The Buffalo Bills are coming off of their second straight win to open the 2008 NFL season, and since it's Tuesday, it's time for another Buffalo Rumblings Film Session to get into the finer details of Sunday's game. We'll start with the offense - the unit that carried the team to victory on Sunday.
Buffalo's offense made some serious strides in Sunday's win over Jacksonville. For the first time in a long time (thank you, Steve Fairchild-Mularkey), the Bills were aggressive and highly efficient in victory - a big reason that punter Brian Moorman was only called to duty three times.
Poor run blocking for second straight week
However, the Bills didn't come out of Jacksonville with a perfect resume offensively. Averaging just 2.9 yards per rush didn't help quarterback Trent Edwards out (though he ultimately didn't need it), and the fact that the Bills are only averaging 3.45 yards per carry on the season is cause for concern moving forward - though, admittedly, the team has played two stingy run defenses in Seattle and Jacksonville.
I have a theory regarding Buffalo's inability to run block, and I haven't heard it discussed much - height. Buffalo has an unusually tall offensive line, specifically at guard - Derrick Dockery (6'6") and Brad Butler (6'7") are tall compared to average guards in the NFL. Don't forget, either, that Langston Walker (6'8") and tight end Robert Royal (6'6") - two more valuable run blockers - are tall dudes as well. These are all excellent athletes, but their height sacrifices some leverage in the run game - and that's why shorter defensive tackles like Seattle's Craig Terrill (6'2") and Jacksonville's Rob Meier (6'4") are so effective stuffing the run - they're playing lower and faster. It doesn't help, either, that the Jaguars and Seahawks were playing a lot of defenders close to the line of scrimmage.
The quick fix (though it's a band-aid): keep up the misdirection, and whip fullback Darian Barnes into shape. Barnes, as many of you have noticed, is terribly inconsistent as a run blocker. He doesn't seem to have much chemistry with the line or his backs yet. This has potential to improve, but there's a long way to go.
Dynamic running back duo
Despite the rushing woes, you've got to hand it to Buffalo's dynamic running back duo of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson - these guys are the heartbeat of the entire offensive attack. Lynch ran for 59 yards, and a good 45 of them came of his own accord. Jackson was Edwards' best possession receiver on Sunday; he's truly excellent after the catch. I'm not speaking specifically about his long gainers, either - I'm talking about the fact that of his seven catches, five went for first downs. The guy runs routes like a receiver and runs after the catch like a running back; he's quickly becoming one of Buffalo's most valuable offensive threats. These guys complement each other perfectly, and they're an absolute joy to watch. As a duo, they rank among the top five in the league in 1-2 punches.
In particular, I like the balance of these two runners. No defender has been able to take either Lynch or Jackson down on first contact this year; Jackson in particular is very adept at making the first guy miss. They're chain-movers, and they're very good at their craft.
The value of spreading the ball around
Yes, over a third of Edwards' completions went to Jackson (7 of 20), but Edwards proved again Sunday that he's a master of spreading the ball around. Lee Evans and Josh Reed both caught four balls for over 10 yards per reception. James Hardy had the first two catches of his professional career, including the deciding touchdown (a highlight that I could watch on repeat possibly for the rest of my life).
It's even more impressive over the two-game stretch. Completing 71% of his passes, Edwards has hit Evans eight times (for a whopping 22.4 yards per catch), Jackson and Reed seven times, Royal six times, and Lynch and Roscoe Parrish four times each. That's 36 of his 39 completions right there. It's evident on tape that the balance in the passing game is what is keeping the offense unpredictable and moving the chains. I'd still like to see the team take some shots downfield earlier in the game, however, particularly to loosen up the box to help out the rushing attack. It's not perfect, but it's effective. There's room for growth, but this offense has gotten off to a good start in 2008.