Behind Bills Lines: Part 1

Five questions for Ryan Talbot of Buffalo Football Report regarding this week's matchup between the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills.

CM: The Bills are coming off of a game in which they forced Packers QB Aaron Rodgers into his worst game this season, maybe even career. Nonetheless, this came after a game in which they really frustrated future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. What has made the Bills pass defense so dominant as of late?

RT: The secondary has been playing at an extremely high level over the last two weeks. Stephon Gilmore is having the best season of his career and is thriving in the last two weeks. Against Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, Gilmore gave up three receptions on 13 targets for 20 yards. He also has an interception and near interception in these games. You don't see too many cornerbacks have this type of success against future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Corey Graham hasn't been playing at Gilmore's level in the last two weeks, but he's also played well. He's allowed five receptions on 10 targets for 54 yards, an interception and one pass defensed. The strong play of Buffalo's starting cornerbacks deserves a lot of the credit for their recent success.

CM: Despite being ranked fifth against the pass, they're also ranked 9th against the run this season. Where are the Bills most vulnerable on defense? Where can Derek Carr and the Raiders offense look to attack them?

RT: Nickell Robey is having an up and down sophomore season. He's been struggling as the team's slot cornerback as of late and the Raiders would be wise to attack him when they can. Buffalo's run defense showed some cracks last week, but that was mostly due to the fact that Brandon Spikes hardly played. The middle linebacker only saw nine snaps as the Bills were focused on Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. Murray has looked terrific for the Raiders and if Oakland is persistent about getting him the ball, they may find some success on Sunday.

CM: Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins is a player that a lot of Raider Nation wanted to grab in this last year's draft before the Bills traded up to get him. How has he looked in the NFL? Has he lived up to the bounty they traded to get him?

RT: Watkins is the real deal, but his weekly stats haven't shown this consistently. Teams are putting their top cornerbacks against Watkins and usually sending additional help to his side of the field. In addition to this, Kyle Orton hasn't been very accurate as of late. Despite all of this, Watkins holds the Bills rookie record for receptions (59) yards in a season (850) and 100 yard receiving games (4). Watkins isn't getting the proper praise for his rookie year because of how other rookie receivers are faring this season. It's important that others realize that Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Williams are on poor teams that need to pass early and often. Buffalo's defense has given the offense the ability to play with balance and that's another reason why Watkins' stats have been up and down. We'll need a few seasons to see if the trade was worth it, but right now I'd certainly do it all over again.

CM: Head coach Doug Marrone made the quarterback change pretty early in the season and it appears to have been the right move. Do you think the Bills will have to look for a new quarterback in the draft this year? What do you think the team is missing to bring them to the next level?

RT: The Bills need to look for a new quarterback in the draft, free agency, trade market, etc. Buffalo simply needs to evaluate all of their options. In the draft, it's hard for me to see a franchise quarterback that they can nab in round two. Perhaps in the mid-to-late rounds they target a prospect they can develop. Buffalo will probably have to look elsewhere and guys like Jay Cutler, Robert Griffin III and Sam Bradford could be available. All three players need to at least be considered. Quarterback is by far the position that's needed to get the Bills to the next level. Besides that, the team also needs to improve at guard.

CM: The Raiders offensive line has been solid all season until the Chiefs got to Carr four times last week. Mario Williams continues to be a dominant pas rusher, especially alongside Marcell Dareus. What is the best way to slow these two and the Bills' pass rush down?

RT: Stopping Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes is not an easy task. First, establishing the run game would certainly help. If the run game is going, Buffalo's front four may not be as aggressive. The easiest way to keep the pass rush away is for Carr to get the ball out quickly. That's exactly what Peyton Manning did two weeks ago. This defensive line is legitimate and quick passes are definitely necessary for the Raiders to be successful on Sunday.


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