Cover 1 has allowed me to learn from and meet so many people across the world over the last few years, but I must say one of the brightest minds that I have ever talked shop with is Matty Brown (@mattyfbrown). Brown is a coach in England but does a lot of Xs and Os film study for FieldGulls and Inside the Pylon.
Most of our interactions were mainly via Twitter, but I got to meet him in person a couple of years ago at the Senior Bowl. One of our most in-depth conversations took place in the back of the infamous Veets bar in Mobile, Alabama, and we smoked and joked about quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The discussion covered how Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino attempted to maximize Jackson’s athleticism and how coaches at the next level could use him as a multi-dimensional weapon. It was this hour-long discussion where I truly got to witness the intelligence of Brown, a guy so young he couldn’t even buy a pint.
Brown recently attended the British American Football Coaches Association Convention in Nottingham, England, a convention that helps the game continue to grow overseas by bringing some of the brightest minds in the game.
One of the unique speakers at this event was Bills intern coach Phoebe Schecter. The former-player-turned-coach presented what she titled “Life as a Buffalo Bill.”
Brown couldn’t wait to share some of what he learned from Schecter. He stated that Schecter kept it pretty vanilla in her presentation but that she did drop some Bills scheme-related “nuggets.”
📝 Buffalo Bills coach Phoebe Schecter, who works under tight end coach Rob Boras:
.Prefer nippy slots
.One of the TEs clocked 20mph in practice
.Go with best release
.Pink Dexter is PA Duo (color signifies PA)
.Dawson Knox caught 40 balls in OTAs, built rapport with Josh Allen pic.twitter.com/yGF03LJ10t
— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) July 14, 2019
Schecter stated that the Bills are “pretty much a spread offense” that heavily relies on the importance of option routes.
The play above appears to be very simple, but there are a few things to note, first, where the tight end (Y) and slot (F) are aligned. They are both aligned out wide, so think of WR Cole Beasley and TE Dawson Knox out wide with wide receivers Zay Jones, John Brown, or Robert Foster in the slots. Now, this is just one 11 personnel, 2×2 formation. There are a ton of ways to vary this formation depending on who you want to run the option routes. Below, you see a slightly different formation and play, this time with Beasley running one of the option routes. Schecter stated that the Bills prefer “nippy” slots, which had me scouring the internet for the term, but Brown said that the English word is used to describe “small, agile” receivers. Add that to my scouting vernacular.
On paper, this play looks vanilla, but giving your weapons the ability to read the coverage and leverage defenders should help QB Josh Allen and the offense become much more difficult to defend. If the quarterback and receivers are on the same page, the play will look different each time it is run. It’s these type of plays that will put Allen into the role of a point guard — tasked with simply using his pre- to post-snap intelligence to read the defense and throw it away from the defenders.
One package that Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can build on is the empty set weakside option to WR Cole Beasley.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) June 6, 2019
Sounds easy in theory, I know. But if the offense has built the rapport that Allen has been stating, option route plays can be an easy pitch and catch.
You see Gronkowski sit at the top of the route because the linebackers vacate and the safety is dropping down into the hook/curl area. Great read of the coverage and timing throw from Tom Brady.
The Bills had to upgrade their tight ends this offseason, and one of the players heavily scouted was Ole Miss TE Dawson Knox. General Manager Brandon Beane and his front office scouted the Rebels’ offensive talent several times over the last couple of years, including a visit by Beane himself. The team went out and drafted Knox in the 3rd round, and if you followed their program, you probably now understand why they were so enamored with the versatile tight end.
@ESPNRochester take a look at who dawson Knox compares to. I like his chances of becoming a playmaker for buffalo. pic.twitter.com/DlaJztXwp9
— Panda! At the Disco (@dommangano) July 12, 2019
Knox played in a spread offense that shared a lot of the same attacking leverage philosophies that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will look to incorporate with his new weapons. Per Schecter, Knox appeared to build a strong rapport with his new QB in OTAs, an opportunity afforded to him due to the injury to TE Tyler Kroft. According to Schecter, Knox caught 40 balls from Allen. Knox has the speed to flex out and be a mismatch, which will possibly give him a lot of opportunities in year one.
Schecter stated a tight end “registered over 20 mph.” How can that not be Knox? It’s his athleticism that allowed him to average 18.9 yards per reception in 2018.
This is what Knox needs to bring to the Bills. Ability to separate off playaction. The safety is expecting a little help from the LBs but they are held by the play fake. Very good focus by Knox and adjustment to the placement while at full speed. #ManFree pic.twitter.com/MKnQ9RcR76
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) May 3, 2019
Even though the Bills will be operating a spread-like offense, this doesn’t mean that the tight ends won’t need to be able to block.
Blocking in this sort of offense is another area that Knox has experience at. He was routinely asked to block from an in-line, off-line, and flexed out alignment.
The Bills’ tight ends as a whole last year were an atrocious blocking unit, especially operating out of the gun, where sometimes the tight end is essentially a lead blocker. You see Knox execute an insert block against LSU. The tackle blocks down, so Knox reads it, works outside and upfield to seal the alley. Knox may have been underutilized in the Rebels’ offense given all of the talent on their roster, but if he can pick up the Bills’ offense quickly, he could see a good number of reps early in his career.
Brown asked Schecter about big slots and how that affects the position, and Schecter mentioned move tight ends like Knox versus blocking tight ends like the Bills’ free agent signing, Lee Smith. Brown stated that Schecter spoke glowingly about the former Oakland Raider. Smith is a top-five run blocking tight end in the NFL, and his skill and technique should definitely boost the Bills’ run game. Don’t believe me? Check out this thread:
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) July 15, 2019
Improving the run blocking of the tight ends appeared to be a priority this offseason. Per Schecter, the Bills only had 20 minutes-worth of individual time with the tight ends; most of their time was spent repping the run calls in the group run drills. The commitment to getting the run game on track will go a long way for Allen and the offense.
Above play is called “Mobster.”
Clear emphasis on option routes…
“If anyone’s seen Josh [Allen] throw he kinda throws bullets at people, and they are not easy balls to catch.”
In OTAs, they had only 20mins of Indies. The Bills mainly wanted their TEs involved with group run pic.twitter.com/9Oluy3tZbc
— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) July 14, 2019
Conventions like the BAFCA are great events for the NFL, coaches, and fans. They help grow the love of the game and the product on the field. The presentation by Phoebe Schecter gave us a glimpse into the Bills’ offense, the roles of its tight ends, and reasons why they made the acquisitions of Lee Smith and Dawson Knox.