Playmakers on Buffalo's first-team offense, defense, and special teams, presented by Nike
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –**
The Giants will attempt to even their record at 2-2 when they face the Bills on Sunday in their first visit to Buffalo in eight years. The Bills are 2-1 after routing the Dolphins last week in Miami, 41-14. After losing their first two games, the Giants rebounded to defeat Washington, 32-21. The Giants won their two most recent games against the Bills, in 2007 and 2011, but trail in the regular-season series, 6-5. They are 3-3 in Buffalo since first playing there in 1975. The Giants won the only postseason meeting between the teams, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV. This season marks the 25th anniversary of that game.
Buffalo has a new head coach in former Jets coach Rex Ryan and new coordinators in Greg Roman (offense) and Dennis Thurman (defense).
BUFFALO BILLS OFFENSE
Buffalo leads the NFL with an average of 152.7 rushing yards a game. The Bills' 12 runs of 10 or more yards and three runs of at least 20 yards each lead the league. Buffalo is 24th in passing (220.3) and 11th in total yardage (373.0). The Bills have the league's third-highest scoring team with exactly 100 points through three games. They are effective on first down, when 52 percent of their plays have gained at least four yards, the NFLs sixth-best figure.
The Bills have newcomers playing several positions and their skill players all have impressive speed. Roman's offense is based on old-school principles (a strong rushing attack), with new-school wrinkles (quarterback Tyrod Taylor can hurt opponents with his running ability). Their passing attack includes a lot of screens and throws off bootlegs.
Taylor, who is similar in style to Michael Vick, never started a game in four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, but he won a training camp quarterback battle in Buffalo, where he has emerged as a dual threat. He has completed 74.4 percent of his passes and thrown for seven touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards on his 17 carries and scoring a touchdown on the ground. Taylor has a big arm and is dangerous when he improvises. His backup is former first-round draft choice E.J. Manuel.
The Giants are familiar with running back LeSean McCoy from his six-year tenure in Philadelphia. But McCoy injured his hamstring last week and might miss the Giants game. That's not necessarily good news for the Giants, because rookie Karlos Williams stepped in last week and ran for 110 yards on just 12 carries to become the first Bills player to cross the century mark since 2013. Williams, who is averaging 7.8 yards a carry and has scored three touchdowns, is a well-built north-south runner with a burst through the hole and the strength to pick up yardage after contact. Boobie Dixon is a short-yardage runner who will lower his pads and grind out yards. He can also leap over the pile at the goal line. Fullback Jerome Felton is a competitive lead blocker.
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins strained his groin in Miami and also departed the game early. Like McCoy, he might not face the Giants. When healthy, Watkins in an explosive athlete with strength, body control and big-play speed. If he is sidelined, Percy Harvin becomes the No. 1 wideout (he has a team-high 16 receptions). But Harvin missed practice Wednesday with a hip injury. He has home run speed, sure hands and an extra gear after he catches the ball. Harvin is also likely to get the ball when the Bills run a gadget play. The third receiver is Robert Woods, who has good speed and runs solid routes. Chris Hogan, who grew up in nearby Ramapo, N.J., is a tough receiver who can make the contested catch. Marcus Thigpen and Marcus Easley could also play.
Tight end Charles Clay, who spent his first four seasons in Miami, was Buffalo's big-ticket free agent acquisition. He is a big-play vertical threat with solid hands and excellent run-after-the-catch ability. Backup Matthew Mulligan is the best blocker of the group. MarQueis Gray is a former college quarterback and wide receiver with good athletic ability and speed. Chris Gragg is a young tight end with receiving skills.
The offensive line has done an outstanding job opening gaps for the running backs. The best blocker has been left guard Richie Incognito, who is big and strong and plays with a nasty streak. He has point of attack punch and is stout vs. power in pass protection. Left tackle Cordy Glenn is a 6-6, 345-pounder with good body range and arm length. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson is 6-7 and 331 pounds. He has good upper body strength and the ability to overpower defenders. Rookie right guard John Miller is battling a groin injury. If he can't play, Kraig Urbik, the top backup at all three interior positions, will step in. Center Eric Wood plays with good technique and is a sound player in the both the run and pass games. Cyrus Kouandjio is a backup swing tackle who can overwhelm a defensive lineman at the point of attack.
BUFFALO BILLS DEFENSE
Just as they lead the league in rushing yardage, the Bills are No. l in stopping the run, allowing just 74.0 yards a game. However, they are 24th in yards allowed per carry (4.3). The Bills are also 31st vs. the pass (326.7) and 30th overall (400.7), largely because New England threw for 451 yards and totaled 507 yards in handing the Bills their only defeat in Week 2. Nine of 11 defensive starters return from last season.
The strength of the unit is the front, where the Bills line up four legitimate Pro Bowlers in tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, and ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. Buffalo led the NFL in sacks each of the previous two seasons, and the front four had 40 of the team's 54.0 sacks last season. Left end Mario Williams, who had a team-high 14.5 sacks last year, has outstanding strength and is instinctive with a pass rush plan. He has a variety of moves that help him pressure quarterbacks. Kyle Williams has exceptional football intelligence, competitiveness and toughness, as well as speed and a closing burst. Dareus, the right tackle, has rare footspeed for a man his size and produces in the run game. Hughes has explosive edge skills. He slips and dips to avoid blocks and makes a mess of the offense's plans and plays. Tackle Corbin Bryant has good initial quickness and lateral movement, while Stefan Charles has good point of attack quickness. Backup end Alex Carrington has a strong upper body and straightline speed, and Andre Fluellen is a quick penetrator.
Middle linebacker Preston Brown is the defensive leader. He plays every snap and is productive defending the run and is an effective blitzer. On the strong side, Manny Lawson has big strike ability. He is an occasional sub package pass rusher. Nigel Bradham plays with good speed and blitz production as the weakside backer. Undrafted rookie A.J. Tarpley is a smart and instinctive backup. Randell Johnson and Tony Steward are the other reserves.
In the secondary, strong safety Aaron Williams did not play in Miami because of a neck injury, but he practiced this week. Williams is a savvy safety who plays both the run and pass well and is a dependable tackler. Free safety Corey Graham can cover the slot receiver and play over the top, and has a history of production. Bicarri Rambo, who started last week for Williams, is a strong run defender. Ronald Darby, the Bills' top draft choice this year (in the second round), has two interceptions as the starting left cornerback. He has good speed and ball awareness. Right corner Stephon Gilmore takes good angles and closes quickly to break up passes. The nickel back is, appropriately enough, Nickell Robey, a feisty player who contests underneath passes. Cornerback Mario Butler and safety Duke Williams could also contribute.
BUFFALO BILLS SPECIAL TEAMS
Kicker Dan Carpenter handles only field goals and extra points. Very steady the previous two seasons, he missed three field goal attempts in the preseason and a 54-yarder last week and an extra point try vs. New England. Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay can drive the ball out of the end zone and has 12 touchbacks. Colton Schmidt is a young, talented directional punter with good leg strength and improving hang ability. Buffalo has just three kickoff returns and Harvin has two of them. Thigpen is averaging 6.8 yards on four punt returns.