I just finished re-watching the first quarter of Saturday night's game between the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears. I wanted to pay special attention to the changes in the offense with Lee Evans out of the passing game. The one thing that struck me with the offense in both the run and the pass was the time it took for the plays to develop.
In the passing game, Donald Jones took over for Evans outside. His only noticeable play was a huge push-off which resulted in a 10-yard penalty. Probably not the first impression he wanted to make, but it's probably his job unless Marcus Easley or Buster Davis really make a huge impact.
That Jones pass interference call happened 20 yards past the line of scrimmage and was the most developed play of the first quarter. That is to say, it's the only time in the whole quarter that the Bills' offensive line set up a pocket for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (which they did very effectively, I might add). Fitzpatrick was able to step up and fire the ball, albeit a little off target.Only one other pass was thrown more than ten yards down the field. On Buffalo's first series when the team faced third and 11, Fitzpatrick couldn't find a receiver. Even that play was a quick drop and release. It was very clear during the entire quarter that the name of the game was getting the ball out of Fitzpatrick's hands.
The Bills threw the ball 10 times with Fitzpatrick at quarterback, and the pass he threw most was the quick slant. It's a three step drop and go. Stevie Johnson caught two and C.J. Spiller caught one from the slot. Other short passes were quick screens, a screen on third and long on the second drive, and quick outs to tight end Scott Chandler.
This urgency was mirrored in the running game. Only one run dialed up by Chan Gailey's offense was what I would call a "developed" play, requiring the offensive line to do more than block the guy across from him. It also happened to be the longest run of the night for Fred Jackson. On the play, Kraig Urbik pulled and sealed off the defender and Jackson stiff-armed his way to an 11-yard run.
That was the only time the first team executed a run outside the tackles. Jackson, Spiller, and Brad Smith all ran between the tackles on their gains in the first quarter.
The inference one could draw from this bit of analysis is simple: the Bills don't trust their offensive line. Gailey is putting his offense in a position to succeed, and that means not putting too much on their plate (figuratively, of course). Granted, this could solely be because the lockout cut short the team's off-season implementation. But when taken with the trade of Evans, whose career was built on routes that needed sustained blocking from the offensive line and time in the pocket, I think it speaks more towards what Gailey is trying to accomplish as a play caller. Get the ball out of Fitzpatrick's hands and into the playmakers'.
Let Jackson, Spiller, Johnson, and the rest of the skill position players do their thing. And if that means getting six yards a pop, so be it. As we saw Saturday, when the offense needs 11 yards, Gailey will dial up a play that covers that ground. If Gailey has his choice though, expect the Bills to take the pressure off the line (and Fitzpatrick) by sticking with short passes and straight-forward runs.