When it comes to building a football team, Sean McDermott admitted Wednesday the Bills are still in the “infant” stage.
This Sunday, they’ll see the fully grown adult team that spawned McDermott’s head coaching career in Buffalo.
McDermott knows the trip to Carolina, where he was defensive coordinator the last six years, won’t be easy. “Challenge” replaced “process” as the buzzword for this press conference.
His family reunion with the Panthers is not his focus this week.
“It’s about us growing as a football team,” McDermott said. “They’re seven years in. We’re two weeks in. It’s a difference in life cycle, if you will. We’re in the infant stages of that life cycle. We’ve got a long way to go. How do we continue to evolve as a football team and establish who we are as a football team.”
The Bills will be Cam Newton’s second test after off season rotator cuff surgery. McDermott thought the monstrously talented quarterback looked like his healthy, usual self week one.
“He was MVP of the league two years ago for a reason,” McDermott said. “We had a front row seat to watch him on day to day basis. The size, the speed, the power, the arm stgrength… that’s what we’re up against. That’ll be a huge challenge for us.”
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera sent McDermott a text before McDermott’s first game as a head coach on Sunday. McDermott responded after the win over the Jets. Though it’s limited to texting during football season, McDermott says he does keep in touch with his former coach.
McDermott speaks extremely highly of Rivera and his family. Ron’s wife, Stephanie, was very helpful to Sean’s wife, Jamie, as he transitioned to becoming a head coach.
“Ron’s been a big help to me. He’s always been there,” McDermott said. “(He’s been) a great resource for me to ask questions. Ron’s been incredible.”
It’s expected to be 85 degrees in Charlotte Sunday. McDermott said he will continue to rotate his defensive linemen, but not because of the heat.
It also will have nothing to do with the player’s contract. That question is, of course, in reference to Marcell Dareus being on the field for only 34 of 55 snaps against the Jets.
McDermott again emphasized that keeping players fresh is simply a part of his system. What happened with Dareus, or any other defensive lineman, in the past is irrelevant.
“We’re focused on what we do and how we win,” McDermott said. “It’s all about getting the best 11 on the field. There’s value at every position. We need 11 guys being unselfish doing their job.”
McDermott followed by saying he thought Dareus was very much unselfish and played well against the Jets. He added the Dareus’ hip injury also did not impact snaps.
He again brought up the “1/11th” philosophy. Every one of the 11 players on the field needs to just do their job.
However, it was pointed out that, from a salary point of view, no team uses 11 equally valued players.
The quarterback will be paid exponentially more than “1/11th” of the total salay to a starting offense. McDermott said a defensive lineman does have value because of their ability to affect the quarterback, but contract won’t matter to him when it comes to winning football games.
The Bills are in good shape injury wise. Cornerback E.J. Gaines will be a bit limited at practice, but is expected to play Sunday.
Cordy Glenn took a good step forward against the Jets. McDermott said his reps increased from the week before and he wants to see Glenn continue trending upward.
McDermott didn’t seem much in a rush to make the offense more vertical. The Bills relied mostly on short and underneath passes against the Jets and wide receivers only caught four passes.
“It’s important from the standpoint of us evolving as offense that we take what defense gives us,” McDermott said. “There’s also value in run after catch. At the end of day, we have to play smart.”
McDermott did acknowledge that’s an area the Bills need to improve, along with many others.
New linebacker Jelani Jenkins may not be ready to go for Sunday. McDermott said he’s mostly played outside linebacker, so that’s where the Bills will start him off.
He’s all played special teams and McDermott liked the system he came from in college at Florida.
“He has some of athletic attributes we look for in linebackers. He can run and he can diagnose and he’s a very instinctive player,” McDermott said.
McDermott did say returning to Carolina so early in the season will be a bit different than if they played the Panthers say, week 12.
There will be emotion. There won’t be distraction.
“Being back in that stadium, seeing people I left not too long ago… from human side, it’ll be different,” McDermott said. “But, I’m focused.”