ORCHARD PARK – Granted, the Baltimore Ravens secondary was undermanned last week, and it also had some egregious coverage breakdowns which led to a pair of wide open long touchdowns for Miami’s Tyreek Hill that keyed a stunning comeback Dolphins victory.
But while many have mocked the Ravens for their defensive meltdown, let’s not overlook the fact that those plays, and so many others in that game, still had to be made by Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense.
Yeah, 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 offense quite dangerous.
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“They’ve got a tremendous amount of playmakers on that team, both sides of the ball and special teams,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “Very explosive on offense with what they can do in the throws down the field, the yards after catch … very, very explosive and then Tua is playing at a very high level as well.”
And when you pair all of that with the Buffalo Bills’ worrisome injury situation on defense heading into Sunday’s AFC East showdown at Hard Rock Stadium, that’s a potentially tenuous spot for McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s crew.
“It definitely goes through your mind as you’re putting together your plan for the opponent, as you’re thinking about matchups and what you want to try to get accomplished,” Frazier said.
Buffalo Bills injury update
Cornerback Dane Jackson escaped a potentially calamitous neck/spinal injury, but he’s not practicing and probably won’t play in this game. If he doesn’t, that means the Bills will have to start both of their rookie corners, Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam, which isn’t ideal against those two pass catchers.
If that isn’t enough to give you the shakes, both Buffalo safeties – Jordan Poyer (foot) and Micah Hyde (neck), who form perhaps the best duo in the league – did not practice Thursday and their status seems questionable at best. If they can’t play, it’s JaQuan Johnson and Damar Hamlin as the last line of defense.
And up front, three defensive tackles could miss the game. Ed Oliver (ankle) and Tim Settle (calf) both sat out the Titans game, and Jordan Phillips hurt his hamstring in the game.
None of that is good in any way.
You know the old saying, “It’s not who you play on your schedule, it’s when you play them” and it would seem that for the Miami offense, this may be the best possible week to be playing the Bills.
Injury-riddled Buffalo Bills defense will need to key on Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle
What makes the tandem of Hill and Waddle so explosive and dangerous is their incredible speed which creates a massive dilemma for defensive coordinators like Frazier. Defenses tend not to play press coverage on the outside because if Hill and Waddle win on their first step, they have the wheels to just burn by anyone.
Fearing that, most teams will give a cushion at the line of scrimmage, but that actually plays right into Miami’s hands. Tagovailoa is a rhythm passer who relies on Hill and Waddle to create immediate separation be it on sideline routes, slants, or seam passes and that allows Tagovailoa to drop back and deliver the ball quickly.
He’s simply not a quarterback who can consistently stand in the pocket and drive the ball downfield, unless of course, the opposing defense is nowhere to be found and Hill or Waddle look like center fielders at Yankee Stadium waiting for the ball to arrive.
“These guys, they do a great job – their receivers – with yards after catch,” Frazier. “So our ability to be able to tackle and get guys running to the football is going to be very, very important. It’s not always just bombs away. They’re throwing the ball quick, making some catches and making people miss.
“It’s never about one guy in our scheme; it’s about a collective effort between our rush and our coverage combined. And there aren’t a lot of guys in our league who will stand up and tell you, ‘I’m going to take Tyreek Hill one-on-one. I got him all day long.’ He’s an excellent receiver and one of the best in our business.”
Frazier would know because Hill, of course, has quite a history against the Bills from his days in Kansas City. He has been one of the most destructive players the Bills have faced, certainly in the McDermott coaching era. In five career games counting 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 up for the contested catches and everything,” McDermott said. “I mean, we’ve gone up against (Hill and Waddle) before, but now they’re on the same field.
“I always thought they were a talented football team over the last couple of years, going against Miami that is. Now adding Tyreek Hill to that mix … and it doesn’t just come off of the wideouts it seems. It comes from (tight end Mike) Gesicki as well as the running back over there (Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert), so very, very explosive and then Tua is playing at a very high level as well.
“They put up a lot of points and they do a great job offensively scheme wise and Mike (McDaniel) does a great job of putting them in position to be successful, so it’ll be a big challenge for us.”
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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills injury report for Week 3 looks troublesome on defense