Bills Finding their Way With a Young Quarterback


First-year offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has already felt the growing pains that come with starting young quarterbacks. Day one starter Nathan Peterman lasted one half before the Bills’ 7th overall draft pick, Josh Allen, took the reigns. That kind of change at the premier position is not an easy undertaking.

Daboll needed to tweak the offense, an offense that he had been installing since being hired this offseason. Aside from the obvious inexperience that Peterman and Allen share, there aren’t many traits physically that the two have in common. So throughout the first quarter of the season, fans have seen the offensive staff slowly ‘learn on the fly’ how to best put their ‘green’ quarterback in the best position to win.

After doing some self-scouting, McDermott concluded that in order to turn the offense around they needed to get back to establishing the line of scrimmage.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=”22″]”So we’ve got to establish the line of scrimmage on the offensive side of the ball . . . We have to win at the line of scrimmage.”[/perfectpullquote]

When the team took the field against the Titans, that goal was evident. But how could Daboll and the staff curate a gameplan that not only committed to playing ball on the defense’s side of the line of scrimmage but that also incorporate passing concepts that didn’t put too much on the young quarterback? Let’s take a look at some of the concepts and techniques Daboll utilized to get the ground game going, along with incorporating passing concepts that help Allen see the field better.

Buffalo chose to go at the Titans with 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs). The tight end pecking order this week was: Charles Clay (49 snaps), Logan Thomas (25 snaps), Jason Croom (21 snaps). Going into the game, the Bills had been extremely balanced when in this personnel grouping, 50% pass, 50% run. They averaged 5.7 yards per run, and when 12 personnel was in the game, they ran it 80% of the time. They averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which was positive, but how they needed to execute the concepts was interesting.

Take a look at the second play from the line of scrimmage. The Bills run a simple split-zone (inside zone, with split flow from the TE). But there were a few wrinkles that helped LeSean McCoy have ‘success.’ Naturally, on 1st down the Titans load the box and play man coverage. So what Daboll did is release the backside tight end, Logan Thomas, and receiver Andre Holmes. That sends mixed signals to the weak spot of the Titans, the linebackers. So even though the box is stacked with nearly nine guys, Daboll helps McCoy out.

Croom will come across the formation in split-flow fashion, which not only cuts off backside pursuit but also catches the attention of the inside linebackers. Watch inside linebacker Rashaan Evans. He quickly comes downhill after seeing RT Jordan Mills show run.

Evans then realizes that Thomas released to the flats and that if it’s a pass his man is wide open.

He vacates the run gap, and it’s an easy four yards on first down. The split flow and release of the tight ends and receivers gave the Titans’ linebackers in the base defense trouble all day.

Josh Allen has all of the talents in the world, but Allen’s struggles to see the field along with the Bills’ mediocre weapons at receiver put some major stress on Daboll’s play calling. The Bills are going to see a lot of eight- and nine-man boxes this season, but for the offense to have success, they need to run the ball. Daboll showed us how he plans on doing that. The Titans have seen 12 personnel 26% of the time on defense in 2018, which is the second most in the league. Teams have averaged five yards per carry when running from this grouping. Even with eight in the box, McCoy ripped off 16 on this play. Instead of Evans falling for the backside release, this time rookie Jayon Brown bites on split-flow action by Croom. This leaves a massive hole right through the A-gap. McCoy gained 59 of his 85 yards through the A-gaps.

McCoy was able to beat stacked boxes and run blitzes by incorporating some of the smallest details. On this inside zone play, Daboll has RT Mills quickly pass set, which draws the rusher, Jurell Casey, upfield, but it also causes the linebacker (Brian Orakpo) to drop into coverage. Even though the Titans have a blitz called play side, McCoy displays his vision and burst to get outside of Orakpo because of the space that was created by the false pass set by Mills.

By consistently throwing split flow at the defense, causing linebackers to doubt themselves, Daboll was able to get Allen some easy passes on the move. However, the rookie struggled to execute them to the precision that is needed to maximize the yards after the catch. On 1st down, the Titans play man coverage while Buffalo runs a play-action rollout to Allen’s right. On the snap, Allen carries out the play fake to the left, Croom comes across the formation and runs an under route to the flats. The linebacker and safety run into each other and Croom is wide open. But Allen is a tad late and is fading away from his target instead of opening up and coming downhill, so the pass is inaccurate and the gain is only seven yards.

Sort of like this play where the pressure forces him to fade away from his target.

Getting Allen half-field reads is the most important goal right now. At Wyoming, they ran a lot of simple smash and three-level passing concepts outside the numbers due to his processing issues and inaccuracy.

These concepts streamline decision making, keep the ball out of harm’s way, and incorporate his athleticism. If no one is open, he can use his legs to make plays as he did on the lone touchdown of the game.

Daboll calls a similar three-level concept later in the game, this time against zone defense. The linebackers are in a bind and the over route by Benjamin is wide open. Allen does a better job of moving toward his target, but the pass is knee level to the 6-foot-5 receiver.


According to SportsInfo Solutions, Allen had an on-target percentage of 73.8% on rollouts outside of the pocket in his last season at Wyoming. Currently, he sits at 57% in the very same category through five games. But if he — or the offense as a whole —are going to have any success this season, these simple half-read plays that are there for the taking need to be accurate to maximize yardage after the catch.

The offensive staff is clearly limited by the talent right now, including their young QB, so the attention to detail in their gameplans and play design can be the difference. We saw this against the Titans. The Bills leaned on the run game and their top ten defense and pulled out a win with virtually no passing game. Not a lot was put on Allen’s plate. In fact, a lot of layups were given to him, and he struggled to execute with precision.

Playing outside of the pocket is an area that Allen needs to improve on and improve on fast. With his processing issues and the struggles up front, a certain percentage of plays will be scripted to get out of the pocket. Plays are also going to break down, so he is going to need to improvise and make some plays to extend drives if the Bills want to score more than 12.6 points/game.