The Buffalo Bills defense should not hang their head after the loss to the Baltimore Ravens. They are currently ranked as the 9th best defense in the league and 6th in scoring. In what appears to be a much sounder defensive unit, the Bills have a good mix of pass rush and coverage players that can match up with just about any team.
Week two brings a familiar coordinator in Chan Gailey to town for a prime-time matchup that should be quite intriguing. The Jets offense put up 22 points in their season opener but it wasn’t enough and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick sealed the loss by throwing an interception in the fourth quarter.
Fitzy dropped back to pass 37 times, attempted 36 passes and completed 19 of them (54.3%). When teams start to scout the quarterback, they begin with batted passes. The Harvard grad tends to have a lot of passes batted at the line of scrimmage because of his delivery. The Bengals game was no exception, he had three passes batted down.
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The nine-year vet had a total of 19 passes batted down last season and he has 86 so far in his career. The Bills only managed to get two in two games last season but it is imperative that the Bills defensive line get their hands up if they can not get to the QB.
Fitzy got the ball out of his hands quickly last week recording a 2.04 seconds snap to attempt according to Pro Football Focus (3rd quickest for week one). Which is probably why the Bengals only blitzed him eight times. But when you look at his completion percentage while under pressure from week one, Fitzy registered a 28.6% completion percentage when blitzed or under pressure. I expect this to be a huge part of the game plan. Rex Ryan pressured Fitzy quite well in two games last season. He applied pressure on 38.2% of the drop backs in those two matchups. That led to a 26.9% completion percentage, 2 TDs, 3 INTs and 2 sacks. His accuracy completely suffers when under pressure (5th worst in ’15) and Rex knows that. The Jets QB had a 39% accuracy rate vs. Buffalo in ’15 when under pressure so expect the Bills to generate pressure in many forms.
The Jets only gave up six total pressures to the Bengals, but a position the Bills could look to exploit is the right tackle position. The Jets rotated Ben Ijalana and Brent Qvale every other series last week and they both held up really well to a strong defensive line. Each gave up one pressure a piece. I am sure that Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander look forward to testing right side.
Chan Gailey and Fitzpatrick like to challenge the Bills defense over the middle. Last season Fitzy attempted 56 total passes in two games, 33 of them were over the middle. Seventeen of his thirty attempts versus the Bengals were over the middle, here is an easy 18 yard gain. The linebacker has to stay at home to protect against the RB leaking out. This leaves a large void behind him for Marshall to exploit.
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Corey Graham intercepts the pass intended for Brandon Marshall.
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There are two staples of the Gailey passing game. The first is how he uses pulling guards in his passing game. As Bills fans know, Gailey primarily employs a zone running scheme. But when he wants to get the ball out quickly and over the middle he throws false keys at the linebackers. Like on this play from 2015. Inside linebacker, Preston Brown is keying the near guard. As the guard pulls he steps up to stop the run, that gives Fitzy just enough room to get the ball behind him.
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Gailey uses this action regardless if Fitzy fakes it to the running back or not. They also run this out of a single back set if they want to push the ball deeper down the middle as it will draw the backers up more.
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So if the Bills linebackers see a pulling guard they must be cognizant of the pass coming their way. I only saw one run play with a pulling guard versus the Bengals, so this is a tendency to keep an eye on.
The other staple of a Gailey passing offense are SCREENS. In my opinion, Gailey is a top screen play caller in the game right behind Andy Reid. He likes to run wide receiver screens, tight end screens and screens to the backs. He now has a real threat in the screen game in Matt Forte. I counted at least three screens on 2nd and long (7+ yds) in the game versus the Bengals.
How well the Bills defend the screen game may just be the deciding factor in this matchup.
In the game versus the Bengals, Matt Forte and the Jets quietly racked up a good amount of yardage. They rushed it 30 times for 152 yards and caused 6 missed tackles doing it. Forte led the team with 22 attempts for 96 yards and made 4 guys miss. Seventeen of Forte’s carries were from the tackle out, so most of his runs ended up getting bounced outside, which isn’t abnormal in a zone running scheme.
Jets are in 12 personnel and run inside zone to the boundary. The defensive end loses the edge and Forte is off to the races.
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Some of the better runs for the Jets against the Bengals were when they were in 12 personnel on 1st and 10. Something to keep an eye on. Left guard Carpenter does a great job of taking the defensive tackle where he wants to go, Forte cuts it back and left tackle Clady cuts the second level defender to spring the back.
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Forte is the perfect fit for Gailey’s zone run scheme, he has great vision, he is patient and most of all he can put his foot on the ground and get up field. Heck of a job by Carpenter and Clady again.
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The Jets offense has their fair share of playmakers. Their receivers are a big, talented group and their match up with corners Gilmore and Darby should be a treat. The X factor this week will be running back Matt Forte. Wherever he is on the field he is a threat and a mismatch. I expect 25-30 touches for Forte Thursday night. He is fifth in the league in yards after contact per attempt (3.00). He was targeted six times, caught five for 59 yards, and averaged 2.68 yards per route run (5th most) in the game versus the Bengals. This game should be interesting considering the familiarity and short week of preparation. Special teams and/or big plays may just decide the winner.