If there is one defining characteristic in how Bills offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, approaches scheming, it is how he prioritizes his play calling.
A good number of coordinators begin by choosing plays based on which ones they believe will work best with the progressions the quarterback has as the play unfolds.
While Daboll does subscribe to that method of formulating a game plan, he puts matchups ahead of it when it comes to putting his weekly plan together. He then fits formations and play calls to facilitate those matchups.
“He definitely does a good job of coaching the quarterbacks to find the mismatch,” said Charles Clay, who previously had Daboll as his offensive coordinator as a rookie in Miami. “He coaches reads too, but he thinks mismatches first. When you have guys like Kelvin Benjamin, LeSean McCoy and myself along with (Jeremy) Kerley and guys like that whether they’re outside or inside, you get them matched up on linebackers or a smaller guy, the quarterbacks are going to give us chances.
“That’s the exciting thing. He thinks match-ups first and that’s something that will help us this year.”
“You have to understand what your players do well, the strengths of your players,” Daboll said. “Then you have to try to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team that you’re playing. There’s no secret recipe to a good call. You need to put in the time and the work just like the players do to give yourself a good chance.”
Predictability can be a death sentence for an NFL offense. The level of film study in the league has reached unprecedented heights and defensive coordinators and defenders prepare for anything better now than perhaps at any other time in NFL history.
That demands that offensive coordinators not only avoid tendencies, but have something new and different every single week. Daboll sees having a varied and multiple attack as a necessity.
“You have to be multi-dimensional,” he said. “You have to be able to throw it when they know you’re going to throw it and run it when they know you’re going to run it. That’s the toughest thing in the National Football League because each week is such a demanding amount of time in terms of preparation.
“Regardless of who you play every team in professional football is good, so at the end of the day whether it’s gap schemes, zone schemes, drop back passes, play action passes, you need to have all of those things. You have to have variety in everything you do. You have to have an expansive playbook.”
However, being multi-dimensional for Daboll isn’t solely rooted in volume. Buffalo’s new offensive play caller also creates unpredictability in the way he teaches his offense to the players.
He and his offensive staff teach play concepts, not individual assignments. So a receiver for example doesn’t learn what he has to do as the split end on every play. He is taught to understand the entirety of the play. This enables Daboll to deploy any of his receiving targets anywhere in the formation.
“I like the fact that he can move us around anywhere in the offense,” said Kelvin Benjamin. “I mean Clay or me can be moved around anywhere in the offense, so it’s going to be hard for teams to key on us. It’s fun to be moved around because that lets you know that he’s looking for the mismatches and stuff. Shady is a mismatch too. They’re workhorses and once you find those mismatches, it’ll be easy to pick teams apart.”
“I like what (Brian) Daboll is putting in on offense,” said Jeremy Kerley. “I love it. It’s fun and it gives guys opportunities to play different positions and do things that they’re not used to. I think it’s perfect.”
All too often Bills fans have seen Patriots QB Tom Brady go from a failed third down conversion and hurry the offense up to the line, quick count a fourth down play and convert. We’ve seen him go from huddling up, to hurry up mid-series.
Having spent the majority of his pro coaching career in New England, Daboll has a strong appreciation for altering the tempo in the game on offense. It figures to be at least a complementary part of Buffalo’s attack under their new play caller.
“You have to dictate tempo offensively,” Daboll said. “But there’s also a part of scheming and seeing what the defense gives you and trying to attack those weaknesses.”
“The way we run it, it’s fast paced. I’m liking it,” said Benjamin of the offense. “The fast-paced stuff makes sure we’re on top of our game as far as being smart. It’s basically a fast-paced offense, tiring the defense out and staying conditioned at a level where you can sustain that while also knowing what you have to do.”
If there has been a troubling theme among previous offensive coordinators for the Bills, it has been a lack of adjustments as the game unfolds. It often led to anemic second-half performances from a point-production perspective. That should change under Daboll, who learned from Bill Belichick that adjustments don’t just happen when a team heads to the locker room following the second quarter.
“I’ve come from a school that adjustments start the minute that the game starts,” Daboll told Buffalobills.com. “It’s not just at halftime. It could be after the first series, it could be after the third series. Until you get a feel for how the game’s going and what you need to do and how you’re getting played, there’s no sense in waiting until halftime. You have to try to adjust as fast as you can.”
Daboll’s adjustments are a byproduct of harping on the details. If you don’t demand focus on the details, your players won’t be capable of adjusting on the fly and changing the approach offensively.
“His thing is you just can’t beat yourself,” said Clay of Daboll. “You hear that from a bunch of people, but he says, ‘To start winning, you’ve got to keep from losing.’ You can’t beat yourself. He harps on those little things, penalties, false starts, all the stuff where it’s not the other team doing anything, but it’s us doing it to ourselves. He wants us on top of those as much as possible. That can go a long way in the long run. You eliminate those things, it gives you a better chance of winning if you take care of those things no matter who is on the field.”
“I think you have to evolve every day. Every day you have to make a change here or there,” Daboll said. “Maybe it’s on a particular route. You might think it doesn’t look too good. As you go you evaluate it along with your own job too.”
It may take time for the Bills offense to fall into a consistent rhythm, especially with the undertaking of a three-way quarterback competition. But in time Daboll’s offense should provide plenty of opportunities for Buffalo’s playmakers, and hopefully it results in steady and significant point production.