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Jordan Mills impressing at right tackle

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The 2015 mid-season addition looks to lock down a starting role for good.

When the 2015 season ended, a player who was not even on the 53 man roster to begin the season was the starting right tackle. While this doesn’t usually bode well for a team or for the player in question, Jordan Mills has made the most of his opportunities, and continues to draw praise from his teammates. In a piece by Jay Skurski, Mills is discussed as the present starter at the position, and his quarterback gives him some strong praise. “He’s been playing well since he got here,” Tyrod Taylor said of the man who’s been protecting his sighted-side since game 13 of last season. Any quarterback will say that the only reason he can do his job effectively is a solid offensive line, and one of the best ways to ensure better play on the line is to ensure continuity. When the unit works as a whole, and each man understands not only his assignments, but how the man next to him will react to his, that unit can focus more on doing its job than on wondering where its individual parts will be.

Center Eric Wood, for one, mentioned the importance of cohesion among line mates in Skurski’s piece.

“There’s a lot of verbal and non-verbal communication that goes on between an offensive line, and to already have that established is valuable. We’re comfortable in the offense. Last year, we were really focusing on learning the plays. At this point, we know most of the plays. We’re putting in some new stuff – we always want to keep expanding – but for the majority, we know it.”

The Bills are banking on this cohesion leading to better results in 2016 than they had in 2015. The offensive line as a whole ranked well below-average in PFF’s adjusted line yards (23rd) and pass protection (27th) metrics. Individually, Mills ranked only 47th out of 76 tackles measured. With Seantrel Henderson battling illness and Cyrus Kouandjio battling a combination of injury and ineffectiveness, the job seems to be Mills’ to lose; however, Rex Ryan has not committed to a starter at the position. Mills, for his part, is not taking anything for granted. “I can’t worry about any competition,” Skurski quoted him as saying. “I just have to worry about doing my job to the best of my abilities. If I do that, things will take care of themselves.”

Mills has the chance to show that playing with a new unit and small sample size had more to do with his negative PFF grades than poor play. He did not show well in his early starts (weeks 14 and 15, for example, saw him rack up a -7.7 rating), but improved by the end of the season. He is still very young (25 years old), so he has time for the proverbial light bulb to go on. His continued improvement would solidify what could potentially be a fantastic unit, especially if second-year man John Miller continues to develop, as well. If the early returns are any indication, Mills is on his way to doing just that in 2016.