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Bills-Falcons snap counts: rotation at receiver, linebacker noteworthy

Marquise Goodwin can't usurp T.J. Graham in the lineup; the Bills were steamrolled defensively; things did not go particularly well for Ron Brooks and Jim Leonhard on Sunday.

Rick Stewart

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.


Player Pos. ATL TOT %
EJ Manuel QB 63 551 63.3
Thad Lewis QB 1 208 23.9
Fred Jackson RB 37 496 57.0
C.J. Spiller RB 24 271 31.1
Tashard Choice RB 4 106 12.2
Frank Summers FB 12 166 19.1
Stevie Johnson WR 55 578 66.4
Robert Woods WR 51 665 76.4
T.J. Graham WR 42 619 71.1
Marquise Goodwin WR 23 246 28.3
Scott Chandler TE 51 711 81.7
Lee Smith TE 20 309 35.5
Cordy Glenn OT 64 870 100.0
Erik Pears OT 64 870 100.0
Thomas Welch OT 1 7 0.8
Kraig Urbik OG 64 862 99.1
Doug Legursky OG 64 474 54.5
Eric Wood C 64 870 100.0

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.


Player Pos. ATL TOT %
Marcell Dareus DL 78 658 75.2
Kyle Williams DL 72 714 81.6
Alan Branch DL 50 427 48.8
Corbin Bryant DL 27 215 24.6
Stefan Charles DL 11 30 3.4
Mario Williams OLB 71 759 86.7
Manny Lawson OLB 60 511 58.4
Jerry Hughes OLB 29 489 55.9
Jamaal Westerman OLB 17 62 7.1
Kiko Alonso LB 88 875 100.0
Arthur Moats LB 31 290 33.1
Nigel Bradham LB 21 160 18.3
Stephon Gilmore CB 85 384 43.9
Leodis McKelvin CB 84 662 75.7
Nickell Robey CB 41 468 53.5
Ron Brooks CB 4 38 4.3
Aaron Williams S 86 807 92.2
Jairus Byrd S 85 419 47.9
Da'Norris Searcy S 24 597 68.2
Jim Leonhard S 4 474 54.2

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?