The Buffalo Bills’ defense has been a mainstay in the league’s top half of units since Sean McDermott’s arrival. For a defense defined by discipline, coaching, and secondary play, one thing has been missing: pass rushers. We have seen the Bills cycle through players like veterans Trent Murphy and Mario Addison in search of depth. They have used day two picks on players like Boogie Basham and AJ Epenesa to largely middling results. Aside from hitting on Greg Rousseau, who still has some developing left to go, and the signing of Von Miller, the Bills have been on a constant search for pass rushers, a search that, at times, has felt fruitless.
Enter the Bills’ latest attempt, Leonard Floyd. Can Floyd help Buffalo piece together what they have been desperately searching for?
Floyd comes with a pedigree as a former ninth-overall pick of the Chicago Bears. He played four years in Chicago, only totaling 18.5 sacks, with seven coming in his first season. In his four seasons as a Bear, he ranked 65th, 51st, 62nd, and 61st in win rate among edge rushers with 20% of their team’s snaps. Floyd failed to make the impact the Bears hoped to find from a top-ten pick. This led to Floyd not playing out his fifth year with the club.
Enter the Rams. The Rams took a one-year flyer on the former top-10 pick going into 2020, and all he did was put up double-digit sacks and tackles for loss with 10.5 and 11, leading to his extension for two more seasons.
Reason to be concerned
While in Los Angeles, Floyd never ranked higher than 23rd in win rate. He is not an overly efficient player. Aaron Donald is consistently the most double-teamed player in the NFL, which opened up opportunities for him and others. In 2022, Donald only played in 11 games. In that same season, Floyd’s pass rush win rate plummeted from 33rd among edge rushers in 2021 to 83rd in 2022. As optimistic as fans and the staff are about players like Ed Oliver, Greg Rousseau, Daquan Jones, and Poona Ford, none of them even live in the same zip code as Aaron Donald. How will Floyd’s production be impacted when teams aren’t as focused on shutting down other players on the defensive front?
Additionally, Floyd’s efficiency as a run defender has not progressed with his ability as a pass rusher. In three seasons as a Ram, Floyd ranked 105th, 41st, and 115th in run-stop win rate.
Why this will work
Much of the last section focused on Floyd’s efficiency. What he lacks in efficiency, he makes up with his ability to stay on the field. Floyd played in all 34 possible regular season games in the last two seasons. In those 34 games, Floyd played at least 80% of snaps in 22 games. He has played at least 70% of snaps in 32 games and never played less than 50% in any game over the last two seasons. Despite ranking 33rd and 83rd in pass rush win rate the prior two seasons, he has ranked eighth and 17th in total pressures. The same goes for his run-stop numbers; despite ranking 41st and 115th in run-stop win rate the last two seasons, he ranked 17th and tied for 59th in total stops.
Why does this matter? Though Von Miller claims he will be ready for Week 1, the Bills waited half a season for Tre’Davious White to return from the same injury. With Epenesa and Basham’s failure to claim the second edge rusher position after Miller went down, there is no clear player to play opposite Rousseau; Floyd will be in a position to play a majority of the snaps before Miller returns.
Floyd could be the missing piece in the Bills’ pass-rush rotation. Despite being 30, he started playing his best football late in his career. But the question for Floyd and the Bills is how he will produce with a likely reduced workload. Once Miller returns, Floyd probably becomes the third pass rusher in the Bills’ rotation behind Miller and Rousseau. Will he be able to produce the same numbers as a depth piece? Regardless of the efficiency, Floyd makes the Bills’ pass rush better and provides necessary depth in case injuries strike Buffalo’s line again in 2023.