The Buffalo Bills are 3-5 and licking their wounds after yesterday's 35-17 defeat at the hands of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Let's take a look at the Bills' play time percentages, as provided by the NFL, to begin our analysis of the latest Bills loss. For an updated accounting of snaps for the whole season so far, visit this page.
Fred Jackson saw his biggest workload of the season with C.J. Spiller sidelined, and I don't think it's unfair to speculate that he slowed down through the game because of that. Jackson started the game with 42 rushing yards on five carries, but was completely shut down the rest of the way. Buffalo's run-heavy offense needs two healthy and capable backs; here's hoping that Spiller's week off will bring him close to 100 percent heading into Week 9. Buffalo badly needs to re-discover its once-excellent rushing attack.
Just when the Bills get Goodwin back into the lineup - and just when he starts turning in some really nice plays, by the way - he's carted off the field with an elbow injury. We'll hopefully know more about the severity of that injury later today when Doug Marrone speaks to reporters, but after a hand break in the preseason, durability might be a burgeoning concern for Buffalo's most explosive athlete.
I was surprised at the relatively small workload for Lee Smith, who typically plays a lot against aggressive fronts like the Saints run. Example: Smith played 67 snaps against Rex Ryan's defense in Week 3; I figured he'd approach that figure playing against Rob Ryan. Instead, Smith was largely absent as the Bills chose to spread the field a bit more, and we watched Scott Chandler struggle mightily in pass protection most of the afternoon.
The Bills needed to replace Manny Lawson in the lineup, and we knew it'd mean more work for both Jerry Hughes and Nigel Bradham. There was still a major disparity between the two; Bradham didn't see much playing time, while Hughes played all but three snaps. The Bills lose coverage ability going from Lawson to Hughes, but 55 had a pretty good day rushing the passer - and I promise you, he wasn't as bad in coverage as the naked eye would have you believe. As soon as we're able, we're going to All-22 Hughes in coverage for you guys this week.
For such a linebacker-intensive scheme, the Bills do a lot of mixing and matching at that position. Lawson has been playing more traditional linebacker than anticipated, and Hughes is asked to fill his shoes on occasion. The team has no every-down option to toss in beside Alonso, who still has not missed a snap this season. If Buffalo can find one more traditional linebacker with some versatility to play beside Alonso, this defense will be in business. For now, they're stuck playing Lawson slightly out of the position and mixing Moats and Bradham in.
Buffalo's secondary is finally healthy - Jairus Byrd is completely back, and Stephon Gilmore finally played without a club on his wrist (he just had a small brace on) - and the numbers reflect that. The team rolled predominantly with three corners and three safeties, and aside from Robey playing ahead of Brooks (who is now exclusively a backup), it's exactly as we envisioned during the summer months. Yes, Brees threw for five touchdowns against the first-team defensive backs. There's nowhere to go but up for this group now that they're back in action.