The Buffalo Bills’ offense will have some significant changes in 2022. Brian Daboll moved on to become the New Jersey Giants Head Coach, and Ken Dorsey will jump up from Quarterbacks Coach to Offensive Coordinator for the Bills. Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley have moved on and taken their respective 72 and 112 targets with them. Moving in are free agent acquisitions Jamison Crowder, OJ Howard, and Duke Johnson, as well as draftees James Cook and Khalil Shakir. Josh Allen remains the most important piece of the offensive puzzle, but what statistical projections should Bills fans expect from a new look Ken Dorsey-led offense?
We need to set a couple of ground rules before going any further. First, these projections are for starters (with one exception). The Buffalo Bills ran primarily out of 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) in 2021, and that is the formation presented here. (If you want a full roster projection, check out Zach Vaughn’s here.) The players selected as starters are the best guess for where the roster stands today. Second, this is a realistic attempt. If you’re flabbergasted why Isaiah McKenzie isn’t projected for 110 catches and 1,200 yards, you’ll need to run to the store and get some ointment to unflabber your gast. This pursuit of statistical honesty is likely to get some of Bills Mafia upset, especially with one player’s projection in particular, but we’ll get there. While you’re preparing to get mad, let’s start with the man himself.
QB: Josh Allen
Allen’s passing statistics will keep him in the MVP discussion, but you’ll notice a slight dip in yardage because of a heavier reliance on running and the shorter passing game, especially with James Cook on board in both accounts. More completions on fewer attempts, higher completion rate, decreased INT rate, more TDs and fewer sacks make for an exceptional year.
Allen’s rushing numbers will be outstanding for a QB, but hopefully the Bills will back off from running him as often because of the injury risk. He’ll continue to act as the short yardage and goal line back unless Brandon Beane makes an unforeseen addition.
Motor is RB1… for now. Cook’s receiving ability cuts into Motor’s playing time, driving down his numbers across the board. If McBeane bought into the Motor-on-nitro we saw at the end of the season, they would not have spent a 2nd round pick on Cook. However, with Rodger Saffold and a full year for Ryan Bates, Motor’s Y/A goes up.
Here’s our exception to the 11 personnel rule. While Singletary has been the Bills’ “starting running back” for the last two years, the backfield has split carries (outside of the last few weeks of 2021). Expect for Motor to remain the starter, but Cook to start getting a small majority of snaps by Week 12.
The rushing numbers might be too high, but the receiving numbers could be too low. Yes, I am excited about James Cook.
TE: Dawson Knox
There is still room for growth in Knox’s game, and this projection sends some of Beasley’s targets his way, but it would still be unrealistic to imagine Kelce/Kittle/Waller territory.
Expect non-RBs to see a slight drop in targets because of the amount given to Cook and a slightly increased number of runs. But Diggs will not see a big drop off, with even more sustained drives, yards, and TDs increase, while his catch rate returns to a career norm. Nice.
Crowder will likely not be a 1:1 Beasley replacement. Knox’s growth, combined with Crowder’s injury history and what is (hopefully) a solid rookie season from Shakir, all eat into those Beasley targets. However, Crowder is a reliable receiver now in a pass-happy Bills offense, so expect numbers just slightly lower than his career averages – unless Shakir explodes out of camp and takes his job.
This is where some of you will drop into your feelings.
“What is this?! This isn’t his Divisional Playoff Game just prorated out to 17 games. I demand an inquiry!”
Simmer down, Frankie. This is a 35% increase in targets, a 45.7% increase in catches, and a 40% increase in snaps (unlisted). It’s not 3,400 yds and 75 TDs, but this is a huge increase in Davis’ production. Could he do more? Possibly, but these are reasonable projections, not best case scenario wishes.
|LT Dawkins||LG Bates||C Morse||RG Saffold||RT Brown|
The guards might switch, but these are the starting five. Saffold is at RG because Bates lacks his experience and demonstrated solid play in a small sample and because placing Saffold next to Brown keeps a veteran presence next to the young Hulk.
Last year, the Buffalo Bills OL finished 8th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate (64%), 23rd in Run Block Win Rate (69%), 12th in Football Outsider’s Adjusted Line Yards (4.4), which is a run blocking measure, and 17th in Power Success (67%), which examines how well a team converts short yardage. Obviously, there is room to improve in run blocking. Enter Rodger Saffold.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Tennessee Titans – Saffold’s team last year – averaged 4.61 yards per carry running to the LG or Mid Left, Saffold’s position with the Titans and the gap he shared with the C respectively. Last year, the Bills averaged 4.37 ypc on runs from LG across to RG (graphic below). If the Bills can get improved rushing production while also maintaining a high level of pass protection, expect Josh Allen to be an MVP candidate while also not risking himself to injury as much.
Any projection is bound to be wrong. So many factors can change the course or interrupt the flow. All the caveats are in place, but if Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills stay healthy, we should get to enjoy a season that puts up remarkable statistics again, and then the Super Bowl is an honest projection.
*Original Feature Photo: Rich Barnes, USA Today