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All-22 year in review: Buffalo Bills WR Emmanuel Sanders

One year stint?

The Buffalo Bills signed Emmanuel Sanders to fill the John Brown-sized hole in the heart of the fanbase. Often discussed as a bit of an afterthought on the team, Sanders ended up seeing the second-most snaps at receiver during the season. Sanders’s receiving stats mirror that of Dawson Knox with the exception of touchdowns. Only Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley were more frequently targeted. More importantly, Sanders’s 2021 stats are a clear step ahead of the season John Brown had in 2020. Pretty straightforward right? Bring the dude back if you can. Not so fast. Is Gabriel Davis ready to usurp the WR3 throne? And we can’t ignore Josh Allen either. Would any old guy put up monster numbers with Allen throwing to them? Let’s check in and see where the magic lies.

Play 1

The Process is Josh Allen. Trust the Josh Allen. Block for the Josh Allen. It’s all for the Josh Allen. It’s pretty heads up on Sanders’s part, as he needs to make a slight adjustment to his speed to make sure he’s in the right spot.

Play 2

That’s quite a stutter step and lane shift. This seemed to be a popular route for Emmanuel Sanders. He doesn’t always use this move with it, but you can see why it’s a good combo. Unfortunately Allen doesn’t have time in the pocket because there’s a window to hit Sanders for a big gain. That does assume Sanders was in the progression at the right time of course, but it’s not a big stretch to think this was a real possibility.

Play 3

This is pretty similar, but the defender does a better job using the sideline as a 12th defender. Not better enough. But better. Great catch.

Play 4

More good stuff from Sanders as he gets to a deep zone quickly enough to make this throw have a chance—a Josh Allen chance to be precise. At this depth, this is basically double coverage on Sanders.

Play 5

This is a nice route—and a different route. He’s also on top of the catch by Stefon Diggs and gets right out in front to block.

Play 6

Finally we have some work from the slot on a very deliberate quick pass. This entire play seems designed for exactly this outcome. We have some rare YAC for the first down as well.

Next Gen Stats route chart

This is the chart from the Jacksonville Jaguars game. The rest of Sanders’s charts can be found here. Remember that these are only the passes where he was targeted. By itself this is a pretty slick chart. Looking at the full list shows the Bills trusted him running a pretty full tree.


I usually do seven or more GIFs but honestly ran out of points to make with Emmanuel Sanders. The GIFs on hand and the route charts are pretty conclusive. The guy has a nice route tree at his disposal. Play 4 shows off some speed. Emmanuel Sanders is a good receiver and, as a WR3 like he wound up in Buffalo, I might go so far as to say he still presents enviable talent at the position. In a vacuum, fans should be screaming their heads off to make sure Sanders sticks around (which would be very difficult without any air).

Orchard Park is not a vacuum though. Orchard Park has Gabriel Davis and that’s a large part of the question. Since this is the Sanders half of the article pairing, Sanders has a route-tree advantage. If the cap and roster-size limits weren’t a thing, well, you keep both. Since those things exist, my personal expectation is that Davis gets the nod. Sanders would be great to have back but there are contract articles on Buffalo Rumblings that will better explain the hesitancy I have. Of course this all assumes Sanders wants to play another year, and another year in Buffalo to be more precise.

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