Losing a meaningful contributor is tough in football. Every play you run on offense or defense is predicated on the idea that each person is capable of fulfilling their responsibility on that given play, and when new bodies are thrown into the mix, your confidence level in those plays isn’t the same.
But even more than just the replacement for that one player, an injury can set off a chain reaction that impacts other, seemingly unrelated players on the roster. Such is the case for two Buffalo Bills players in tight end Dawson Knox and cornerback Dane Jackson.
Situation: The Bills are without left tackle Dion Dawkins and center Mitch Morse.
Effect: Dawson Knox runs a pass route on fewer drop backs against the Detroit Lions than either of the previous two games.
Knox ran a pass route on 40 of Josh Allen’s 52 drop backs against the Lions (76.9%). He ran a route on 25 of Allen’s 30 drop backs against the Cleveland Browns (83.3%) and 41 of 50 drop backs against the Minnesota Vikings (82%). Knox was trending up in passing game usage over the last two games after being in the 70s in that metric for much of the season. But the injuries on the offensive line necessitated a few of his snaps, that may have otherwise been routes, instead become pass blocking snaps. It doesn’t change the situation immensely, but Knox had zero pass-blocking snaps in the two games leading up to Thanksgiving, per Pro Football Focus, and that was forced to change against Detroit.
Situation: The Bills are already without starting edge rusher Greg Rousseau and lose Von Miller during the game.
Effect: Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier blitzed Jared Goff on 17 of his 39 dropbacks (43.6%), which left Dane Jackson without help more often.
After bringing extra rushers 20.0% of the time against Jacoby Brissett, 16.1% against Kirk Cousins, 37.9% against Zach Wilson, and 2.9% against Aaron Rodgers, the Bills blitzed Jared Goff a staggering amount on Thanksgiving Day. Getting pressure has been an issue for the Bills’ front four in recent weeks, and without a healthy Miller, Buffalo ratcheted up the blitzing. The byproduct of this is that it leaves fewer men in coverage, and that leaves less help for cornerback Dane Jackson, who was targeted nine times for the second straight week — giving up six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Week 12 against Detroit marked the fourth time in 2022 that opposing passers have achieved a rating of greater than 100 by targeting Jackson in coverage. The trickle-down effect of blitzing is that it puts Jackson into man coverage snaps more often (where he allows a passer rating of 138.1 against his coverage in 2022) instead of zone coverage (where he allows a passer rating of 66.5 against his coverage).
Injuries don’t just hurt the unit due to the player being absent. They trickle through the rest of the defense or offense, and can force other players into less desirable roles. With the ACL tear ruled out for Miller, the Bills can hope that Dion Dawkins and Mitch Morse can join the future Hall of Famer back on the field soon and undo the dominos that have fallen.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!