BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Expectations for the Bills this season are the highest they’ve been in probably a couple decades.

That’s because the landscape of the AFC East has completely changed with Tom Brady leaving for Tampa plus all of the changes the Patriots have gone through. Not to mention the continuity the Bills bring into this season with so many of the same pieces in place in all three phases. Plus, the coaching staff is pretty much the same as well.

They added new weapons on offense, the biggest being wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Josh Allen is expected to take that next step in year three and the defense once again looks like a top three unit.

But the Bills aren’t letting that get to their heads.

“We have a swagger about us but we still have that underdog mentality. We honestly don’t care about any of the hype and we know what we have to do day in and day out. Honestly we all know that this will be our hardest year yet because there’s a giant target on us,” Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins said on a zoom call with reporters.

“We let the outside noise chirp, chirp, chirp and we just keep our heads down here and we just keep pushing.”

One of the most consistent positions for the Bills this season is offensive line as they return all five starters from last year.

“We are a step ahead because we have the same pieces here. Sadly Jon [Feliciano] just got hurt but the pieces are pretty much still in place,” Dawkins said.

That’s why the offensive line didn’t feel like they needed to meet in person this offseason for workouts like with what we saw some of the skill position players do and the defense. Instead, they relied on zoom calls, phone calls, text messages and other virtual ways of staying connected.

“That is the biggest relief of it just because we know what to expect, we are a step ahead in the playbook, we are a step ahead of getting that bondage feel where we don’t have to rush around to try and play catch up of trying to get to know exactly the person who is next to one another. I think that’s where we’re kind of in the plus,” Dawkins explained.

They will be without guard Jon Feliciano for the next few months as he tore his pec muscle lifting weights last week that required surgery.

But Dawkins said there wasn’t an “ultimate panic” when it comes to replacing him because of the depth they have on the offensive line.

“We care, we love him, Jon’s gonna come back stronger and better than ever but it’s time to push forward,” Dawkins said.

It seems the Bills want to keep Cody Ford at right tackle given they signed guard Brian Winters after the Jets released him.