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Consulting With The Coaches

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Consulting with the coaches: On Von Miller's usage, offense's third down success rate

Josh Allen (17), Ken Dorsey. Buffalo Bills vs Los Angeles Rams, Week 1, September 8, 2022 at SoFi Stadium. Photo by Bill Wippert
Josh Allen (17), Ken Dorsey. Buffalo Bills vs Los Angeles Rams, Week 1, September 8, 2022 at SoFi Stadium. Photo by Bill Wippert

Game 1 is in the books for the Buffalo Bills and it resulted in a resounding 31-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Bills players get some additional rest time as their next game isn't until Monday night against the Tennessee Titans (0-1) in the home opener . 

As the Bills prepare to face a Titans team in primetime that's gotten the better of them the last couple of matchups, we talked with Buffalo's coordinators on what they thought the keys to success were in Week 1 and how they can build off it for Week 2.

Von's Usage

By many standards, Von Miller's debut with the Bills couldn't have gone any better. The star pass rusher recorded two sacks and four pressures, leading the way for the Bills defense.

Pro Football Focus rated Miller as Buffalo's top defender against the Rams.

"You hope that he's going to go out and have the impact that he had; you don't know until you actually get out there and do it," Bills DC Leslie Frazier said. "But yes, his history says yes, that's what you can expect."

For much of his career, Miller has prefered to play a high percentage of a team's defensive snaps, even in non-pass rush situations. Frazier's defensive scheme thrives on rotating players, especially up front, to keep guys fresh. The latter was the case in Miller's debut as he played 35 snaps (52% of defensive plays), behind both Greg Rousseau (45 snaps/67%) and A.J. Epenesa (36/54%).

"We've had a lot of discussions about Von's usage, along with how to use him, between myself, Eric Washington, our assist defensive line coach Marcus West, and then bringing Sean in on some of those conversations as well," Frazier said. "And of course, it's getting an exchange from Von."

There may be games depending on the opponent where Miller sees a higher or lower share of snaps, but those plans will be developed over the course of the season, Frazier shared. But the goal is the same: put Miller in a position to be an impact player.

"Every week is gonna be a little bit different in how we approach each opponent and how we want to utilize Von's talent," he said.

Third down success

The Bills converted on a staggering 9 of 10 third down situations, tied for the best third down conversion rate by an NFL team in a single game over the last decade (min. 10 attempts). QB Josh Allen found WR Gabe Davis for a touchdown on third down during the team's opening drive of the season and the success continued from there. The only time the Bills offense didn't convert a third down, the drive still resulted in points with a Tyler Bass field goal. 

Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey shared that a lot of that started up front and allowed the rest of the play to flow.

"We were able to protect well up front, and were really able to execute what we were calling," Dorsey said. "Guys were doing a great job in terms of running routes, being there when they needed to be there for Josh in terms of spacing, in terms of in and out of cuts and Josh making good decisions."

Dorsey said that he felt comfortable calling plays in his first regular season games as the OC and that the communication between himself, QB coach Joe Brady and Allen helped create cohesion. 

"We were able to do some things on the sideline to kind of tweak some things and adjust based off of how (the Rams) were playing," Dorsey said.

Dream scenario

You rarely see it anymore in the NFL, but the Bills won with only sending four or fewer rushers on every defensive snap. 

"That is a coordinator's dream," Frazier said.

The Bills got 15 hits on Rams QB Matthew Stafford and seven sacks, tied for the 4th-most sacks by an NFL team without blitzing in a game since 2016. Frazier attributed that to the personnel the Bills have up front rather than a game plan going in. 

"There haven't been many games that we've had where we didn't blitz. But we had the luxury with the way the game was going on," Frazier said. "Our guys were performing up front that we could do what we did."

Frazier was especially impressed with DT Jordan Phillips who led the team with six pressures and 1.5 sacks. 

"He had done a lot of good things in training camp, but I also know his history as a Buffalo Bill," Frazier said. "He's been a force that offensive lines have had to deal with. And to get him back, and to go see him play the way he played on Thursday night gets all of us excited."

While Buffalo's pass rush was up to the task against the Rams, the run defense will be tested when Titans RB Derrick Henry comes to town for the Monday night game.

"We're going to try to put together a game plan that will help limit those big plays by Derrick Henry and that offense," Frazier said.

Moss and Cook still have coaching staff's trust

If there was an area of concern for the offense this year, it's the turnovers and the Bills committed four of them against the Rams. Allen threw two picks and RBs Zack Moss and James Cook each lost fumbles. Cook's fumble came on his first career NFL carry in the first quarter and he did not get another carry the rest of the night.

Despite two fumbles from the running back group, Dorsey assured that both players still have the coaching staff's trust and will see more opportunities, starting in Week 2 against Tennessee.

"I've got a lot of trust that they're going to make the necessary adjustments," Dorsey said. "They've watched the tape and kind of understand what the issues were, whether it's going to the ground or situationally and those types of things, to make sure to make those corrections, because they're going to be in there. We're going to give them the ball."

View the Best 30 Photos from the Week 1 game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.

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