The “Who Knows What Was Up” Award
Make no mistake: Shady is the best player on the Bills right now, and aside from my MVP for this week, nobody’s even close. If the Bills are going to make the playoffs, his performance is going to be the key.
Yesterday was a prime example of that. McCoy totaled 11 yards on eight carries before giving way to Mike Gillislee. During the team’s four-game winning streak, he had 14 individual carries that went for more than 11 yards. He clearly wasn’t playing at 100%, as evidenced by the fact that he sat out the entire fourth quarter as a precaution.
Of course, maybe he was at 100%. The Dolphins’ front seven dominated the Bills’ offensive line for most of the day...perhaps they were just too much for Shady to handle. If that’s the case, the Bills could be in for a very long second half of the year.
The “Inconspicuous Debut” Award
I don’t mean to pick on Shaq. He had very little in the way of live practice in the offseason, and was only activated to the roster this week. In addition, the spot on the defensive line that he was set to fill is no longer available.
Still, you’d be forgiven if you’ve already forgotten that he played yesterday. He only saw the field for 14 snaps, less than 20% of the team’s defensive total. He had a few plays where he put some decent pressure on Ryan Tannehill, but in the end he only had one tackle to show for his efforts, and he didn’t do much to help the Bills contain the wrecking ball that was Jay Ajayi.
Here’s to hoping things improve from here for the promising young rusher.
The “Top Post-Final 53 Pickup” Award
The veteran return man was an under-the-radar pickup when the Bills signed him after the end of the preseason but prior to the season-opener at Baltimore.
Yesterday, he showed why he’s been able to stick in the league for eight seasons.
His 30-yard return early on, a great run up the sideline through traffic, set up the Bills’ opening score. He was responsible for downing a great punt by Colton Schmidt at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter (the subsequent plays were not his fault; see below). He even contributed on the offensive side, catching a 25-yard pass that set up the late touchdown by Reggie Bush that made the final score slightly more respectable.
As of right now, Tate is tied for tenth in the NFL in punt return average, and he had two 30-yard returns under his belt. At the rate he’s going, a return TD would not at all be unexpected. A continuing role in the offense wouldn’t be uncalled for, either.
Least Valuable Player
Most of the Bills’ front seven
Oh, where to begin with this one.
I’ll start with the dynamic duo that excelled during the winning streak. Preston Brown and Zach Brown had both been top-notch defenders over the previous month, especially Zach. They both made a couple plays yesterday (Zach finished with six tackles, Preston five), but neither had much of an answer for Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins’ offensive line. Most notably, both players had a shot at stopping Ajayi on his 53-yard run when the Dolphins were pinned deep in their own territory in the fourth quarter, but Preston was taken out by a pulling lineman and Zach failed to wrap him up in tandem with Duke Williams. Ajayi picked up nine (!) carries of 10+ yards yesterday, and their inability to stop him was a big reason why.
Of course, the defensive line deserves a share of the blame. Kyle Williams was solid, as usual, but the remainder of the defensive line struggled mightily. Leger Douzable managed four tackles on 36 snaps, but nominal starter Corbin Bryant only managed one. Adolphus Washington was nowhere to be found, and Jerel Worthy only managed four snaps. All four players were routinely handled by Miami’s interior line.
Regardless of how you feel about Marcell Dareus as a person, the Bills really need him back on the field.
Most Valuable Player
It’s hard to justify giving this award to anybody who had anything to do with the Bills defense yesterday, but the poor play around him made Alexander’s effort stand out so much more.
Alexander recorded a sack yesterday, giving him a league-high nine for the season. He was also in Tannehill’s face on several plays, forcing him to scramble and miss some throws (he may have missed more if the secondary had done a better job in coverage, but that’s another story). He even contributed in the run defense (to the extent that there was a run defense yesterday) with a few big stops early on. All the while, he also put in his usual stellar game on special teams coverage with a couple solid tackles.
If Alexander doesn’t at least earn a Pro Bowl nod, the selection system needs to be thoroughly examined.