Let’s start with a disclaimer. This is coming from a place of self-scouting and embracing the idea of “growth mindset” that head coach Sean McDermott preaches. While a lot of the below focuses on “problem areas” with the interior offensive line, let me be very clear on a few things. The Buffalo Bills:
- score on 52.9 percent of their drives. That’s number one in the league
- average 2.88 points per drive, tied with Dallas for best in the league
- have the fourth-best turnover rate per drive
- have the third-best sack rate in the NFL
- run game averages 4.4 yards per carry (this is pretty much average)
Even assuming the interior offensive line is a “weak link” for the Bills, that’s still an impressive chain so far this year. Let’s peep some film.
We’re starting off on a high note. This looks like an option that can go to Devin Singletary or be kept by Josh Allen. It doesn’t seem to ultimately matter as Singletary and Allen both read the same thing out of the linebackers and cut to the same lane. Singletary becomes a lead blocker for his QB.
But we’re here to talk about the interior line of Jon Feliciano, Mitch Morse, and Daryl Williams. Morse and Williams seal off their first block. Morse isn’t quite fast enough to break free and take on the linebacker for a second block. Feliciano I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say he meant to direct his man to the right immediately. The alternative is a happy accident. The bottom line is that this isn’t All-Pro blocking from the inside three, but it’s good enough to get most of the way to another first down and that ain’t too shabby.
Without knowing the play design I’ll be making some guesses here. Let’s start with Morse, who displays what appears to be the most intentional action. He bumps his first man (engaged with Williams) and tries to force him to the right side of the screen. Morse then attacks the second level, again trying to force his man to the right. So my guess is that the play’s primary design is to follow Morse.
If my guess is correct, that means Williams is just plain beat to the inside. Feliciano’s man reads the right gap and Feliciano can’t beat him to stop it. Giving the Tennessee Titans’ defense some credit here, they contain the edges very well, forcing Zack Moss to choose an inside lane—which have all closed.
More credit to Tennessee who call up a stunt that takes out Morse and Feliciano. Sometimes you just get beat. That said, I do wonder if the linemen would be better at swapping blocks with a little more time together. This could be a chemistry issue for a line that’s been mixed and matched a bit this season.
It’s pretty clear the lane the Bills are trying to establish here, what with literally everyone trying to create a single path and all. This gains seven, which is an absolute victory on first down. Not only did everyone do their job pretty well, Mitch Morse breaks off his first block quickly enough to make a second man (#51) need a longer path to reach Devin Singletary. Victory/loss is not a binary concept. Morse’s second block is not a total victory, but it’s far more victory than loss.
Yeah, I know. The result of this play isn’t great, but I wanted to step away from a tone of negativity on the interior line. And yes, I know. They’re not being attacked all that viciously. However, if there had been an opening as a result of a lineman failing to flow with the play well it would have been capitalized on. So while the result isn’t great, the negativity isn’t on the interior guys’ shoulders.
And I like to end on high notes. Three seconds of pocket is pretty great. Williams starts to “lose” at the very end, but Allen has pleeeeeeenty of time to throw.
Before I summarize my thoughts, I would like to point out that until otherwise noted, the All-22 angles continue to be a bit borked on my end. This does slow me down so I’m watching a little less film than I used to, and recording fewer GIFs (glitches often lead to me needing to reattempt recording over-and-over until I have a usable version). This will be the last time I point this out as incessant whining is hopefully not the reason you’re reading. With all that noted, I did watch the available film of both the Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.
Based on those two games, I can say that the KC performance seemed a lot stronger overall. A common issue against Tennessee was the lack of push. Remember my use of the phrase “not a mauler” over the summer? Still applies. Also, all three interior lineman had some struggles picking up lateral blocks.
Ultimately, the weaknesses aren’t exactly an anchor as noted above. It’d be great to have a dominant line on top of everything else, but it may not be in the cards. Some consistency on the line should yield some benefits, and if we’re lucky everyone will peak in January/February.