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Dolphins 38, Bills 10: Week 4 Film Session

This post is your weekly obligatory look back at the Buffalo Bills' most recent game on film - in this week's case, their 38-10 Week 4 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

I hope you'll forgive me the fact that I couldn't stomach much of this game on the re-watch.  My sincerest apologies, but I had a delicious dinner last night, and didn't want to lose it.  After the jump, our film session touches on as many areas as I could get through before my upchuck reflex activated.

On Trent Edwards
First thing's first - I think it's notable to point out that the guy can't throw slants.  We've been calling for Alex Van Pelt to dial up more slants, posts, et al to get Lee Evans and Terrell Owens more involved in the intermediate game.  But in consecutive weeks, Edwards has been picked off while trying to throw a slant to Owens.  Against New Orleans, the corner got the jump, tipped the pass, and it was picked off.  Last week, DB Will Allen beat Owens to the spot thanks to a massively obvious telegraph on Edwards' part.  I can't begin to tell you why Trent struggles to hit those throws - locking onto his target is a good start - but maybe AVP isn't dialing those plays up because Edwards simply can't hit them.

One other thing about Edwards: CBS' commentators pointed this out, and it's true - Edwards whips through his progressions faster than any quarterback I've ever seen.  On probably a half-dozen plays (again, I didn't get through all of this game on the re-watch), Edwards took the snap, whipped through his top four reads in about a second and a half, and then was either sacked, froze, or checked down to a covered running back.  Trent needs to be more patient in the pocket - which is difficult to ask him to do, I realize, because his offensive line was putrid.  Speaking of which...

On the offensive line
We saw about what we've seen early this season out of the interior line trio of Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner and Eric Wood - flashes of brilliance, plenty of issues, lots of inconsistency.  They, at least, continue to get incrementally better.

I thought Jonathan Scott was passable at left tackle for much of this game as well.  Yeah, he got beat, but he also had some plays where he stoned Miami blitzes.  He played about as well as you'd expect him to, and it wasn't all bad - though he was terrible in the fourth quarter.  Not sure what happened there, but he got super sloppy in the final period.  Kirk Chambers? I don't really have words.  It was Week 1 of 2008 when Chambers was playing well against Patrick Kerney in a win over Seattle.  I'm fairly certain that my 5'11", 185-pound frame and 7.4-second 40 could have beaten Chambers on Sunday.  He was beyond awful.

In short, this line will be fine so long as Demetrius Bell stays healthy and Scott can play RT.  He ain't great, but he's passable.

On Marshawn and Freddie
Fred Jackson really, really outplayed Marshawn Lynch in this one.  Marshawn wasn't bad as he returned from his three-game suspension, but he wasn't at Jackson level yet, either.  Lynch showed some of his speed - speed that Jackson lacks, by the way - when he took screen passes and hit seams for moderate gains.  But boy, he looked out of sync running behind Buffalo's O-Line.  Jackson has about a month of extra work getting used to the blocking styles of the young guys up front, and it showed Sunday: Jackson rushed for nearly 5 yards per carry, while Lynch managed 4 yards on 8 carries.  Ouch.

One interesting wrinkle that Van Pelt threw into his game plan was having Lynch and Jackson on the field at the same time - as blockers.  We hadn't seen this formation all season, but in several shotgun sets on Sunday, Edwards was flanked to either side by Jackson and Lynch.  Clearly, Van Pelt wanted competent blockers to help out his tackles, and that's what Lynch and Jackson spent their time doing out of this set - chipping, releasing and becoming Trent's check-down option.  It didn't work out particularly well, but it's something to keep an eye out for, because obviously Lynch and Jackson are both dangerous receiving options, as well as capable blockers.

On the D-Line (with a little LB, too)
I really like the way these guys rush the passer.  No, they're not dominant doing so, but they're a right sight better than they've been in recent seasons.  The ends are all finally - mercifully - flashing the ability to counter move and finish plays; Aaron Schobel's sack came on a nifty spin move on Jake Long that got him to Chad Henne when Henne stepped up into the pocket.

But Miami clearly took advantage of their aggressiveness, and not just by rushing for 250 yards (and chalk most of that yardage up to beyond-awful linebacker play, by the way).  In the second half, Miami twice ran screen passes that burned crashing ends; Kelsay was burned twice.  Whether it was Ricky Williams or Anthony Fasano - both burned Kelsay - they'd feign pass blocking, let Kelsay slip by them, and turn around and catch a dump-off from Henne.  Both times, Kelsay was forced to chase down the play from behind, and looked rather foolish doing so.

Misdirection was a big part of Miami's game plan, as maintaining gap discipline is a huge issue for Buffalo's ends and linebackers.  Schobel was burned on a Ten Ginn reverse on which he over-pursued.  Brown and Williams used cutback runs to great effect.  It could not be more apparent how crucial Paul Posluszny is to Buffalo's run defense, because not only is he tough and capable filling gaps, he's also by far Buffalo's most disciplined player in that department.

On special teams
These guys - with the exception of Brian Moorman, who has once again reached legend/MVP status in this city - are nearly as brutal to watch as the offense and defense.  Bobby April's units cut down on the penalties this week, though they weren't completely eradicated.  The punt return unit looks fine, but rarely have I seen worse blocking on kick returns - and not all of that is Roscoe Parrish's fault.  Likewise, the punt coverage unit continues to do well (mostly because Moorman is awesome), but kickoff coverage was terrible against Miami - there were plenty of blown lane assignments and missed tackles.

Once the strength of this team, special teams are no longer special in Buffalo.  The potential is still there to make big plays - we did score a TD on a fake field goal this season, after all - but that's due more to April's creativity than anything else.  Too many young guys on these units making too many mistakes - just like everywhere else.

- We're going to be able to play a game in which we don't abandon the run, and we'll steamroll whichever team we're facing.  Buffalo is still running the football quite well, particularly when Jackson is toting the rock.  Give. Him. The. Ball.

- Lee Evans will be able to do anything other than run fly routes.  He does that better than most NFL receivers - and he's clearly outstanding at getting his feet inbounds on tough passes - but he's well below average after the catch.  When he makes a short catch, that is.

- I'll write a post about how unbelievably important - unbelievable to me, at least - Donte Whitner is to Buffalo's run defense.  Like Posluszny, Whitner is remarkably disciplined, and outstanding at reading keys and beating blockers to the back.  I'll say it now: in the first three games, Whitner was playing at a Pro Bowl-ish level.  Jairus Byrd and George Wilson were OK in Miami, but neither has anywhere close to the run-defense dominance of Whitner.  We need him back ASAP.