Bills WR drills give glimpse into new route combinations at minicamp


The Buffalo Bills took the field Tuesday for their first practice of mandatory minicamp and from the looks of it, the offense has been airing it out already. The practice is open to the media, so we are given a glimpse of what’s happening throughout the afternoon through published video and tweets. While only so much can be taken from these practices, if you watch some of the drills closely, they will begin to tell a story of what exactly is going on.

During Offseason Training Activities (OTAs), Matt Bove captured video of wide receiver Robert Foster running a route that featured multiple breaks. You can see Foster sell the three-step slant before getting vertical to about 14-yards and breaking to the sideline.

Now, in order to run routes like the one that Foster ran, you need pass protection and receivers with the wheels and nuance to execute the routes.

From the Patriots playbook

The Bills added Cole Beasley, a slot receiver who can execute those types of routes in the short area. But they also added a home run hitter like John Brown. But, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll isn’t going to just use those guys in their typical roles. As Beasley stated to The Athletic’s Tim Graham, “a receiver in this offense is way more important than it was in my last offense. There’s a lot more variety in what I’m doing here.”

Today at minicamp, Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 captured newly signed free agent John Brown running nearly the identical route that Foster was running at OTAs and it really got me thinking about how dangerous that route being run by those two guys could be.

Given the upgrades along the offensive line, a continued commitment to the running game and where quarterback Josh Allen is in his development, Buffalo’s offense will likely see their share of single high safety looks such as Cover 1 or Cover 3. Here is how often Allen saw single-high coverages in 2018.

2018 Safety Looks Per SportsInfo Solutions

In Sal’s video, Wide receivers coach Chad Hall is in off coverage.

On the snap, Coach Hall backpedals but gains width (towards sideline) as if it is zone coverage. But then Coach Hall breaks flat as Brown runs the slant stem.

Brown then re-stems and gets vertical, so Coach Hall surrendered any sort of outside leverage he had at the start.

Typically, when you have a receiver like Brown who runs a 4.34 forty-yard dash, you will see him take off and run a “Sluggo”.

From the Patriots playbook

The route stem and technique by Coach Hall (the cornerback), gives Brown leverage to break to the sideline with a ton of green to work with.

This resembles the ‘Sock’ route from the Patriots playbook shown below. Brown breaks to the sideline and works back to the ball.

The questions that arise are the following: Why did Brown run it to around 17-yards? Is that a coaches adjustment to the depth of the route? Was Brown given the ability to run it deeper because of the off and soft coverage? Or was it an option type route where if Brown has the ‘Sluggo’ route open, he could have run deep and Allen could’ve dropped it in the bucket? All questions, only the coaches know the answers to.

Allen put the throw on the money and Brown frames it perfectly.

Regardless, this route will be very deadly with Foster or Brown in the driver’s seat because of their abilities to stretch the field. Cornerbacks will go into panic mode and simply try to get back into phase – back into good leverage position so that they aren’t beaten deep, which should open up this route.

You see Allen hold the single high safety with his eyes then drive the ball to Brown from about his 13-14-yard line to the 37-yard line. Something he has zero trouble doing…

OTAs and minicamps are about “implementing” the system and “teaching” it, so if you look closely you should be able to get a handle on what the team is trying to do.