Following a week where the Buffalo Bills stole a victory late against Carolina, they came back the next and had a frustrating game on both sides of the ball. The New York Jets gained over 500 yards of total offense, they collected eight sacks on defense and they always seemed to stay a step ahead of the Bills.
It wasn't a pretty day if you're a fan of the team, and some of the grades from the game reflect exactly that. Before we turn the page and advance to preparations for the upcoming contest against the Baltimore Ravens, first is a look at how each individual that took an offensive or defensive snap fared during Week Three.
Every week, with the help of the All-22 film available through NFL.com's Game Rewind package, WGR will provide the standouts, the duds and everything in between from the game that was.
For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Daniel Faraday (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual players plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.
OFFENSE (86 plays total)
It was a trying day for rookie EJ Manuel (86, -9, 1.7), the first of its kind for the young signal caller. After two weeks where he saw little to no pressure and was able to disperse the ball at will, the New York Jets gave him no 'gimmes.'
Manuel's biggest weakness throughout the game was standing tough in the pocket and moving around in that space as individual parts of his offensive line broke down. It's one area that New York rookie Geno Smith seems to be ahead of Manuel, keeping his eyes downfield and still being able to maneuver in the pocket. There were plenty of times where if Manuel had stood strong and not immediately gone into scramble mode, a receiver would have become open down the field.
As a result, Manuel would force throws if he thought the Jets were sending more than the normal four pass rushers on any given play. He took chances down the field to his receivers down the sideline and connected on a 23-yard gain to Stevie Johnson, but for the most part his deep ball was extremely inaccurate to the point that his receivers didn't have a chance to make a play on the ball.
When he was back in the pocket and stood tall, he looked as poised as he had the previous two weeks. The problem for the Bills was that it was too few and far between. He found Robert Woods on a perfect strike over the middle of the field for 29 yards in the second quarter. Manuel was creating some chemistry with Johnson over the middle of the field as well. He even found Scott Chandler for some big gains in the fourth quarter, including the team's lone touchdown on the day.
Manuel tucked the ball and ran more against the Jets than he had in the first two weeks of the season. Some of that was due to feeling the collapsing pocket around him, but he smartly took the keeper on some read-option plays throughout the game, resulting in a few big gains. On his biggest scramble, a fourth quarter run where he evaded certain losses in the backfield, it resulted in a fumble at the end of the play. Luckily for the Bills and Manuel, he was ruled down and the Jets were out of challenges, but the ball was clearly knocked loose by the defender.
If there's anything to learn from this game for Manuel, it's that he needs to hang tougher in the pocket and be able to maneuver, keep his eyes downfield and not go into scramble mode at the hint of trouble. It was clearly a learning experience for the rookie. Had he been even remotely better, that game was there for the taking for Buffalo. Even with his misfires, the Bills had the ball with the chance to tie it.
It really is the pangs of a first season with a rookie quarterback. He must improve on the weaknesses from this game, because teams may mimic what the Jets did in attempts to render Manuel ineffective.
Leading the way in time on the field for the Bills was the 32-year old Fred Jackson (62, 0, 2.7). It was a tough day of running for whoever took a carry for Buffalo. As far as their front-seven goes, the Jets have as tough a group to run against as any in the NFL, led by Muhammad Wilkerson and Demario Davis. Jackson excelled in blitz pickup and short-yardage pickups, but his top play of the day was the 3rd-and-1 run where he broke loose of the pile and picked up 59 yards. Jackson had a fumble in the fourth quarter that was negated by a Jets penalty, but he can't afford to let that happen anymore. C.J. Spiller (19, -5, 1.3) had a frustrating day. He was able to find a little open running room early on in the game, but that was quickly closed on future rushes. Spiller finished the day gaining only 9 yards on 10 carries, and had to leave just past the start of the third quarter with a quad injury. Making matters worse, Spiller fumbled the ball twice and continued to try and bounce plays outside for losses when there were minimal pickups to be had. Tashard Choice (10, -1, 2) got his first action of the season, and now has a run for negative-four yards to his name.
If it weren't for Stevie Johnson (77, 3, 3.0) and his performance, the wide receiver group barely would have been a blip on the radar. Johnson was EJ Manuel's favorite target throughout the game. He was the lone player to get a reception on a deep throw down the sideline, having to make a remarkable toe tapping catch to stay in bounds so it would count. Johnson was a favorite of Manuel's in the second half, catching four passes for 74 yards as the Bills attempted to come back once again. Johnson had one drop on a third down play in the third quarter, and also got flagged for a taunting penalty in the fourth quarter. Rookie wideout Robert Woods (86, 0, 2.3) had a forgettable day. Outside of his 29-yard gain over the middle of the field where the Jets forgot he was an eligible receiver, Woods was basically invisible. Despite 10 targets from Manuel, only two managed to be catchable. For the third straight week, there were plays to be made with T.J. Graham (68, 0, 2.3). He wasn't open as much as he had been against Carolina, but Graham still had a step on his man a few separate times. There was one play down the sideline where Manuel threw a deep route that ended up being more of a back shoulder throw. Graham's feet were out of bounds and he couldn't catch it. It was a play that was there to be made, but the second-year player was unable. Both Chris Hogan (11, 0, 2.3) and Marcus Easley (2, 0, 2.3) got some time, but had no discernible plays.
What started as a rough day blocking for Scott Chandler (77, 3, 3.0) ended in an incredibly productive pass-catching day in the second half. Chandler's top play was his 33-yard touchdown catch-and-run when he slipped past the linebackers in zone coverage for a busting play over the middle. He finished off the play, breaking a tackle inside the five-yard line and extending the ball past the goal line for a touchdown. He also displayed good hands throughout the remainder of the fourth quarter, earning the trust of EJ Manuel. Lee Smith (18, 1, 2.7) had a solid day of blocking. His key play came on Robert Woods' 29-yard gain, where Smith allowed Garrett McIntyre to rush wide and then rode him outside to maintain a clean pocket for Manuel.
Another week, and another game where left tackle Cordy Glenn (86, 2, 3.0) looks smooth and comfortable in dealing with his assignments. In pass protection, Glenn went up against Quinton Coples and quite simply dominated him at the point of attack. The left tackle had a miscue on one run play and also had a holding call late in the contest, but otherwise played a very good game. The rest of the offensive line wasn't nearly as effective, however. Right tackle Erik Pears (86, -4, 2.0) had his worst game of the young season. When Coples was lined up against Pears, the second-year player had some success there. Eric Wood (86, -4, 2.0) struggled a few times in the run game and like most others he lined up against, Muhammad Wilkerson gave Wood some trouble as well. Kraig Urbik (82, -2, 2.3) and Sam Young (4, -2, 0.7) handled the duties at right guard. Urbik had to leave the game near the end of the second quarter with a knee injury but returned to start the second half. While he was out, Young came in and directly contributed to two of the Jets' eight sacks. Once again, Colin Brown (86, -10, 1) was the weak link of the offensive line. This time, it was a combination of Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and rookie Sheldon Richardson that gave Brown trouble throughout the game. He's constantly playing without leverage, which leads to many plays where his assignment can easily move past him.
DEFENSE (78 plays total)
The defensive front for the Buffalo Bills started off quite well. Once again, Kyle Williams (65, 2, 3.0) was the most consistent defender for the team throughout the game. He was a big factor in stopping run plays throughout the first half including a pair of excellent run stops in the first quarter, and holding up center Nick Mangold long enough to ruin a Jets' screen before it even got started. Alex Carrington (57, 1, 2.7) saw the last action of his season, playing the whole game before suffering a year-ending injury on the final defensive play in the fourth quarter. Like the rest of the defensive line, Carrington's first half against the run was much more productive than in the final 30 minutes. That's when the Jets racked up 126 of their 182 total yards on the ground. His best play came on an unblocked effort where he blew up a run play for a loss in the first quarter. Sticking with the trend, Alan Branch (51, 0, 2.3) was moving the pile in the first half, and seemed to lose his edge as the game progressed. Twice in the third quarter, the Jets ran at Branch and he was forced to the side for big gains by Jets running backs. He also was pancaked in the fourth quarter by right guard Willie Colon. Marcell Dareus (24, 0, 2.3) had a day in which he suffered two separate injuries, so he wasn't in the lineup nearly enough in the second half to see if the trend stayed with him as well. But when healthy, Dareus had a productive first half in stopping the run. Corbin Bryant (20, 2, 2.7) will see more time in coming weeks with the loss of Carrington. He was able to beat his man once in a pass rush scenario and made a tackle on the back end of an Alex Green running play in the third quarter.
Against Carolina, you couldn't help but notice Mario Williams (55, 0, 2.3). Against the New York Jets, you had to try to notice the highest paid player on the team. He had one fantastic pass rush when matched up against a tight end in the first quarter that resulted in a holding call on his blocker. However, Williams may have been bogged down by the ankle injury he suffered and failed to make an impact throughout the game. The Bills came into the season depending on Jerry Hughes (38, -2, 2.0) to step up, and to this point he's failed to live up to the expectations. The former first-round pick performed well at times against the run, but when rushing the passer he's left a lot to be desired. Hughes had a one-on-one opportunity against running back Bilal Powell to get to Geno Smith, and was stood straight up by the back.
Since it's his first year in the league, you have to include the word 'rookie' when it comes to Kiko Alonso (78, 4, 3.3). If you see the way he plays, he's been anything but a rookie. In fact, he's been the best player on the Bills through three weeks. Alonso's ability in coverage was on display once again, reading Geno Smith's eyes for his second interception in as many weeks. He put the Bills in a great position for a touchdown, but the offense couldn't convert. Alonso was once again solid against the run, and plugged up the running lane numerous times. His biggest weakness is overrunning the hole sometimes, which is something that comes with the territory for the aggressive and instinctive linebacker. Arthur Moats (32, -3, 2.0) was a consistent tackler, but didn't really stand out in any way besides just being there when the play came his way. He was caught standing still in coverage on a nine-yard pass to the Jets fullback and also failed to keep Bilal Powell inside on a big run on the Jets' final offensive series of the game.
For the second straight week, the Bills barely used either of the players at this position. Nigel Bradham (3, 0, 2.3) seems like he's become a rare sub-package and special teams player. Meanwhile Jamaal Westerman (7, -2, 1.7) is brought in when the team wants fresh legs to rush the passer. However, Westerman had perhaps the worst attempt at a pass rush that the Bills have had this season. He was turned around by the blocker, bounced off and ran backwards before starting his pursuit again. By that point, the ball was long gone.
Leading the way on the defensive stat sheet, Manny Lawson (63, 4, 3.3) also passed the eye test throughout the game. Setting the edge against the run and containing it is where Lawson flourishes, and this past Sunday was no different. Lawson was in on tackles constantly throughout the duration of the game, joining Kiko Alonso and Kyle Williams as their most prolific defenders against the Jets. Marcus Dowtin (2, 0, 2.3) saw his first action on defense of the season, but didn't stand out.
Coming into the game, the Bills were in a bad spot without second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Just seven plays into the game, the Bills are now without their top two cover men. Leodis McKelvin (7, 2, 3.0) had a very strong start to his day, being more aggressive and physical at the line of scrimmage with his assignment than one can remember. A hamstring injury derailed his day, making the Bills quite susceptible to big plays through the air the rest of the evening. Justin Rogers (72, -5, 1) had the worst day of anyone on defense. He allowed two long touchdowns, another two long gains and was even flagged for a pass interference. He did have a positive play, though, swatting down the Wildcat reverse pass to Stephen Hill. Former full-time cornerback Aaron Williiams (78, -2, 2.7) was pressed into duty and performed fairly well. He was beat a couple of times, but didn't surrender any big plays down the field. If McKelvin can't play against Baltimore, Williams will likely start alongside Rogers. Nickell Robey (45, 0, 2.7) had a tougher than advertised assignment in Jeremy Kerley and finished just about even. While Kerley had a pair of receptions and had Robey flagged for pass interference, the diminutive corner made a strong play along the sideline to force Kerley out of bounds for an incompletion even though the wideout caught it.
Without Aaron Williams, the safeties consisted of Da'Norris Searcy (77, -3, 2.0) and veteran Jim Leonhard (73, -1, 2.7). Leonhard made the biggest play of the group by picking off a Geno Smith pass in the first half. One area the veteran struggled with though was biting on an underneath route when he has some responsibilities over the top. Fortunately for him, getting baited underneath is what baited Smith into the throw that ultimately resulted in the turnover. As for Searcy, he struggled in coverage and also should have provided help over the top for Justin Rogers on the Stephen Hill touchdown. However, Searcy had drifted too far over and couldn't get back to Hill in time. Rookie Duke Williams (11, -1, 2.3) got his most time on the field of the season due to the injuries, but was flagged for a questionable pass interference call in the second quarter. He didn't stand out in any other way, either for good or bad reasons.
'Upon Further Review' Game MVP: ILB Kiko Alonso 'Upon Further Review' Game LVP: LG Colin Brown
Year to date grades, ranked by aggregate GPA (Minimum 75 plays)
1) ILB Kiko Alonso - 3.30
2) DL Kyle Williams - 3.22
3) LT Cordy Glenn - 3.18
4) SLB Manny Lawson - 3.08
5) WR Stevie Johnson - 3.02
6) RLB Mario Williams - 2.93
7) DL Marcell Dareus - 2.92
8) HB Fred Jackson - 2.91
9) CB Nickell Robey - 2.91
10) WR Robert Woods - 2.87
11) CB Leodis McKelvin - 2.87
12) RT Erik Pears - 2.62
13) DL Alex Carrington - 2.56
14) TE Scott Chandler - 2.56
15) HB C.J. Spiller - 2.55
16) RG Kraig Urbik - 2.55
17) RLB Jerry Hughes - 2.54
18) C Eric Wood - 2.52
19) DL Alan Branch - 2.51
20) QB EJ Manuel - 2.50
21) S Jim Leonhard - 2.48
22) ILB Arthur Moats - 2.45
23) S/CB Aaron Williams - 2.44
24) S Da'Norris Searcy - 2.39
25) WR T.J. Graham - 2.30
26) CB Justin Rogers - 1.60
27) LG Colin Brown - 0.92