Demetrius Bell gets a break from many Buffalo Bills fans that teammate Eric Wood is rarely afforded: both of these players were coming off of season-ending leg injuries suffered in 2009. Wood's injury was rather more gruesome than Bell's, and in fact took place later on in the season, but because Wood was often the Bills' best lineman last year, there's no need to bring the injury up.
The injury played a big role, I believe, in an up-and-down season for Wood. Particularly in pass protection, Wood was inconsistent in his second pro season. He frequently was walked backward into the pocket - a sign of a lack of overall strength that an off-season of rehab prevented him from adding. More obviously (and frustratingly), Wood really struggled with the spin move.
That issue blocking the spin move reared its ugly head in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, when Pat Sims burned Wood for a quick first-quarter sack on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Is it possible that Wood's leg injury was a root cause of this problem? Let's take a look.
Conducting a re-watch from the TV broadcast is difficult in particular when looking at linemen, because it's very difficult to gauge them from a technical standpoint watching from the side. As such, I'd seen Wood beaten by the spin move several times prior to this week, but never got a look at it from the end zone angle.
As you can see, Wood - lined up at right guard - is assigned to block Sims, playing the three-technique. (Right tackle Mansfield Wrotto will get the wide defensive end lined up outside of the tight end.)
After Fitzpatrick catches the shotgun snap, Wood immediately begins moving right, with his left leg - the one he injured - completely extended. He's reacting to a jab-step to the outside made by Sims, who hasn't moved much in the short amount of time after the snap.
As Sims begins his spin move, you can see that Wood has moved considerably to his right, mirroring Sims moving the same direction. He's playing with a more balanced base at this point, and a simple slide back to the left should negate the spin move...
... except he can't get there. Sims is already turning the corner, and Wood is left to merely lunge at him, as you can see below. (Yes, Fitzpatrick was sacked on the play.)
This was all too commonplace for Wood last season. I'm no expert in pass blocking techniques - and we can't even see his hands from this angle - but you have to imagine that this is something opponents picked up on, knew Wood was technically vulnerable to, and patiently waited to exploit when his guard was down a bit. Nearly every time he saw it, he was beaten on it.
Again, I am not an expert, but I have a theory, and I'm looking for folks better-versed in football techniques to either corroborate or correct said theory. I have a hard time believing - as seen in the second still - that Wood (like any lineman) was taught to fully extend his leg in that fashion. Pass protection is predicated on keeping balance in your base to block with as much power as possible, while also being agile enough to move around. It strikes me - again, as only a possibility - that the extended leg is indicative of Wood compensating for the injury sustained in 2009.
To me, it's feasible. But my technical football prowess is still developing - so please, by all means, someone with better credibility sound off on this. Either way, this is one move that Wood will need to improve against entering his third season, particularly if he's at center.