Snap counts are available for Sunday’s win over the 49ers, and here are our insights from the most recent data:
Justin Hunter, on the rise?
Last week, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn indicated that he wanted to get Buffalo’s recently-signed wide receiver more involved with the offense. The Bills did just that, playing him on 58 percent of their offensive snaps. He eclipsed Walter Powell’s role after only a single week.
The six-foot-four, 200 pound receiver is, in some respects, the prototype Doug Whaley has sought for years. He pairs his impressive size with a 4.45 forty yard dash and elite jumping abilities. That said, he never worked out for the Tennessee Titans, in part because he never played the physical brand of receiving that is so often attributed to a “size” receiver, and in part because of dropped passes and lapses in concentration.
Since joining the Bills, he’s made himself useful to the team, and Tyrod Taylor probably appreciates that he’s willing to improvise when the play breaks down. The Bills probably appreciate having a size and speed receiver on the team, with Sammy Watkins on ice.
Gilmore takes a seat
Say what you will about Stephon Gilmore’s play this season (there have been ups and downs). Same with the responsibility for the blown coverage that led to a 52 yard touchdown reception by Torrey Smith. On Sunday, Gilmore (who had played 99% of snaps this season) sat for seven plays. Meanwhile, Nickell Robey-Coleman (who has had a renaissance to his rookie year form of late) was on the field for all but one of Buffalo’s defensive plays.
It’s astonishing enough that Robey-Coleman played the whole game, since he’d never played more than 60 percent of snaps this season. If we want to speculate about why Gilmore sat, we’d have to watch the film. Was he taken off the field early when the game became a laugher? Or was there a point in the game where he was asked to come off the field?
As usual, your average Buffalo personnel grouping for week six:
2.0 DL, 1.74 OLB, 2.26 ILB, 3.0 CB, 2.0 S
Return of the Manuel package
I don’t really have much of import to say on this topic. But EJ Manuel returned to the field outside of garbage time, he carried the ball on the zone read for positive yardage, and he contributed one of his trademark hard counts later in the game. I love that he’s found a niche as Buffalo’s Blake Bell, even after Greg Roman left the team. I hope he enjoys his role, too.
Defensive line shuffling continues
Each week we try to draw conclusions about which defensive linemen are falling in and out of favor based on their week-over-week snaps. At this point, I think it’s time to punt on that and admit that the Bills are using some sort of matchup-based system to assign their linemen to the field. A week after playing a (fairly impressive) season-high 31 snaps, Adolphus Washington only appeared on a season-low eight. Leger Douzable hit a high of 42 snaps, while Corbin Bryant saw his lowest of the season (13). Kyle Williams is a lock for 70 to 80 percent of the defensive snaps, but beyond that, it appears that Washington and Douzable may rotate as one defensive lineman, while Corbin Bryant is used as a run stuffing nose tackle and Jerel Worthy is brought in for pass rush supplements. Some film study may be in order.
I’m co-opting Chris’s hashtag here with my own remark about The Gloveless Wonder’s sudden display of competence as Buffalo’s number two tight end. O’Leary’s 38 snaps was a season high, as was playing 48 percent of the offensive plays. He caught both of his targets for good yardage, and laid key blocks on numerous big runs against the 49ers.
Three years ago, O’Leary was a key safety valve in a young Jameis Winston’s Heisman season. Last year, he looked out of his element, unathletic, and not really NFL caliber. In the past three weeks, he’s made some spectacular catches and held his own as a blocker. Could O’Leary have finally integrated the technique that made him a desirable dual-threat tight end back in 2013? Buffalo would sure appreciate it.