The Buffalo Bills squeaked out a 14-9 win over the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. This was Buffalo’s first full game without All-Pro linebacker Matt Milano. After Milano was hurt in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5, Dorian Williams was his initial replacement. Later in the game, Williams was taken out in favor of Tyrel Dodson, due to Williams’ tackling issues.
After a week of preparation under his belt, the Bills went back to the 2023 third-round rookie linebacker. Williams looked a bit more comfortable this past Sunday. He appeared to be playing fast and was always around the football. Let’s take a look at the rookie’s first career start and see how he did filling Matt Milano’s giant shoes.
Let’s Talk Numbers
Dorian Williams played every defensive snap except during the last series of the game when the Bills opted to bring in defensive back Siran Neal for coverage purposes. Williams’ final snap count stood at 65 plays (84%).
Williams had an impressive statistical debut, turning in 10 total tackles and one QB hit. Let’s turn to the tape for a better look at Williams’ whole story from Week 6.
Covering running back Saquon Barkley one-on-one out of the backfield is no easy task, but I’ll take this coverage every day of the week.
This coverage wasn’t so great. The Bills were in zone coverage here and Williams should have had an underneath zone towards the bottom of the screen. Both Williams and linebacker Terrel Bernard bit hard on the play-action run fake, which had them out of position to defend the pass. Williams realized this and tried to make contact with the tight end over the middle to slow him down on the crossing route, but he missed and the play resulted in a big gain. It was a nice play design by the Giants, and Williams (as well Bernard) fell for the play action.
I love the way Dorian Williams attacked downhill in the run game. He took on blockers with force and attitude, which is awesome to see. In this play, he smashed his blocker out of the way and was able to make the tackle.
Here, Williams showed a solid understanding of his run gap fit. If he took the first open lane, he’d have likely found himself caught up in the mess and behind the play. Instead, he stayed true to his gap responsibility and worked over top, fighting through blockers, and assisting with the tackle.
The Bills called a run blitz and stunt with Williams on this play. He did a nice job of selling his initial rush upfield and then looped around the slanting defensive lineman, all the while having the presence of mind to find the football and make the tackle. Nice play call by head coach/defensive coordinator Sean McDermott here.
Williams stayed patient and let his eyes guide him to the football. Williams appears to have a natural nose for the ball. He sniffed this one out through a lot of commotion.
Almost identical to Play 1 above, except this time it was on the opposite side and in a much bigger moment of the game. It appears that quarterback Tyrod Taylor liked the matchup of Barkley on Williams, staring him down the whole play. Williams did an excellent job of not over pursuing, staying on the inside hip, and giving Barkley just one way to go. Superb coverage in an important moment.
This play should excite Bills fans. On this rep, Williams looked like a freight train filling his run lane and taking on the lead blocker. Not only did he knock the lead blocker backward, but he also made the tackle. This was impressive!
Conversely, this play wasn’t so impressive, Williams missed a tackle and it resulted in a 34-yard gain. The motion seemed to get Williams slightly out of position at the snap. He actually did a good job of eluding the blocker, but in doing so he lost his balance and didn’t have a proper base to make a tackle.
Williams showed off his speed by tracking down Tyrod Taylor near the goal line. Discipline, good eyes, and hustle by Williams forced a big throwaway.
No one can replace Matt Milano and replicate everything he did for Buffalo’s defense, he was one of a kind. However, Dorian Williams’ play in Week 6 was promising. Williams displayed a high motor, solid football IQ, and tenacity. The game wasn’t too fast or too big for Williams and Bills fans should be excited to see what he can bring to the table going forward.