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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills vs. Jets | Week 1


1. Spreading them out

It's unlikely to be the case every week but Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll saw a distinct mismatch between his receivers and the Jets cornerbacks and chose to exploit it. So much so that Buffalo made veteran blocking tight end Lee Smith inactive for Sunday's game.

The result was a heavy leaning toward three and four wide receiver sets for Buffalo's offense. Much like they did in the season opener last year, the Bills offense came out in a no huddle on the opening series, but on Sunday they employed a four-receiver set on each of the first six plays.

"It was a must start to see what we really had in my opinion to see what we could do," said John Brown. "I think it was a great game plan by Daboll."

"We played a lot of four wide," said Stefon Diggs. "A lot of guys got their hands on the ball. It just shows that we've got a lot of weapons."

The Bills then went to their most popular personnel grouping from last season for four of the next five plays employing their three-receiver, one back, one tight end set.

Outside of some split back looks in goal-to-go situations, Buffalo stuck to its three and four receiver sets using rookie Gabriel Davis or Isaiah McKenzie as the fourth wideout with Cole Beasley, John Brown and Stefon Diggs for much of the first half and it proved very successful.

"I think on our first five drives we didn't punt," said Josh Allen. "We had good opportunities to score. You know those two turnovers by me I can't have those, but we were moving the ball how we wanted to and our guys were getting open."

Allen took a big step in his short to intermediate passing game last season and the Bills largely chose to stick with that against the Jets, confident that their receivers would gain separation early and consistently.

Allen completed his first seven passes and went 16 for 20 on the team's first four offensive series getting just about every receiving target involved. He also had a pair of touchdowns throws and a commanding 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

"Well one they are extremely smart football players," said Allen of his receiving corps. "They know how to get open. They're just fun to play with. They communicate, they talk, and the things that they can do not a lot of guys in this league can do what they can do. They've been constantly getting open. They're making plays, you saw some run after the catch. I threw Stef (Diggs) one ball, two yards and he made two guys miss and ended up getting eight or nine, that's what you'd love to see."

Allen's protection was strong for most of the game and even in the instances where he had to buy time with his legs his receivers in those spread formations worked back to the ball as Buffalo's passing game looked effortless at times against the Jets.

"We understand the guys that we have are tough for defenses to cover for a long period of time," said Allen. "When I'm able to escape the pocket and our guys did a great job with our scramble rules and getting open and making some plays. Those are the results you're going to see."

In the first half, Buffalo rolled up steady yardage out of their spread sets gaining 223 yards on 44 plays to average more than five yards a play.

While the Bills offense wished they could've been more proficient in the red zone, where they went three for eight, the early returns on their spread formations were very encouraging.

"We're obviously still going to work on it and I expect with each passing day we'll continue to get the communication better between us. It's early in the year and I'm excited about what we've got."

2. Defensive line rotation will be heavy

With the depth of talent on Buffalo's defensive line combined with the additional position flexibility it was largely theorized that the Bills defensive front would see even more rotation this season.

That proved to be the case, but not in the same way as previous years.

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier deployed a first defensive line of Trent Murphy, Quinton Jefferson, Ed Oliver and Jerry Hughes on the team's first series. That was followed by a completely new quartet of Darryl Johnson, Justin Zimmer, who was just called up from the practice squad, Harrison Phillips and Mario Addison.

Some of the wholesale changes were due to the defense sending the Jets three-and-out on four of their first five offensive series.

"Just philosophically that's what we believe in here and it's probably a combination of that honestly and also just some of the three-and-outs combined with our offense staying on the field with multiple play drives," said head coach Sean McDermott. "And then their no huddle, a lot of times too so it was probably a combination of all of that."

Different combinations were put together in the defensive series that followed including one in which Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison were on the field at the same time at the two defensive end positions.

Though Buffalo's defense wasn't on the field much in the first half (less than 10 minutes) the rotation proved effective as the Jets gained just 52 rushing yards on 15 carries in the game and converted just four of their 11 third down opportunities.

It was also telling that Buffalo's defensive staff was comfortable giving extensive time to young players like Johnson and Zimmer with the pair even lining up alongside one another for certain series. A.J. Epenesa was the only defensive linemen inactive on Sunday.

3. Edmunds and Milano leave early

Last season Matt Milano started 15 games and Tremaine Edmunds started all 16 as both stayed remarkably healthy. In Week 1 this season against the Jets, both sustained injuries.

Late in the first half, Milano suffered a hamstring injury and by the start of the second half was declared out for the game. Milano has a history of hamstring injuries. Hopefully this one isn't of a serious nature. Coach McDermott did not have an update on the linebacker's status.

Early in the second half Tremaine Edmunds exited the game with a shoulder injury. After being examined extensively by the team's medical staff, Edmunds was escorted to the locker room out of pads.

He returned to the sidelines in the fourth quarter to watch the remainder of the game, but never returned. There was no update on his condition either.

Filling in for Milano and Edmunds were AJ Klein and Tyrel Dodson. Klein finished tied for the team lead in tackles with five, while Dodson posted his first career sack.

"I was very proud of the way that the younger guys stepped in and did a good job," said McDermott. "From Tyrel Dodson to AJ Klein and Tyler Matakevich. And that's the next man up and that's the resiliency of the linebacking crew and the resilience of our defense and our team."

Buffalo's defense has never been without one of their two stalwart starting linebackers, who are dynamic in coverage. Coach McDermott understands that such a possibility exists next week depending on what the medical examination of their injuries reveal.

"Those guys are good football players for us," he said of Edmunds and Milano. "They did a nice job doing some good things (Sunday) and so there's going to be adversity like there was (Sunday), whether it's injuries or a change in momentum. I think we've learned that you've got to continue to push through and I thought our team did that so we'll see what happens. This week, we hope and pray we get them back. If we don't we know it'll be next man up."

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