Bills training camp position preview: Can Spencer Brown bolster the offensive line?

0

This is the final article in our training camp position overview series. Catch up with the rest: Quarters | Half-officials | Wide receivers | tight ends

The Bills’ offensive line has taken different shapes since coach Sean McDermott took over in 2017. They’ve made smart, short-term investments along the way and have followed a similar path for 2022.

The team hopes the offensive line, under a new offensive coordinator and positional coach, can repeat the success of late last season. And if so, it will go a long way toward what the Bills hope will be a Super Bowl push.

What does the offensive line look like heading into summer and what potential pitfalls could there be this season? Here’s a detailed look at the Bills’ return for training camp in late July.

Projected depth table of the OL camp

Player

Left tackle

David Quessenberry

Luke Tenuta

left guard

Greg Van Roten

Tanner Owen

Ike Boettger (injured)

Center

Greg Mancz

Jacob Capra

right guard

Cody Ford

Derek Kerstetter

Right tackle

Tommy Doyle

Bobby Hart

Alec Anderson

What changed ?

It took until late December, but the Bills finally found their optimal offensive line in a game against New England. It all started after Ike Boettger suffered a season-ending injury and Dion Dawkins entered the game just days from the reserve/COVID-19 roster. The offensive line played at an almost dominant level that day with Dawkins, Ryan Bates, Mitch Morse, Daryl Williams and Spencer Brown. This same group continued with strong results throughout the playoffs and the rest of the season.

Bates has been a revelation, going from reserve to reliable starter in those six starts. The Bills were determined to keep him, matching the four-year restricted free agent offer sheet he signed with the Bears. The emergence of Bates also contributed to a change in the offensive linemen the Bills targeted during the offseason. They released guard Daryl Williams and signed veteran Rodger Saffold, a sportier option who can execute multiple blocking plans, to a one-year contract. Some depth players have also been signed with the same approach in mind. And the group will also be led by a new voice, with Aaron Kromer taking over as offensive line coach from Bobby Johnson. The Bills are hoping for a big leap in consistency this year after all these adjustments.

The biggest question

Will the Bills get the Spencer Brown early in his rookie season?

After just three weeks of below-average pass blocking on the right side of the line in 2021, the Bills decided they could no longer keep Brown on the bench. They moved Daryl Williams inside right guard and inserted Brown at right tackle. The first results were exceptional. Brown’s first three games brought something to the offensive line he was missing. His toughness and movement abilities made him a perfect fit for how the Bills structured their blocking plans.

However, once the Bills were eliminated in Week 7, Brown’s season turned upside down. The rookie missed the next two games through injury, had a strong outing in his first game back, then landed on the reserve/COVID-19 roster for two games. Brown returned in Week 13 but failed to achieve the same success as his first four games. He had a game at left tackle that went badly, but the inconsistency went much deeper than a game at a different position.

According to TruMedia and Pro Football Focus, Brown’s allowable rushing percentage increased to 6.8% from Week 13 into the playoffs. He was by far the highest of the Bills’ late-season starters and at least doubled the percentage of Morse (3%), Bates (2%) and Dawkins (1.8%). Closest to Brown over that span was Williams, who was still a long way off at 4.4%. For reference, Cody Ford, who the Bills benched last year, had an 8.3 allowed rushing percentage for the season.

The Bills need Brown to step up as a consistent pass protector in his sophomore season. If they get the player they were in their first four starts, this group has the potential to be the best offensive line quarterback Josh Allen has played behind. Brown is a locked-in starter to start the year as long as he’s healthy, and unless things go really badly, he’ll be their starter all season as well. If Brown is struggling significantly, veteran David Quessenberry is a legit backup option the Bills have brought in this year.


The Bills are looking to Cody Ford to establish themselves as the team’s top reserve inside offensive lineman. (Rich Barnes / USA Today)

Potential side battle

Cody Ford against the pitch

It doesn’t look like there’s a starting job up for grabs this summer with Bates and Saffold at guard, but it remains to be seen who will be the best interior reserve. Even after a disappointing third season in which he was benched, 2019 second-round pick Cody Ford has a tremendous opportunity to be the top backup option in 2022. He will need to defeat Greg Mancz and Greg Van Roten, two experienced players. players, be the first sub in any situation.

Even though Morse is injured, Bates has the experience to play center, so the Bills would only need a backup guard. Ford might also need to beat Quessenberry, who is primarily a tackle but has some guarding experience. Without an option set, there could be concerns about moving from starter to first reserve. Either way, the Bills will need one of those inside players to step up and fill any potential talent gaps.

bubble watch

Greg Mancz, Greg Van Roten and Luke Tenuta

The Battle of Gregs features two veteran players who could fight for a spot on the roster. Both players are versatile enough to play a cross, increasing their value but possibly neutralizing the other. The other name to watch is rookie offensive tackle Luke Tenuta. General manager Brandon Beane passed on a sixth-round pick over Tenuta, and knowing how well he’s protected his offensive linemen in the past, that could lead to a development spot on the 53-man roster for the rookie. Much like Brown and Tommy Doyle, Tenuta is massive at 6-foot-8 and 319 pounds.

dormant potential

David Quessenberry

After the generally accepted starting five, the offensive lineman who built a solid record in offseason practices was veteran offensive tackle Quessenberry. He gave the Bills plenty of good reps to watch as Spencer Brown was injured. Quessenberry was a starter all year last season with the Titans and has had six starts in 2020. He could also have some versatility to slip inside to guard if the Bills believe he is their sixth-best player in the league. offensive line. If there’s an injury or if Brown struggles in his second season, Quessenberry could get some playing time in 2022.

Who makes it and why?

Dion Dawkins, Rodger Saffold, Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, Spencer Brown, Cody Ford, David Quessenberry, Tommy Doyle, Greg Mancz, Luke Tenuta

The team has six locks with Dawkins, Saffold, Morse, Bates, Brown and Doyle. Doyle has shown enough promise in his freshman season and this spring and may even challenge Quessenberry for the role of primary reserve tackle. Ford and Quessenberry are likely next level for the 53-player roster, but neither player is safe from being cut or traded as they are both on expiring contracts. From there it comes down to Mancz, Van Roten, Tenuta and Bobby Hart for maybe a spot or two. The Bills have about $200,000 more in guaranteed money invested in Mancz than Van Roten, so Mancz has the advantage at the moment. Tenuta is also sticking to this stage due to the time it takes to develop offensive linemen and Beane’s commitment to doing so with one of their last roster spots. The Bills could leave Tenuta if he completely fails during preseason and training camp.

(Top photo by Spencer Brown: Rich Barnes/USA Today)

Share.

Comments are closed.