The Buffalo Bills’ victory over the Miami Dolphins last week was the balm to sooth the pain coming off the loss on the road to the Cleveland Browns the week before. The run defense showed up, the quarterback we all hope is the franchise guy looked good, and John Brown gave dozens of media members a great story for this week as he currently leads AFC wide receivers in receiving yardage.
Let’s hope that great Miami win wasn’t a BAND-AID® on a bullet hole because the Denver Broncos are coming to town.
The 2019 Broncos are a solid team that lacks identity at the quarterback position. General manager John Elway’s failure to find and develop a franchise quarterback has been well-documented, with failed experiments coming via free agency (Case Keenum) as well as the draft (Paxton Lynch). His latest go-around was former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who was playing C- game-manager football before landing on injured reserve with a neck injury. In comes Brandon Allen, the former Arkansas quarterback who bounced around from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Los Angeles Rams before finally getting a serendipitous start with Denver after Flacco went down and Drew Lock wasn’t deemed ready to play by the Denver coaching staff. In two games, Allen has helped the Broncos to a 1-1 record (because wins aren’t a quarterback stat—fight me) and has shown a reasonable command of the position. He’s thrown three touchdowns to just one interception and, although his completion percentage is just south of 50%, he continues to trust his receivers to make plays on the ball in the air.
How can we send the wrong Allen and the Broncos back home with visions of Drew Lock dancing in their head? I have some thoughts...
Blitz Brandon Allen
This is going to sound as unoriginal as a draft pick commenting on Buffalo that all they knew before they got there was that it was cold: We need to stop the run and make Brandon Allen throw from obvious pass downs. The splits on Allen on play action vs. no play action are staggering (credit goes to Joe Marino from Locked on Bills who brought those to my attention as we were chatting a few days ago) and we need to force the Broncos into situations where play-action passing is off the table.
That, combined with a young and inexperienced quarterback, screams blitzing. Conventional wisdom states you blitz young or inexperienced quarterbacks and you play coverage against older, wiser, or simply better players. Brandon Allen hasn’t earned the respect from opposing defenses to play conservatively. That double-A gap blitz we saw with Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds last week? One more time, same as before.
Attach Dawson Knox/Lee Smith to Cody Ford
Cody Ford vs. Von Miller may decide this game. I don’t think that’s overly hyperbolic. Although Miller has only five sacks coming into this game, he could pick up two or three more along with a handful a pressures and a forced fumble if the Bills aren’t ready for the very possible struggles of Ford on the right edge.
There is some really fascinating research being done by multiple different entities that suggests that utilizing tight ends and running backs to “chip” on potentially dangerous pass rushers might actually not have a net benefit to the pass-blocking unit as a whole, so my suggestion would be straight-up double team more often than not. Lee Smith and Dawson Knox are both strong pass blockers, although Smith has seen his share of penalties this season, so I would feel comfortable with Knox in that role as well. Making Von Miller take the long way to Josh Allen is never a bad thing.
I’m going to keep saying “Cole Beasley” until you listen
Denver might counter the above move by sending linebackers or defensive backs at the tight end on Cody Ford’s side, compromising the double team and allowing Miller to utilize inside quickness to get into Allen’s face more directly, but we should be prepared to counter their counter.
Having Beasley as a primary hot receiver in case of blitzes utilizes his ability to separate in short areas well and gives John Brown more time to shake Denver’s Chris Harris, who is infinitely more talented than anyone on the active Miami roster. We cannot rely on Brown to beat man coverage to the same degree he did last week and must be prepared to make Beasley a big part of the anti-blitzing strategy.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with 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!