The Buffalo Bills are trying to remake their entire offensive philosophy in one season by bringing in a lot of new players, including a hopeful franchise quarterback, and new coaches. Now head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett get to bring the Bills offense to show some level of potency in a now offensive driven league.
Marrone and Hackett have been coaching together the past three seasons down the I-90 in Syracuse as they led a rehabilitation project for the Orange. The offense they oversaw was a hybrid concept that saw the Orange move into a no huddle pistol based formation under senior quarterback Ryan Nassib after running a primarily traditional pro set the years prior. Will the Bills run this same style of offense? That has yet to be seen, though it has been alluded too with the type of players brought in and in comments by both Marrone and Hackett. Though the important features fans should look for is not on scheme but more on concepts as the Bills open training camp on Sunday.
Tempo is a big buzz word that’s been used from the coaching staff all offseason and that decrease in time between plays has been evident in mini camps thus far. The Syracuse offense averaged 79 plays per game, which wasn’t even tops in the NCAA, but would have been in the NFL. That number beat out the New England Patriots by five plays per game if all things were equal. Some of the explanation for the extra plays can be contributed to clock stoppage after a first down rule in college. Though the total number is not the sole focus, it’s the pace at which the Orange played at. In total Syracuse average a play snapped every 22 seconds.
The comparison to the tempo of last year’s Bills can be considered laughable. Last year the Bills averaged 59 offensive plays per game, that’s a 20 play differential between the two offenses! The reality is that the Bills will not increase their offensive plays per game by those 20 plays, but a more realistic projection would be around 67-69 plays a game which is still an 8-10 play increase.
Those extra plays will have to be divided up between run and passes and again the tendency for Marrone & Hackett is to keep the ball on the ground more times than not. Syracuse called run plays 54% of the time, conversely the Chan Gailey Bills called pass plays at that same rate. If the Bills average 67 plays a game this year that would give Marrone 35 run plays to divvy up between CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, versus Gailey and his 27 plays on the ground. Even the results of the runs were greater under Marrone’s offense as running backs averaged 5 yards per carry where as last year the Bills could only muster 4.4 ypc, and that’s with CJ Spiller averaging the NFL’s 2nd best yards per carry at 6 a run.
The upswing in statistics don’t end their either as this year’s offense should have more down field throws. Syracuse averaged 8 yards per reception compared to the Bills 6.7. With the speed receivers the Bills have brought in the past two years expect more posts and deep fly patterns rather than the slants and quick outs that were constantly called a year ago.
In total the average play the Bills hope to gain this year will average around 6 yards versus the 5.6 averaged last year. That extra half yard with the additional eight plays may not seem like much, but could amount to being the difference between a first down or a punt.