The Buffalo Bills offense has had it's success in past years with Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the charge. The offense moved the ball well at times with some success stretching the field horizontally. One key ingredient was missing and that was the ability to stretch the field vertically. This Sunday as the Carolina Panthers visit the Buffalo Bills I think you'll start to see the Bills try to stretch the field vertically.
For starters, the Panthers defense is one of the least talked about units in the NFL. It's unfortunate because their front 7 is a top notch unit and certainly one of the best in the NFL. However, their back end can be picked on and it's looking like the Bills plan to attack that secondary this coming Sunday.
EJ Manuel gave a few things away during his press conference yesterday. During the interview Manuel was asked of TJ Graham's involvement in the offense and he responded by saying: "I know this week he'll get a lot more". This was a curious choice of words to hear because it seemed like he was giving away the Bills game plan. I paid attention to it and moved on but two more times he mentioned attacking the secondary of the Panthers this week. At one point he said (in regards to throwing deep on the Panthers): "It's extremely important. You want to stretch the field and that's what we plan on doing".
Reading between the lines in Manuels press conference and looking at the Panthers defense one can assume that we should see a healthy dosage of down field throwing this weekend in Buffalo.
EJ Manuel was brought to the Bills for a variety of reasons. One of his abilities is his arm strength and the ability to make NFL throws. We've seen his arm strength during training camp and preseason games and it's evident he can throw the ball very well down field. Throwing deep has been the achilles heel of the Bills offense for the past 3 years. The inability to vertically stretch the field limited the offense and allowed the opposing defenses to key in on the Bills playing style and make adjustments to stop it. With Manuel, defenses will have to worry about his arm strength and the speed at wide receiver which should open up the offense more for Spiller and Jackson.
Heading into this weekend I expect the Bills and Manuel to try to throw on the Panthers secondary early and often. Hitting a few long passes should help to open up the running game for Spiller and Jackson to take advantage of because this isn't a defense in which you can run to setup the pass. Against the Panthers you need to pass to setup the run. It's the perfect time to see where the passing game is. Can the offensive line hold up while longer developing routes are being run? Can Manuel make good decisions and accurate throws? These are some of the things that i'll be looking for this Sunday.
I'll pose this question to you, dear reader: How do you think the Bills will attack the Panthers this Sunday?