Through four games of the 2019 NFL season one thing is definitely clear in Buffalo – the Bills’ secondary is elite.
That was showcased last week as the Bills held Tom Brady and the New England Patriots' offense to only nine points. What’s more impressive is that Buffalo held Brady and Co. to 18 completions on 39 pass attempts for 150 yards passing and an interception. Week 4 was Brady’s lowest graded game (44.4) since Week 4 of the 2014 season and third-lowest since 2010.
Shutting down opposing quarterbacks has been a consistent theme. No opposing quarterback this season has produced a game grade of more than 70.0 or a passer rating of more than 85.0. The Jets’ Sam Darnold generated the highest in both categories during Week 1 with an unimpressive 68.7 game grade and an 84.9 passer rating.
Overall, the Bills have generated the NFL’s second-highest grade in coverage as a team at 87.8, and have allowed a reception rate of just 67.6% on 136 targets in coverage. The Bills have locked up opposing offenses with 15 combined pass breakups and interceptions and their longest pass allowed has gone for just 33 yards.
Showcasing their versatility on the back end, the Bills have mixed in a variety of man-to-man and zone coverage schemes throughout the first four weeks. Of Buffalo’s 177 coverage snaps, the team has been in man coverage (2-man, cover-0, cover-1) at 57.6% of the time with remarkable success. They’ve allowed a lowly 51.1% catch rate for only 257 yards with six forced incompletions when in man coverage.
Over the past two weeks against the Bengals and Patriots, the Bills have allowed only 10 catches on 24 targets in man-to-man coverage schemes for 165 yards and one interception.
Here’s a breakdown of how the Bills’ key contributors in the secondary have performed individually through the first quarter of the season.
Cornerback Tre’Davious White
Often lining up against the opposing team’s top wide receiver, White has generated a 65.0 overall grade and 68.6 coverage grade. He’s allowed 12 receptions on 21 targets for 123 yards in coverage with two interceptions. The Bills’ star corner has allowed a 34.5 passer rating when targeted, which currently ranks fifth among cornerbacks.
Cornerback Levi Wallace
As an undrafted free agent coming out of Alabama, Wallace has been a flat-out steal for the Bills' defense. Through four weeks, he’s faced the second-most targets in coverage at 36, allowing 21 receptions for 194 yards with four forced incompletions. His coverage grade of 71.7 ranks in the top 25 among cornerbacks.
Slot cornerback Siran Neal
Neal has lined up in the slot on 95 of his 111 total snaps, with 66 snaps coming in coverage. He’s allowed only 26 yards on seven catches and a 79.2 passer rating when targeted. Neal’s 0.46 yards allowed per coverage snap in the slot ranks fifth among cornerbacks.
Slot cornerback Kevin Johnson
Following a hamstring injury to fellow cornerback Taron Johnson, Kevin Johnson has stepped in as a key contributor for the Bills over the last three weeks. He’s allowed six receptions on 10 targets for 110 yards with 51 of his 64 total snaps in coverage coming in the slot. Johnson was a pleasant surprise in Week 4 with an 80.1 coverage grade in 22 total snaps, breaking up his lone target in coverage.
Safety Micah Hyde
The duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer at safety has truly been elite. Through four weeks, Hyde has generated the top overall grade at his position at 89.6, while his 88.9 coverage grade ranks third. The often-overlooked star has allowed four receptions on seven targets in coverage for 41 yards with one interception and one pass breakup. His 34.5 passer rating allowed also ranks top 10 among safeties.
He’s been a chess piece with the following snap alignment rates:
- Free safety: 51.1%
- In the box: 28.6%
- Slot corner: 16.8%
Safety Jordan Poyer
Poyer is not far behind Hyde in terms of PFF grading. He ranks tied for sixth among safeties with an 83.8 overall grade, while his 77.5 coverage grade is 10th. Poyer has allowed a total of 22 yards when targeted in coverage on three catches, and has also been an elite tackler through four weeks with zero misses on 27 attempts.
He’s also showcased his versatility:
- Free safety: 57.6%
- In the box: 27.9%
- Slot corner: 3.8%
Pro Football Focus will be contributing to BNblitz.com all season long.