Baltimore Beatdown talked with Buffalo Rumblings blogger Brian Galliford about this week's game between the Ravens and the BIlls. Keep on reading to get some great insight on Baltimore's opponent.
Baltimore Beatdown: C.J. Spiller was expected to have a breakout campaign but has been held in check statistically, it would appear. On top of that, it looks like Fred Jackson is still getting quite a few carries. Where do you see the running back situation heading from here?
Brian Galliford: When the Bills have had both backs healthy and clicking this year, it's been roughly a 60/40 split between Spiller and Jackson in favor of the former. Jackson comes in on passing downs as he's a savvy receiver and an excellent pass protector, and he's also the short-yardage back. The Bills have missed some opportunities out of the read-option and teams are really game planning to eliminate Spiller, and with the offensive line struggling a bit, it's all added up to a slow start for the star tailback.
BB: With the Bills ranking 30th against the run, what have been the biggest issues up front? Do you think Baltimore's lack of a running game demonstrated thus far could be just what Buffalo needs to get back on track this week?
BG: Buffalo's run game woes are self-inflicted. They don't play consistently well at the point of attack, which leads to some occasional gashes up the middle. They're also prone to making mistakes in contain; they allow too many runs to get outside, and they'll overrun cutback lanes and give up additional yardage, as well. By and large, this run defense has the potential to be much better than any run defense the Bills have had in recent memory; they're just springing too many leaks right now. If Bilal Powell can run all over the Bills, so can Bernard Pierce - and Ray Rice could have a field day if he plays.
BB: How has E.J. Manuel progressed so far through three games? From an outsider's perspective, he looked pretty good the first two weeks before struggling against the Jets. Do you see some significant improvement even with the loss last week?
BG: It's easier to argue that he's regressed. He was pretty good against New England, then so-so against Carolina until a game-winning drive with under two minutes remaining. Last week he was awful against the Jets, taking eight sacks and completing just 19-of-42 throws. He's not seeing the whole field, his offensive line is not playing well, and he's still a work in progress technically. When he sees something early and knows what to expect, he's been pretty deadly. For now, the key seems to be to give him something he's not expecting or hasn't seen before. He hasn't made many mistakes, but his efficiency dips dramatically in those circumstances.
BB: With Jairus Byrd missing the first few games, what would it mean to get him back on the field this week? And are the fans expecting him to return this week?
BG: Byrd has been limited in every practice he's participated in this year, and with that not changing this week, I don't expect him to be on the field on Sunday. We're not sure what it will look like when he returns, either — he missed all of training camp, and hasn't played a live down for Mike Pettine yet, even in exhibition action. Quite frankly, we're much more concerned about getting Stephon Gilmore back onto the field.
BB: How important will it be for Mario Williams to get pressure on Joe Flacco? Williams had the 4.5-sack performance against Carolina and is a guy that can wreak havoc at any time.
BG: Buffalo's pass rush seems to fluctuate based on how well Williams is playing. They're not as reliant on him as they were last year - Pettine's defense is aggressive, and dials up blitzes frequently - but obviously when your best pass rusher is performing well, it makes it a lot easier for the rest of the team to make plays. He sprained an ankle late in Week 3, and while he's expected to play, a repeat of the Carolina performance is probably a bit far-fetched.