With a 38-3 domination of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Buffalo Bills are officially past the quarter-way point of the season. (roughly 29%, if you want to be exact.) The Bills sit at 4-1 and are atop the AFC east again. Let’s break down the team, position by position, and dish out grades for the Bills.
I mean, what else is there to say? If the NFL season were to end today, it would be hard to argue against Josh Allen being MVP. His accounting stats are freakish. 1,651 yards passing, 14 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and a rating of 107.4. Topped off with 225 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Josh Allen has accounted for 16 of the Bills’ 17 touchdowns. How about efficiency stats? Josh Allen is 1st in EPA per play. On passes over 20 yards, he has a passer rating of 121.5. I could go on all day attempting to quantify what we have all seen with our eyes. He has simply been incredible.
Running Backs: C+
I will touch on this with the offensive line, but separating the Bills’ offensive line from their running backs has been challenging. The Bills running backs are hit at the line 50% of the time, which is 4th worst in the NFL, per SIS. Additionally, the Bills are 24th in rushing success rate. Personnel usage has been questionable as well. The Bills seemed intent on getting Zack Moss going, and he seems incapable of, well, going. Second-round rookie James Cook has been mostly a nonfactor, until his garbage time touchdown against the Steelers in Week 5.
Offensive Line: C+
The 2022 Bills’ offensive line feels much like the 2021 Bills’ offensive line. They are doing their job in terms of keeping their most important asset upright, but the unit is leaving a lot to be desired. Buffalo has the fourth-lowest pressure rate and sixth-lowest sack rate in the NFL. Outside of the Miami game that saw the Bills play musical chairs with their offensive line, Josh Allen has been well-protected.
The run game is a whole other story, though. According to ESPN’s run block win rate stat, Buffalo ranks dead last in the NFL in run block win rate. Aaron Kromer was brought in primarily due to his success developing run games. We have yet to see it.
Wide Receivers: A
It is hard to find any negatives in this group. Stefon Diggs currently sits third in the NFL in receiving yards and tied for second in touchdowns. (He was in first before Travis Kelce’s big Monday night.) After missing a bit of time with injury, Gabe Davis looks the way he did at the end of 2021, and more recently, Khalil Shakir stepped up in the absence of Jamison Crowder and Isaiah McKenzie. The one area holding them back from an A+ is drops. The Bills currently sit second in the NFL in drops with 11.
Tight Ends: B
In terms of production, Buffalo’s tight ends have yet to make their mark on the 2022 season. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, with a deep pass-catching room. Dawson Knox has yet to drop a pass thrown his way. Quintin Morris has shown to be a capable blocking tight end, reeling in a couple of big catches of his own. With Knox’s recent contract extension, one would hope he gets a more prominent role in the offense in the coming weeks.
Defensive Line: A
The Bills opened the season with one of the most dominant defensive line performances you will ever see. Their pace has slowed, partly due to injuries, but Buffalo still sits at No. 8 in pass rush win rate. Second-year edge rusher Greg Rousseau has the second most sacks in the NFL with five. New addition Von Miller is second among edge rushers, and Boogie Basham is currently the 5th ranked edge rusher in the entire NFL, according to PFF’s grading system. And even in areas, that the Bills have struggled in, like run defense, the unit has changed drastically. The Bills currently sit at No. 8 in run-stop win rate and No. 6 in stuffed run percentage.
You could argue Matt Milano has been the best player on the Bills’ defense. According to PFF, he is the second-ranked linebacker in all of football, with a grade of 90.4, and the No. 1 linebacker in coverage. Even the ever-controversial linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is up to 14th among all linebackers in coverage. The Bills’ linebackers have been all over the field this year, playing more freely than ever. Both linebackers played a significant role in the Bills’ comeback win and second-half shutout of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4.
All things considered, a B+ is pretty incredible. The Bills sit 6th in DVOA against the pass with a secondary that has seen three different rookies take meaningful reps, lost Micah Hyde for the season, and has been without Jordan Poyer for two games. Damar Hamlin has only allowed two receptions in his two starts and has been a fierce run defender. Both Jaquan Johnson and Kaiir Elam had games in which they were picked on (Jaquan Johnson against the Dolphins and Elam against the Steelers) but have done their job otherwise.
How do you quantify coaching? Well, you could point to the success of the Bills’ defense despite a depleted secondary. Or the seven second-half points the Bills have allowed ALL SEASON.
You could look at how the Bills erased a 17-point deficit against one of the league’s best quarterbacks. The Bills have weathered injury after injury and sit at 4-1. This does speak to their depth, but it also speaks to the quality of coaching.
There are areas for growth, of course. The run game seems broken, and they seem to think running Zack Moss will fix it, and the offense has had hiccups at times. The 3rd-and-22 play call against the Dolphins will probably stick in our brains until we see the Dolphins again. But 2022 is shaping up to be a masterpiece of coaching for Sean McDermott and his staff.