FanPost

Master Class - NFL Offseason 101 by Brandon Beane

I know that everyone is really excited about the Von Miller signing. I am too, but I think the offseason that the Brandon Beane and the Bills put together was way more than just the one signing and I would say that it was a master class on GMing. I that it is not a popular opinion to admit that this team has any holes and flaws. While I understand and appreciate the positivity of that opinion. I am not that kind of fan. I see problems and I have to try and figure out solutions. That is what I like about this community. Collectively we can noodle over solutions. The Bills are definitely a very good team and we should enjoy that, but they are far from perfect and Brandon Beane agrees. he told us so this offseason. He made it a mission to fill some matchup holes.

The Matchup Problem:

Many of you know that I think of games as a series of matchups. Many of you also know that I think the 2021 were highly matchup dependent. The Bills had the highest variation of DVOA (Value Over Average) as a team (offense+defense) and for just their defense in the history of DVOA (since 1985). What that means is that they were either the most inconsistent team in the NFL since 1985 or they were the most matchup dependent team in the NFL since 1985. Neither is good, but I think there is lots of evidence that points to the fact that they were highly matchup dependent. There were certain types of teams that they did not match up well against.

Non-Favorable Matchups for the 2021 Bills' Defense:

  • Teams with a power inside RB and OL: The Bills struggle to contain power up the middle. Their DTs were built for speed and agility, not for run-stopping. Star in his day was decent, but not in the end.
  • Teams with an above average pass blocking OL: The DL was good at getting pressure against weaker OLs, but not good enough to ruffle a QB if the OL was above average.
  • Teams with a vet QB: Rookie, 2nd year, and backup QBs can be easily rattled. The Bills' DL was good at pressure, so non-vet QBs could be rattled into making mistakes. With 11 regular season games against Rookie, 2nd year, and backup QBs, the schedule was very favorable for this matchup.
  • Teams with more than one good fast receiver: The 2020 Bills were very, very slow in the defensive secondary. Our DBs are great zone DBs and zone is the great talent equalizer. But it only helps equalize the talent differential to a point. Speed is speed. Having a slower secondary also limits the schemes you can run. Man coverage is not really an option unless your DBs have speed to match.

Non-Favorable Matchups for the 2021 Bills' Offense:

  • Teams with an above average DL (especially interior DTs): If you remember most of the poor offensive performances last year, it was mostly against teams that could get to Josh early and from the inside. Once Josh is on the run he can do some special things, but he also can be pressured into some bad things. It is a high risk/reward situation
  • Teams with a very strong Cover-2 zone defense: Even though there were not many liabilities on offense, the 2021 Bills were very one dimensional and as a result, teams could easily sit in Cover-2 zone and force the Bills to dink and dunk down the field. This lead to many stalled drives and lead to Josh being forced to create off script. Again... high risk/high reward and low probability.

Evidence of the Matchup Problem:

The Bills had 8 games against playoff teams last year. The Bills had three wins in those 8 games. Two of their wins were against the Pats and one great win against the Chiefs. The Five playoff team losses were Steelers, Titans, Bucs, Pats, Chiefs. And they had two non-playoff team losses (Jags, Colts). Let's see how the matchups looked.

Wins against Non-Playoff Teams

52074602007_6c960f45df_o.0.png


Wins against Playoff Teams

52076131385_463585b7f9_o.0.png

Losses against Non-Playoff and Playoff Teams

52074602017_bfdd5714e1_o.0.png

It is easy to see that certain matchups gave us some real struggles. Most of our losses were against teams with 3 or more non-favorable matchups. The Chiefs win was certainly a great win early in the year, but the Chiefs were also without Chris Jones in that first meeting, so that removed one of their matchup advantages against the Bills in the first meeting.

The Master Class:

If you believe (like I do) that the 2021 Bills were highly matchup dependent and that we were also the benefactors of a historically easy schedule, then you were concerned coming into the offseason given that the 2022 schedule was going to be much tougher and there was very little cap space to make FA moves.

This is where Professor Beane stepped in. Let's see how he did in fixing some of the major matchup liabilities.

Non-Favorable Matchups for the 2021 Bills' Defense:

Matchup Issue #1: Teams with a power inside RB and OL:

Matchup Issue #1 Potential Solution: Beane knew that he had to get more stout on the interior DL. Adding Tim Settle and Daquan Jones who are both known for being good run-stoppers over their

Matchup Issue #2: Teams with an above average pass blocking OL

Matchup Issue #2 Potential Solution: Von Miller is the magic elixir for this issue. He has the closing speed and technique to help this unit get quickly to the QB (and have the speed to chase around athletic QBs -€” like Mahomes). But all of the other additions should help here too. Settle, Phillips, and Lawson are decent additions that can cause some disruption.

Matchup Issue #3: Teams with a vet QB

Matchup Issue #3 Potential Solution: This issue will also be helped by the additions on the DL, but the addition of more speed and physicality to the secondary will also help. Elam is good in press man coverage. This is not a defense that the Bills have been able to run prior to this year. Elam can play press man when needed and disrupt quick routes that teams may use to beat the rush.

Matchup Issue #4: Teams with more than one good fast receiver

Matchup Issue #4 Potential Solution: This is where Elam, Benford, McCloud, and to some extent Bernard can really help. Tre White is an elite zone CB, but he is still just an average to above average man CB when going up against elite speed. In the past, if a team had a single top receiver, Tre could lock up on him. But the issue is that if he plays man, then that means the rest of the DBs and LBs might get caught in man coverage. If the opponent has more than one good fast WR, then the lack of speed at the other DB positions will be exposed. Elam really, really helps this situation. After the last KC game, Beane said that he needed to add speed and he did. Speed is not everything. These guys need to also play zone and run-support, but speed is such a critical element to allow the defense to adapt to the matchups for each opponent.

Non-Favorable Matchups for the 2021 Bills' Offense:

Matchup Issue #5: Teams with an above average pass-rushing DL (especially interior DTs)

Matchup Issue #5 Potential Solution: The addition of Rodger Saffold by all accounts will not help our pass protection, but none of our OGs were that great at it last year either so, maybe he just keeps us status quo. This is the one matchup that I feel the least confident about whether it has been solved or not. But the hope (for me at least) is that Kromer can coach up this OL. He has a very good track record of teaching man/gap run blocking, zone run-blocking, and pass pro at all of his stops in the NFL. The one issue that I have seen with this OL unit over the years has been the handling of stunts. This OL has really struggled in this area. I hope Kromer can help here. The increase of athleticism on the interior should help that issue from day 1. Covering stunts is mostly about being aware, but having the quickness to recover and shift. On paper, they should be slightly better, but this is a skill that they need reps on. It does not help that Frazier's defense does not do a lot of stunting, so they may not see it naturally in practice. Kromer may have to manufacture some stunting reps.

Matchup Issue #6: Teams with a very strong Cover-2 zone defense

Matchup Issue #6 Potential Solution:

This is the issue that is more abstract than the others. Teams could play so much Cover-2 because of two reasons. The first reason is that the Bills could not effectively run the ball (even against light boxes), so teams did not feel that they needed to commit a safety to play in the box to help the run. As a result, they kept both safeties back to just clog up throwing lanes and snuff out any opportunities for YAC. The Bills should be able to keep defenses more honest with their running game. Kromer, Saffold, and James Cook should help. The potential addition of more 12 personnel should also help. By coming less 1-dimensional, the Bills should be able to force some teams out of the Cover-2 shell. The second reason that teams kept running the Cover-2 shell was that the Bills did not have a true deep threat. Diggs and Davis have decent speed (4.4 and 4.5 respectively), but they do not have deep threat speed. No defense was really scared of losing anyone deep. Deep speed terrifies DCs and it forces them to do very conservative things which opens up opportunities for the rest of the offense. But because the Bills did not have that threat, teams could still commit their safeties to clogging up space and coverage. Some defenses would cheat over a safety to help with Diggs, but it was never a full commitment of resources like most teams have to do with Tyreke Hill (and receivers like him). Khalil Shakir does not have deep threat speed, so he doesn't totally solve this issue. But what he does is increase the overall speed of the unit and has the positionless skill set which helps them inch towards what they need for this unit. His speed is definitely fast enough to scare the LBs, Safeties, and slot CBs. Neither Beasley or Crowder has that.

Summary:

I have been amazed at what Beane has done this past offseason. He put in place potential solutions for all of the major holes that this team had last year and he did it with very little cap space. Time will tell if these solutions were enough to really fill these matchup issue holes or not, but there was a definitive intent with every free agent signing and pick. It was truly a master class on GMing. He did not sit back and say "hey, we made it two years in a row to the playoffs. We are great. We should just waltz to a Super Bowl". Instead, he had a plan to be aggressive and deliberate. He saw the holes and he filled them. No GM is perfect. There are still some head-scratcher moves from time to time (e.g. Vernon Butler? Terrel Bernard in the 3rd? Luke Tenuta?), but overall I am so glad we have a GM that grows and learns and works with his head coach. His personal growth echoes the "Growth Mentality" mantra of the team. Because of this offseason, I have much more hope about the team and its ability to live up with the hype and expectations that have been put on them. Let's get this thing going so we can see if they did enough!!!

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.