The New England Patriots are hosting the Buffalo Bills so I decided to host Chris Trapasso of Buffalo Rumblings to get the inside scoop on the Patriots opponent.
1. The Bills offense seemed to turn a corner this past week. What was the big difference and how did it work?
For as much as I think players are considerably more important than coaches / coordinators, Anthony Lynn calling Buffalo's offensive plays helped against the Cardinals. Early in the game, Tyrod Taylor had many easy, short options -- even to the middle of the field -- as his primary read. For as much as I admired Greg Roman's creative and old-school philosophy, the Bills passing offense had gotten almost too vertical.
Sure, Taylor was one of the best downfield passers in the NFL a year ago, but as a mobile quarterback who has the tendency to vacate the pocket if his first or second reads aren't there, a predominantly vertical offense actually was becoming a deterrent to his development instead of a catalyst. Also, mixing in some uptempo pace seemed to keep Arizona's defense on its heels and caught it off guard on a few occasions.
2. Sammy Watkins is dealing with a foot injury. Is there any update on him and how is the depth behind him?
He hasn't played since Week 2's game on September 15 against the Jets, so that obviously helps his cause. There isn't anything structurally wrong with his foot... it's apparently just a pain / soreness issue. I think he has about a 75% chance to play, but that's nothing more than a guess. The depth behind him isn't great by any stretch. Robert Woods is somewhat reliable albeit unspectacular, Marquise Goodwin is not much more than dangerous deep threat and Greg Salas -- who also missed Week 3 -- is a veteran chain-mover.
3. How have teams had success bottling up LeSean McCoy and/or Tyrod Taylor in the past?
The defenses that have had the most success against Taylor have sold out to keep him in the pocket. He's made a variety of huge plays with legs and his arms outside the pocket, and while he is certainly capable of making accurate throws from within pocket, that's where you want him for the majority of the game as an opposing defense. As for McCoy, he hasn't been super productive on slower-developing stretch plays. While he's still incredibly elusive, he's actually been at his best between the tackles when he can start north-south before making a linebacker miss at the second level.
4. The Buffalo secondary will be in Carson Palmer's nightmares. How did they force so many turnovers?
The Bills mixed coverages and pass-rushes all game, and Rex Ryan / Dennis Thurman deployed a seven defensive back personnel packages for a good portion of the game. When they weren't dropping seven DBs and rushing seven, they were sending an overload, corner or double A-gap blitz. Beyond that, after the Jets won just about every jump ball against Buffalo's secondary in Week 2, the Bills corners and safeties simply played the football in the air significantly better for the entirety of the game against Arizona.
5. How is the Bills run defense and is there a weakness?
Because Rex's system has roots in a traditional two-gapping 3-4, the linebackers are in legitimate play-making positions on most run plays. Preston Brown and Zach Brown have been sound thus far, even when they've had to shed blocks a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. They're both playing freely, and their athleticism has been accentuated.
Without Marcell Dareus and strongside linebacker mainstay of the past Manny Lawson up front, Buffalo's defensive line is a stark contract to the group loaded with household names even a year ago. While he's not what he once was, Kyle Williams is still his best against the run, but his linemates include Leger Douzable, Corbin Bryant, rookie Adolphus Washington and the infrequently used but disruptive Jerel Worthy. Overall, Buffalo's run-game has been solid, but there's been much more production from the linebacker group than the defensive line.