Sabo's Sessions, Sam Darnold, Buffalo Bills
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Sam Darnold and the New York Jets defense will have their hands full against a Buffalo Bills defense that loves Cover 3 and Cover 4.

Sabo's Sessions

Leslie Frazier is still doing his thing. Only now, he’s doing it under a defensive head coach, Sean McDermott.

Frazier, known for his safer Tampa 2 principles, is now running a Buffalo Bills defense influenced by McDermott. What’s surfaced is an ultra-soft unit (in terms of cushion) that looks to keep everything in front of it.

In 2019, the Bills defense gave up the fewest 20-plus and 40-plus-yard plays in the NFL. Playing Cover 4 (quarters) a good chunk of the time helps that cause, but it also allows vulnerabilities underneath.

Interestingly, Buffalo also does not blitz a ton. They finished 18th in rushing five or more players a year ago. But hey, who could argue with the results? Buffalo finished seventh in defensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.

Enter the New York Jets and Sam Darnold, who open up against the AFC East 2020 favorites for a second-straight season.

Darnold will have to abide by certain keys this Sunday if he’s to lead his team to victory.

1. Downfield Patience Against Cover 4

This is the big one. Buffalo’s entire scheme is designed to wear out an offense. The unit never wants to allow a receiver behind it while keeping everything in front.

Part of how they accomplish this is by playing quarters coverage. They’ll show 4 presnap with plenty of room between the weapons on the defensive backs. Picking up four, five or six yards on first down will go a long way for Darnold.

The following example showcases Buffalo’s show 4 defense against the Houston Texans in the playoffs. Each DB has a No. 1 read and will react hard to a short break without much worry considering there will be another DB deep (most likely).

If Darnold could complete this play for five yards on first down, that will be the first key to cracking McDermott’s unit.

The following play is the first of the Week 17 game. Buffalo is in a Cover 4, and while Darnold does make the right decision (the flat to Jamison Crowder), he’s entirely too slow to get there:

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w/o reviewing film, I’d noticed, just watching the games and replays in-game… that the ball SEEMED to be coming out/getting to the intended target LATE. I get labeled a Sam “hater” cos I am worried af that all that draft capital was not worth it. The jury is stil out and he hasn;t had a decent enough team… so, I remain concerned about his processing speed… and the bad mechanics that show up too often…. still prayin….


I’d love to see Sam air it out for 300+ yards and 3 TDs, but I think they need to establish the run early and let that open up the passing game. Not 100% confident that Gase will do that, but we’ll see. Either way, I think we see a much better Sam Darnold with an improved o-line this year