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All-22 Grades for Bills/Titans (The Athletic)


HappyDays
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1. Rousseau, Epenesa and Basham flash in a big way

 

The Titans have long been a well-schemed and powerful front with the offense capable of Henry breaking loose. We even saw him bust a few big runs against the Giants. So how did the Bills limit his impact? Every single significant piece of the Bills’ defensive line played a role.

 

It began with DaQuan Jones, who for the second straight week proved to be one of the best defenders on the team. But the most impressive part was the job done by the defensive ends. Von Miller mixed in for a great stop after shedding a block, but the way Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa took to and executed the defensive game plan sent the Bills over the top.

 

The Bills knew the more confined an area they could make for Henry, the more difficulty he would have squirming free for additional yardage. Rousseau and Epenesa both did an excellent job keeping the offensive tackles off of their pads, angling the blockers to create a wall and forcing Henry inside. It helped when linebackers Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds and nickel corner Taron Johnson were there to clean it all up as often as they did, but it had to start up front with the ends. And when the Titans tried to go wide with Henry, the ends needed to get horizontal and prevent the running back from making his cut up the field as long as possible.

 

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2. Elam takes a positive step forward

 

The Bills have employed a two series on, two series off split approach with Benford and Elam, to which Benford has been the better of the two players. But now that Jackson seems unlikely to play following a gruesome neck injury, Elam will be thrust into the lineup as a full-time starter. The good news for the Bills is Elam looked a lot more comfortable in his second start. He was a confident run defender and tackler and didn’t take the play action bait on one rep as so many young players often do. That play is worth highlighting because of how well he played it from a technique perspective.

 

Elam is starting to look a bit more instinctive in his zone reps, which is exactly what they needed to see. He’ll have an incredible test this coming week in the Dolphins, but they’ll likely avoid leaving Elam or Benford on an island during the game. The Bills followed up a zone-heavy approach against the Rams with another one against the Titans. The Bills lead the league in zone coverage snaps at 90.8 percent, according to TruMedia and Pro Football Focus.

 

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3. What happened to the Bills’ running game?

 

The answer, without question, is the blocking in front of the backs. The backs mostly made the reads they needed but never had the room to gain positive yardage. The interior offensive line and tight ends all had some fault, especially as the Bills tried to get out wide with many of their rushes. So while Singletary, Zack Moss and James Cook earned the brunt of the criticism, it was undeserved. They made the most of what they had. Over those eight early carries, the yards before contact was brutal.

 

Singletary averaged only 0.8 yards before contact per rush, which somehow includes that 16-yard run to begin the game. Moss averaged -0.5 yards before contact per rush, and Cook’s lone rush garnered -3 yards before contact.

 

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4. The LB3 answer is revealed as Terrel Bernard

 

The Bills primarily stay in nickel for most of their snaps, as they did against the Rams all game, but there are exceptions to the rule when the offensive personnel requires a change. That’s what the Titans did on five separate plays, which signaled an answer to a question we’d had all summer. The Bills had to show their hand at their linebacker depth chart between rookie Terrel Bernard and veteran player Tyrel Dodson. The quick answer was Bernard, who ran on the field for nickel corner Taron Johnson whenever the Titans subbed in heavy personnel groupings. Bernard’s first game was a mixed bag with some good and bad moments. Most of Bernard’s work came during garbage time so it’s tough to get a true gauge on what he’ll be against the competition he’d face as a starter. But the big takeaway is that Bernard is the Bills’ guy, and if anything happens to Tremaine Edmunds or Matt Milano, he’s the likely fill-in moving forward.

 

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5. Saffold really struggled against Simmons

 

Simmons found his way into the backfield quite a bit and impacted both the speed of throws and running plays by winning his one-on-ones. The player he most often fought through was Bills left guard Rodger Saffold, who has had a bit of a rocky start to his 2022 season. Simmons’ excellent hands and quickness proved too much for Saffold to handle on most snaps, allowing for instant penetration into the backfield. Saffold won’t have to go against players like Simmons every week, so it remains to be seen how he does in future weeks. However, his performance so far has not been the plug-and-play solid starter some expected when the Bills brought him in this offseason.

 

Top 5 grades:

1) Diggs (A)

2) Allen (A)

3) Milano (A-)

4) Poyer (A-)

5) Miller (A-)

 

Bottom 5 grades:

1) Saffold (D+)

2) Van Roten (C)

3) Brewer (C)

4) Shakir (C)

5) Keenum (C+)

 

Poor Case Keenum gets some real game action and ends up a bottom 5 player 😥

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15 minutes ago, HappyDays said:

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 grades:

1) Diggs (A)

2) Allen (A)

3) Milano (A-)

4) Poyer (A-)

5) Miller (A-)

 

Bottom 5 grades:

1) Saffold (D+)

2) Van Roten (C)

3) Brewer (C)

4) Shakir (C)

5) Keenum (C+)

 

Poor Case Keenum gets some real game action and ends up a bottom 5 player 😥

I'm not going to be too hard on Saffold, since broken ribs take a while to come back from. 

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24 minutes ago, Allen2Diggs said:

I'm surprised at how poorly Saffold has played so far. Right now it seems like Ike Boettger could challenge him for his spot once he's healthy.

 

Could be scheme changes partially...if so he will likely improve as the year goes on.

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25 minutes ago, Allen2Diggs said:

I'm surprised at how poorly Saffold has played so far. Right now it seems like Ike Boettger could challenge him for his spot once he's healthy.

 

You can't have a much harder start to the season than Aaron Donald followed by Jeffrey Simmons. Coming up we have Cam Heyward and Chris Jones. The rest of the season after that will feel like a bye week for our IOL.

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12 minutes ago, HappyDays said:

 

You can't have a much harder start to the season than Aaron Donald followed by Jeffrey Simmons. Coming up we have Cam Heyward and Chris Jones. The rest of the season after that will feel like a bye week for our IOL.

They've definitely had tough matchups. I think it would be a much bigger problem if not for Josh's elite mobility. The one thing I've liked from our interior offensive line so far under Kromer is that we're pulling our guards more on both run and pass plays and the D-line looks unsure which direction the play is going.

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4 minutes ago, Coach Tuesday said:

Love the breakdown of Rousseau at DT.  Groot is becoming a monster.

 

Meanwhile his Miami teammate Jaelan Phillips has been invisible in Miami, at least statistically. So far in 2022:

 

Phillips - 0 sacks, 1 solo tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 0 tackles for loss, 0 QB hits

Rousseau - 2 sacks, 7 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 3 tackles for loss, 3 QB hits

 

Still VERY early but @BADOLBILZ seems to have pegged them exactly.

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48 minutes ago, krf139 said:

I agree about Keenum. Everyone looks pedestrian compared to Josh, but if that guy has to play meaningful snaps, there are serious issues 

 

Though any team with an elite QB would say the same. Would KC trust Buechele or Henne if Mahomes went down? Stick or Daniel stepping in for the Chargers if they lost Herbert? Gabbert or Trask for the Bucs sans Brady? Would the expectation be that Love could replace Rodgers?

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1 hour ago, Coach Tuesday said:

Love the breakdown of Rousseau at DT.  Groot is becoming a monster.


Remember there was mention of Groot lining up inside in his Miami days, same with Boogie.  Wonder if we’ll see more of this as the season progresses?

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Just about everybody is going to look bad going against Jeffery Simmons. Saffold is a plug and play guard. Just not against the NFL’s elite of the elite like Simmons. The game plan was sound, Simmons did not really effect the game.

Last week, Bates got destroyed vs. AD. What are you gonna do? Donald didn’t really effect the game either…

 

Go Bills!

 

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13 minutes ago, Miyagi-Do Karate said:

I am no expert, but I feel like we ran a lot more RPO’s this week than last. That can really impact the run blocking, and might explain why a guy like Saffold struggled. 
 

it seemed like against the rams, they ran more gap-style running plays. I didn’t see any of that against the titans. 

 

Last week, Cover-1 streamed a podcast specifically highlighting the Bills use of "Shanahan-style" wide zone rushing concepts against the Rams. Which is basically the opposite of "gap-style running plays." This doesn't mean the Bills aren't still using some power, or gap, or pin-and-pull concepts mixed in, but their preferred core identity is wide zone. In the offseason McDermott ONLY interviewed OL coaching candidates steeped in this school, then landed on probably the best zone blocking teacher out there (Kromer, who might have had some early experience in different schemes, and is renowned for his flexible, adaptable approaches, but is nonetheless a zone-heavy guy philosophically). 

 

If you've seen evidence that they approached things differently in week one, please share. I like to nerd out on the Xs and Os. I also like to be proven wrong. So fire away.

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8 hours ago, Richard Noggin said:

 

Last week, Cover-1 streamed a podcast specifically highlighting the Bills use of "Shanahan-style" wide zone rushing concepts against the Rams. Which is basically the opposite of "gap-style running plays." This doesn't mean the Bills aren't still using some power, or gap, or pin-and-pull concepts mixed in, but their preferred core identity is wide zone. In the offseason McDermott ONLY interviewed OL coaching candidates steeped in this school, then landed on probably the best zone blocking teacher out there (Kromer, who might have had some early experience in different schemes, and is renowned for his flexible, adaptable approaches, but is nonetheless a zone-heavy guy philosophically). 

 

If you've seen evidence that they approached things differently in week one, please share. I like to nerd out on the Xs and Os. I also like to be proven wrong. So fire away.


you may be right— like I said, I am no expert. What looked to me to be more gap style runs were those runs against the rams where they motioned knox and Gilliam in and they went right up the guy blocking like fullbacks. 
 

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21 hours ago, jlgarsh said:

I'm not going to be too hard on Saffold, since broken ribs take a while to come back from. 


To my eye it didn’t seem like Saffold was bad. I thought he was OK, Van Rotten was pretty bad in my opinion so shocked to see a more detailed analysis showing Van Rotten graded out better. No shock on Shakir, Keenum and Brewer in the bottom 5 though.

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It was disappointing to see some signs of life in the run game against the Rams and then it fell off vs the Titans.  However, I think all the run game will be while JA is playing is “just enough” to keep the play action option viable and to otherwise keep defenses honest.  The Bills for many years are likely to be a pass first team.

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