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'Big nickel' defensive personnel package flops for Bills against Ravens in Week 1

Over the summer, we heard about the "big nickel" package Sean McDermott utilized in Carolina and how rookie safety Siran Neal is the long-term prospect for that specific personnel grouping with the Bills.

"Big nickel" is a nickel package – substitute a linebacker for a defensive back – but instead of the defensive back being a corner, it's a safety. In the case of the Bills game against the Ravens in Week 1, that safety was Rafael Bush.

At this season, we'll be tracking the effectiveness of each defensive personnel package Buffalo utilizes. Beyond big nickel, we're likely to see "4-3 under," "4-3 over" and normal nickel.

Both the 4-3 under and the 4-3 over are identified by pinpointing the location of the nose tackle. In the under front, the nose tackle is aligned just outside the center and closest to the strong side of the offensive formation, the side of the line with more blockers. The opposite is true in the over front. The nose tackle is shaded on the center on the weak side of the formation.

Nickel is a 4-3 with one linebacker off the field – in the Bills' case, that will typically be Lorenzo Alexander – and a defensive back in his place – against the Ravens that was typically rookie Taron Johnson.

Here's how the Bills' defensive personnel groupings fared in Baltimore on opening weekend.

At Baltimore 4-3 under 4-3 over Nickel Big Nickel Jumbo
Completions/Attempts 3 / 4 6 / 9 4 / 11 13 / 14 0
Passing Yards 56 27 21 156 0
Rushes 6 16 2 11 1
Rushing Yards 27 46 6 6 1
TDs/Fumbles/INTs/Sacks 0/0/0/0 1/2/0/1 1/0/0/0 3/1/0/2 1/0/0/0


Clearly, big nickel got scorched through the air by Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson. The two quarterbacks combined for a 92.8 percent completion rate, a whopping 11.1 yards-per-attempt average and two passing touchdowns (all tossed by Flacco). The other score allowed by big nickel was on the ground in the fourth quarter.

Interestingly, big nickel wasn't used until 8:38 in the second quarter. In was used intermittently throughout the second half, and may have been leaned on more than planned after Johnson was injured.

Also, all of Buffalo's personnel packages did very well against the run in Baltimore.

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