The Buffalo Bills’ 2015 season has come to an end. Despite high expectations heading into the year, the team stumbled to an 8-8 finish. However, while there are obvious holes on the team that need to be cleaned up, the team had some very bright spots that are encouraging when looking towards 2016.
Last year the defense dominated while the offense sputtered, while this year’s offense was one of the best in recent franchise history, as Rex Ryan couldn’t get the production he wanted out of his system.
Now that the season’s over, let’s take a look at some of the advanced statistics for the Bills’ offense, defense and special teams in order to see where they can improve for next year.
The 2015 Bills finished the year with 5,775 yards in total offense—the fourth-highest in franchise history, and the most since 1992.
Buffalo’s run-heavy offense was efficient, averaging 5.7 yards-per-play, the eighth-highest total in the league in addition to adding 2.08 points-per-drive (11th) and .23 touchdowns-per-drive (7th).
Tyrod Taylor was one of the more impressive passers in the league, despite the fact that he didn’t put up gaudy statistics that we’ve become accustomed to over the last few seasons. He completed 63.7% of his passes for 3,035 yards, 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions—the fewest among qualifying quarterbacks. His 8.0 yards-per-average ranked fifth. While his stat line doesn’t indicate it, Taylor was asked to push the ball down the field at a high rate, with 18.2% of his pass attempts traveling 20+ yards in the air, the highest total in the league. He connected on 55.3% of them (6th) for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns (2nd).
In a league where most offenses are designed for the quarterback to get the ball out quickly on shorter underneath routes, Taylor routinely worked the entire field, as 63.9% of his yards came before the catch, ranking second in the league.
Buffalo’s offensive line struggled mightily in pass protection, particularly on the right side, where there was a constant shuffle due to injuries. As the table below shows, Taylor was pressured on a regular basis. He was at fault himself for staying in the pocket too long or looking for a play that wasn’t there, but he was pressured on 37.9% of his passes. However, his 55.3 completion percentage when pressured ranks sixth-best among qualifying quarterbacks.
The Bills lead the league in rushing, gaining 2,432 yards on 509 attempts. They led the league in rushing touchdowns with 19 and in yards-per-carry at 4.8. Even more impressively, if you remove the QB Kneels, Sneaks, and WR runs, the Bills’ rushing total would be 474 attempts for 2,435 yards (5.1 yards-per-carry).
The team had three 500+ yard rushers in LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams and Tyrod Taylor, while Mike Gillislee—who’s been on the team for just a few weeks—managed to gain 267 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries (5.7 YPC).
Karlos Williams was one of the bigger surprises of the season, as the rookie fifth-round draft pick made an immediate impact, scoring in each of his first six games. He finished the season with 517 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. His 5.6 yards-per-carry average ranks 3rd-best among qualifying running backs, while his 2.94 average yards gained after contact is fourth-best. He forced 19 missed tackles on his 93 carries, while picking up at least 15 yards on seven different occasions, making him 9th in ProFootballFocus’ “Elusive Rating” metric.
LeSean McCoy was banged up throughout the year but he still managed to lead the team in rushing, gaining 895 yards and three touchdowns on 202 carries. He gained 414 yards after contact and his 34 forced missed tackles were the ninth-most of 54 qualifying running backs He had 14 carries gain at least 15 yards, the seventh most in the league.
As a whole, the Bills gained 122 first downs on the ground (3rd) and had 70 carries of 10+ yards (1st)
Rex Ryan came to the Bills with a track record of dominating defenses with a variety of exotic blitzes ran from multiple formations. The group was coming off a season in which they ranked among the top 5 in nearly every defensive category. Unfortunately, the Bills’ defensive linemen weren’t able to thrive in the way they had over the last two years.
The Bills finished the 2015 season with just 20 sacks, 56 QB Hits and 159 hurries. In 2014, ProFootballFocus credited them with 61 sacks, 51 QB Hits and 175 hurries. In total passing yards allowed, the Bills ranked 19th in the league, surrendering 3,972 yards through the air. However, they held opposing passers to a 57.6 completion percentage, the 3rd-best in the league, while the 6.8 yards-per-attempt gained on passes was good for 9th-best.
Rookie Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore were playing at a high level for the first 12 weeks of the season, combining to allow opposing wideouts to catch just 88 passes on 168 targets (52.3%) for 1,106 yards (6.5 YPA) and six touchdowns, while intercepting five passes and breaking up 23 more, holding passers to a 72.4 passer rating.
When they went down with injuries, the already inconsistent defense regressed as reserve defensive backs Baccari Rambo, Leodis McKelvin, Mario Butler, and Duke Williams combined to allow 9 of the team’s 30 total touchdowns surrendered. The team did intercept 17 passes, the 6th-most in the NFL and the 106 passes defensed ranked 2nd.
The Bills gave up 59 explosive plays in the passing game—throws that go for 20+ yards, the 4th most in the league, with 15 touchdowns coming on them as well.
The Bills’ run defense took a step back in 2015, surrendering 1,730 yards (13th) and 10 touchdowns (10th) at a 4.4 yards-per-carry average (24th). They allowed opponents to convert 22.1% of rushes for first downs, which ranked 16th in the league. The nine rushes of 20+ yards or more allowed were 10th most, while 17 went for 15 or more yards. In short-yardage situations, the Bills had a power success rate of just 71%, 26th-worst in the league and stuffed just 16% of runs at, or behind the line of scrimmage, 30th in the league.