The Buffalo Bills made one splash tentative signing on the first day of legal tampering by acquiring center Mitch Morse. With nearly everyone rallying around the need to upgrade the offensive line, it was more a matter of “who” would be added than “if.” We’ll use the All-22 to get to know Morse and what we hope he’ll bring to the field in 2019.
There’s a lot of nuance when you reach the pinnacle of a sport and I could easily write a lengthy dissertation comparing and contrasting one center with another. Cutting right to the chase though, Mitch Morse is a serious upgrade for the Bills. We lead with this play to highlight a vigorous head shake. Compare this to the plays below and what you see is variation. And I assure you that there’s more variation displayed by Mitch Morse than even what the ten selected plays demonstrate. Tiny things like switching up a head motion can reap big rewards such as preventing defenses from timing the snap count.
Detailing the rest of the play, Morse is asked to keep tabs on a large amount of the pocket. Morse shows good vision and correctly identifies where he’s needed. He fluidly and naturally shifts his weight and stance to make the block and the pocket stays clean.
I won’t name the player, but I noted in a past All-22 that a current Bills lineman was the kind of player that a team would need to scheme to help out. Morse is the opposite. You scheme him to help out everyone else. Knowing that he has help to the right, Morse keeps his left arm loose to be able to float to that side if needed. Note that using only his right arm it’s still a good block.
The game against the Baltimore Ravens was selected as a focal point because it allowed a good window into Morse handing Michael Pierce, a player I had a lot of positive things to write about. Defensive linemen have a gigantic advantage compared to the offense in that they have the ability to see the play develop. Pierce reacts to the play and Morse is right there with him. Despite good contact by the Ravens, there’s several extra yards added to the run thanks in large part to Mitch Morse.
If there’s a weakness to Morse’s game, it’s lateral agility while move blocking. Morse gets ahead of himself a bit and tries to make the block full speed. Jimmy Smith cuts inside and makes Morse miss, getting a hand on the ball carrier and limiting the gain on the play. Slowing down would have yielded better results for Morse. This was Morse’s single biggest concern for me and I’d place this problem at a “sometimes” level. Being fair to the 300 lb or so Morse, physics readily explains why he might be occasionally outmaneuvered by corners and linebackers.
As noted above, the defense typically has the advantage at the line. A respectable lineman performance can be pictured as “losing slowly.” A slow-burn loss when matched up man-to-man gives plenty of time to release the ball. Morse is just as apt to do this as he is “lose slowly.” And quite often he’s giving no ground. A solid combination of technique and strength puts Morse above the threshold of “respectable.”
When surrounded and being knocked about, it’s harder to maintain solid mechanics. Mitch Morse gets sandwiched on this play and it’d be understandable for his technique to break down some. Instead he powers through and creates more space in the pocket than any of his teammates.
This is a true one-on-one situation against Pierce and an excellent demonstration of who Morse is. Initial contact is with two hands and forces the 340 lb Pierce backward. Knowing the run is to the left, Morse looks that way and lets his left hand wander to that side in case it’s needed. Despite working against Pierce with only one hand, there’s a significant delay before Pierce takes advantage and gets Morse on the ground.
Here’s some more work against Michael Pierce. As was mentioned above, Pierce has the advantage of seeing the back and shifts his weight several times to impact the play. Morse reacts well but eventually loses the block as Pierce gets far enough to his left side that Morse risks a penalty. Make no mistake though, Morse blocked well enough to ensure extra yardage.
I’ve already used a lot of words on Morse so let’s allow this clip to speak for itself. There’s a lot of good stuff in here. The bigger the stage, the more you want your best players to shine. To date, this is Morse’s biggest stage.
Mitch Morse is tasked with a lot of the work in keeping Patrick Mahomes clean to make a throw. As he floats between blocks, Morse is a major factor in giving Mahomes plenty of time to get the ball in the air.
With only a handful of plays in an article like this, it’s very difficult to convey differences in a position such as center. Ten representative plays should contain highlights, gaffes, and a few baseline plays for any lineman. Morse is no exception. The key then lies in frequency. In similar past articles you might have picked up on tones of “potential” or “upside.” The ten plays above aren’t that for Morse. He creates space consistently. He moves between assignments consistently. He does the little things consistently well. Aside from injury concerns, Morse is a massive upgrade for the Buffalo Bills. I know he smiles a lot already, but this move must have Josh Allen grinning.