Isaiah McKenzie did more running than just about anyone on the field in the Buffalo Bills' win Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
Most of it was before the ball even was snapped.
McKenzie was part of pre-snap, jet-sweep motion on 23 of the Bills’ 61 plays. He got the ball only twice on those plays, but the 23 plays netted 148 yards, an average of 6.4 a play.
“I’m not tired at all,” McKenzie said with a smile after the game. “I don’t mind doing it. I’ll run across the field. If I can be a decoy to open up the run game or the passing game, I’ll do it.”
Jet-sweep motion has spread across the NFL like wildfire over the past two or three years. Everybody is doing it, with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams among the most successful.
If the jet sweeper gets the ball via handoff or a shuffle pass, the action gets the ball on the perimeter as fast as possible. The defense is forced to react before the snap.
If the jet sweeper doesn’t get the ball, the motion tends to help inside zone run plays that go in the opposite direction, because it can force linebackers to take a false step toward the motion or at least hesitate for an instant. That can give a lineman a little better angle to make a block on the second level.
McKenzie was inactive last week for the Philadelphia game. The Bills ran only two jet-sweep motions in that game.
But McKenzie was a big part of the game plan this week. The Bills wanted to run out of 11 personnel – three wide receivers. They did not want to run the ball much out of heavier personnel – two backs (21) or two tight ends (12). The Redskins answered heavier personnel groupings with their base, 3-4 defensive front. Washington is really stout against the run in its base front.
The Bills ran 26 times for 113 yards out of 11 personnel.
How did the Bills do against the big, 3-4 front? Not good. They ran 10 times, seven in short-yardage or goal-line situations. The Bills only gained a yard on two of those seven plays. The other three runs vs. the 3-4 went for 10 yards.
The Bills have run the jet-sweep motion 52 times this year, counting the Washington game. They used it just once against the New England Patriots. They did it 11 times against the Cincinnati Bengals, which was the most before Sunday.
“This week it showed up more because that was part of our game plan,” said tackle Dion Dawkins.
“He’s an integral part of our offense,” center Mitch Morse said of McKenzie. “With that speed, you have to respect it. It’s going to get movements on the defense. It’s going to give tells whether it’s man or zone. It’s valuable. Especially with a guy like that.”
It didn’t work every time. The first shuffle pass to McKenzie gained 9 yards. The second was diagnosed immediately by Washington and went for an 8-yard loss.
But on a 17-yard run around right end by running back Devin Singletary in the third quarter, it helped. McKenzie’s jet-sweep motion to the left caused Redskins linebacker Jon Bostic to take a step in that direction. He was a step late to help contain Singletary.
“Even if I get a linebacker to take one step over, it gives our lineman time to adjust when he double teams and gets to the second level to block,” McKenzie said. “If they don’t respect it and I do get it, then it’s too late and I’m already around the corner. You gotta figure out how to stop that.”
Story topics: Isaiah McKenzie