Buffalo Bills season review through 6 weeks



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Justin Siejak, Sports Writer

With the Bills having the week off for their BYE, it seems like a good time to review how the team has done through their first 6 games. Throughout the many highs and few lows of the season, we have learned plenty of important details about this team, and how they have improved since last season’s playoff run. From the improvement of the defense, to the emergence of new players on both sides of the ball, there is plenty to cover about this team so far.

For the sake of organization, I’d like to break down the areas we will cover into their own respective sections. The areas we will be covering will be offense, defense, injuries, rookie play, and coaching. There is a lot to talk about, so let’s get right into it.

1. Offense
The offense has not missed a beat since last years impressive run. Lead by superstar quarterback Josh Allen, this offensive unit is rolling, and is among the leagues best when it comes to scoring points. The Bills are averaging 33.8 points scored per game, which is good enough to rank them 2nd in the league, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys who are averaging 34.2. The passing attack has sustained it’s success throughout the first 6 weeks, and it is the identity of this offense. Josh Allen has been on point so far this year, throwing 15 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions; a very impressive TD/INT ratio. Buffalo’s loaded receiver core has also shown out to begin the season. One major question mark among the offense was Emmanuel Sanders’ role in this offense, and how much of a load he will carry at his age. At 34 years old, Sanders is having an incredible year, and has clearly established a great connection with Josh Allen. Both Sanders and Stefon Diggs have surpassed 400 yards on the year. Meanwhile, at the tight end position, Dawson Knox is enjoying himself a breakout year. Making multiple splash plays this year, including a 53 yard touchdown reception against the Chiefs, Knox has become the tight end Brandon Beane and company envisioned he would become. The running game has also improved, as both Zack Moss and Devin Singletary have ran efficiently when given the opportunity. Both having their own respective “flash” moments, the running back tandem have served great as a compliment to the Bills monster passing attack. This offense is on a roll to begin the season, and look for the unit to get more comfortable and improve as the year goes on.

2. Defense
Bills fans have waited long to see the time where both the offense and the defense are playing to their full potential at the same time. That time has arrived, and it has resulted in some dominating football being played by the Bills. Pitching shutouts in 2 games, as well as holding the Kansas City Chiefs to just 20 points, it is safe to say that this defensive unit can keep up with the offense. Outside of an ugly game against the Tennessee Titans where Derrick Henry ran wild on the Bills, the unit has been smothering other team’s offenses. As of week 7, the Bills currently have the #1 ranked scoring defense, allowing just 16.3 points scored per game by opponents. They also lead the league in the turnover ratio with a +11 difference. The defenses success can be explained by every unit of the defense doing their part. Utilizing possibly the deepest defensive end rotation in the league, the Bills defensive line has played exceptional to start the year. Some players that have stood out to me are DT Ed Oliver, EDGE Greg Rousseau, EDGE AJ Epenesa, and DT Star Lotulelei. The secondary has played great as well, with contributions coming from just about every player down the depth chart. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde still rank among the league’s best safeties, and each have tallied multiple interceptions on the year. The cornerbacks have played strong too, with Pro Bowl CB Tre White leading the pack. Levi Wallace has made some plays on the ball, while newly extended slot CB Taron Johnson has been aggressive in the run game, as well as breaking up some crucial passes. The stud LB duo of Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano have been nothing short of spectacular to begin the year. Doing just about everything on the field, Milano could be staring down a potential All Pro selection if he keeps up his high level of play. To summarize this unit, they have exceeded expectations so far this year, and have played a large roll in the Bills success to begin the year.

3. Injuries
Fortunately, the Bills have kept the injury report relatively clean to begin the year. A few weeks ago, Matt Milano was dealing with a hamstring injury that held him out of the Chiefs game, but has seemed to recover rather quickly. He would go on to play in the Titans game after just missing 1 week. In more recent and rather large news, TE Dawson Knox injured his hand during the game against Tennessee.
Infamously, Knox would go on to throw a trick-play 2 point conversion to QB Josh Allen AFTER sustaining the injury. It is unknown what exact play caused the injury, but we do know that it is a fractured hand. Knox has undergone surgery to repair his hand, and is expected to miss anywhere from 2-3 weeks. Fortunately enough, it is the BYE week, so Knox has some time to rest. OL Jon Feliciano also dealt with an elbow injury that sidelined him for a bit, but has since been reinserted into the starting lineup. For the most part, the Bills have stayed healthy to begin the season. The health of this team will be crucial to their success as the season stretches on.

4. Rookie Play
The Bills have to be satisfied with how the rookie class of 2021 has been playing to being their career. Headlined by 1st round pick Greg Rousseau, the Bills rookie class have managed to impress fans early on. Rousseau has surpassed early expectations very early into his career. He has managed to consistently rush the passer, as well as do an exceptional job at setting the edge and defending the run. Already recording 3 sacks and an interception through 6 weeks, there is plenty of reason to be excited about the young rookie pass rusher. As for the other pass rusher they selected in the 2nd round, Boogie Basham, things have looked a bit different from Rousseau’s fast start. Basham was healthy scratched for a few weeks before making his debut against the Texans, where he tallied his first career sack. He also recorded a half sack against the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. Basham being scratched is a testament as to how deep this defensive line rotation is. There is still plenty to be seen from Basham, and some have speculated that the front office would like to see him shed a few pounds and play at a lighter weight next year, similar to what AJ Epenesa went through. The Bills 3rd round pick Spencer Brown has quickly become a fan favorite. An injury to OL Jon Feliciano shoved Brown into the starting offensive line unit against the Texans. Getting the start at right tackle, Brown impressed many, not allowing any pressures. The massive 3rd round pick has stayed in the lineup since the Texans game, and his play has declined a bit since. This is to be expected from a raw rookie right tackle. However, our small sample size of Brown leaves a lot of fans excited to see what the future holds for Brown. Damar Hamlin, the Bills 6th round pick has also seen some meaningful snaps to begin his career, and has looked solid when in the lineup. Hamlin has a great opportunity to learn from both Hyde and Poyer, and potentially take on a larger role in a couple of years. Through 6 games, I have been impressed by this rookie class. These guys will continue to develop and learn, and could certainly be pivotal for the Bills down the road.

5. Coaching
Sean McDermott and company have this team on a roll. Brian Daboll has continued to call an impressive offensive script every week. He clearly understands the talent he has on offense, utilizing every skill position to maximize their impact. One great example would be Isaiah McKenzie. Daboll understands the speed threat that McKenzie is, and has utilized him in multiple unique scenarios including jet sweeps and motions to keep him moving pre-snap. Teams fear what McKenzie can do with his speed and elusiveness, so they have to stay ready for him at any moment. This means less attention to our outside receivers. Daboll knows what these guys on offense are capable of, and has been exceptional to start the year. Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier has also played a huge role in this teams success. Referring back to his deep defensive line rotation, he has put the Bills edge rushers in great positions to succeed. For example, keeping Mario Addison off the field until 3rd down is a great call by Frazier. Addison, who is 34, is well rested to come in on 3rd down and give it everything he’s got. It’s small things like knowing your personnel that give your team the edge, and Frazier has show that he understands how to use the guys on defense. As far as Sean McDermott, he has been the rock that has lead this team. Controversially, he decided to go for the 4th down conversion instead of kicking the field goal in the waning moments of the Titans game. Many were upset McDermott opted to take the risk instead of the guaranteed points, however, I think his decision was the right call. He showed in that moment that he has trust in his guys on offense to execute, most specifically, his QB Josh Allen. Allen did not get the 1st down on an attempted QB sneak, but I believe it was the right call. Titans RB Derrick Henry had been terrorizing the Bills all game, and had the Titans received the kickoff in overtime, who knows if the Bills defense (who had a rocky game) would have been enough to stop him. Sean McDermott was right for his call, and I think he earned a lot of respect and trust from his offense with that call. Overall, there are no complaints with this coaching staff. Everyone is on the same page, with the same goal.

Through the first 6 games, the Bills have looked great. However, in reference to the Sean McDermott philosophy, this team is taking it one game at a time. Never letting up on an “easy” team or locking in against a difficult team is the same thing to this team. They treat every team as a threat to them. Every unit seems to be clicking for the Bills to begin the year, and it will be exciting to see how this team progresses as we inch closer to the post season. The Bills seem to have a firm grip on the AFC East, currently sitting with a 2 game lead over the Patriots for 1st place. With the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, it seems as if the Bills are ready to keep hold of that lead. After the BYE, the Bills will be back home at Highmark Stadium taking on the Miami Dolphins on Halloween day. Kickoff is at 1 PM.