1 - Dawkins confident in McCoy
The run game, a facet that was once the backbone of Buffalo’s offensive attack, has struggled to get much of anything going through the first nine weeks of the 2018 season.
Buffalo’s backfield and quarterbacks have combined for just 876 total rushing yards this season, currently sitting in the bottom half of the league in that statistic. Though both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory have shown flashes of brilliance, the duo, as a whole, has struggled. McCoy, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in four out of the past five seasons, has rushed for just 267 yards on 85 carries this year.
McCoy is coming off a three-game stretch in which he averaged one yard per carry. Though the running back’s lack of production is alarming to some, his teammates still have a great deal of trust in McCoy, whom they elected as a team captain before the start of the campaign.
Left tackle Dion Dawkins does not feel as though any focus should be placed on McCoy’s struggles. Instead, he thinks the talking point is the team’s offense as a whole.
“I don’t think that anybody should be chiming in on Shady [McCoy] because nobody is having the season that they wanted,” Dawkins said. “I’m pretty sure that he wishes for a different outcome, just like we do as an O-line, and quarterbacks.”
Buffalo’s offense currently ranks near the bottom of the league in total production, as it’s picked up just 2,235 yards through nine games. Dawkins, however, is confident that McCoy and the unit as a whole will turn their fortunes around sooner rather than later.
“But Shady is a vet,” Dawkins said. “He’s going to keep preparing and playing. He’ll be fine. He’s just going to go and do what he does. But until the O-line and the entire team gets right, he can do his thing.”
2 - Taron Johnson the NFL’s leading defender in coverage
Targeting rookie defensive backs is something that experienced quarterbacks often love to do. The wily veterans look to test the inexperienced defenders, viewing them as favorable matchups that can easily be exposed.
Targeting Taron Johnson has been anything but easy for opposing passers this season.
The rookie, who has seen significant time as the slot cornerback in Buffalo’s nickel personnel this season, has been a lockdown defender in coverage. According to NFL Next Gen stats, Johnson has allowed just 108 yards when targeted this season, the lowest number of yards allowed among defenders who have been targeted at least 25 times.
Coty Sensabaugh and Minkah Fitzpatrick immediately trail Johnson on the list, having allowed 127 yards and 137 yards in coverage, respectively.
In addition to being a threat in coverage, Johnson has played incredibly well against the run. Through eight games this season, the former Weber State Wildcat has recorded 33 tackles, one sack, and one interception.
Though being one of the best players in the league at their position is not something that most rookies expect, Johnson entered his debut campaign with extremely high expectations for himself, a standard he has met thus far.
“Really just to be a presence on the defense,” Johnson said. “That was really my main goal coming into this season. First of all, to start at the nickel position and then be a presence on the field.
“Just make a difference. That was my main goal.”
3 - Bills defense excelling on first down
Holding the opposition to a manageable number of yards on first down goes a long way in helping a defense get off the field.
Consistently creating second or third and long situations only increases a defense’s probability of forcing a fourth down. The farther an offense is from the sticks, the less likely they are to convert.
Limiting the opposition’s progress on first down is something that Buffalo’s defense has excelled at this season. According to ESPN, the Bills are holding opposing offenses to just 5.4 yards per play on first down, tied for eighth in the league in that metric.
The defense’s solid play on first down has allowed the unit to be effective late in drives. Buffalo has allowed conversions on just 41.2 percent of its third-down situations this season.
The Bills’ defense, as a whole, has been incredibly stout in the 2018 campaign. Buffalo currently deploys a top 10 defensive unit, a group that has allowed just 2,823 total yards this season. Through Week 9, the Bills have allowed an average of 313.7 yards per game, the third lowest total in the league.