Bills "Game Film," Part 2: The Offense

In part one of this series, we looked at possible film grades given to each defensive player by the Buffalo Bills' coaches. Clearly, we do not have the grades the Bills gave out for each player, but we do have access to an information base that does a comparable study for all NFL teams. In their own words: "ProFootballFocus.com analyzes and grades every player on every play in every game to provide you with the most in-depth statistics you can find anywhere outside the team's film room."

Part one of this series demonstrated that the defensive line graded out extremely poorly (except for Kyle Williams and Aaron Schobel). Chris Kelsay and Marcus Stroud rated among the worst in the NFL at their respective positions. New off-season arrivals Dwan Edwards and Andra Davis graded out very highly in their collective strength - run defense. Additionally, Kawika Mitchell graded out negatively before being put on Injured Reserve. Bills cornerbacks scored around average, while the George Wilson-led group of safeties were given excellent marks for the most part.

The off-season bolstering of the defensive line and acquisition of Davis seem to provide evidence that the grades given out by PFF are fairly accurate, because the Bills saw the same holes in the team and filled them accordingly. Common sense seems to indicate that the marks given by PFF are reasonably precise.

Today, we’re going to talk about the offense, which astute readers compared to a "bloodbath" and my favorite, "20 years of horror movies rolled into one big excel spreadsheet." After the jump, we dive into the "film room" using PFF's grades and information.

For those of you new to PFF's ideas and methods, please refer to Part I of this series.

PFF allocates each player an NFL rank and a "score." Therefore, we can do a comparison of how each Bills player performed last season and compare them to their contemporaries at the same position. I’ve included the player’s penalty score, but I personally agree with this Blogging The Boys article, which says that penalties are "weighted too heavily in the overall score." Additionally, there’s a "percentile rank," to demonstrate where that player stood relative to other NFL players at his position (higher is better).

Green is a positive number, yellow is roughly an average grade, and red is negative (as well as one of the Bills’ primary colors and something we’ll see a lot of). The higher the number, the better that player performed; alternatively, the lower the number, the worse they were last year according to PFF’s grading system.

Wide Receivers:

Position last year

Player

NFL Rank

# of total players

% Rank

Overall

Pass

Run

Run Block

Penalties

WR

Josh Reed

52

107

51%

-0.6

0.5

0.0

-0.1

-1.0

WR

Lee Evans

56

107

48%

-1.0

0.8

0.0

-0.8

-1.0

WR

Terrell Owens

97

107

9.5%

-10.3

-5.2

1.6

-3.7

-3.0

WR

Roscoe Parrish

N/A

N/A

N/A

-1.5

-0.9

0.1

-0.7

0.0

WR

James Hardy

N/A

N/A

N/A

-0.6

-0.4

0.0

-0.2

0.0

WR

Steve Johnson

N/A

N/A

N/A

0.1

0.1

0.0

0.0

0.0

Lee Evans graded out very average. The Cleveland game in particular (-3.2 game score) really trampled Evans’ hopes of receiving a positive grade last season. His only largely positive game was the Colts game at the end of the year. I’m 100% sure that the quarterback carousel hurt his grade to some degree, but it’s unclear how much, because players like Jerricho Cotchery graded out well (11.5) with similar issues and bad play at quarterback. However, Cotchery is the outlier, because most high-ranking wide receivers have quality quarterbacks.

Josh Reed received a middling grade as well. He played about 500 fewer snaps than Evans/Owens did. The Bills probably figured they could match Reed’s mediocre production with players that cost less - James Hardy and Steve Johnson - and subsequently let Reed go as a free agent.

Speaking of Johnson, he was the Bills wide receiver to grade out the highest, at 0.1 in only 18 snaps. Similarly, Hardy received a score of -0.6 in 26 snaps. Roscoe Parrish, Johnson, and Hardy didn’t qualify for a ranking because of a low number of snaps.

PFF scored Terrell Owens as one of the worst wide receivers in the league last year. In fact, the only receivers with a similar number of snaps who received a lower grade than T.O. are Bryant Johnson (perhaps we dodged a bullet there), Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, and Roy Williams. As we all know, the Bills let Owens walk, and PFF’s grades indicate it was the right move, especially given the low-cost, high-potential replacements already on the roster. Additionally, the fact that Owens is still a free agent demonstrates that his game film, combined with his Rosenhaus-induced high price tag, is making teams cautious.

Running Backs:

Position last year

Player

NFL Rank

# of total players

% Rank

Overall

Pass

Run

Blocking

Penalties

RB

Fred Jackson

8

63

87%

8.0

6.8

8.9

-6.7

-1.0

RB

Marshawn Lynch

43

63

32%

-2.0

-1.2

-2.4

3.6

-2.0

RB

Fred Jackson (2008)

5

63

92%

8.7

3.4

2.4

2.9

0.0

RB

Marshawn Lynch (2008)

36

 

63

43%

-1.4

-5.2

11.0

-4.7

-2.5

Fred Jackson graded out as the eighth-best running back in the NFL, despite having the worst blocking figure from PFF. His monster performance against Indianapolis in Week 17 gave him a huge boost, as he received an overall grade of +7 in that game. The vast majority of his blocking woes can be attributed to the Patriots game in Week 15. Jackson received a Pass Block grade of -4.8. PFF graded Jackson as the second-best running back in the Receiving area, and I suspect Jackson will continue to see a lot of passes thrown his way. As for everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Marshawn Lynch, he received below average grades across the board, except for his positive Blocking grade. I feel like PFF’s grade for Lynch is pretty spot-on, because he was, in fact, pretty middling in 2009.

I thought PFF’s 2008 grades were pretty interesting, so I included them as well. Jackson was graded as the fifth-best running back in the league; however, his number of snaps was only 376, so it’s a fairly small sample size. Jackson was positive in every area PFF grades, except penalties. Lynch, on the other hand, was average at best. Lynch did excel in the Running grade, which is obviously the most important grade for a running back, so there’s some hope there for him to improve. 2008 was probably Lynch’s best statistical season so far, so it’s a little disconcerting to see him receive a negative overall grade despite putting up 1,036 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns, and 47 receptions. Basically, PFF thinks 2008 Lynch brought less to the table than he took away from it, especially in the areas of blocking and receiving.

Tight Ends:

Position last year

Player

NFL Rank

# of total players

% Rank

Overall

Pass

Pass Block

Run Block

Penalties

TE

Jonathan Stupar

17

61

78%

-0.3

-1.2

-2.0

3.9

-1.0

TE

Derek Fine

29

61

52%

-2.9

-2.7

2.0

-1.2

-1.0

TE

Shawn Nelson

38

61

38%

-5.6

-4.9

3.1

0.2

-4.0

TE

Derek Schouman

N/A

N/A

N/A

4.3

1.3

0.1

2.9

0.0

TE

Joe Klopfenstein

N/A

N/A

N/A

-4.9

-0.3

-0.7

-2.9

0.0

As you can see, Jonathan Stupar was the Bills’ tight end who received the highest grade from PFF, while playing a significant number of snaps. His high Run Block grade spurred him to an almost neutral overall grade. Stupar actually graded out as the tenth-best run blocking tight end in the league. However, keep in mind that he didn’t start to get a lot of snaps until Week 12, so he ended up with a low number of 296 snaps. His grades seem to agree with Brian Galliford’s assessment that Stupar is the "closest thing to a solid combination of blocking and receiving tight end on the roster."

PFF graded Derek Fine’s play as slightly below average, and that, coupled with his injuries, are the reasons he’s no longer with the Bills.

Shawn Nelson is our presumptive starter at tight end, but he received the Bills’ worst tight end grade last season. However, the penalty portion of PFF’s system wrecked him; he would have had an overall grade of -1.6, which isn’t nearly as bad as what he received. Nelson was also largely a decent run blocker, despite that not being considered his strength. Nelson was very up and down all year according to PFF; he struggled in Weeks 1 and 5, while excelling in Week 13. 

Bills fans were certainly aware of Derek Schouman’s scorching hot start, and PFF graded him as having two exemplary performances in a row before being placed on Injured Reserve. If he can perform like that again, he’s a lock to make the team, and perhaps get a lot of snaps. I’d like to say something nice about Joe Klopfenstein, but there’s a reason NFL teams released him approximately 1,274 times last season.

Offensive Line (incoming bloodbath!):

Position last year

Player

NFL Rank

# of total players

% Rank

Overall

Pass Block

Screen Block

Run Block

Penalties

C

Geoff Hangartner

27

34

20%

-10.7

-10.0

-1.0

4.3

-4.0

G

Eric Wood

65

84

23%

-7.7

-1.4

0.0

0.2

-6.5

G

Andy Levitre

74

84

12%

-15.6

0.3

0.0

-12.9

-3.0

T

Kirk Chambers

56

77

28%

-13.1

-2.5

0.0

-4.1

-6.5

T

Jonathan Scott

59

77

23%

-14.2

-4.4

0.5

-4.3

-6.0

T

Demetrius Bell

74

77

4%

-26.4

-14.0

0.0

-3.4

-9.0

T

Jamon Meredith

N/A

N/A

N/A

-0.7

0.3

0.0

-1.0

0.0

T

Cornell Green (Oak)

48

77

38%

-8.5

1.2

0.5

0.8

-11.0

T

Brad Butler

N/A

N/A

N/A

3.3

0.0

0.0

3.3

0.0

T

Jared Gaither (Bal)

6

77

92%

14.4

14.1

-1.0

8.8

-7.5

T

Jammal Brown (N.O. 2008)

47

76

38%

-9.0

-7.7

0.5

7.7

-9.5

John Madden used to say that it all starts in the trenches, and when you look at the figures above (coupled with firing the offensive coordinator and starting left tackle a week before the season begins), it’s easy to see why our offense struggled last year. Geoff Hangartner actually received a pretty positive Run Block grade, which was greatly assisted by the high grade he received in the Colts game in Week 17. However, he received an abysmal grade in Pass Block, largely because of the Week 6 Jets game and the Falcons game.

According to PFF, Eric Wood and his -7.7 grade was our best offensive lineman last year. He was fairly neutral in the run game, while being a slight liability in pass protection. Penalties really screwed up his rating, dropping it from a -1.2 to a -7.7. We almost had an offensive lineman with a positive grade! Andy Levitre had three absolutely horrendous games last year according to PFF: the Browns game in Week 5, the Panthers game in Week 7, and Chiefs game in Week 14. Those games led Levitre to an overall grade of -15.6 and a Run Block grade of -12.9. If you replace those game scores (-5.3, -6.7, and -5.7 respectively) with a neutral score of zero, Levitre would have received a positive overall grade of 2.1. I realize that’s cheating to some degree, but don’t let his score fool you: Levitre had a lot of good games and a few very bad ones; that’s to be expected from a rookie.

The good news for Demetrius Bell: among left tackles, Levi Jones and Mario Henderson received worse grades than Bell did. The bad news: Bell was the fourth worst tackle in all of football according to PFF. Bell actually wasn’t too terrible in run blocking, but his pass protection was like a revolving door of look-out blocks. Bell’s performance against Cleveland in Week 5 actually forced PFF to expand the graph they use to track negative numbers; he received a score of -11 for that game. He also received a -7.7 against New England in Week 1. Bell actually wasn’t too terrible in the rest of the games, and he even had a positively-graded performance against Houston. If you took out the two vomit-inducing games (Patriots and Browns) Bell had, he would have received a more-manageable-yet-still-bad grade of -7.7.

Jamon Meredith, who replaced Bell at LT, surprisingly scored pretty respectably, even though he didn’t have enough snaps to qualify for a ranking. Meredith played about 200 fewer snaps than Bell did. PFF thought Meredith was essentially average all year long, which isn’t terrible considering he was a rookie claimed off Green Bay’s practice squad in late September. Had Meredith played similarly until he reached enough snaps to be ranked, he would have been ranked in the Top 10 for all left tackles in the NFL. I know the Bills need a bona fide left tackle as much as anyone, but it’s entirely possible that the Bills liked what they saw in Meredith - perhaps enough to get them through this year for the bonanza that is the 2011 free agent class. There’s also a very real chance Meredith is your 2010 starting left tackle, not the still-rehabbing Bell.

Cornell Green would have been the Bills' second-best offensive lineman last year. He graded out positively in both Run and Pass Block. However, the boogieman in the closet with Green has always been penalties, and 2009 was no different, as he racked up a penalty score of -11, which single-handedly took his overall grade from a +2.5 to a -8.5. If you believe you can fix an offensive lineman who collects penalties like Lindsay Lohan gives excuses, it actually looks like a helluva signing. Even if you think, like I do, that some offensive linemen are naturally predisposed to penalties and there’s nothing you can do about it, then Green is still an upgrade over the Kirk Chambers/Jonathan Scott/street free agent X pupu platter.

I included pipe-dream Jared Gaither and Jammal Brown, who is also rumored to be on the trading block. Gaither was a stud in both 2008 and 2009 for Baltimore, and it stands to reason that the Ravens likely want a lot for him. Brown, of the New Orleans Saints, didn’t receive a good score in 2008, his last healthy season, as he struggled with Cornell Green-like penalty concerns and pass protection issues.

Quarterback:

Position last year

Player

NFL Rank

# of total players

% Rank

Overall

Pass

Run

Penalties

NFL QB Rank

QB

Ryan Fitzpatrick

25

40

37%

9.5

4.0

6.0

-0.5

25

QB

Trent Edwards

26

40

35%

6.5

3.5

3.0

0.0

26

QB

Trent Edwards (2008)

10

37

73%

29.5

25.0

4.5

0.0

10

Both of our quarterbacks finished with positive grades, which shocked me; this made me question whether I was color blind, along with PFF’s quarterback grades in general. Then I found out that PFF’s quarterback grades are the only ones which aren’t normalized, which ensures that more quarterbacks get a positive rating than really deserve it. At every other position, PFF treats the player at the 50% percentile as having a zero rating, and other players are adjusted accordingly; for whatever reason, PFF doesn’t do that with quarterbacks. Basically, to get a negative quarterback grade from PFF, you need to be the 2009 versions of Matthew Stafford/JaMarcus Russell/Mark Sanchez (and yes, I giggled with triumphal glee and promptly called every Jets fan I know when PFF’s grades let me compare Sanchez to Russell).

A better way of deciding how our quarterbacks performed is to see that PFF had Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards ranked 25 and 26 respectively among all NFL quarterbacks. For sake of comparison, PFF gave 14 quarterbacks a score of +30 or more. Fitzpatrick had a monster Week 12 against the Dolphins (+6.5 grade), which buoyed his overall rating. The rest of the games he was largely neutral or negative. PFF had Edwards’ best game as Week 1 against the Patriots. He was neutral or negative the rest of his games as well. Note: Don’t let the green and positive scores fool you; PFF scored Bills QBs as not good in 2009. 

Interestingly enough, PFF graded Trent Edwards as the tenth-best quarterback in the league in 2008, which I found fascinating and shocking. Everyone remembers his play the first four weeks of that season, but he came back from his Adrian Wilson-induced concussion to have stellar games against the Chargers, Chiefs, and Broncos. The Chiefs game in particular was his best game that season. PFF scored Edwards has having a positive impact on the 2008 Bills in exactly 50% of his starts. Is it possible that we didn’t draft Clausen because Nix/Gailey actually somewhat liked Trent’s 2008 game film? 

PFF’s grades seem to align with the Bills' internal film grades because of the off-season moves we’ve seen. Our offensive line graded out poorly, as both guards had some miserable games as rookies, but rookies tend to improve steadily as time goes on. Bell had some games that were unmitigated disasters, whereas Meredith received surprisingly decent marks. Green was surprisingly effective last season, despite his penchant for penalties, and is certainly an upgrade over what we entered the off-season with at right tackle. PFF graded Reed and Owens as average and below-average, and the Bills let them both walk into free agency, where they both remain unsigned. PFF thinks Lynch has had an average season followed by a poor season, and our stud offensive weapon is a 29-year-old running back, so an argument could be made to draft C.J. Spiller. Most importantly, the Bills' only quarterback addition was seventh-round draft pick Levi Brown, which lends evidence to the fact that the Bills saw something they liked in our current crop of quarterbacks, at least enough to pass on guys like Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy. Presumably, that is Edwards’ 2008 season. Again, the Bills' off-season moves seem to indicate that PFF’s grades are precise to a certain degree. What do you think, Rumblers?

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