If we judge this by starters only, the safety group takes the cake as the best unit of the Bills. 2017 free agency additions Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer were not only steals for the respective contracts — $7.2 million combined cap hit in 2019 — they are also integral to the Bills’ defensive revival.
Now in year three of the Hyde, Poyer experiment, the Bills have one of the best safety duos in the NFL. Hyde, the strong safety, earned a Pro-Bowl nod in his first year in Buffalo and has continued to be a highly effective starter. Pro Football Focus rated Hyde as the NFL’s fourth-best safety in 2018. Poyer, the free safety, hasn’t been a Pro Bowler but he patrols the middle of the field like it’s nobodies business, providing big hits and sideline to sideline range on a weekly basis.
However, the depth behind the two just holds the position group back from being the strongest on the team. But it’s not a weakness. The third safety on the roster, Rafael Bush, is aging (32) yet was productive as a do-it-all defensive back in 2018. Behind Bush are some intriguing talents in Siran Neal and Jaquan Johnson — two fifth-round picks from the last two drafts.
Neal is a tad undersized (6-foot, 206-pounds) and has good, not blazing speed (4.56 second 40-time), but he plays with a specific type of tenacity that Sean McDermott can rave about. He’s currently battling Bush for the third safety role. As for Johnson, the rookie is a promising prospect lauded for his leadership and well-rounded game at the University of Miami.
With Hyde and Poyer holding down the position for the foreseeable future, the Bills safety position is a strength. Bush may not be around after 2019, as he’s a free agent in 2020, but the team may not need him by then. Neal and Johnson will likely be the team’s answer for cheap depth to their dynamic duo.