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Bills vs. Dolphins Week 18 snap counts: Buffalo’s depth provides ultimate spark

Will the injury bug going to be too much to overcome, though?

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

All’s well here in the land of Bills Mafia. The wagon circling has intensified on the heels of the Buffalo Bills securing their fourth-consecutive AFC East Division title after beating the Miami Dolphins, 21-14, on Sunday Night Football. Quarterback Josh Allen nearly beat the Bills himself by turning the ball over three times (two interceptions and a fumble) but he came alive in the second half and did his usual heroics to secure the victory and to bring his career record to 10-2 against the Dolphins.

Prior to Sunday’s game, Buffalo elevated running back Leonard Fournette from the practice squad, resulting in Latavius Murray being a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Defensive end Kingsley Jonathan went back to being a healthy scratch as edge rusher Von Miller re-entered the lineup (and produced absolutely zero in the box score).

Buffalo was as healthy as its been in a while but, of course, more injuries were added to the list and will be worth monitoring as preparation begins for next weekend’s Super Wild Card Weekend game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Let’s dive into the Week 18 snap counts and talk position battles on both sides of the ball.

Bills offensive snap counts (78 snaps)

Left tackle Dion Dawkins (90%) cut open his hand at some point in the second half and was sidelined for a total of eight offensive plays, resulting in Ryan Van Demark (10%) picking up some starting snaps for the first time this season. Nonetheless, Van Demark was very solid during an important drive. The interior line was bullied all game long, however and Allen had little to no time to go through his reads.

Despite the three turnovers, Allen (100%) still accumulated over 425 total yards, led the team in rushing yards, and orchestrated the game-winning drive ending in a touchdown catch by tight end Dawson Knox (47%). It was somewhat expected due to Miami’s stout run defense, but both running back James Cook (62%) and Leonard Fournette (21%) failed to find any sort of consistency — with each totaling less than 3.0 yards per carry. Running back Ty Johnson (17%) caught a pass across the middle of the field right before halftime and should’ve walked right into the end zone had he not been blatantly targeted by Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker. The hit resulted in a head injury for Johnson, forcing him out for the rest of the game.

Wide receiver Gabe Davis (23%) picked up a knee injury while running a route and was forced to leave the game after just 18 snaps. Nonetheless, this may have been a blessing in disguise as both of Allen’s interceptions were targeting Davis, and it was clear that the two aren’t on the same page when it comes to the correct read/route. With Davis sidelined, opportunities opened up for wide receivers Trent Sherfield (71%), Khalil Shakir (77%) and of course, Stefon Diggs (88%). Sherfield made a wild circus catch for Buffalo’s first touchdown of the game and built some rapport with Allen in the process, while Shakir and Diggs led the way with six and seven receptions, respectively. It was nice to see Diggs put up a solid stat line after so many weeks of underwhelming production.

Tight end Dalton Kincaid (55%) is going to be very good, folks. He hauled in seven receptions (on eight targets) for 84 yards and seems to get better as the weeks go by. After passing wide receiver Sammy Watkins for the most receptions in a season by a Bills rookie, Kincaid broke yet another record by passing Pete Metzelaars for most receptions in a season by a Bills tight end.

Bills defensive snap counts (52 snaps)

The biggest injury to monitor is cornerback Rasul Douglas (48%), who picked up a knee injury and was forced to sit out for the rest of the game. Douglas has been a revelation for Buffalo and has led the league in takeaways since coming to the team in Week 9. Aside from one or two rough plays, cornerback Dane Jackson (52%) filled in nicely while Christian Benford (100%) forced his fourth turnover in the last five games. Nonetheless, Buffalo’s secondary is still deep and made Miami’s top-ranked offense look silly in the second half.

Safety Taylor Rapp (25%) secured the game-winning interception and remains one of the best offseason signings by general manager Brandon Beane. Considering we’re approaching the potential end of the Micah Hyde-Jordan Poyer safety duo, Rapp is certainly making a case to be brought back as a starter next season.

Linebacker Tyrel Dodson (38%) also picked up an injury early in the game, forcing him to the locker room almost immediately. Linebacker Terrel Bernard (100%) was unsurprisingly flying all over the field again, leading the team in combined tackles (9). One interesting thing to note is that linebacker Baylon Spector (37%) received the nod over Dorian Williams to replace Dodson.

As for the pass rush, it was as healthy as it could be. Both defensive end A.J. Epenesa (33%) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (63%) are back and ready for the postseason, although Epenesa’s snap counts are still quite limited since returning from his ribs injury. Jones’ interior presence has helped the run defense significantly and has also allowed for defensive tackle Ed Oliver (88%) to return to wreaking havoc for opposing linemen. Although the Bills sacked quarterback Tua Tagovailoa just once, the defensive line produced four tackles for a loss and three QB hits. Defensive end Leonard Floyd (67%) didn’t show up in the box score, but was consistently beating Miami’s opposing linemen enough to the point that Tagovailoa made mistakes.

I have no comment on edge rusher Von Miller (29%). He logged 15 snaps, which is about 15 snaps too many. Defensive end Kingsley Jonathan has flashed in limited opportunities and there’s almost no reason for Miller to even see the field right now, given his production.

Bills special teams snap counts (18 snaps)

15 snaps (83%): FB Reggie Gilliam, TE Quintin Morris

14 snaps (78%): LB Tyler Matakevich, CB Siran Neal, CB Cam Lewis

13 snaps (72%): SS Taylor Rapp

12 snaps (67%): LB Dorian Williams

9 snaps (50%): LB Baylon Spector, CB Dane Jackson, WR Trent Sherfield

7 snaps (39%): K Tyler Bass

5 snaps (28%): WR Khalil Shakir, WR Deonte Harty, DT Poona Ford

4 snaps (22%): P Sam Martin, LS Reid Ferguson

3 snaps (17%): G Connor McGovern, G O’Cyrus Torrence, T Spencer Brown, David Edwards, Ty Johnson, LB Terrel Bernard, SS Jordan Poyer, DE Greg Rousseau, DE Shaq Lawson, C Ryan Bates

2 snaps (11%): DT Tim Settle, FS Micah Hyde, T Ryan Van Demark

1 snap (6%): T Dion Dawkins, RB Leonard Fournette, CB Christian Benford, CB Taron Johnson, DT Ed Oliver, DE Leonard Floyd, DE A.J. Epenesa

I’ll keep this section short and sweet — two words: Deonte Harty. Regardless of how you view the game and what led to the win, Harty’s 96-yard punt return touchdown completely shifted the momentum and arguably won Buffalo this game. Once momentum was in Buffalo’s favor, it never looked back and managed to take the lead in the fourth quarter.