We're in full-on evaluation mode once again with the Buffalo Bills, now 4-8 after yesterday's 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Toronto. Let's set the stage for the final month of the 2013 regular season with a look at the snap count totals from yesterday's loss, as well as some bigger-picture numbers from the full 12-game schedule thus far played.
At this point, it's clear that the Bills don't view C.J. Spiller as an every-down back. Since very early on in the season, Fred Jackson has taken more reps than Spiller - and not just because of the speed back's various injuries. Jackson is the preferred third down back due to his pass-catching and, more importantly, pass-blocking abilities. Enjoy Jackson while you can, Bills fans, because it's not going to be so easy to replace what he brings to this offense.
With four healthy receivers for the first time since the first half of Week 1, fans didn't see Marquise Goodwin cut into the workload of T.J. Graham as much as had been hoped. He remains a clear No. 4 in the receiver pecking order, but his role has also increased steadily throughout the season thanks to opportunities afforded by injuries.
While we're on the subject of receivers, note that none of the four receivers played more than 86 percent of the snaps yesterday. This is a departure from previous seasons, when players like Stevie Johnson and the departed Donald Jones would only take one or two plays off per game. The Bills clearly like their quartet of receivers, and they're rotating them a bit to keep them fresh.
The 88 snaps that Buffalo's defense played were their highest total since 91 in a Week 1 loss to New England, and the total speaks to the issues that the Bills had stopping the run and getting off the field on third down. It also helps explain larger-than-normal totals for specific groups in particular, most notably the reserve defensive linemen and linebackers.
Buffalo uses three linebackers - Kiko Alonso, Arthur Moats and Nigel Bradham - in their defensive packages. If they can find one player to handle the roles of both Moats and Bradham, accounting for about half of the team's snaps on that side of the ball, they'll be in much better shape than they currently are at the position - and the team might even be able to give Alonso a play or two off now and again.
Jim Leonhard and Ron Brooks played four snaps each. Both gave up Falcons touchdowns - an unblocked Leonhard completely whiffed on a Steven Jackson touchdown run when he could have made a hit at the line of scrimmage, and Brooks was boxed out by Tony Gonzalez for an easy touchdown grab. That's not the best way to make an impression in limited playing time for either player.
What else stands out to you, Bills fans?