2022 NFL coaching changes: Buffalo Bills

2022 NFL coaching changes: Buffalo Bills

NFL Coaching Change with fantasy football impact

2022 NFL coaching changes: Buffalo Bills


Long-time NFL offensive coordinator Brian Daboll finally earned his shot at being a head coach when the New York Giants came calling, paving the way for the Buffalo Bills to look internally for his replacement. Quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey was promoted to the OC job, which will be his first experience as a pro play-caller.

Despite being a noob in this area, the former NFL QB has been in the league as a coach for eight seasons as a quarterbacks coach. Dorsey also served as a pro scout for the Carolina Panthers and an assistant athletic director for Florida International University. Joe Brady will replace him as the positional coach.

Dorsey has been instrumental in quarterback Josh Allen‘s development, and while the new OC came up under Mike Shula’s tutelage in Carolina, don’t expect this offense to stray a great deal from what has worked so well the last two years in Buffalo.

Dorsey helped put his stamp on 2021’s most prolific offense as he tacked on “passing game coordinator” to his duties. The key for Buffalo will be trying to keep continuity in place through the coaching change.

Coaching tendencies

It’s always tough to say with ironclad confidence just how much variance we’ll see out of Dorsey in relation to Daboll, but the degree of change shouldn’t be overly noticeable. What’s more difficult to predict is his in-game play-calling habits. Some coaches are great at scheming and drawing up plays but ultimately struggle to actually call the right plays in the heat of the moment. That’s not to say he will have a rough go of it, but it’s plenty fair to posit how long it will take to become a well-oiled offense.

A quick look at Daboll’s system should help give us some idea of what to expect from an overarching view. In the past two years, which are a better representation of his four seasons in Buffalo thanks to Allen having mastered the offense, the Bills ranked 11th in passing attempts in 2020 and fifth in ’21. As a result, we’re looking at the third-most yards and TD passes two years ago and the ninth-highest yardage output to go along with the seventh-most aerial strikes in 2021.

The rushing attack produced the sixth-most yards and ranked No. 7 in scores in a year ago. In 2020, Buffalo’s ground game was less prominently featured, generating the 20th-most yards on the 17th-most attempts. Fourteen teams produced more touchdowns from the backfield. But, even with all of the passing success, Daboll’s offense at its core loves to run the ball. The same can be said for Shula, Dorsey’s mentor. In the two years before Allen ascended to an elite level, the Bills ran the sixth-most times in consecutive seasons, and in Daboll’s nine seasons as an OC, his teams ranked sixth or better in attempts six times. The rankings of pass-to-run ratios the past three years in Buffalo: 10th (2021), 12th (2020) and 26th (2019).

The 40-year-old Dorsey is rooted in a run-based system. Some of it has been out of necessity, because NFL-caliber QBs aren’t exactly easy to come by, but Shula did have Cam Newton in his prime.

Below is a breakdown of Shula’s seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator. Take it with a grain of salt, since Dorsey is his own man and has a Ferrari at quarterback with a run-of-the-mill coupe in the backfield. Similarities in having mobile quarterbacks with defensive-minded bosses can be found.

Play-calling tendencies also greatly rely on the efficacy of a defense, and that shouldn’t be an issue in Buffalo.

Category TB (1996-99) CAR (2013-16 NYG (2018-19) Total
Yards 27 18 19 22
Points 25 13 14 18
TO margin 19 13 15 17
Rushing attempts 7 5 12 10
Rushing yards 13 7 11 12
YPC 18 14 12 14
Rushing TD 18 10 13 15
Passing attempts 28 25 20 23
Passing yards 29 24 21 24
Passing TD 19 14 14 16

What should be gleaned from this table? Dorsey, even with his background as a quarterback and QBs coach, cut his teeth in a run-heavy system during modern-era football and also went on to see the same situation play out in Buffalo as the team’s quarterback became more capable. Remaining balanced is in his coaching DNA, and if he gets away from it, don’t count on him lasting long in Western New York.

Personnel changes

The Bills currently sit nearly $3 million in the hole, but there won’t be much trouble restructuring a few deals to get under the salary cap and still have room to sign rookies.

As for free agents, veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders is set to become available, but there’s no urgency to re-sign him ahead of his age-35 season. Backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, RB Matt Breida, special teamer Taiwan Jones also are scheduled to hit the market. Left guard Ike Boettger will join them, and given Jon Feliciano‘s durability issues, re-signing the veteran reserve or adding more depth will be key to maintaining the positional strength.

Seven defenders are schedule for free agency, and six of them are along the defensive line. Buffalo should restock depth up front, but they could make a serious bid to renew Harrison Phillips if the money lines up. Expect cornerback Levi Wallace to be a coin flip for returning as his contract demands may exceed what the Bills can devote. All told, this team should return nearly intact on both sides of the ball with a hint of cap creativity.

Fantasy football takeaway

Allen should reprise his role as one of the three-best fantasy quarterbacks. His legs really make a difference, and that says something when talking about a guy who as at least 36 TD passes in consecutive seasons.

The backfield will be interesting to watch with a free-agent market that has some intriguing options to pair with 2021 breakthrough-lite Devin Singletary. After back-to-back years of mediocrity, he strung together seven straight games with 14.9-plus PPR points to close out the season. The Florida Atlantic product scored nine of his 11 TDs in that time (includes postseason). Singletary has season-long RB2 potential but likely shakes out as a third back in most formats.

Zack Moss was in and out of the gameday lineup as a healthy scratch, so his 2022 outlook is thick as mud for the time being. Moss is purely a flier for now.

Stefon Diggs figures to be a top-flight PPR receiver once again, and he’s safely placed among the five most important players at his position. Gabriel Davis is the real wild card among the fantasy prospects. He exploded in the AFC Divisional Round to the tune of four TDs but scored five times in the prior six contests after a forgettable opening three months to the campaign. If Buffalo doesn’t address this position with a clear-cut favorite, Davis will be a popular breakout candidate for more than a third of the season at a time. Cole Beasley‘s contract is in its final year, and he’s a favorite of Allen, so it will be a surprise if he’s not extended or restructured with a dummy year rather than being released. (March 4 update: Buffalo is accepting trade offers for Beasley, but he still could remain a Bill.)

Tight end Dawson Knox was one of fantasy’s most pleasant breakthroughs in 2021, and barring an injury derailing him, there’s no reason to expect a serious step backward. That said, he’s touchdown-dependent by nature, and the idea of him taking yet another step forward warrants healthy skepticism if one expects the first three receivers will excel. Either way, he’s still usually capped at being the third target-getter over the long run of 2022.

Expect little to change on the surface, and Dorsey’s comfort with Allen is the driving force behind it.


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