The New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills are no strangers to one another: the two teams will play their 121st game on Sunday, with their series history going back all the way to the inaugural season of the old AFL in 1960. That said, no team looks the same from one year to another and the Patriots and Bills know this as well: both have seen some serious personnel turnover since their last meeting last December.
With that said let’s take a look back at that game to find out how the two clubs have changed.
The following 32 players from the teams’ last meeting on December 21, 2019 are still with the team:
P Jake Bailey, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, CB Justin Bethel, S Terrence Brooks, RB Rex Burkhead, DT Adam Butler, LB Shilique Calhoun, LS Joe Cardona, DT Byron Cowart, WR Julian Edelman, C James Ferentz, K Nick Folk, CB Stephon Gilmore, DT Lawrence Guy, RB Damien Harris, WR N’Keal Harry, TE Ryan Izzo, CB J.C. Jackson, CB Jonathan Jones, G Shaq Mason, S Devin McCourty, CB Jason McCourty, WR Jakobi Meyers, LB John Simon, WR Matthew Slater, QB Jarrett Stidham, G Joe Thuney, RB James White, CB Joejuan Williams, LB Chase Winovich, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., OT Isaiah Wynn
Offense: The biggest change the Patriots offense has experienced since last December is obviously the departure of quarterback Tom Brady. It is not the only one on this side of the ball worth mentioning, though. The offensive line will likely see David Andrews and Michael Onwenu fill the starting spots at center and right tackle, while the wide receiver room is no longer featuring Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett. Meanwhile, N’Keal Harry is a question mark heading into this week’s game after suffering a head injury last Sunday. The tight ends, meanwhile, will look completely different: gone are Benjamin Watson and Matt LaCosse, with Ryan Izzo — a healthy scratch last December — and rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene filling their roles. The backfield will be led by Damien Harris, meanwhile.
Defense: This year’s offseason has impacted the Patriots defense quite a bit, with some of 2019’s cornerstone players leaving the club: Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung opted out, while Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts and Danny Shelton left in free agency. On top of it all, Duron Harmon was also traded to Detroit. The rest of the unit looks very much like it did last year, with players such as Chase Winovich and Ja’Whaun Bentley taking on bigger roles. The most stable unit is the secondary, but even it saw some changes compared to the Bills game last year: Chung’s aforementioned departure stands out but so does the return of Johnathan Jones, who was inactive, and Jason McCourty, who played only four snaps while dealing with a groin injury.
Special teams: Long-time Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was released this offseason, but he was on injured reserve the last time the team met the Bills anyway. One notable change on special teams over the last 10 months was the departure of Nate Ebner, who signed a free agency deal with the New York Giants this offseason. Cody Davis was brought aboard to help fill his role, but he is no lock to play on Sunday after having just returned to practice following a stint on injured reserve.
Coaching staff: The Patriots no longer have the services of long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, wide receivers/special teams coach Joe Judge and defensive line coach Bret Bielema available. The three men have been replaced, in that order, by O-line coaching duo Carmen Bricillo and Cole Popovich, Mick Lombardi (wide receivers) and Cam Achord (special teams), as well as DeMarcus Covington. New quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch was also added, as was safeties coach and former coaching assistant Brian Belichick.
The following 31 players from the teams’ last meeting on December 21, 2019 are still with the team:
QB Josh Allen, QB Matt Barkley, OT Ryan Bates, WR Cole Beasley, G Ike Boettger, P Corey Bojorquez, WR John Brown, OT Dion Dawkins, LB Tremaine Edmunds, G Jon Feliciano, LS Reid Ferguson, OT Cody Ford, DE Jerry Hughes, S Micah Hyde, DE Darryl Johnson, S Jaquan Johnson, CB Taron Johnson, TE Tyler Kroft, S Dean Marlowe, WR Isaiah McKenzie, LB Matt Milano, C Mitch Morse, DE Trent Murphy, CB Siran Neal, OT Ty Nsekhe, DT Ed Oliver, S Jordan Poyer, WR Andre Roberts, RB Devin Singletary, CB Tre’Davious White, RB T.J. Yeldon
Offense: While the Bills have retained eight of their offensive starters from their last game against New England, they did see some noticeable turnover compared to 2019. Top tight end Dawson Knox is currently unavailable after being diagnosed with the Coronavirus, while veteran running back Frank Gore left the team in free agency. The biggest change, however, is the addition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs: Buffalo sent a first-round draft pick to Minnesota to acquire the wideout, and he has been impressive over his first seven games as a Bill.
Defense: Buffalo’s defense is largely intact compared to 2019, but there are also some noticeable changes — from cornerback Levi Wallace being placed on injured reserve, to defensive tackle Star Lotulelei opting out of the 2020 season, to defensive linemen Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson leaving in free agency, to linebacker Lorenzo Alexander retiring. In their place, players such as Mario Addison, Vernon Butler and A.J. Klein were added this offseason.
Special teams: While the punter, long snapper and return positions still look the same compared to last year, the place kicker position has seen a change: veteran Steven Hauschka was released after the team selected his successor, Tyler Bass, during the draft this year.
Coaching staff: Buffalo’s coaching staff has seen a few minor changes since last season, with the defensive line being most impacted: gone are position coach Bill Teerlinck and his assistant Aaron Whitecotton, with Eric Washington and Jacques Cesaire filling the two roles this year. Another change is the departure of head coach Sean McDermott’s assistant Matt Worswick. In his place, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier added the title of assistant head coach.