How the Bills can stop the Dolphins’ explosive passing game

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This seems entirely counter-intuitive. Speed receivers like Hill and Waddle use the threat of downfield acceleration to prevent cornerbacks from pressing them at the line. The thought there is that if you press these guys, and they put one move on you, it’s all over. That is certainly a legitimate threat as we have seen, but you aren’t in better shape playing Hill and Waddle in off-coverage. Especially in the Ravens game, we saw that speed receivers also gain acceleration in however many yards you give them as a cushion. And if those guys are running you vertically, and they change direction at all, you are equally hosed.

The only possible counter here is to at least force Hill and Waddle to push past the jams at the line before they get all vertical. The Bills do this well for two reasons: They have naturally aggressive press cornerbacks, and they have two outstanding safeties in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer to limit the damage downfield. Assignment-correctness with your deep defenders is crucial when facing deep receivers, and the Hyde/Poyer combo have this down to a science. Both Hyde and Poyer have been on the Bills’ injury list this week, but let’s assume they’ll both be in the game and playing at decent strength.

One reason you want to jam Hill and Waddle at the line is that it forces Tua Tagovailoa to re-set his clock — if you successfully alter their routes, the timing and rhythm of the play are different, and Tagovailoa is a timing-and-rhythm thrower above all else.

Tagovailoa also threw two interceptions against the Ravens, and this pick with 10:42 left in the first quarter on a target to Hill shows the value of pressing Hill even if the effect isn’t immediately obvious.

Hill (No. 10) greases cornerback Marlon Humphrey (No. 44) off the line with a foot-fake, but the timing of the play is affected. It’s a progression-read throw in which Tagovailoa starts to the right and hits Hill on the backside based on what he sees. Tagovailoa doesn’t have a lot of time to make any of those reads — he needs to be on a 1-2-3-throw schedule. When Hill comes back at the end of the route, Tagovailoa has him a beat late, and safety Marcus Williams  (No. 32) is able to jump it.

With Tre’Davious White still recovering from last year’s torn ACL, and Dane Jackson unlikely to play after last week’s frightening neck injury, it’ll be on two rookie cornerbacks — first-round pick Kaiir Elam and sixth-round pick Christian Benford — to take care of any outside press responsibilities.

Fortunately for the Bills, both rookies have proved capable of stacking up against NFL receivers in press coverage, and that has been true since the preseason.

Elam (No. 24) has already showed in the NFL what he proved at Florida — he’s a sticky, aggressive defender who has no fear pressing receivers at the line, and he excels in man and match concepts. This PBU against fellow rookie Alec Pierce of the Colts shows all his traits in a positive sense.

Benford, the Villanova alum, is another guy who isn’t afraid to press and attack receivers right from the snap. His pass breakup this preseason came against Colts veteran Michael Pittman, and it was impressive to see how Benford (No. 47) recovered from Pittman’s initial charge to reset and bat the ball away.

Obviously, Hill and Waddle present more grievous challenges. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Bills are completely hosed just because they’ve got a couple of rookies out there.

“It comes down to at the end of the day, just communication,” Poyer said this week. “Just making sure that us on the back end, we’re all on the same page. [The rookie corners], I trust them. I know that if I get a call, I can tell them a call and they’ll be able to execute it.”

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