PITTSFORD, N.Y. — After an NFL club finds a franchise quarterback, the next step is to acquire the right pieces to make everything better around the leader.
That’s the mindset of the Buffalo Bills, who are facing a pivotal next step in the team’s rebuild in 2019 after selecting Josh Allen as the seventh overall pick about a year ago.
One of the Bills’ strategies this offseason was to bring veterans to fill the usual, unavoidable blank spaces left by inexperienced young players in the depth chart.
Running backs Frank Gore and T. J. Yeldon, wide receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown, centre Mitch Morse, and tight end Tyler Kroft were some of the 20 free agents signed by Buffalo since March.
Those are all names expected to have immediate impact offensively as the Bills are trying to compete for a division title, something that hasn’t happened since 1995.
“Everybody is working towards one thing. We are just trying to get better each day as a team,” said Gore, after the ninth day of training camp. “I’m just worried about my team right now.
“I can’t think about the Dolphins, I can’t think about the Patriots, and I can’t think about the Jets. The only thing I can do is coming here every day and try to get better.”
With the Miami Dolphins in 2018, Gore played in the AFC East, which is now highlighted by three young QBs trying to dethrone the New England dynasty.
If it wasn’t for Allen’s running skill-set, the Bills would have finished bottom in the NFL in a handful of rushing measures last season. The rookie quarterback totalled eight of the franchise’s 15 rushing touchdowns in 2018, and had 7.4 yards per carry, against 3.9 by the running backs.
And Gore’s willingness to prove he still has gas left in the tank at the age of 36 matches with the 31-year-old LeSean McCoy’s mentality, who had a career-low 3.2 yards per carry last year.
They are now the oldest running back duo in the NFL, which doesn’t seem to bother the most experienced one of them.
“[The Training Camp] has been great,” said Gore. “I’m having fun with a lot of my teammates, we are all competing and just trying to get ready.”
But the Bills’ long list of acquisitions brought fresh blood to the roster as well.
Yeldon, 26, is already in his fifth season in the league, but his 238 total touches in the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars show he can handle a heavy workload.
Since the Bills hired general manager Brandon Beane in 2017, 11 of the 14 players drafted continue to be part of the roster, including key starters in Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, and TreDavious White, to name a few.
“Last year’s rookie class was really good, the class above that was really good, and now our class is trying to come in and do the same thing,” said rookie tight end Tommy Sweeney, a seventh-round pick and one of two tight ends taken by the Bills in this year’s draft, alongside third-rounder Dawson Knox.
Nothing on Beane’s draft success has to do with the tight end position though, as Knox and Sweeney are the first tight ends taken by the GM, and Buffalo’s first since 2016.
But it’s not hard to understand why the position received that much attention now.
Last year, Buffalo’s tight ends Charles Clay, Jason Croom, and Logan Thomas combined for just 55 catches, 520 yards, and one touchdown.
Despite being the Bills’ last pick in 2019, Sweeney has already shown value on the field, taking advantage of a large list of injured players that includes Kroft, Croom, and Knox.