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Bills In The Trenches: Week 3 vs the Washington Football Team

How the Buffalo Bills lines can ride its momentum from last week and dominate the line of scrimmage in Week 3 against WFT.



Last week, the Buffalo Bills faced the divisional rival Miami Dolphins and, almost literally,  “squished the Fish” by a score of 35-0. A big reason for that outcome was their phenomenal defensive play, led by Bills’ stalwarts Matt Milano, Greg Rousseau, and A.J. Epensea.

I’ll give some benefit of the doubt to Miami, as Tua Tagovailoa left the game early in the first quarter with a rib injury and didn’t return. But it’s not like Tua’s an NFL gamechanger, and Jacoby Brissett has years of starting experience.

Nevertheless, the Bills’ defense came out swinging and dictated the game. As for the offense, their performance was still a little shaky – especially with the front five. Hopefully, it’s just some early season jitters, but they seriously need to pick it up if the Bills will make this a season to remember.

This week, the Washington Football Team comes in 1-1 on the season after an interesting game against the New York Giants. Unfortunately, we won’t see Ryan Fitzpatrick make his return to Buffalo due to a hip injury, but he’ll be on the field in spirit.

Washington is an interesting team on both sides of the ball. Their front seven on defense is one of the best and perhaps the most underrated in the entire league. Led by DE Chase Young, the Football Team’s defense has been one of the only bright spots for the entire organization over the past three years.

Their offensive line isn’t terrible either. They’ve lost a few big-name guys like Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, but this is still a pretty solid group.

Nonetheless, just like last week’s game, the Bills need to come out on point this Sunday against a very underrated team at home. Let’s review their performances from last week and preview what they should be doing this week.

Offensive Recap

Grade: B-

The Bills’ offensive line looked somewhat better this week. They could run the ball much more effectively, as Singletary and Moss combined for 108 yards and three scores while QB Josh Allen added 35 more, but the pressures and penalties kept coming.

Luckily, they managed only to surrender a single combined sack the entire game. But there were instances where Allen was forced out of the pocket and had to make irrational plays. Yes, No. 17 didn’t have a much better game. He needs to improve his play as much as anyone on the team. But this isn’t about him. This is about the guys protecting him. 

The interior certainly looked better than they did against the Steelers in the season opener. Jon Feliciano was more solidified, and Cody Ford dominated in the run game. While better than Week One’s showing, however, there’s still plenty of room for improvement on the O-line.

The only player I am concerned about is Daryl Williams, who’s having an incredibly sluggish start to the 2021 season. He had a few somewhat critical mistakes last weekend, including a false start penalty and allowing the lone sack. It’s early, but thus far, the $24 million man has not lived up to expectations.

In fact, another poor performance or two from Williams and I may argue for rookie Spencer Brown who, in my opinion, has tremendous upside, to step into a starter’s role. Don’t agree with me? Watch this

Image via @BuffaloBills on Instragam

Also worth noting: there are also very few people who make Josh Allen look small. Spencer Brown is one of them. 

In any event, the offensive line needs to step up their game this week against a very talented front seven that’s one of the league’s best.

Offensive Gameplan

Starters: LE: Chase Young, LDT: Daron Payne, RDT: Jonathan Allen, RDE: Montez Sweat, WLB: Cole Holcomb, MLB: Jamin Davis, SLB: Jon Bostic

Notable Subs: DT: Matt Ioannidis, DT: Tim Settle

This Washington defense is coming in after a wildly entertaining Thursday night game against the New York Giants. Was it good football? No. It was an awful display of America’s game. But could I keep my eyes off the screen? Same answer: no. It may have been sloppy, but wow, that was entertaining.

The Football Team’s defense almost let Daniel Jones tear them a new one as the third-year quarterback threw for 249 yards and a score, as well as a long rushing touchdown of his own. Saquon Barkley, who is still recovering after two injury-plagued seasons, only managed to pick up 41 yards, and he really couldn’t do much at all. 

Just like the Bills’ offense, the Football Team’s defense is off to a rough start after a promising campaign last year. Led by second-year phenom Chase Young, they’re currently ranked 24th in the league after the first two weeks. 

One of their weak spots has been their inability to defend the run. Yes, they’ve held Austin Eckler to 51 yards and Saquon to less, but it’s an area that is exploitable. In 2019, Devin Singletary had a career game with 95 yards and a score. Hopefully, he can repeat, if not, outperform his rookie year outing.

The game plan for the Bills’ offensive line is just a copy and paste job: run the ball early and often. But in reality, it should include two parts: establish the run early and often AND incorporate more passing for Josh. There were countless opportunities on deep balls that Buffalo didn’t capitalize on last week, and if it’s one thing that can help Josh regain his confidence, it’s those big plays. Once in a while, you have to let him rip one. But to do that, the line needs to improve their pass protection, and here’s another chance to show they can. 

How about some players to watch who are not named Chase Young? Keep an eye on Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, and Jamin Davis. Allen and Sweat both have two sacks apiece to start this year and are quietly demonstrating that they are two of the better players at their positions in the entire league. Meanwhile, Davis, the team’s first-round draft pick, turned heads all offseason and is already fitting well into this league. 

With all that said, Washington’s defense is, overall, statistically bad this year. This game is a chance for the line to get back into its groove and regain its confidence.

Defensive Recap

Grade: A+

Wow. What a performance by the Buffalo defense this week. Not only did they shut out their divisional foe, but they also had two of their players finish with 90+ overall grades, according to PFF. Quite a game.

Almost everyone on D got involved in some way, shape, or form on Sunday, but these three players deserve the most credit: Matt Milano, who is showing that he’s worth every single penny of his new contract; Greg Rousseau, who had his first two NFL sacks; and A.J. Epenesa who had 9 (nine!) total pressures.

There were a ton of other guys who played well. Justin Zimmer had a great game, Taron Johnson was all over the field, Mario Addison seems to be picking it up. The Bills are stepping it up on the defensive side of the ball.

One thing that I noticed was the effectiveness of the run defense. The Bills didn’t let Pittsburgh’s Najee Harris do much the first week, and the Dolphins’ Myles Gaskin was completely ineffective this week. It helps that Star Loutelelei, is back after a year without football. All cylinders seem to be firing for Buffalo’s run defense.

Hopefully, the Leslie Frazier-led defense can keep this momentum in full effect this week against a unit full of new faces in the Washington Football Team.

Defensive Gameplan

Starters: LT: Charles Leno Jr., LG: Ereck Flowers, C: Chase Roullier, RG: Brandon Scherff, RT: Samuel Cosmi

Notable Subs: G: Wes Schweitzer, T: Cornelius Lucas

This Washington offense has had an up-and-down start to the season. They took a big blow when Fitzpatrick went down, and it doesn’t help that Curtis Samuel was placed on IR before the season started.

The Football Team’s line is led by RG Brandon Scherff, who is one of the best in the NFL at what he does. Along side him is a unit full of old, new, and familiar faces. 

Charles Leno Jr. comes over from Chicago after six years of protecting the Bears’ quarterback’s blindside. Samuel Cosmi was the team’s second-round pick out of Texas and seemingly took over for Morgan Moses after being released. Ereck Flowers returns to Washington after getting traded from the Dolphins. And Chase Roullier, Josh Allen’s center at Wyoming, is in his fourth year as Washington’s starting center.

The unit now protects Taylor Heinicke, who gained national media attention after his heroics in the wild card game against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers last January. He’s no gamechanger, to be sure, but he’s an underrated player.

Washington is known for utilizing their running backs a great deal in their passing game. Antonio Gibson proved as a rookie last year why he’s one of the league’s best pass-catching backs. Although Gibson is listed as the starter, many of the carries and targets have been going to J.D. McKissic. Neither Gibson nor McKissic is having a phenomenal start, but limiting their impacts would be a huge help to the Bills’ fortunes on Sunday.

The game plan should be to get in Heinicke’s face early and often. The Bills made it clear last week that the way to completely shut down an offense led by a backup QB is to get in his face on nearly every play. That goal should stay the same for this week’s tilt against Washington.

Slow down the run, maintain (at a minimum) the level that they’re playing at, and get the fans involved. Home-field advantage should be a huge factor in this matchup.

Wrap Up

The Football Team has the worst name in all of football (although it may be the most accurate). And they are members of what is probably the worst division in the NFL. But they are still an incredibly intriguing team to watch. Both sides of their line of scrimmage are underrated and underappreciated. They have managed to carry their team during the first two weeks of the young season.

The situation the Bills are in is not what I envisioned to start the year. I fully expected them to be looking to go 3-0, but here we are needing a win against the Football Team to go 2-1. 

So, just like last week, and maybe for the remainder of the season, this is a MUST win. Keep the energy going, maybe even bring it up a little bit, get back into the groove, and most importantly: win.

Disagree with what I said? Tweet at me! @RubinsteinPete on Twitter.

Cover the Buffalo Bills for the Buffalo Fanatics media group. Follow on Twitter @RubinsteinPete