Predicting the Bills 2020 Depth Chart: Cornerback
By Daniel Bruce
Starter: Tre’Davious White
Fresh off a career season and a first-team All-Pro selection, Tre’Davious White is the best player on the roster, and one of the best defensive players in the whole league.
His production from the cornerback position was elite, as he produced 58 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, six interceptions and 17 pass breakups. Finishing tied for first in interceptions and was tied for fourth in pass breakups, it was an impressive year and one that finally got him the national recognition.
White has been a stalwart in the red zone during the majority of his career, continuing that this season when he didn’t allow a single touchdown versus his coverage.
White faced 90 targets, giving up only 45 completions for an exact 50% completion rate versus his coverage, he was very difficult to move the ball against, even against star receivers. The former LSU Tiger surrendered a passer rating of only 45 as well, summing up what was an outstanding season.
In April the Bills picked up White’s fifth-year option which extends him through 2021 season and hopefully an extension can be found in the coming year.
Starter: Josh Norman
The polarizing cornerback has been on a downward trajectory over the last few seasons, and struck an all time low last season with his weak play.
Norman played in 12 games, starting eight, with 40 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack and one interception. While allowing a 67.4% completion rate on 47 targets and a total of seven touchdowns and an abysmal passer rating of 129. Not the season Norman wanted but the veteran struggled to flourish in the Washington scheme during his four seasons there, and is now back in the scheme that helped him become a first team All-Pro in 2015 under McDermott in Carolina.
The Buffalo Bills rely on good tacklers at cornerback and that is Norman’s strength. He is a great tackler with his great size at 6’0″ and 200 pounds, only missing on 9.1% of his tackle attempts in 2019, a very solid mark for a cornerback.
After signing a one-year $6 million contract in free agency, Norman is expected to have the inside track to be the day one starter.
Nickel Starter: Taron Johnson
The Buffalo Bills starter at nickel cornerback has been primarily Johnson over the last two seasons after he was selected fourth-round in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Struggling with nagging injuries over his first two seasons in the league leading to Johnson only appearing in 23 games and starting 9 of them he has been an important part of the Bills defense.
In 2019, Johnson played 12 games with 50 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and five passes defended. He had some struggles during the season and can have trouble when larger receivers line up in the slot being why Buffalo is so interested in a big nickel.
The Bills relies heavily on a nickel defense, a reason why the third-year cornerback played 48% of snaps last season. If the opposing team is bullying Johnson with a big body, the Buffalo Bills will usually turn to their current big nickel in Siran Neal.
One mark Johnson will have to improve on is his tackling, missing on 20.6% of his tackles is a necessary area of improvement to keep his role on the defense. Also allowing 96.3 passer rating against, the third-year pro will have to improve next season.