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Snap count notes: Lions at Bills

With key players injured and the Bills in evaluation mode, snap counts are intriguing this week

The Buffalo Bills entered Week 15 with key starters such as LeSean McCoy and Matt Milano injured. The Bills were also officially in “let’s get ready for next year” mode. Both factors combined for a lot of playing time for some new faces against the Detroit Lions. Let’s look at who contributed to Sunday’s win!

Offense (68 snaps)

The 100% club on offense was one player short this week. John Miller was replaced by rookie Ike Boettger for nine plays. The Bills did a similar swap earlier in the year with Wyatt Teller and Jeremiah Sirles. Teller’s performance in his brief audition was enough to dethrone Vladimir Ducasse at left guard. If Boettger gets a longer audition against the New England Patriots, it shouldn’t be too surprising.

Zay Jones nearly made the 100% club, which is odd for a receiver. By snap counts, he’s been the WR1 the entire year. Robert Foster continues to make the best of his second chance. At 84% it’s clear he’s trusted by the coaches and has rewarded their faith with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games.

Charles Clay has hovered around 60% for three weeks now. This represents a decrease from his early-year playing time. While initially it may have been a precaution with Clay returning from injury, it’s looking more and more like Clay is being phased out of the offense. Jason Croom’s time has increased during the same period of time.

The running-back situation was not ideal. The Bills had a LeSean McCoy. But he sank into the swamp. So they had a Chris Ivory. He sank into the swamp. So they had a Marcus Murphy. He burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the Keith Ford stayed up. Even that was a little sketchy, with Ford dinged up during the game. How bad was the situation? The Bills remembered that Patrick DiMarco was on offense and not only gave him his highest snap total of the year at 15, but let him carry the ball for the first time this season.

Defense (57 snaps)

The 100% club for defense saw poor attendance this week. Only the safety tandem of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer played every down. Tre’Davious White, Tremaine Edmunds and Levi Wallace were close.

Matt Milano’s injury opened up linebacker snaps. Corey Thompson and Julian Stanford saw some time on the field as a result. At 22 snaps out of 57, the pair didn’t even come close to matching Milano’s normal 100% or so. Lorenzo Alexander hit 93% of time on the field, which is his highest amount this year. His previous high was 76%. Alexander continues to be Leslie Frazier’s most versatile player, subbing in at linebacker and defensive tackles with some edge rusher for good measure.

The defensive line continues their normal counts mostly unabated. The only story to follow is the balance between Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson. Murphy started the year as the definitive starter. After an injury led to time off the field for Trent, Shaq Lawson took over. Even with Murphy’s return, Lawson had the higher snap counts the last two games. Against Detroit, Murphy reclaimed the Lion’s share of snap counts.

Despite being listed as a safety, Rafael Bush continues to be the primary slot defensive back in place of Taron Johnson. With no other defensive backs listed as getting playing time, it appears Bush was the substitute for one snap each for White and Wallace. The remainder of 40 snaps would be the amount of nickel packages the Bills used.

Special teams (24 snaps)

As usual, only the players with 25% or more time are on the list. The Bills had 35 players in on at least one snap for special teams, which is slightly low. Deon Lacey and Lafayette Pitts continue to be mainstays. Siran Neal and Julian Stanford have been trending up recently and could be part of the core group going forward. Lorenzo Alexander didn’t see any less time here despite a major uptick in defensive snaps. In fact, Alexander is averaging 36% percent of time on special teams, meaning he increased his workload here as well. Stephen Hauschka was only asked to do kickoffs and extra points. As a result, he falls shorts of the cut-off point of six snaps to make the list this week (two XPs and two KOs after touchdowns and one KO to start the second half).