The Giants host the Bills in their home opener this week. Here’s what I saw from the Bills on the game tape in their Week 1 matchup against the Jets:
When the Giants have the ball…
The Spotlight: Cornerback Tre’Davious White
The Bills allowed only 179 passing yards per game in 2019, the fewest in the league. They are talented across the secondary, but third-year cornerback Tre’Davious White is considered their best player on the back end. White was the Bills first round selection with the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of LSU.
According to Pro Football Focus, White allowed only 30 catches on 52 targets for 357 yards in 2018. He gave up just two touchdowns and grabbed two interceptions. He allowed four catches for 37 yards against the Jets last week. He lines up primarily outside.
The Matchup: Defensive Tackle Ed Oliver vs. Interior Giants Offensive Line
The Bills drafted Oliver out of the University of Houston with the ninth pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. After playing out of position at nose tackle in college, the Bills are used him more in his natural three technique position in his first NFL game. He thrived, producing a quarterback hit and four hurries on Sam Darnold, who was harassed throughout the game.
Oliver has the athleticism to win with speed and quickness, and the strength to win with power. There was one play against the Jets when he got underneath the pads of a Jets offensive lineman and tossed him aside on his way to the quarterback. The Giants’ guards and center will have their hands full with the rookie, who played 47 snaps and was the Bills highest-graded player in Week One, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bills Scheme and Tendencies
*The Bills run a variety of coverage schemes. Last week, they used man, zone, single high safety, two high safety and everything in between against the Jets. Their fundamentals are sound and their coverage is tight. Levi Wallace plays opposite White at cornerback, and Taron Johnson is their nickel corner. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde can play deep or closer to the line of scrimmage and will be used on blitzes. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold completed 28 passes last week, but finished with only 175 yards. He missed a couple of open deep throws at the end of the game, but more often he had to check down because no one was open down the field and the pass rush was in his face.
*The Bills did not allow any explosive plays in Week One. They did not allow one completion or run of over 20 yards. They Jets only had two runs of 10 yards or more and averaged just 3.38 yards per play, the lowest number in the league.
*In addition to their four sacks, the Bills also had four quarterback hits and 20 total pressures, according to PFF, which tied for fifth most in the league. Unlike Dallas, which prefers to rush four, the Bills blitzed on 18 of 50 pass snaps, which was tied for sixth most in the NFL. Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy and Lorenzo Alexander bring the most pressure off the edge. The Bills were harassing Darnold all game, and early pressure seemed to affect his accuracy late in the game.
*Tremaine Edmunds, the Bills first round pick in 2018, played well against the Jets with eight tackles. He is an elite athlete, and he will only get better as he gets more experience playing linebacker.
*The Bills did not dedicate many extra men to the run last week. According to PFF, they played an extra defensive back on 45 of their 71 defensive snaps, and had eight men in the box just eight times in the game. Le’Veon Bell had 60 rushing yards last week on 3.5 yards per carry.
Quotebook: Giants Tight End Evan Engram: “They have a lot of different looks. They send their safeties really heavy and they rely on their safeties to come in and make plays in the run game. They play a little bit more man (coverage) than we saw last week. They’re a really disciplined team and really physical—Dallas was really physical as well—but I think they move a little bit more, and their defense and their blitzes rely on the guys in the secondary to be physical in the run game and also be well in man-to-man.”
Keep an eye on these five players when the Giants host the Bills in Week 2.
When the Bills Have the ball…
The Spotlight: Quarterback Josh Allen:
Allen has every physical tool a quarterback can have. He is big, mobile and has a cannon for an arm. He completed 65% of his passes against the Jets, 9 of 23 within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Two of those incompletions were interceptions, one of which was the direct result of a low pass that was deflected to Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley. On passes that traveled beyond 10 yards, Allen completed 5 of 10 attempts. Unlike last season, when Allen threw it downfield often and completed 53% of his passes, the Bills focused on short and intermediate throws to start the game. Forty-three of Allen’s 47 pass dropbacks came in shotgun.
Allen’s mobility is his other weapon. He ran for 631 yards as a rookie, and had 38 yards last week. If his first read isn’t there, Allen is quick to leave the pocket and run or scramble to make a throw to an uncovered wide receiver. Containing him in the pocket will be important. The Bills ran Allen on a designed run against the Jets, something else the Giants defense must be aware of. Allen did fumble it twice and was responsible for four turnovers.
The Matchup: Wide Receiver John Brown vs. Janoris Jenkins
Wide receiver John Brown is the Bills top deep threat. He is only 5-11 and 178 pounds, but his speed allows him to make plays down the field in the passing game. Against the Jets, he caught seven of nine targets for 123 yards and a touchdown, which included the 38-yard game-winning touchdown with three minutes left to play. He averaged just under 18 yards per catch and had 41 yards after the catch. If the Bills are going to look for a play down the field, it will be to John Brown.
Bills Scheme and Tendencies
*The Bills used their fullback Patrick DiMarco in 21 personnel on 27 of their 66 offensive snaps (41%). Especially early in the game, they lined up in 21 personnel in a standard I-formation, and then pre-snap motioned their tight end and fullback into a spread formation with Josh Allen in shotgun. DiMarco would often line up outside (21 times out wide, and 5 times in the slot) in these situations. He finished with two catches for nine yards.
*The Bills lined up in 11 personnel 36% of the time, their second most common personnel group. They had a far more even play distribution in that group, passing 15 times and running 9 times. The Bills even flashed some three tight end formation, where they would run the ball with Frank Gore downhill. The Bills ran the ball just 31.4% of the time in the first half last week.
*The Bills would alternately spread the field and line up in bunch formations with their receivers in clusters lined up tight on either side of the offensive line. They would run shallow crosses to either create natural rub routes or get Cole Beasley one-on-one in space for short and easy completions. Allen did have some balls batted at the line of scrimmage. Beasley was targeted eight times, catching five of them in the short area of the field.
Quotebook: Giants Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher: “Really when you look at their offense as a whole, you are going to see multiple formations, multiple personnel groupings. You saw it last week, 20 or 21 straight throws to start the game. They started in big personnel, exploded, made it look little. Last year, there was a game where it was like that, then there is a game where it’s all little people doing that stuff. Sure, there is going to be some different formations, different personnel groupings. Josh (Allen) has an outstanding arm and he can deliver the ball quick, he has a very quick release. He can buy time with his feet and he will scramble and try to run the ball as well, and it will be a challenge. I love our work, I love where our guys are heading, and I think our guys will be excited to play at home this Sunday.”
*The Bills offensive line held up fine against the Jets, allowing one sack, four quarterback hits and five hurries. According to PFF, the Jets managed to generate one sack, one quarterback hit and four hurries against the left side of the Bills offensive line, tackle Dion Dawkins and guard Quinton Spain.
*Devin Singletary outpaced Frank Gore in snaps at running back, 45 to 19. Singletary is the Bills third round pick out of Florida Atlantic. At just 5-7 and 203 pounds, he showed elusiveness in the open field, gaining 70 yards on just four carries. He also caught five of his six targets for 28 yards.