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Revisiting five Buffalo Bills to watch at the Washington Commanders

That was a beatdown

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills traveled to FedExField to take on the Washington Commanders, and while it was a two-score game for the first three quarters, it never felt particularly close. Sure, it wasn’t a 70-20 drubbing like the one the Miami Dolphins laid on the Denver Broncos, but the Bills eventually pulled away and won 37-3. Buffalo would have maintained the shutout if not for a 51-yard field goal from Joey Slye with 46 seconds remaining — a play that was more for a moral victory than anything else.

Buffalo came in and dominated all three phases of the game, and even when Washington was able to find some rhythm and move the football a bit, the Bills’ tenacious defense stepped up and made plays. Buffalo was the better team from start to finish on Sunday.

Our list of players to watch this week was a hit-and-miss bunch, though there were certainly more hits than misses. Here’s how our five players fared on Sunday.

RB Damien Harris

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the Bills’ backfield is James Cook’s world, and the other two running backs are just living in it. Once again, Cook dominated the snaps, touches, and yardage out of the backfield, as he played 42 snaps (62% of the team’s total), carried the ball 15 times for 98 yards, and caught two passes for 14 yards. Harris only appeared on nine offensive snaps (13% of the team’s total), carrying five times for 15 yards. He continues to trail Latavius Murray in snaps, as the 33-year old veteran played on 17 snaps (25% of the team’s total). Murray seems to have settled in as the team’s third-down back of choice, leaving Harris for the few snaps that remain. On the year, Harris is just ahead of fullback Reggie Gilliam in terms of total snaps, as he’s appeared on 32 snaps on offense compared to 23 for Sledge.

WR Stefon Diggs

The weather wasn’t nearly as bad as projected, so Buffalo was able to throw the ball normally throughout the contest. While quarterback Josh Allen’s passing numbers were exceptionally modest against a stingy Washington defense (20/32, 218 yards, one touchdown, one arm-punt interception), his numbers when targeting Diggs were as exceptional as usual. Diggs saw a game-high 12 targets, and he caught a game-high eight passes for a game-high 111 yards. He didn’t haul in Allen’s lone touchdown pass — that honor went to Gabe Davis, whose 35-yard touchdown grab was his only reception among his four targets, including the aforementioned arm-punt — but he did find space all day, regardless of which corner the Commanders put across from him. The struggles of the non-Diggs personnel are still maddening, but it didn’t bite the Bills in a game where their defense was suffocating. Someone other than Diggs will need to make some plays when the Bills play better competition, though.

RT Spencer Brown

Buffalo’s offensive line was exceptional yet again this week. Brown was whistled for a holding penalty in the first half, a penalty that negated a long scramble by Josh Allen, but for the second straight week, he faced off against an elite pass rusher and didn’t allow a sack. Allen was given plenty of time to throw, and when he did take hits, it was while he was scrambling to extend plays after Washington covered his wideouts well. Brown needs to continue this run of stellar play, as does the entire offensive line when the Dolphins come to town on Sunday.

DE Greg Rousseau

The Commanders’ offensive line allowed a party to take place in the offensive backfield, and everyone on the Bills’ defense was invited. Granted, some of the nine sacks Buffalo notched weren’t all on the offensive line — there were a few of them in particular that looked like quarterback Sam Howell just held the ball far too long — but there were multiple plays where Buffalo defenders entered the backfield nearly untouched, and nearly right after the snap. Rousseau did notch his first sack of the season, but he was arguably the third-best defensive end on the day. He was overshadowed by Leonard Floyd, who had two sacks, and A.J. Epenesa, who had a sack and an interception that he returned 32 yards for a touchdown. No matter, though. Buffalo’s pass rush continued its trend of looking outstanding even without future Hall of Famer Von Miller. The Next Gen Stats from the NFL had Buffalo pressuring Sam Howell on 69% of his drop backs, a nice effort from Buffalo given that they rarely blitzed on the day.

DT Ed Oliver

We’ve been waiting for Oliver to fulfill his potential, and there are some who had given up on that ever truly happening entering this season. However, Oliver has quietly been a dominant force through three games, as he’s fully healthy and attacking opposing offenses without mercy. Oliver has 15 quarterback pressures so far, second among defensive tackles, and he also has a league-best 27.3% quarterback pressure rate so far. On Sunday, Oliver was a wrecking ball again, notching 1.5 sacks, four tackles, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. It wasn’t just what he did himself, though, as he continued to maintain his gap integrity and keep his linebackers clean. Between Oliver and DaQuan Jones (who also totaled 1.5 sacks, five tackles, one tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits on Sunday), the interior of Buffalo’s defensive line has helped first-year starting middle linebacker Terrel Bernard to shine so far. On Sunday, Bernard had an incredible leaping interception, two sacks, a team-high seven tackles, and a fumble recovery. Oliver’s impact can’t be overstated, but it would be great if he could keep the good times rolling in the upcoming Week 4 showdown against Miami.