Buffalo Bills Week 6 Positional Grades

The Buffalo Bills were defeated 37-22 by the New England Patriots. Buffalo had various positional groups that struggled and a few that thrived. Here's how they graded out.

The Buffalo Bills fell to 3-3 after their 37-22 loss to the New England Patriots. Buffalo’s play was inconsistent on both sides of the ball, but the defense struggled against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Here’s how each positional group graded out in my eyes.

Quarterback: B-

We saw good Kyle Orton and bad Kyle Orton on Sunday. There was more good than bad, so let’s start with the positives. Orton was efficient passing the ball, completing 63% of his passes. The quarterback threw for 299 yards against a solid pass defense and had the Bills within eight points late in the fourth quarter. Passing for 300 yards, or near 300 yards in this case, doesn’t blow me away, but Orton moved the chains and had three receivers go over 70 yards. His overall play was strong.

In terms of negatives, Orton threw a poor pass for an interception. Jamie Collins read Orton’s eyes from the snap and collected an easy interception. This led to New England’s first score of the game. Orton was also strip sacked by Chandler Jones late in the first half in a tied game. The fumble itself isn’t what worries me, it’s his lack of awareness. Orton should have seen Jones coming at him, but he didn’t. Later in the game, Deontae Skinner blitzed Orton. Buffalo’s offensive line parted like the Red Sea for the linebacker and he came right at the quarterback. Orton saw the linebacker coming and made no attempt to get out of his way. While Orton protected the ball, he was steamrolled by Skinner and took an unnecessary shot. If he takes hits like that consistently, he won’t finish the season.

Orton has looked more than dependable based upon his first two starts against strong defenses. He should be able to move the ball this week against the Vikings.

Running Backs: D

Nathaniel Hackett’s game plan wasn’t great. The offensive line was pretty bad, also. That aside, Buffalo’s running game looked putrid against a New England defense who has struggled at times to stop the run.

Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Anthony Dixon ran the ball 23 times for 68 yards and a touchdown. For the second week in a row, the backs have averaged less than 3 yards per carry. Spiller only saw 12 total snaps against the Patriots. His lack of playing time probably stemmed from his fumble right before halftime. This led to a Patriots field goal.

On the season, Spiller is averaging less than 25 snaps per game. He’s been ineffective as a runner as of late. One of Spiller’s biggest problems is that he tries to take too many designed inside carries to the outside. He’s been in the NFL long enough to know that you should take the yards given to you. Besides this, he’s the worst blocker among Buffalo’s backs.

In the passing game, Jackson added 4 receptions for 17 yards. The Bills are a team that should be built around the run, but it’s difficult to keep giving them carries if they’re struggling to pick yards consistently.


Wide Receivers: C+

Robert Woods was the first WR to lose confidence in E.J. Manuel early in the season. You could see it in his body language. He’s clearly happy with the Orton move and benefitted on Sunday. Woods led the way for wide receivers with seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. Chris Hogan wasn’t far behind with five receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Sammy Watkins added two receptions for 27 yards, as he struggled a bit against Darrelle Revis. Watkins isn’t the first rookie to struggle against Revis, one of the top CBs in the game, but he started to get open later in the contest.

Marquise Goodwin didn’t find himself on the stat sheet, but he was targeted three times. In his first two games at QB, Orton hasn’t played favorites. He is willing to throw the ball to any of his receivers.

Mike Williams was inactive for the game but should take the field in Week 7 against the Vikings. He’ll be another weapon at wide receiver for Orton.


Tight Ends: A-

The Bills had a tight end go over 100 yards receiving for the first time since Pete Metzelaars did so in 1992. I should have given this position an A+ for that alone.

Scott Chandler had a big day against the Patriots, catching six passes for 105 yards. The tight end made some impressive catches and picked up big chunks of yards with each reception. Chandler was a big reason that the Bills were able to keep drives going against the Patriots. The tight end should continue to contribute decent stat lines with Orton at QB.

Lee Smith collected another penalty, his third in the last two weeks. Chris Gragg didn’t catch any passes, but he did perform well in run blocking. The Bills should look at phasing Smith out of the rotation, but I won’t hold my breath.

Offensive Line: D

Can the Bills get more than two players to perform well on their offensive line? The answer appears to be no, based upon their play in the last few weeks. Cordy Glenn was responsible for Chandler Jones’ strip sack, but was otherwise flawless on Sunday. I’ve made a point of watching him as he missed a significant amount of time in the offseason with an undisclosed illness. All of the rust seems to be off and Glenn is once again looking like one of the best young left tackles in football. Besides Glenn, I personally did not notice anyone else on the line performing well. That said, Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required) gave Erik Pears a positive rating. The analytics site graded Pears as Buffalo’s best pass blocker.

Besides their play, Eric Wood, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson struggled quite a bit against New England’s defense. All three were beaten multiple times by Patriots defenders. The pressure resulted in sacks, errant and thrown away passes as well as poor running lanes. Henderson struggled the most on Sunday, but there aren’t many options to replace him on the roster. That said, getting Henderson reps is probably the best way for him to improve though.

A large part of Buffalo’s struggles in the run game falls back on the offensive line. The line needs to show more consistency going forward.

Defensive Line: C+

The defensive line was a bit disappointing on Sunday. New England’s offensive line was banged up and the line only mustered two sacks on Tom Brady and limited pressure. Brady has struggled when he’s faced consistent pressure but it felt like he had plenty of time to pass the ball on Sunday.

The run defense starts up front and this was an area of strength against the Patriots. New England only picked up 50 yards on 27 carries (1.85 YPC). There’s no doubt that Buffalo has one of the best run defenses in the NFL, but it won’t matter if quarterbacks continue to pick Buffalo apart.

Linebackers: B

Nigel Bradham played like his hair was on fire against the Patriots. He seemed to be involved in plenty of plays. It was good to see him back and he was certainly a bright spot. Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers and Preston Brown weren’t as noticeable on the field Sunday, but the quartet of linebackers were credited with 11 stops on Sunday.

The linebackers were also decent in pass protection Brady picked on Brown a bit, and the linebacker had some struggles. Experienced QBs will always look to test rookies and Sunday was no different. The unit played well against the Patriots.

Secondary: F

Aaron Williams was sorely missed on Sunday. Duke Williams played free safety in his place and gave up over 100 yards between receptions and penalties. Duke Williams is still rather young, so I expect his play to improve, but Tom Brady enjoyed seeing the FS attempting to cover Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

Corey Graham played strong safety for the Bills and actually did a respectable job. Stephon Gilmore also had his moments against the Patriots and was the best cornerback on the field. While Gilmore will never be confused with Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis, he is a solid cornerback.

Leodis McKelvin had a poor outing against New England. Just about anything thrown in his direction went for a completion. McKelvin struggled against Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski. It was a rough outing.

Buffalo’s secondary has struggled against great quarterbacks. The good news? Their next two opponents have rookie Teddy Bridgewater and Geno Smith at QB.

Special Teams: B-

Not much to write about here.

Dan Carpenter didn’t have any field goal attempts and was 2-for-2 on extra points. Jordan Gay didn’t kick the ball through the end zone as consistently as he has this season, but that may have been by design. Hard to knock the kickoff specialist without knowing for sure.

Colton Schmidt was a bright spot though. He had five punts and he averaged 49.8 yards per punt. His longest went for 58 yards and Julian Edelman’s longest punt return went for seven yards. A great effort from the punter.

Spiller added a 37 yard kick return, while averaging 26 yards per return, but McKelvin struggled with punt returns, averaging just six yards per return.

How would you grade Buffalo’s positional units based upon their play in Week 6? Let’s discuss it in the forums!

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