It was a night to forget for the Bills' offensive line at in the swampland of Northern New Jersey Thursday night.
The Bills' line was dominated by the New York Jets' front seven in the 34-21 loss.
Guard Vlad Ducasse was victimized on three of the Jets' seven sacks. Guard Richie Incognito was partly to blame as well on two of the sacks that Ducasse had a hand in.
The first sack was a function of scheme, as Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins anticipated Tyrod Taylor's bootleg rollout. Left tackle Cordy Glenn was to blame once, letting Kony Ealy get wide too quickly. Ealy got a hand on Taylor's cocked arm, preventing the QB from pulling the trigger.
The sixth sack, on which Taylor fumbled, largely was the quarterback's fault. Taylor needed to unload quickly to the fullback on a third-and-10 situation. The last sack was due to tight coverage.
Here's our unit-by-unit grading of the Bills' loss based on video review (on a scale of 1 to 5):
Offensive line (1.0): The Bills' front five had a tough assignment because the Jets' three down-linemen are elite. Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson are among the best 3-4 ends in the NFL, and nose tackle Steve McLendon is above average. Add the fact the Jets often condensed their front, playing an end a shade inside their normal position. It's tough to run up the middle on the Jets, and the outside linebackers played wide to try to funnel everything to the big man-eaters.
This was not a good matchup for Ducasse, a 329-pound, run-blocking road-grader. The Bills may want to mix in Dion Dawkins or Ryan Groy against some of the better pass rushers they face the second half of the season. Ducasse was beaten by Williams on the second sack. He got pushed back by Wilkerson on the third. He was bull-rushed back by McLendon on the fourth. Incognito gave up too much quick ground to Williams on the third and fourth sacks and yielded a hit on Taylor to Williams late in the game. Williams beat Glenn for a run-stuff.
The Bills' linemen will be having nightmares of No. 92.
Quarterback (2.0): A bigger, better pocket passer with better weapons could have made the Jets pay for their man coverage. An elite QB may have audibled out of runs more often against eight- and nine-man boxes. Nevertheless, Taylor was mostly on target and protected the ball, until his garbage-time sack-fumble that should have been a check down. He was under duress too much. He threw well when he had time. He's trying to stay in the pocket. A complaint: Only one pass attempt more than 20 yards downfield in the first 3 1-2 quarters. That was the very first attempt of the game, down the sideline for Deonte Thompson. The Bills faced third-and-7 or more on 11 of 16 third downs. Not good.
Running backs (2.0): The Bills miss Mike Gillislee. Mike Tolbert is a useful big back. But there's a need for another change-of-pace back with some open-space ability. LeSean McCoy had no room to run and managed just 25 yards on 12 carries.
Receivers (2.0): If there's one silver lining for Buffalo it was the play of Zay Jones. He took a big hit on his first grab and held on. He showed good hands on a 12-yard early catch. He ran a great post route to catch the 10-yard TD. And he showed toughness by coming back after tweaking his knee. Nick O'Leary also made some tough catches. Too bad he got unlucky in not realizing he was untouched and fumbling in the third quarter. Jordan Matthews' fumble just before halftime cost three points.
Despite all the problems, consider: If the Bills catch an easy interception early and don't make the Matthews and O'Leary fumbles, they're easily within 24-20 in the fourth quarter.
Defensive line (1.5): Jerry Hughes was a no-show on the stat sheet. No tackles. He didn't contain the edge on Josh McCown's TD run due to a wide rush, but that can be forgiven. Containing McCown was not a priority. Hughes set the edge well on two run stops in the first half. But he got upfield too quick on a 20-yard third-quarter run. Then he drew an unsportsmanlike penalty that mattered. The game wasn't over. End Eddie Yarbrough was out of position on an early gash run. Kyle Williams and Adolphus Washington were OK. Cedric Thornton had bad luck on the key facemask penalty that wiped out a third-quarter sack.
Linebackers (1.0): A rough night. Ramon Humber cut inside too hard on the 10-yard TD run by Matt Forte. Preston Brown was in the inside gap to make the tackle. Lorenzo Alexander flowed too hard on the 51-yard cutback run. (Humber was held on that play.) Alexander also missed a tackle on the late 5-yard TD run. Brown was blocked up by tight end Eric Tomlinson (five stars for him) on the 51-yard run. He missed a tackle on an early toss play and got engulfed on another one. Humber played 50 snaps. Matt Milano played 10.
Defensive backs (2.0): The biggest mistake was the drop of an easy interception chance by Leonard Johnson at the Jets' 28 in the first quarter. On a night when the things were going wrong, the Bills could not afford to miss that opportunity. Tre'Davious White was beaten for a TD by speedy Robby Anderson. (McCown audibled on the play to exploit single coverage outside.) White also missed a tackle going for a strip and was called for a facemask (a good penalty because he was beaten by Jermaine Kearse). Jordan Poyer missed a tackle on the 51-yard run. Micah Hyde did a good job covering Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Special teams (4.0): Colton Schmidt punted for a superb net of 44.2 yards. The Bills recovered an on-sides kick. (Actually they recovered two in a row but the first one was nullified by an incorrect offsides penalty.)
Bills stars of the game: 1. Zay Jones. 2. Colton Schmidt. 3. Nick O'Leary.
Jets stars of the game: 1. Leonard Williams. 2. Muhammad Wilkerson. 3. Josh McCown.