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2020 All-22 analysis: Buffalo Bills guard Brian Winters

We examine the Age of Winters

After starting guard Jon Feliciano needed surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, the Buffalo Bills were in the market for some insurance on the offensive line. Veteran guard Brian Winters was fortuitously released by the New York Jets shortly after and in swooped general manager Brandon Beane. The starting job went to Quinton Spain who fell out of favor in Buffalo after four weeks and the Age of Winters had begun*. It lasted until about Week 12 when Feliciano had settled back in and the Bills decided to check out the Age of Boettger. More on him elsewhere but, for now, let’s focus on Winters.

*Yes I know he played all of Week 3 and the two shared time in Week 4, but Week 5 was when things felt a bit more official.


Play 1

Let’s start off on the highest of notes. Brian Winters shows off some veteran savvy making sure he gets to the right spot. The first block he’s supposed to avoid can become a real problem if any contact delays him to the next one. The casual hand swat clears him of that risk and Winters is off to where he needs to be. Winters turns his body too, making sure there’s no chance his opponent makes a play.

Play 2

Now let’s discuss a flaw. It’s not an every-play thing, but it’s an often-enough thing to point it out. A solid initial block, Winters is outmaneuvered and simply can’t keep up to the side.

Play 3

For most plays, Brian Winters is reliable. He sets this block up well. Even though he doesn’t have to hold this one long, it’s a great view of his typical technique. He’s low enough to have leverage and places his hands in a good spot.

Play 4

While I was less enthusiastic about his ability to quickly move laterally, I do like Winters’s ability to move full steam ahead for blocks like this one. Now clearly other things don’t go so great on this play but we’re talking Brian Winters and he moves quickly to where he needs to be and like we saw in Play 1, adjusts his body to try to widen the lane.

Play 5

Some good and some less good here. The pause is pointing out another subtle trick. Rather than rely on raw power to move his man aside to get into the screen game, Winters times his catch and grab to use his opponent’s momentum. I’ve gone on record before as saying I dislike cut blocks and I’ll do it again. Physics are on the side of the offensive lineman here and staying upright would likely yield a much better block.

Play 6

There are occasional inconsistencies to Winters’s game as well. Ordinarily I like him on blocks like these but a slight issue on the angle and he’s now desperately trying to avoid a holding flag rather than successfully blocking.

Play 7

This is a more blatant example than what I’d call typical of this issue, but one of the reasons the Bills may have tinkered around with the line by removing Winters for the Boettger/Feliciano combo is that the side-to-side issues do lead to some difficulties juggling blocks on occasion. This one has a clear balance issue as Winters overextends on his shove and can’t recover in time.

Play 8

And let’s end on a high note. Like I said, ordinarily I like Winters on blocks like these.


Summary

Brian Winters is an interesting case. Before I overcomplicate my assessment let’s cut to the chase. Winters is solid depth and arguably not a bad starter in a pinch. Now let’s overcomplicate things.

If I had to guess and it’s my article so I can’t reasonably expect anyone else to do the guessing for me...

The Bills tinkered with Winters because there is a lot to like. As I’ve noted in just about every lineman analysis ever though, it’s not just about finding the five best guys. If the five best guys have skills sets that vary too drastically that’s a problem. I actually like Winters, but his occasional struggles to juggle blocks and move laterally are issues that mostly creep up in pass protection.

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