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Buffalo Bills still looking for the best offensive line combination

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Through 5 weeks it hasn't worked well, adjustments could be made

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have had struggles along the offensive line all season. Whether it be injuries or just not the right combination of all five guys, they have taken a step back from last season’s performance. Head coach Sean McDermott spoke to reporters about the offensive line on Monday, sharing his insight as the team heads into the bye.

One of the strangest moves was activating highly-paid left tackle Cordy Glenn, who is coming off a foot injury. While he was active, he only played four special teams snaps and didn’t get on the field on offense. With a bye this week, it might make sense if he wasn’t 100% to give him another game off to get him healthy after the bye. McDermott didn’t agree.

“Before what we did with Cordy was we brought him back, put him in the starting lineup, and we had some setbacks,” said McDermott, referencing Glenn’s return late in the preseason from a similar injury. “Right now it’s about taking a step. We felt a step was getting him in uniform, being the third tackle, warming up, getting his mind right about playing, and then we’ll go from there.”

McDermott wouldn’t commit to Glenn as the starter after the bye, though, something that raised eyebrows.

With Jordan Mills still looking like a liability at right tackle, Glenn or rookie Dion Dawkins may need to try and make the transition to the right side of the line. Seantrel Henderson comes back after the bye week against Tampa Bay. If he is able to return to his play from 2015, the problem at right tackle could solidify for the time being.

Those might not be the only changes on the offensive line. Right guard John Miller entered the starting lineup as a rookie in 2015 and hasn’t missed a start since that season. On Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Miller was a healthy scratch in favor of journeyman Vlad Ducasse.

“Just looking at combinations,” McDermott gave as the reason for the move. “Just looking to find the best combination. You try to find out your team, and you don’t at times know your full team until mid-October or late-October. So, when you’re going to play in late November and December you’ve got your guys. We were just looking at a combination there with Vlad (Ducasse).”

McDermott was asked whether the team needs to settle on a starting group of five in order to build some sort of chemistry. He answered in the affirmative, but gave a different timeline than most.

“Yeah, you’d like to [settle on a group for continuity],” he said. “You’d like to be able to go out there and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got 22. Eleven on offense, 11 on defense,’ and then you throw the 11 on special teams on top of that 22 and you say, ‘Hey, these are, we know what we’ve got.’ That’s not always the case early on in the process, when you’re trying to build, you’re developing a team, you’re adding pieces, taking pieces away, sometimes intentionally, sometimes due to injury. Yes, that is the ultimate goal that you can have that continuity and that chemistry that comes from that continuity. In this case, we haven’t had that, but that’s what we’re driving at is to find that combination and then build that continuity and the chemistry that comes from it.”

The rushing attack has taken a major step back from the previous under seasons under new offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison. Dennison has tried to install his outside zone run stretch plays as well as implementing what had worked, such as inside zone and trap plays. The line as a whole has had a hard time adjusting. The Bills have averaged just 3.4 yards per carry this year which is almost two full yards down from last year’s average at 5.3 YPC. 8.8 11.3

The running game has to improve to help open up the passing attack to help Tyrod Taylor and company who have already struggled to put up solid number thus far. Taylor has been sacked on 11.7% of his dropbacks in 2017, a big jump from 2016 (8.8%) and 2015 (8.7%).