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Joe B: Buffalo Bills All-22 Review - Week 5 vs. Tennessee Titans

Posted: 8:26 PM, Oct 09, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-10 00:26:30Z

In Week Four, the Buffalo Bills couldn't get much of anything going on offense, and a slow start on defense doomed them the rest of the way. One week later, the Bills' defense led the way, and the offense did just enough to defeat the Tennessee Titans 13-12

Up next, the Bills go back on the road to face the Houston Texans -- a team coming off of a big Week Five overtime victory on Sunday night to bring their record to 2-3. Before that happens, first is an in-depth look at the individual performances from the Week Five win over the Titans, which now gives the Bills a 2-3 record in 2018 as well.

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) Josh Allen shows flashes, but again missed the mark
- Following the Packers game, and the awful interception that defined a down day for the passing offense, the Bills elected to repurpose themselves with their offensive identity. They committed to the run game, and the game script helped them to take a lot of pressure off of Josh Allen to try and win the game on every series. And I will say, there were a few occasions in the game where Allen showed some flash plays and decisions that helped make you think that there's a good quarterback there that just needs to be cleaned off enough to shine. His throw over the middle of the field in the first half to Charles Clay was a perfect example of what was missing the previous week. He saw a slight window and zinged in a pass perfectly in stride to give Clay some room to roam. Then, in the fourth quarter on a 3rd-and-10, Allen stayed calm in the pocket, moved slightly to the left to change his angle of sight, saw wide receiver Zay Jones come open on a comeback route and got the ball in there with a perfect throw for a 12-yard gain and a first down. Heck, even on his interception, Allen's poise to remain in the pocket, take a hit, and deliver an anticipatory throw that was right on the money to Andre Holmes is a sign that he can do the things the Bills eventually want him to do all the time. On that play, it was a combination of a good play by the cornerback Adoree' Jackson, and Holmes needing to be stronger on the ball, that ultimately led to the ball popping up into the air. On the flip side, Allen showed a considerable amount that he needs to fix, too. Among my biggest concerns with his performance was leaving a clean pocket far too early when routes were still developing. Having the ability to move subtly in the pocket, reset his feet, and to change the angle is something the best quarterbacks in the league possess. The times that Allen did that on Sunday, and even last week against Green Bay, is just unnecessary and doing a disservice to his wide receivers. However, as I pointed out before, he showed that he does have the ability to do it, and now it's a matter of drawing it out more consistently. The second downfall to Allen's day against the Titans was his inconsistent footwork, which then led to inaccurate passes. Early on in the game, the Bills ran a perfectly executed play action to the left that had tight end Jason Croom leak out to the right. The linebackers in coverage ran into each other, and Croom had plenty of room to roam from about the 30-yard line with a good throw, perhaps even getting into the end zone with a good block downfield on the cornerback and making the safety miss. However, Allen seemed to get a little over-excited, didn't set his feet as he rolled right, the ball was too short and low to Croom. The tight end managed to bring in the pass, but the location of the ball caused him to stumble, and he couldn't keep his feet, only getting an eight or nine-yard gain on the play. That was an opportunity missed. There was also another throw to the left on a comeback route to Kelvin Benjamin, where Allen opened up his left hip too much, and the ball sailed well behind the target and out of bounds. That was a concern of his stemming back from his college days, and one the Bills have tried to get a handle on. In this game, that was the only instance of that happening to my memory. Allen also misfired again to Benjamin over the middle of the field, with enough room in the pocket, but put it basically into the dirt just short of Benjamin. It would have been a contested catch opportunity, but those are the battles that the possession receiver is supposed to win. So while it's good that Allen made that throw over the middle, the total misfire just fueled the frustration. To top it all off, Allen looked borderline hesitant for the bigger plays. He threw the ball away on a couple of occasions where no one was open which is a positive, but that terrible Green Bay interception might have stuck in his craw during this game. On a play where Allen rolled right, Zay Jones made an excellent move on the cornerback that got the defender to turn his back on the receiver, which created at least a yard of separation. Jones was running parallel to the end zone line one-yard deep into the scoring area, perfectly in Allen's line of sight. However, for whatever reason, Allen didn't want to try it -- even though there was a certain degree of safety with the sideline being his friend in the event of leading his target too far. Allen decided to dump it down to Jason Croom for a one-yard gain. One of my favorite parts about Allen's game from Wyoming is that he always had the end zone on his mind when rolling right, and would often give his receivers a chance to make a scoring play. Again, the only reason I can think of as to why he wouldn't try Jones on a route that he won with a potential scoring play is due to last week's heave across the body into the end zone that was an interception. Allen has to learn that it's okay to take those chances when his body position is correct, and there is enough of a window to do it because he more than has the arm to pull it off. So, while it's frustrating for fans to have him make these entry-level mistakes, it's the Bills job to turn the flashes we saw into his consistent default.

2) Don't write off Zay Jones yet, plus the Bills WRs blocked their butts off
- In recent years with the NFL, wide receivers have had a tougher time transitioning to the professional game, and those early impact players from the draft haven't been as plentiful. Over the last season and now five games into this one, Bills 2017 second-round pick Zay Jones hasn't seen the smoothest of transitions to the NFL. However, as crazy as it might sound, it looked like something clicked for Jones in garbage time against the Green Bay Packers. Jones ran precise routes, used quick feet in and out of his breakdowns, and then had a window for Josh Allen to throw it to him. Granted, that did come in garbage time where the coverage wasn't as tight, but even that success might have helped Jones. On multiple occasions against the Tennessee Titans, Jones ran a route that during his break it deceived the defensive back so much that it paved the way to separation, and a window for Allen to throw to him. However, the trouble is, Allen only took advantage of this one time -- the 12-yard reception in the 4th quarter on 3rd-and-10 that I referenced earlier. If Jones has figured out that his break is where he gains his most significant advantage, and not to try to use pure speed on his routes as he did on some occasions in his rookie year, it could be a sign that things are starting to slow down for the second-year player a bit. It's still a to be determined type of situation, but I liked Jones' game quite a bit. There also had to be an internal message to the wide receivers to give their all when run blocking, because Andre Holmes was a weapon in the running game with the types of blocks that he was pulling off, and even Kelvin Benjamin was giving maximum effort, too. The running game was working against Tennessee, and the wide receivers helped in a big way.

3) The defensive tackles dominated the Titans
- If you're looking for one of the primary reasons, if not the single biggest reason why the Buffalo Bills were successful on defense, look no further than right up front with the defensive tackles. All game long, the rotation of Kyle Williams, Star Lotulelei, Harrison Phillips, Jordan Phillips, Lorenzo Alexander, and even Shaq Lawson took the matchup and flipped it on its head. The top performances of that group belonged to Lotulelei and Harrison Phillips, but I'll get into the latter in the next paragraph. Lotulelei has completely turned his season around after a weak showing in Week One. He uses his big frame to take up blockers, but to also move them into the running lane on some occasions. He's also quite agile and quick off the snap, which gives him an advantage right from the start of the play. His play has helped completely turn around the fortunes of the defensive line from where it was last year. Kyle Williams had his strongest showing of 2018 as well, flashing some of his brilliance from the earlier years in his career with some disruptive plays in the backfield. Jordan Phillips was on fire in his snaps on the field. The new acquisition aimed to show his old employers in Miami what they were missing, and that came in the form of a disruptive three-technique defensive tackle -- and quite possibly the biggest version of that position I've seen to date (6-foot-6, 341-pounds). There was an evident mismatch with the Titans interior offensive line, and this group destroyed it.

4) Harrison Phillips might be good enough to start right now
- Every week that I watch third-round pick Harrison Phillips, I find a new play of his that catches me off guard. Against the Titans, his best play was one that he took on a double-team, held his ground, spun out of it like a Tasmanian devil and plugged the running lane to help slow up the ball carrier. It hasn't mattered if he's played the one-technique or the three-technique role, Phillips has continued to improve. Against the Titans, Phillips had his best game -- which is saying something given how impressive the start to his season has been. All along I've been advocating for the Bills to give more time to Phillips on the field, which they did a little bit by giving him 44-percent of snaps against Tennessee. However, I don't think Phillips is that far off from being a starting player in the NFL, if he isn't there already. The trouble is if Jordan Phillips keeps up his level of play, the snaps he would get at three-technique for Kyle Williams aren't as readily available anymore. I'm going to sound like a broken record, but I do think it stands to benefit the Bills to give Kyle Williams less time on the field to keep him a bit more fresh -- much in the way they did with Lorenzo Alexander in the second half of the 2017 season. That way those snaps could go to Phillips at three-technique, while he still maintains his primary backup snaps at one-technique, which still allows for Jordan Phillips to get his snaps. It's a subtle change, but one that I think could take this group even to a higher level than they're playing at right now.

5) The left side of the offensive line is settling in
- While the defense led the way for the Bills, as you'll see by the grades below, the offensive line also had a good day as a unit. The one thing that's starting to manifest through five weeks of action now is that they might not have to worry about the left side of their line for the rest of this year, or even into the 2019 season. Both left tackle Dion Dawkins and left guard Vladimir Ducasse continuously lead the way with their performances on the offensive line, often making critical one-on-one blocks to help the offense advance the play. The progress of Dawkins is one that should make the Bills feel quite happy, considering he was a high draft pick and is really the first of their offensive draft picks to start to show they belong every week. Dawkins plays with an edge that sometimes gets him into trouble, but he's improved as a pass blocker this season and continued along as a strong run blocker as he did in his rookie season. Ducasse's performance has caught a lot of people off guard, mainly because of how dominant he looks at times when pass blocking. He has quick feet, moves well off stunts and twists to go with a new pass rusher, and hasn't been a liability nearly as much as he was last year. Even then, his miscues were overexaggerated in the 2017 regular season. Both players have contracts through the 2019 season, and if they keep this level of play up, they'll be the starters that season, too.

Without further ado, the individual grades:

1) DT Harrison Phillips
Snaps on the Field: 24/54
Grade vs. Titans: A-

2) SLB Lorenzo Alexander
Snaps on the Field: 35/54 
Grade vs. Titans: A-

3) DE Jerry Hughes
Snaps on the Field: 37/54 
Grade vs. Titans: A-

4) WLB Matt Milano
Snaps on the Field: 53/54 
Grade vs. Titans: A-

5) DT Star Lotulelei
Snaps on the Field: 23/54 
Grade vs. Titans: A-

6) CB Tre'Davious White
Snaps on the Field: 54/54 
Grade vs. Titans: A-

7) RB LeSean McCoy
Snaps on the Field: 47/65
Grade vs. Titans: B+

8) CB Taron Johnson
Snaps on the Field: 27/54
Grade vs. Titans: B+

9) S Jordan Poyer
Snaps on the Field: 54/54
Grade vs. Titans: B+

10) DE Trent Murphy
Snaps on the Field: 36/54
Grade vs. Titans: B+

11) DT Jordan Phillips
Snaps on the Field: 17/54
Grade vs. Titans: B+

12) WR Zay Jones
Snaps on the Field: 50/65
Grade vs. Titans: B+

13) WR Andre Holmes
Snaps on the Field: 33/65
Grade vs. Titans: B+

14) LT Dion Dawkins
Snaps on the Field: 65/65 
Grade vs. Titans: B

15) DT Kyle Williams
Snaps on the Field: 34/54 
Grade vs. Titans: B

16) MLB Tremaine Edmunds
Snaps on the Field: 54/54 
Grade vs. Titans: B

17) LG Vladimir Ducasse
Snaps on the Field: 65/65 
Grade vs. Titans: B

18) RT Jordan Mills
Snaps on the Field: 65/65 
Grade vs. Titans: B

19) RB Chris Ivory
Snaps on the Field: 18/65
Grade vs. Titans: B

20) DE Shaq Lawson
Snaps on the Field: 19/54
Grade vs. Titans: B

21) WR Kelvin Benjamin
Snaps on the Field: 42/65
Grade vs. Titans: B-

22) TE Charles Clay
Snaps on the Field: 49/65
Grade vs. Titans: B-

23) TE Jason Croom
Snaps on the Field: 21/65
Grade vs. Titans: B-

24) CB Phillip Gaines
Snaps on the Field: 40/54
Grade vs. Titans: B-

25) DE Eddie Yarbrough
Snaps on the Field: 17/54
Grade vs. Titans: B-

26) TE Logan Thomas
Snaps on the Field: 24/65
Grade vs. Titans: B-

27) C Russell Bodine
Snaps on the Field: 65/65
Grade vs. Titans: B-

28) RG John Miller
Snaps on the Field: 65/65
Grade vs. Titans: B-

29) S Dean Marlowe
Snaps on the Field: 54/54
Grade vs. Titans: C+

30) CB Ryan Lewis
Snaps on the Field: 16/54 
Grade vs. Titans: C

31) QB Josh Allen
Snaps on the Field: 65/65 
Grade vs. Titans: C-

Players with less than 15 snaps:
FB Patrick DiMarco (13)
WR Ray-Ray McCloud (13)
WR Robert Foster (8)
OL Jeremiah Sirles (6)
RB Taiwan Jones (1)

Active players without an offensive or defensive snap: 
QB Nathan Peterman
C/G Ryan Groy
WLB Ramon Humber
SLB Deon Lacey
MLB Julian Stanford
CB Lafayette Pitts
S Siran Neal

Inactives
*(Total games inactive in 2018)
G Wyatt Teller (5)
G Ike Boettger (4)
T Conor McDermott (4)
RB Marcus Murphy (2)
CB Dontae Johnson (1)
S Micah Hyde (1)
S Rafael Bush (1)

Season-long grades:
*(Minimum 75 snaps)

1) CB Tre'Davious White - 3.39 (1)
2) NCB Taron Johnson - 3.32 (2)
3) SLB Lorenzo Alexander - 3.31 (3)
4) WLB Matt Milano - 3.19 (5)
5) DE Shaq Lawson - 3.15 (4)
6) DT Harrison Phillips - 3.13 (7)
7) DE Jerry Hughes - 3.07 (9)
8) LG Vladimir Ducasse - 3.00 (6)
9) S Micah Hyde - 3.00 (8)
10) RB LeSean McCoy - 2.96 (14)
11) LT Dion Dawkins - 2.93 (10)
12) S Jordan Poyer - 2.93 (12)
13) RB Chris Ivory - 2.91 (11)
14) MLB Tremaine Edmunds - 2.79 (16)
15) DT Star Lotulelei - 2.78 (18)
16) TE Jason Croom - 2.76 (15) 
17) CB Ryan Lewis - 2.75 (13)
18) RT Jordan Mills - 2.68 (19)
19) DE Eddie Yarbrough - 2.67 (17)
20) DE Trent Murphy - 2.61 (24)
21) WR Zay Jones - 2.60 (25)
22) WR Andre Holmes - 2.60 (26)
23) WR Robert Foster - 2.60 (20)
24) DT Kyle Williams - 2.57 (22)
25) TE Charles Clay - 2.54 (21)
26) CB Phillip Gaines - 2.46 (27)
27) S Rafael Bush - 2.45 (23)
28) RG John Miller - 2.28 (30)
29) C Russell Bodine - 2.24 (32)
30) WR Kelvin Benjamin - 2.20 (31)
31) QB Josh Allen - 2.10 (29)
32) C Ryan Groy - 1.71 (33)
(Last week's rank in parentheses)
(RB Marcus Murphy removed from the rankings for not having enough snaps to qualify)

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

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

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