Bills hire QB coach Ken Dorsey: NFL Draft implications?


As you may have heard from every Buffalo Bills news outlet, the team solidified their final coaching vacancies today by hiring Ken Dorsey to be the new QB coach and promoting assistant WR coach Chad Hall to WR coach. But I want to focus on Dorsey because as soon as the news hit the timeline, within seconds fans were rolling their eyes and tweeting, “Another Carolina Panther?!”

So rather than go down that road, rather than pick the low hanging fruit, let’s analyze this move objectively and see what it actually could mean for the organization. After all, we at Cover 1 are not about hot takes.

So here is a brief outline of his rise through the ranks. His initial role after playing in the league came in 2011 with the Panthers as a pro scout, which is how he has relationships with Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott. As a scout, his main responsibilities were to scout street free agents and the Panthers’ upcoming opponents by studying their film and putting their tendencies on paper, then passing that intel to the coaches and the staff, who would use that as the basis for their gameplan. This was a task that I am sure, as a former player, was second nature to him. He served in that role until being named the QB coach for the team, a role that he held from 2013 to 2017. His unstable playing career had a lot to do with having six offensive coordinators in eight years as much as it did his talent. But the constant change in offensive schemes as a player has quietly become the foundation for Dorsey the coach.

Dorsey’s work with Cam Newton is well documented, and you will likely read content that mentions how important Dorsey was to Cam’s development and 2015 MVP campaign. But this was Dorsey’s second go-round with the MVP. He also worked with Newton when he was at the IMG Academy the summer leading into his rookie season. Much of Newton’s success had to do with Dorsey and his focus on making Cam “an all-around passer, an all-around quarterback technique-wise.”

Under offensive coordinator Mike Shula, Dorsey added another notch to his schematic belt teaching an offense that accentuated the dual-threat ability of Newton, which should be music to the ears of Bills fans. Bills quarterback Josh Allen won over fans’ hearts with his scrappy yet explosive style of play. In Carolina, Shula was known for taking a lot of the Power Spread concepts that Newton ran at Auburn during his National Championship run, cradling Newton’s Superman abilities into an offense that would consistently be near the top in the league. During Dorsey’s time with the Panthers, the team was never a top-five offense; their crowning achievement was leading the league in scoring in that 2015 season. In fact, they never finished higher than 19th in passing.  Am I starting to scare you? I get it, he’s a former Panther, and like every coach who has been fired, the Panthers’ offensive staff didn’t put an offensive product on the field that was good enough by the standards set by the organization. So instead of listing any more successes or failures, let’s switch gears and analyze what Dorsey’s rise through the ranks means philosophically, but more importantly for you draftniks, what it means during this year’s NFL Draft.

“I credit a lot of my success to Ken Dorsey.”-Cam Newton


This won’t be an in-depth look at how offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and new QB coach Dorsey are going to maximize Allen now, because if you watched the second half of the season, I believe that philosophy is pretty much in place. If you need a refresher and you want the nitty-gritty of what they want to do, jump into our film room.

Simply speaking, the Bills want to stretch defenses vertically with Allen’s big arm by sending their speedy wide receivers on perpetual go-routes. This put defenses in a bind, and when the secondary locked the receivers down, Allen was able to maximize his athletic ability by taking off and rushing for 7.1 yards per attempt, which was best in the NFL not just among QBs, but among all rushers with 50 attempts. Allen rushed 69 times in 2018 (minus QB kneels, QB sneaks, and other), of which 47 were scrambles. On those scrambles, Allen averaged 10.1 yards per attempt and broke 12 tackles for 316 yards and five touchdowns. But as we have heard ad nauseam, that isn’t sustainable and not the way that teams are consistently winning at the NFL level. But the Daboll-led offense did what they could with what they had. They had a QB that could extend plays and drives with his legs. The Bills had zero movement from their offensive line on called runs to LeSean McCoy or any of the running backs that were sent onto the field. You’re probably thinking that when Chris Ivory came into the game, he ran hard and was a better fit, but the fact of the matter is that Ivory averaged 3.3 yards per carry, while McCoy sat at 3.2. But I digress; the point is that the Bills’ offense struggled to field a running game, and part of that had to do with their struggle to mesh Daboll’s spread concepts with their running game.

Most of those issues lie with their lack of talent up front, so upgrading the offense is widely known to be priority number one. Adding linemen via free agency and the draft will make things easier for Allen and the offense. Where Dorsey comes into the equation is that he has experience, and success to a certain degree, at teaching and developing a quarterback with similar physical traits to Josh Allen. Weaving the QB’s dual-threat ability into the run game and the overall offensive philosophy is something that Daboll and the staff have to do if they want to get the most out of Josh Allen. And to be honest, outside of Daboll’s one season at Alabama does he have a lot of experience coaching a QB with the skillset of Allen’s? Does he have a lot of experience designing an offense around a QB will his skillset?

Dorsey was hired last December by head coach Eliah Drinkwitz (Appalachian State) in the role of offensive assistant. I imagine Drinkwitz wanted to find some role for Dorsey because of Dorsey’s experience with mobile QBs and how to structure an offense around them. Not from a rushing sense, but from how to properly mesh the run and pass structures and how to possibly improve upon the 11-2 season.

In Dorsey’s few short months working at App State, he reportedly was “working on recruiting and assisting with the Mountaineers’ offensive plans.”  Drinkwitz, the former offensive coordinator and QB coach of the NC State Wolfpack, is taking over a program that ran the ball 62% of the time in 2018, and their QB, Zac Thomas, a mobile QB, pitched in 92 attempts on the ground for 504 yards and 10 touchdowns. Going from a pocket QB in Ryan Finley to a more mobile QB and dual-threat offense is quite the change.

Drinkwitz is seen by many as one of the top up-and-coming play-callers. He chose to retain offensive play-caller Justin Watts and added Dorsey in the process. Dorsey was the only one out of program hired directly by Drinkwitz. Dorsey reportedly attended games at App State during his coaching years at Carolina. The campus is located in Boone, North Carolina, so Dorsey was able to attend a bunch of games, seeing as how the campus was only two hours from the Panthers’ stadium.

Having coached for the Wolfpack for several years, Drinkwitz and NC State head coach Dave Doeren have crossed paths with Brandon Beane or Sean McDermott, and this is where it gets fun for draftniks.

Draft Implications

This time last year, I laid out some of Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane’s connections and how they could impact the draft, and several players were brought in off of that list. Will we see something similar to that this season? Who knows, but the wheels are turning.

Drinkwitz began his collegiate coaching career as a quality control assistant in 2010 with the Auburn Tigers, a role he held for two seasons. That coincided with then-junior Cam Newton’s domination of college ball. Drinkwitz is spoken of highly by former Tigers head coach Gene Chizik:

“Eliah is a rising star in this profession. He is a great football coach, a great family man and will be a great mentor and role model for young people. He is a great offensive mind, very creative, innovative, detailed and thorough in his approach. He uses his personnel as effectively as anybody in the country. Appalachian State just hired a great leader of men!”

Often referred to by his friends as ‘Drinks”, he went on to coach various positions after Auburn, but his most recent stop was with the aforementioned NC State Wolfpack under Dave Doeren. Doeren is in McDermott’s coaching network thanks to LSU’s Dave Aranda, and much like last season, the Wolfpack have several prospects that are assuredly on their radar this season.

One that is specifically at an absolute position of need is center.

Garrett Bradbury, Center

Garrett Bradbury has been universally deemed the top center in this draft and someone that McDermott, Beane, and even offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, are enamored with. At the Senior Bowl, Daboll and McDermott came down from the stands and walked inside the fence at Ladd Peebles Stadium as the North practice started, parked to my left, just to get a closer look at Bradbury.

Bradbury’s a first-round talent on and off the field and has several ‘connections’ to the Bills’ front office or coaching staff.

His athleticism and football intelligence could be a  major upgrade to a position that saw a steep drop in talent when Eric Wood retired.

Scouting Report | Garrett Bradbury, Center, NC State

Tyler Jones, Guard

Jones is a prospect that I looked at quickly last night, and after diving into some of his film and peeking at his background, I think he has tools that Daboll could work with. He stands 6-foot-3 and 306 pounds and dabbled at several positions across the offensive line, but he mainly played left tackle. He has the position flexibility that the staff looks for, but given his measurables, he projects as a guard at the next level, which falls right in line with another area of need for the Bills. Jones recently participated in the East/West Shrine all-star event and drew rave reviews.

His movement skills and body type are conducive to playing inside where the action occurs at a much quicker speed. In an interview with NFL Draft Blitz, Jones stated his strengths were his “durability and versatility,” both high priorities on Beane’s checklist. Jones’s play may or may not have been seen by Beane, but apparently, it caught the eyes of Bills scouts, as they reportedly met with Jones at Shrine week festivities.

Kelvin Harmon, Wide Receiver

Another position of need for the Bills is wide receiver. Beane needs to protect Allen, but he also needs to surround him with as many weapons as he can. I expect him to attack it via free agency, did you know Dorsey mentored Randall Cobb at the IMG Academy? That’s one target, but Beane will likely add a young weapon to groom with Allen and Harmon is a prime target. He is that ‘dude,’ a true alpha that played in 35 games in three seasons under Drinkwitz and registered 177 receptions for 2,665 yards and 16 touchdowns.

I haven’t watched all of Harmon’s film, but fellow The Athletic writer and draft guru Dane Brugler has Harmon ranked third among all wide receivers25th overall, and a guy who “could sneak into the first round.”

Shortly after naming Sean McDermott their Head Coach, Dorsey was interviewed for the offensive coordinator position, and the connection made sense. Dorsey’s name was being floated around as an offensive coordinator for some time, but things just never panned out. Bringing him in after drafting Josh Allen, a guy who has been compared to Cam Newton makes even more sense now. Hiring the former quarterback; another offensive mind and teacher, who can help Daboll harness Allen’s gifts should help the offense. But it may also give us a glimpse into the direction the team may go entering the 2019 NFL Draft.

*Mandatory Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports