Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is in his first season as the lone playcaller of an offense. In prior coaching gigs he has shared duties, so here at Cover 1 we have paid close attention to how well he has handled them.
As far as the playbook in general, I am disappointed. It was my belief that the outside zone and bootleg game paired with Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, and a talented offensive line could be special, but it has failed. Scratch that; it has failed miserably.
Dennison started off running his run scheme, but then had to morph it with some of the concepts the offensive did well in prior years because they were struggling. The run game is now nonexistent.
When you look at the passing game, Taylor is on pace for similar statistics to a year ago. Through nine games he has 163 completions for 1,684 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.
There is no creativity or original play design anywhere in his arsenal. You have your everyday passing concepts installed like Smash, Dagger, Spacing, Mesh, All Verticals, etc, etc. But you only see a small percentage of route variations off of those concepts. In essence, you have certain concepts that beat certain base coverages. If the defense plays pattern matching or split field coverages, then some of these concepts don’t stand a chance.
So the run game hasn’t worked, which has caused the Bills to get behind the chains far too often. But then Dennison sends in pass plays that are some of the most vanilla concepts in the game, and we have a recipe for disaster.
I looked at some of Dennison’s offensive tendencies, courtesy of Sharp Football Stats. I compared the Bills’ 2016 Shotgun vs. Under Center statistics to Dennison’s campaign so far, and it has become too predictable.
Shotgun and under center statistics aren’t just important because of tendencies. They play a crucial role in Taylor’s effectiveness as a passer for a few reasons, including his height, field vision, and pocket presence, just to name a few. So far this season Dennison is on par with his typical formational tendency: balanced. He likes his QB to be under center 52% vs. 48% from shotgun, which is quite the difference when compared to 2016, where Taylor was under center 20% of the time.
But the tendencies get very interesting when you look at how often he runs or passes out of those formations. Any sort of trend is bad, and it allows defensive coordinators to zone in on your game plan. Notice any trends?
Gun vs Under center rates for #Bills
Gun 80% v Under center 20%
Run Rate-Gun 40% (2) v UC 67% (19)
Pass Rate-Gun 60% (31) v UC 33% (14)
'17 PREDICTABLE?? 👇👇
Gun 52% v Under center 48%
Run Rate-Gun 18% (21) v UC 71% (14)
Pass Rate-Gun 82% (12) v UC 29% (19)
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 15, 2017
Dennison has balance when it comes to Gun vs Under center frequency, but if he is primarily running the ball from under center (71%), and primarily passing from Gun (82%), then doesn’t that make it easier for defenses?
So you have a run game philosophy that has failed and a mediocre passing play book, and it has caused you to form tendencies that make it 10x easier on the defense. How do you turn that around?