I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the Buffalo Bills and traveling members of Bills Mafia to Cleveland.
I feel I’m suited to speak on behalf of the city given the fact that I make my residence here and am as embedded (you see what I did there?) in the community as someone who uses a pseudonym can be. This city shares an odd kinship with Buffalo not only because of their origin as waterway-based trade cities, but also because of their futility on the gridiron over the last 20 years. The teams each have lost seasons, bad draft picks, organizational dysfunction and national embarrassment to their name. The cold-weather joke similarities alone could bond two cities together.
Through it all, the fan bases of both teams have adopted an odd “enemy of my enemy is my friend” galvanization that makes me appreciate that, although I don’t live in western New York, I at least I live in a city with which Buffalo shares a kinship.
Not this week though.
This week the Buffalo Bills, the team picture of emotional stability and pleasant locker-room boredom, travel down the I-90 to see Cleveland burning with drama and dysfunction. Quarterback Baker Mayfield shaved twice in one day because he didn’t deserve his fu manchu, wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are wearing non-compliant cleats and expensive watches on the field, and head coach Freddie Kitchens is openly admitting in press conferences he doesn’t know why his team is committing penalties and that he doesn’t look at stats. I hope the Bills brought some lighter fluid.
Teams on fire are dangerous. If you stay calm, composed, and prepared, you can dispatch them while they run around confused and ablaze. You can also stumble into them and catch fire yourself.
How does Buffalo best going about beating the Cleveland Browns this week and adding to their problems? I have some thoughts...
Copy and paste my run defense thoughts from last week
Tre’Davious White had better pack his bags
He’s gonna need to live out of a suitcase with all the traveling he’ll be doing. I recognize that the Bills have historically preferred to utilize left/right alignments with their cornerbacks, but Odell Beckham Jr. may be the most talented receiver I have ever seen and although Levi Wallace has been overly criticized in recent weeks for struggles I believe to be slightly overblown, I would still feel notably more comfortable with White shadowing OBJ across the alignment.
Get the ball out fast
This is not the game to force the return of Josh Allen’s deep ball. Dion Dawkins has been quietly very good this season and even got my award for “Most Improved” player at the Rumblee Awards episode of “The Nick & Nolan Show”, but Myles Garrett is a terrifying human being. Some idiot in Cleveland actually punched him in the face a couple weeks ago. The police IDed the man (who is 5’7” and 160 lbs) and no charges were filed.
I repeat: Myles Garrett is so scary he doesn’t need the police to defend him.
In addition to not wanting to hold the ball for three seconds against a defensive line that contains not only Garrett, but also Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi and Olivier Vernon (although Vernon might not play this Sunday), the Bills should get the ball out fast for another reason: The Cleveland corners can’t tackle.
The Browns starting duo of Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams possess impressive man-to-man fluidity and mirroring technique and Williams was a steal for the Browns in the draft in the second round. However, both of them have slight frames and are less-than-ideal tacklers in open space. Dawson Knox, Duke Williams, and Devin Singletary could break off big gains against this secondary if Daboll decided to employ a quick horizontal passing game and allow Allen to check to quick passes at the line of scrimmage in the event Ward and Williams decide to play off.
Make Baker hold the ball and keep them in long third downs
Coaches’ film study may be more important this week than any other week so far this year. Freddie Kitchens’s play design for Cleveland’s offense this year has been abysmal. Receivers ending up on top of each other, an inexplicable inability to get your best receiver involved, and bizarre fourth-down calls are the low lights embedded (I did it again) in Cleveland fans’ minds so far this year. Attempting to identify the first read on passing plays and making Baker Mayfield question that throw is the key to making him struggle. Mayfield plays very well in the run/pass option space when binary decisions and accurate passes are required, but if he is forced off his first option back across the formation in a full-field read situation, he will get antsy, his mechanics will fail and his throws will start to sail. If Nick Chubb picks up five yards per carry, it will allow the Browns to keep the Bills off balance with play calling. If Buffalo is able to force obvious passing situations, they will have an opportunity to reap what they hopefully sowed this week in the film room.
...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!