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Evolution of the Bills' O-line


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I was looking at some stats from last season and saw that PFF had the Bills O-line a top 10 unit in 2020.  I went back and looked at the previous two seasons to see where the Bills' O-line had ranked.  I knew that first season would be bad.  One of my main recollections of the 2018 season was how terrible the O-line play was.  Beane, McDermott, and Bobby Johnson have made one hell of a turn around in three years going from the 26th ranked O-line to the 10th.  

 

From Beane going out and bringing in capable lineman, to luring Bobby Johnson here from the Colts after the 2018 season, it would be fair to lay a lot of the credit at Beane's feet.  I think Bobby Johnson deserves a lot of credit too.  When Beane poached Johnson from the Colts where he was the Assistant O-line Coach, the Colts had the 3rd ranked O-line in the NFL.  

 

Below are the PFF rankings from each of the last three seasons, along with their comments about the Bills' O-line that season, and a link to the articles so you can see where the other O-lines ranked.

 

2018;  Rank 26th

"Very similar to the Jets, there wasn’t much to get excited about with the offensive line in the preseason and their end of year ranking reflects that. If there was one silver lining, it’s that rookie guard Wyatt Teller only allowed eight pressures in his eight games this year."

https://www.pff.com/news/pro-2018-nfl-offensive-line-rankings-all-32-teams-units-after-week-17

 

2019; Rank 21st

"The Bills invested in their offensive line this offseason between free agency and the draft, and we’ve seen improvement from the unit over last season. Those additions along the line, combined with an emphasis on the short passing game and a resulting quicker release from Josh Allen, has lowered the signal-caller's pressure rate roughly seven percentage points from where it was last season. The Bills’ top pass blocker has been Dion Dawkins with a 76.4 pass-blocking grade."

https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-offensive-line-rankings-following-2019-regular-season

 

2020; Rank 10th

 

"The offensive line is just one example of how the Bills have done a tremendous job of building the right way around a young quarterback. They didn’t throw a lot of high-value resources at the offensive line, but they did take a fair amount of chances on players in free agency and continued to bring in guys who could contribute and eliminate areas of weakness.

A good example of that is right tackle Daryl Williams, who earned a 79.4 grade for Buffalo this season. Williams had a strong year at right tackle with the Panthers in 2017, but an injury-shortened 2018 campaign followed by a down year in 2019 across all four guard and tackle positions allowed the Bills to take a chance on Williams in free agency on just a one-year, $2.25 million contract. It’s safe to say that contract has paid off for Buffalo."

https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-final-2020-offensive-line-rankings

 

Look at this growth in Buffalo's O-line and contrast it with the Jets who also drafted a new franchise QB in 2018 and utterly failed to support him in any way with adequate O-line play.

 

Jets' PFF O-line rankings;

2018   25th

2019   28th

2020  29th

 

The Jets are once again back in the QB hunt spending more valuable draft capital and the Bills are looking to lock up Allen on a long term contract this off-season.  The importance of Beane completely revamping the O-line allowing Allen to develop into the QB he is today can not be overstated. 

 

We head into the 2021 season with the 10th ranked O-line intact and I would expect that they continue the trend and get better again this year.  Last year the O-line was a revolving door of starters and playing positions.  With a consistent starting five and the opportunity to play in their natural positions, I expect the O-line to take another step forward.  Kudos to management at OBD who took a team weakness, the O-line, and just like the WR corps, worked to transform it into a team strength.

 

Edited by Inigo Montoya
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Great breakdown.  Beane and the coaching staff have done a great job building a strong OL, and like you, I expect them to be even better this coming year.  Continuity and the potential of Cody Ford at OG are reasons for optimism.    

 

I'm interested to see who emerges as swing tackle...  low-key luxury this past year was having Nsehke in our back pocket, if needed.  

 

 

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i think our line did a tremendous job in pass blocking but kind of sacrificed run blocking to do so.  Neither singletary nor Moss were effective and i dont think it was really their fault, we just couldnt run block.  in the Playoffs i think Daboll and the coaches knew it which is why we went so pass heavy, which ultimately was our demise.  If we had been able to run in KC, we could have gone to the super bowl.  They need to improve run blocking this year to take the final step in the playoffs.   

Edited by Bill Murray
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The caveat here is that the run game in 2020 sucked. It’s hard to believe that the Bills are truly 10th in the league given this.  I get it that the Bills relied heavily on Josh’s arm and did well. However, I have to believe that the absence of a run threat hurt them, especially in the AFC championship game.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, Bill Murray said:

i think our line did a tremendous job in pass blocking but kind of sacrificed run blocking to do so.  Neither singletary nor Moss were effective and i dont think it was really their fault, we just couldnt run the ball.  in the Playoffs i think Daboll and the coaches knew it which is why we went so pass heavy, which ultimately was our demis.  If we had bee able to run in KC, we could have gone to the super bowl.  They need to improve run blocking this year.  

 

 

5 minutes ago, BuffaloBill said:

The caveat here is that the run game in 2020 sucked. It’s hard to believe that the Bills are truly 10th in the league given this.  I get it that the Bills relied heavily on Josh’s arm and did well. However, I have to believe that the absence of a run threat hurt them, especially in the AFC championship game.

 

I'm certain McDermott and Johnson will be all over run blocking this off season / pre season trying to shore it up.  Having someone like Brieda who is a threat to get around the edge should help.  I like Singletary and Moss but neither has the speed to really threaten the edge. That lack of speed allows defenses to stack the box a bit more.  If the defense needs to worry about outside containment more because of the speed of the RB, that should help spread the LBs out and create more space for the RBs to do their thing.

 

 

Edited by Inigo Montoya
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16 minutes ago, BuffaloBill said:

The caveat here is that the run game in 2020 sucked. It’s hard to believe that the Bills are truly 10th in the league given this.  I get it that the Bills relied heavily on Josh’s arm and did well. However, I have to believe that the absence of a run threat hurt them, especially in the AFC championship game.

 

Teams definitely keyed in on our inability to run in the playoffs.  Josh was under pressure a ton against Indy as well - only difference was he escaped almost every time they got close and Indy didn't employ the KC clutch/grab approach in the secondary against our banged up WR's.  

 

Josh masks some things, but if you watch OL play across the league... Our OL is absolutely top tier in pass pro.   Now, run blocking, we certainly need to figure that out.  ... A) so good teams can't tee off on Josh and B) because i am BEYOND sick of worrying about wind speed before every freakin home game.   

 

Edited by SCBills
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11 minutes ago, Bill Murray said:

i think our line did a tremendous job in pass blocking but kind of sacrificed run blocking to do so.  Neither singletary nor Moss were effective and i dont think it was really their fault, we just couldnt run block.  in the Playoffs i think Daboll and the coaches knew it which is why we went so pass heavy, which ultimately was our demise.  If we had been able to run in KC, we could have gone to the super bowl.  They need to improve run blocking this year to take the final step in the playoffs.   

 

 

I've defended the running backs plenty but to me it started out as almost entirely a blocking problem.......but the blocking got so inefficient and the RB's got so used to getting stoned at the LOS by an unblocked defender(s) that they eventually started anticipating being met at the LOS and stopped hitting the hole as hard.........compounding the issue.   You really can't be tentative running outside zone.  

 

We got a glimpse of it in the Miami game where Moss was tentative hitting the hole and left some yards on the table early in the game.........and then enter Antonio Williams hitting the hole hard like it's drawn up and some big plays followed.    Obviously the Dolphins had one foot out the door during that game but I think we still saw an example of how the impact of months of poor run blocking took it's toll on the individual effort of the RB's.

 

They gotta' clean that up.   I am sure they think adding the athletic Forrest Lamp at guard is a very good fit.   Obviously Breida is a proven 1-cut runner coming off a down year who projects nicely into the Bills system as well.

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21 minutes ago, Bill Murray said:

i think our line did a tremendous job in pass blocking but kind of sacrificed run blocking to do so.  Neither singletary nor Moss were effective and i dont think it was really their fault, we just couldnt run block.  in the Playoffs i think Daboll and the coaches knew it which is why we went so pass heavy, which ultimately was our demise.  If we had been able to run in KC, we could have gone to the super bowl.  They need to improve run blocking this year to take the final step in the playoffs.   

Beane brought this up in the post season PC, basically stated that the run blocking needed improvement, he did say that both RBs need to be better as well, but he did put the onus on the O line.  The run game scheming was not good and Beane’s comments alluded to as much, he put the offensive coaches on notice as well, as it were. 

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, BADOLBILZ said:

 

 

I've defended the running backs plenty but to me it started out as almost entirely a blocking problem.......but the blocking got so inefficient and the RB's got so used to getting stoned at the LOS by an unblocked defender(s) that they eventually started anticipating being met at the LOS and stopped hitting the hole as hard.........compounding the issue.   You really can't be tentative running outside zone.  

 

We got a glimpse of it in the Miami game where Moss was tentative hitting the hole and left some yards on the table early in the game.........and then enter Antonio Williams hitting the hole hard like it's drawn up and some big plays followed.    Obviously the Dolphins had one foot out the door during that game but I think we still saw an example of how the impact of months of poor run blocking took it's toll on the individual effort of the RB's.

 

They gotta' clean that up.   I am sure they think adding the athletic Forrest Lamp at guard is a very good fit.   Obviously Breida is a proven 1-cut runner coming off a down year who projects nicely into the Bills system as well.

 

I agree BADOLBILZ, I thought Antonio Williams really provided a spark and was running angry, something that we hadn't seen out of the backfield all season.  I was hoping he'd get some playing time in the playoffs but I don't remember him carrying the ball at all after the Miami game.

 

Edited by Inigo Montoya
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39 minutes ago, BuffaloBill said:

The caveat here is that the run game in 2020 sucked. It’s hard to believe that the Bills are truly 10th in the league given this.  I get it that the Bills relied heavily on Josh’s arm and did well. However, I have to believe that the absence of a run threat hurt them, especially in the AFC championship game.

 

Ever since I listened to a podcast with Eric Wood where he was talking about PFF OL grades and how they differ from the internal grades because PFF doesn't know what the assignment was, I consider PFF line grades with a large helping of skepticism. 

 

I do think the Bills did a good job building the OL, but I think it was better than 21st last season, and probably deserves to be worse than 10th this season taking into account the run blocking.

 

 

8 minutes ago, Inigo Montoya said:

 

I agree BADOLBILZ, I thought Antonio Williams really provided a spark and was running angry, something that we hadn't seen out of the backfield all season.  I was hoping he'd get some playing time in the playoffs but I don't remember him carrying the ball at all after the Miami game.

 

 

Williams was either on the practice squad or inactive for all of the playoff games.

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I think my perspective of the oline is that we have mostly decent starters. Our two starting tackles are above average. Morse is probably above average. We are below average at both guard spots. But we have great depth with little drop off with our backups.

 

I would like to see Beane continue to build the lines and upgrade spots, but the way he has built it means that there are no positional emergencies on the line, which is great.

 

I think part of seeing better oline grades from PFF falls on Josh Allen's shoulders, and how little we ran the ball. I think the Chiefs playoff game really showed that our oline is not really a top ten unit. They are average and can get abused by internal pressure.

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Leaving some critical data out in this analysis:

 

In 2018, Buffalo spent 11.38M to rank 30th in the NFL.  OL represented 6.03% of team cap dollars

That increased to 29.05M spent vaulting them to 12th and 14.5% of their cap.

In 2020, Bills OL spending increased to 36.25M to rank 3rd and was 16.4% of cap. 

 

Sure, some players like Dawkins who are homegrown received contract extensions and they should be credited for that.  But much of the rest of that OL is higher paid UFAs, which should provide better quality of play.  In 2020, I don't see them as having gotten their money's worth from the OL to spend what they did.

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7 minutes ago, BillsVet said:

Leaving some critical data out in this analysis:

 

In 2018, Buffalo spent 11.38M to rank 30th in the NFL.  OL represented 6.03% of team cap dollars

That increased to 29.05M spent vaulting them to 12th and 14.5% of their cap.

In 2020, Bills OL spending increased to 36.25M to rank 3rd and was 16.4% of cap. 

 

Sure, some players like Dawkins who are homegrown received contract extensions and they should be credited for that.  But much of the rest of that OL is higher paid UFAs, which should provide better quality of play.  In 2020, I don't see them as having gotten their money's worth from the OL to spend what they did.

 

 

How much does that change when you take Morse out of the mix? I believe they overpaid to get him - not faulting the Bills but that is what often happens when you pursue top FA’s

 

What is also lost in this analysis is that JA helped make them look better in 2020. His escapability is off the charts.

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27 minutes ago, BillsVet said:

Leaving some critical data out in this analysis:

 

In 2018, Buffalo spent 11.38M to rank 30th in the NFL.  OL represented 6.03% of team cap dollars

That increased to 29.05M spent vaulting them to 12th and 14.5% of their cap.

In 2020, Bills OL spending increased to 36.25M to rank 3rd and was 16.4% of cap. 

 

Sure, some players like Dawkins who are homegrown received contract extensions and they should be credited for that.  But much of the rest of that OL is higher paid UFAs, which should provide better quality of play.  In 2020, I don't see them as having gotten their money's worth from the OL to spend what they did.

Let me see, we spent the 3rd highest percentage in the NFL on our offensive line and:

- Finished tied for 2nd in total yards

- Finished second in total points

and finished (by virtue of losing a conference championship game) tied for 3rd in the NFL.

 

I think we got precisely our money's worth.

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12 minutes ago, BillsVet said:

Leaving some critical data out in this analysis:

 

In 2018, Buffalo spent 11.38M to rank 30th in the NFL.  OL represented 6.03% of team cap dollars

That increased to 29.05M spent vaulting them to 12th and 14.5% of their cap.

In 2020, Bills OL spending increased to 36.25M to rank 3rd and was 16.4% of cap. 

 

Sure, some players like Dawkins who are homegrown received contract extensions and they should be credited for that.  But much of the rest of that OL is higher paid UFAs, which should provide better quality of play.  In 2020, I don't see them as having gotten their money's worth from the OL to spend what they did.

 

Like most of the McBeane successes they failed first and then adjusted and done much better.

 

Beane tried to get by cheap with the OL in 2018........that whole free agent class they brought in was a disaster really..........and then had to throw the kitchen sink at the job to fix it in 2019.........and that lead to a lot of inefficiencies like over-drafting Cody Ford and having to overpay for Morse and a bunch of reserve quality OL in UFA.

 

I think they've honed down  the decision making now...........the initial Daryl Williams signing in 2020 was great value and the new deal looks good.......Feliciano deal looks reasonable for the quality of player.........the Forrest Lamp signing is potentially oustanding for the money as well.   

 

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19 minutes ago, RochesterLifer said:

Let me see, we spent the 3rd highest percentage in the NFL on our offensive line and:

- Finished tied for 2nd in total yards

- Finished second in total points

and finished (by virtue of losing a conference championship game) tied for 3rd in the NFL.

 

I think we got precisely our money's worth.

 

You can see what you want.  I merely applied a different metric to evaluate the supposed increase in caliber of play.

 

@BuffaloBill noted that Josh's escapability improves their performance.  You've concluded more points scored is a the positive effect of more OL spending.  Not quite.  I'd say Josh's ascendance to being a franchise QB largely contributed to that.  And, better skill position play.   

 

This is a fan message board, and I get that fans are gonna be less objective.  At the same time, Buffalo isn't going to have the luxury of spending big throughout this roster with Josh's contract forthcoming.  It may not seem like much to spend 4.5M in cap dollars on Jon Feliciano, but doing that enough times adds up.   

 

I remember back in the prime drought years fans jumped on here to remind other fans (when Buffalo didn't spend much) how UFAs wouldn't win titles.  That was true then and it's true now.  Difference is, now that the team is doing it, that's OK.  I look at the OL and they've got no less than 3 UFA starters on decent sized contracts for their position.  That isn't going to last because it can't.   

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1 minute ago, BillsVet said:

 

You can see what you want.  I merely applied a different metric to evaluate the supposed increase in caliber of play.

 

@BuffaloBill noted that Josh's escapability improves their performance.  You've concluded more points scored is a the positive effect of more OL spending.  Not quite.  I'd say Josh's ascendance to being a franchise QB largely contributed to that.  And, better skill position play.   

 

This is a fan message board, and I get that fans are gonna be less objective.  At the same time, Buffalo isn't going to have the luxury of spending big throughout this roster with Josh's contract forthcoming.  It may not seem like much to spend 4.5M in cap dollars on Jon Feliciano, but doing that enough times adds up.   

 

I remember back in the prime drought years fans jumped on here to remind other fans (when Buffalo didn't spend much) how UFAs wouldn't win titles.  That was true then and it's true now.  Difference is, now that the team is doing it, that's OK.  I look at the OL and they've got no less than 3 UFA starters on decent sized contracts for their position.  That isn't going to last because it can't.   

While Allen did indeed ascend to being our franchise QB. Would that have happened if our line didn't pass block extremely well? If Allen had the same ***** blocking he has had before this season, I'm not sure he would've done as well. With that said, I would have been okay if Feliciano wasn't paid. I just wanted Williams to be kept because we have had terrible luck finding a good RT. 

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9 minutes ago, BillsVet said:

This is a fan message board, and I get that fans are gonna be less objective.

This cracks me up. My response was meant partly in fun due to how the numbers matched up so evenly. However, because I think differently than you, I am less objective? This is sad and funny at the same time.

 

Grumble on, sir. You be you.

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1 hour ago, BillsVet said:

Leaving some critical data out in this analysis:

 

In 2018, Buffalo spent 11.38M to rank 30th in the NFL.  OL represented 6.03% of team cap dollars

That increased to 29.05M spent vaulting them to 12th and 14.5% of their cap.

In 2020, Bills OL spending increased to 36.25M to rank 3rd and was 16.4% of cap. 

 

Sure, some players like Dawkins who are homegrown received contract extensions and they should be credited for that.  But much of the rest of that OL is higher paid UFAs, which should provide better quality of play.  In 2020, I don't see them as having gotten their money's worth from the OL to spend what they did.

 

All fair points BillsVet.  

 

I agree that Beane identified the O-line as a big problem on this team and devoted a fair amount of resources to it, but I think it was a smart move to do so.  Look at Darnold and look at Allen.  I'm not going to state that O-line play is the main reason they went in opposite directions over the first three years of their careers, but I think O-line play certainly played a significant part.

 

I think Beane would prefer to build this team through the draft, but in this instance, he really had no choice but to build the line in free agency.  He didn't have multiple drafts to stock the O-line with talent and depth, and he didn't have the luxury of time while Josh Allen was trying to develop his game to wait on multiple drafts.

 

I think we will see some draft capital spent next week on a center who will hopefully step into Morse's shoes after this season.  If Ford, Boettger, Bates, and Lamp continue to develop we will see your vision of a young affordable O-line in front of Allen. Dawkins and Williams are locked in on reasonable tackle contracts.  The interior of the line should get better and hopefully less expensive going forward.  

 

Beane simply didn't have any choice but to build the roster the way he did and the results was a 13 win season and a trip to the AFC Championship game.  I'm hard pressed to find fault with Beane's strategy.

 

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