All Buffalo Bills fans know that the team’s rushing attack was one of the best in the league last season. Much of the credit is given to LeSean McCoy, but according to Pro Football Focus, the big boys up front should get a healthy amount of praise as well. PFF took a look at how each team’s offensive line fared on different run concepts. Spoiler alert: the Bills did pretty well.
The Bills ranked first in this category (albeit with a low sample size) with 5.73 yards per carry and 2.77 yards before contact. The 5.73 yards per carry is almost two yards per carry more than the NFL average. Author Zoltán Buday notes that “the success of an outside zone play can largely depend on how the center executes a reach block.” Eric Wood and fill-in Ryan Groy are to thank for that.
The league, on average, was most successful on inside zones in 2016. Once again, the Bills came out on top with 5.38 yards per carry and 2.71 yards before contact.
For a third time, the Bills made the top five. This time they came in second with 5.23 yards per carry and 2.48 yards before contact. Here is where the skill set of McCoy (and Touchdown Mike) shows through the most. Shady and Co. were worth 2.75 extra yards after contact, the most of the top five teams.
Looking forward towards 2017
The Bills did well on the ground last year, but can they continue their success in 2017? Pro Football Focus tends to think so. In Michael Renner’s pre-season offensive line ranking he puts the Bills 10th— they finished 11th in PFF’s ranking at the end of 2016. Renner’s reason for bumping them up a spot is the hope that second round pick Dion Dawkins is better than the “wasteland” that has been the right tackle position.
Another point in favor of Bills continuing their success is their new offensive coordinator. Chris Trapasso examined this in more detail in March, but the major point is that Dennison runs a zone heavy offense—exactly what the Bills were best at in 2016. If Dennison and the Bills can continue what Anthony Lynn did best, then their run game will once again be one of the best in the biz, and the offensive line will be a major component of that.