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thebandit27

Just How Bad Was Buffalo's Run Game Aside from Josh Allen?

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When discussing the many factors that affected Josh Allen's ability to operate the offense, one of the ones I've often cited is just how utterly alone he was in producing offense for this team. I regularly cited the fact that he produced over 80% of the team's total offense in games he started, which was easily the most of any rookie QB, and was 2nd only to TB's QB combo in terms of offensive yardage produced by the QB over the course of the season. But one topic that hasn't gotten a deep dive is just how bad the running game was outside of the yards produced by Josh Allen, which is why I've created this thread.

 

Folks, the run game is a huge problem, and it needs to be fixed this offseason.

 

First, let's start with the raw numbers:

http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=2&season=2018&seasonType=REG&offensiveStatisticCategory=RUSHING&role=TM&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=1&conference=ALL&d-447263-s=RUSHING_AVERAGE_YARDS

http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&season=2018&seasonType=REG&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&statisticCategory=RUSHING&conference=null&d-447263-p=1&d-447263-s=RUSHING_YARDS

 

Do with them what you will, but I want to focus on the one number that I think tells most of the story: 4.2 YPC.  Is that really that bad, you ask? No, on the surface it isn't.  It's tied for 21st in the NFL, which is below-average, but not abysmal in any sense.  But here's the problem:

http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&season=2018&seasonType=REG&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&statisticCategory=RUSHING&conference=null&d-447263-p=1&d-447263-s=RUSHING_YARDS

 

Not a single player ranking in the top 30 in the NFL in rushing yards...and, of course, there's the fact that Allen lead the team in rushing.

 

I'm not normally a huge fan of "if you remove his rushing yards" type analyses, but in this case, it's important to normalize the non-QB rushing yards across a large enough sample space in order to see just how much of a difference his contributions make to the numbers.  To do so, I took the total rushing numbers from teams whose QBs rushed for 300 or more yards and removed the QB's contributions to see the effect on YPC.  Here's what that looks like:

 

Team                   Rush Att             YDS                   QB                   Rush Att            YDS              Non-QB YPC

Baltimore              547                   2441              Jackson                147                 695                   4.37

Houston                472                   2021                Watson                99                   551                   3.94

Chicago                 468                  1938                Trubisky               68                   421                   3.79

Carolina                 416                  2136               Newton                  101                 488                  5.23

Jacksonville         416                   1723              Bortles                   58                   365                   3.79

Seattle                   534                   2560                Wilson                  67                  376                   4.68

Tennessee            454                   2023              Mariota                  64                  357                    4.27

Dallas                     439                  1963               Prescott                75                  305                    4.55

TB                           389                  1523            Winston/Fitz            85                  433                    3.59

Buffalo                  468                   1984              Allen                       89                 631                    3.57

 

Tampa Bay is the only team that even came close to having as bad a running game as Buffalo...and keep in mind that Buffalo has what most NFL observers would categorize as a solid group of backs, yet that YPC would rank dead last in the NFL if not for Josh Allen basically performing the role of lead back.

 

There's the data set...thoughts?

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Revamp oline, Revamp the backfield. I don’t care what McCoy fans say, he is toast. If by some miracle he has another season over 4.5

it’s still better to be a year early than a year late. Get a stud in the middle of the draft. 

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I saw some numbers yesterday that showed that Ivory had essentially the same number of carries for a loss as McCoy, and I was stunned. Obviously McCoy dances in the backfield more than he would on Dancing with the Stars...but It's definitely an o-line problem. 

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Great info, 27 and I agree wholeheartedly. 

 

If they start fixing the line (I doubt it will all be done this offseason), get some receivers who play at a professional level and add some RB’s of value to spell Shady, I believe it’s a large step forward in this teams O. 

 

Near final steps will take place next offseason. 

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O-line is HUGE.   Look at the Steelers O-line, then look at Bell, Connor and even J. Sanders success.  Of course, those guys are all skilled and younger than our backfield. 

 

We fix the OL, get a guy like Coleman in FA, and/or draft a stud in Rd. 2 and we will be on our way to fixing the terrible running game. 

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My first thought is that the McDermott hire has wrecked the running game/scoring offense the way the Rex hire ruined the defense.

 

But unlike the Rex defense........which was mostly resolvable with simplified scheme..........the running game is going to require a much broader overhaul.

 

New offensive lineman.........new running backs..........new receiving targets to keep safeties out of the box.........and of course better offensive line coaching and run game design.

 

In fairness to the new regime........Wood, Incognito, Shady and Clay were going to age out..........their absence and or decline is significant in the equation.

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It was the worst running game I've ever seen if you eliminate Allen's runs. I thought that was what was inherently unfair to Allen in all the evaluations by outsiders: he had to do EVERYTHING for them to succeed on offense. I think anything that will take pressure off Allen whether it is better running for, you know, real running backs, a tight end that can be productive, a better line, better receivers will make this offense much much better. Then one can fairly evaluate Allen.

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32 minutes ago, thebandit27 said:

Folks, the run game is a huge problem, and it needs to be fixed this offseason.

 

(.......)

 

I'm not normally a huge fan of "if you remove his rushing yards" type analyses, but in this case, it's important to normalize the non-QB rushing yards across a large enough sample space in order to see just how much of a difference his contributions make to the numbers.  To do so, I took the total rushing numbers from teams whose QBs rushed for 300 or more yards and removed the QB's contributions to see the effect on YPC.  Here's what that looks like:

 

Team                   Rush Att             YDS                   QB                   Rush Att            YDS              Non-QB YPC

Baltimore              547                   2441              Jackson                147                 695                   4.37

Houston                472                   2021                Watson                99                   551                   3.94

Chicago                 468                  1938                Trubisky               68                   421                   3.79

Carolina                 416                  2136               Newton                  101                 488                  5.23

Jacksonville         416                   1723              Bortles                   58                   365                   3.79

Seattle                   534                   2560                Wilson                  67                  376                   4.68

Tennessee            454                   2023              Mariota                  64                  357                    4.27

Dallas                     439                  1963               Prescott                75                  305                    4.55

TB                           389                  1523            Winston/Fitz            85                  433                    3.59

Buffalo                  468                   1984              Allen                       89                 631                    3.57

 

Tampa Bay is the only team that even came close to having as bad a running game as Buffalo...and keep in mind that Buffalo has what most NFL observers would categorize as a solid group of backs, yet that YPC would rank dead last in the NFL if not for Josh Allen basically performing the role of lead back.

 

There's the data set...thoughts?

 

Thanks, Bandit...careful analysis.

 

My initial gut reaction is "but 3.6 yards moves the chains" but I believe there's another factor showing how ineffective Buffalo's run game was, that isn't revealed.  I think if one made a nomogram of the individual runs, the distribution would show the normal range is somewhere between -3 ypc and +6 ypc with a few longer runs.

 

In other words, it wasn't as though the Bills could count on getting between 3 and 4 yards every time the QB handed off the ball.  For 5 run plays, they might have 1 that worked for 9 yards, 2 that worked for 3 or 4 yards, and 1 that was stuffed for -1 or -2 yards.  Every team has run plays that get sniffed out and tackled for loss, but in effective run games either these are relatively rare, or they are compensated by more longer runs.

 

In addition to the poor average, I think the Bills had an unusually large number of run plays tackled for loss.

 

 

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40 minutes ago, CommonCents said:

Revamp oline, Revamp the backfield. I don’t care what McCoy fans say, he is toast. If by some miracle he has another season over 4.5

it’s still better to be a year early than a year late. Get a stud in the middle of the draft. 

Not sure I'd say McCoy is "toast" per se, but assuming reports were accurate that Philly (and maybe others) were offering something at the deadline, it was a mistake not to move him then.

 

As I said before the trade deadline, a 3rd round pick or better and he goes.  Or at least he should have.

 

This is going to prove to be a mistake by McBeane.

 

 

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OL Run Blocking was very bad.  I'm sure OBD is/will have conversations with McCoy on his future.

What's everyone's thoughts on Marcus Murphy?  Bring him to camp?

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32 minutes ago, RyanC883 said:

O-line is HUGE.   Look at the Steelers O-line, then look at Bell, Connor and even J. Sanders success.  Of course, those guys are all skilled and younger than our backfield. 

 

We fix the OL, get a guy like Coleman in FA, and/or draft a stud in Rd. 2 and we will be on our way to fixing the terrible running game. 

The run game will magically improve when the O Line does.

 

Guys who can dart through a hole in the line are a dime a dozen in this league.  If there is no hole and the O line gets no push or movement, things bottle up fast!

 

 

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This is great data, @thebandit27 and thank you for compiling.  It proves what the eye test clearly showed.  Our run game sucked.

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In the last 6 games, here's the Bills top rb - 

Jags - McCoy 46

Miami 1 - McCoy 52

Jets - Ivory 42

Lions - Ford 46

Pats - Ford 33

Miami 2 - Ivory 45

That avg. is 44 yards per game.  The 2nd RB in most these games had very little yards as well.   

So you have 3 different running backs all averaging well below the NFL average rushing per game.  

At least 34 NFL players averaged over 50 yards per game this year.   Allen avg for the 12 games he played in was 53 ypg.   

In that big win in first Jets game Bills running backs had over 200 yards.   But most the rest of the games did not run the ball well. 

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Thanks for digging deep.  3.5 and being dead last in ypc is exactly what our eyes told us all year.  Our running game, minus JA, is the worst in the league and one of the worst ever.  Just embarassing.  Castillo gone. 90 mill + draft picks.  Let’s see what Beane can do

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20 minutes ago, BADOLBILZ said:

 

My first thought is that the McDermott hire has wrecked the running game/scoring offense the way the Rex hire ruined the defense.

 

But unlike the Rex defense........which was mostly resolvable with simplified scheme..........the running game is going to require a much broader overhaul.

 

New offensive lineman.........new running backs..........new receiving targets to keep safeties out of the box.........and of course better offensive line coaching and run game design.

 

In fairness to the new regime........Wood, Incognito, Shady and Clay were going to age out..........their absence and or decline is significant in the equation.

 

In the first handful of games, it can not be over-emphasized how mind-bendingly abysmal our run blocking was.

 

At least part of the problem appeared to have been that our guys simply didn't have it to win 1:1 battles. 

 

The initial solution was a lot of cut-blocking, at which they did not excel.  And by "did not excel" I mean "attempts resulted in our OL on the ground with defenders hurdling them enroute to the ball carrier or QB".

 

Later in the season, we did move to heavy sets on pretty much every run play, which of course telegraphs the play but was more effective nonetheless.  But we were still losing battles.

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Well this is the year we will answer these questions. Last year was a bit of an anomaly. Losing Wood and Cogs was not in the plan. Trady Cordy however was. They thought they could operate without Cordy based on 2017 and that assumption is fair. Nobody saw the loss of the other 2 and it was crippling. We just did not have the budget or time to address all the issues and QB was the #1 priority after they identified the target. 

Then it was finding the defensive QB of the future. The question then becomes - Was Harrison Phillips worth the cost of drafting OL here?

 

We passed on- Billy Price, Austin Cortbett, Will Hernandez, Braden Smith,  James Daniels, Connor Williams, Brian O'Neill, Brandon Parker, Geron Christian, Martinas Rankin, Orlando Brown, Joseph Noteboom, Chukwuma Okorafor all before the Phillips pick. 

 

Was Tauron Johnson?

We only passed on Brian Allen before the pick.

 

Was Siran Neal? 

We passed on Will Richardson and Cole Madison before the pick.

 

Now there's Teller.

We passed on Jamarco Jones in that round to make the pick.

So is there anyone on this list worth taking before Teller that would have a better impact than the three players we drafted before Teller.  (Phillips, Johnson and Neal) 

Billy Price, Corbett or Hernandez would have come at the cost of losing Edmonds. I don't see that. The others probably don't fall that far. Maybe there is a diamond in the ruff, but it seems the Bills were focused on fixing the D because it was closer to a complete unit and we were bringing in a new OC.

 

We tried to grab the scrap heaps to get us through the season with the little bit of manageable cap, but none of them really worked out. A new scheme, cohesion, the QB competition was just all too much to get this offense ready for the season.  The worst mistake made was already identified and addressed in season. The QB room and now it is stable. 

 

I am pretty confident that the #1 priority will be to fix the line and there is a plan in place. I'm going to trust the process that this is #1 then on to WR and TE

The offense we saw the last 6 games will keep improving. 

I think they feel Foster (field stretcher), McKenzie (gadget) and Zay (slot) are keepers.  It's important to find at least 2 guys with a large catch radius, sure hands and good route running and one more speedster with good hands to stretch the field.  

 

The FO also seems to understand they need a sure handed safety valve at TE who can also get separation and block. They will probably need to draft this in the first 3 rounds to get an impact player, unless they discovered some under the radar guy they think will slip. I doubt it.  6'5 250-260lb guys with 4.6 speed don't grow on trees.

 

I could see us realistically fixing 80% of the issues which should protect Allen and propel his development, especially with a full off-season and stable QB room. The offense could move up to break into the top #20 maybe top #15.  By 2020 with the right moves the foundation will be in place for a Top 10, Top 5.  

 

The trick as with all teams will be to keep the Defense together at a Top 5 level. If we drop to Top 10 to fill holes on offense then we can still be balanced enough to be a playoff team for the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don't forget that Eric Wood retiring and Ritchie Incognito going bug-fork crazy wiped out 40% of our O-line from the previous season.  And that's not counting the right side of our line, which even back then, wasn't that great.

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These stats confirm the 'eye test'.  When I watch games with teams that have a good offensive line I see linemen down field and on their feet after the play.  With the Bills I saw linemen on the ground in the backfield.  It would be interesting the see stats, if they are available, how many of those rushing attempts had first contact behind the LOS. 

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I thought our OLine was a bit more detrimental in run blocking than pass blocking. Even if you consider our runningbacks to be subpar (I don't think Shady was as bad as we put on.. should have another year in him, and he did break some solid classic Shady 10 yard gains, many of which were called back for holding) they still should have had better production but for fault of the O-Line.

 

I'm not one to say any O-Line is entirely responsible for an RB's production. I think they simply set a reasonable floor for what any starting caliber RB can do. Great OL in a balanced offense should at least have 1000 yards rushing from the RB1. It's Zeke and Gurley and Bell's talent that makes them rushing leaders, reliable redzone players, and reception yards to lead in yards from scrimmage. 

 

It's ridiculous to say Ford from our roster would be anywhere near Zeke's number  if he played on the Cowboys as a Bell cow. But that OL will give him at least a 1000 yard season if he has the prerequisite bare minimum NFL RB vision, acceleration, yards after contact.

 

So for our runningbacks to be at 3.5 YPA combined (removing JA's ridiculous 630 yards on 89 attempts) is horrible on the OL. Horrible for our team offensively. I ask a bare minimum 4.0 from subpar OL play alone. And the talent of the RB could make that anywhere from 4.0 to 5.0. Seems like getting a basic improvement at least rushing wise is easier and cheaper than a noticeable pass protection is. At the very least our offense would open up and be much more dynamic if we improve run blocking to be just decent. Obviously they're not great at either but I'd prioritize getting a running game established on this roster first.

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This honestly goes back to my point from other threads.

 

Even though our offense was bad, when you look closely at it...it was terrible.

 

The winning of 6 games, two of which by scoring 40 points or more, is downright miraculous.

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44 minutes ago, Nextmanup said:

Not sure I'd say McCoy is "toast" per se, but assuming reports were accurate that Philly (and maybe others) were offering something at the deadline, it was a mistake not to move him then.

 

As I said before the trade deadline, a 3rd round pick or better and he goes.  Or at least he should have.

 

This is going to prove to be a mistake by McBeane.

 

 

So you make a judgment based on zero facts, excellent. 

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30 minutes ago, Nextmanup said:

The run game will magically improve when the O Line does.

 

Guys who can dart through a hole in the line are a dime a dozen in this league.  If there is no hole and the O line gets no push or movement, things bottle up fast!

 

 

I wouldn't underplay the synergy a good RB gives you. It's not like Connor is a bum in his own regard anyway. He's a very good runningback. But I think the OL sets the bare minimum you should get, and the more talented runningbacks in the league gets 500 above that minimum. 

 

You switch Connor and Zeke and I'll bet Zeke still gets the rushing title. Dime a dozen to get a decent YPA and season yards from a great line sure.. but Zeke on any team gets 400-500 more yards than most of the guys in the league. A great OL has the same effect.. attributing to some 1000 floor for a Bell cow RB. 

 

It's just like anything in the NFL, you have a subpar "dime a dozen" runningback you're clearly limiting your rushing game regardless of who's blocking. You have a rushing combo of Zeke and Cowboys OL you see why they win games largely from their homerun rushing threat alone. You have a dime a dozen RB and Cowboys OL you'll have a 1000 yard rusher and probably struggle without a reliable redzone rusher or home run hitter, and don't have nearly the success Dallas had this season. Dallas doesn't make the playoffs without Zeke.

 

Good runningbacks are valuable.

 

Ask Philly if they'd like one. RB has been their injury bugged Achilles heel all year.

 

Not quite as big a factor as OL, but you also don't have to pay big bucks for all 5 guys when a guy of Barkley's talent covers flaws. We had a much better line with Cogs and healthy Glenn and Wood, but it was nothing to write home about. Shady made the rushing attack even more formidable. He frustrated and opened up defenses where his one-cut backups Karlos and Gilly did serious damage any given play.

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1 hour ago, thebandit27 said:

I'm not normally a huge fan of "if you remove his rushing yards" type analyses, but in this case, it's important to normalize the non-QB rushing yards across a large enough sample space in order to see just how much of a difference his contributions make to the numbers.  To do so, I took the total rushing numbers from teams whose QBs rushed for 300 or more yards and removed the QB's contributions to see the effect on YPC.  Here's what that looks like:

 

Team                   Rush Att             YDS                   QB                   Rush Att            YDS              Non-QB YPC

Baltimore              547                   2441              Jackson                147                 695                   4.37

Houston                472                   2021                Watson                99                   551                   3.94

Chicago                 468                  1938                Trubisky               68                   421                   3.79

Carolina                 416                  2136               Newton                  101                 488                  5.23

Jacksonville         416                   1723              Bortles                   58                   365                   3.79

Seattle                   534                   2560                Wilson                  67                  376                   4.68

Tennessee            454                   2023              Mariota                  64                  357                    4.27

Dallas                     439                  1963               Prescott                75                  305                    4.55

TB                           389                  1523            Winston/Fitz            85                  433                    3.59

Buffalo                  468                   1984              Allen                       89                 631                    3.57

 

Tampa Bay is the only team that even came close to having as bad a running game as Buffalo...and keep in mind that Buffalo has what most NFL observers would categorize as a solid group of backs, yet that YPC would rank dead last in the NFL if not for Josh Allen basically performing the role of lead back.

 

There's the data set...thoughts?

Even worse considering the defense had to account for a real vertical threat from the passing game and keeping a spy on Allen.

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The Oline and running backs need to be upgraded. Unfortunately, Beane has already committed to keeping McCoy. I don’t understand how Beane can justify not moving McCoy at the deadline and paying him top dollar next season, very concerning. And Ivory was also a disappointing pick up. Two over the hill backs on bad contracts...at least Shady’s deal is done after next season.

 

I’m hoping the Oline can get fixed next year and two years from now the O will be above average. I predict next season will be another below average season on O just based on all of the holes, tough to fix that many issues, especially when Beane can’t see how bad McCoy is now.

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15 minutes ago, dollars 2 donuts said:

This honestly goes back to my point from other threads.

 

Even though our offense was bad, when you look closely at it...it was terrible.

 

The winning of 6 games, two of which by scoring 40 points or more, is downright miraculous.

"even though our offense looked bad. When you REALLY examined it.. it was even worse" hahaha that's a great way to put it. The offense truly was worse than what the eye test showed. And the eye test wasn't pretty.

 

JA will benefit just as much from a real NFL rushing threat backing him up as receivers and pass blocking. They really all need to be fixed. I think correcting run blocking to improve from.. worst in the league.. to passable, and getting a blueblood RB under 30 (why get Ivory.. ugh too old) through draft or FA is the first easiest fix really. Since we're so bad at that, it's not that hard to improve. And I think Shady has more in the tank but he should be getting 40% if we truly find a better talent at RB. Even improving run blocking and Shady will be servicable. But we really should get a better RB to get the lions share of carries and be less injury prone.

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