Through the first four games of the 2022 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills’ defensive line has been dominant during the team’s 3-1 start. Edge rushers Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, and Boogie Basham have teamed up with defensive tackles Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, Tim Settle, and DaQuan Jones to key one of the league’s most dominant groups.
All told, the Bills have accounted for 13 sacks during the month of September, and much of that has come without the use of blitzes. It’s not an overstatement to say that Buffalo’s defensive line is nasty—and deep. Let’s head to the tape to get a better look at what’s transpired over the last month.
Against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1, there was a coming-out party for the Bills’ defensive line. Buffalo produced pressure with four all game long, to the detriment of quarterback Matthew Stafford’s night. On this play, Phillips and Jones man the interior while Miller and defensive end A.J. Epenesa are at the edge rusher spots. At the snap, Miller is doubled-teamed by the right guard and tackle. With Miller double-teamed, Jones is now one-on-one with the center and transitions from bull rush to swim move to get past him. On the other side of the line, Phillips and Epenesa twist. Phillips gets a step on the left tackle. The pocket completely collapses, and Stafford is sacked.
This was perhaps one of the most impressive showings from the line against Los Angeles. Phillips and Miller drop into coverage. Rousseau, Settle, and linebacker Matt Milano are the rushers. Settle pushes the left tackle back, while Rousseau throws the right tackle away and sacks Stafford. Creating pressure with four guys is hard enough, let alone three.
Here we see three Bills overwhelm someone in their matchup. Miller beats the left tackle off the edge with speed and turns the corner on him. Phillips pushes the left guard directly back, and Rousseau does the same to the right tackle until both are in the face of Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The pocket is completely collapsed, and Tannehill has to throw the ball away.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson drops back, and both Jones and Settle keep contain with their rush lanes up the middle (this is extremely important with a rushing QB like Jackson). Miller bursts by the right tackle and bends around him (to the point the offensive tackle’s back is bending) and gets the sack. This play is successful because both Jones and Settle maintain their rush lanes up the middle so Jackson can’t easily bolt.
Here against the Miami Dolphins, Settle engages with the left guard at the snap and holds his ground. Settle then overwhelms the guard by throwing him down to the ground and making the tackle on the running back. Jones also makes his presence felt on the play by completely stalemating both the right guard and center as they try to get movement on him. Both of the Bills’ tackles snuffed out the running game on this play.
Basham lines up on the left side of the line here. At the snap, he beats the right tackle in the hand fight, then goes to his swim move to get past him. Basham then goes to put his hands up in the air to disrupt quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s throwing motion. Defensive tackle Brandin Bryant pushes the right guard back with a bullrush. There’s no room for Bridgewater to throw here, which forces the errant and difficult pass.
Buffalo’s defensive line gets gritty against the run on this play. At the snap, the left side of the offensive line can’t get any movement on either Settle or Basham. On the other side of the line, we see Miller take on the pulling left guard, which stops him from turning up the hole and becoming a lead blocker downhill. This results in three Bills shooting through gaps and tackling running back J.K. Dobbins.
Watch Settle. He pulls off one of the more impressive individual plays I’ve seen by any player against the run game. At the snap, the center and right tackle pull left, and the left guard goes to block Settle. The defensive tackle walks the left guard into the backfield and obliterates the right tackle as he’s pulling. It’s hard for me to adequately put into words how impressive it is to take a pulling right tackle and push him into the running back and—Just. Ruin. The. Play. Because of Settle’s effort, Lawson comes up with a nice cleanup tackle because the running back has nowhere to go.
Let’s wrap things up with another look against the Rams. The interior of the defensive line gets the job done in the pass rush on this play. Oliver uses a rip and shed on the center, then explodes by him up the middle. To Oliver’s left we have Phillips, who pushes the right guard all the way back. The interior pressure by Philips and Oliver forces Stafford to stop looking downfield and go for a check down to running back Darrell Henderson.
Miller has been a big catalyst to the Bills’ defensive line levelling up thus far in 2022. The fact that he takes up so much attention from opposing players has helped others blossom. Certainly, Miller serves as a mentor for the young guys on the line—a unit with a lot of great depth. Without starters such as Oliver and Phillips, the line continues to ball out with guys like Settle stepping up. Additionally, young, upcoming stars like Rousseau still have untapped potential. Throughout the first quarter of the NFL season, Buffalo’s talented first line of defense has excelled in every phase of the game.