The Buffalo Bills signed a lot of offensive linemen in free agency in an attempt to shore up an area that was a clear weakness in 2018. One of these new faces is swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who was most recently employed by the New England Patriots. Primarily expected to be a depth player in Buffalo, let’s take a look at what Waddle brings to the Bills.
LaAdrian Waddle is matched up against linebacker Dante Fowler, which should strongly favor the tackle. Waddle appears to make solid contact initially but Fowler drives into him and skirts around, nearly getting a hit on Tom Brady. Which is totally fine. But it wouldn’t be if it were Josh Allen.
Here we see a similar play between Waddle and Fowler. Waddle only catches Fowler’s shoulder, which allows Fowler to pivot around Waddle using his hands as a fulcrum. Waddle isn’t fast enough to get in front of Fowler and put a hand on his chest to slow him down. The end result is fine here, but only because it’s Tom Brady.
This time Waddle is up against Calais Campbell who, on paper, is a much worse match-up for Waddle than Dante Fowler. But Campbell isn’t as fast as Fowler and in a decent parallel to Play 2, Waddle is able to step in and get his hand on the chest that makes all the difference. A late spin frees up Campbell, but by then there’s no chance to impact this play.
Leonard Floyd comes in and gets into a hand battle with Waddle. The tackle’s hands are fast enough to keep up, and this is an area of relative strength for LaAdrian Waddle. When defenders sit back and try to hand fight, Waddle is usually up to the task.
When it comes to head-on collisions, Waddle can be inconsistent. Leonard Floyd gets the better of Waddle with one arm on this play. The ball carrier is away before Floyd can catch up from the backside but this would be problematic if the play came to the right side.
Along with speed, finesse moves are a problem for Waddle. Aaron Lynch uses a swat with his right hand and a small sidestep to get right around Waddle. If Shaq Mason doesn’t spot Lynch and get a chip in, it’s likely Brady takes a big hit. Which I’m fine with.
For the last few plays let’s use some opponents we’re pretty familiar with. Shaq Lawson starts walking LaAdrian Waddle back. Brady gets the ball out fast enough to negate the shrinking pocket. Josh Allen has been decidedly less quick to throw than Brady and this is a bigger problem for Buffalo’s offense. Lawson is also able to do this with extended arms, which would allow him to disengage and get in a running lane or jump a pass.
Waddle used cut blocks quite frequently, but not often to great effect. Lawson is ready for it and, while he slows down a bit, is right back into the play. I think my stance on cut blocks has been established at this point. In case you missed it, though, I don’t like them even when they’re effective let alone when this happens.
I used this play for my look at Eddie Yarbrough from a slightly different spot on the field (you might remember it as the one with all the added comic book effects). As much as I don’t mind seeing Brady get hit by Yarbrough, Hughes and the turf, we’re here to talk about LaAdrian Waddle. Whether it’s this spin move, a rip, or a swim move—Waddle struggles to find answers. Hughes is a pretty good player (WARNING! Understatement) so not everyone can take advantage in the same way.
You can throw my name into the mix as expecting LaAdrian Waddle to be primarily a depth player in Buffalo. And like most depth players, how they’ll perform is difficult to predict without complete context. Finesse and speed-based defenses would be a worry with Waddle in the lineup, but there are ways to mitigate that. With new faces on the coaching staff as well, the offensive line will be an intriguing area to watch take shape in 2019.