Bills Must Do More to Protect Josh Allen

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - In these editions of Four Downs, we'll review the biggest hole on each team in the division and then give a short look at each team's major free agents for 2023. All pressure, blown tackle, blown block, and coverage success data comes from Sports Info Solutions charting. All cap data is from

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Need: Offensive Line

Josh Allen's 33 sacks taken were the second most by volume of his career and third most by percentage of dropbacks (5.0%). The volume doesn't come close to the high of the top of the league, and the sack rate does not rival those of mobile quarterbacks such as Daniel Jones (7.7%), Jalen Hurts (7.0%), or Lamar Jackson (6.8%). However, 33 sacks on 5.0% of dropbacks are the highest since Allen's Year 3 leap.

The Bills' current offensive tackles could stand some competition. Spencer Brown, a 2021 third-rounder, posted a 3.7% blown block rate in 2022, allowing 26 blown blocks in pass protection. Left tackle Dion Dawkins allowed an additional 25 total blown pass blocks, the second-worst season total of his career. Things get more complicated when factoring in free agents. Starting guard Rodger Saffold and depth pieces such as David Quessenberry and Greg Van Roten hit the open market. Quessenberry and Van Roten are each entering their age-33 season, while Saffold enters his age-35 season. That leaves us with one hole to fill, two spots that could stand to be upgraded, and some depth to worry about.

Ken Dorsey's consistent shots downfield require ample time to throw. Having an extra weapon to work with would be ideal, but just having the time to execute the deep-passing offense should be a priority.

Major Free Agents: S Jordan Poyer, LG Rodger Saffold, LB Tremaine Edmunds, RB Devin Singletary, ER Shaq Lawson, DT Jordan Phillips

The Buffalo Bills are at inflection point in their roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball. So much of what made the Bills defense formidable in 2022 came from depth. Buffalo had seven different players in the front seven post at least 20 pressures. While their pass rush was not as lethal without Von Miller, it was able to be sustained by that depth. Losing pieces such as Shaq Lawson or Jordan Phillips is not going to break the Bills defense, but the luxury of options was certainly nice.

What was once the best safety duo in the NFL may be gone within the year. Jordan Poyer is expected to hit free agency, while Micah Hyde's contract is up at the end of 2023. Poyer will command top safety money this offseason. If the Bills cannot afford to keep Poyer around, then they immediately have to build a contingency plan for Hyde, who is 33 and returning from a neck injury. Beyond Hyde, Damar Hamlin is expected to play again, while Christian Benford could be converted from cornerback to safety.

Devin Singletary is set to hit the free agent market, and it's for the best that Buffalo lets him walk. Singletary was serviceable if unremarkable for Buffalo in 2022, finishing 20th in DYAR and 16th in DVOA. Singletary has never put up efficient running numbers for Buffalo, and with many running backs available on the open market and in the draft, there is little reason to spend real money at the position. Buffalo barely used the running back they acquired at the deadline anyway. Aside from a pair of kick return touchdowns, Nyheim Hines saw 11 touches in nine games for the Bills.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Need: Cornerback

The Miami cornerback room got put through the wringer last year. Byron Jones received surgery in March of 2022 to clean up a lingering injury, then spent the entire season on the physically unable to perform list. Trill Williams tore his ACL during the Dolphins' preseason opener. Nik Needham tore his Achilles six weeks into the season. Xavien Howard suffered a groin injury early and, while he did play through it, posted career highs in completion percentage and yards per target allowed.

The slew of injuries did lead to some bright spots for Miami. Kader Kohou was thrust into a starting role as an undrafted free agent and rose to the occasion. Keion Crossen, who was signed primarily as a special teamer, fought through a foot injury of his own and proved to be a solid depth corner in a pinch. The small nuggets of positivity do not change the fact that the Dolphins fell from ninth to 25th in pass defense DVOA. Miami will now have Vic Fangio calling shots defensively; as the person credited with the currently most popular NFL defensive scheme, there is no better person to bring into the fold. With Needham hitting free agency, Jones likely not returning in 2023, and Howard showing some decline, shoring up the secondary should be the first priority for the Dolphins in 2023.

Major Free Agents: TE Mike Gesicki, S Eric Rowe, CB Nik Needham, ER Trey Flowers, ER Melvin Ingram, RB Raheem Mostert, QB Teddy Bridgewater

Most of Miami's free agent list can be summarized with a firm handshake and a quick "it was nice while it lasted." There is no way Mike Gesicki would have been franchise-tagged last year had the Dolphins known Tyreek Hill would be coming to town. Gesicki's 52 targets and 32 receptions were both the lowest since his rookie season. Both parties are best just moving on. Miami has their top three running backs hitting the open market in Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Myles Gaskin. Mostert saw the bulk of the work in 2022, but Miami likely looks elsewhere because of his age. The same can be said for Melvin Ingram. His 6.0 sacks were second to only Jaelan Phillips on the team, but at 33, Ingram may be better suited to continuing his late-career run as a journeyman pass-rusher for hire.

Teddy Bridgewater was a quality backup for Tua Tagovailoa in 2022. That backup role should be heavily emphasized this offseason, especially considering Tagovailoa's end-of-season head injuries. If Bridgewater does not return, Miami may not have to look outside its own division. New York Jets quarterback (and Pembroke Pines, Florida, native) Mike White expressed interest in "go[ing] home" to play for the Dolphins during a radio spot.

New England Patriots

Biggest Need: Wide Receiver

The New England Patriots are an easy team to diagnose heading into the offseason because their needs are so obvious: offensive tackle, cornerback, and wide receiver. At tackle, New England's 8.4% adjusted sack rate was the franchise's highest since 2008. Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon are hitting free agency, while Trent Brown is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. At cornerback, the Patriots posted the second-best pass defense DVOA of 2022. However, New England struggled in coverage against No. 2 wide receivers. Jonathan Jones is now entering free agency after a breakout season, as is Myles Bryant.

No position seems more potentially dire for the Patriots than their wide receiver group. Jakobi Meyers has led the Patriots in targets each of the last three seasons. Since Mac Jones became the starter for New England, he has increasingly turned to Meyers in a pinch. Meyers' 19.8% target share in 2022 shot up to 28.4% in third and fourth downs; his 132 DYAR on late downs was eighth-most among all pass-catchers last season. Nelson Agholor really underperformed, finishing 83rd in DYAR and 85th in DVOA among 85 qualifying receivers, but he still counted toward a good chunk of New England's passing attack.

New England fell from a top-10 passing DVOA offense to a bottom-10 passing offense year-over-year with virtually the same skill position players. They actually added some skill position players, to no avail. Upgrading from Matt Patricia to Bill O'Brien may right the ship (by default), but a wide receiver room of Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, and Tyquan Thornton headed into 2023 would be a massive problem. Whether it be through free agency, the draft, or trade, New England has to find answers at receiver.

Major Free Agents: S Devin McCourty, CB Jonathan Jones, WR Jakobi Meyers, WR Nelson Agholor, RT Isaiah Wynn, RB Damien Harris

Jakobi Meyers originally felt like he was guaranteed to walk, considering he might be the best free agent receiver available, but recent reporting by NFL Network's Mike Giardi suggests that Meyers isn't a candidate for WR1 money. That depreciated price could keep him local.

Jonathan Jones was traditionally a slot corner for New England prior to J.C. Jackson's departure, but he had a career year playing outside. His 47.9% completion rate allowed was a career-low, only beaten by rookie Jack Jones for best on the team. Jonathan Jones could be retained, considering the cornerback free-agent class is relatively strong and the draft class is lousy with good prospects.

Isaiah Wynn posted his worst blown block rate (3.5%) since his rookie season and tied a career-high eight penalties, playing just 395 snaps across nine appearances. His inability to stay on the field may force New England to look elsewhere at tackle. Damien Harris has also probably played his last snap with New England. The Patriots already have Rhamondre Stevenson coming off a career year, with a pair of rookies and Ty Montgomery behind him. New England has drafted five running backs in the last five drafts and three in the last two; they would certainly look to that crew before they bring back Harris.

New York Jets

Biggest Need: Quarterback

The New York Jets just need to walk away from this offseason with somebody who can throw a football at a league-average level. No, seriously, that's the bar they need to clear. Since 2004, the Jets have had just two qualifying quarterbacks finish a season with a positive DVOA: 2006 Chad Pennington and 2015 Ryan Fitzpatrick. Zach Wilson finished the 2022 season 27th among quarterbacks in DVOA; it was the best placement by a Jets quarterback since Josh McCown finished 25th in 2017.

The Jets certainly have holes beyond quarterback. They need additional support on the offensive line after their unit turned into a series of revolving doors in 2022. They could certainly stand to add a safety to play behind Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed and replace pending free-agent Lamarcus Joyner. They could also add another linebacker with Quincy Williams and Kwon Alexander hitting the open market. All those are secondary or tertiary to their need at quarterback. New York boasted a top-five defense in 2022 and brings back a strong core of young players on both sides of the ball. Finding a competent quarterback immediately brings the Jets into the playoff picture.

In addition to finding an actual starting quarterback, the Jets will need to find a backup quarterback not named Zach Wilson. Both Joe Flacco and Mike White are set to become free agents. Given the Jets' repeated votes of confidence in Wilson, there likely won't be any real monetary investment at the position. Given Wilson's first two years, however, the Jets certainly need a third quarterback in the building.

Major Free Agents: S Lamarcus Joyner, LB Quincy Williams, C Connor McGovern, DT Sheldon Rankins, QB Mike White

Connor McGovern joins Laken Tomlinson as the only Jets offensive linemen to start all 17 games. The season did not come without its struggles for McGovern. He posted a career-high 26 blown blocks on his highest blown block rate as a full-time starter. The down year may allow New York to bring him back on a short-term reduced deal, but given the Jets have Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker returning at guard, the team can stand to go either younger or cheaper at center. The Jets also have three interior defensive linemen hitting free agency, headlined by Sheldon Rankins. However, any legitimate resources at the position should be put toward extending Quinnen Williams. Williams posted a career-high 17 tackles for loss, 12.0 sacks, and 47 pressures in 16 games played, according to Sports Info Solutions. The former third overall pick is set to play on his fifth-year option in 2023.


23 comments, Last at 10 Mar 2023, 5:27am

#1 by rh1no // Mar 07, 2023 - 9:58am

There's a difference between "Damar Hamlin will play football again" and "Damar Hamlin will play in an NFL game less than a year after dying and being resuscitated on the field."

I mean, he might make it back this year, but I think it's more prudent to assume the Bills will be down one starting safety until we hear otherwise.

Points: 2

#4 by Mike B. In Va // Mar 07, 2023 - 12:57pm

I, personally, would be happy to see him take the field for one play and retire, despite the fact that he would be an asset - he was definitely learning out on field and improving every week.

Points: 5

#5 by IlluminatusUIUC // Mar 07, 2023 - 1:13pm

Even if he ended the season perfectly healthy, the Bills should still be looking to upgrade the position. Behind Poyer and Hyde it was real dicey. Hamlin might have developed further, but he would have been a liability as an opening day starter.

Points: 1

#23 by richallen7 // Mar 10, 2023 - 5:25am

As a young player filling in for a pro bowler he was doing fine.  The Bills' D was banged up all season, Hamlin was showing some promise and was in a bigger role than he was expected to be playing.  The Bills had cycled through other options and quickly discarded them: Hamlin stuck around, the D was going well.    

I don't know what you think you're achieving with comments like this - "telling it like it is" I guess -  but you do you.

Points: 0

#17 by Run dmc // Mar 08, 2023 - 11:32am

Plus who knows if he will ever be the same as a player much less in the upcoming season. I know football players are on a different level of commitment but I can't imagine going what he went through and then being able to train and play with the same level of intensity needed for an NFL career, especially of a 6th Round Draft Pick.

Points: 2

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Points: -15

#6 by takeleavebelieve // Mar 07, 2023 - 1:30pm

The Patriots always get tied to every buy-low veteran. But I’d guess that they’ll likely try to trade back, accrue some extra picks, and buy low on a proven veteran like Jalen Ramsey or Deandre Hopkins (assuming he doesn’t still have beef with O’Brien) rather than stay put at #14. 

FA Orlando Brown also has personal ties to Belicheck, although I suspect he’ll be priced out of the Patriots’ reach. 

In any case, the AFC East looks absolutely stacked next season. 

Points: 3

#11 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 07, 2023 - 2:44pm

In any case, the AFC East looks absolutely stacked next season. 

We said that last year, and arguably all four teams disappointed.

Points: -1

#13 by takeleavebelieve // Mar 07, 2023 - 3:18pm

“Disappointing” is one of those fun words that has no actual concrete meaning and is defined entirely by individual expectations.

The Bills were only disappointing in the sense that they didn’t win the Super Bowl. They McDermott/Allen era has been good for a couple of head-scratching losses each year; unfortunately this year it happened in the playoffs instead of a random week 9 game vs the Jaguars. 

The Pats were only disappointing if you thought that a second year QB wouldn’t need an offensive coaching staff to succeed. They still had a winning record and were in playoff contention all season. I think they about met expectations. 

The Dolphins and Jets were mostly just undone by injuries. A lot of teams that lose their starting QB or 3/5ths of their starting offensive line for weeks at a time could be said to be disappointing. Both teams were X-3 heading into late bye weeks and really only “disappointed” down the stretch. 

Points: 5

#14 by johonny12 // Mar 07, 2023 - 7:02pm

Miami actually beat their Vegas over/under last year. 9-8 was essentially what I expected based on the roster. Their offense was a little better than expected, defense a touch worse.

Points: 2

#18 by KnotMe // Mar 08, 2023 - 3:31pm

The AFCE had the highest Dvoa last year (42.5 vs 34.7 for the NFCE). Most bc even the "bad" teams (NE NYJ) were pretty much average 

Points: 0

#15 by AFCNFCBowl // Mar 07, 2023 - 9:52pm

Not so, BUF went over the highest win total in the league despite losing a regular-season game, NYJ went over its win total as well, MIA pushed despite the QB injuries and NE with a trainwreck offense only went half a game under its win total.

The division definitely exceeded expectations as a whole.

Points: 2

#7 by RickD // Mar 07, 2023 - 1:34pm

Your commentary neatly summarizes how badly the Patriots need help on the offensive line.  And then you say their biggest need is at WR? That's not to say they have a lot at WR, but they literally have nobody who can start at either tackle position and play at a respectable level.  

Points: 0

#9 by takeleavebelieve // Mar 07, 2023 - 1:47pm

It’s really just a tackle that they need. Andrews and Onewnu are both very good players. Trent Brown is a below-average starter; but he’s not an embarrassment, and he at least has the flexibility to play either side. Cole Strange wasn’t good, but he could theoretically improve with better coaching and another year to adjust to NFL competition. 

Points: 0

#10 by IlluminatusUIUC // Mar 07, 2023 - 2:44pm

93 catches for 1255 yards and 6 tds. That would be the 4th best wideout in the division but it's the combined stat line of the wideouts on their 2023 roster right now.

Points: 1

#21 by RickD // Mar 09, 2023 - 1:32pm

That happens when two of your receivers leave.  Now do the tackle position, keeping in mind Wynn and Cannon are not under contract.  

I'm not saying the WR corps is good.  But they at least have a serviceable player or two. At tackle they have faltering Trent Brown and the guy they signed off the Jets' practice squad.  

Points: -1

#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 07, 2023 - 2:45pm

Nelson Agholor really underperformed

What did you think was going to happen?

Points: -1

#16 by Biebs // Mar 08, 2023 - 9:18am


Zach Wilson finished the 2022 season 27th among quarterbacks in DVOA; it was the best placement by a Jets quarterback since Josh McCown finished 25th in 2017.


That is utterly stunning, he was so bad last year. The fact that 2019 is the last year the Jets had a QB throw for 10 TDs remains the most depressing stat in a world of depressing Jets stats.

Points: 1

#19 by KnotMe // Mar 08, 2023 - 3:36pm

What sad is he actually improved for -32 to -15 dvoa. Partly why I have hard time being as optimistic as most on Fields....long road. 

Points: -1

#20 by IlluminatusUIUC // Mar 08, 2023 - 6:25pm

Schefter reporting that Buffalo is expected to lose Poyer AND Edmunds. Poyer was all but settled but Edmunds would be a major blow. 

Points: 0

#24 by richallen7 // Mar 10, 2023 - 5:27am

absolutely.  The fan base never really appreciated his play, but the film people would routinely show how vital he was.  The closing speed around the field was incredible, he was good in coverage and better against the run game than given credit for.  More importantly, he and Milano were a really good combination, and when the duo was split the D wasn't the same.  Would be a big loss.

Points: 0

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