The Buffalo Bills were pretty bad at avoiding penalties this year and we continue our quest to get to the bottom of it. With player performances often a somewhat stable aspect of flags, we conclude the 2018 penalty season with our list of worst offenders.
Thanks to the chart improvements (I’m learning folks) we’re able to cleanly show the top-20 most-penalized Bills. After the top ten, which is 11 with a tie, you can see we’re already into the realm of occasionally penalized players who really aren’t making a major impact over the course of a season. So in reality, the top 20 just gives a visual representation of why top ten was better anyway. Let’s dive in and discuss some of what was going on at the top of the chart. The combined bar for each player represents the total number of times they were flagged. The blue section is what was accepted.
Dion Dawkins was in the top ten last year, but toward the bottom. Tackles are often heavily penalized, but in total count Dawkins is in a three-way tie for second-worst in the league. He falls to fourth if considering only accepted flags. Four false starts and four holding calls are fairly ordinary for a lineman. Three unnecessary roughness calls for leg whips and a chop-block call won’t help his reputation around the league. Film review doesn’t reveal a dirty player, but that’s not a good pattern. Also concerning are one flag for an illegal formation and an ineligible downfield for a pass penalty. The formation penalty wasn’t Dawkins’s fault, but both are symbolic of Buffalo’s major problem with formation and execution penalties.
Speaking of those, the ten “N/A” flags are all formation and execution penalties. Four illegal formation, three defensive too many men on the field, three delay of game and one illegal shift suggest a team that struggled with being organized. Delay of game is the least of these sins as teams often deliberately take these on fourth downs when they try to get their opponent to jump, but the other seven are a real concern. Especially in consideration of the similar penalties that get assigned to specific players like Dawkins.
Tre’Davious White’s flags are pretty much exactly what you’d expect form a corner. Pass interference, holding, and illegal contact with one unnecessary roughness for good measure. Corners are another heavily penalized group. In total flags, White is fourth-worst in the league. For accepted, he’s tied for 14th.
Jordan Mills doesn’t seem that far behind Dawkins, but again, tackles are a heavily penalized lot. For total flags, Mills lands at 14 and is 18th in accepted flags.
Only one of Jerry Hughes’s penalties were of the hothead variety (unsportsmanlike conduct). Three off-sides, one illegal block above the waist, and one neutral zone infraction make up the rest. His five accepted penalties is tied for his lowest number ever in Buffalo. The other year with five was his first year here when he wasn’t a starter. Defensive ends aren’t terribly penalized as a position. though. and either way you look at his numbers, he falls in tied for eighth-worst in the league.
John Miller and Vlad Ducasse are both in the high teens for guards. Not great by any means, but hardly a major issue, either, in consideration of the league. Wyatt Teller looks like he’s in a similar boat. Ducasse and Teller both played significantly less time than Miller however, which means they both are more concerning than their numbers suggest.
Looking for another reason to be happy Kelvin Benjamin was sent packing? Five flags puts him tied for fifth-worst in the league. For accepted flags he falls considerably into more-acceptable territory. However the tendency to draw flags is there for Benjamin and was not offset by clutch play.
Not all penalties are created equal, though, and looking at yardage changes a few things. Sticking to the blue bars, we have the yards assessed by the refs. Dion Dawkins falls to third place, but is still pretty high based on the volume of flags. The “N/A” category slides significantly as they’re procedural penalties only, for the most part.
Adding in yards negated by penalty, Jason Croom and Jordan Mills get a bump in the rating. While it may be nothing more than bad timing, both of these players had a knack for wiping out positive plays more so than the rest of the team.
Phillip Gaines was waived in November and from all appearances due to what’s on this chart. Gaines’ three defensive pass interference penalties this year were all brutal. His average penalty was over 43 yards, and against the Chicago Bears he gave them a 90-yard advantage all by his lonesome.
Feel free to ask for details in the comments, as there’s a good chunk of nuance I won’t bore everyone with on these details. There are a few changes in the pecking order that are interesting enough to talk about, however.
Jordan Mills takes the top spot as a result of those 75 yards impacted from the last chart and five negated downs. Those two data points count for 12.5 Harm.
Gaines was mostly his yardage, but two free downs to opponents didn’t help his case.
Wyatt Teller committed the cardinal penalty sin of taking points off the board. A holding call on Teller negated five Josh Allen yards and one Josh Allen touchdown. Outside of this one flag, he only earned a fairly reasonable 3.2 Harm. Going back to his limited playing time there’s certainly cause for concern, but in the case of harm, things really escalated fast thanks to one flag.
Unless someone pitches a great penalty article, this is it for the 2018 season. Penalty-data lovers should stay tuned for next season. Same Rumblings time. Same Rumblings URL.