In 2020 the Buffalo Bills leaned heavily toward a cornerback-by-committee approach opposite Tre’Davious White. Half of that equation was Levi Wallace, despite Buffalo’s best attempts at replacing him. Again. Let’s check in on how Wallace did.
We saw the same thing with Josh Norman, and it often led to the same result. Easy chunk plays for the opponent. This can often be attributed to the Buffalo Bills’ scheme. You’ll notice that while Levi Wallace looks like he’s one-on-one, Taron Johnson is responsible for underneath. Russell Wilson is good enough to get the ball out there far enough to make the completion.
So yeah, between Wallace and Norman it’s clear the Bills still use a lot of zone. While those chunk plays like we see above are a hazard, a benefit is the ability to keep eyes up front. It doesn’t prevent the catch here but if you’ve been under the impression that the defensive backs swarm to the ball to gang tackle this is the reason why.
Just like we saw with Norman, Levi Wallace is asked to mix it up. Here we see a little contact to disrupt the route followed by man coverage.
I thought this was a fluke until I saw it several more times from Wallace. If you like Mahomes’s “no look passes” you should love Wallace’s “no look coverage.” The fact he even mirrors the hesitation move is astounding. That’s not to say Wallace is flawless in coverage but he has a good tool kit to pull from.
From what I saw, Levi Wallace was a bit more aggressive jamming receivers. He puts a little oomph into this one.
This play combines several of the above elements. Wallace has his eyes forward and drives forward to prevent a quick pass to the receiver he’s covering. He does get beat after but catches up. This was a play where his instincts were dead on. By watching his man react he times up the pass breakup.
This was a game I used to check out Josh Norman, so here’s the Wallace side of things. This is the first Kansas City drive and Wallace is already getting a little physical. In the second half both corners had some plays like this, but the Bills did seem to ask Wallace to do this more than Norman in the first half.
And here’s some zone work. A better throw and this is likely completed. The transition and coverage aren’t bad exactly, but they’re not good enough to beat elite talent like they’re up against here.
And here’s another example of Wallace reading and reacting well. He’s attuned to pretty subtle changes in body mechanics to make this happen.
It feels like I’ve written this summary before. For years. If Levi Wallace is your weakest link then you’ve got a strong chain. To be clear, I’m not claiming he was an All-Pro snub. I am claiming he’s a capable starter. The Bills have brought in a steady stream of possible replacements and Levi Wallace STILL ends up playing a ton on merit.
Going back to my weakest concept I should acknowledge that the Buffalo Bills defense had an underwhelming season. For the record, I do not think Wallace was the weakest link. Multiple factors were bigger contributors.
I’m comfortable with Buffalo working to keep Wallace as I have been for what seems like forever now. I’m also not opposed to looking for an upgrade. As we’ve seen several times now, that’s easier said than done.