1- Shaq Lawson named to PFF’s Team of the Week
Buffalo defender Shaq Lawson has defied expectations in his third professional season.
The offseason signing of Trent Murphy appeared to push the former Clemson Tiger into a rotational role. Though Lawson has started only six games in the 2018 season, he’s been impactful when given snaps, totaling 16 tackles and two sacks through 12 games.
Lawson played on 60 percent of Buffalo’s defensive snaps in the team’s Week 15 win over the Lions, and he was effective yet again, totaling three tackles. He also came up with a big pass deflection, batting down a Matt Stafford pass to force a Detroit punt in the third quarter.
Pro Football Focus has recognized Lawson’s strong outing, putting him on their Week 15 “Team of the Week.” The 24-year-old earned an overall grade of 89.5 in the contest.
“The Bills’ third-year pass-rusher delivered his highest graded performance of the season, registering two hits and two hurries from just 16 pass-rushing snaps,” PFF analyst Gordon McGuinness wrote. “He also produced a solid performance against the run, as his lone solo tackle resulted in a defensive stop.”
Lawson may establish a new career-high in tackles this season, as he’s only seven tackles removed from his current high of 33. He’s already recorded a career-high four pass deflections.
2- Bills FaceTime Matt Milano after Week 15 win
Given his strong production, many expected Matt Milano’s sophomore season to culminate with a Pro Bowl appearance.
Instead, his breakout campaign came to a premature on the New Era Field turf.
Milano underwent season-ending surgery after breaking his fibula in Buffalo’s Week 14 matchup with the Jets. Prior to sustaining the leg injury, Milano had started every game for the Bills at weakside linebacker, recording 78 tackles and seven pass deflections. He was also among the league leaders in takeaways with six.
Though Milano’s recovery is preventing him from physically being with his teammates, he is still viewed as a key part of Buffalo’s defense. When the Bills came out on the winning end of their Week 15 contest with the Lions, Milano’s teammates FaceTimed him, allowing him to get in on the post-game festivities.
Kyle Williams let Milano break the post-game huddle down through the phone.
Buffalo’s coaching staff feels as though the seemingly innate decision to call Milano is a testament to the team’s budding culture.
“I think it speaks a lot about the way that the locker room has been built with the high character guys,” head coach Sean McDermott said. “These guys care about one another. You saw after the game, they were FaceTiming with Matt Milano in the locker room which I thought was pretty cool. These guys care. It’s a good feeling, and it’s good to win.”
“I think it kind of shows the respect that the guys have for Matt, but also the type of team that we have,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier added. “Although the season isn’t going the way we want it to, there’s still a camaraderie there amongst the players and the love and respect they have for each other kind of came through on that call. For them to include Matt in the victory, that was a special moment.”
3- Stats that show Allen’s downfield prowess
Josh Allen’s arm strength was heavily advertised in the lead up to the 2018 draft.
The prospect wowed scouts at his pro day by throwing the ball 80 yards down the field. Some felt as though Allen’s arm became the league’s strongest as soon as he inked his entry-level deal with the Bills.
Throughout his rookie season, Allen’s arm strength has lived up to the palpable hype. The 22-year-old has shown that he’s not afraid to throw the ball downfield, an idea that has been reflected in a recent ESPN stat. According to the outlet, the Bills have attempted only 203 passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage this season, the third-fewest total in the league.
It’s also important to remember that the Bills have started four quarterbacks this season, meaning that Allen does not account for all 203 of these attempts.
Through 10 games, Allen has completed 132 passes for 1,633 yards and six touchdowns. Four of Allen’s touchdown passes have traveled 25 or more yards through the air.
Allen’s relatively low number of attempts in the short-to-intermediate passing game can perhaps be attributed to his athletic ability. If Allen does not an open receiver downfield, he often elects to take off with the ball as opposed to checking it down. The rookie has rushed for 506 yards this season, the second-most among all quarterbacks.