If there’s one thing the Buffalo Bills worked very hard to do this offseason, it was to build an offensive line that could keep Josh Allen off the turf. On Thursday night we got our first look at what all that hard work put together. As you might expect, we have some notes.
Left tackle, Dion Dawkins
Dion Dawkins saw a fair share of one-on-one work on the left side against the Indianapolis Colts. Dawkins was shoved back a few times and a speed rush got the better of him, but the defender slipped—potentially bailing Dawkins out. Despite a few less-than-perfect snaps, Dawkins did an adequate job of keeping Allen upright. Even on reps where he was pushed back, it wasn’t into Allen’s lap. Dawkins did give up a sack on Josh Allen but it appeared to be a miscue. Dawkins moved right as if he was supposed to be run blocking and never engaged the defender.
Left guard, Quinton Spain
Quinton Spain and Jon Feliciano often worked in tandem. When doing so, the pair was generally effective. With a relatively bland Indianapolis Colts pass rush, an individual look at Spain and Feliciano is somewhat difficult. For Quinton Spain, he was asked to pull and widen lanes on a couple running plays and seemed to do well (All-22 angles are sorely missed on these). Spain was beaten once up the middle, flushing Allen out of the pocket.
Center, Jon Feliciano
Filling in for the injured Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano didn’t stand out all that much. For a backup center that’s actually good news (see below). On the missed block by Spain, Feliciano attempted to help Cody Ford. Feliciano was late for that block and arguably would have been better off helping out Spain.
Right guard, Cody Ford
Cody Ford looked like a rookie as he was frequently tested one-on-one. Driven backwards more often than Dawkins, Ford looks like he needs to adjust to the speed and ferocity of the NFL. On the first play of the game, Ford was beaten inside leading to a hit on Josh Allen. It was far from a disaster for Ford and somewhat expected for a rookie lineman thrown to the wolves. Or horses in this case.
Right tackle, Ty Nsekhe
Nsekhe was left on an island for most of his snaps and was hands down the most effective lineman. Rarely giving up significant ground, Nsekhe moved well with edge defenders and showed off the strength that led to highlight-reel plays against Jadeveon Clowney. On one rep, Nsekhe took care of his man with his right hand and helped Cody Ford out with the left. The only negative play from Nsekhe was an attempted cut block. While he did make solid contact and mostly dropped his man, the agility of the defender turned this into a speed bump situation rather than a brick wall. Josh Allen was flushed out of the pocket as a result.
Cody Ford subbed in at right tackle with the second-line grouping of the night. Ford was walked back a bit here as well, but not as pronounced as it was against the Colts’ starters.
Conor McDermott had a solid evening before exiting. His replacement, Garret McGhin started off alright but allowed pressure early on a play that ended with a Matt Barkley sack. McGhin was forcefully shoved off of his spot on a snap soon after.
Spencer Long allowed a hit when a defender sidestepped around him. While it was only one snap, it’s one that stood out.
Wyatt Teller had an up and down night. An opportunity for solid contact on a pulling block was missed due to poor angle and anticipation, suggesting Teller has more development ahead.
An incredibly high snap from Russell Bodine led to a fumble that was recovered by the Colts.
The Buffalo Bills’ starters were focused on getting Josh Allen in rhythm and pass protection was on full display. Allen was given a decent pocket on a fair amount of plays, but was flushed several times, which isn’t ideal in only a quarter of play. Add in a hit and a sack and there’s still some work to do. The good news is that most of the negative plays, aside from the sack, came early. The group settled in and looked a lot better at the end of the quarter.
For run blocking—it won’t show up in the stat sheet, but they looked fine. The Colts had good counters when run plays were called, usually overloading the line or letting their linebackers read and react to gaps.