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Buffalo Bills opponent preview: Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner

A force up front could make for a long day for the Bills

The Buffalo Bills might have a problem. Rookie right tackle Spencer Brown went on the COVID-19 list and is unlikely to play vs. the Indianapolis Colts. The last time Brown was out the Jacksonville Jaguars had a field day knocking Josh Allen around thanks to Buffalo using the Brown injury as an excuse to shuffle three out of the five spots on the line. That makes the Colts’ most disruptive player on the line an easy choice for this week’s case study.


Background info

DeForest Buckner has a first team All-Pro selection to his credit. That was last season. Speaking of last season, he was my opponent preview before the Wild Card round. That’ll save us (well, me anyway) some time as we have recent analysis to go from. Click here for last season.

I praised Buckner for pretty much everything. He has the power to match his 6’7” frame and 300 lb-plus body. He’s also quick and agile. Buckner has a wide array of techniques at his disposal, some of which you’d expect more from a defensive end. He can line up on both sides. He plays hard through the whistle. The guy is a true nightmare for his opponent.

Stats

If you look at the stat sheet, Buckner doesn’t jump out. This season he has 4.5 sacks and 11 QB hits, which doesn’t scream “nightmare.” Especially when the league leader has 13 (Myles Garrett). Part of that though is the fact we’re used to lumping all defensive linemen together for stats. When factoring in just tackles, the league leader (Jeffery Simmons) has only 7.5, much closer to Buckner’s numbers. Aaron Donald has 6.0 so far this year.

Making that more impressive for Buckner is this number: 16.8 percent. That’s how often the Colts blitz. That means Buckner isn’t breaking free when teams get confused on who’s rushing. Teams know who is rushing. It’s DeForest Buckner. And he’s still winning. You came here for GIFs though. Let’s take a look at Buckner’s current season to see if the things I noted still hold true.

Play 1

I think most of this is self-explanatory. This isn’t quick pressure, but DeForest Buckner ends up setting off some alarm bells. It’s hard to say if it led to a rushed decision and interception but it sure didn’t hurt matters.

The frame I pause on I wanted to highlight the position Buckner forces. He drives his man to his right, which allows him to cut to the left as needed. If it weren’t for the chip, Buckner would have been in Ryan Tannehill’s face even faster.

Play 2

Buckner really isn’t doing much here but that’s still important. The fact that there’s automatically two people dedicated to him already means he’s winning. Overall it’s 11 versus 11, but in the “non-DeForest Buckner” part of the field it’s 9 versus 10, advantage Colts. And it’s funny that at one point it’s more like three-on-one for Buckner.

Play 3

This double team is a little more forceful trying to push Buckner out of the way. That doesn’t really work and look how many lanes he’s clogging all by his lonesome.

Play 4

Buckner, like his opponent, is shoving like a madman to make some headway. Like it so often is at the NFL level, it’s a stalemate. Buckner wants free, so he yanks his left arm free and twists his upper body, causing his opponent to lose his balance.

Play 5

I would applaud this move by a defensive end, let alone a defensive tackle. Buckner punches across his body (right hand to opponent’s left shoulder) to push toward our right. He hits hard enough to get some movement in the desired direction then finishes with a swim over his man. The result is pretty, pretty clear.


Summary

Anyone who has followed me has likely figured out I love watching the defensive line. The vast majority of the time DeForest Buckner is a delight for me to watch. I don’t look forward to it against the Bills.

Going back to the stats, one last little tidbit for hope. Along with a low blitz rate, the Colts have a low rate of hurries (worst) and pressures (fourth worst). They’re moderately capable at knockdowns (17th in league) and sacks (15th). So while Buckner is a force, overall there’s some signs that the Colts’ defense can be mitigated.