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Bills position-by-position grades

Grading the Bills: Defensive line depth gave Giants fits

The Bills’ defensive linemen batted down three more passes in Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants. That gives the Bills eight bat-downs for the season.

The Bills were good at bat-downs last year, too, with an unofficial total of 18 for the season, according to Buffalo News charts. The bat-downs were part of another good day for the Bills’ defensive line Sunday.

Here are the position-by-position grades for the Bills against the Giants, based on video review and on a scale of 1 to 5:

Defensive line (3.5): What stood out most was the quality contributions from the backups. Shaq Lawson again played with force. He had two hurries and drew a hold with power rushes against quality left tackle Nate Solder. Lawson also had a third hurry. Solder did a decent job against Jerry Hughes, although the Giants frequently lined up a tight end to Hughes’ side to make his path to the QB longer. Harrison Phillips had a second straight good game, with two bat-downs and a half sack in 28 snaps. Rookie Darryl Johnson had a hit on Eli Manning and set the edge well. Meanwhile, rookie Ed Oliver had two hurries, forced a check-down with a pocket push and had the bat-down at the line that Trent Murphy intercepted. Will Hernandez, a capable guard, had trouble with Oliver’s push in the middle. Star Lotulelei had 29 snaps, only one more than Phillips. He fought double teams and aided a couple hurries. Murphy manhandled tight end Rhett Ellison and made the all-out-hustle pickoff.

Quarterback (4.0): Josh Allen now is completing 64.2% of his passes through two games. That exceeds even the most optimistic fan’s expectations. The 18-yard throw to Dawson Knox that beat a blitz was a beauty. So was the one Knox dropped in the second half. We gave him half the blame for the first sack since he didn’t take the check-down pass. Allen now has two 250-plus passing days in a row. It would have been 300 yards if he hit John Brown on the deep post. The Bills had just six 250-plus passing games in the previous 50 entering this year.

Receiver (3.5): Brown’s speed has had a big influence on the offense. Even a veteran corner like Janoris Jenkins has to give him cushion. Cole Beasley showed good hands on his first slant catch. Why Isaiah McKenzie over Duke Williams on the 53-man roster? McKenzie showed his speed value on jet-sweep plays. Zay Jones only caught one pass but he made a tough crack-back block to wipe out Oshane Ximines on Devin Singletary’s 20-yard run. Robert Foster played 27 snaps and got just two targets. Foster cleared out deep on the 26-yarder to McKenzie. Once again, the Bills got surprisingly good production out of their tight ends in the absence of Tyler Kroft. Lee Smith is a blocking monster. Knox had a drop but did a good job blocking, too.

Running backs (4.0): Singletary and Frank Gore combined for 125 yards on 25 carries. Remember, the Bills had the worst RB production in their history last season. Gore couldn’t get going vs. the Jets but showed spring in his step vs. the Giants.

Offensive line (3.5): The tackles have had the benefit so far of facing two teams that lacked elite speed rushers off the edge. Dion Dawkins had a solid pass-protecting day. Cody Ford was beaten wide by Markus Golden for a half-sack and took an ill-advised personal foul but otherwise passed his test. He played 36 snaps and Ty Nsekhe had 40. Nsekhe was on the field for the Bills’ last three TD drives, and his cut block on Ximines helped spring Singletary for his TD. The mobility shown by the offensive line again was encouraging. Mitch Morse had another good day pulling for the backs. The Bills averaged 6.78 yards a carry on gap-scheme runs.

Linebackers (3.5): After a rough start, Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano showed discipline in their gap-filling and coverage drops. Edmunds almost made a highlight-reel interception late. Leslie Frazier did not have to blitz much, just nine times in 46 drop-backs (19%). That helped the zone defenders keep everyone in front of them.

Defensive backs (4.0): The Bills’ safety play is so good. Micah Hyde put the hit on Bennie Fowler on the sideline that saved points in the second quarter. Frazier broke out the “big nickel” package, with safety Dean Marlowe playing 14 snaps, mostly when the Giants used 12 personnel (two tight ends). That was a way to defend tight end Evan Engram while not being too light in the box against Saquon Barkley. Engram was a priority, with the sideline holding up an “88” sign every time he was on the field. He was held to six catches for 48 yards. Siran Neal got 24 snaps and Kevin Johnson 25 in the “regular” nickel package. Neal overflowed on the Barkley TD run. The Giants threw Levi Wallace’s direction nine times, but 12 yards was the longest catch he allowed. He had a third-down breakup in the third quarter. The Bills almost held a 10th straight foe under 210 passing yards, but the Giants gained garbage yards at the end and finished with 250.

Special teams (4.0): Corey Bojorquez has been a pleasant surprise through two games. He executed on 7 of 7 punts from this viewpoint. Yes, he outkicked the coverage on the punt that was returned 60 yards. But it was a 63-yarder with a 5.1-second hang time. Sometimes you want your punter to boom it. The problem was the coverage men got stuck outside. All six of Bojorquez’s “full-swing” punts went for a hang time of at least 4.7 seconds (you’re looking for 4.5 or better). Neal and Lorenzo Alexander made big tackles on kickoff coverage, and Neal saved a TD on the long punt return by hustling to make the tackle.

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