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Analysis: Buffalo Bills offensive line up and down against Philadelphia Eagles

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As anyone who watched the Buffalo Bills’ preseason game this past Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles knows, there were many problems on offense for Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor’s struggles against the Eagles are well documented, but this article will focus on the starting offensive line and how they performed.

Note: All-22 video is not available for the preseason, so I had to use the broadcast angle instead.

FIRST DRIVE

1st play: Cutback run by LeSean McCoy. This run is all Shady. The entire offensive line is either at the line of scrimmage or behind it, indicating a severe lack of push. What does happen, however, is that on the backside of the play, there is a massive hole that LeSean is able to find and exploit. One of the best backs in the league makes the line look good here.

2nd play: Shady is stuffed in the backfield. Jordan Mills allows Graham into the backfield and tries to chip on Cox before getting to the second level. Eric Wood pulls on the play and his job is to get to and seal off Graham. That does not happen, however, as Graham easily sheds the block and lays the hit on McCoy for a loss.

3rd play: Tipped pass at the line of scrimmage results in an interception. Philly, which blitzed quite frequently in the game, sends the safety on a blitz. Both Wood and Mills are driven straight back into the pocket, but it is Mills’ man who deflects the pass, which results in the turnover.

FIRST DRIVE REVIEW: This was an extremely poor three plays for the OL. The only positive play was a result of great vision by LeSean and the two plays that followed were negative as a direct result of poor blocking.

SECOND DRIVE

1st play: If there were such a thing as a pancake for defensive linemen, Fletcher Cox would have had one on this play. Vlad Ducasse, subbing in on the right side at guard, is absolutely destroyed by Cox, who drives the him straight into Taylor, resulting in an incompletion. The rest of the pocket was actually solid, but pressure up the middle will always ruin passing plays.

2nd play: Easily the best job so far by the line. Tyrod has a clean pocket to step into, but is nearly picked off by Darby anyway.

3rd play: This is another great example of how for an offensive line to be successful, all five guys need to perform well. Out of shotgun, the Eagles only rush four, but Cox is the one who blows the play up. This time it was Wood who was the victim. Wood and Cox first lockup at the 22.5-yard line, and Cox proceeds to drive him back to the 18, where Tyrod is just about ready to deliver his pass. With Cox and Wood right in his way, Tyrod cannot step into his throw, which results in an incompletion to an open Charles Clay.

SECOND DRIVE REVIEW: Compared to the first drive, these three plays were much better. Fletcher Cox showed why he is one of the best interior linemen in the league by single-handedly ruining two passing plays.

THIRD DRIVE

1st play: This is the first play where I really miss the NFL not providing All-22 film for preseason games. The action of the play sees the entire offensive line flowing right with Richie Incognito looking for someone in the second level to hit. That makes me think this was a designed cutback run, but again a few problems resulted in a play that wasn’t all it could have been. Seantrel Henderson ends up on the ground attempting to get to his man, while Clay is unable to get his body between McCoy and his man. Because of that, Curry is able to get inside, limiting Shady’s cutback angle. That coupled with Henderson lying on the ground and the underrated Malcolm Jenkins makes the tackle for a minimal gain.

2nd play: Fantastic blocking by most of the line springs McCoy for a first down. Jonathan Miller and Wood do a good job of double-teaming their man before Miller peels off to stop the backer. Mills gets thrown aside like a rag doll, which almost blows the play up, but Shady puts a foot in the ground and gets up field where the Wood/Miller block combined with Incognito stone-walling his man allow the big run.

3rd play: This is a tough play to diagnose. Traditionally with screens, pressure is supposed to happen, but when you look at the play and see Nick O’Leary and Mills chasing/looking at the defender in Tyrod’s face, I tend to think it was a blown block. That pressure, based on my assumption of a blown block, makes Taylor dump the ball off to Clay quicker than he wants to. If he had been able to hold onto the ball for even a second longer, Henderson and Wood were on their out to pick up Hendricks, who ends up making the play on Clay for the loss.

4th play: The offensive line does what they need to do on this play. Yes, there is a delayed corner blitz that allows Taylor to get hit, but No. 5 stands tall and delivers a strike to Clay. Some may lay the blame on Mills for not picking up the corner, but the defensive back did not show his hand until the last second. Sometimes, you just tip your cap to the scheme and play of the other team.

5th play: A run play where is little to no push from the offensive line, but the main culprit here is Henderson. Henderson and Incognito start off with a double team of Tim Jernigan before Richie gets to the next level. When Incognito peels off, however, Henderson is not in good position to at least keep Jernigan at bay. Jernigan is able to ride Henderson to the hole, where he and Corey Graham combine for the stop.

6th play: Not the best series of plays here for Henderson. Derek Barnett is able to get inside of Henderson on his pass rush, which forces Tyrod to scramble out of the pocket. Coupled with that, Henderson was called for a hold on the play, which was declined. The rest of the line formed a solid pocket.

7th play: Offensive line does their job here as Tyrod has an extremely clear pocket to scan the field. He drops a pass off to Clay short of the first.

THIRD DRIVE REVIEW: On a positive note, it was a sustained drive for the Buffalo offense. There were some bright spots (the blocking to set up McCoy’s run, some clean pockets for Tyrod) but just a few breakdowns by one man leads to negative plays that kill drives. Henderson in particular had a tough go this series. Richie just keeps on doing what he does: his job at a high level.

FOURTH DRIVE

1st play: Just a mess on this play. While Henderson’s man appears to apply the pressure that forces Tyrod to flee the pocket, new right tackle Dion Dawkins gets beat inside badly, which is really what causes the scramble. Because Dawkins gets beat inside, Tyrod is unable to step up into the pocket and is forced to scramble right. Therefore, while watching live I assumed it was Henderson’s fault, the review showed that a bulk of the blame should be placed on Dawkins’ shoulders.

FOURTH DRIVE REVIEW: Dawkins and Henderson both appear to lose their respective battles, but multiple views of the play show that Dawkins was the reason for the scramble.

FIFTH DRIVE

1st play: Fullback Ryan DiMarco hold negates solid run by Shady. Second go at first down, screen to Shady results in the best block of the night by Incognito who just manhandles Kendricks in the open field. Although that block deservedly received much of the praise (and GIFs), Wood does a superb job of getting a hit on his man, which allows McCoy to cut back to the middle of the field.

2nd play: While I have been hard on Henderson so far, I want to give him credit for being able to get out in front of Curry enough on the toss play to negate his impact on the play. That is not an easy block. The same cannot be said for Vladimir Ducasse, however, who is extremely slow getting to the second level for his block. His target on the play, Bradham, is the one who makes the play on Williams. Ducasse’s poor play coupled with the draft benefits of cutting him and a few other players make him a likely cut.

3rd play: The Eagles only send four on 3rd and 7, and the line holds up, allowing Tyrod to step up and hit Zay Jones on the sideline for a first down.

4th play: Although a few yards are gained on this play, the blocking was subpar at best. Dawkins once again is easily beat inside, but the play is away from him thankfully. Incognito gets a hat on Bradham, but cannot hold the block and the same goes for Henderson. Henderson’s man is the one who makes the stop.

5th play: Quick drop and release by Tyrod, which is able to happen because the offensive line holds up well despite the Eagles sending five rushers.

6th play: If you simply look at the play-by-play, you will see that there was a completion to Anquan Boldin and a roughing the passer call that resulted in a first down. Review of the play, however, shows that Wood gets beat badly by Vaeao, which allows Tyrod to get hit. The rest of the line did their job.

7th play: Sloppy penalty by Boldin negates well-blocked play-action pass for a first down. On the replay of the down, Dawkins once again allows pressure inside, but Tyrod is able to get the pass off. Dawkins’ play so far is worrisome and makes me think of Cyrus Kouandjio, which we know is not a good thing.

8th play: Quick pass by Tyrod, not much to analyze here.

9th play: Another nice pocket is provided by the line.

FIFTH DRIVE REVIEW: For the most part, negative plays were not present on this drive and, surprise, it ended with points. Obviously, it is very early in his career, but Dawkins is already starting to worry me with his play.

SIXTH DRIVE

1st play: Ugh, I hate it when the camera is late getting to the start of the play. The first second or two of this play cannot be seen thanks to a late jump by the TV crew. Given that, I can’t fully assess this play, but based on where linemen are and what happens once the right camera is on the broadcast, it looks like Miller missed a block, which resulted in a minimal gain by running back Mike Tolbert.

2nd play. Very nearly a pick-6 by Tyrod, but that is not the fault of the OL. There are clear passing lanes and no pressure on No. 5. Solid job by the big uglies.

3rd play: Philadelphia sends a delayed blitz, which is actually picked up pretty well. There is a mass of bodies up the middle and with no contain outside, Tyrod simply tucks the ball away and scampers for a first down.

4th play: Tyrod has all day to throw. Again, the inaccurate throw is not a result of poor blocking. That is squarely on the shoulders of Tyrod.

5th play: Wow. Another play where an interior defensive linemen for the Eagles just treats our o-line like a traffic cone. This time it is Miller who is thrown back into Taylor’s face. Rough game so far for the third-year guard.

6th play: Philadelphia sends seven on 3rd-and-10, but it is poor blocking from two players that turns this play into a sack. For the most part, the blitz was picked up well. Mills, however, ends up on his stomach looking at Chris Long get after Taylor. Tolbert also wasn’t able to hold onto his block on the blitzing Kendricks. Those two errors are what results in the sack and turnover on downs.

SIXTH DRIVE REVIEW: It was a roller coaster drive for the linemen. They provided a couple of nice pockets for Tyrod, but at the same time missed some blocks that resulted in no gains or negative plays. The inconsistencies are maddening. This was also the last drive for the starting linemen.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE

The game started off extremely shaky with no push on running plays and an inability to provide a pocket and passing lanes for Taylor. There was some improvement as the first half progressed, but I think that the absence of Glenn is starting to show the lack of depth at the tackle position. Miller, Mills, and Henderson all struggled and considering that Miller and Mills will probably open the season as starters, that is worrisome. Wood had a few breakdowns, but we know that that is an aberration, not the norm. Richie, as usual, was the star of the night. He did his job and even provided a nice highlight with his block of Kendricks in the open field on a screen pass.