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3 weaknesses in Buffalo’s defense that Mike White has to exploit

Mike White, NY Jets
Mike White, New York Jets, Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills defense is tremendous, but not perfect

New York Jets quarterback Mike White has a tall task ahead of him as he enters his third NFL start. He is set to take on an elite Buffalo Bills defense that allows the fewest points per game (14.8) and yards per game (262.6) in the NFL.

As great as the Bills’ defense is, it still has a few particular weaknesses that can be exploited.

White must attack these holes if he is to put together a successful outing.

1. Stopping opposing #1 receivers

The Bills are allowing a league-low 177.0 passing yards per game, but surprisingly, their ability to contain the opponent’s best weapon is not part of the reason why.

Here is a look at where Buffalo ranks when it comes to receiving yards allowed, according to Football Outsiders:

  • Receiving YPG allowed to #1 WR: 19th
  • Receiving YPG allowed to #2 WR: 7th
  • Receiving YPG allowed to other WR: 7th
  • Receiving YPG allowed to TE: 11th
  • Receiving YPG allowed to RB: 8th

Buffalo thrives at shutting down everyone except the opposing go-to guy. The Bills rank third-best in receiving yards per game allowed to all players outside of the opponent’s No. 1 receiver. However, they only rank 19th when it comes to stopping the No. 1 wideout.

White and the Jets must take advantage. Their clear-cut No. 1 guy is set to make his triumphant return.

Corey Davis will be back on the field after a two-game absence, aiming to make an already-hot Jets offense even better.

White’s bread-and-butter is the short game, but he has to show the Bills that he can make downfield throws to prevent himself from becoming predictable and one-dimensional.

Buffalo’s mediocre ability to contain No. 1 receivers should allow White to feel confident about peppering Davis with downfield targets to try and establish an intermediate/deep attack that forces Buffalo to back off and open up the underneath game that White thrives with.

White should also look to give Davis chances to make plays after the catch in the quick game. Buffalo’s No. 1 cornerback, Tre’Davious White, has the ninth-worst missed tackle rate among 108 qualified cornerbacks this season (21.2%).

When the Bills gave up a season-high 34 points to the Titans in a Week 6 loss, Tennessee enjoyed a standout performance from their top receiver, A.J. Brown, who caught 7-of-9 targets for 91 yards.

New York needs Davis to match the effectiveness of his former teammate – and White needs to give him enough chances to do so.

2. Tremaine Edmunds’ absence

Starting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds will miss this game with a hamstring injury. He will be replaced by A.J. Klein.

Klein is in his second season as a backup linebacker for Buffalo and has not done a good job of filling in for Edmunds and Matt Milano. In 2020, Klein was asked to play over 80% of the defensive snaps in five games. The Bills allowed 27.4 points per game in those contests compared to 21.6 in all others.

This year, Klein started one game in place of Milano. The Bills allowed season-worsts of 29 first downs and 392 yards. That was against the Chiefs, but Kansas City has not been all that imposing offensively this year (15th in scoring). The Bills also allowed 20 points in that game whereas they have yielded only 14.0 points per game in all other games.

Tackling is the main weakness of Klein’s that White and the Jets need to go after. Klein has whiffed on 25.0% of his tackle opportunities this season, which is the third-worst rate in the NFL out of 104 qualified linebackers. That’s no fluke – over a 652-snap sample of playing time in 2020, he ranked fifth-worst in the same category (18.8%).

White’s dominance against the Bengals was largely predicated upon his ability to quickly find his running backs and give them chances to make plays. Against a backup linebacker who can’t tackle, White has a chance to keep doing the same thing. He must get the ball to Michael Carter and Ty Johnson when they draw isolated matchups against Klein.

3. Attacking the middle of the field

When Ryan Tannehill led the Titans to 34 points against the Bills in Week 6, he was at his best when attacking the middle of the field in the short-to-intermediate range. Tannehill picked up a number of key conversions when throwing in this area.

On passes between the numbers that traveled from 0-to-19 yards downfield, Tannehill was 12-of-15 for 126 yards and six first downs. On all other passes, he was 6-of-14 for 90 yards and three first downs.

White was a surgeon when operating in that very same range during his breakout game against the Bengals. He went 19-of-20 for 220 yards and 13 first downs on passes between the numbers that traveled from 0-to-19 yards downfield.

With Edmunds out and Klein in, this area will only become even more enticing for White to attack.

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2 years ago

The Bills are one of the teams “I watch” when I can, your point about their performance vs. #1 WR actually seems to be their philosophy. They take away “everyone else” thinking one guy can’t beat them. It’s a bit different than the Bill Sleazechick philosophy of the past where they take away the #1 and make everyone else beat them. I’m not sure Corey Davis is enough to beat anybody on his own, he’s not Davante Adams. I think there will be room for Elijah Moore in the middle of the field but if they are going to beat the Bills White will need to connect on one or two big shots down field. If they try to grind them that Bills’ D is too good. They Jets WILL make a mistake which is what Buffalo is betting on, and why shouldn’t they?

2 years ago
Reply to  Jets71

Activating FB Bawden from the Practice Squad. LaFluer going back to 21 personal, and running the ball. Not a great plan

2 years ago
Reply to  JetOrange

It might just be because Kroft is out. They probably need bodies, I think it’s just for some flexibility. Let’s hope. No need to mess with the recipe at this point.

2 years ago
Reply to  Jets71

Hope your right, Wesco May play more in line TE. Yeboah and /or Wesco over Griffin, please. LaFleur is determined for more 21 personnel, a small increase in percentage could be okay, Bawden May make a difference. Carter and Ty Johnson look ready to break out . Buffalo’s Pass Defense is better than anything Mike White has ever seen. Jets could be running the ball, MW is better than Zach at play action. Another lesson for Wilson.