season to top 21 points, including a 21-18 overtime wild-card playoff loss to Houston where the Bills squandered a 16-0 third-quarter lead.

"We need to score points, and that was an emphasis and a theme we've been discussing since the end of the season," he said of a team that had 10 games decided by seven points or less.

"In the fourth quarter of one of these games I'd love to take a seat on the bench and maybe eat an orange slice or drink a Gatorade instead of having my heart go one million miles an hour," McDermott added.

There are still many concerns, one of his greatest involving the lack of practice time to develop the passing game of Buffalo.

McDermott said the offense spends approximately 70 percent of their spring practices on passes, with the focus turning to running attack once players are allowed to wear pads. He also wondered how long it could take Allen to construct chemistry with Diggs.

"I'm worried about it, but at this point I don't think I'm worried," McDermott said, noting that each team is facing their share of challenges. "What you are doing is trying to adjust and adapt, and as we said before, this offseason our theme was: 'Find a way.'" McDermott has a track record of overcoming adversity in Buffalo.

The Bills overcame a patchwork roster in transition during his first season - Buffalo traded three starters, Sammy Watkins receiver, Marcell Dareus defensive tackle and Ronald Darby cornerback - to finish 9-7 and end a 17-year playoff drought. The Bills made the playoffs last season despite an offense featuring eight new starters.

Though players work out on their own remotely, McDermott is reintroducing its annual offseason team-bonding sessions by having newcomers introduce themselves once again by sharing their backgrounds during team sessions.