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Joe B: Buffalo Bills All-22 Review - Week 15 vs. Detroit Lions

Posted: 2:29 PM, Dec 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-18 20:56:48Z
Josh Allen Bills Lions 2018 2

(WKBW) — The Buffalo Bills, after being right on the doorstep of victories in their previous two matchups, finally collected a winning result in Week 15. The Bills defeated the Detroit Lions 14-13 and continued their stretch of solid play since the bye week.

Up next, the Bills go on the road for their final away game of the season, a tough matchup against the AFC East-winning New England Patriots. Before that happens, first is an in-depth look at the individual performances from the Week 15 win over the Lions, which improved the Bills' record to 5-9 on the 2018 season.

Each week, WKBW.com will review the film, and bring you how each player graded out in the previous week, with the help of the Game Pass app on NFL.com. You can see a full explanation of how the grades get calculated at the bottom of the article.

Before we get to the individual grades, first some takeaways from the game to help fill in some of the gaps between the grades that you'll see:

1) Allen shows improved pocket poise
- Since returning from a right elbow sprain after the bye week, above all else, Josh Allen has shown the ability to flush out mistakes from one week to the next. Additionally, I've seen a gradual improvement in more nuanced ways that are vital to what he'll become as a finished product. Perhaps the most impressive development this season has been how he's continued to settle into the pocket and isn't seeing as many ghosts in the backfield as Allen did when he initially entered the lineup in Week Two, and also dating back to his days in college. For the first time in three weeks, the play of the offensive line was passable and provided more time in the backfield than he had previously enjoyed. There were a couple of instances against the Lions where he vacated the pocket before he needed to, and his poor decision nearly cost the Bills both times. However, the remainder of the time, Allen possessed a calmness in how he operated in the pocket. He scanned the field pre-snap, eyeing up the coverages akin to the way a baseball batter scans the infield and outfield alignment before they step up to the plate. From there, when he had the required time, he went through his reads and showed quick decision making and accuracy -- while not sacrificing the want to look for the higher-yielding plays when they are there. Due to Allen having some time in the backfield, this was the first time we could gauge his progress with a sample size of more than just a few plays since the Jaguars game -- his first game back. The young quarterback continues to trend up in the areas that he needs to improve, but he still has to get through some of his hangups. For one, he can't continue to lock on to a target on the run while not looking for defenders on the backside, because that nearly caused two interceptions for the Lions -- one of which that likely would have cost the Bills the win. Second, I'd like to see him have a 95-to-100-percent success rate with pocket presence when the offensive line gives him the time back there. He was close to getting there against the Lions but still dipped back into his college habit of seeing ghosts and trying to play hero ball. However, he has shown an improvement in that bad habit, as well as in learning to throw the ball away or taking a safer option if his footwork isn't right. I might be a broken record at this point, but his ability to learn from his mistakes and implement them the next week has been his most impressive asset outside of his physical ability. We're starting to see the Bills harness the good with Allen, and it's put them on the doorstep of victories in four straight games with a pretty weak supporting cast.

2) The OL stepped it up in the 2nd half
- During the Allen breakdown against the Lions, I alluded to the offensive line showing a lot better on Sunday -- and it was true. Especially in the second half, the starting five began to control the line of scrimmage and allowed Allen time in the backfield to pass, along with controlling some of the defensive linemen on rushing attempts. After a pretty bad start for rookie left guard Wyatt Teller in the first half -- including one play where a blitzing linebacker knocked him back two yards and on to the ground -- the fifth-round pick turned it around and started to flash his potential as a starter for the first time since the Jaguars game. Teller certainly has quick enough feet and the strength to flourish in this offensive system, though he loses his consistency as the game goes on. The last two weeks have not been good for the rookie, and as someone that's auditioning to be a starter in 2019, his pickup in performance was sorely needed. The same goes for right guard John Miller, who had two offensive series taken from him to get undrafted rookie Ike Boettger on the field. Miller is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and given how the offseason goes, could be someone that the Bills look to bring back as a just-in-case or depth option for 2019 on a cheap contract. Dion Dawkins had the worst game of the bunch, but he also showed a significant improvement in the second half on non-penalized plays. I'd still like to see him have a good-to-dominant game in the last two matchups if they are going to move forward with him locked in at left tackle. The offensive line is very much a work in progress that will be a priority in the offseason.

3) Boettger's debut
- I mentioned Ike Boettger, and I thought I'd devote one of these to his nine snaps, and on if we can expect to see him starting in place of John Miller on Sunday in New England. Of those nine snaps, I thought his greatest strength was in pass blocking. He showed an ability, in a one-on-one situation, to anchor after he initially gave up a yard or two and to thwart the momentum of the rusher. As a run blocker, the Bills used him as a combo blocker, but I would have liked to see him feel the play and look up the field for a new defender to put a hat on. However, this is a tremendously small sample size for Boettger, who now has all of 17 snaps to his name in 2018. Considering that Miller showed reasonably well as opposed to previous performances, I think the likeliest course of action is for the Bills to keep Miller as the starter, while perhaps upping Boettger's time on the field from two to three or four series. Boettger did well enough to warrant time on the field, and even a little more just to get a better feel for what he is, but they've been hesitant to switch that spot. I think they might want a bigger sample size on Boettger, and should he show well enough concurrently with a game in which Miller struggles, it's likely within the realm of possibilities that Boettger starts in Week 17.

4) Levi Wallace making a case to start in 2019
- Robert Foster gets all the publicity of the undrafted players making an impact on the Bills roster -- and rightfully so -- but undrafted rookie cornerback Levi Wallace has been performing at a high level, and had his best game of the season since being named the starter. What likely sticks in the craw of many will be his two negative plays -- the almost-interception that showed Kenny Golladay ripping the ball out of his arms, and then losing hold of his assignment in the end zone for a touchdown. That's the trouble with cornerbacks on broadcast because you only see the extremely good, or the extremely bad. To me, what Wallace was able to do the rest of the time is what has him -- at least in my opinion -- being in the conversation to serve as the starter in 2019. Wallace is a long-limbed defender that specializes in two things: tackling and positioning -- which is a picture-perfect fit for a zone-based cornerback in Sean McDermott's system. Wallace has shown a knack for feeling where the play is going and worming his way through traffic to contribute to a tackle. As the reps have continued to mount, it's becoming a habit of his to stay well within the confines of the zone, and even to close down a pass play by drifting back with his length. And, honestly, I think if the non-interception had been reviewed, there was a legitimate chance it would have been ruled the Bills ball. However, the Lions were smart to hurry to the line and run a play to take the guesswork out of it. But that leads us to another point about Wallace and one that he needs to improve. He's a wiry guy and has done well to put on weight already, but his strength must improve so that way he has a chance on those 50-50 passes that he's lost since becoming the starter. Wallace is a steady contributor and one that caught my eye this week for good reasons. I think the Bills should bring in some competition for him in the offseason, but at the same time, if his strong play continues they should give him a chance to win the job outright, too.

5) Don't be surprised if Yarbrough is inactive next week
- In the land of the NFL, the modus operandi of the coaching staff is usually to give as little away in a press conference or interview setting. However, the beauty of the film and snap counts is that their actions speak louder than words, which is where you can identify trends and who is rising and falling with the depth chart. Even though he was an upstart at training camp and preseason last year, things have been trending down for defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, so much so that he might not be given a chance to make an impact against the New England Patriots in Week 16. Through the season, they've tried to maximize Yarbrough's value in a couple of different ways. First, they tried making him that same rotational defensive end he was in 2017, where he was getting somewhere between 30-to-40-percent of snaps, and barely being used on special teams. That changed in Week Eight against New England, when they started to give Yarbrough almost double-digit special teams snaps per game for five straight games. However, another shift has happened with defense, too. Over the last three games, Yarbrough's snap count has drifted down to get Shaq Lawson and Trent Murphy on the field more. He had only ten defensive snaps in Miami, 14 against the New York Jets, and a season-low seven against Detroit. Furthermore, his special teams role has been taken away as well. The Bills used him on only five special teams snaps against the Jets and none against the Lions. The Bills also dressed undrafted rookie Mike Love for the first time against Detroit, and considering he showed a bit as a pass rusher in his nine snaps in addition to receiving eight special teams snaps, I think there's a chance Yarbrough's name is on the inactive list come 11:30 am on Sunday, December 23.

Without further ado, the individual grades:

1) DE Jerry Hughes
Snaps on the Field: 38/57
Grade vs. Lions: A-

2) S Jordan Poyer
Snaps on the Field: 57/57
Grade vs. Lions: A-

3) SLB Lorenzo Alexander
Snaps on the Field: 54/57
Grade vs. Lions: A-

4) MLB Tremaine Edmunds
Snaps on the Field: 54/57
Grade vs. Lions: A-

5) WR Robert Foster
Snaps on the Field: 57/68
Grade vs. Lions: A-

6) QB Josh Allen
Snaps on the Field: 68/68
Grade vs. Lions: B+

7) CB Levi Wallace
Snaps on the Field: 56/57
Grade vs. Lions: B+

8) DT Kyle Williams
Snaps on the Field: 39/57
Grade vs. Lions: B+

9) FB Patrick DiMarco
Snaps on the Field: 15/68
Grade vs. Lions: B+

10) DE Trent Murphy
Snaps on the Field: 35/57
Grade vs. Lions: B

11) WR Isaiah McKenzie
Snaps on the Field: 35/68
Grade vs. Lions: B

12) DE Shaq Lawson
Snaps on the Field: 34/57
Grade vs. Lions: B

13) S Micah Hyde
Snaps on the Field: 57/57
Grade vs. Lions: B

14) TE Jason Croom
Snaps on the Field: 32/68
Grade vs. Lions: B

15) RB Marcus Murphy
Snaps on the Field: 19/68
Grade vs. Lions: B

16) LG Wyatt Teller
Snaps on the Field: 68/68
Grade vs. Lions: B-

17) C Ryan Groy
Snaps on the Field: 68/68
Grade vs. Lions: B-

18) RG John Miller
Snaps on the Field: 59/68
Grade vs. Lions: B-

19) WR Zay Jones
Snaps on the Field: 66/68
Grade vs. Lions: B-

20) S Rafael Bush
Snaps on the Field: 42/57
Grade vs. Lions: B-

21) DT Star Lotulelei
Snaps on the Field: 30/57
Grade vs. Lions: B-

22) RT Jordan Mills
Snaps on the Field: 68/68
Grade vs. Lions: B-

23) WLB Corey Thompson
Snaps on the Field: 20/57
Grade vs. Lions: B-

24) DT Jordan Phillips
Snaps on the Field: 17/57
Grade vs. Lions: B-

25) CB Tre'Davious White
Snaps on the Field: 56/57
Grade vs. Lions: C+

26) TE Charles Clay
Snaps on the Field: 41/68
Grade vs. Lions: C+

27) RB Keith Ford
Snaps on the Field: 41/68
Grade vs. Lions: C+

28) WR Deonte Thompson
Snaps on the Field: 17/68
Grade vs. Lions: C+

29) DT Harrison Phillips
Snaps on the Field: 18/57
Grade vs. Lions: C

30) LT Dion Dawkins
Snaps on the Field: 68/68
Grade vs. Lions: C

Players with less than 15 snaps:
G Ike Boettger (9)
OL Jeremiah Sirles (9)
DE Mike Love (9)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud (8)
DE Eddie Yarbrough (7)
MLB Julian Stanford (2)

Active players without an offensive or defensive snap:
QB Matt Barkley
WR Da'Mari Scott
T Conor McDermott
SLB Deon Lacey
CB Lafayette Pitts
CB Denzel Rice
S Siran Neal

Inactives:
*(Total games inactive in 2018)
QB Derek Anderson (7)
CB Ryan Lewis (6)
TE Logan Thomas (4)
G Vladimir Ducasse (4)
RB LeSean McCoy (2)
RB Chris Ivory (2)
S Dean Marlowe (1)

Season-long grades:
*(Minimum 200 snaps)

1) DE Jerry Hughes - 3.26 (2)
2) CB Tre'Davious White - 3.23 (1)
3) SLB Lorenzo Alexander - 3.20 (3)
4) WR Robert Foster - 3.14 (6)
5) DE Shaq Lawson - 3.13 (4)
6) NCB Taron Johnson - 3.04 (5)
7) WLB Matt Milano - 2.99 (7)
8) S Jordan Poyer - 2.94 (10)
9) S Micah Hyde - 2.94 (8)
10) CB Levi Wallace - 2.87 (18)
11) RB Chris Ivory - 2.86 (11)
12) DT Harrison Phillips - 2.86 (9)
13) MLB Tremaine Edmunds - 2.83 (15)
14) DT Kyle Williams - 2.83 (13)
15) DT Star Lotulelei - 2.82 (12)
16) RB LeSean McCoy - 2.78 (14)
17) DE Trent Murphy - 2.78 (17)
18) WR Zay Jones - 2.76 (16)
19) DT Jordan Phillips - 2.74 (19)
20) DE Eddie Yarbrough - 2.69 (20)
21) QB Josh Allen - 2.61 (23)
22) S Rafael Bush - 2.61 (22)
23) WR Andre Holmes - 2.61 (21)
24) TE Jason Croom - 2.49 (25)
25) LT Dion Dawkins - 2.46 (24)
26) G Vladimir Ducasse - 2.42 (26)
27) TE Charles Clay - 2.40 (27)
28) RG John Miller - 2.34 (28)
29) TE Logan Thomas - 2.31 (29)
30) WR Kelvin Benjamin - 2.27 (30)
31) CB Phillip Gaines - 2.22 (31)
32) LG Wyatt Teller - 2.13 (33)
33) RT Jordan Mills - 2.11 (32)
34) C Russell Bodine - 1.90 (34)
35) C Ryan Groy - 1.87 (35)
(Last week's rank in parentheses)

How the grades work:

Every Tuesday, when the All-22 film becomes available, we’ll go through and watch each play and every player on each play as many times as necessary, to assess a letter grade for that game to the player. It is a subjective analysis, and it’s important to note that we do not know the play calls and full responsibilities. With that written, the grades stem from technique, outstanding efforts, and presumed liability.

The study accounts only for players that take a snap on offense or defense, and players with under 15 snaps -- unless they have a significant impact on the game -- will not factor into weekly rankings.

Season-long grades have been tallied and documented, with an individual game’s grade weighted for how much the player was on the field in a given week. Those will be available starting in Week Two.

Previous Weeks:
Week 1 - Ravens 47, Bills 3
Week 2 - Chargers 31, Bills 20
Week 3 - Bills 27, Vikings 6
Week 4 - Packers 22, Bills 0
Week 5 - Bills 13, Titans 12
Week 6 - Texans 20, Bills 13
Week 7 - Colts 37, Bills 5
Week 8 - Patriots 25, Bills 6
Week 9 - Bears 41, Bills 9
Week 10 - Bills 41, Jets 10
Week 12 - Bills 24, Jaguars 21
Week 13 - Dolphins 21, Bills 17
Week 14 - Jets 27, Bills 23
Week 15 - Bills 14, Lions 13

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia