Sammy Watkins Brings Creativity to Buffalo Bills West Coast Offense

The Buffalo Bills front office went all-in this offseason, determining that this is the year for a turnaround. After a rocky first season for a new head coach and offensive coordinator, coupled with a rookie quarterback in EJ Manuel and a rookie starting wide receiver in Robert Woods, the front office knew they had to make moves to jumpstart an offense that’s been subpar for a decade.

Prior to the draft, the Bills made a surprising trade for the troubled, yet productive wide receiver Mike Williams, before they adding some beef at the left guard position, a weak link on the 2013’s offensive line, in Chris Williams.

During the draft, Doug Whaley & Co. kept raising the stakes, trading up to select the most electric playmaker in the class in Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. With their next pick, the Bills got great value by selecting a powerful tackle in Cyrus Kouandjio, who’s expected to usurp Erik Pears as the team’s bookend opposite Cordy Glenn.

But that wasn’t enough for the offense. After swinging two trades sending Stevie Johnson to the 49ers and acquiring Bryce Brown from the Eagles, The Bills were able to grab two more mammoth linemen in Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson much lower than most expected.


What Might The Bills Offense Look Like?

Doug Marrone’s offensive philosophy revolves around running the ball, which was clear by the team’s 546 carries for 2,307 yards, which ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively in the NFL. It was the 4.1 yard-per-carry average (14th) that brought upon the need for a more physical and athletic tackle to take over for Erik Pears.

With the addition of Bryce Brown, the Bills should have a healthy and fresh rotation that should allow the team to keep running.

West Coast Concepts

Nathaniel Hackett must be just drooling over his playbook right now, as he has an excellent collection of talented skill players that each bring something unique to the offense.

Last season, the Bills’ “West Coast” offense was centered around outside “triangle” reads, which I wrote about HERE.

Following the season, Doug Marrone made an interesting comment, stating

“It might be a middle triangle read instead of an outside read because EJ’s done a better job at middle triangle reads.”

Let’s take a look at one of the most basic west coast concepts there is, in order to get a sneak peek of what we might see this upcoming season.

Shallow Cross/ “Drive”

The “drive” concept, when executed correctly, is close to unstoppable because there are so many options. It’s designed to be a consistent play that moves the ball methodically downfield while maintaining the threat of an explosive play, while presenting challenges both vertically and horizontally.

Below, the diagram shows that the play starts with three receivers set to one side and a single receiver on the other. The  that make up the triangle read are the tight end Scott Chandler, slot receiver Robert Woods, and running back C.J. Spiller.


The first option in the route is the slot receiver, Woods. His job is to run a shallow crossing route about five yards over the ball before deciding to stop against a zone look, or continue running against man coverage.

The second option is tight end Scott Chandler, or the “Y” receiver, that runs a 15-yard “in-route.” His depth is very important because it attacks a different level of the defense, rather than just the shallow area.

Finally, the third option is the running back, running what is called a “check burst,” which means checking for blitzing defensive players first, then bursting across the field in the opposite direction of Woods.


The two outside receivers are also important in this play. Assuming Mike Williams is to the left, he has an “option route” which means that he can choose his route based on the defensive back’s coverage. If the defensive back decides to play press coverage late, then the route automatically converts to a “go route.”

On the right side, Sammy Watkins’ job is very different. He’s running a post route on top of the triangle, so he’s the big play threat. Most safeties will get nosey and sink towards the tight end—the typical go-to, which leaves Watkins one-one-one with the cornerback.

While this may sound complicated, it makes a lot of sense and it’s designed to help EJ Manuel make quick decisions with little thought.

Obviously I have no secret access to the Bills’ playbook, but looking at the offense ran last year along with studying some of its’ roots, I’m fairly confident that these are the types of quick, efficient pass plays fans will see this season.


3 Replies to “Sammy Watkins Brings Creativity to Buffalo Bills West Coast Offense”

  1. I like the concept and we have the talent for it to work, lets hope EJ has the patients to make it effective.

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