Good day all. In this week's edition of Kurupt's desire for a pass rush overhaul, we will be assisted by Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News. Thanks for stopping by today, Mark. Your information is greatly appreciated.
The Bills finished 14th in the NFL in both yards allowed and points allowed. That was a big improvement from 2007, when the Bills were 31st in yards allowed and 18th in points allowed.
However, the No. 14 ranking does not tell the whole story.
The defensive improvement in yardage allowed was nice on paper, but really, it didn't help us become that much better of a defense. Going from 18th to 14th in points allowed was a negligible change, as we allowed 354 points in 2007 and 342 this past year. That's not much of a difference at all, my sources indicate. Digging a little deeper, the stats really aren't that much better:
In 2007, the atrocious Bills run defense allowed 124.6 ypg, 4.4 ypc, and 15 TDs. How much of an improvement did we see this season? None whatsoever. In 2008, the Bills run D allowed 121.6 ypg, 4.3 ypc, and 18 TDs. OUCH. So, I guess our pass D was the catalyst for the statistical improvement, eh? I suppose that can be believed, though it's hardly convincing:
In 2007, the Bills passing D yielded 238.4 ypg, 7.0 yards per attempt, 19 TDs and an 81.1 passer rating, all on 567 attempts. (Keep in mind that Tom Brady's monster stats were part of these stats, as well as his once-healthy knee.)
In 2008, the Bills pass D allowed 204.4 ypg, 7.0 ypa, 14 TDs and an 83.2 passer rating, on 492 attempts.
Oh snap, our pass D wasn't any better this year. The YPG stat is improved because of 75 fewer attempts. Heck, passer rating allowed went up, and INTs were almost cut in half (18 to 10). Ouch again.
So despite some solid additions this past year, Mitchell, Stroud, maybe Johnson, Poz and McKelvin, this D was not better at all. Well, what's the constant? Besides the scintillating coaching, the lack of a pass rush and talent at DE remained in place. I really think this is what is holding the D back from showing significant improvement, especially through the air. How bad has it been though? And how bad is it in comparison to the teams around the league?
Need more proof? Keep reading. It gets better.
The Bills were not truly a top-half-of-the-league defense, because they tied for 28th in sacks and tied for 20th in takeaways.
Dominant defenses make big plays. The Bills combined for 46 sacks and takeaways. That ranked tied for 29th — third from the bottom.
Yes, yes indeed. 24 sacks this year? 26 last year? Zoinks! 22 turnovers this year, after a respectable 30 last year. How can we allow this to continue? What is the best way to fix it? A PASS RUSH! The best teams can get after it, can force the big plays defensively:
Nine of the 12 teams that made the playoffs ranked among the top 12 in defensive "big plays." Pittsburgh combined for 80 sacks and takeaways, Philadelphia 77 and Tennessee 75.
Drink that in for a second. Those teams averaged about 2 more defensive "big plays" per game. That is quite significant, if you ask me. I can't envision us closing that type of gap any time soon, but there's no reason this off-season can't involve improving that number by one big play per game, while building for even bigger things in the future.
The Bills need more pass rush from the defensive line and more ball-hawking from the secondary.
Random obvious comment inserted.
Obviously, the loss of sack leader Aaron Schobel for the last 11 games was a huge blow. His replacement, Ryan Denney, shared the team sack lead with linebacker Kawika Mitchell. Both had four sacks. It was the Bills' lowest team-leading sack total since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Kelsay had just two sacks.
Did the loss of Schobel really hurt that much? We had 10 sacks in the 5 games he played, 14 in the 11 he didn't. 2 per game against 1.3 per game. Both numbers are atrocious. Take out the 5 sack anomaly against Seattle and in the other four games in which Schobel played, we saw 1.25 sacks per game. Same as the rest of the season. The loss of Schobel was an obvious blow to the D, but our pass rush didn't suffer. Remember those 26 sacks in the 16 games last year, when Schobel was healthy? He's as big of a part of the problem as anyone.
Of the Bills' 24 sacks, 17 came on plays in which they blitzed, according to Buffalo News figures. There were just seven sacks with a straight, four-man rush.
Oh my. OH MY! That's beyond pathetic. I think myself, Brian, sireric and jri111 could produce those type of sack numbers. If this stat isn't an indictment of the DE play and the terrible job the FO has done of wasting money at the position, I don't know what is.
The Bills blitzed on 32 percent of pass plays, by News count.
It was only the third time in team history that the Bills did not get one interception from a safety. (The others were in 2002 and 2003.)
Shot to the heart. And we drafted Donte Whitner in the top 10 for what? At least in 2003, we somehow had the #2 D in the league.
At least we have two areas to build on:
• Third downs. The Bills improved from 29th to ninth on third-down defense, holding foes to 36-percent success in those situations.
• Red-zone defense. For the second straight year the Bills ranked fourth in the NFL in preventing teams from scoring touchdowns once they got inside the Buffalo 20-yard line.
Those are good numbers, no arguments there. Imagine how much better we could be on 3rd downs if we had a pass rush? Imagine the increase in turnovers?
And the obligatory Chris Kelsay garbage:
"I'd say our run front is shored up to a degree," said defensive end Chris Kelsay. "Obviously one thing we need is to generate more pressure on the quarterback. I'm sure we'll take steps this offseason to get that accomplished, whether it's the draft or free agency, or with the guys we have here."
Sorry, Captain, the run D really didn't improve all that much. I'm hopeful those steps towards finding a pass rush will involve you finding a new team. At least it should. Kelsay, your contributions these past few years after the big contract are pretty much criminal. You are STEALING money from the franchise!
A pass rush is what this defense is missing most. The run D is poor, and obviously still needs work, but our D could be so much better and so much more opportunistic with some pass rushers. The D's improvement this past year is like saying I upgraded my car from an '89 Grand Am to a '91 Grand Prix. In other words, on paper it looks a little better, but overall, there's still a long ways to go. Getting faster and more talented along the DL will really go a long ways towards making this defense playoff caliber...