The draft is over, big splashy free-agent deals are mostly done, and with the schedule dropping, there’s not much to do until training camp begins. So as we speculate about how the season will go. Here are my thoughts on who has the best chance to have a breakout year out of the very talented roster of athletes on the Buffalo Bills.
First, let’s recap some offseason moves so we know who is now in the equation. The most significant off-season move was the signing of veteran QB and Reddit favorite Matt Barkley, whose infectious optimism and parlance with fans bring even more hype to the already stacked Buffalo Bills. I’m kidding; while I love the Barkley signing, the most significant move was signing one of the league’s most prominent names in defensive talent Von Miller.
On top of adding this superstar, The Bills also signed a slew of good players to the defense like Tim Settle, Daquan Jones, Shaq Lawson, and Jordan Phillips. On top of the defense, the Bills also added solid offensive starters like OJ Howard, Roger Saffold, Jamison Crowder, and Duke Johnson. None of those mentioned above athletes are on my list of Buffalo Bills players poised to break out.
I have three players in mind who I think are set to have a very productive year, and I hope one of them surprises you.
WR Gabriel Davis
Drafted in 2020, Gabe has had a solid first two years, with the team having 35 receptions both years, producing over 500 yards each season. Davis has been stuck on the sidelines for most of his career because of the talent the Bills have at wide receiver. With the loss of Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders, he is set to become the team’s #2 WR. What does that mean? Well, if last year’s Bills/Chiefs playoff game was any indication, he will score 25 touchdowns with over 2500 yards this year.
Seriously though, Davis became the first WR in history to score 4 touchdowns in one playoff game; now that’s talent. With the re-signing of Diggs, Gabe Davis is poised to have a breakout year as the alternative receiver when Diggs is undoubtedly under extra coverage. Will it be 25TD’s and 2500 yards? Probably not, but the sky is the limit so long as Josh Allen is tossing him the ball.
DE Gregory Rousseau
Greg Rousseau came in hot after being drafted 30th overall in the 2021 draft. The rookie made a significant impact his first year by recording four sacks, eight TFL, one FF, and one very sweet interception of Patrick Mahomes that led to him receiving AFC defensive player of the week. Rousseau played in 50% of the snaps last year, sharing his duties with former Bills players Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes. Both Addison and Hughes signed with Houston this offseason.
That leaves Rousseau sharing snaps with Mike Love, Jordan Phillips, Shaq Lawson, Boogie Basham, and AJ Epenesa. Rousseau is the clear leader out of that grouping and likely will see his snap count reflect that. Add on the fact that the Bills signed QB headhunter Von Miller to help divert attention away from the opposite edge rusher. You can see why I think Rousseau will have a very productive, possibly pro-bowl caliber breakout season; quarterbacks beware.
OT Spencer Brown
This guy is a pure athlete; having played both TE and on the D line in high school, he decided O-line was his permanent home and put on 80lbs when he went to college to make sure he had the weight to push people around. Spencer Brown’s rookie year last year had him starting by week 5.
Now admittedly, the Bills’ O-line was having issues last year, Cody Ford’s performance was lackluster, and Dion Dawkins was still recovering from Covid. However, with the addition of Spencer Brown, things immediately started taking a turn for the better. He was seeing more and more playing time as the season went on, and it showed as our run game continued to improve with him on the field.
This year with a new play-caller, a shiny new pass-catching RB and the ever-present threat of Josh Allen taking off with his legs, Spencer Brown’s time to take a leap forward. I know it’s hard to quantify stats for an offensive lineman, but the biggest compliment you can give is noting how glaring his absence is when he’s gone and when Spencer Brown is out; the glare is so bright you have to wear shades.
Brown had a lot of struggles as a rookie, but when he did not play, the Bills’ offensive line really struggled on the right side. If Brown can take the next step with a breakout season, it would give the Bills two long-term tackles to protect Josh Allen.