What a way to kick the season off! At least for the Buffalo Bills and their fans. Not so much for the Los Angeles Rams. I think here at Buffalo Rumblings we can live with that. With the games now counting, the playing time becomes more meaningful. Head coach Sean McDermott and crew have had no qualms tinkering in the past, but let’s start setting our baseline of personnel expectations for the 2022 season.
Offense (59 snaps)
The Buffalo Bills had a nearly complete 100% club. An eye poke to Rodger Saffold took him off the field for two snaps. Josh Allen and the remainder of the starting offensive line all hit the mark though. That line would be Dion Dawkins, Ryan Bates, Spencer Brown, Mitch Morse, and the aforementioned Saffold.
Nearing the 100% club was Gabriel Davis who had one more snap than Saffold. Davis is likely the new workhorse receiver for Buffalo as he looks to cement his WR2 status. Stefon Diggs came in a bit lower than I’d have expected at 64%, but that didn’t prevent him from having a good game. Isaiah McKenzie was the next man up, followed by Jamison Crowder and Jake Kumerow. Khalil Shakir was a bit of a surprise inactive.
The tight end pecking order was very straightforward with Dawson Knox seeing the field the majority of the time with Tommy Sweeney a distant second. Quintin Morris, who fought off O.J. Howard to stick on the roster, was inactive.
In the running back room, it was the Devin Singletary show. Based on production that’s likely to continue. Zack Moss was the number two and James Cook debuted in what might be described as “The worst possible ****ing manner for a running back to debut on a Sean McDermott team.” After a fumble on his first NFL carry, Cook was officially in the doghouse.
Time for the number crunch! There was widespread conjecture that Buffalo may elect to use more 12 personnel this year (1 RB, 2 TE). Not so much this week. Buffalo had two snaps or 3% of their plays with two tight ends. There was one play with an extra running back on the field (21 personnel). The Bills did show off Reggie Gilliam though. The fullback appeared on 23% of snaps, which is a pretty heavy dose for the Bills. It might have been higher if Gilliam hadn’t suffered a minor injury during the game as well.
Defense (67 snaps)
For defense there was no 100% club. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano came close, but each came off the field for one snap to allow Terrel Bernard and Tyrel Dodson onto the field. Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Taron Johnson, and Dane Jackson all came off for two snaps. In another semi-surprising move, Christian Benford got the start over Kaiir Elam AND had a greater playing time percentage. Keep an eye on this as it might be scheme dependent with Elam theoretically better suited for man, with Benford having the edge in zone.
There’s a couple weird position listings above with Von Miller still showing as a linebacker, which is also the likely culprit for Jordan Phillips being listed as a defensive end. Note, the Bills did in fact sprinkle in DE snaps for Phillips in his first game back with the team, but I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s his natural position.
This could create some arguments whether Buffalo is a 4-3 any longer or if Miller represents a shift to 3-4, but I think both are wrong personally. Buffalo is a nickel defense with a versatile front and has been for a long time. Players like Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, Ed Oliver, and plenty more have shown time-and-time again that Buffalo likes to move pieces around a lot up front.
As for playing time, did you notice that both Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa had more time than Von Miller? And Boogie Basham was in striking distance of Miller. Regarding Miller, our own Dan Lavoie had this to say: “Monster efficiency.”
I’d expect Ed Oliver to top the defensive tackle counts when he’s healthy, but an ankle injury in the first half took him off the field for a large chunk of the game. DaQuan Jones led the group, and performed admirably along with Tim Settle and J. Phillips.
For the number-crunching here, Buffalo played with exactly five defensive backs 100% of the time and two linebackers 100% of the time (unless you think Miller was actually playing LB). Even adjusting for Miller as an EDGE and Phillips as a DT, Buffalo had an extra defensive end on the field in lieu of a tackle on 12% of snaps. That’s pretty typical for the Bills the last few seasons, with them leaning toward a faster line to go with their nickel back end.
Special Teams (19 snaps)
Let’s swap around the format a bit this time. For special teams, the main point of intrigue aside from the lack of punting is who the core guys are as this can impact the active/inactive list each week. Your top guys are:
- Reggie Gilliam, 84%
- Tyler Matakevich, 68%
- Jake Kumerow, Jaquan Johnson, Siran Neal, Terrel Bernard, Tyler Bass, and Taiwan Jones all at 58%
A couple thoughts on this. First, there’s only one surprising name, which will actually be my second point. There might be some fluctuation to this as this was a bit of an odd game—at least by league standards. For Buffalo, not punting is becoming commonplace. The second point is that usually your kicker doesn’t get 50% or better for playing time on special teams. Tyler Bass making the list is notable and that’s the reason.