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TONY’S TAKE – FIVE THINGS TO KNOW FOR BILLS-JETS

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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 21: Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills looks on during the first half against the New England Patriots in the game at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

Welcome to Week 17 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’ 16th game of the 2019 season will take place at New Era Field as they face the New York Jets. Here’s what you should know:

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 8: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of the New York Jets in action on the sidelines in an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins on December 8, 2019 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Jets won 22-21. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

GANG GREEN’S DEFENSE IS BLITZ-INTENSIVE

New York’s defensive coordinator is former Bills head coach Gregg Williams, who has been well-traveled throughout his lengthy NFL career. Williams is known for employing aggressive, blitz-happy units that put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and has enjoyed immense success while retaining elements of the scheme that he learned from mentor Buddy Ryan.

“I took George Allen, I took Buddy Ryan, I took Dick LeBeau. I took Bud Carson. I put them all together and now it’s kind of a Gregg Williams way that we do things,” Williams told NFL Network in 2016. “But there’s more Buddy Ryan in everything I do defensively, schematically, than anything.

“I’ve used his 46 defensive principles everywhere I’ve been and have expanded upon it greatly. It’s been somewhat intimidating to an awful lot of coaches, because they think it’s complicated when it’s not. We still call it the ‘Bear’ defense. Why? Because Buddy Ryan was with the Bears when he did that.”

According to NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks, Williams is so aggressive that, like Ryan before him, he will use unsound coverage principles on the back end in order to get to opposing quarterbacks.

“From a schematic standpoint, Williams will use every front in the book,” Brooks wrote in 2014. “At his core, though, he’s a 4-3 over/under guy. He implements a defensive audible system that adapts to offensive formations, allowing his guys to be in the best possible call on every down. Although the complex nature of the scheme puts a ton of pressure on the linebackers and safeties to make adjustments, it is a system that produces outstanding results when mastered.

“On passing downs, Williams certainly isn’t afraid to mix in a variety of blitzes from exotic looks – including some Okie fronts (3-4 or nickel 3-3 packages) – as well as the standard 4-2-5 nickel front. He will order up Cover 0 all-out blitzes in any area of the field, which makes him the ultimate gambler as a play-caller.”

Unfortunately for Williams the Jets have dealt with injuries at the linebacker position all year long, which have compromised this unit’s effectiveness a bit. Former Baltimore Raven C.J. Mosley, who was brought in via free agency to team up with Avery Williamson to create a formidable pair, is out for the season with a groin injury, as is Williamson due to an ACL ailment.

New York also has shaky performers at cornerback. The signing of Trumaine Johnson, once an effective man-cover cornerback, a few years ago has proven to be ill-advised, as he is also done for the year due to injury and when healthy was no longer the player he once was. Behind him on the team’s depth chart are Darryl Roberts, Arthur Maulet and Brian Poole.

Luckily for those defensive backs, the Jets have one of the NFL’s best young safety tandems behind them to cover up for any mistakes. Jamal Adams, taken sixth overall two years ago, is a versatile and rangy safety who can do it all, and former second-round pick Marcus Maye is similarly skilled.

Up front, New York has two prototypes for run-stuffing defensive tackles in Henry Anderson and Steve McLendon, and Jordan Jenkins is the team’s best pass-rusher. Quinnen Williams, the third-overall selection out of Alabama, has had an up-and-down rookie year.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 22: Head coach Adam Gase of the New York Jets looks on against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

GASE’S OFFENSIVE SYSTEM HASN’T CHANGED MUCH

When Jets head coach Adam Gase was the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator in 2013 and ’14, he helped Peyton Manning and his stable of targets (Demaryius and Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Emmanuel Sanders) reach unprecedented heights – culminating in a record-breaking season in ’13 and a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. Gase has taken that system with him to New York, and while he hasn’t had quite the same success there and in previous stops in Chicago and Miami, it’s still decently productive.

In addition to a zone-based running game that is executed by the versatile Le’Veon Bell, the Jets like to align their wide receivers – deep threat Robby Anderson, shifty slot receiver Jamison Crowder and physical outside threat Demaryius Thomas – in ways to help young starter Sam Darnold identify certain coverages. According to former MMQB/SI writer Andy Benoit, “No NFL coach loves any formation more than Gase loves an unbalanced three-by-one (three wide receivers to one side and a tight end alone on the other).

“The unusual distribution forces a defense to reveal if it is in man or zone coverage. It also creates opportunities to flood one side of the field or set up downfield crossing patterns.”

Darnold, a former third-overall draft pick out of USC, has decent mobility and solid arm strength, accuracy and intelligence. His elongated release and penchant for throwing interceptions have carried over from college, as he has thrown 27 interceptions in 25 NFL games.

Darnold operates behind a Jets offensive line that, aside from veteran left tackle Kelvin Beachum and right tackle Brandon Shell, is in transition. Neither New York’s starting guards (Alex Lewis and Tom Compton, who are both out for Sunday’s game) nor center Jonotthan Harrison (who is filling in for injured center Ryan Kalil) were starters for this team a year ago, and predictably have struggled this season. Former Bill Conor McDermott and Brent Qvale will fill in against Buffalo.

Tight ends Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon will also not play in Week 17 due to injuries.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 21: Jordan Poyer #21 of the Buffalo Bills forces a fumble against Rex Burkhead #34 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter in the game at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

BUFFALO’S DEFENSE STILL DOMINANT, BUT NEEDS FINE-TUNING

In their last six games, Buffalo has piled up 24 sacks (they have had 46 all season) and have taken the ball away 10 times in their last five games, increasing their total number of turnovers to 22 on the year. With that being said, they have done quite well lately in terms of creating big plays.

However, the Bills’ defense somewhat reversed back to midseason form last week by allowing the New England Patriots to rush for 143 yards on 35 attempts. It wasn’t a good day at the office for Buffalo’s gap discipline and tackling, as defenders weren’t always at the right spot at the right time and couldn’t wrap up ballcarriers consistently. That is an area of focus that the team will aim to improve upon heading into the postseason.

Schematically, the Bills’ third-ranked defense mostly 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, selective pressure looks at the line of scrimmage and coverage exchanges at the snap 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 unit, 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).

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 21: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills rushes as he looks to pass during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

BILLS’ OFFENSE NOT GREAT, BUT GETTING TIMELY SCORING

Going into Week 11 the Bills’ offense was ranked in the bottom half of the league in nearly every major offensive category. To address this lack of production, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll decided to move from the field to the press box in order to call plays and get a bird’s eye view of what was happening on the field.

The decisions to go upstairs and use more of an up-tempo attack have paid off for the most part, as Buffalo has gotten significant contributions from players like Josh Allen, Devin Singletary, John Brown and Beasley over the last six weeks. The Bills also increased their usage of 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers), resulting in better production both through the air and on the ground as evidenced by the Bills now employing the NFL’s fifth-best rushing offense.

Buffalo’s 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 and sweeps with Isaiah McKenzie).

MUSINGS

  • The Bills’ defense has given up less than 400 yards of offense in 25 out of their last 27 games dating to last year, the best such mark in the NFL.
  • Allen has accounted for at least one touchdown in 21 straight games, which is the longest streak in franchise history (Doug Flutie had a streak of 20 games between 1998 and ’99).
  • Additionally, Allen has 20 passing touchdowns and nine rushing scores, and could become the third quarterback in league annals to finish a season with 20+ passing touchdowns and 10+ rushing touchdowns (joining Cam Newtown and Kordell Stewart).
  • Allen has also totaled 29 touchdowns this year, the second most in one season by a Bills quarterback (Jim Kelly had 34 in 1991).
  • Tre’Davious White is tied for the league lead in interceptions along with the Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore and is the first Bills defensive back to record six picks in a season since Jairus Byrd 10 years ago.
  • John Brown has become the first Bills wide receiver to notch 1,000 yards in less than 15 games since Lee Evans in 2006 and is also the first wideout since Stevie Johnson to record 70 catches in a season for Buffalo.
  • Since 2012, the Bills’ record against the Jets at New Era Field is 5-2. Buffalo can reach 11 wins for the first time in 20 years should they emerge victorious on Sunday.

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