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Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito can’t hide his talent

Look, we all know Incognito has been playing at a really high level, right?

Richie Incognito is currently on his second stint with the Buffalo Bills, enjoying a career resurrection in the wake of a somewhat infamous scandal you might have heard about. Incognito has reportedly used the experience of a lengthy football exile to better himself as a player, teammate, and person. By all accounts Incognito has acquitted himself well in the locker room and off the field. We take a look at his on field performance from 2017 to see if his body of work there has been as successful.

Yeah, just kidding. We all know he’s been playing at an incredibly high level so here’s a few plays that show it.

Play 1

Today’s play selections will all be from the New Orleans Saints game. With a player that has so little to argue about talent wise, it’s a great opportunity to see how he handles a day when nothing seemed to be working out. This play was selected to show off how quick Richie’s hands are when he needs them. He gives up zero ground as a result of quick jabs rather than a power move. Eric Wood throws in a couple good shoves on his man too.

Play 2

Incognito is losing ground against Trey Hendrickson but gives Tyrod Tayloy plenty of time in the pocket and a clear throwing lane which is used to get the ball to Mike Tolbert. Charles Clay and Dion Dawkins combine to seal off the rest of the left side. Eric Wood helps out to the right side after Vlad Ducasse passes off his man.

Stick with me here. Jordan Matthews bumps Cameron Jordan which delays Cameron Jordan on his way to Jordan Mills. Jordan Mills is quickly beaten by the swim move from Cameron Jordan and Cameron Jordan is able to put a little pressure on Tyrod Taylor (whose middle name is “Di’Allo” thus breaking our chain of Jordans).

Play 3

Gotta hand it to the Saints for play design and overall talent level in this game. The Bills keep six blockers home, including Tolbert. The Saints bring pressure with seven. Manti Te’O takes the long way around Incognito and Dawkins but still manages to bring pressure pretty quickly. This creates a 3-on-2 where Dawkins has to pull off his man to try to slow Te’O. Richie does his best, but the defenders have the natural advantage of “seeing what’s happening” and they slam the door on this play. Taylor’s best safety valve is Charles Clay who won’t look for the ball until after the play has been decided.

Play 4

This play pauses once and the arrow that pops up is to highlight which direction Incognito is looking. He’s using the same peripheral vision technique I highlighted with Groy and still manages to correctly place his right hand to help out Eric Wood.

Play 5

Incognito does a good job pulling and selling the fake handoff to McCoy. Notice the natural shift in body alignment as Incognito gets close to the edge where he might end up hitting someone. The play pauses to show the number of defenders that bite on the fake (in the order it appeared they fell for it). With about half the defense buying the run, Tyrod has a clean pocket and fits in a pass to Kelvin Benjamin. Unfortunately the Saints had him covered up and he’s immediately dropped.

Further Thoughts

By no means is this a guaranteed predictor of success, but Richie Incognito has made the Pro Bowl every year since returning to football with the Buffalo Bills. Perhaps more compellingly, in what was an embarrassingly bad game for the entire team there were no shortage of plays to highlight what Incognito brings to the table. He has his flaws. For instance, like everyone else on the line he was pretty bad at the diving blocks Dennison was having them do. But if you’re looking for a case study on how to play guard in the NFL, Incognito is a good place to start.

Richie’s reputation of being dirty and mean can’t be ignored either. From a review of the 2017 season, it would appear it hasn’t entirely disappeared either. On a McCoy TD run against Miami, he repeatedly shoved Kiko Alonso to the ground. The audio might not be available, but the video evidence would suggest some fourth quarter “beef” with Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue, including a little shoving. What’s notable these days though is that it seems to end at the whistle. He brings an edge, but it’s a focused one.

Decision Time

Character concerns are the biggest possible blemish for Richie. Many fans still express some ill will toward Incognito, ranging from distaste to outright disdain. However, there does not appear to be any semblance of this within the locker room. Numerous players have come to his defense or vouched for his character.

Richie Incognito continues to enjoy a personal Renaissance in both locker room reputation and talent. The safe bet is that he fits in with the process just fine.

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