Survive and advance. The Buffalo Bills did it.
At the end of the year, nobody can go back and penalize the Bills for the way they defeated the Miami Dolphins to improve to 5-1. They will, however, need to put together a better overall performance to beat a markedly more talented Philadelphia Eagles team that came into the year with Super Bowl aspirations.
Some would tell you that the Eagles are one of the most talented teams in the league when healthy. The last two words in that sentence are important and maddeningly frustrating for the 2019 team from the City of Brotherly Shove. Injuries have decimated the Eagles at several key positions and that sapping of talent has shown itself on the field.
The Bills aren’t going to (and shouldn’t) take pity on their cheesesteak-filled neighbors from the southeast. How can they see to it that the Liberty Bell tolls for Philly? I have some thoughts...
This is the week for Josh Allen to hit the deep ball, so activate Robert Foster
Jim Schwartz won the hearts and minds of Bills fans during the 2014 season with one of the franchise’s historically best defenses. The “Cold Front” of Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, and Jerry Hughes dominated up front without much need for additional reinforcements and Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby locked down the outside. There were notable murmurs that the organization should have promoted Schwartz to head coach in lieu of hiring Rex Ryan to replace the departed Doug Marrone. Schwartz left for Philadelphia and won a Super Bowl with the Eagles while receiving overall positive reviews.
Then 2019 happened. Schwartz is struggling to find competent outside-man corners to fill his scheme and continues to show a stubborn refusal to adjust the scheme to accommodate for the fact that Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby aren’t walking through the door into Lincoln Financial Field. His corners are left on islands in Cover-1 or Cover-0 looks and they’re getting torched by play-action.
If someone has a weakness but you can’t take advantage of it, is it really a weakness? Asking for a friend. Josh Allen’s ability to defeat man coverage vertically this year has been non-existent. He’s been wildly inaccurate on vertical routes over 20 yards this year, missing a few by double-digit yards. This is the week to get that fixed.
This is also the week to activate Robert Foster. If you don’t activate the deep threat who has the most proven chemistry with Josh Allen on a week where you play the team in the league most susceptible to the deep ball, then you never will. Sean McDermott said that Robert Foster’s inactivity last week was game-plan related and he would do whatever he thought gave the team the best chance to win. There won’t be a more obvious week to activate Foster, barring injury.
Make sure last week was a fluke for Levi Wallace
Levi Wallace has been nothing short of a revelation since his promotion to the starting outside corner role opposite Tre’Davious White late in the 2018 season. Last week, against Dolphins undrafted receiver Preston Williams, Wallace’s lack of ideal size became an issue as Williams crossed his face and bodied him up enough to near the century mark in receiving yards. Alshon Jeffery is coming to town, and the Eagles’ game plan very well may be to make sure the Bills are playing L/R with their corners and match up Jeffery on Wallace to use that size advantage. The Bills can alleviate this concern by having White shadow Jeffery.
Attack Andre Dillard
I was a big fan of Philadelphia offensive tackle Andre Dillard coming out in the 2019 draft. He was the number-one offensive tackle in my rankings and I gave him favorable stylistic comparisons to Joe Thomas. Jason Peters was out of the Eagles’ previous game against the Dallas Cowboys, and Dillard told the Philadelphia Inquirer he was “very ready”.
Narrator: but he was only a little ready.
Dillard had a “meh” first start for Philadelphia but is clearly a downgrade from All-World and former Bills tackle Jason Peters. A savvy vet like Jerry Hughes needs to be able to take advantage of Dillard’s inexperience to generate pressure from Carson Wentz’s blind side. Sending stuns and games Dillard’s way would help, but I think on film he shows a vulnerability to the bull rush and his weakness anchoring could be a problem against someone like Shaq Lawson. The Bills need to be aware.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan for Buffalo Rumblings. You can follow me on Twitter @BruceExclusive and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” every week on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!