Run game stays prominent under McDermott
ORCHARD PARK — It’s a new season, new coaching staff and the same run-first, passive offense. In Week 1 versus the New York Jets at New Era Field, the Buffalo Bills stayed conservative with Tyrod Taylor under center as he handed it off or threw it short. The short-yard passes found a revitalized tight end in Charles Clay and 27 touches for elusive running back LeSean McCoy.
However, the wide outs looked suspect for the offense. After departing with Sammy Watkins, whose cost was two first-round picks, for a second rounder and corner EJ Gaines, replacement No. 1 Jordan Matthews only caught two passes while opposite starting wide out Andre Holmes had one catch for one yard and a touchdown.
Together, the wide receiving corps of Matthews, Holmes and No. 3 receiver rookie Zay Jones had eight targets, in comparison to 19 to the running backs and tight ends combined.
“We will take what the defense gives us,” Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. “Obviously, they were doing some things that they wanted to try and take away the receivers so we are going to distribute the ball in other areas. That’s what balanced offenses do. That doesn’t mean it is necessarily balanced statistically across the board, but we are taking what the defense gives us.”
Clay and McCoy claimed pivotal roles for the offense. The duo had 15 targets in the passing game with nine catches and 102 yards. Taylor noted that he spoke with Clay on connecting with him more through the air.
“We’ve talked a bunch throughout the years,” Taylor said. “I’ve missed him. He’s going to win most of those battles. He’s stronger and more physical than most of the guys that he is going to face down there. We just got to continue giving him the ball.”
The bread and butter for Bills football looks to continue under McDermott. McCoy had 22 carries for 110 yards, while Mike Tolbert had 12 carries and 42 yards rushing. Taylor used his mobility to add 38 yards on eight rushes. The Bills, who were the best overall rushing team for the past two years, surpassed the Jets’ adaptations on defense to keep the ball on the ground.
“The backs made a lot of great plays in the running game,” Taylor said. “We knew that they were a very fast defense. Sometimes they bring in an extra d-lineman and force you to throw the ball, but we were able to be successful in our approach and continue to keep running the ball. Shady and Mike T. made a bunch of good plays.”
McCoy, despite being a 29-year-old bell cow back, reached 12,000 career yards from scrimmage on Sunday. His age seemed to not hinder his ability to get yards for the Bills, but his usage was worrisome. Tolbert did absorb a lot of handoffs as a backup, but 27 touches put McCoy in a vulnerable spot with hits coming left and right.
Fear rose when McCoy grabbed his left wrist after landing on it down near the goal line. He later said it was “numb” due to the contact, but returned to the game the next drive.
“I am used to that,” he said. “I don’t take many real shots. You won’t see too many ‘oooo’ hits with me. I am going to get tackled, but I rehab and do other things to prepare myself, physically. I am fine with that. All my tackles are like wrap tackles. … I’ve been playing this way for so long; I’ve been playing undersized. … Overall, I want the ball.”
The offense, overall, was dominant compared to its New York counterpart. Rushing was one-sided, 190 yards to the Jets’ 38, and the same with total yards, the Bills’ 408 to 214. The caveat comparing the two teams with the final score was the lick that Clay took on the first drive to pop up a touchdown-turned-interception.
Adding seven points on Buffalo’s line would have put more conviction with the statistical win in the box score. Although, with the passing threats out wide to a minimum, Buffalo demonstrated a need for success on the ground rather than to Matthews, Holmes or Jones.
“It’ll come,” Taylor said. “We did come into this game (knowing) the backers were something that we have to take advantage of, matchup wise. We didn’t think that those guys could stop Shady and Charles coming out of the backfield. … Those outside targets will definitely come. It’s a game of matchups and each game is going to be different and we are going to have to take advantage of those matchups.”