I’ll cut to the chase a bit when it comes to Levi Wallace. Longtime readers know I’ve been on the Wallace bandwagon longer than most. I’m not saying improvement is impossible for the Buffalo Bills on defense, or even a bad goal. But aside for a couple performances (most notably vs. the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs), Buffalo lived up to their elite status and that included Wallace manning the CB2 spot all year.
I’m a big believer in the idea of a chain only being as strong as its weakest link. And Buffalo has a magnificent defensive chain. But we’re here to talk about Levi Wallace’s 2021 season. In his early career Wallace was often considered that weakest link. What about this past year?
One area that Levi Wallace has demonstrated notable improvement on since joining the league is right up above. Wallace flips from backpedal to running with his opponent with a hip flip that’s smooth and fast. As a result, he’s still in good position following the route.
I lopped off a bit of important info to the right. Wallace looks back because he knows he has help over the top and passes the route off. This play was selected because it shows the speed at which Wallace sees the play develop. He’s careful not to create a collision with his teammate and his patience pays off by cleaning up after a missed tackle.
This is the importance of a good backpedal. Physics matter and that big step or something similar needs to happen to plant like that. Wallace is right on top of it. Part of this is Buffalo’s love of zone defense, which allows the players to watch their opponent. Part of it is Wallace himself who uses sound mechanics to be able to stop and react to what he’s seeing.
I have a lot of praise for Wallace but I don’t want to convey the idea that he’s a nonstop highlight reel. All players will make mistakes and Wallace’s hips indicate he’s expecting the route to develop to the sideline or deeper than it does. He’s not prepared for the cutback as a result and doesn’t possess the acceleration/speed to make up for it.
Did you see it? I am actually pulling GIFs from more than one game. Notice the KC pants are white now. I wanted to show Wallace against the top competition in 2021, and what better way to do that than highlight the games at Arrowhead?
Wallace isn’t a stranger to lining up sideways like this. This can be done if a deeper route is anticipated (lets you turn faster to sprint earlier). It can be done to hedge between the need for a backpedal or a sprint. Or, in this case, it appears Buffalo was thinking run play. Wallace doesn’t even start to react like there’s a route and jumps on the run play.
Speedier receivers can force a team’s hand to a large degree. Try backpedaling on this and you’re getting burned. Wallace does a good job keeping up on this play but there’s a chunk of the route in the middle where an in-breaking pass could have been deadly. Luckily for the Bills the receiver breaks back to the sideline again. While Wallace’s man doesn’t get the ball, notice too that the play design results in Wallace having his back to the actual play, unable to help tackle. You might see where I’m going with this clip before I call it out in the summary.
The Bills aren’t widely known for press coverage but they did work some in versus the Chiefs. Wallace doesn’t disrupt the route all that much, but does follow it up with good coverage and even better reaction time coming back to the play.
I don’t usually end on a bad note, but here we are. I again want to point out that Wallace is not flawless. He takes a good angle but doesn’t show the patience he had up in Play 2.
Long story a bit longer, I’m still on the Levi Wallace bandwagon. The biggest knock on Wallace remains his overall athleticism. I don’t usually go with the best or worst plays as they can color the analysis too far in one direction. That said, let’s just say I could have really driven the lack of top-end speed home waaaaay harder had I wanted to. It is something that teams can exploit.
Wallace is a smart player with good fundamentals who fits into the Frazier/McDermott defense very well. He’s a quality CB2 and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring him back if I’m running the show at One Bills Drive. That is of course unless there’s a bidding war. Quality corners can be in high demand.
- All-22 Year in review: Levi Wallace
- All-22 Year in review: Dane Jackson
- Contract projection for CB Levi Wallace
- Bills don’t have in-house depth to replace Levi Wallace
- Free agents who could replace Levi Wallace
- 2022 NFL Draft prospects at CB
- Opinion: Bills should upgrade the CB2 spot from Levi Wallace this offseason