Brandon Beane, general manager of the Buffalo Bills, has been aggressive in trying to upgrade the team’s offensive line this offseason. To date, Beane has signed two offensive tackles, a guard, a center, and a guard-center, as per the team’s official roster. However, one consistent trait to watch regarding Buffalo’s offensive linemen has begun to emerge: versatility.
Last year, the Bills began to emphasize versatile offensive linemen among their reserves. The Bills used Ryan Groy as a backup at center, but he was also capable of playing guard. They also had Jeremiah Sirles, who re-signed with the team in January, as a player capable of playing tackle, guard, and center. Ike Boettger, who spent training camp and the preseason with Buffalo before being waived, claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs, and re-claimed by the Bills, played tackle and guard in college before settling in primarily as a guard in Buffalo.
While Beane signed Mitch Morse to be the Bills’ new starting center, he also inked Spencer Long to a three-year deal. Long played center last season for the New York Jets, but he also played left guard for both the Jets and Washington. Beane signed former Oakland Raiders guard Jon Feliciano to a two-year contract, but he also signed tackle Ty Nsehke, who has played left tackle, right tackle, and left guard during his professional career in Washington.
Beane has been clear about the team’s need for improvement along the offensive front.
“Sometimes our O-line was out of sync for various reasons.” said Beane at his year-end press conference. “It wasn’t always like one guy or one side of the ball. I just never felt our run game for the most part got into a consistent groove and that’s something we have to be honest about as we make changes going forward this offseason.”
The benefits to having versatile linemen are many. If the reserve linemen, especially, can play multiple spots, then a team can carry fewer offensive linemen on its active game-day roster, focusing instead on other positions where more substitutions are made. Buffalo carried seven offensive linemen last season on most game days, going with the starting five (Dion Dawkins, Vladimir Ducasse, Russell Bodine, John Miller, and Jordan Mills) plus two active backups (Ryan Groy and Jeremiah Sirles) until the team began experimenting with different combinations due to ineffectiveness and injury.
When discussing potential first-round pick Jonah Williams back in February, Beane also noted that the Crimson Tide prospect had the ability to play all five positions among the offensive line. Given the team’s increased number of versatile offensive linemen on the roster, it would shock no one if Williams were the Bills’ pick in round one of the 2019 NFL Draft.
As Beane and head coach Sean McDermott continue to remake the roster according to their vision, versatile offensive linemen continue to be a point of emphasis for the decision-making duo in charge at One Bills Drive.