NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 1

25 Jan

The Buffalo Bills’ 2022 season ended abruptly, and disappointingly, in the divisional round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year with a shocking beatdown administered by the Cincinnati Bengals. After being “crowned” as Super Bowl favorites before the season by just about all the pundits, anything short of a championship was going to be looked at as disappointing, but the manner in which they were manhandled on both sides of the ball while being eliminated took all the wind out of the sails of the organization. With that in mind, we begin our annual four-part review of the team’s season, starting with the front office and coaching staff. It certainly won’t be as glowing as past years’ reviews.

General Manager Brandon Beane has done an admirable job of building the Bills into an annual playoff team and legit title contender. Drafting Josh Allen and securing Stefon Diggs in a trade rank at the top of his list of accomplishments, but we are reaching the point where it’s fair to question some of his moves. Trading up in the draft to get guard Cody Ford, then hanging onto him too long before finally releasing him, can and should be questioned. Couple that with trading away Wyatt Teller, who has developed into a Pro Bowl interior lineman, doubles the criticism. As for the rest of his acquired talent, looking at it creates a bit of a conundrum. Players like Tremaine Edmunds, Ed Oliver, Boogie Basham, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have ranged from competent starters to sometime contributors. But to use Beane’s own term, there always seems to be “meat still on the bone”. They don’t quite measure up to the spot they were drafted in. Beane has had tremendous success with mid-to-late picks-players like Matt Milano, Dawson Knox, Gabe Davis, Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson. The 2022 draft class gets an “incomplete” grade, since the Bills’ coaches have a habit of babying young players, claiming they’re not ready to contribute regularly. Hence, we only got to see glimpses of what players like Kaiir Elam, James Cook, Khalil Shakir and Christian Benford could do.

That leads us to the conundrum. If the young players “aren’t ready”, are the coaches doing their jobs? Beane has invested heavily in the defensive line, yet the Bills still can’t generate a consistent pass rush and have trouble stopping the run. So, are Beane’s draft picks bordering on being busts, or are the coaches not getting them ready to perform at a high level? Were Zack Moss and Devin Singletary overrated as third round draft picks, or are the coaches failing at developing a consistent ground game?
Sean McDermott is the head coach and deserves praise for leading the franchise out of the doldrums, but the playoff failures also fall at his feet.

Looking at the coordinators:

  1. Ken Dorsey was being praised at the beginning of the year as the Bills racked up yardage and points, but fell under criticism when the offense faltered later on. Josh Allen still stands by him, so he should, and will be, given the opportunity to right the offensive ship in 2023. It doesn’t necessarily fall directly on the coordinator, but how long will this team struggle to develop a consistent run game?
  2. Matt Smiley was a first time coordinator, like Dorsey. The team consistently fills the roster with strictly special teams contributors. Other than Nyheim Hines’ stunning double kickoff return touchdown game, did the special teams do anything else special? Are they capable of scheming up a blocked punt or field goal at a critical time when needed?
  3. Leslie Frazier’s defense has now been guilty of massive failures in the playoffs 4 years in a row. From blowing a 16-0 lead at Houston, getting blown out in the 2020 AFC championship in Kansas City, the 13 second fiasco in K.C. last year and the meltdown at home this year against the Bengals, it’s a troubling pattern. The team always has statistics that rank high in the regular season, but the defense is not feared by any opponent. They have trouble stopping the run, can’t generate a pass rush and don’t get enough game-changing turnovers. It’s hard to believe that the players Beane has added are as mediocre as the unit looks at times, so the coaching has to be questioned. The defensive coaching staff needs an influx of young talent that can innovate and put the players in better positions to make plays.
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