ORCHARD PARK — Bills tight end Lee Smith makes a distinction when it comes to overconfidence and Buffalo preparing to face the winless Miami Dolphins.
“I don’t think there can be overconfidence, not to me personally,” Smith said Wednesday. “There’s a big difference between being overly confident in yourself and under-estimating an opponent. And we sure as hell aren’t going to be under-estimating any opponent.”
So long as the Bills (4-1) — off to their best start since Smith’s rookie season in 2011 — focus on their preparation and ignore the outside noise of the 0-5 Dolphins and Buffalo being 16½-point favorites, then everything should turn out fine.
“That would be my sentiment to you and young players and everyone that looks at a 4-1 start and thinks we’ve arrived,” Smith added. “That’s not the way we feel in this locker room. We feel like we need to go 1-0, prepare for the Dolphins, just like we have every other week.”
Smith’s response in many ways mirrors the culture of confidence Sean McDermott has sought to foster in the Bills three years into his tenure. For a team that’s made the playoffs just once (McDermott’s first season) in 19 years, he wants his players to have every expectation to win each time they step on the field without getting too far ahead of themselves.
“Records don’t matter in this league,” McDermott said. “We respect every opponent. And I’ve stressed from Day 1, we have to continue to improve.”
It’s an approach that particularly applies to this week with Buffalo having the luxury of coming off its bye week, and heavily favored against a Dolphins team being already written off as a pushover.
Miami is changing quarterbacks once again with former Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over for Josh Rosen. Fitzpatrick will oversee an offense that ranks 30th or worse in most every statistical category. And the Dolphins have been outscored by a combined margin of 180-42.
Bills players — from 15-year veteran running back Frank Gore, to rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver — insist they’ve bought into McDermott’s message.
“I don’t look at no record. It’s an NFL team,” Gore said of the Dolphins, for whom he played for last season. “I’m worrying about where I’m at now. It’s Buffalo, man.”
Another former Dolphins player, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips dismissed the buzz by suggesting the Bills are the one who lack respect.
“The only people that know we’re good are in this locker room, so we’re in the same boat as (Miami),” he said. “We’re 0-5 damn near, so there’s no overconfidence.”
Phillips then shrugged when informed the point spread favoring Buffalo is the largest since 1993.
“What’s that mean?” he said. “We’ll see when it comes to Sunday.”
The Bills have a track record of collapsing after encouraging starts, having missed the playoffs in 2008 and ’11, the past two times they’ve opened 4-1.
Smith is in his second stint in Buffalo and was part of a 2011 Bills’ team that eventually got off to a 5-2 start before losing eight of its final nine games. He saw no reason to reflect back because what happened eight years ago won’t make a lick of difference on this season, or this weekend for that matter.
“You can compare this and compare that, but at the end of the day, 2019 Bills football is all I’m thinking about, and going 1-0 this week,” he said.
“I’m enjoying being 4-1, just like I did then. But there’s no part of me thinking negatively like ‘Oh, man, I’ve been here before and it didn’t work out,’” Smith said. “Three, four, five years from now, when I’m retired and laying around with my wife, I’ll get back to you and make a comparison to the two years.”
NOTES: Backup RB Devin Singletary practice fully and is in line to return after missing three games with a left hamstring injury. … QB Josh Allen practiced fully despite being listed as having a hand injury. … TE Tyler Kroft practice fully for the first time since hurting his left ankle four weeks ago. Kroft also missed all the offseason recovering from a broken right foot.