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Bills vs Dolphins All-22 review: Analysis of Buffalo’s depleated defensive backfield

The tale of the tape reveals a DB carousel

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills’ defensive backfield injuries were well documented ahead of Week 3’s showdown with the Miami Dolphins. Being down four starters in the secondary from Week 1 certainly presented a unique challenge for the Bills. An All-22 view will give us some insight to the type of day Buffalo’s depleated secondary produced.

Play 1

This play occurred on the Dolphins' third drive of the game. You can tell the mantra “keep Tyreek Hill in front of you” was well engrained into cornerback Kaiir Elam’s mind. Elam gives Hill a ten-yard cushion throughout the play, so much so that it creates a giant opening for Hill to sit down in for the completion. Though this pass gained 11 yards, I think the Bills are happy with this outcome; Hill catches the ball with ZERO yards after the catch. Buffalo’s safety, Jaquan Johnson, makes a nice tackle here.

Play 2

It appears the Bills were a little out of sync on the Dolphins’ second touchdown of the game. Let’s give quarterback Tua Tagovailoa his due credit here. He made a great throw on this play. Pay attention to Jaquan Johnson. He’s trying to relay a message to Elam, who never seems to receive said message. While Johnson is trying to get Elam’s attention, the play begins. By the time Johnson turns his attention to the play, Miami’s wide receivers are already three yards into their routes. Bills Mafia is used to two All-Pro safeties holding down the backend. Unsurprisingly, it appears the new guys still need to work out some communication issues.

Play 3

Buffalo perfectly handled this play. The entire defensive backfield keeps Miami’s receivers in front of them and everyone adeptly fills their zone responsibilities. It also helps that the defensive line gets quick pressure on this play.

Play 4

Bills slot cornerback Taron Johnson must have intently studied the Dolphins ahead of Week 3. He immediately recognized this play as soon as the ball was snapped. It’s not often you see a defensive player get to the ball on a screen pass before the wide receiver. If he looked for the ball here he might have had an easy interception.

Play 5

Another solid coverage performance on this play by Buffalo’s secondary. Elam and practice squad call-up Ja’Marcus Ingram smoothly pass off the switch routes. Buffalo leaves nothing but tight windows for Tagovailoa.

Play 6

The Bills show a little different look here—showing pressure at the line of scrimmage but then backing off at the snap. Also, Buffalo shows a 1-high safety look at the snap, but notice how safety Damar Hamlin runs back at the snap to actually play Cover 2. It's nice to see these young safeties able to mix up looks. The cornerbacks perform a solid bump-and-run technique and the linebackers have great depth on this play. This was a nicely executed 3rd & LONG play by the Bills.

Play 7

Ingram played well after being thrust into the game following cornerback Christian Benford’s hand injury. But on this play, he gets beat. At the snap, he opens his hips to run because he has outside leverage, but wide receiver Jaylen Waddle quickly eats up his cushion and stems his route to get leverage. Eventually, Ingram loses sight of Waddle and gets beat on the corner route.

Play 8

Plays like this are inexcusable when it’s 3rd & 22. This completion led to the go-ahead touchdown for the Dolphins. Jaylen Waddle runs a route almost identical to Stefon Diggs’s second touchdown I highlighted in my Week 2 article. Waddle fools Jaquan Johnson with a “corner-post” route and goes for 45 yards. This was a backbreaker for the Bills.


Even though the Buffalo Bills didn't claim victory in Week 3, it was promising to see that the defensive backfield’s deepest depth held up well against one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. I will take holding an opposing NFL quarterback—and one who many believe is coming into his own—to 186 yards passing and only one touchdown any day of the week.