The Buffalo Bills have brought Leonard Floyd and Von Miller back together, hoping for a Super Bowl result and a better pass rush.
Last season, the Buffalo Bills made it to the divisional round of the playoffs despite a pass rush that didn’t do very much. Buffalo ranked 14th in sacks, 14th in pressure rate, 13th in quarterback knockdown rate, and 15th in quarterback hurry rate. The Bills under former defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier also blitzed on just 18% of their regular-season defensive snaps, which ranked 27th in the NFL. Buffalo upped that to 21% in their two playoff game, but that amounted to just 18 plays.
You can expect more blitzing under head coach Sean McDermott, but personnel is an issue, as well. The Bills hoped that signing Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million contract with $45 million guaranteed before the 2022 season would add enough force to their fronts to avoid having to bring extra defenders.
Problem was, Miller saw action in just 11 games due to injury, and though he had good numbers when he was healthy (eight sacks, four quarterback hits, and 33 total pressures), the Bills weren’t that much better when he was on the field. Per Sports Info Solutions, their pressure rate was 37.1% with Miller and 34.6% without. Their sack rate was 7.2% with Miller, and 6.0% without. Their blown block sack rate was 4.3% with Miller and 3.3% without, but their blown block pressure rate was exactly the same with and without Miller — 15.8% either way.
On Monday, the Bills went outside the box from the pass-rushers they had, and signed a pass-rusher quite familiar with Miller, and vice versa. Leonard Floyd, the former Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams edge defender who was Miller’s bookend for the 2021 Super Bowl champion Rams, signed a one-year deal for a reunion that the Bills obviously hope will lead to a similar result.
Last season, without Miller, Floyd totaled nine sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 33 quarterback hurries; his 54 total pressures tied with Miami’s Bradley Chubb for 25th overall among NFL edge-rushers. With Miller in 2021, Floyd had 14 sacks, five quarterback hits, and 54 quarterback hurries; his 73 total pressures ranked eighth in the league.
Floyd would fit the old Bills schematic paradigm in that just two of his 2022 sacks came out of a blitz — more often, he was rushing from a wide formation in a four-man front and letting his speed to the pocket do the work. As he showed on this sack of Aaron Rodgers in Week 15, Floyd (No. 54) is very good at getting his hands in a tackle from those wide alignments, using a solid bull-rush, and working his way to the passer.
Floyd isn’t what you’d call a refined technician, but when you have this kind of burst to the pocket, you can get away with it.
The Bills’ hope is that they’ll see a lot of plays like this sack in the 2021 divisional round, when Floyd and Miller cut the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive line from the edges, and met at Tom Brady. This was especially tough because of the need to double-team that Aaron Donald guy, who the Bills do not have.
The Bills have made a lot of interesting moves along their defensive line this off-season; signing former Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford and agreeing to a new contract for defensive tackle among them. But the real need here is for explosive plays off the edge, and perhaps with Floyd and a healthy Von Miller in the same stable, that can come to life.