Coming off of the bye week, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills have several aspects of their game that need improvement. In order to identify the biggest issues, I searched through NFL.com, ProFootballFocus, Football Outsiders and NFLPenalties.com for data. Here’s what I found.
Through seven games, the Bills have been flagged 87 times, with 72 of them being accepted, tied for the highest total in the league. These 72 penalties have cost the Bills 670 yards in field position, negated big plays and put the team in a poor situation. If the Bills want to make a serious playoff push, they have to control this problem. 55 penalties occurred at home, while 22 came on the road.
Getting After the Quarterback
After racking up 54 sacks just a year ago, the Bills currently have just 11 on the year, in addition to 37 hits and 73 hurries. They’re pressuring opposing quarterbacks at a 38.8% rate, down from the 51.3% rate they harassed passers last season.
Rex Ryan needs to adjust his scheme to fit the skill-sets of the All-Pro caliber players he has at his disposal. An occasional zone blitz can throw off a quarterback, but the amount of times that a Bills’ defensive linemen has dropped into cover the flat against a running back that’s undoubtedly faster and quicker than them is just redundant. Get back to the fundamentals and let the front four do what got them paid and you hired to coach this elite group.
Moving the Chains
Statistically, the Bills have one of the more efficient and balanced offenses in the National Football League. They’re completing 67.1% of passes (8th-best) with 25 passes that gained 20+ yards, the 12th most in the league. On the ground, they’re gaining 4.3 yards-per-carry (10th), gaining a first down on the ground 24% of the time (10th) while finding the endzone eight times (5th).
However, when it comes to third downs, the Bills haven’t been able to convert, moving the sticks on just 33.7% of their chances, the 27th lowest total in the league. This leads to punts, where Colton Schmidt has dropped just nine inside the opponents’ 20-yard line—the 26th fewest in the league—and the opposing offenses average drive starts at the 29.42 yard line, the second-worst in the NFL.
Inconsistent Run Game
Due to the injuries suffered by both LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, in addition to having John Miller, Kraig Urbik, Seantrel Henderson and Cyrus Kouandjio all play on the right side of the offensive line over the last two games, this is an issue that could likely be resolved quickly.
The Bills have rushed 200 times for 867 yards, a 4.3 yards-per-carry average and eight touchdowns on the year. Eight rushes have gone for 20+ yards, the third most in the league. However, 29 of Buffalo’s 200 rushing attempts were “Stuffed” meaning they were tackled at, or behind the line of scrimmage. This 14.5% rate ranks 24th in the league and is something the Bills need to work on in order to pick up yards and keep drives alive.
Defend the Middle of the Field
In an attempt to negate the Bills’ feared defensive line, opposing offenses have utilized “West Coast Offense” concepts in the passing game—horizontal timing routes from a three-step-drop that allows the quarterback to get the ball out quickly and efficiently. On passes between the hashes, Buffalo has allowed 80-of-126 passes to be completed (63.4%) for 935 yards (7.4 yards-per-attempt) and eight touchdowns. On passes outside the hashes, the Bills have allowed 707 yards at a 6.1 yards-per-attempt average.
Injuries to Corey Graham and Aaron Williams haven’t helped in this aspect, but if Rex is the creative genius we’re led to believe that he is, he’s got to figure out a way to flood the middle of the field, jam receivers and congest throwing lanes for opposing passers.