The Buffalo Bills’ offensive line was terrible against the New York Jets. There are a variety of reasons for poor line play - maybe the other team makes a good play, the offensive play called is against the exact wrong defense, something goes wrong downfield, the quarterback runs himself into trouble, or just poor play on the line’s own part can result in negative plays. I hope to show examples of each and discuss what went wrong. Finally, I just want to throw in my usual disclaimer: without knowing the exact play call and assignments, my analyses are just educated (and hopefully very good) guesses.
This was the Bills’ first offensive play of the game, and it is an example of the Jets game planning to prevent the boot action that has been so successful for the Bills’ offense.
Outside zone? I don't believe you pic.twitter.com/UcKhmDvnwM— YardsPerPass (@YardsPerPass) November 6, 2017
The edge defender has no interest in the run action, as his sole focus is on Tyrod Taylor’s bootleg. This is why offenses are systems that build off of themselves. If the Bills were a successful outside zone running team, the edge defender would at least need to honor the run and not take himself out of the play by going directly for the quarterback. However, since the Bills have been unable to run that particular play successfully, teams have been letting their backside edge defender ignore the run action and go right for Taylor, eliminating his ability to boot opposite of the run action.
I wanted to look at a play that gained positive yardage solely on the effort and skill of LeSean McCoy.
McCoy should've had a loss of 3, instead gets 13 pic.twitter.com/oVke8HgiRs— YardsPerPass (@YardsPerPass) November 6, 2017
This is a play the Bills have run a lot over the past couple of years; it’s your standard inside zone running play. However, you can see the Jets linebackers jump all over it and shoot the front side A and back side C gaps. This leads to a couple of problems. On the front side, the combo block is supposed to push the nose tackle up to the middle linebacker, but the middle linebacker moves so quickly that he is able to penetrate by the time Eric Wood can hit him. On the back side, the weak linebacker comes in unblocked, and I can tell you that probably isn’t the way it is drawn up. So on this play, it appears to be a combination of the Jets’ aggressive play and a mistake up front that would cause a loss of 3 for any mortal running back. However, McCoy somehow shakes two Jets defenders behind the line of scrimmage and gains 13.
Something I’ve noticed is that Taylor really needs his space to be a quality passer. This is why when he has been able to move outside the pocket or been given good depth from his offensive line, he has shown better results throwing the football. When the pocket is muddled, you start to see him lose effectiveness.
Interior pressure is killer for TT, especially when DEs are disciplined— YardsPerPass (@YardsPerPass) November 6, 2017
When TT has space in pocket he's effective, not when this happens pic.twitter.com/POKnZ4pPky
McCoy motioned to empty, Jets stick w/ the 5 man rush w/ man cov all around. Ball needs to get out quick pic.twitter.com/Bmx9hEjp96— YardsPerPass (@YardsPerPass) November 6, 2017
It is tough to blame the QB when a guy basically comes free up the middle. The offensive line needs to give him half a second more. By coming at the Bills like this, the Jets’ defense was basically saying, “we don’t think your guys can get open before we can get to your QB.” They were also counting on the fact that even if guys did come open, the quarterback needs to find them and win from the pocket. When given time, you could say that Taylor had an above-average day throwing the ball from the pocket.
I think you can put this play on multiple areas. As you can see, the offensive line is pushed into Taylor’s lap. However, the play is open when Taylor hits the final step of his drop (both the hook and out routes to his left).
QB needs to get rid of the ball. Needs to know his OL is having trouble holding up.— YardsPerPass (@YardsPerPass) November 6, 2017
This one is on TT pic.twitter.com/HUtj2UDvdu
In this view, you can see that Taylor looks to his left but does not release the football. By the time he wants to throw, there is no room for him to do so. If he does release it early, then the offensive line, while pushed back on this play, wouldn’t have allowed a sack.
Like an alligator's jaw compressing on its prey.— YardsPerPass (@YardsPerPass) November 6, 2017
Again 5 man rush vs 5 OL compressing things for Taylor pic.twitter.com/z4xmzj3gAb
The final play I wanted to look at was another run play, but not just any run play. It’s our favorite, the outside zone.
I would love to know what the yards per carry on the outside zone is this season. Wonder if it is higher than 2 pic.twitter.com/imiSP4A9Dr— YardsPerPass (@YardsPerPass) November 6, 2017
One thing I have critiqued the Bills about when running this play is the backside cuts. Here, they did a fantastic job, as they cut two Jets down. The edge is a mess, though. This play is about getting horizontal movement and allowing the RB to make one cut upfield and keep going. When the edge defender pushes the offensive tackle three yards into the backfield, there is no chance for the play to even begin. It just illustrates how important setting that edge is. Even if you don’t get it going outside, you still need to give the running back room to make a cut. Without that, the play is doomed.
I hope I was able to show that the offensive line problems were a combined team effort. The Jets’ front 7 defenders seemed as if they were on the Bills’ side of the line of scrimmage all game. With their aggressive play, they were able to neutralize the Bills’ offense and win 1-on-1 battles up front.