The Buffalo Bills, reckoning with a poor defense that hasn’t come close to their usual standards of play, are shaking up their defensive line rotation. Per NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero, the Bills plan to deactivate Harrison Phillips and Trent Murphy against the Kansas City Chiefs, though both players are ostensibly healthy.
The two players are part of the core front four—Phillips has played 45% of snaps in his return from a torn ACL, and Murphy is at 52% of snaps—but with very little to show for it. The lack of front-four pressure was something head coach Sean McDermott called out following Buffalo’s loss to the Tennessee Titans. Phillips has six pressures on 84 pass rush attempts (per SIS Data Hub), and Murphy has only managed five out of 93. Counting stats aren’t much to work with, either—the duo combined for 13 tackles and a single sack in five games.
How will the Bills adjust? At edge rusher, expect to see more from Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison—their sack numbers aren’t inspiring, but they’ve been winning the most one-on-one battles out of the group. The Bills might also look to lean on their young options in Darryl Johnson and A.J. Epenesa, who each have a sack in very limited playing time.
Defensive tackle is less clear-cut, but we could see another opportunity for Justin Zimmer. The practice squad player had four tackles (one tackle for loss) in the season opener, and the Bills have protected him on the roster for each subsequent week.
If there was ever a time for the Bills to take risks and make adjustments, it would be tonight. Coming off a humiliating defeat by the Titans, the Bills will battle the 4-1 Chiefs, led by the deadly Patrick Mahomes. Normal defensive effort won’t cut it, let alone Buffalo’s 25th-ranked pass defense.