clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2020 Penalty Recap: Buffalo Bills’ Most Wanted

It’s time for some offseason finger pointing!

Now that all the games are done with we can settle in and get to the important stuff—like analyzing penalty data. This works quite well with a cherished offseason tradition known as “finger pointing.” Let’s dive way, waaaaaaaay too deep into penalty data and see which of our beloved Buffalo Bills deserves the most jeering.


First things first. I’ll be doing top-five lists for some pertinent categories but if you’d like to follow along with the full list of players and see more penalty data than a sane mind can handle in one table, jump to the bottom where I have a special treat for the penalty nerds like me. It’s not mobile-friendly but data rarely is.

By Count

When most people think of highly penalized players this is what they think of. And it’s not a bad start, all things considered. Daryl Williams, Brian Winters, and Tre’Davious White aren’t shocking in the top five. Offensive linemen and corners routinely land on the most-penalized lists due to being on the field more often than most positions and being prone to common flags like false starts, holding, and pass interference.

That means although it’s a three-way tie at the top, Ed Oliver sticks out a little bit. Oliver had a trio of neutral-zone infractions to go with two offsides flags. Add in an illegal-use-of-hands and two roughing-the-passer flags and Jerry Hughes finally has an heir to the throne. I know people will be curious and the answer is four. Hughes had one neutral zone, two offside, and one roughing call this year.

The N/A category has historically been fairly high and this year ties at the top. This is the result of all those illegal shifts and formations that can’t be attributed to a single player. A couple delay of games fall here as well.

Penalty Yards

Illegal shift and formation are like the free play of the defense. The refs won’t blow the whistle even though nothing the offense does matters thanks to the flag. That’s why the N/A category is not only highest for total yards lost due to penalty but why it’s the only “player” where negated outpaces the assessed. Buffalo lost a lot of yards thanks to mental errors.

Interestingly, we add two new names with Mitch Morse and Jordan Poyer replacing Oliver and Williams. Morse joins the fray with a lot of negated yards on holding calls. Poyer had two unnecessary roughness flags join a 46-yard defensive pass interference. DPI can add up quickly.

Downs Given

I won’t spend much time here because honestly this is a pretty nice “worst” list. A single play can give multiple free downs. For instance, punt penalties can give your opponent four more tries. Fourth-down offsides calls give three. You get the idea. There’s no surprise this list is dominated by defensive players, but no single player gave up a lot of free downs this year.

Points negated

Did it seem like the Buffalo Bills negated a lot of touchdowns this year? They did. Five is a lot. They had zero last year and only one in 2018. Ike Boettger’s came on a holding flag. You might recall the Ryan Bates oddity as he was an eligible receiver and called for offensive pass interference. Those illegal shifts and formations come back to haunt us again, negating three touchdowns.

Penalty Harm

After looking at all the charts above none of these should be too shocking. High counts like we saw with Winters. High yardage like we see with Poyer. High both in the case of Tre’Davious White. And of course the tragic tale that was illegal shifts and formations. We’re not done yet though!

Penalty Frequency

As hinted at above, certain positions are prone to higher penalty counts simply due to the fact they’re on the field so much. The 100 percent club players are at a disadvantage (except linebackers who aren’t susceptible to common penalty types). To adjust for that, I got the snap counts for all the players who had at least one flag for the Bills and worked out their penalty frequency. In this case less is more. Namely, this shows that Player X will get one flag every Y plays.

Overall I think the chart speaks for itself. As a note, I did remove Daryl Worley from frequency considerations. With only 20 snaps for the year he was so far out of whack compared to all the other players that were penalized it didn’t feel super valid to include him. The next-lowest player had 169 snaps, which is a much better sample. As a result, Taiwan Jones takes the crown as the most frequently penalized player based on time on the field.

Harm Frequency

This is the same idea except that Player X earned one unit of Harm every Y plays. Ryan Bates and that negated TD launch him to the top of the list. This is entirely due to the huge rating for negating a TD combined with relatively low playing time. This was Bates’s only flag. Everyone else on the list had at least four. N/A gets a break here as the flags under that category came on offense and special teams, meaning there’s a lot of snaps to pull from. To be exact 1,537. It’s kind of crazy to think that N/A still made the top five based on the high snap counts.


Giant Table of Penalty Fun!

Here it is. The giant table. One last thing before you dive into it. Penalty recaps are helped tremendously thanks to the data collection efforts of NFLpenalties.com. Go check out that site if you’re into penalties. This season a ton of new functionality was added. If you like what I do, you’ll like what they do.

Buffalo’s Most Wanted

Player Penalty Count Penalty Freq Penalty Yardage Yards Affected Total Yards Downs Given Points Negated Total Harm Harm freq Total snaps Main snaps STs snaps
Player Penalty Count Penalty Freq Penalty Yardage Yards Affected Total Yards Downs Given Points Negated Total Harm Harm freq Total snaps Main snaps STs snaps
A. Epenesa 2 169 20 0 20 2 0 4 84.5 338 270 68
A. Klein 2 380.5 11 0 11 2 0 5.1 149.2156863 761 622 139
A. Smith 1 242 10 0 10 1 0 1 242 242 47 195
B. Winters 7 97 40 28 68 7 0 8.8 77.15909091 679 602 77
C. Beasley 2 313 20 15 35 2 0 3.5 178.8571429 626 619 7
C. Ford 3 136.6666667 25 -3 22 3 0 2.2 186.3636364 410 383 27
D. Dawkins 6 173.5 25 12 37 6 0 5.7 182.6315789 1041 957 84
D. Johnson 1 455 5 0 5 1 0 0.5 910 455 213 242
D. Knox 1 461 0 0 0 1 0 0 N/A 461 427 34
D. Marlowe 1 426 10 3 13 1 0 1.3 327.6923077 426 230 196
D. Singletary 3 197 25 1 26 3 0 2.6 227.3076923 591 591 0
D. Williams 8 130.125 30 3 33 8 0 3.3 315.4545455 1041 973 68
D. Worley 1 20 9 0 9 1 0 1.9 10.52631579 20 15 5
E. Oliver 8 68.75 40 -11 29 8 0 6.9 79.71014493 550 541 9
G. Davis 4 191.75 20 0 20 4 0 2 383.5 767 735 32
I. Boettger 4 152.5 35 9 44 4 7 11.4 53.50877193 610 547 63
I. McKenzie 2 136 15 8 23 2 0 3.3 82.42424242 272 260 12
J. Allen 5 192 61 0 61 5 0 7.1 135.2112676 960 960 0
J. Feliciano 3 171.6666667 10 0 10 3 0 1 515 515 496 19
J. Hughes 4 148 20 0 20 4 0 2 296 592 585 7
J. Johnson 1 298 6 0 6 1 0 0.6 496.6666667 298 49 249
J. Norman 4 83.5 20 6 26 4 0 7.6 43.94736842 334 312 22
J. Poyer 3 370.3333333 76 0 76 3 0 10.6 104.8113208 1111 955 156
J. Zimmer 1 267 15 0 15 1 0 1.5 178 267 260 7
L. Wallace 3 209.3333333 53 0 53 3 0 7.3 86.02739726 628 587 41
M. Addison 3 210.6666667 25 0 25 3 0 3.5 180.5714286 632 569 63
M. Hyde 3 315 43 0 43 3 0 6.3 150 945 881 64
M. Milano 3 107.3333333 18 0 18 3 0 3.8 84.73684211 322 308 14
M. Morse 5 163.4 44 37 81 5 0 8.1 100.8641975 817 817 0
N/A 8 192.125 35 52 87 8 21 32.7 47.0030581 1537 1088 449
Q. Jefferson 6 95.83333333 20 0 20 6 0 6 95.83333333 575 510 65
Q. Spain 1 199 10 1 11 1 0 1.1 180.9090909 199 177 22
R. Bates 1 169 10 1 11 1 7 8.1 20.86419753 169 81 88
S. Diggs 4 225 30 16 46 4 0 4.6 195.6521739 900 895 5
S. Neal 4 88.75 23 18 41 4 0 4.1 86.58536585 355 97 258
T. Dodson 1 290 5 0 5 1 0 0.5 580 290 172 118
T. Jones 4 48 37 14 51 4 0 5.1 37.64705882 192 4 188
T. Kroft 2 194.5 5 0 5 2 0 0.5 778 389 298 91
T. Matakevitch 1 393 5 0 5 1 0 0.5 786 393 72 321
T. White 7 122.2857143 72 0 72 7 0 11.2 76.42857143 856 821 35
Z. Moss 1 359 15 0 15 1 0 1.5 239.3333333 359 359 0