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Bills vs. Jaguars: Notes From The O-Line, Week 5

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Every week it seems the Buffalo Bills part ways with another starter or reasonably high draft choice. Trent Edwards was unceremoniously dumped in favor of a guy who, after what we can only hope was careful consideration by Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey, couldn't even make the practice squad. Marshawn Lynch was shipped off to Seattle for what we now know is less than the team could have gotten in terms of compensation. This week has seen the cutting of former third-round OLB (originally DE) Chris Ellis.

Don't be surprised if the next name to hit the streets is starting right tackle Cornell Green. I'll get to his performance in a moment, but just keep in mind that Cordaro Howard is a Georgia Tech alum, and he's also been getting reps at both tackle positions. There's no great reason to give Green the shoe, but then there really wasn't a great reason to give Edwards the bum's rush, either. Gailey told Chris Brown of that Howard was in because Green was banged up. Uh-huh. Just like Edwards was the starting QB for the team and Buffalo won't trade Lynch because the team is dedicated to stacking talented players.

Before getting into the tables and such, I've seen several people post questions about my grading system. I think I explained what I do extensively in the first of these rambling posts, but I don't know that I addressed the ‘why.' Some have been curious as to why I rate all good plays as 95%, decent ones as 75% and bad ones as 55%. For example, on some truly terrible play why not give the guy a 35, or 43, or even a 0?

While everything involving people is bound to be at least a bit subjective, I am striving for consistency. A missed block is a bad play for that lineman; to try to quantify how badly that player screwed the pooch would require a lot of personal judgment. Comparatively, it's relatively easy for most of us to see a bad block and agree that that's what it was. In my grading system a good play and bad play cancel each other out. The aforementioned Green had one good run play, one bad one and nine decent ones, which gives him a 75% run grade for his performance against the Jags.

Once again, Gailey chose to give Howard and Kraig Urbik some live game reps. Once again, he didn't pay any attention at all to the scoreboard or where the Bills were on the field. This bugs me. Urbik and Howard came in for Demetrius Bell and Eric Wood when the Bills were set up on Jacksonville's side of the field after an interception. Howard had one bad play in which he let Aaron Kampman get past him and get his hands up to bat down a pass. Urbik had one bad run play where he fell over blocking (along with Geoff Hangartner) and left his defender on his feet. Would those bad plays have happened if Bell and Wood have been in the game? In truth, we'll never know, but Wood graded out better than Urbik on run plays, and Bell graded out better than Howard (most of his reps this game were on the right side) on pass plays. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me to give guys reps on the offensive line sporadically, particularly when the team has terrific field position and the game is still very much in doubt.

There are a few things to note on the run grades. Neither Howard nor Urbik had many reps, with each getting a total of four. The interior linemen graded out pretty well, though it was interesting to see Hangartner didn't do quite as well against 4-3 linemen as he had the previous two weeks against 3-4 nose tackles.

Individual Run Grades - Week 5
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
Bell, D. 2 11 3 2 73.8%
Levitre, A. 4 14 2 0 77.0%
Hangartner, G. 3 14 3 1 75.0%
Wood, E. 5 9 2 0 78.8%
Green, C. 1 17 2 0 74.0%
Howard, C. 1 2 1 1 75.0%
Urbik, K. 1 2 1 0 75.0%
Individual Run Grades - 2010 season-to-date
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
Bell, D. 7 68 12 3 73.8%
Levitre, A. 18 44 8 1 77.9%
Hangartner, G. 8 80 6 1 75.0%
Wood, E. 19 63 7 1 78.8%
Green, C. 7 78 10 1 74.0%
Howard, C. 3 26 3 1 75.0%
Urbik, K. 1 4 2 0 72.1%

There were also a few items of interest in the pass grades. Urbik's sample remains too small to make any real judgments. For the season, he's participated in 19 pass plays. While he grades out in the very low 70s at this point, he'll need more reps before any firm opinion can be formed. Howard, who has closing in on two games' worth of reps on pass plays (53), grades out somewhat better than Green on both run and pass plays. This is why I think that Green might get his walking papers. Yes, he was a recent signing, but there is clearly no loyalty of any kind at One Bills Drive anymore.

Individual Pass Grades, Week 5
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
Bell, D. 0 33 3 1 0 3 73.3%
Levitre, A. 1 38 0 0 0 0 75.5%
Hangartner, G. 1 36 2 1 1 0 74.5%
Wood, E. 0 32 1 0 0 0 74.4%
Green, C. 1 20 5 0 0 0 71.9%
Howard, C. 0 14 2 1 0 0 72.5%
Urbik, K. 0 5 1 0 0 0 71.7%
Individual Pass Grades, 2010 season-to-date
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
Bell, D. 1 140 14 5 3 4 73.3%
Levitre, A. 4 139 5 3 0 0 74.9%
Hangartner, G. 4 165 7 4 2 0 74.7%
Wood, E. 5 139 9 4 0 0 74.4%
Green, C. 1 122 31 3 1 7 71.1%
Howard, C. 0 49 4 1 0 0 73.5%
Urbik, K. 0 16 3 0 0 0 71.8%

Gailey again abandoned the run, attempting just seven rushes in the second half. Think about that for a moment. The Bills were tied at the half. What's the logic in going away from the run? It wasn't for lack of productivity, given that Buffalo averaged better than five yards per rush. I refuse to believe that it was due to some great faith Gailey has in Ryan Fitzpatrick's arm, particularly after watching some of his laughably bad passes. Even when Buffalo fell behind, the game wasn't so out of hand (until late in the fourth quarter) to justify snubbing 5+ yards per carry.

Run Direction Success, Week 5
Gap Att Yds YPA
Left C 5 30 6.0
Left B 1 4 4.0
A 6 49 8.2
Right B 2 5 2.5
Right C 6 19 3.2
Run Direction Success, 2010 season-to-date
Gap Att Yds YPA
Left C 22 129 5.9
Left B 7 31 4.4
A 27 101 3.7
Right B 13 39 3.0
Right C 27 132 4.9

Some, by the way, might point out that the refs really screwed Buffalo on a couple of plays. The phantom chop-block call on Fred Jackson brought to mind the need to extend replay to grievously erroneous penalties. (I'm not talking about subjective calls like was a block holding or not, but undeniably obvious things like a 15-yard facemask called on a guy who indisputably grabbed only the jersey.) With that said, I saw several uncalled holds by Buffalo's linemen. They were recorded as bad plays, given that they easily could have been (and should have been) flagged. In this case, the poor calls seem to have evened out.

Buffalo had 12 possessions, three of which ended successfully. Green and Wood combined to kill the first; you'd think they'd be able to handle a simple stunt, though Wood at least blocked somebody while Green stood there looking like he was mentally checking things off his to-do (packing) list. Green and Howard killed the third drive, one which could have really set the tone for the game had it ended in a touchdown, instead of a false start and batted pass. Bell killed the fourth with his blatant hold. Hangartner killed the fifth by simply watching Terrance Knighton get to Fitzpatrick for a first down sack. The sixth was a one-play drive ended by the half. The refs killed Buffalo's initial second half drive (see above). Stupar and Spiller combined to not block Kampman and kill the ninth drive. Fitzpatrick's inaccurate throw doomed the tenth. Jackson's drop of a badly placed but catchable ball killed the penultimate drive.

Killed Drives, 2010
Cornell Green
Demetrius Bell
Cordaro Howard
Jamon Meredith
OT total = 10 killed drives
Eric Wood
Geoff Hangartner
Andy Levitre
Kraig Urbik
G/C total = 7 killed drives

For the record: Bills offensive tackles have killed as many drives as the team has touchdown drives.

As predicted, the Jags blitzed like maniacs. They sent five or more guys on 21 of 39 pass plays (53.8%). At first blush, it doesn't look like Fitzpatrick did too badly against the blitzes. He combined for 106 yards, five first downs and 1 TD. That's a little better than five yards per blitz. Upon further review, however, it's actually pretty pathetic when you look at it a slightly different way.

Blitz Production, Week 5
Blitzes 1-17
48 yards
2.8 YPB
1 first down
0 TD
Blitzes 18-21
58 yards
14.5 YPB
4 first downs
1 TD

If I'm a defensive coordinator, I'm more than willing to blitz continuously against the blitz. Every now and then, Fitzpatrick will get on a hot streak and rack up some nice chunks of yardage against the blitz. He might even get a TD. Most of the time, however, Fitzpatrick just isn't effective at all against the blitz. Knowing that he tends to scramble precipitously, the Jags appeared to be keeping one guy back to account for Fitzpatrick. Look for that to continue, as Fitzpatrick scrambled only once against a blitz, and then only for four yards.

Did I mention Green was riding the pine while Fitzpatrick lit up the defense on passes 18-21? It could be a coincidence...