The Buffalo Bills take on the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday in their first preseason matchup of the 2022 season.. This offseason was one of change. We saw changes in personnel and changes at the coaching level. This does have me nervous given the continuity the Bills have been blessed with over the years, but with new coaches and players also comes excitement. So here are three players who I am excited to watch this weekend.
DT Daquan Jones
The Bills brought in a plethora of new talent along the defensive line, and Jones may make the most impact with the least amount of recognition. The Leslie Frazier defense played Two-High Shells, or defensive structures with Two-Safeties deep 57% of the time in 2021. These coverage shells generally put stress on the front six players to process and effectively defend run to pass.
General Manager Brandon Beane hopes that Jones can help Ed Oliver take some of the burden off of the Bills’ linebackers by either occupying two linemen or by gumming up the run lanes to steal a gap. This can free up Buffalo’s linebackers to primarily play the pass first, which is McDermott’s calling card, but then come downhill as the defensive line funnels the runs to them.
The Colts present a good test in this department because their offensive scheme and coaching staff gameplan very well against the Bills Over Front. Jones has the ideal combination of quickness off the snap to execute an arm-over to beat a solo block and rack up a tackle for loss, but also the power and strength at the point of attack to eat up combination blocks to keep those rangy Bills linebackers clean.
DT DaQuan Jones pic.twitter.com/7CpUpsZcFl— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) February 18, 2022
LG Rodger Saffold
Saffold had a slow start to training camp due to a rib injury suffered in a car accident. But, he’s another player that may make the biggest impact from an identity standpoint. The Bills offense has been a high-flying passing offense, but it has lacked the ability to run the ball when defenses knows the run is coming.
Saffold showing off his explosiveness off of the snap. And look at the movement he created on Joseph. pic.twitter.com/lVfwOyWhVK— Cover 1 (@Cover1) June 9, 2022
In 2021, Bills running backs only converted 53.8% in situations of 3rd-and-1-3 yards to go, the No. 25 ranked rate in the NFL. Heck, they were even ranked No. 22 at getting their running backs into the second level (5-10 yard gains). Saffold should help in that department. He is a grizzly bear, who easily establishes the line of scrimmage for his team. He’s explosive out of his stance and moves defenders against their will. He has the power and leg drive to cause nose tackles to drag their anchor, and the pop on contact to send linebackers flying at the second level.
LG Rodger Saffold has a VERY quick first step on Zone runs. He uses his range and length to make an IMPACT at the 2nd level. He’s a people mover on combo blocks and flashes that nasty streak that keeps defenders heads on a swivel. Good addition for the #Bills pic.twitter.com/g7G9lDuWBZ— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) March 16, 2022
Saffold has the type of mentality, and style of play that is in stark contrast to the style of offense the Bills play. But that is why he is such a good complement. He is going to bring the attitude and nastiness to the Bills offensive line group, but also the talent to make a difference. This is why former teammate Taylor Lewan complimented Saffold by saying he was “one of the best-run blocking guards” he has seen in his life.
I want to see him get his reps to help his conditioning against Indianapolis, but also to set the tone for the season. The Colts have some talented interior defensive linemen, including Deforest Buckner, Grover Stewart, and even Daye Odeyinbgo at times. Indy’s talent and front seven overall should be a good measurement for the Bills.
RB Zack Moss
New Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has a tough job when it comes to managing the touches for the running backs this season. Starter Devin Singletary is that steady, reliable runner who can make the first guy miss which is why he was only stuffed 13.6% of his runs in 2021 (11th lowest in NFL). James Cook is going to be the slasher and third-down receiving back, and it appears that Moss is going to be the short yardage and red-zone back.
But managing the reps and more importantly, the situations that Moss is utilized is what I will be paying attention to versus the Colts and into the regular season. How well Dorsey shuffles the running back depth, could have a major impact on how well Moss does. If Dorsey is too selective with Moss’ situational usage, he could create tendencies and that could spell doom for Moss. Since 2019, Motor has led Moss in most categories when the defense has had eight men or more in the box. He has gotten hit less at the line of scrimmage, made guys miss which is why he isn’t stuffed as often, and has converted more 1st downs.
Maybe this is why the Bills have had Moss in on most of the short yardage and red-zone back situations. Maybe they are seeing if he even has a role on the offense. He’s a small tank and runs hard but it has not shown up enough over the course of the last couple of years. I think his style of play is needed on the Bills offense, but it is time for him to step up and seize his role on the team. And I think the Bills will give him ample opportunities to do so against the Colts.