This new weekly column will illustrate the Buffalo Bills’ top-five ranked players each week according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Pro Football Focus is a company that dissects every snap from every game and determines a numerical grade out of 100 to provide its readers with a better understanding of how each player performs on a weekly or yearly basis.
Let me start out by apologizing for not starting this weekly column after Week 1. For those who are curious how those slaughterings of the Buffalo Bills looked in the eyes of Pro Football Focus (PFF) here you go:
*All stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
A couple of not so great performances by the boys in blue.
This week, however, against the Minnesota Vikings was an entirely different story. Buffalo came into the matchup 16.5 point underdogs and pulled off the biggest upset the NFL has seen since 1995.
Here are PFF’s top five performances from Week 3.
Jerry Hughes: 93.4
To anyone who saw the game on Sunday, Jerry Hughes being at the top of this list shouldn’t shock you. The veteran pass rusher was in Kirk Cousins’ grill all game long– and he wasn’t rushing against no slouch either.
Minnesota’s blindside protector Riley Reiff is a six-year veteran of the league that had only allowed four quarterback pressures coming into the game and had a pass blocking rating of 83.0 in Week 1 and 81.3 in Week 2. Week 3 was a little less flashy. His rating was 50.3 with 12 pressures against. Safe to say Hughes won that battle, and the stats agree with the eye test.
For those scoring at home, Hughes rushed the passer on 40 of his 45 snaps, defended the run in three and dropped into coverage twice.
Hughes had a team-leading 13 quarterback pressures resulting in 10 hurries. Both of which were league highs this week to go along with two QB hits, a sack and a forced fumble. This combination of stats earned Hughes the second best defensive grade in the entire league in Week 3.
Why are hurries and pressures so important? It’s because it forces quarterbacks into making early or ill-advised throws. Cousins was atrocious in the first half and finished the game with a 48.1 passing grade.
Granted, the Vikings were playing from behind the entire game so the run-to-pass ratio was off the charts inflating those numbers a tad. But nonetheless, Hughes pinned back his ears and was the most dominant player on the field.
Lorenzo Alexander: 90.5
If you’re just looking at the box score it would seem like Alexander had a pedestrian day. The 35-year-old outside linebacker recorded a single assisted tackle and recovered a fumble. Sure, the fumble recovery was good but that could be chalked up to him being in the right place at the right time.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what made Alexander’s performance on Sunday so great.
The Bills linebacker had 39 snaps, often being subbed out for certain nickel packages. He made the best of those snaps pressuring the quarterback nine times, which accounted for 23 percent of the time he touched the field. Not too shabby.
For a better view of how disruptive Alexander’s day was, he ranked second in the league in both pressures and hurries to his teammate Hughes. Both of whom were more productive than Chris Long, Khalil Mack and J.J. Watt when rushing the passer.
Always keep in mind that football is a team game and some stats don’t show up in the box score.
Micah Hyde: 89.6
Pro Football Focus ranked Micah Hyde as the third-best safety in Week 3 behind Eddie Jackson and Earl Thomas.
Hyde played all 66 snaps for the Bills defense on Sunday and was a major contributor in the secondary for stalling the Vikings’ lethal passing attack.
Earlier I alluded to the Vikings slinging the rock all game long due to the fact that they were playing catch-up. That caused for Hyde to play the most coverage snaps of anyone else in football last week.
Hyde was only targeted five times in a game where Kirk Cousins threw 55 passes. That in itself tells you the respect quarterbacks have for the Bills safety. Of those five targets, he allowed four completions for a measly 20 yards of offense and recorded three of his seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Hyde and Poyer proved to be a top safety tandem last season and it seems like they’re trying to make it an annual thing.
Tremaine Edmunds: 85.8
This was by far the best game of Edmunds’ young career which earned him the honors of being ranked in the top five amongst linebackers.
After coming off a week against the Chargers, where he was picked apart in the passing game by Phillip Rivers, Edmunds hunkered down and played a lot better in coverage against the Vikings.
Last week he allowed 10 catches for 111 yards with 73 yards coming after the catch. He did a much better job this week keeping defenders in front of him and closing in on them earlier only allowing 25 extra yards off of seven catches.
Edmunds also registered a game-high 10 total tackles and was acknowledged for two quarterback pressures. Not to mention he laid a bone-crushing hit on a Viking receiver which helped cause an interception.
It seems like Edmunds is starting to get the hang of things here in Buffalo.
Trent Murphy: 79.3
Murphy rounds out this week’s top five and considering how dominating the defense was it’s not a surprise the Bills top five came from that side of the ball.
The newly signed defensive end came to the Bills with so much promise but couldn’t get healthy during training camp and struggled mightily the first two weeks. This game was a coming out party for the Stanford alum.
Murphy was utilized as a rotation piece and was given 33 snaps. He recorded three quarterback pressures and two hurries to go along with his three total tackles. The veteran pass rusher also recorded his second sack of the season resulting in a forced fumble.
The athletic defensive end also dropped into coverage three times and didn’t allow his receiver to catch the only ball thrown his way.
All-in-all the Bills defense was absolutely outstanding on Sunday. It showed on the field, in the box score and through the advanced analytics.
Oh, and for those wondering how Josh Allen graded out? He was Buffalo’s top-rated offensive player at 76.0.
Make sure to keep an eye out for next week’s grades to see which Bills performed the best against the Green Bay Packers.