After shuffling, reshuffling, and shuffling the offensive line some more during the preseason, the Buffalo Bills’ starting center position went to Ryan Groy. He held it down for two weeks before Russell Bodine took over. A now freed-up Groy filled in at both guard spots and returned to center when Bodine was injured. Being replaced after only two weeks is never a good sign, but that versatility sure looks good. Let’s take a long look at the tape to get a handle on Ryan Groy.
Play 1 (left guard)
Ryan Groy shows some hand-fighting flashes and gets them into position to maintain the block despite Groy’s opponent drifting to his right. Groy grabs the left wrist and pulls it down to keep it on his shoulder, which helps maintain some leverage.
Groy does many things well on this play, and is a big reason Nathan Peterman is able to get this pass off. After taking on the initial block with good position, he spots the second defender slipping around Bodine and shifts to help on both blocks. Groy fluidly takes a huge step back with the right foot, which allows him to reset for the second block. Groy’s right hand gets enough of that block to let Bodine catch a third pass rusher.
Play 3 (right guard)
Now he’s on the right side so the question becomes whether or not the positives carry over to his other hand. We see a nice parallel to his time at left guard. Seeing the initial block develop, he helps out his tackle. He again sees the second man he needs to gun for in a timely manner and puts on a burst of speed to knock him out of the lane. When you hit a guy hard enough to create an unintentional spin move, it’s probably a win.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense that Groy isn’t taking over for somebody with all these nice tools at his disposal does it? Groy is on the high end of athleticism and vision for Buffalo’s line but has a tendency to give up the occasional awful snap. Remember when I said that creating an unintentional spin move is probably a win? Well, any time you go even a little unintentionally airborne as a lineman it’s a decisive loss. Groy immediately stands upright, which lets Abry Jones get underneath. The leverage advantage is painfully clear above.
Play 5 (center, late season)
Again, we’re hoping that positive traits carry over when Groy fills in at center. He uses decent hand positioning and footwork to maintain this block while moving. He’s not mauling anyone, but delivered consistent results like we see here while on the move from the pivot.
Here’s the high stance again with similar results. With this play, compare his stance to the rest of the line. The only one standing taller is rookie Wyatt Teller. Groy is shoved back quickly. He recovers a little with hand technique and gets an important victory by placing his right hand in the armpit of his opponent. That upward force puts significant torque on the upper body and you can see Groy turn his man and eventually drop him as a result. Though there’s some positives, Groy’s part of the pocket collapses enough to be an issue. (He’s not the only one for the record.)
Just like we see at both guard spots, Ryan Groy has excellent vision for combination blocks. Helping with his first assignment, he sees a second problem and moves quickly to take care of it. Groy is at his best when he’s bouncing around in traffic.
I like this clip because it shows just how good Groy’s vision and decision-making skills really are. Groy sees the blocks developing from his peripheral vision and still times the assist well.
Play 9 (center, early season)
To reiterate my method, plays are selected in an attempt to show what I feel represents who the player is on a snap-by-snap basis. It might appear from the above that Groy was actually not that bad, and that’s a fair assessment. Why was he benched early on? He really looked like a different player. As the clip notes, John Miller had already given the signal for the silent count, and was midway through attempt two when Groy snaps the ball. Groy completely misses the block and Nathan Peterman is quickly in trouble.
Groy’s high stance rears its ugly head. This wasn’t the only time Groy was bowled over either. And I’m just talking the game against the Baltimore Ravens. Groy’s early season tape shows a less fluid and decisive player—which, coupled with his technique flaws—leads to disastrous results.
Ryan Groy has a few excellent tools that you simply can’t teach. He also has a few bad habits that end up creating low-light reel plays. Groy was widely expected to be handed the starting center job based on some very good film he put out there when filling in for Eric Wood in the not-too-distant past. Toward the end of the year Groy started looking like the player that had everyone hopeful he could become the heir apparent to Wood. Groy even showed flashes as a temporary fill-in at the guard position.
With the offensive line such a large priority this offseason the Bills have an incredibly difficult decision to make regarding Ryan Groy. If Groy plays his best ball when he’s allowed to settle in at a position, the Bills would be wise to keep him around. Groy is able to translate his best skills to any spot on the interior, which could be incredibly valuable in allowing the Bills flexibility when looking for upgrades. Having said that, the addition of Spencer Long who could fill a similar jack-of-all-trades role could make Groy obsolete.