Writing after a loss is less fun.
Producing content in general for a fan base as energetic as Bills Mafia after a loss is less fun. People are on edge, they’re more critical and they show a little less grace than they otherwise would. The Buffalo Bills are 5-2, but if you’ve been a fan since or before 2008, you may be feeling a little nervous as the Washington Redskins come to New Era Field having just witnessed the ground and pound the Buffalo Bills just took from the Philadelphia Eagles.
I would forgive you a little nervousness.
The Washington Redskins are not a good football team. You may recognize that phrase from an earlier edition of “Crumbling their Cookies.” I said the same thing about the Miami Dolphins and, although the Bills left that previous game with a victory in their pockets, it may not have resonated with the fortitude that would be necessary to give you tons of confidence about this game against Washington.
How can the Bills see to it that Washington doesn’t sneak on by them? I usually say I have a few thoughts, but today I have one very large and in-depth thought:
All day is coming all day
I am not a gambling man. I find the mathematics of gambling obviously tilted in the favor of Vegas and I see no reason to tempt their analytical models through my own voluntary participation.
Were I a betting man, I would bet the house on this statement: The Bills will see a TON of Adrian Peterson on Sunday.
It’s the perfect storm for Buffalo: A team with an interim head coach has a Hall of Famer in the backfield and potentially an incredibly inexperienced rookie at quarterback. The Hall of Famer in the backfield gets particularly prickly when you attempt to lessen his rushing attempts. This interim head coach has gone on record as drawing a correlative tie between rushing attempts and winning. The Bills just came off two poor performances defending the run. It seems almost TOO obvious.
If the Bills have truly fixed the problems that plagued specifically their defensive line in the last two weeks (as Leslie Frazier says he believes they have), they’re very likely to win this game.
If not, there is a greater-than-zero chance the Washington Redskins pull off the upset and we’re having a very different and notably depressing conversation at this time next week.
But how best to go about fixing the run defense?
The good news is that the Eagles boast one of the most impressive interior offensive lines in the league and guard Brandon Brooks might be playing at an All-Pro level right now. The Redskins’ Brandon Scherff is a very good player and the team recognizes that with contract extension efforts still ongoing between Washington and Scherff’s representation, but the Eagles’ interior still worries me a notable amount more.
The bad news is that opponents might not need an elite offensive line to cause the Bills problems, as evidenced by the Dolphins game and the success they had.
There are no major personnel additions coming. This article was written after the trade deadline passed with no additions to the roster from general manager Brandon Beane. Ted Washington, Pat Williams, and Sam Adams aren’t walking through that door.
So Bills Mafia is left with the current defensive line corps (along with practice-squad player Vincent Taylor) with which to work. Star Lotulelei has been the preferred target for Bills’ fan criticism this week, but as one of my esteemed Buffalo Rumblings analysts Skarekrow pointed out in his All-22 Review article, he’s not solely to blame for the poor effort against the Eagles.
Apart from coaching technique reinforcements and limiting stunts and games up front, there are three things that could potentially be done to assist the run defense this week: Play Shaq Lawson more in place of Trent Murphy, rotate less, and go +1 in the box.
The first potential idea is a basic logical equation. If Lawson is a better run defender than Murphy (he is), play the player superior at the requested role (stopping the run) more often than the player inferior at that same role. This may not be something the Bills are particularly keen on doing given Lawson’s obvious comfort rushing from the right side of the defensive line. Perhaps they feel his run-stopping prowess would be hampered by moving him to the opposite side. I feel that this particular problem is serious enough to warrant changes of that magnitude, and Lawson has shown the same ability to hamper an opponent’s run game from the left side earlier in his career.
It may be counter to everything that Sean McDermott stands for as a defensive coach, but if Lawson is playing against the run better than Murphy, perhaps Lawson should play markedly more snaps. With the recognition that fatigue is a factor in getting pushed out of your gaps, I do believe each one of the lineman has more in them if they prove to be better options against the run, and limiting your liability is a big part of coaching defense.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe McDermott and Frazier should take a peek at Jim Schwartz’s defensive tape from Philadelphia this year and Buffalo in 2014. Part of run defense is simply about numbers in the box. Philadelphia has struggled this year simply because they do not have the secondary to abandon with little to no safety help on a regular basis.
The Bills can do what the Eagles cannot.
Playing Cover-1 with even potentially a sprinkling of Cover-0 for a large portion of the game and asking a rookie wide receiver in Terry McLaurin to beat you catching passes from possibly another rookie in Dwayne Haskins seems like a more favorable gamble for the Bills than suffering through another bludgeoning at the hands of Bill “if I run the ball 30 times a game I’ll probably win” Callahan and Adrian “don’t you dare kill to another play Case Keenum or so help me I’ll smack you” Peterson. Terry McLaurin is a burgeoning superstar and his deep speed absolutely concerns me against Tre’Davious White, but you have to play the probabilities with defensive scheming.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan for Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter @BruceExclusive and look for episodes of “The Nick & Nolan Show” every week on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!