Welcome to Week 11 of the NFL season. Here at 300 Level Media, we will attempt to inform and educate our readers about the Buffalo Bills’ upcoming opponent and what each team might do to emerge victorious.
The Bills’ 10th game of the 2019 season will take place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami as they face the Dolphins. Here’s what you should know:
MIAMI’S OFFENSE IS A MESS, BUT TEAM HAS WON TWO IN A ROW
Miami is coming off back-to-back wins over the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts, and they’re playing hard despite a lack of talent and their front office’s apparent willingness to tank this season. Owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier – the brother of former Buffalo Sabres winger Mike Grier – may have stripped the team down to their bare bones, but they still play with enthusiasm.
36-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Buffalo Bill who started 53 games at quarterback for them between 2009 and 2012 will get the nod against his old team. The differences between Fitzpatrick and young backup Josh Rosen are stark – while Rosen, the former first-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals is a rhythmic, precision passer, Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger. Willing to fight passes into any window, no matter how big or small they may be, sometimes pays off and sometimes it doesn’t – hence Fitzpatrick’s long-standing reputation as a journeyman who throws a lot of interceptions.
Beyond the carousel at quarterback, the Dolphins’ offense has had a lot of new faces this season – tying first-year offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea’s hands as he attempts to implement a Patriots-style of offense. The trades of left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills to Houston has left Miami with just one starting NFL-caliber offensive lineman (center Daniel Kilgore) and mediocre wideouts – DeVante Parker, who has been a bust so far in his career, the serviceable Albert Wilson and backups Allen Hurns and Jakeem Grant. Preston Williams, a surprise as an undrafted rookie out of Colorado State, will miss the rest of the year with a knee injury.
The Dolphins will miss the speedy Mark Walton at running back due to suspension, and 6’6” tight end Mike Gesicki is a red zone threat.
DOLPHINS’ DEFENSE NOT MUCH BETTER
Head coach Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who worked together in New England (as did a host of Dolphins’ staffers), favor playing lots of Cover One – man coverage with a single-high safety over the top – but the problem is that Miami’s personnel is suited for the prior coaching staff’s preference for zone coverage. Because of that, Miami is more likely to employ Cover Three concepts – deep zone coverage on the outside with a safety in the box and a deep safety patrolling centerfield.
In their secondary, Miami is led by cornerback Xavien Howard – now out for the season with an injured knee – and safety Reshad Jones. Those two are among the most underrated players at their positions across the league. Opposite them are former Patriot Eric Rowe and Bobby McCain, who has stepped into the starting lineup after the trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh.
Up front the Dolphins are led by linebackers Raekown McMillan and Jerome Baker and their best defensive linemen are journeyman John Jenkins, Vidauntae “Taco” Charlton – a former first-round pick by Dallas – and prized rookie Christian Wilkins.
BUFFALO’S DEFENSE VERY GOOD, BUT STRUGGLED AGAINST THE RUN – AGAIN
Against the Browns last week, Buffalo continued their recent trend of letting running backs do well against them on the ground by allowing Nick Chubb to gain 116 yards on just 20 carries. Most of the damage has been done on inside zone runs, where the Bills’ defensive linemen and especially linebacker Tremaine Edmunds struggled at filling gaps and diagnosing blocking schemes up front. It’s a big concern for the Bills’ defense, as they’ve allowed more than 141 rushing yards per game over their last five outings.
The Bills have had far more success against the pass. They currently rank fifth in the NFL in first downs allowed per game and Buffalo’s defense has allowed less than 400 yards of offense in 21 straight games dating to last year. They are also third in the NFL in pass completions of more than 20 yards allowed.
Schematically, the Bills’ defense relies on basic zone coverages after the snap, but before the snap it is complex – safety rotations to disguise their coverages keep opposing quarterbacks guessing and selective pressure looks at the line of scrimmage are Sean McDermott’s calling card (those blitz looks are usually in the A-gaps from their linebackers – for more info on McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s defense, please read: https://fromthe300level.com/2018/08/pressure-package-how-the-late-buddy-ryan-has-influenced-the-buffalo-bills-defenses-for-over-20-years/?fbclid=IwAR3iYcnJ5qvl8shWHkZJVNO50VJXPeaEx8k0-Rk1VWV_Qx2OEfsAn2NY_ys).
BILLS’ OFFENSE CONTINUING TO UNDERWHELM
Last week against the Cleveland Browns the Buffalo Bills had a stretch where they gained just five first downs and 97 total net yards on four drives. They also scored just 16 points against a Cleveland Browns defense that, while good against the pass, struggled mightily against the run coming into that game.
The Bills’ offense is a Patriots-style system that’s built upon concepts involving option routes from the slot, downfield routes from the outside, designed quarterback runs to take advantage of Allen’s mobility, deep dropbacks and alignments that create favorable matchups (and some trick plays with jet motion, sweeps and end arounds with Isaiah McKenzie). However good the system may be though, the Bills aren’t quite producing like they should be.
Ranking in the bottom half of the NFL in most team statistical categories, Buffalo needs to figure out how to get their offense – and especially Josh Allen – to become more consistent. Perhaps if running back Devin Singletary can build upon the hot start he’s had to his young career, the team can improve even more.
- Multiple Bills are from South Florida, including Singletary, McKenzie, Frank Gore, John Feliciano, Jaquan Johnson and John Brown.
- Allen has now thrown 130 straight passes without an interception and hasn’t turned the ball over in the Bills’ last four games – marks of a young quarterback making some progress.
- The Bills have the second-oldest roster in the NFL with an average age of 27 years and 88 days (behind only New England). Miami has the third-youngest roster with an average age of 25 years and 340 days.
- According to Chris Brown of buffalobills.com, the Bills have scored just 18 points in the third quarter all season – third-worst in the NFL behind Cincinnati and Miami.