Fifth round rookie linebacker Matt Milano has already become a fan favorite, and he has only averaged 46.2% of the defensive snaps this season. We have been calling for Milano to start for many weeks now, but looking back I like how they brought him along. Rather than throwing him in, they brought him along slowly. Milano was able to digest the playbook, and work on his technique and role within the defensive structure so that he was not just relying on his athleticism. I think this maturation process has set up the defense perfectly going into the week 16 matchup against the New England Patriots.
Tom Brady has seen it all and, especially when defenses want to play zone coverage, he picks that strategy apart. But what teams have done against him as of late is play more man coverage. Playing man coverage is a lot easier with no Julian Edelman in the lineup, as Edelman is a guy that dominates the slot and the middle of the field. Amendola is a similar type of receiver, but he doesn’t offer the explosiveness that Edelman possesses in and out of his breaks or after the catch. Cooks has been the Patriots’ outside deep threat, and a good one at that, but he only has two games over 100 yards. The New England passing offense operates through their tight end Rob Gronkowski and running backs Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, and James White.
If the Bills want to run man coverage like a lot of teams have versus the Patriots, then they cannot have LB Ramon Humber in coverage. With Milano on the field more, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier can disguise coverages more and drop into man coverage if needed without having to worry. Milano, unlike Humber, has the skills to run with the running backs of New England. In the week 13 matchup he only played in 31.4% of the snaps, but was on the field for several crucial plays when Brady targeted his running backs.
I believe with Milano now the starter, Buffalo will be able to play more man coverage. Milano matched up against the Patriots’ running back and as a ‘Robber’ or underneath linebacker to help out vs. Gronk. This will force Brady to go elsewhere. The one-on-one matchups will be fun to watch.
Do you believe these matchups fall in favor of the Bills? Do you think Brandin Cooks can win consistently against Tre’Davious White and EJ Gaines?