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Previewing the Jets’ Opposition: Buffalo Bills

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Bills easily beat the Jets 27-17 in the opener, with the final score being misleadingly close. Since then, they went from strength to strength and led the AFC East with a 4-0 record. However, after a couple of setbacks, they’re now hoping to avoid a third straight loss with New England and Seattle coming up next on their schedule.

Quarterbacks

Last season, Josh Allen never managed to surpass 260 passing yards in any game. However, in 2020, he had more that in each of the first five games. He only managed 122 yards in Monday’s loss to the Chiefs though.

Allen has improved his completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio dramatically this year. He also needs just four touchdown passes to emulate his 20 touchdown passes for the entire 2019 season.

In week one, Allen broke several tackles in the backfield and rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries. However, he’s been running a lot less since then with just 86 yards on 23 carries. His output and average are both way down on his first two seasons.

Backup Matt Barkley has thrown just five passes this year in relief of Allen, while rookie Jake Fromm has always been inactive.

Offensive Line

The Bills made a change on their offensive line this week when they released Quinton Spain. Spain had begun the season as their starting left guard. This move could backfire on Sunday because the current left guard Cody Ford has been ruled out with a knee injury.

In addition, ex-Jets guard Brian Winters is now starting at right guard but he’s been struggling and had his worst game of the year against the Chiefs.

The Bills’ two best - and most expensive - linemen are left tackle Dion Dawkins and center Mitch Morse. Veteran Daryl Williams has taken over at right tackle.

On the whole, the Bills have given up 10 sacks, although Allen ran into trouble or held the ball for too long on at least half of those. Even so, this is an improvement on the past few seasons.

While Jon Feliciano is still on injured reserve, he has been practicing and could have been activated to replace Ford in the starting line-up. However, at the time of writing, the Bills had instead opted to bring Jordan Devey up from the practice squad.

The Bills also have Ty Nsekhe, Ryan Bates and Ike Boettger on their bench. Nsekhe played almost 400 snaps in a right tackle rotation with Ford last year.

Running Backs

Devin Singletary leads the Bills with 270 rushing yards, although he’s averaging less than four yards per carry, only has one touchdown and hasn’t had a 100-yard game yet. He’s also caught 18 passes.

TJ Yeldon has been effective off the bench in limited work, as he’s averaging over eight yards per touch. Rookie Zack Moss has been less effective but did catch a touchdown in the previous Jets game.

The Bills no longer have a fullback on their roster, having released Patrick DiMarco in the offseason. Taiwan Jones remains on the roster in a special teams role.

Pass catchers

Adding Stefon Diggs to their receiver group has helped elevate the Bills into being a top-10 passing offense. Diggs is having a monster year with 42 catches, 555 yards and three scores, although he did start to show some signs of frustration over the past game or so.

While Diggs has produced, John Brown’s production is down this year. He was a thousand-yard receiver last year but currently has just 14 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns and has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with an injury. Rookie Gabriel Davis actually has identical statistics to Brown though, so that suggests he’ll make an adequate replacement.

Cole Beasley continues to be an extremely productive possession option out of the slot, while Isaiah McKenzie is used more in gadget packages and Andre Roberts remains mostly a return specialist. Duke Williams, who flashed towards the end of last season, has just been brought up from the practice squad to add depth.

The Bills haven’t had much production out of their tight ends, who have combined for just 138 yards on 14 catches.

Dawson Knox is the starter but has missed a couple of games and had already been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith had been in there mostly in there to block, although Kroft does have two touchdown catches this season. However, Smith won’t be able to play either after going onto the Covid-19 reserve list on Saturday so undrafted rookie Reggie Gilliam will have to step up as the number two behind Kroft.

Defensive Line

After six games, the Bills have just one player with more than one sack. Defensive end Mario Addison has three, including one where he beat Mekhi Becton on opening day.

Addison has moved ahead of Trent Murphy and into the starting line-up across from Jerry Hughes. Hughes doesn’t have a sack yet this year but is still generating pressure at a decent clip.

Rookie AJ Epenesa and second year man Darryl Johnson also get plenty of playing time, but the Bills’ linemen have struggled against the run so far this year.

On the inside, Quinton Jefferson and Ed Oliver have been getting the most reps. Oliver is having a disappointing second season, although he is second on the team with four quarterback hits. Offseason addition Vernon Butler and Harrison Phillips also get plenty of playing time.

Spencer Zimmer was activated off the practice squad for the opener against the Jets and made a couple of big plays. He’s since been added to the main roster.

Linebackers

The Bills are usually in a nickel formation so they tend to just have two linebackers on the field with Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds in a full-time role.

Milano has missed a few games but both have been productive. However, Edmunds has been exploited in coverage at times, surrendering three touchdowns. Milano is listed as questionable with a pec injury but did practice all week, albeit on a limited basis.

The main reserves are AJ Klein and Tyler Matakevich. Tyrel Dodson was getting plenty of playing time but has just been placed on injured reserve with Andre Smith brought up to replace him.

Since opening day, Del’Shawn Phillips has gone onto injured reserve and Deon Lacey has been added to the active roster.

Defensive Backs

On opening day, the Bills were without veteran Josh Norman, but Levi Wallace started in his place. Norman has been back in the lineup since then but Wallace has gone onto injured reserve. Now Norman has also been ruled out after suffering a hamstring injury on Thursday.

Tre’Davious White is obviously the Bills’ best cornerback and he leads the team with four passes defensed but is yet to intercept a pass. White did not practice on Friday after leaving practice early with a back injury on Thursday so the Bills could be really short-handed at the position.

Taron Johnson is the slot corner and has been virtually a full-time player in that role, but could move outside if necessary. He’s struggled a bit in coverage this year but is yet to give up a touchdown.

At safety, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are an established pairing with Poyer currently leading the team with 52 tackles. Dean Marlowe gets some playing time in three-safety sets.

Siran Neal, Cam Lewis and Jaquan Johnson usually provide depth off the bench. Lewis has been up and down from the practice squad a few times since the opener but is listed as questionable with a wrist injury. Neal is a versatile defender who could go into the slot if Johnson moves outside.

With the status of White and Lewis up in the air, the Bills added rookie cornerback Dane Jackson to the 53-man roster on Saturday.

Special Teams

Punter Corey Bojorquez has dramatically improved his numbers on last year. He’s averaging over 50 yards per punt with a net of 44.

Rookie Tyler Bass has missed three field goals and an extra point so far, including his only attempt from beyond 50 yards.

Roberts is having another decent season in the return game, as he is averaging 27 yards per kickoff return and just under 15 yards per punt return. McKenzie is available as cover.

The coverage units have done a solid job, led by players like Jones, Neal and Marlowe.