ORCHARD PARK – Admittedly, the Baltimore Ravens secondary was understaffed last week, and it also had some glaring coverage breakdowns leading to some wide open long landings for Miami’s Tyreek Hill clinching a stunning comeback Dolphins victory.
But while many have mocked the Ravens for their defensive collapse, let’s not overlook that those plays, and so many others in that game, still had to be made by Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense.
Yes, it looked bad, but a big part of the problem for Baltimore is that Miami’s two dynamic wide receivers, Hill and Jaylen Waddle, are great players who have suddenly made the Dolphins attack quite dangerous.
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“They have a huge number of playmakers on that team, both sides of the ball and special teams,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott. “Very explosive on offense with what they can do in the throws across the field, the yards after the catch… very, very explosive and then Tua plays at a very high level too.”
And when you combine all that with the Buffalo Bills’ worrying injury situation in defense en route to Sunday’s AFC East showdown at Hard Rock Stadium, that’s a potential weak spot for the crews of McDermott and Leslie Frazier.
On Friday morning, McDermott said cornerback Dane Jackson, safety Micah Hyde and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips will not be playing, and there is still a question mark over safety Jordan Poyer.
“It definitely goes through your mind as you put together your opponent’s plan, when you think about matchups and what you want to try to achieve,” Frazier said.
Buffalo Bills injury update
Jackson escaped a potentially disastrous neck/spine injury but was never likely to play, so this means the Bills will have to start their two rookie corners, Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam, which isn’t ideal against those two passcatchers.
With Hyde out, that means fourth-year pro JaQuan Johnson has to start, and if Poyer can’t play, sophomore player Damar Hamlin will join the lineup.
And in advance, with Phillips already out, there’s still uncertainty about it Ed Oliver (single) and Tim Settle (calf) who both sat out the Titans game. Last week, Brandin Bryant and CJ Brewer were called up from the practice squad to replace them.
All that is not good, and for a team that has had a lot of injuries in the last two years, this has been a difficult start.
You know the old saying, “It’s not who you play against on your schedule, it’s when you play against them” and it seems that for the Miami offense this is the best possible week to play against the Bills.
Buffalo Bills’ injury riddled defense will have to tinker with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle
What makes Hill and Waddle’s tandem so explosive and dangerous is their incredible speed which creates a huge dilemma for defensive coordinators like Frazier. Defenses tend not to play any press coverage on the outside because if Hill and Waddle win on their first move, they have the wheels to just burn through everyone.
For fear of that, most teams will kiss the line of scrimmage, but that really plays into Miami’s hands. Tagovailoa is a rhythm passer who relies on Hill and Waddle to create instant separation whether on sideline routes, ramps or seam passes, allowing Tagovailoa to fall back and deliver the ball quickly.
He’s just not a quarterback who can consistently pocket and send the ball to the field, unless of course the opponent’s defense is nowhere to be found and Hill of Waddle looks like midfielders at Yankee Stadium waiting for the ball .
“These guys do a great job – their receivers – with meters after catch,” Frazier. “So our ability to tackle and get guys to football is going to be very, very important. It’s not always just any bombs. They throw the ball fast, make some catches and let people miss.
“It’s never about one man in our schedule; it involves a collective effort between our haste and our reporting combined. And there aren’t many guys in our league that will stand up and tell you, ‘I’m going to take Tyreek Hill one-on-one. I have it all day.’ He is an outstanding receiver and one of the best in our industry.”
Frazier would know, because Hill obviously has quite the history against the Bills from his days in Kansas City. He has been one of the most destructive players the Bills have dealt with, especially in the McDermott coaching era. In five career games spanning the postseason, he has 37 catches for 446 yards and one touchdown.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player with his speed and his ability to go for the contested catches and everything,” said McDermott. “I mean, we’ve fought (Hill and Waddle) before, but now they’re on the same field.
“I’ve always thought over the years that they were a talented football team, against Miami that is. Now that Tyreek Hill is being added to that mix…and it doesn’t seem to be just coming from the wideouts. It’s coming from (tight end Mike) Gesicki and also from the running back there (Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert), so very, very explosive and then Tua also plays at a very high level.
“They’ve got a lot of points and they’re doing a great job offensively on the set-up and Mike (McDaniel) is doing a great job putting them in a position to be successful, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills’ Week 3 Injury Report Looks Tricky for Defense