Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals was felt by many to be the beginning of the Josh Allen era for the Buffalo Bills. By the time halftime rolled around, Bills fans were left hoping the middle and end of the Josh Allen era will be much better than the starting line. Five sacks, not a whole lot of yards, and zero scores prompts the question, “what the hell happened?” The offensive line was a major talking point. How much of the burden do they bear?
To find out, we timed every passing down where the snap to pressure (or pass) could be accurately recorded. If a pass was thrown without pressure, the timer ended at release. For a pressure, the timer ended when a defender was close enough to impact the play. Typically, this was either at about one arm’s length of Josh Allen, or in the case of a designed roll-out when the defender occupied a space that would have flushed Allen had he not already been running.
This illustrates that last concept. The timer ends at about 1.5 seconds when the defender is clearly in the backfield. Traditionally this isn’t a pressure, but for this article I wanted to identify “failures.” This is very much a failure on the part of Jordan Mills.
There were 16 passing plays/sacks where the snap to “end” was able to be recorded. On only two of those snaps did Josh Allen have a clean pocket. Even on those two throws, he never made it to three seconds of pass protection. If it makes you feel better (it helped me some), Allen delivered the ball accurately on both.
At the magic two-second mark, Josh Allen is staring at two orange and black helmets. He uses a little reset motion (not quite a full pump fake), which slows the defenders and possibly helps avoid a batted pass. Marshall Newhouse and Ryan Groy allowed the most pressures by my count. Jordan Mills, John Miller and Vlad Ducasse didn’t exactly have a stellar night, though. In 16 passes, none of these players allowed less than two pressures/failures as I’ve defined them above.
The players can’t shoulder all of the blame, however. Sean McDermott indicated he was testing out different combinations along the offensive line. Ideally, a game should consist of one five-man lineup on the line. Multiple tweaks throughout the first half didn’t help them find a rhythm.
This is one of those two clean pockets mentioned above. So, how bad was the line? On the recorded 16 snaps, the line averaged about 2.1 seconds of successful protection. Their best pocket of the night is the one right above this paragraph. Three snaps saw pressure in 1.5 seconds or less. The worst performance of the night saw pressure at roughly 1.25 seconds. With the regular season rapidly approaching, fans are right to be worried about the state of the offensive line.