Buffalo Football Report will give out report card grades to each positional unit on the Buffalo Bills following games. After a 22-17 win against the New York Jets, here’s a look at how each positional unit graded out.
It wasn’t Tyrod Taylor’s best game but his grade gets a bump for protecting the ball. Taylor had one ball that Darrelle Revis almost had a chance to intercept but that was due to Sammy Watkins not hauling the pass in. Against a great defense, Taylor didn’t give them any opportunities to create a turnover. He finished 17-of-27 for 158 yards and a touchdown with an additional 12 yards coming on the ground. Taylor’s touchdown pass to Karlos Williams took some time to develop but it was on the money. Next up for Taylor is his rematch against the New England Patriots. Although Taylor almost pulled off a late game comeback against New England, no team has given him more fits this season. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays in the rematch.
Running backs: A+
Everyone knows that LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams are a great 1-2 punch at RB. However, no one knew just how well they’d fare against a team that had the top run defense entering the game. The answer? Really, really good. McCoy once again showed tremendous burst and elusiveness on the field. He finished the game with 112 yards on 19 carries (5.9 YPC) and added another 47 yards receiving. After taking time off to heal, McCoy has been a true No. 1 back for the Bills. In the last four weeks, he’s rushed for 382 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also added 94 yards receiving over this span of time.
And Karlos Williams? The guy just scores touchdowns. Williams only saw seven carries on Thursday which went for 24 yards, but his 26 yard reception went for a touchdown score. Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper are the obvious choices for offensive rookie of the year, but down the stretch Williams could make some noise in the competition.
Wide receivers: C
Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins were the only receivers to log receptions on Thursday night. Woods had three receptions for 19 yards and Watkins added three for 14 yards. While neither had big nights statistically, Watkins had some success getting open against Darrelle Revis. He was open on the first play of the game and an accurate pass could have gone the distance. In addition to this pass, there were several routes that show Watkins come open. Watkins had a few drops on Thursday but it was encouraging to see how successful he was in terms of getting open against one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Woods’ output was more disappointing as the Jets secondary was really banged up on Thursday night. The chemistry doesn’t seem to be there between Woods and Taylor, but hopefully that changes over the last seven games of the season.
Chris Hogan made no impact as a receiver or blocker in his 34 snaps on TNF. Leading up to the season, Buffalo looked deep at the position. However, injuries have really taken their toll on the unit.
Tight ends: B-
Charles Clay led the Bills in receiving yards on TNF with five receptions accounting for 52 yards. His targets have been up and down in the last few weeks, but he is among Tyrod Taylor’s favorite targets. On TNF, Clay only saw 22 snaps as a receiving option. The majority of his 63 snaps were to contribute as a pass and run blocker.
Besides Clay, the only other TE to see significant reps was Matthew Mulligan. The tight end looks like he should be a great blocker but he wasn’t very good on TNF and was called for a penalty as well.
Clay is a one-man show at tight end for Buffalo.
Offensive line: B+
Early in the game, it didn’t look as though the offensive line was going to hold up against the Jets. That said, once the unit made adjustments they fared very well. Based on the eye ball test, Cordy Glenn was the best player on Buffalo’s line on TNF, but Pro Football Focus actually gave that honor to Seantrel Henderson (+2.2 grade). Either way, it’s encouraging to see Buffalo’s offensive tackles playing so well for Buffalo. In addition to this duo, Richie Incognito continued his outstanding season, especially in run blocking. No OL on the Bills has done more for the run game than Incognito. John Miller and Eric Wood took their lumps at times on TNF, but overall this unit did a very good job against the Jets.
Defensive Line: B+
Considering the fact that Mario Williams only played nine snaps due to illness, I thought this unit did a nice job on TNF. Jerry Hughes, coming off of a good game against the Dolphins, made his mark against New York. Hughes was credited with six quarterback hurries and one QB hit. He also made three defensive stops on the evening. Hughes did well across the board for Buffalo and when that happens, the defense is using playing at a high level.
Marcell Dareus accounted for a sack and quarterback hit and was a steady presence in run defense as well for the Bills. Even Corbin Bryant and Alex Carrington flashed at times for the Bills. This unit will only get better when Mario Williams and Kyle Williams return. Mario Williams should be a given for Monday Night Football, but Kyle Williams also has a shot to make his return.
This unit had really struggled as of late but Preston Brown, Nigel Bradham and Manny Lawson made defensive stops for the Bills. Hopefully the group is getting comfortable with their roles in Rex Ryan’s defense and their improved play will continue. The biggest issue with this group has been missed tackles. If they can get that under control, the defense will benefit greatly.
The win on Thursday Night Football was a great outing for Buffalo’s top two cornerbacks. Ronald Darby was a lockdown cornerback and was only targeted five times on TNF. He allowed one reception to Brandon Marshall that went for negative two yards. Darby’s tackle, with an assist from Leodis McKelvin, came on a big fourth down play.
Stephon Gilmore also played at a high level for Buffalo. Gilmore saw nine targets and allowed four receptions for 42 yards. It’s hard two cornerbacks who have played better in 2015.
Leodis McKelvin also had a solid outing versus the Jets. The only CB that struggled was Nickell Robey. Robey had a tough matchup against a much larger receiver in Eric Decker. His biggest gaffe came on a fourth down play where he didn’t spot the ball and Ryan Fitzpatrick lofted in a beautiful pass to the receiver for a first down. If Robey had seen the ball, he could have knocked it away and the touchdown to Decker later in the drive never would have happened.
All in all, it was a strong evening for the cornerbacks. This unit could help the Bills pull off the upset on Monday Night Football against the Patriots.
Corey Graham recorded an interception and was responsible for a quarterback hit. His steady play has helped the Bills secondary all season, but the star of the evening was Bacarri Rambo. The safety sealed the game with an interception but he also stripped Chris Ivory of the ball in the second half and recovered the fumble. On special teams, Rambo also forced a fumble that resulted in a Duke Williams touchdown. All in all, the safeties had a pretty good evening against the Jets.
Dan Carpenter connected on all three of his field goal attempts but he missed an extra point for the Bills. Missed extra points have been happening across the league this year but it’s still discouraging to see. Jordan Gay was pretty good on TNF and one of his kicks led to a forced fumble and touchdown for the Bills.
Colton Schmidt was on the field far too often for the Bills on TNF. He had eight punts that went for an average of 43.4 yards and of course he had the costly error of dropping a snap that could have led to the Jets taking the lead and winning the game. That play wasn’t all on Schmidt as the snap wasn’t great, but it could have led to a disastrous collapse for the Bills. Garrison Sanborn and Schmidt should be very thankful for Buffalo’s defensive stand.
Greg Roman should be commended for the success of the run game and his first drive of the second half was great. That said, there were far too many three and out series, especially in the second half, that opened the door for the Jets to win the game. He also “went to the well” too many times on certain run plays. Eventually, the Jets caught onto what the Bills were calling. He doesn’t get a pass, but the Jets defense is pretty strong so it’s understandable that Buffalo had some offensive issues on TNF.
The defense is the reason the Bills won on TNF. They played great and created their fair share of turnovers. New York did have two touchdowns that made the game nerve wracking late, but the defense was tired at this point after the offense couldn’t sustain any drives.
That said, the coaches did enough for the Bills to pull out a victory on Thursday Night Football.