Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine’s use of Mario Williams helped tally 4.5 sacks. CJ Spiller found his lanes and his game. And EJ Manuel starts to hear the “Captain Checkdown” blasts? Jeremy White checks the tape.
Oh where to begin on Week 2’s installment of the All-22 review. I’m going to take you through a few of CJ Spiller’s runs that indicate that his season opening performance was a bit out of character. We’ll also check out 3.5 of Mario’s sacks (not the one where he chased Newton out of bounds) and see how he used 3.5 different moves to get to the QB. And with EJ Manuel, the talk about short throws is immensely overblown. The numbers show that Manuel is throwing downfield, and the tape shows he’s making the right decisions on a consistent basis.
CJ Back on Track
CJ Spiller says that he missed a few of his cutback lanes in the opener against New England. It backed up what I saw on tape, and against Carolina things got much better. It’s certainly worth mentioning that Spiller got huge holes to run through on occasion. Some of his bigger runs were courtesy of Cosmo Kramer-esque lanes on the freeway. Here Craig Urbik chips, and then bounces to the second level to help spring Spiller for a big gain.
Offensive line deserves a lot of credit but there were clear examples of cuts, and shifts that Spiller simply didn’t showcase in the opener.
One of the better examples came on the Bills first drive of the game. Spiller receives a handoff around midfield and proceeds to squeeze through a really nice running lane.
Once he makes it to the second level, he shows what makes him so dangerous. Carolina Safety Charles Godfrey (who is now out for the year) fell victim on this play.
Take a peek at where Godfrey is coming from, and where Spiller is. Without the arrows, would you guess that Spiller is going to end up on the left side of this picture, with Godfrey flailing at him on the right?
It’s a great move, and something Spiller is capable of on any given play. Godfrey is left in the dust and Spiller is brought down a few yards later.
How about a designed cutback? I’m not sure (and can’t be, because I’m not talking with the coaches on all this) but this looks by design to me. The Bills line up with Manuel under center and Spiller set to take things to the right. The entire offensive line blocks down to the right.
Fullback Frank Summers fills the hole and Carolina really bottles things up nicely.
THIS, is where CJ Spiller lives.
Spiller dances left, and then plants and sprints right up the hash mark for 7 yards.
Watching Spiller's feet on the All-22 is fantastic. You see his decisiveness returning in this highlight and the results are clear.
Spiller also showcased great patience. Late in the 3rd quarter the Bills run to the left side. Cordy Glenn steers his man toward the hashmark while Colin Brown and Frank Summers try to clear a lane.
It doesn’t appear to work right off the bat.
Safety Mike Mitchell saves a touchdown with a shoestring tackle after a gain of 9.
Spiller’s average was back up to over 6 yards per carry. He was lively with cutbacks, patience, and vision. It all adds up to a successful day running the football on a solid front seven.
Mario’s Big Day.
Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme has already given Mario Williams the single most productive day in Bills franchise history. Williams showed us all his moves, and Pettine showed a few of his own to give Cam Newton a nightmarish day.
Sack #1 - Bull rush
Mario Williams is lined up on the left side of the formation. He rushes straight up the field on Byron Bell and cramps Newton’s space in the pocket. This initial pressure is just as big as the sack as you’ll soon see.
Newton’s eyes are off to the right as he waits for Steve Smith to break on Leodis McKelvin. Mario forces a change of plans.
Newton rolls right and through pursuit, the Bills DE brings him down for his first of the day. How important was it?
Smith is available for a first down, but Newton has to roll to his left and can't find an open receiver. A six yard loss brings up a 2nd and 16, where Kiko Alonso comes up with the interception on 2nd and 16.
Sack #2 - Stutter Step.
Later in the first quarter Williams comes at Byron Bell with a change of pace rush. He stands upright, and with a bit of a stutter step cruises around wide on a speed rush. His second sack comes on 3rd and 2. Carolina punts.
Sack #3 - Extra Pressure
Sack #3 for Mario comes with a little help from the secondary as the Bills blitz both Da'Norris Searcy and Aaron Williams.
The pressure straight up the field forces Cam Newton to step up in the pocket, and right into #94. Williams is working from the right side of the formation this time, and abuses Jordan Gross (former first round pick, 8th overall) by throwing him off. When Newton steps, he’s drilled.
Sack #4 - The Low Rider
Perhaps his most impressive sack, this one only counted for .5. Williams is again on the left side, lined up against Byron Bell. Bell has had his hands full all day and this time gets smoked on a low move. Williams dips down low, and races through the turnstile into the backfield.
It was quite a day. 4.5 sacks is a great number. The pressures changed the game too. I could show you all those, but we’re moving along here. Only so much time in a given piece.
EJ Manuel - Captain Checkdown doesn’t live here
EJ Manuel’s gamewinning touchdown drive will be the most remembered element of the win over Carolina, right? Right. He didn’t have a tremendous game but he played very well and again showed me signs of understanding.
I’ve picked a few plays that didn’t pan out, as a way to show just what Manuel is seeing and selecting within the offense.
While some are crying “Captain Checkdown” those people are...well...wrong. Manuel is middle of the pack in the NFL in % of passes that travel more than 15 yards in the air. He’s ahead of a few future Hall of Famers too. Go ahead and check at advancednflstats.com.
Manuel IS throwing down field. He isn’t connecting on bombs. He isn’t hitting on all of his throws. He is often making the right reads.
Let’s take a look at a few and tell me what you see:
Overthrow on a pass to Robert Woods.
Underthrows on a pass to Stevie Johnson over the middle.
Misses on a seam route to Scott Chandler
Underthrows on a deep ball to TJ Graham.
In all of these scenarios, the Panthers either have one safety back, or they’ve got three across allowing the Bills to expose those lanes. EJ Manuel is effectively playing a numbers game when it comes to the downfield passing game. There are two parts to the passing game and each has its own importance.
What throw do I make?
How effectively can I make that throw?
EJ Manuel answers the first question correctly quite often. These are a few instances in which the second part of the equation didn't pan out. Let's go a little deeper....
On the pass to Johnson, the safety comes on a delayed blitz. Manuel identifies it, but misses the throw. Stevie is open in single coverage with the safety not in the mix.
On the seam route to Chandler, EJ identifies it. He finds his target, but simply misses on the throw.
On the deep ball to TJ Graham, the Bills miss again. Graham plants at the 50 and goes full speed at that point. The Panthers are playing three back, to a degree, and EJ has TJ running behind it. He just doesn’t hit.
It’s a bit of good news, bad news. EJ can see it, and read it...but he has to hit it. In time, perhaps he’ll hit with more consistency. We've seen a lot of Cover 2 here in Buffalo. The Tampa 2 as it's often called is a defense that is designed to take away the deep ball. When the Panthers came out of it, the Bills took their shots down the field.
He’s appears to be taking what the defense gives, and doing it effectively. Carolina did drop back into other looks as well. With a staggered two safety look he found Stevie Johnson up the seam for 19 yards.
Against that three-deep Manuel hit a wide open Robert Woods for a huge chunk.
Through all of it, I see a QB that is well-coached, and understanding basic concepts on reading things. Carolina’s secondary didn’t make it too tough. The tests will certainly get tougher.
Play of the Day.
I’ll wrap with MY favorite play of the day. The Bills hit a big gain to rookie Robert Woods on a broken play in which Manuel escaped, and then found his fellow rookie.
The Bills line up Woods in the backfield. He’s not quite next to Manuel, but he’s in a somewhat unorthodox spot to run a wheel route, looking to expose Carolina’s three-deep routine.
Around the 25 or 30 Woods flashes into open field and is thinking about the deep ball.
There’s one problem.
Manuel is under pressure. Scratch that - he's in the process of being tackled. He absorbs a hit and rolls away...to his right. Woods recognizes this, and comes back to his QB.
Rather than running deeper, and asking for an impossible heave down the field, he finds the QB’s eyes, and breaks back to the ball. The DB is put in a position to choose the QB or the coverage...he rushes Manuel and the throw is on point.
Great escape, great read, great throw. My play of the day.
Hope you enjoyed Week 2’s All-22....you can subscribe via NFL.com. Really...anyone can do this. It’s a ton of fun.
Next week? I think I’m breaking down film of the Bills win in NY.