Bills All-22 review: Digging into Stefon Diggs’ lack of involvement vs. Chiefs



Another season full of promise and potential yielded another playoff disappointment for the Buffalo Bills, who were eliminated by the Kansas City Chiefs for the third time in four seasons. Although the Bills played well enough to push the Super Bowl defending champions to a three-point margin, once again they were left packing up their lockers prematurely.

The loss to the Chiefs may signal some legitimate offseason changes from how the Bills built up their roster over the last seven years. But the film is also quite revealing as to why the Bills were on the wrong side of the result once more.

Here are several takeaways from the All-22 of where things went wrong, what it could signal for the offseason and who is trending up heading into the 2024 season.

Digging into Diggs’ lack of involvement opens up portal to clear offseason priority

Franchise quarterback Josh Allen played a nearly mistake-free, outstanding game that nearly willed his team to victory. But that’s not to say the offense wasn’t without its warts. The Bills played a very deliberate brand of offense, wanting to control the ball and time of possession without taking many chances deep down the field. While it kept the Bills on the field a lot and limited the Chiefs’ chances, Buffalo’s margin for error on offense was limited all the same.

The approach is eerily reminiscent of Bills teams of the early 2010s under Chan Gailey, when they trotted out a receiver trio of Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones and David Nelson. They all had some athletic limitations with that trio but were at their best working underneath routes with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, who had his own limitations throwing the deep ball. They also found a certain degree of success with a good running game but eventually, teams figured them out and dared them to beat them deep. It rendered that offense far less effective and needed to depend on short-choppy gains and long drives. It’s not an exact fit because Allen has an outstanding arm as opposed to Fitzpatrick and in this game, tried to push the ball down the field on a few occasions. But it comes down to the players he’s targeting and where he’s targeting them.

Diggs has shown the ability to uncover deep down the field against any defense, but the chances often come after a long build-up of underneath targets and routes before the Bills ultimately test a team deep. Each time it’s happened over the last month of the season, though, Allen and Diggs have been unable to connect. The drop against the Chiefs was on Diggs, but both parties are at fault as the big play has gone missing. The intermediate game also has been absent between the two, and the numbers from the Chiefs game reflects it, resulting in an all-or-nothing approach, and short targets just to make sure Diggs is getting involved.

Including the deep ball drop, Diggs’ average depth of target (aDOT) was only 9.4 yards for the game on eight targets. But when you remove that deep ball, Diggs aDOT was only 3.3 yards past the line of scrimmage, with all but one of those seven remaining targets at five yards or less.

Stefon Diggs target depth vs. KC

Target No. Depth of Target

1

-1

2

15

3

4

4

-7

5

1

6

53

7

5

8

5

In the context of Diggs’ career with the Bills, just one year ago, he had an 11.7 yard aDOT for the entire season. This year’s was down by 1.5 yards, and 10 of his 19 games had an aDOT below 10 yards, according to TruMedia. It’s not a reflection on Diggs’ ability, because on film — even against the Chiefs — he’s showing a clear skill to uncover and separate. In the divisional round loss, the ball was already out before an intermediate route could even occur for Diggs several times. So it does seem Diggs’ skill set is being squandered a bit.

Then, when you look at the aDOT of the entire receiving core against the Chiefs, you see an evident lack of players who challenge a defense down the field. Khalil Shakir was at 7.1 yards, Dalton Kincaid at 2.6, Dawson Knox at -1 and Deonte Harty at -4. Trent Sherfield had a 27.0-yard aDOT in the Gabe Davis X-receiver role, but much like Davis, showed difficulty in uncovering deep down the field. Sherfield, despite running 56 routes in the Bills’ two playoff games, came down with only one reception for 7 yards.

So if all the targets outside of Diggs are at their best in the underneath, much like the Chan Gailey Bills, that pins down a lot of what you can do as a passing offense — even with Josh Allen as the quarterback. A defense can give more attention to Diggs anytime he pushes past the underneath area while feeling confident the rest of the group can be hemmed in. Lacking an explosive quality with anyone outside of Diggs speaks to a position in desperate need of an addition this offseason. Kincaid and Shakir are two starting-caliber players in the short-to-intermediate game, but the Bills are lacking a true explosive option to pair with Diggs.

If they had it, it would enable Diggs to push past the short areas on the field and not put so much pressure on the one or two deep shots he gets a game. Whether that’s someone with only speed, or someone possessing a speed and size combination, for the Bills to get the most out of Allen, Diggs and their entire passing offense, they need a legitimate talent to pair with him. Otherwise, the Bills might continue to be the type of passing offense we saw late in the season and against the Chiefs.

Much of the Bills DL was no match for the physicality of the Chiefs OL

For the second consecutive year during the divisional round, the Bills watched as their defensive line struggle significantly at the line of scrimmage. It was less about impacting Patrick Mahomes in the passing game, because he was getting the ball out quickly all game, and more about how poorly they stood up against the run game. The Chiefs boast one of the best interior offensive lines in the league, but the Bills were at full health on the defensive line, which makes for a legitimately disappointing result for how the Bills built their team this season.

With the exception of a player or two, the Bills were getting pushed aside, leading to big gains from Isiah Pacheco for much of the game. Defensive tackles Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones both played one of their worst games as run defenders all season, and in limited opportunities, Linval Joseph and Tim Settle had the same result. Then on the edges, the Chiefs picked on Shaq Lawson on a few separate wide rushes, which is surprising because Lawson’s biggest strength is as an edge run defender. It also wasn’t a game best suited to Leonard Floyd, who worsened as a run defender as the year continued. With only three core rotational defensive linemen signed for 2024 and no real cap space to bring multiple players back, the Bills could be heading for an overhaul along the defensive line next season.

Chiefs attacked a hobbled Klein

While the defensive line’s struggles certainly contributed greatly to their defensive demise, the Chiefs made it a point to go after A.J. Klein in multiple ways. Early in the game it was in coverage, which yielded several opportunities for Mahomes and the passing attack to win over the middle of the field. But as the game wore on, especially as Klein showed that he was playing hurt and a step slower than even normal, the Chiefs looked to make the Bills pay for leaving him on the field by using Pacheco on wide rushes as much as they could. It forced Klein to run a long distance on a bad leg and get through traffic on the way there, and a lot of times, he didn’t get to the ball carrier. The Bills needed more than they got out of the middle linebacker position. Sticking with Klein on an every-snap basis was one of their biggest downfalls in the matchup.

Rousseau was getting instant pressures

You may have noticed the omission of Greg Rousseau’s name from the run-defending portion. That’s because he was one of the few plus defenders on the field for the Bills during the game. But it was his work as a pass rusher that stood out above all else. Rousseau, working on either side of the line, showed a clear ability to gain access to the backfield in short order. There were even times he worked against a double team, and was able to split it to get into the backfield on Mahomes. It was especially impressive with how often Mahomes was getting the ball out quickly to attack the Bills defense, yet Rousseau was winning his matchups. Rousseau, specifically with his work on the right side of the defense after being a left defensive end only in his first two seasons, clearly took a step forward in his third year. They will depend on him in 2024, and in a big way, because he is one of the only defensive line pieces under contract.

The Bills might have something very good in Spencer Brown

In terms of the offensive line, much of last offseason was spent wondering if the Bills would look to replace third-year offensive tackle Spencer Brown. The team remained steadfast in their belief of Brown anytime he was brought up in a news conference setting, and they backed it up by not adding any legitimate competition for Brown in the buildup to training camp. The faith and patience in the young player paid off, and ever since the Bills returned from their bye week, Brown has been the best player of the starting five and one of their best players, period. He put together another impressive performance against the Chiefs, controlling his one-on-ones and proving to be a force as a run blocker. Since the bye week, Brown carried a 3.29 GPA over the final seven games. He went from having the lowest season GPA of the offensive line at 2.67, to passing left guard Connor McGovern and nearly passing both right guard O’Cyrus Torrence and center Mitch Morse for the year with the post-bye stretch. With how he finished the season, he’s a clear building block for the offensive line moving forward and should he have a good beginning in 2024, he likely will be a consideration for a long-term extension by the team.

2023 Bills All-22 grades vs. Chiefs (Divisional round)

Rank Player Pos. Grade Play Count Snap %

1

QB

A

77

100.00%

2

RT

A-

77

100.00%

3

C

A-

77

100.00%

4

WR

B+

54

70.13%

5

LT

B+

77

100.00%

6

RG

B+

77

100.00%

7

DE

B+

32

64.00%

8

DE

B+

25

50.00%

9

RB

B

39

50.65%

10

RB

B

21

27.27%

11

G

B

21

27.27%

12

DE

B

15

30.00%

13

TE

B

48

62.34%

14

TE

B-

31

40.26%

15

WR

C+

69

89.61%

16

DE

C+

19

38.00%

17

LB

C+

39

78.00%

18

NCB

C+

50

100.00%

19

CB

C+

50

100.00%

20

WR

C

66

85.71%

21

DT

C

40

80.00%

22

DT

C

30

60.00%

23

LG

C

77

100.00%

24

CB

C

50

100.00%

25

S

C

50

100.00%

26

S

C

50

100.00%

27

DE

D+

13

26.00%

28

LB

F

49

98.00%

Players with fewer than 15 snaps:
RB Latavius Murray (14), DE Shaq Lawson (13), DT Tim Settle (13), DT Linval Joseph (11), WR Deonte Harty (9), TE Quintin Morris (8), LB Dorian Williams (6), FB Reggie Gilliam (4), DB Cam Lewis (4), NCB Siran Neal (3), WR Andy Isabella (1), LB Tyler Matakevich (1)

Active players without an offensive or defensive snap:
QB Kyle Allen, IOL Ryan Bates, OT Ryan Van Demark, DE Kingsley Jonathan, CB Kaiir Elam, S Damar Hamlin

Inactives:
*(Total games inactive in 2023 season while on the active roster)
IOL Alec Anderson (19), DT Poona Ford (11), LB Baylon Spector (4), CB Christian Benford (3), S Taylor Rapp (3), WR Gabe Davis (2), LB Terrel Bernard (1)

The core:
*(Position players who play the core-four special teams units of kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return)
NCB Siran Neal (100 percent), FB Reggie Gilliam (93), TE Quintin Morris (93), DE Kingsley Jonathan (93), LB Tyler Matakevich (93), DB Cam Lewis (93), S Damar Hamlin (93), WR Andy Isabella (73), WR Deonte Harty (47), RB Ty Johnson (40), CB Kaiir Elam (33), LB Tyrel Dodson (20), DE Leonard Floyd (7), DE Greg Rousseau (7), DT Ed Oliver (7), LB A.J. Klein (7), CB Rasul Douglas (7), CB Dane Jackson (7), S Jordan Poyer (7)

2023 Bills All-22 grades through Divisional round

Rank Player Pos. GPA 2023 Snaps Last Week

1

LB

3.58

211

1

2

DT

3.40

816

2

3

QB

3.38

1270

5

4

DE

3.32

659

6

5

WR

3.30

1074

4

6

DE

3.21

628

9

7

WR

3.21

703

11

8

NCB

3.20

1045

8

9

DT

3.20

240

3

10

TE

3.20

784

10

11

CB

3.19

553

7

12

RB

3.14

714

12

13

LT

3.14

1264

13

14

CB

3.01

837

14

15

WR

2.96

966

15

16

RG

2.94

1308

16

17

C

2.93

1273

17

18

RT

2.90

1305

18

19

DE

2.86

436

20

20

TE

2.83

546

19

21

TE

2.79

206

NR

22

LB

2.79

1031

24

23

LG

2.78

1279

21

24

S

2.77

1102

22

25

S

2.75

912

23

26

RB

2.70

375

26

27

DE

2.64

353

27

28

WR

2.62

500

25

29

LB

2.53

238

28

30

CB

2.51

578

29

31

S

2.50

421

30

32

DE

2.43

298

34

33

DT

2.42

412

31

34

LB

2.41

588

32

35

DT

2.40

392

33

36

CB

2.11

209

35

*Minimum 200 snaps

How the standards work

When the All-22 film becomes available, we’ll go through and watch every player on every play as many times as necessary to assess letter grades. It is a subjective analysis, and it’s important to note we do not know the play calls and full responsibilities. The grades stem from technique, effort and presumed liability.

The study accounts only for players who take a snap on offense or defense. Players with fewer than 15 snaps — unless they significantly impact the game — will not factor into weekly rankings. The grades range from an ‘A’ (a perfect 4.00 GPA) to ‘F’ (0.00 GPA). There is no such thing as an ‘A+’ on this grading system. Season-long grades will be tallied and documented, with a single game’s grade weighted based on how much the player was on the field in a given week.

(Top photo of Stefon Diggs: Perry Knotts / Getty Images)





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