For the past four years, the Buffalo Bills have had one of the best defenses in the NFL, and safety Jordan Poyer has been one of the biggest reasons why.
Since coming to Buffalo in 2017, the former Oregon State Beaver has tallied 95 or more total tackles in each season and has had at least 70 solo tackles as well. He’s racked up two sacks in three of the four years, and he’s also tallied two more interceptions in each season, with a career-high of five in his first season in Buffalo.
Poyer has essentially been the backbone of the Buffalo defense. He’s provided a hard-hitting sideline to sideline presence that has allowed the Bills secondary to improve every year.
Before landing in Orchard Park, Poyer spent three and a half years with the Cleveland Browns before a devastating kidney laceration ended his 2016 season. He had started all six games and made 39 tackles, but Poyer still had more to prove.
So, when Sean McDermott took over as the Bills head coach in 2017, he and his staff gave Poyer a shot with a 4-year, $13 million contract. Since then, he’s been one of the team’s most consistent players.
In four years, Poyer has only missed one regular-season game. After garnering 95 tackles in 2017, Poyer has increased his total every season and recorded 124 this past season with 91 solo tackles and four for a loss.
Poyer was a three-sport athlete at Astoria High School in Oregon and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2009. He gives the Bills an ability to line up in multiple different coverages while still making plays at the line of scrimmage.
This past season, Poyer had the most tackles by any safety in the NFL, and he also tallied the fourth-most solo tackles. He’s tallied 298 solo tackles in four seasons with the Bills, which is the most for any current active Bills player by 71 tackles (Jerry Hughes, 227).
Despite his success in the secondary, Poyer hasn’t quite received the recognition that he deserves. He hasn’t received one Pro Bowl or one All-Pro nomination in his eight-year career. But both his individual and team numbers don’t lie.
While Poyer has been the most consistent player on the Bills defense in terms of being on the field and producing, he, fellow safety Micah Hyde, and All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White have allowed Buffalo to have one of the best secondaries in the league.
All three came to the Bills during McDermott’s first year. In all but one of the past four years, the Bills have had a top 10 passing defense in terms of yards and touchdowns allowed.
In 2018, the Bills allowed the least amount of passing yards in the league. A year later, they allowed the fourth-least passing yards and the second least amount of touchdowns.
With his aggressive mindset and hard-hitting nature, Poyer and the Bills have limited some of the best quarterbacks in the league to slim numbers in the past few years.
This past year, they limited Ryan Tannehill to 195 passing yards and Patrick Mahomes to 221 yards, 95 yards below his game average. Ben Roethlisberger only threw for 177 yards and was picked off by nickleback Taron Johnson for a touchdown. Johnson did the same thing to Lamar Jackson in the playoffs. The Bills also held the New England Patriots to 56 passing yards in their second meeting.
It’s been a team effort, but it’s undeniable how much Poyer has meant to the Bills secondary.
During the best season of his career, Poyer registered double-digit tackles in five games, came up with crucial interceptions in back-to-back games against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, and also played over 94-percent of the defensive snaps in 17 of Buffalo’s 19 games this season. The only two games he didn’t register over that percentage came in Buffalo’s final two regular-season games.
Poyer picked off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the end zone when they were in a position to cut Buffalo’s early lead in half. A week later, Poyer pulled in a Kyler Murray pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 14 yards.
He also defended five passes and forced two fumbles this season.
The numbers tell the story. Even though Poyer hasn’t received the recognition that his play deserves, the 30-year-old safety has been paid for efforts.
He signed a 2-year, $20.5 million extension this past season to keep him in Buffalo through the 2022 season. It appears that the lack of recognition has only motivated Poyer further — he’s improved his numbers each year. If the Bills are going to fulfill their Super Bowl aspirations, they will need Poyer to continue to be the backbone of their defense.