Bills 31, Eagles 24: Notes From The O-Line, Week 5

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills looks to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 31-24. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Apparently, a majority of Rumblers want our line reviews to continue, regardless of the availability of data produced by professional sites. It boggles my mind to hear that those sites don't have access to coach's tape; what we see on TV isn't - in my view- sufficient enough to allow the level of precision necessary to get much more in depth than the grading system I've used.

That doesn't mean that change isn't coming to my grading system. I've still got to re-work the Excel spreadsheets I use for calculations, but I've got a direction I think I want to go based in part on reader input. I'll go into more detail when I've got it up and running (hopefully for next week; after the bye at the latest), but the broad strokes are that I'm looking to weigh killed plays and plays in which an offensive lineman does something remarkable that also springs the play more heavily. But we'll cover that next week. Let's get to the normal review.

I had anticipated that the Philadelphia Eagles would pressure the Buffalo Bills' offense. I was badly mistaken. The Eagles stacked the box on 5-of-34 (14.7%) run plays and blitzed only 5-of-29 (17.2%) pass plays. Philly gave up just 12 rushing yards and a score when they stacked the box. The blitz plays limited the Bills to four completions for 18 yards and two first downs, one of which came on a defensive penalty.

Pressure worked, but Juan Castillo didn't choose to employ it. Instead, the Eagles largely chose to rush four and sit back to await an underneath throw by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo's unwillingness (or inability) to stretch the defense allowed the Eagles to anticipate the short routes and force punts. Perhaps Chan Gailey didn't want to tempt fate by throwing at some of the best cornerbacks in the league; maybe the Bills are really predictable and crippled at receiver right now. Whatever the reason, the screen plays, shovel passes and so on were compromised by the fact that the Eagles didn't over-commit to pressuring the Bills.

Run Direction Success, Week 5
Gap Att Yds YPA
Left C 8 32 4.0
Left B 3 4 1.3
A 7 46 6.6
Right B 7 21 3.0
Right C 9 43 4.8

The Bills were successful running the ball, due in no small part to Fred Jackson's ability to shake off tackles. He managed to routinely make run-filling safeties look foolish, and broke more tackles once he was past the line of scrimmage. The line certainly opened holes for Jackson to exploit, but many running backs would have exited the game with far fewer yards.

Individual Run Grades - Week 5
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
Hairston, C. 2 29 3 1 74.4%
Levitre, A. 9 22 3 0 78.5%
Wood, E. 11 19 4 0 79.1%
Urbik, K. 5 24 5 1 75.0%
Pears, E. 7 25 2 1 77.9%

I did start to keep track of plays where lineman did a good job of executing their assignments and sprang plays. Chris Hairston and Andy Levitre had one each, while Eric Wood had two. As you can see in the chart, Hairston, Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears each killed run plays. I'm taking suggestions as to how to weigh those plays.

Moving on: Wood, Levitre and Pears were very good on run plays. Hairston, in his first extended action, did reasonably well for a rookie - with the caveat that the Eagles weren't loading the box. Urbik wasn't impressive on run plays in his return to action. The Giants figure to provide a sterner test.

Individual Pass Grades, Week 5
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
Hairston, C. 2 23 4 1 0 4 73.6%
Levitre, A. 3 24 2 0 0 0 75.7%
Wood, E 4 25 0 0 0 0 77.8%
Urbik, K. 3 24 2 1 0 0 75.7%
Pears, E. 1 24 4 1 0 0 72.9%

The Eagles relied primarily on their front four to generate pressure on pass plays. The Bills responded by routinely sending out five receiving options. Hairston got a little bit of help in the form of chips by the running back on the defensive end, but he was typically left to block his man. For a rookie, again, he had a respectable performance. He did kill a play - and a drive - by allowing a hit on Fitzpatrick while he was in the throwing motion. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bills give him a little more help next week. The number of good plays is a function of the number of short passes and screens, which allowed the linemen to get downfield and take the battle to the defenders.

Three drives ended in the promised land. Ruvell Martin killed the second drive by falling down, which could easily have resulted in an interception instead of a punt. Brad Smith killed the fourth drive with his negative rush on second down - when he could have plowed ahead for at least two yards if he hadn't danced around in the backfield. Fitzpatrick killed the fifth drive, but Philly's bumbling kept that pick from turning into points for the opposition. Hairston killed the seventh drive. Pears missed a block on the eighth drive. Fitzpatrick took a sack on the ninth drive, but he had over five seconds to get the ball out of his hands. On the tenth drive, Fitzpatrick had time and space (and all of the defenders ahead of him) to hang on to the ball for another second and find a receiver beyond the line to gain instead of dumping it off to Stevie Johnson underneath. The eleventh drive ended the game, courtesy of a boneheaded mistake by Philadelphia.

On a personal note, I tend to work from 7-7 MST, so my ability to respond to questions and comments is sporadic at best. If I don't reply in a timely manner, it's not that I'm not interested, but instead that those little timestamps on our comments could come back to haunt me at some point in the future. If I'd been smart enough to name myself Ron From Somewhere or not wear my Bills gear at work or post my actual picture, I might be able to comment throughout the day with impunity...

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