A story that’s definitely flying under the radar this week is that the Buffalo Bills will be starting newly acquired quarterback Derek Anderson against the Indianapolis Colts this week. Anderson has a few cards stacked against him this week and the anticipation is that the Bills will rely heavily on their running game. The logical counter by the Colts will be to muck up the running lanes with nose tackle Al Woods. The starting tackle hasn’t broken the 60% barrier in snaps this year, but may do so courtesy of the Bills “not quite perfect” quarterback situation.
There’s a few parallels between the Colts’ defense and that of the Bills. Under that lens, Al Woods’ closest comparable player is Star Lotulelei. Like Lotulelei, he’s often asked to occupy two lineman to create opportunities for others. On this play, Woods shows good aptitude for the job, making two Jets linemen back up nearly all the way to Sam Darnold.
The play above is a great illustration of the role of a space eating tackle. Al Woods occupies two linemen and gets them to shift to his left. This creates a running lane but linebacker Darius Leonard is there to fill the gap. Without Woods, one of those lineman is there to spring Isaiah Crowell.
If you’re looking for a good way to make a quarterback nervous it’s to win a two on three this cleanly. Woods gets low and with a little help from a friend, drives three Texans into Deshaun Watson’s lap.
Al Woods needs to be accounted for when moving sideline to sideline. The Washington line flows right to block for Adrian Peterson. Center Chase Roullier seems to be moving Woods where he wants the nose tackle to end up. However, Woods plants a foot and cuts back. The entire time he’s been moving he makes sure to maintain enough space to disengage from the block. In an instant he’s made the tackle.
Similar to the last play, Al Woods is able to disengage from his block and chases down the runner. Good lateral speed helps him close the distance and get in on the tackle.
Indianapolis has Al Woods do this quite a bit. After engaging briefly in front of him, he quickly races to the edge. For this play, the pass is off before he can become a factor, but in general he is attempting to rush the passer when asked to make this move. While Woods has good speed for his size, this tactic has not been effective. By the time he gets to where he can be disruptive the play has usually already been decided.
Al Woods is a solid player who can create some havoc at times. He is not a dominant force however, and loses this match-up due to simple leverage. Nick Martin pushes up on Woods and is able to stand the nose tackle up, making him a non-factor on the play.
The Bills will have some opportunities to run assuming they can scheme around what the Colts will be up to. Our focal point Al Woods is making sure there’s space for his linebacker Anthony Walker to be able to shoot into whichever lane running back Lamar Miller chooses. A key block by the tackle sets up Miller to kick it outside while also closing Walker off from the play.
Al Woods is a roughly 50% of the time player, but comes in to help stop the opponent’s rushing attack. With the Bills offense already being run heavy and starting a quarterback that required a good dusting before arriving, it’s a safe bet the Colts will lean on their run stopping unit. Buffalo will need to be mix it up to take advantage of running lanes around Woods. A few big gains like that in Play 8 will help give Derek Anderson the breathing room he’ll be looking for.