Both lines must work to change Bills’ sack balance

By Anthony Bialy  |   Wednesday, July 08, 2009  |  Comments( 58 )

Buffalo Bills
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With so few sacks made or conceded over so few games, every one is important. It’s not merely intuitive to announce that a handful of big plays can determine the course of an entire NFL season. The Buffalo Bills learned that lesson last season, unfortunately: They fell short in both categories, leading to a wide disparity in one telling zero-sum category. They need to get more, and concede fewer, sacks if they’re ever going to escape obscurity.

Sack plus/minus is a fairly reliable predictor of success. For example, every playoff team last season got at least one more sack than it conceded. Meanwhile, many of last year’s muck-dwellers like the San Francisco 49ers (minus-25), Kansas City Chiefs (minus-27), Cincinnati Bengals (minus-34), and Detroit Lions (minus-22) managed a horrid showing.

Unsurprisingly, Buffalo disappointed, giving up 14 sacks more than it allowed. The Bills’ offense gave up a poor 38, while the defense got an even poorer 24. It would have been easy to guess their approximate finish last season just from those totals.

The dreadful condition of both lines in turn meant that the entire team went nowhere. It’s simple -- the inability to dominate the trenches is the most certain sign that a squad is unable to control a game’s course. That leads to 7-9 records.

At the least, the Bills are trying to fix both lines. Even better, they’re also tacitly admitting that both were broken. Aaron Maybin’s addition to the defensive line was a promising move, as some first-round talent automatically raises the group’s level. On top of that, a healthy Aaron Schobel would critically help negate the work of enemy offensive lines, although he has to rebound from an injury-plagued 2008 and an underwhelming 2007. Next, they need Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney to pair up and at least be adequate together.

Meanwhile, they’ve discarded offensive line loafers while promoting last year’s only good two offensive linemen in Langston Walker and Brad Butler. On top of that, the Bills have brought aboard an intriguing mix of rookies and mildly promising free agents to play in between.

Even better, nobody has to block for J.P. Losman, who was sacked 15 times in basically 3.5 games, anymore. While the passer’s absence will help, it’s the pass rushers on one side and the pass protectors on the other who are primarily responsible for tilting the scales in Buffalo’s favor.

That means everyone in question must be constantly sharp and angry. The best and worst teams don’t even get or surrender four sacks per game, which is why protecting one’s quarterback ceaselessly while unleashing havoc on the opposing passer is such a big deal. Dominating at the point of primary contact is the only way Buffalo’s skill players can get to work. As shown by last season’s numbers, it’s true across the league and for this team in particular.
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About Anthony Bialy

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CommentsComments: 58  |  Sign Up  View all comments
E rock
10:09 AM
Maybe the Bills defensive linemen didn't have the time to amass many sacks because they were too busy "penetrating" and "being...
Look Out Dio!
10:16 AM
Good article AB. I'm still worried about our DE's. I still think it's a gamble to bank on a rookie (Maybin) to make an immediate...
10:20 AM
If Mr. Miyagi has anything to say about it, it's gonna be a whole new D line this year! On the other side, they're big, nasty,...
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