Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen will be the ‘Madden 24’ cover athlete

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen will be the cover athlete for EA Sports’ “Madden 24” videogame.

The verdict is in, and it’s Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen who will grace the cover of EA Sports’ “Madden 24: video game. Allen himself was quite happy to break the news.

The “Madden 24” game will likely be released in mid-August.

In 2022, Allen completed 407 of 648 passes for 4,898 yards, 38 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. He also ran 73 times for 808 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Madden video game franchise has been in existence since the late 1980s, and the games have sold more than 100 million copies.

Bills hope that reuniting Leonard Floyd, Von Miller will yield Super Bowl results

The Buffalo Bills have brought Leonard Floyd and Von Miller back together, hoping for a Super Bowl result and a better pass rush.

Last season, the Buffalo Bills made it to the divisional round of the playoffs despite a pass rush that didn’t do very much. Buffalo ranked 14th in sacks, 14th in pressure rate, 13th in quarterback knockdown rate, and 15th in quarterback hurry rate. The Bills under former defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier also blitzed on just 18% of their regular-season defensive snaps, which ranked 27th in the NFL. Buffalo upped that to 21% in their two playoff game, but that amounted to just 18 plays.

You can expect more blitzing under head coach Sean McDermott, but personnel is an issue, as well. The Bills hoped that signing Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million contract with $45 million guaranteed before the 2022 season would add enough force to their fronts to avoid having to bring extra defenders.

Problem was, Miller saw action in just 11 games due to injury, and though he had good numbers when he was healthy (eight sacks, four quarterback hits, and 33 total pressures), the Bills weren’t that much better when he was on the field. Per Sports Info Solutions, their pressure rate was 37.1% with Miller and 34.6% without. Their sack rate was 7.2% with Miller, and 6.0% without. Their blown block sack rate was 4.3% with Miller and 3.3% without, but their blown block pressure rate was exactly the same with and without Miller — 15.8% either way.

On Monday, the Bills went outside the box from the pass-rushers they had, and signed a pass-rusher quite familiar with Miller, and vice versa. Leonard Floyd, the former Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams edge defender who was Miller’s bookend for the 2021 Super Bowl champion Rams, signed a one-year deal for a reunion that the Bills obviously hope will lead to a similar result.

Last season, without Miller, Floyd totaled nine sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 33 quarterback hurries; his 54 total pressures tied with Miami’s Bradley Chubb for 25th overall among NFL edge-rushers. With Miller in 2021, Floyd had 14 sacks, five quarterback hits, and 54 quarterback hurries; his 73 total pressures ranked eighth in the league.

Floyd would fit the old Bills schematic paradigm in that just two of his 2022 sacks came out of a blitz — more often, he was rushing from a wide formation in a four-man front and letting his speed to the pocket do the work. As he showed on this sack of Aaron Rodgers in Week 15, Floyd (No. 54) is very good at getting his hands in a tackle from those wide alignments, using a solid bull-rush, and working his way to the passer.

Floyd isn’t what you’d call a refined technician, but when you have this kind of burst to the pocket, you can get away with it.

The Bills’ hope is that they’ll see a lot of plays like this sack in the 2021 divisional round, when Floyd and Miller cut the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive line from the edges, and met at Tom Brady. This was especially tough because of the need to double-team that Aaron Donald guy, who the Bills do not have.

The Bills have made a lot of interesting moves along their defensive line this off-season; signing former Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford and agreeing to a new contract for defensive tackle among them. But the real need here is for explosive plays off the edge, and perhaps with Floyd and a healthy Von Miller in the same stable, that can come to life.

Bills bet on DI Ed Oliver’s potential with massive new contract

The Bills gave Ed Oliver a big new contract, betting on his potential as much as they’re rewarding his production.

The Buffalo Bills have agreed to terms on a new contract extension with defensive lineman Ed Oliver that both speaks to his improvement as a player over the last two seasons, and catapults him into the future with head coach Sean McDermott running the defense.

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Oliver will receive a four-year, $68 million extension with $45 million guaranteed. That puts him in top-10 interior defensive lineman money, which may seem a bit rich. But if you include the $10,753 million guaranteed he’s due for his fifth-year option in 2023, the numbers become more reasonable.

Selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Houston, Oliver was thought to be the next great NFL defensive lineman based on his college tape. But it hasn’t really kicked in to the heights some may have imagined, though Oliver has shown progress in 2021 and 2022. Last season, per Pro Football Focus, he totaled five sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and 19 quarterback hurries, as well as 22 stops. This after a 2021 season in which he put up six sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 30 quarterback hurries.

One thing that could bump up Oliver’s numbers in 2023 and beyond, besides a healthy Von Miller, is McDermott throwing more blitzes at opposing offenses — something that wasn’t done much under former defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Per Sports Info Solutions, the Bills blitzed on just 18% of their defensive snaps in the regular season, which ranked 27th in the league. The blitz rate bumped up a bit to 21% in the postseason, but McDermott’s defensive history augurs a more aggressive approach.

2024 Mock Draft: Cardinals, Bucs, Raiders, Packers look for new franchise quarterbacks

In Doug Farrar’s latest 2024 mock draft, the Cardinals, Buccaneers, Raiders, and Packers are in the market for new franchise quarterbacks.

May and June mark the “slow” part of the NFL year (don’t tell that to DeAndre Hopkins’ agent), which means that teams are now engaging in some summer scouting in between all the minicamp preparation and whatnot. This means, of course, that teams are already putting the work in on prospects for the 2024 NFL draft.

We’re doing the same at Touchdown Wire, and based on projected team needs and our own initial tape work, we thought it would be interesting to start up the inevitable 2024 mock drafts! In this case, the order of teams is set by Pro Football Focus’ Mock Draft Simulator, and we go from there.

And in this mock, we have four teams looking for new franchise quarterbacks in the first round. The Arizona Cardinals, who have the first two picks overall, are starting the process of moving on from Kyler Murray, which may or may not be an actual thing by the end of the upcoming season… but it could be. We also have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking to accentuate a quarterback room that currently consists of Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask, and John Wolford, which kinda speaks for itself.

Also, the Las Vegas Raiders may well be tired of the Jimmy Garoppolo Experience after one year of it, and the Green Bay Packers may be in a situation where the Jordan Love succession plan didn’t go quite as everybody hoped.

So, here’s one version of how the first round of the 2024 NFL draft might go.

The All-22: What DeAndre Hopkins has to offer his next NFL team

DeAndre Hopkins is now a free agent after his release from the Arizona Cardinals. What does Hopkins still have to offer the NFL?

Well, so much for Memorial Day weekend being a relaxing one for NFL coaches and executives. On Friday, it was announced that the Arizona Cardinals released receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and that will perk up the ears of the shot-callers in all 31 other NFL stops.

Selected by the Houston Texans with the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft out of Clemson, Hopkins has been at his best an elite production machine. From 2014 through 2020, Hopkins led all receivers in targets (1,117) and receptions (695), only Julio Jones had more receiving yards (10,159) than Hopkins’ 9,207, and only Antonio Brown, Davante Adams, and Mike Evans had more touchdowns than Hopkins’ 58.

However, Hopkins hasn’t played a full season since 2020. Hamstring and knee injuries limited him to 10 games with the Arizona Cardinals in 2021 — his second in the Valley of the Sun after a major 2020 trade — and he was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season for violating the NFL’s policies no performance-enhancing substances. His 106 catches on 160 targets for 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns over those two seasons would have been about one season’s production before.

It was too much for the Cardinals, who had tried unsuccessfully to find a willing trade partner for the veteran receiver. The primary issue was not performance, but salary. Hopkins signed a two-year contract extension in 2020 that gave him $54.5 million in new money with $42.75 million guaranteed at signing. By releasing him now, Arizona saves $8,911,114 of his cap hit this season, and they still take on $21,077,776 in dead cap in 2023.

That’s the bad news. The good news for the Cardinals is that they’re obviously rebuilding at all levels, and getting Hopkins’ entire contract off the books in 2023 makes the most sense of all available solutions — unless we’re talking about the one solution of seeing what Hopkins has left in the tank at age 30.

That’s now for the rest of the NFL to decide. So, for those interested and interesting teams, what does DeAndre Hopkins have left to offer?

2023 NFL Draft: Consensus grades from best to worst for all 32 teams

The wisdom of crowds isn’t always the ideal, but here’s how 29 different analysts rated every NFL team’s draft, from best to worst.

Finding oneself beholden to the wisdom of crowds isn’t always the wisest move, but there is some tangential value in looking at how multiple analysts view the drafts of NFL teams. Worst-case, you get a sense of how we’re all wrong at the same time. Best case, there’s an aggregate response that can be accurate and telling.

Recently, football analyst René Bugner did us all the favor of compiling the post-draft grades for 2023 from 29 different sources (including yours truly, for better or worse), and did the math for each team from a grade-point perspective.

So, with those roll-offs and curves, we have a general sense of how those who analyze these things for a living (again, for better or worse) have put each NFL team in its respective place.

Here, then, are the post-draft GPAs for all 32 NFL teams. I’m including analysis for every team from my original grades at Touchdown Wire.

2023 NFL Draft: Final grades for all 32 NFL teams

The Xs and Os: Why the Buffalo Bills will blitz more in 2023

With Sean McDermott running the Bills’ defense in 2023, you can expect more blitzes. Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar get into why.

Leslie Frazier had been the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator since 2017, which meant that he was on the staff every year that head coach Sean McDermott has been. There was a parting of the ways this offseason, and while speculation as to why could lead us down a number of paths, Frazier’s general tendency against aggressive pass rush might have been an issue for McDermott, a defensive coach who had always liked to throw the kitchen sink at quarterbacks when he was a defensive coordinator.

Last season, the Buffalo Bills blitzed on 23% of their regular-season snaps. That rate plummeted to 14% in the postseason, to less than optimal avail.

In this week’s edition of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell,” Greg (of NFL Films and ESPN’s NFL Matchup) explained why you can expect to see the Bills blitz a lot more in 2023:

“We’re not there, so we don’t know the conversations that are had behind closed doors, but keep in mind that Sean McDermott cut his teeth in this league as an assistant under Jim Johnson with the Eagles. [Johnson] was one of the best blitzing defensive coordinators in the NFL. And my sense is that Sean McDermott will increase that blitz frequency.

“Once they lost Von Miller… he’s back, but he’s an older player, and we don’t know exactly how he’ll be. Just the nature of the injury and the age and the wear and tear. They could not rush the quarterback particularly well with their down four a year ago once Von Miller was out. They didn’t have that player to make that impact play like the sack Miller had on Patrick Mahomes early in the season that helped the Bills win that game.”

(Below, Miller’s sack of Patrick Mahomes with 6:19 left in the game in Week 6 of the 2022 season. The Chiefs had third-and-6 from their own 27-yard line, and this sack ended that drive, allowing the Bills to get on top of what was a 20-17 deficit at the time with a 24-20 win).

“I think there’s going to be a change in the overall world view of how they want to play.”

You can watch Greg’s and Doug’s analysis right here:

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The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell: Five NFL defenses that will be very different in 2023

In this week’s episode of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” Greg and Doug look at NFL defenses that will be very different in 2023.

There are times when, if you want to be truly competitive in the NFL, you have to make major, wholesale changes throughout your defense. From coaches to players, there are five NFL teams who made huge alterations to their defenses in the offseason.

In the newest episode of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” Greg (of NFL Films and ESPN’s NFL Matchup) and Doug (of Touchdown Wire) discuss how the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, and Buffalo Bills will put entirely new defenses on the field in 2023.

You can watch this week’s edition of “The Xs and Os” right here:

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You can also listen to, subscribe to, and rate the “Xs and Os” podcast on Spotify:

And on Apple Podcasts.

The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell: Five NFL offenses that will be radically different in 2023

In this week’s Xs and Os, Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar discuss five NFL offenses that will be very different in 2023.

You can listen all you want to coaches telling you how they want things to do on the field, but if you really want to know what it all means, take a sharp look at what teams do, as opposed to what they say. Teams will tell you everything you need to know about their desires to change things about their schemed based on differences in personnel and coaching as the offseason progresses. When new coaches are hired as the previous season comes down, and then new players are added through free agency and the draft, that’s where all the puzzle pieces begin to assemble.

In this week’s edition of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” Greg (of NFL Films and ESPN’s NFL Matchup), and Doug (of Touchdown Wire), get into five offenses that, based on changes in coaching and personnel, will look radically different in 2023 than they did in 2022.

You can watch “The Xs and Os” right here:

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You can also listen and subscribe to the Xs and Os podcast on Spotify:

And Apple Podcasts.

The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell: Dalton Kincaid radically alters the Bills’ passing game

Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid makes the Buffalo Bills’ passing game far more dangerous. Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar get into why that is.

Last season, including the playoffs, the Buffalo Bills had 41 dropbacks with two tight ends – only the Bengals and Rams had fewer. Obviously, that changes with the four-year, $52 million contract extension Dawson Knox signed in September, 2022, and the selection of Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid with the 25th pick in the 2023 draft. After the pick, when they traded up from 27 to 25 to get Kincaid, Brandon Beane talked about Kincaid’s ability to separate at the top of the route, and he also brought up how two tight ends can really shake things up for a defense. You start to get into that Travis Kelce Y-iso type of stuff, and all of a sudden, the defenses playing against your offense have to change. 

In this week’s edition of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” Greg (of NFL Films and ESPN’s NFL Matchup) and Doug (of Touchdown Wire) discuss how Kincaid specifically pushes the Bills’ Super Bowl window back open, and allows Josh Allen to not have to be Superman on every snap.

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