On Tuesday morning, the Buffalo Bills defense turned at least one head with a somewhat unusual package. Sal Capaccio remarked on Twitter that the “Defense just went with a total pass-rush package. Hughes, Murphy, Oliver, L. Alexander, Milano, Edmunds all near the line of scrimmage + 5 DBs. Oliver the only DT.”
Based on fan reaction in the comments, this news was met with plenty of excitement.
The Buffalo Bills made heavy use of this rush concept last year, shuffling a lot of defensive looks. Back in late November we noted that not only did the Bills adjust their defensive line and secondary to account for the anticipated play call, but they overall very good at getting it right.
The “Speed Line”
Due to Tuesday’s practice not being open to the public and media sharing being somewhat limited for those with press passes, Sal’s tweet wasn’t accompanied by an example to show you. Luckily we have this one up our sleeve. I’d be willing to wager that the biggest difference between this and what was being practiced was that Ed Oliver is now in Kyle Williams’s spot. The second biggest difference is that
One of the reasons versatility is so important for the Sean McDermott/Leslie Frazier defense is that it creates the ability to float a few key players around the scheme based on the opponent and situation. Looking above, we see Lorenzo Alexander subbing in for Star Lotulelei. The four defenders on the line of scrimmage are set up wide and ready to go full tilt against a pass. Time for a chart.
The above was made by looking at every formation that was used three or more times during the 2018 season. This accounted for just under 70% of the total defensive snaps for the Bills last year and more importantly cut out 224 rows of classifying personnel groupings. The Bills had 346 unique defensive lineup combinations last year, which was middle of the pack if you can believe it.
Back to the speedier defensive line, as the chart shows, it was used just over 1/5 of the time. And like we saw in November, it’s widely being used at the right time. There were only 23 instances in our sample where the faster line was called in against a running play.
With few changes on the defensive side of the ball, it’s a safe bet the Buffalo Bills will continue trends we started seeing last year. So keep an eye out for this philosophy as we’re sure to see more of it, especially on obvious passing downs.