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Top 5 things we've learned about the Bills at the bye week


It's been a pretty good first six weeks of this 2022 regular season for the Bills. They're not perfect, but they're pretty close as they take their break with a 5-1 mark, the best record in the conference. So, what has this team revealed about itself through the first six games? We take a closer look below.

1 – This team has extraordinary depth

From playing without six starters in Week 3 at Miami and then losing another half dozen players in the game due to the heat and almost winning, to playing shorthanded against the Ravens on the road and winning, Buffalo's roster depth was tested and came through with flying colors.

The play of backup safeties Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin to the job turned in by reserve defensive tackles like Brandin Bryant, to a super productive game by LB Tyrel Dodson in the absence of Tremaine Edmunds in the Week 5 win over the Steelers, players made stepping in and performing look routine.

"We have depth," said head coach Sean McDermott. "We've had a number of guys miss games and I thought that guys did a great job of just being resilient. The guys that were called upon to play, were prepared and did a good job there, and that's a credit to our coaches as well having them ready to go."

For the Bills to not only be 5-1, but to be top five on offense and defense in several different categories while having one of the toughest first half schedules in the league speaks to how deep the talent runs on Buffalo's roster.

2 – The defense might be even better

The Bills defense in 2021 was number one in total defense, yards per play, pass defense, third down defense, opponent passer rating and points allowed. Buffalo may not be number one in all those categories right now, but it's hard not to feel that this year's defensive unit is a more complete group than the one that was on the field last season.

Buffalo's four-man defensive front goes nine deep and can stop the run and rush the passer without much need for blitz help. The Bills are seventh in sacks per play and Von Miller has been as good as advertised with six sacks in his first six games.

Their secondary despite shuffling different players in and out of the lineup due to injury has been masterful in preventing the big play and getting takeaways. The Bills lead the AFC with 13 total takeaways and lead the NFL in interceptions with 10 in six games. They also rank third in fewest plays of 20 yards or more surrendering just 17 since the season began.

Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are having one of their most productive seasons as a tandem. They've combined for 68 total tackles, including eight for loss and rank first and third on the team in tackles. They've also posted a sack, an interception, five pass breakups and four quarterback hits.

And they're succeeding against formidable competition. In the past three weeks they've held two of the top five scoring offenses in the league to 20 points each (Baltimore, Kansas City) as their red zone defense is now ranked in the top 10 (9th).

If they're this good when they're not healthy, the thought of a fully loaded Bills defense, especially if Tre'Davious White returns sooner rather than later, is downright scary.

3 – Rookies have roles

Normally on a team with several entrenched starters it would take at least half a season for a rookie to get opportunities to make an impact, but that has not been the case with Buffalo's 2022 draft class.

Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam have logged a lot of time on the field as they've made a combined seven starts through the first six games and performed admirably. Benford missed two games with a fractured hand, but Elam has logged interceptions in each of his last two games and the two have combined for four pass breakups. They're making noticeable improvements with each passing week.

James Cook and Khalil Shakir have both seen time on offense and appear on track to earn more playing time as the season wears on. And Terrell Bernard and Baylon Spector have been regulars on the special teams units.

The rookies are still learning on the job, but their coaches have prepared them well for game action and for the most part they've come through for the team when called upon.

4 – The offense is in good hands

One of the biggest unknowns coming into the season was how new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey would perform as a first-time play caller for Buffalo. The early returns have been encouraging through the first six weeks.

Whether it's moving Stefon Diggs around to get the most favorable matchup or using a multitude of personnel groupings and players to keep opposing defenses off balance, Dorsey more often than not has made the right call.

Thus far, with an exception or two, his game plans have chosen efficiency in the passing game to keep the offense on schedule in terms of down and distance. This is revealed in Buffalo's league-leading third down conversion rate so far this season of almost 53 percent (52.8%). The Bills also lead the league in total offense, total yards per play, passing yards. They're also second in first downs per game and points per game (29.3).

Dorsey is described by his players as an aggressive play caller and there have been examples of that through the first six games like his 3rd-and-10 call from the Bills own two-yard line against the Steelers in Week 5.

Of course, having the league's second-highest rated passer in Josh Allen, who leads the league in passing yards and is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes makes a lot of that possible. But that coupled with a top-ranked defense invites an aggressive approach and Dorsey has demonstrated he has the chops to follow through in that fashion.

5 – Work left to do

Coach McDermott said he'd be able to enjoy his bye week going into it with a victory, but acknowledged the team has a long way to go with 11 regular season games left to play. With that in mind some areas in need of improvement include red zone touchdown efficiency where Buffalo ranks a pedestrian 18th in the league. Their 22 red zone possessions are second only to Kansas City, but they want to improve on their 54.5 percent success rate.

The Bills have also been somewhat careless with the football through the first six games. They are tied for the third-most giveaways in the league thus far with 10, which has done a lot to negate their league-leading 13 takeaways this season.

There are others smaller details that the coaching staff will unearth as well during the bye week as they put their self-scouting process into action. But all in all, the Bills have positioned themselves extraordinarily well for a big second half run to the postseason.

Scroll through our photographers' best images from the Bills 5-1 start.

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