The Buffalo Bills advanced to 5-1 on the season after a victory over the division rival Miami Dolphins. As you’re likely aware by now, not everyone is completely satisfied with the win. And even for those who are rejoicing, there’s still murmurs about how the team can improve on both sides of the ball. One of the bigger question marks this season has been rookie tackle Cody Ford. Playing in an unorthodox rotation, Ford has a huge target on his back. Let’s take a look to see how he did against Miami.
You may recall that this isn’t the first time I’ve looked at Cody Ford. It’s not even the second time for the record. With that in mind, this isn’t a play I expected to see go this smoothly for Ford. There’s a lot to juggle on the play. Ford needs enough burst to get in position, pivot while staying low for leverage, and avoid being held up. After all that, he still needs to win his match-up. Small disclaimer: He’s against fellow rookie Christian Wilkins. You’ll notice that Ford played through the whistle and dominated Wilkins so thoroughly that Wilkins threw a punch and was ejected from the game. It was the second play from scrimmage.
For most of the game Ford was lined up against Taco Charlton. Quality of competition is again a concern as Charlton isn’t a world beater. On the other hand, the Bills let Ford handle things alone nearly all game. One of the bigger concerns with Ford was handling speed-rushing techniques. Here we see Ford adapting to help shore up that flaw. Both hands latch on to Charlton, but it’s the right that is the difference. By maintaining that grip, Charlton has a harder time disengaging and Josh Allen won’t be bothered from that side of the formation.
The GIF suggests only bad, but there’s also lots of evidence of improvement in this clip. Ford is improving his hand speed, which keeps Charlton further away and widens the arc of this play. Ford still isn’t superb handling speed rushers, but he’s heading in the right direction. Charlton learned from earlier plays that presenting his chest results in Ford grabbing his jersey. Charlton presents his shoulder instead, making it harder to grab and giving him a reach advantage. Ford’s footwork and agility allows him to keep up with Charlton for a couple steps. This is also not something I’d have counted on earlier this year. But Charlton has a counter move in his back pocket that Ford doesn’t appear to have seen enough times yet.
Here’s another look at Ford’s improved hand and foot techniques. The hand fighting and overall speed is better and more refined than I recall seeing before. As Charlton looks to accelerate around the edge, notice that Ford turns his hips. As a result he keeps pace. And if you really want to see learning, compare this one to the last clip. Taco Charlton tries to stop and turn back on this play as well. Ford’s use of space doesn’t allow Charlton to gain the leverage he had before. The left hand of Ford also comes up to counter, just in case Charlton was able to twist around.
Overall, I still see a player who’s ready for the NFL when it comes to head-to-head match ups. Even the best linemen lose a few plays here and there so this clip is to help identify when to press the panic button. Personally, I rate a lineman slowly losing ground like this as a “win.” Four seconds of throwing time, with at least 3.5 seconds of decent pocket is a good result. Like was noted earlier in the year, complex defensive schemes are problematic for Ford. That’s completely expected for a rookie, especially so early in the season. Despite that and small technique flaws, he gets the job done here.
This one doesn’t need much explaining. Ford was in the entire drive after Tre’Davious White’s interception and, like this play, performed admirably. Buffalo needed breathing room and their entire line delivered. After reaching Jon Feliciano and his block, Patrick DiMarco has a couple possible lanes. One of these was a result of Cody Ford.
We’ve seen it a couple times now. Cody Ford often achieves a fast victory over an opponent. The line seals their part of the play and Gore easily gets a much-needed first down.
If you can find evidence of Ford needing to improve in the mental aspect of the game, it’s on plays like this one. Despite his tendency to grab opponents or become tangled up, Ford bumps his initial assignment then takes off.
Cody Ford is still definitely a rookie. Speed rushes and complex assignments are still causing him headaches, but smaller ones than even a month go. The great news is that even though it hasn’t been long since we last looked at Ford, he’s already displayed a lot of growth. He isn’t locking down the right side for now, but it’s possible we’ll be happy with his future.