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Sean McDermott is undecided on Bills' defensive play-caller: 'We'll make that decision when we need to'

The Bills are heading into the 2024 season with a new defensive coordinator, but it's not a given they'll have a new defensive play-caller.

Head coach Sean McDermott ran the team's D last season after Leslie Frazier stepped away from football for a year, leading Buffalo to a third straight campaign as a top-five unit in points against before finally filling the DC vacancy in January by promoting linebackers coach Bobby Babich.

Just as McDermott took his time processing what to do with the coordinator spot in 2023 before essentially taking it over himself, he's practicing patience in deciding whether or not to hand over play-calling to Babich, a first-time coordinator.

"We'll talk about it," McDermott said Monday when asked at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We'll make that decision when we need to. Right now, we're just one step at a time."

The 40-year-old Babich has earned his keep in Buffalo since 2017, working with the defensive backs and safeties before transitioning to LBs from 2022-23.

After a year with such success having McDermott calling a defense for the first time since 2016 when he was a DC for the Carolina Panthers, it makes sense the head coach needs to think things through -- even as he sings Babich's praises.

"I love the fact that Bobby has the ability to see the game in two dimensions," McDermott said. "Two and three dimensions. Because that's an important piece of this. He's coached two levels of the defense. The only one he hasn't coached is the defensive line, but yet when you work with the linebacker position, you're working in some ways with the defensive line with run fits and working off of stunts in games up front. I think Bobby's done a good job with that, and I'm excited to watch him grow into this coordinator role."

Regardless of who calls plays, McDermott and Babich have worked together for seven seasons now. There will be a thread of consistency.

Where bigger change could occur, however, is in the secondary.

Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have been a tandem at safety since 2017, as well, earning a Pro Bowl apiece and contributing 38 combined interceptions while locking down Buffalo's back end.

Poyer, who turns 33 in April, has one more year on his contract, but Hyde, already 33, is a pending free agent.

McDermott told reporters that Hyde has not informed him if he plans to play in 2024, then took a question regarding how much a priority it is to bring him back to Buffalo should he continue suiting up.

"Just say the word Micah around Buffalo and people smile," he said. "He's had a huge impact on our organization, a huge impact on the community. He's a class act around not only Buffalo but the NFL. I can't say enough good things about Micah Hyde."

McDermott added on Poyer: "Like Micah, Jordan has been just instrumental in our success and the growth of our organization, our team, our defense. Can't say enough good about Jordan, just like Micah. Usually when I say one, the other one comes to mind."

The two have such synergy they routinely attend postgame news conference together, but it's not a given they'll have a chance to display that chemistry again.

Such wrinkles are things Babich and McDermott will have to overcome. The offense, meanwhile, stands to benefit from some carryover from offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who served as interim OC for the second half of 2023. He now has the chance for a full offseason of install.

"It'll be interesting," McDermott said of Brady and Babich going head-to-head come preseason. "They're both fiery guys, which I love. I love that about them. Because I think what happens is when you're a certain way, that personality bleeds into your unit that your coaching or position that your coaching. I want our players to have that fire. I want our players to have the type of personality, that energy, daily. Joe has that. Right when Joe took over it was like he was in my office, bang, he was out and he was going to work. And Bobby's the same."

With changes on the horizon, the Bills will need plenty of that fire if they're to hold off the rest of the AFC East for a fifth straight division title and finally break through in the playoffs.

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