The NFL offseason is the longest of any professional sports league, however the NFL never falls from the front of our minds. Due to the amount of time we have to discuss our favorite teams and the amount of access we have to information fans often get overly analytical about their favorite team or player.
They often beat issues to death about what players needs to do for the next season. A perfect example for the Bills is QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, I can’t tell you how many articles we’ve read (or written) this offseason that in one way or another had to do with Fitzpatrick.
With that in mind we wanted to do something different and pose a different question to ourselves and fellow fans. Take the players out of the equation, what is the one thing you want to see our coaches do better in 2012?
For us the answer was very simple..
Item 1-Use C.J. Spiller More Effectively
During the 2011 season CJ spiller averaged only 6 carries per game and that included him being the starting RB for six of those games. Overall he averaged only 9 touches per game for the entire season. For a player we drafted in the first round who was supposed to be a game changer that amount of touches is ridiculously low.
Prior to Week 12 (v. NYJ) Spiller had yet to be in a game where he saw more than 5 carries, and in a close loss to the Giants and blowout victory v. Washington Spiller saw a grand total of zero carries. That simply put cannot happen in 2012.
Don’t get us wrong Fred Jackson was this team’s MVP through most of last season but he can’t do it all, nor should he have to. When you have a guy in Spiller who in Week 2 torched Oakland on four carries for 63 yards, the next week he needs to receive way more than one total carry.
We were told heading into 2011 we would finally see some of the dual back sets with Spiller and Jackson in the backfield and we did see some. However what we didn’t see was the load sharing that should have come with that. Spiller getting the ball more wouldn’t have prevented Jacksons injury but it may have helped to further balance out an offensive attack that became too reliant on the pass and predictable in the 2nd half of the season.
Spiller is a playmaker who averaged over 5 yards whenever he touched the ball. No other player on our team had that kind of per play production. For the offensive genius that Gailey is, he must find a way to better utilize Spiller in 2012 because it very well may be that our season depends on it.
Like we said above we also asked the fans for their thoughts and we got two great responses on what the coaches need to improve on…
Item 2-Improve the Intermediate Passing Game (From Michael Alberti)
We have already noted the severe regression in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s numbers over the second half of last year here. Part of the reason those numbers could have gone down is due to an offense that was frankly predictable. The game plan was effectively the same week in and week out and that was to attack the short areas of the defensive zones by spreading them out. This would then allow us to get the ball to our players in space and hopefully allow them break off big plays.
The plan worked wonderfully for the first half of 2011, defenses were often caught off guard and not used to have playing so many DB’s for so long. Slow footed LB’s were victimized by quick hitting slant routes, and CB’s who gave cushions were beat by hitches and bubble screen. As the weeks went by though more and more film was obtained and the defenses adjusted.
What the defenses did to us in the 2nd half of 2011 was similar to how you would plan to stop a good rushing attack. They loaded the box and clamped down on the short area zones. Safeties were routinely walked up into the box to take away slant patterns and help make tackles further up field. We didn’t adjust back.
In 2011 Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged only 6.7 yards per attempt, for comparison sake Brees, Brady, and Rodgers all averaged over 8.3 with Rodgers averaging 9.2. We don’t have the weapons those three do but we can force defenses to respect our game plan more.
Gailey and staff must find a way to develop the intermediate routes (the ins, outs, and other crossing routes) that attack the area 7-15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. They have to force the LB’s to stay back and not creep up to the line and make a safeties pay if the defense tries to cheat up. We have to get more aggressive in our play calling and we have to have faith in both our line to protect Fitzpatrick a little bit longer and in our QB to make those kind of throws accurately and on time.
Item 3-Improve 3rd Down Offense (From Buffalo Range user Venis2k1)
Did you know that our 3rd Down offense finished dead last in total conversions last year? We converted only 28% of our 3rd Downs (28th in NFL) and basically limited ourselves to playing 2 down football. There is no way to win that way in today’s NFL. The Bills must become more effective at mixing up their attack and keeping defenses guessing.
With both Spiller and Jackson in the backfield and a myriad of options at TE and WR it should be relatively easy to disguise what we want to do and convert more 3rd downs. Additionally if we are able to improve on the two items above it will go a long way to helping on 3rd downs. The Bills have all the components needed to fix this issue for 2012.
If we can bump our 3rd Down Conversion percentage up by a decent amount we could easily become a contender for not only the Wild Card but also potentially the division.
What do you think? What is the one thing our coaching staff must change?