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Buffalo Bills snap counts, play time, and personnel at the bye

Snap counts evolved

Unless you’re super enthusiastic about taking notes, it can be tough to keep track of play time and personnel groupings. Heck, it can be tough even if you ARE super enthusiastic about taking notes. You know that scene in The Matrix where it’s just Neo staring at numbers until a picture appears? My weekly snap count notes are basically the same thing. Except instead of discovering vampiric machines, we can see how often the Buffalo Bills played in nickel or dime packages. Let’s dive into The Matrix of football stats to examine some scheme tendencies for the 2021 Bills.


Snap Counts

If you took the time to click this article even after the headline I think I know what kind of reader you are. Football nerd. You’ll love this. As an aside, this is really not much more than an export and tweak of the snap counts page from pro-football-reference.com, which can be found here.

Snap Counts

Player Pos Off. Num Off. Pct Def. Num Def. Pct STs Num STs Pct
Player Pos Off. Num Off. Pct Def. Num Def. Pct STs Num STs Pct
Josh Allen QB 416 95.63% 0 0% 0 0%
Mitchell Trubisky QB 19 4.37% 0 0% 0 0%
Zack Moss RB 186 42.76% 0 0% 0 0%
Devin Singletary RB 223 51.26% 0 0% 0 0%
Taiwan Jones RB 0 0% 0 0% 108 66.67%
Matt Breida RB 12 2.76% 0 0% 17 10.49%
Reggie Gilliam FB 71 16.32% 0 0% 136 83.95%
Stefon Diggs WR 346 79.54% 0 0% 0 0%
Emmanuel Sanders WR 359 82.53% 0 0% 0 0%
Cole Beasley WR 293 67.36% 0 0% 1 0.62%
Gabriel Davis WR 158 36.32% 0 0% 2 1.23%
Jake Kumerow WR 41 9.43% 0 0% 105 64.81%
Isaiah McKenzie WR 59 13.56% 0 0% 49 30.25%
Dawson Knox TE 338 77.70% 0 0% 14 8.64%
Tommy Sweeney TE 67 15.40% 0 0% 1 0.62%
Spencer Brown T 227 52.18% 0 0% 36 22.22%
Daryl Williams T 418 96.09% 0 0% 36 22.22%
Dion Dawkins T 422 97.01% 0 0% 36 22.22%
Tommy Doyle T 9 2.07% 0 0% 0 0%
Jon Feliciano G 361 82.99% 0 0% 0 0%
Cody Ford G 221 50.80% 0 0% 36 22.22%
Ike Boettger G 92 21.15% 0 0% 36 22.22%
Mitch Morse C 416 95.63% 0 0% 0 0%
Ryan Bates C 21 4.83% 0 0% 36 22.22%
A.J. Epenesa DE 0 0% 122 32.80% 50 30.86%
Jerry Hughes DE 0 0% 211 56.72% 1 0.62%
Carlos Basham DE 0 0% 52 13.98% 2 1.23%
Gregory Rousseau DE 0 0% 188 50.54% 18 11.11%
Mario Addison DE 0 0% 157 42.20% 1 0.62%
Efe Obada DE 0 0% 69 18.55% 18 11.11%
Ed Oliver DT 0 0% 215 57.80% 0 0%
Justin Zimmer DT 0 0% 161 43.28% 16 9.88%
Star Lotulelei DT 0 0% 164 44.09% 11 6.79%
Vernon Butler DT 0 0% 85 22.85% 8 4.94%
Harrison Phillips DT 0 0% 64 17.20% 18 11.11%
Tremaine Edmunds LB 0 0% 330 88.71% 20 12.35%
Matt Milano LB 0 0% 243 65.32% 3 1.85%
Tyrel Dodson LB 0 0% 26 6.99% 105 64.81%
Tyler Matakevich LB 0 0% 14 3.76% 125 77.16%
A.J. Klein LB 0 0% 110 29.57% 73 45.06%
Andre Smith LB 0 0% 0 0% 71 43.83%
Taron Johnson CB 0 0% 307 82.53% 1 0.62%
Tre'Davious White CB 0 0% 352 94.62% 19 11.73%
Cameron Lewis CB 0 0% 47 12.63% 5 3.09%
Levi Wallace CB 0 0% 307 82.53% 4 2.47%
Siran Neal CB 0 0% 53 14.25% 106 65.43%
Dane Jackson CB 0 0% 71 19.09% 53 32.72%
Jordan Poyer SS 0 0% 308 82.80% 50 30.86%
Damar Hamlin SS 0 0% 26 6.99% 43 26.54%
Micah Hyde FS 10 2.30% 346 93.01% 23 14.20%
Jaquan Johnson FS 0 0% 64 17.20% 101 62.35%
Reid Ferguson LS 0 0% 0 0% 54 33.33%
Tyler Bass K 0 0% 0 0% 78 48.15%
Matt Haack P 0 0% 0 0% 54 33.33%

Raw snap counts are more meaningful in a single game context, but for some quick notes:

  • Josh Allen, Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, and Daryl Williams are all over 95 percent on the year. That’s what you hope for and ultimately this is a good sign of the health of Buffalo this year (knock on wood).
  • The other linemen are lower more as a function of shuffling. Spencer Brown has broken the 50percent barrier, meaning we’ve seen the rookie more often than not already this season.
  • Cole Beasley is right where you’d expect him.
  • On defense, the defensive backs and linebackers lead the way as expected.
  • Ed Oliver leads the team on the line, with Jerry Hughes a close second.
  • In a 4-3 defense, you’d expect that adding up the play time percentage for linebackers would hit 300 percent. Go get a scratch pad and add them up. Now tell everyone you know: “The Buffalo Bills do not run a 4-3 defense.” This is very important for later conversation, I promise.
  • Reggie Gilliam is beating out Tyler Matakevich for special teams snaps. That’s mildly shocking.

Personnel tendencies

This article could also be a tutorial for “how to be an NFL nerd.” Next up we’ll head over to sharpfootballstats.com and check out personnel grouping frequency. Feel free to click through and check out the full table, but here’s some notes on the Buffalo Bills’ tendencies. We’ll focus on the offense with a quick primer on language before we do.

Feel free to skip this if you already know, but it’s common to use abbreviations like 11 or 21 personnel when discussing offenses. NFL teams are allowed to have five “skill position” players on the field (RBs, TEs, and WRs). The numbers are said like “eleven” or “twenty-one” but should be interpreted more like “1/1” or “2/1.” The first number is how many RBs were on the field. The second is tight ends. The number of WRs is whatever it would take to reach five. So 21 personnel would be two RBs, one TE, and two WRs.

  • Buffalo spends most of their time in 11 personnel (one RB, one TE, three WRs) at 61 percent.
  • That number is pretty average though, with the league at 59 percent.
  • They’re in 21 personnel (two backs) 9 percent of the time, which is right around league average.
  • Buffalo spends about 10 percent of their time in 12 personnel (two tight ends). That’s about HALF the league average.
  • Here’s the fun fact. They’ve had 38 snaps, or 11 percent of their play time in 10 personnel (no tight ends).
  • Buffalo’s 11 percent in 10 personnel if about 5x the league average of 2 percent. The Bills account for 16 percent of the league total snaps in 10 personnel. They’re behind only Arizona, the Kings of 10 at 97 snaps in that grouping (25 percent of play time)

Offensive Tendencies by week

The aggregate numbers from Sharp Football Stats are great for overall tendencies, but more nuance can be cool. So let’s add some. With a chart!

This is pretty straightforward. The numbers indicate the average number of the personnel type on the field for each game. There are some pretty intriguing notes here.

  • Buffalo struggled to put up points against Pittsburgh and it was by far the highest amount of WRs hitting the field that week. More wide receivers likely means less pass protection.
  • The RBs and TEs pretty closely mirror each other pattern-wise.
  • After being nearly neglected in Week 1, the TE position (aka “Dawson Knox”) has definitely been worked in better.

Where’s all the defensive charts and whatnot?

First and foremost, if I tried to regurgitate everything this would be an awful read. In deciding what to “shortchange,” the defense is the obvious answer. Buffalo has been a lot more consistent with what they do on defense and I believe the weekly notes have covered it well.

The Buffalo Bills’ base defense is nickel, with Taron Johnson often approaching or outright hitting the 100 percent club mark. The only significant deviation so far this season was the game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, the Bills went faster than nickel, using a dime defense roughly one-third of the time (and nickel the other two-thirds ).

That’s all for now, if there’s something you wanna know that I didn’t address, ask away in the comments.