Football is a game of matchups. Whether it’s a wide receiver lining up against a cornerback or a running back versus a linebacker, there are one-on-one matchups all over the field that each coaching staff will look to either take advantage of or mitigate the effect the opposing player has on a gameplan. And when Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills (2-1) host Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team on Sunday, there are multiple matchups that will dictate the outcome of the game.
Here are the top four matchups to keep an eye on in NFL Week 3.
Bills RT Daryl Williams vs. Football Team DE Chase Young
Washington defensive end Chase Young is one of the NFL’s fastest-rising players. Drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2020, Young finished his rookie season with 44 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Through two games, the 6-foot-5, 264-pounder has been held to just four tackles, two tackles for loss and zero sacks. Though he’s generated four pressures thus far, Young is big, physical and explosive and presents a challenging matchup for Buffalo’s right tackle Daryl Williams.
Williams hasn’t gotten off to a great start to begin the 2021 season. He struggled in Week 1 against Steelers’ superstar edge rusher T.J. Watt, surrendering five total quarterback pressures (three hits, two hurries). Against Miami, Williams fared better, but still gave up a sack and an additional two hurries. Williams had a surprisingly strong 2020 season and was rewarded with a three-year, $24 million contract during the offseason.
A bookend tackle on an offensive line that’s struggled as a whole to begin the season, the Bills need Williams to put forth his best game of the season if they hope to limit the effectiveness of one of the league’s most talented defensive fronts.
Bills LB Matt Milano vs. Football Team RB Antonio Gibson
Bills linebacker Matt Milano has taken his game to another level to begin the 2021 NFL season. The former fifth-round draft pick has already tallied nine tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one pass breakup, a fumble recovery and two QB hits. He’s been a force both as a run defender and in pass coverage – two areas where he’ll need to be nearly perfect on Sunday against Washington’s second-year running back Antonio Gibson.
Gibson, who’s 6-foot-2, 225-pounds and runs a 4.39 40-yard dash, is a unique weapon that Washington features on offense. He’s already picked up 159 rushing yards on 33 carries this season, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry. He’s an explosive and physical runner capable of creating chunk plays both on the ground and through the air.
On obvious passing downs, Buffalo likes to use Milano’s range and coverage skills to matchup with running backs. Through two weeks, Milano has been nearly perfect against opposing ball-carriers in coverage, holding Najee Harris and Myles Gaskin to three receptions for 14 yards on five targets.
Gibson is a much more explosive player than those two, and Milano will need to bring his A-game in Week 3 in order to limit Gibson’s effectiveness in the passing game.
Bills WR Stefon Diggs vs. Football Team CB William Jackson III
Stefon Diggs is one of the game’s elite wide receivers. An exceptional route runner with incredible contested catch ability, Diggs is one of the few pass-catchers that can truly take over a game. However, through the first two weeks, he hasn’t been able to post one of his dominant games from a statistical standpoint. In Week 1, Diggs caught nine-of-12 targets but managed just 69 yards. Against the Dolphins, Diggs was shadowed by Xavien Howard in what was a back-and-forth battle between two of the league’s best players at their positions.
This week, Diggs will run most of his routes against newly signed Washington cornerback William Jackson III. A first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, Jackson III is one of the top defensive backs in the NFL. He’s been targeted 13 times through two weeks, allowing just six catches for 83 yards, with a long of 33. He’s intercepted one pass and broke up four. Standing 6-foot, 196-pounds, Jackson III is long, and has great speed to matchup with a player like Diggs.
Josh Allen has already admitted dealing with frustration regarding his early struggles and Diggs is a player he leans on to get him out of a rut, both mentally and in live-action.
Diggs will need to step up and win most of his matchups with Jackson III in order to get Buffalo’s passing game into a groove if they hope to put the critics to bed.
Bills DE Greg Rousseau vs. Football Team RT Samuel Cosmi
Sunday’s matchup features a battle of two promising rookies. Bills first-round defensive end Greg Rousseau is starting at left defensive end, where he’ll face off with Washington’s rookie second-round selection, right tackle Samuel Cosmi.
Rousseau has had a pretty impressive start to his career, making six tackles (five stops), three tackles for loss and two sacks, while generating eight total quarterback pressures. He’s long, standing nearly 6-foot-7 and has been able to utilize that length to be effective as a pass rusher, but he’s also been surprisingly good as a run defender.
Cosmi may present Rousseau with a challenge, given the fact that length is one of his premier attributes from a physical standpoint as well. The 6-foot-7 Texas product had a rough debut against the Chargers, allowing four pressures, but pitched a near-perfect game against the Giants last week, holding his own in pass protection with zero hurries allowed while performing adequately as a run blocker.
This is a matchup that draftniks will surely be keying in on, and if Rousseau can have even 70-percent of the effectiveness he did against Miami, Cosmi – and more importantly, Taylor Heinicke – will be in for a long afternoon.
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