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For Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, variety truly is the spice of life

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By: BruceExclusive

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

More is better

One of the biggest narratives surrounding the Buffalo Bills coming into the 2022 season was the question of what the offense would look like after the departure of former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, promoted into the OC role and recommended by quarterback Josh Allen, had never before called plays at the college or pro level despite being regarded as a bright offensive mind. While two games doesn’t provide a conclusive sample size, the early returns on overall effectiveness of the Dorsey-led offensive are promising. The Bills currently rank third in the NFL in offensive yards per game, fourth in passing yards per game, first in points per game, and seventh in offensive DVOA. What may not be clear on the surface, however, is what qualitative changes have led to the quantitative success. Upon investigation, it can be concluded that at least a part of the early success can be attributed to the 2022 Buffalo Bills offense being much more diverse in terms of personnel than it was before.

Under Brian Daboll, the Bills were a predominately 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end) offense. In 2021, the Bills broke the huddle in 11 personnel 71% of the time—good for fifth in the NFL per Sharp Football Analytics. In 2020, that 71% was exactly the same, which tied them for sixth in the league. In 2019, the Bills rolled out that same one running back, one tight end look 70% of the time—again tied for sixth. The Bills had a good offense in two of those three years, but it was in spite of their personnel diversity, not because of it.

The personnel grouping metrics haven’t been released for 2022, but through some individual player snap-count analysis, we can see the emphasis on personnel grouping variety relative to previous years. Fullback Reggie Gilliam played 14% of the offensive snaps in 2021. In 2022 through two games, that number has increased to 29%. Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, backup tight end Tommy Sweeney played 17% of the offensive snaps and although he missed Week 2, Quintin Morris stepped in and played a whopping 41% of the snaps from scrimmage. That’s more than the season-long snap-count percentage of any Bills backup tight end during the Daboll era and the third-highest single game snap percentage for a backup tight end since head coach Sean McDermott took over in 2017.

In 2021, the following nine Bills non-QB skill position players partook in more than 15% of the offensive snaps:

  • WR Stefon Diggs
  • TE Dawson Knox
  • WR Emmanuel Sanders
  • RB Devin Singletary
  • WR Cole Beasley
  • WR Gabe Davis
  • RB Zack Moss
  • TE Tommy Sweeney
  • WR Isaiah McKenzie

So far in 2022, that list has ballooned to 12:

  • TE Dawson Knox
  • WR Stefon Diggs
  • RB Devin Singletary
  • WR Jake Kumerow
  • WR Gabe Davis
  • WR Isaiah McKenzie
  • FB Reggie Gilliam
  • WR Jamison Crowder
  • RB Zack Moss
  • TE Quinton Morris
  • WR Khalil Shakir
  • RB James Cook

Although wide receiver Gabe Davis being inactive for Week 2 absolutely adds more snaps to the remainder of the wide receiver room, it should be noted that wide receiver Jake Kumerow had a 23.7% offensive snap count in Week 1 prior to the ankle injury sustained by Davis in practice leading up to Week 2. When you consider that running back James Cook didn’t return to play against the Los Angeles Rams after his sole touch ended in a fumble, the diversity in personnel usage can still be seen in contrast to that of Brian Daboll.

Ken Dorsey is throwing the kitchen sink at NFL defenses. While it may increase the degree of difficulty for the offense, leading to more common confusion as it relies on more humans to avoid errors, it also appears to be a catalyst for offensive success.

…and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!

Originally posted on Buffalo Rumblings

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