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Buffalo Bills interior offensive line in a state of turnover

Eric Wood’s retirement opens a gaping hole on the offensive line

The Buffalo Bills lost two-thirds of their starting interior offensive linemen this offseason. The turnover along the offensive line in one year is astounding, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to get massively worse. With new additions, players ready to step in, and a new blocking scheme, there will be growing pains but also opportunity.

The shakeup began when center Eric Wood announced his retirement earlier this offseason due to a degenerative disc condition in his neck. His injury replacement from two years ago will battle with a free agent who was an entrenched starter for the past four years on another team.

Later in the offseason, Buffalo released guard Richie Incognito, coming off another Pro Bowl performance. While he has had a rough offseason, he still remains unsigned. The Bills are looking to switch it up to replace Incognito.

Ryan Groy

  • Contract status: signed; $2.5 million cap hit ($1.5 million cap savings if cut)
  • Age: Turns 28 on 9/30/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 53 snaps (5.04% of offensive total), 116 ST snaps (26.54%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

Groy made $28,301 per offensive snap he took in 2017, but the Bills’ investment in him could pay off in 2018. With Eric Wood’s retirement, Groy became the front-runner to become the next starting center of the Buffalo Bills. When Wood missed 7 games in 2016 with a broken leg, Groy stepped in and performed admirably.

Vladimir Ducasse

  • Contract status: signed; $1.183 million cap hit
  • Age: Turns 31 on 10/15/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 796 snaps (75.67% of offensive total), 46 ST snaps (10.53%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 1 penalty, 2 sacks allowed

The weakest link among Buffalo’s 2017 interior linemen was Ducasse, who took over for incumbent starter John Miller in the season’s fifth week. While Ducasse wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, he certainly wasn’t terrible, either. Ducasse has been the one to take virtually all of the left guard snaps this offseason, switching from the right side. The team seems to like him more than the fans.

John Miller

  • Contract status: signed; $910,000 cap hit ($740,000 cap savings if cut)
  • Age: Will turn 25 on 8/12/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 256 snaps (24.33% of offensive total), 16 ST snaps (3.66%)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 3 penalties

Miller struggled to adjust to a different blocking scheme, and his poor play early in the season led to his benching. Miller will benefit the most from the installation of Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator, bringing with him a new blocking scheme more tailored to his strengths.

He has received the lion’s share of the right guard reps and they didn’t add much competition for him this offseason, so Miller looks to be the man at right guard.

Russell Bodine

  • Contract status: signed a two-year, $5 million contract this offseason ($25,000 added to cap if cut)
  • Age: Turned 26 on 6/30/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 962 snaps (100% of offensive total) for the Bengals
  • Key 2017 statistics: 16 starts, 1 fumble recovery, 2 penalties for CIncinnati

Bodine has started all 48 games of his career for the Cincinnati Bengals and has been as reliable as a player can be. Well, that’s to say reliably just a guy. Cincy fans made it know when he left that he wasn’t very good in his role, but he always showed up.

The free agent signing is making the same money as his primary competition for the center job, Ryan Groy. It really is any man’s contest at this point. Through no-contact minicamp, Bodine has received more first-team reps but once the actual hitting starts, who knows?

Wyatt Teller

  • Contract status: signed an entry-level, four-year deal for $2.71 million following the 2018 NFL Draft
  • Age: Will turn 24 on 11/21/18
  • Key 2017 statistics: 1 tackle at Virginia Tech

Teller is a mauling interior lineman the Bills added in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. While he might be able to challenge for a role in 2018, he hasn’t received any meaningful snaps this offseason. When the pads come on, he’ll be a primary interior backup which is likely his role until next offseason.

Adam Redmond

  • Contract status: signed; $480,000 cap hit (no guaranteed money on reserve/future contract)
  • Age: Turned 25 on 5/19/18
  • 2017 Playing time: N/A
  • Key 2017 statistics: N/A

Redmond didn’t play a down in 2017, but signed a reserve/future contract with the team at the end of the regular season. It’s probable that he is merely training camp fodder, but unseating Miller may not be a difficult proposition.

Camp Outlook

The Bills added a solid center in free agency and a solid reserve guard in the draft, but they have definitely downgraded on the interior of the offensive line. Their hope is that Miller returns to form in the new blocking scheme and they can go back to their success he had earlier in his career.

Even if that happens and Miller isn’t the weak point, the starting center position is a truly open competition between Bodine and Groy and will be one worth watching during training camp. Bodine has familiarity with quarterback AJ McCarron from when both were with the Bengals, but McCarron hasn’t been running away with the starting quarterback job so it might not matter.