Bills Players with Most to Prove Ahead of 2021 Season
The Buffalo Bills set a new high standard for themselves in 2021 by reaching the AFC Championship Game.
Now that they have won the AFC East, the Bills have to focus on matching the offensive output of the Kansas City Chiefs to take the next step as a franchise.
Buffalo's free-agent addition of Emmanuel Sanders bolstered the wide receiver depth chart, but it still has some questions at running back and tight end.
The Bills need their offense to be fantastic on all levels to match what the Chiefs could throw at them in a potential playoff rematch.
Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and Dawson Knox all showed signs of promise in 2020, but they need to prove they are high-volume contributors at their positions for the offense to look deadlier than it was in 2020.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss
An argument can be made that Buffalo does not have a dominant No. 1 running back.
The Bills do have a strong two-man platoon in Singletary and Moss, but neither player took full control of the position in 2020.
Singletary led the Bills with 687 rushing yards, but he found the end zone two fewer times than Moss did. The two running backs combined for six rushing scores, which was two behind Josh Allen.
The pair of young running backs must improve their numbers to give the Bills a diverse offense that thrives against the AFC's top teams and takes some pressure off Allen in the ground game.
If one of the pair gets close to, or eclipses, the 1,000-yard mark, Buffalo's offense could increase its scoring production, which is a scary thought for a team that had 30 or more points on nine occasions last season.
If you are drawing a direct comparison between the Bills and the Chiefs, tight end is the one area in which Buffalo lacks a high level of production.
Knox had 288 yards and three touchdowns in 2020, while Travis Kelce had 1,416 yards and 11 trips to the end zone.
Knox does not need to transform himself into a 1,000-yard tight end, but he at least needs to increase his totals to make every aspect of Buffalo's offense dangerous.
The No. 1 tight end will not receive over 100 targets, like Kelce, with Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis and Sanders on the field, but he can develop into more of a red zone threat.
Knox's targets, receptions and receiving yards actually dropped from his first to second season partly because of Diggs' heavy usage rate.
Although Diggs and others take up most of the pass-catching volume, none of them are known for their physicality across the middle. Beasley attempts to fill that role from the slot, but he is not as large as Knox.
If Knox carves out a role across the middle, and in the red zone, it would bring yet another element to the Bills offense.
Buffalo addressed its pass-rush need by drafting Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr.
Those selections may lead you to believe that Jerry Hughes is under pressure to perform, and if he does not, the rookies could receive more playing time.
Hughes earned 4.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons. That was a drop off from the seven-sack campaign he produced in 2019.
The 32-year-old also has not had a 40-tackle season since 2017. If his production dries up, or does not live up to expectations, Buffalo could go right to Rousseau, Basham and 2020 draft pick A.J. Epenesa.
If the Bills coaching staff sees enough out of the young pass-rushers, they could even look to release Hughes or Mario Addison to open up more snaps for the up-and-coming edge guys.
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.