One of the more difficult aspects of roster management is the creation of sufficient depth to overcome injuries. The depth of the Brandon Beane-constructed Buffalo Bills was put to the test against the Tennessee Titans. The victory over the Titans should be taken as a positive sign for a 4-1 team looking to stack wins.
Offense (65 snaps)
The 100% club on offense took a hit this week. Dion Dawkins, Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain, and Josh Allen all were able to play the entire game. Mitch Morse and Cody Ford left the game due to injury, which led to Spencer Long and Ryan Bates jumping in on a game of musical chairs along the offensive line.
The big news before the game was fan-favorite Duke Williams getting called up to the active roster. Sean McDermott indicated he would play “a lot” and that’s exactly what happened. Williams played 78% of the offensive snaps, and only two shy of John Brown, who has led the team all season with receiver snaps. Williams also stepped in ahead of Cole Beasley (65%). Andre Roberts and Isaiah McKenzie had slight increases in time this week. The snaps enjoyed by Williams, Roberts, and McKenzie came mostly at the expense of Zay Jones, who came in for only one play.
With the continued absence of Devin Singletary, running-back snaps were split evenly between Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon. Patrick DiMarco continues to be used sparingly in the offense getting even fewer snaps than last week.
The Buffalo Bills may have decided to move away from a blocking-oriented offense as Lee Smith also saw a reduction in playing time. Dawson Knox had a slight increase in playing-time percentage as did Tommy Sweeney.
Defense (62 snaps)
The defensive 100% club became a party of one. This week Tremaine Edmunds was the only player to achieve this mark. Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, and Levi Wallace came close. Jordan Poyer exited for a few snaps due to injury but was able to return. A hamstring injury took Matt Milano out of the game.
Trent Murphy was also banged up with a head injury, falling a little short of his usual time. Jerry Hughes and Darryl Johnson had about their normal amount of snaps. Shaq Lawson saw an increase, likely as a result of the injury to Murphy.
If you were watching closely you may have noticed Jerry Hughes and Ed Oliver switching spot on the line to give the Titans something to ponder. The versatility on the line is a major asset to the Bills’ defense. Despite the trickery, Oliver, Star Lotulelei, Jordan Phillips, and Kyle Peko played the expected amount.
The injuries led to a lot of shuffling, leading to snaps for players like Kurt Coleman, Dean Marlowe, and Maurice Alexander. Lorenzo Alexander also saw a bump with Milano out a good chunk of the game. The jumble at the bottom makes it impossible to pinpoint exactly, but our weekly “nickel defense” watch has the Bills using nickel about two-thirds of the time. This mirrors the game against the New England Patriots but is overall a decrease from what we’ve come to expect. While it’s no guarantee of victory, the coaching staff appears to be tailoring defensive plans to their opponents.
Special teams (26 snaps)
Special teams has seen an increasing amount of reps going to rotational players rather than depth guys. Last week the core trio of Julian Stanford, Maurice Alexander and Kurt Coleman were at 79%. Of that group, only Alexander broke 70%, hitting 73%. Also significant last week was that Darryl Johnson moved ahead of this group. He did so again with 88% of special-teams playing time. This week he was joined by Lorenzo Alexander (77%) and Kevin Johnson (85%) to form a new top trio. In the case of Alexander, his counts remained stable. It was the decreased time of the first group that led to him taking a top spot.