Three things on my mind as the Bills get ready for their first road test of the season against the Dolphins…
Back Your Backers
No Matt Milano and no Tremaine Edmunds is no fun. Linebacker was probably the Bills biggest issue, depth-wise, and there may be no greater evidence of that than Del’Shawn Phillips making the team at the position after going unnoticed in (the, admittedly, truncated) training camp.
By the way, Phillips isn’t playing either.
A.J. Klein is solid. So, that’s good. After that, it’s career special teamer Tyler Matakevich, recently promoted to the active roster Deon Lacey and Andre Smith (recently… as in Saturday) and Tyrel Dodson, who played 17 snaps on defense against the Jets to raise his career total to… 17.
The good news is Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer can oversee many things from the safety position. The defensive line is staunch enough to keep the young guys from having to drink at the proverbial fire hose. This Bills defense is still very much a good unit. We’re just not used to that group having a (checks dictionary for proper pronunciation) weak… ness?
Ryan Fitzpatrick is world famous as being no dummy. He’ll be going after the Bills in the middle (and perhaps on the edge to the non-Tre White side). However, this is not the Chiefs or the Bucs or the Saints with the league’s most dangerous weapons. I like Mike Gesicki a lot. He and I have the same number of 7-catch or 100-yard NFL games. DeVante Parker is hobbled if he even does play. The leading rusher is some guy named Myles Gaskin.
Yeah, linebacker is an issue. The Bills should still not be giving up 30 in this game.
Best On Best
The Dolphins have a pretty snazzy group of corners. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are both making $11 mil-plus this year. The third corner is 2020 first round pick Noah Igbinoghene, who I loved in the draft process even if I can’t say his last name on the spot to save my life (Ig-bah-NOG-ah-knee).
This is a heckuva step up from the cadre of castoffs and benchwarmers the Jets trotted out last week in Orchard Park. A cadre, by the way, that matched up respectably when they did go man to man on the Bills in week one.
Miami didn’t spend all those resources on corners to need safeties and linebackers helping every throw. Stefon Diggs and John Brown are going to get 1-on-1’s. For the casual fan, this should be a “getcha popcorn ready” type matchup. For the Bills, it could be the key to offensive success.
The Running Men
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss rushed 18 times for just 41 yards last week against the Jets. That works out to an average of two point who cares yards per carry. Not good for a duo that WNY feels pretty good about.
The Jets were number two in the league against the run last year and looked every bit that tough last weekend. Brian Daboll played it smart and dropped Allen back over 50 times instead of banging the Bills head against that green wall.
This week should be different. Last year, Miami gave up the second most rushing yards in the league and they were 21st in yards per carry allowed. The Patriots rolled up 217 yards on the Dolphins in week one, including 75 from Cam Newton. Six (6!) different players topped 20 yards rushing.
The Bills have been maintaining all week that their game plan will not be New England’s game plan. I ain’t buying. It makes a ton of sense to attack where the Dolphins are weak (up front) instead of where they are not (at corner). With an offensive coordinator in Daboll who is a Patriot disciple, this is the most Patriot thing to do. And it might help keep that wounded defense off the field a bit.
There’s a big chunk of last week’s game that is Jets dependent. That game might be the easiest on paper for the Bills this year. Allen wasn’t super impressive for a guy who rolled up TDs at will in the first half and topped 300 yards. The whole second half was preseason game two sloppy. The Bills will need to play better against better.
Miami isn’t a ton better, but the big step up here will primarily be in coaching. Brian Flores will make sure his team doesn’t do dumb things and fights hard for 60 minutes.
The Bills should just have too many advantages on offense to have THAT much trouble scoring. If Parker were going to be a big factor, there would be legit reason to worry on the other side of the ball. I don’t think he will be. Good ol’ Fitz will make sure this game is competitive, but I think Buffalo will keep Miami at arm’s length most of the second half. Give me a back door cover and a 27-23 Bills win.