Bills: Dennison hoping for more separation from WRs (video)
By: Nick Wojton
ORCHARD PARK – The Buffalo Bills have lost four of their last five games and while problems on the defensive side of the ball continue to pop up in regard to stopping the run, the same old problems are plaguing the Bills on the other side of the ball: separation.
On offense, Tyrod Taylor struggled and played the entire game hurt after he injured his knee on a scramble on the first play of the game.
Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said the injury didn’t cause him to adjust much of anything in the game plan. Additionally, when Nathan Peterman entered the contest after Taylor left with an injury, a lack of separation from wide receivers was once again evident.
Dennison acknowledged the lack of separation against the Patriots.
“Certainly, you’d always love to see great separation,” Dennison said. “They do a good job of being on you, so we have to separate. That’s what we spent the week doing, trying to give them some opportunities to shake some of those guys, and we didn’t quite get it done.”
But Dennison also referenced a criticism often found when discussing Taylor.
“It’s a league of contested throws also,” Dennison said.
In terms of individual targets, Dennison was asked about two going in different directions. Jordan Matthews, in the final year of his rookie contract, was acquired in a trade that sent cornerback Ron Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Assumed as the replacement for Sammy Watkins, Matthews has fallen to the third wide receiver role for the Bills, playing in 76 percent of offensive snaps against the Patriots.
Matthews in particular has struggled to find separation during his brief Buffalo tenure. On Sunday, Matthews was targeted three times and only hauled in one grab for 14 yards. He also had a late drop.
Still, Dennison backed Matthews.
“He had his chances, and the ball didn’t come that way. It’s all progression; it’s all based on coverage. I couldn’t really speak to that other than he’s a part of the game plan, just like any other ‘X’ or ‘Z’. We’re trying to get whoever is open the ball, and see what kind of coverage we have,” Dennison said.
One of the reasons for Matthews’ lessened playing time is because of an increase in the playing time for rookie Zay Jones, who played 97 percent of offensive snaps.
Jones only had two catches for 22 yards on seven targets against the Patriots. On one of two fade patterns thrown his way in the end zone, Jones had separation but lost the ball. Former Bill Stephon Gilmore knocked the ball loose, but did not turn his head around. That’s pass interference.
On the second, Gilmore had strong coverage and broke up the play. Dennison said he’s starting to feel more confident in Jones, who’s tied with Matthews for the most catches for Bills wide outs with 25. Jones also leads the position group with 291 yards.
Not staggering numbers by any stretch, but Jones began his NFL career with only five catches in five games.
There is a chance the Jones can continue to improve in coming weeks as well as the group is slated to get a potential boost which could take top-defensive talent off of Jones. Good news for Kelvin Benjamin as head coach Sean McDermott said he “looks good” to practice this week.
McDermott wouldn’t say Benjamin will play against the Colts on Sunday, but practice is a good sign. What McDermott did say was about the number three.
“Tough to win games when you score three points,” McDermott said.
For more from Dennison, see the attached for his Monday press conference: