Notes From The Bills' O-Line: Week 1 Vs. Miami

A few people have wondered if I've been busy looking at the 2010 version of Buffalo's offensive line. I have. I just haven't had the time to take the sorts of notes that I generally have in the past during my game review and then type those notes out into a long winded synopsis. This season, assuming my work situation and what passes for my personal life don't go haywire, I'll have a condensed version of my line review. For those who haven't seen the line reviews I've done in the past, how it works is after the jump:

Each lineman is graded as good (meaning did something above and beyond-like pancacking a defender), decent (kept his defender from disrupting the play) or bad (was beaten in some way). Good plays count as 95%, decent 75% and bad 55%. No, I don't try to rate how bad a bad play was and, say, give a guy a 32%--all bad plays are graded at 55% though I do keep track of killed plays and sacks as well. A killed play is when a lineman failed in his assignment and the defender killed the play-it could be a sack, a tackle for loss, a rushed throw that led to an incomplete pass or INT.

The averages tell us about players, particularly as more and more plays are graded. An average of 75% would be the bare minimum of performance we should see from a player on run plays over time. Yes, everyone will have bad plays from time to time. Good plays will raise the player's average while bad plays drag it down. Melvin Fowler and Duke Preston, for example, were chronically well below 75% on run plays and each had multiple games where their average on run plays was in the high 60s. This tracked with our own observations during games as well as sites like Football Outsiders.

Pass play ratings tend to be lower than 75%. The reason is simple: it's hard to do something outstanding on a pass play so there tend to be few good grades assigned on those plays. When good grades are given on pass plays they tend to be on screens, when a lineman has an opportunity to level a defender in space. Occasionally a player will put a defender down in standard pass protection (opening up a great throwing lane) and that merits a good grade as well. Don't be surprised to see pass protection grades hovering in the 73ish range for a fairly reliable lineman. It's not that he sucks but rather that it's hard to climb over 75% on pass downs in my grading system. The grading appears to be validated over time-lineman who have graded out in the 73% range are generally seen as fairly good at pass protection.

Anyway, on to the numbers for the Dolphins game (I hope to get the post for the Packers game up later today-something to peruse while killing time waiting for kickoff.)

Run Plays

.............good......decent.....bad.....killed.....grade

Bell.........1............8..........3........1..........71.7%

Levitre......2...........11.........1........0..........76.4%

Hang.........0...........13.........1........0..........73.6%

Wood.......1...........13..........0.......0..........76.4%

Green.......1...........10..........3........1..........72.1%

Meredith....0...........2............0.......0..........75%

Gap.....Attempts......Yards......Average

Left C......4.............21.........5.25

Left B......1..............7..........7

A gap.......3.............3...........1

Right B......2............-5.........-2.5

Right C......4..........14............3.5

As you can see, the main tackles performed quite a bit worse than the interior linemen. I was kind of surprised to look at the numbers at the end of the game and see that Hang didn't average out a little better. As it happens, that might not be such a bad thing. Hang spent a lot of time taking on the NT one-on-one. He really only had one bad play (run 14), where he let Dansby run free into the backfield and almost get Spiller for a 4 yard loss. (Instead, Spiller dodged Dansby and was hit for a one yard loss by Wake, who had gotten off of Green's block.) Wood and Levitre seem to have gotten off to a fair start on run plays. Green and Bell teamed up for 6 bad run plays and 2 killed run plays. Think about that for a second. Buffalo ran the ball 14 times and the tackles combined to have bad plays (not the same plays) for almost 50% of the time. It's small wonder that Buffalo couldn't run against Miami.

Pass Plays

.............good..decent...bad...killed..sack..helped..grade

Bell.........0.......27.......5.....2.......2.......0.......71.9%

Levitre.....1........35......4......2.......0.......0......73.5%

Hang......1.........39......0.....0.......0........0......75.5%

Wood.....2..........36.....2......0.......0........0......75.0%

Green.....0.........26.....14......2......1.......5......68%

Meredith...0......6........2......0.......0........0......70%

First, I'm not going to jump on Meredith because the sample is just too small to draw any real conclusions. He didn't have a good outing but he was only in the game for a few series. I found it interesting that he was at LT while the team kept Green at RT. Speaking of Green, yeah, I'll jump up and down on him. He had a horrible game, much of it spent facing Cameron Wake. (How does Buffalo letting him leave the building without getting him signed look in retrospect? The Inner Circle-the gift that keeps on giving.) Bell had a rough outing as well while the interior of the line held up fairly well. When you add up all of the bad plays (Green had several blatant holds that mercifully weren't called, while Bell had one that should have negated a 15 yard gain by Lynch.) the offensive line had 27 errors on 40 snaps. Yikes. It's not at all surprising that the passing game was in such disarray.

As bad as Green is, Gailey only gave him help on 5 of 40 pass plays. While I don't like being in the position of defending a guy who clearly stunk up The Ralph against the Dolphins, I believe Gailey deserves some of the blame. Green's bad pass plays (1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 21, 24, 26, 28, 29, 32, 37) were spread throughout the game so it's not as though he was doing well and suddenly melted down or, alternately, did poorly and then got it together. Buffalo needs to do a lot more in the way of chipping if Green is going to be on the field. Maybe that will help with Green's tendency to kick his right leg back just a hair before the snap on passing downs. (He drew only one flag for it but I noticed it on numerous plays.) If he's not terrified of being beaten by a speed rush perhaps he'll wait to move until it's legal for him to do so...

Buffalo had 12 drives in the game. One ended in a touchdown so the other eleven ended due to some unsatisfactory factor. I have Edwards down for killing 2.5 drives, Jackson 1, Evans 1 (dropping an 18 yarder that would have put the Bills in FG range with a first down....), Johnson 0.5 (drop near endzone), Bell 1, Levitre 1, Green 2, End/half 1, and crappy calls 1 (non-call in this case on the obvious pass interference on a bomb to Evans).

Against 8 blitzes Edwards threw for 27 yards and 2 first downs. He had one pass dropped, threw one away and had a pair of bad throws. The other two throws went for 8 and 7 yards. Miami, thanks to the 27 errors by Bills linemen, was able to bring consistent pressure without blitzing. That allowed the Dolphins to maintain their coverage schemes without giving Edwards time to find open guys.

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