The Buffalo Bills had the best offensive season in franchise history during 2020, surpassing most of the records set by the 1991 team that made it all the way to Super Bowl XXVI. While much of that success was due to the growth of quarterback Josh Allen, he couldn’t have done it without the support of his teammates, especially the big fellas protecting him up front.
Buffalo struggled in the running game, but their pass blocking was superb for much of the season. Part of the reason they succeeded was because of the health and success of their starting offensive tackles. They re-signed one key starter at the position and completely overhauled their depth this offseason to complement their stalwart left tackle.
In our first training camp preview of the State of the Bills roster, we discuss the offensive tackles, a group that includes some extremely versatile players, some intriguing youngsters, and some solid veterans.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; four-year, $58.3 million extension signed last offseason ($11.395 million cap hit; $21.68 million dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: Turned 27 on 4/26/2021
2020 Playing time: 16 games (16 starts), 1,032 offensive snaps (94.68 percent), 89 ST snaps (20.05 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: Four penalties, six sacks allowed
Dawkins was the third player drafted under head coach Sean McDermott, and he’s the second player to receive a big contract extension from that draft class. While it was a bit of a let down that Dawkins didn’t catch a touchdown pass for the third consecutive season, it wasn’t for lack of trying, as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll drew up some plays where Dawkins had a chance (including a wild wheel route in the playoffs that would have been insane had the Bills hit it). Dawkins is an anchor along the line.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; first year of a three-year, $24 million deal inked this offseason with $9.4 million fully guaranteed ($6.15 million cap hit)
Age: 28 (29 on 8/31/2021)
2020 Playing time: 16 games (16 starts), 1,048 offensive snaps (96.15 percent), 73 ST snaps (16.44 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: Three sacks allowed, nine penalties against
Williams started every regular-season game at right tackle and all three playoff games, playing on a one-year, prove-it deal. While the 28-year-old tackle had struggled with injuries and performance issues over the last few years with the Carolina Panthers, Williams performed so well last season that the Bills often left him alone to stop opposing edge rushers. That was huge, as the team was able to scheme help to the interior, where they struggled a bit more. Williams allowed more sacks (four) in the postseason than he did in the entire regular season (three), and he was penalized far too often. He also played more snaps than any other Buffalo player on offense, as he wasn’t removed from the season finale for rest. He’s a solid base line for 2021.
Contract status for 2021: Drafted but unsigned as of yet
Age: Turned 23 on 2/28/2021
2020 Playing time: Did not play due to Northern Iowa’s COVID-19 opt out; played at Senior Bowl
Key 2020 statistics: N/A
Brown’s college football team opted out of the fall football season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying to the spring. Brown was preparing for the NFL Draft by then, working with former NFL lineman Joe Staley. He did participate in the Senior Bowl where he showed off impressive athletic ability for his position. Brown looks to take over for Ty Nsekhe as the team’s swing tackle and primary backup while developing into a potential replacement for Daryl Williams. As a third-round pick, that’s not too much to ask.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; first year of his four-year rookie deal
Age: Turns 24 on 5/6/2021
2020 Playing time: All three games of Miami (Ohio)’s college football season
Key 2020 statistics: Named first-team All-MAC
The Miami (Ohio) football season was a strange one thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three games were canceled and three games were played, and Doyle was an anchor on the line for all of them. He played on both sides of the line for Miami and is expected to develop as a depth option for the Bills as their long-term swing tackle.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; final year of his rookie contract ($850,000 cap hit; $0 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: Turned 24 on 2/14/2021
2020 Playing time: 16 games, 93 ST snaps (20.95 percent), 82 offensive snaps (7.52 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: One penalty
Bates is an offensive line version of a unicorn, as he could fill in at any spot if you needed him to do so. The problem is that you don’t necessarily want him to fill in at every spot. Bates saw some run as the team’s sixth tackle last year, and the Bills tried to draw up some plays for him to catch a touchdown pass. He’s a solid, inexpensive backup at multiple positions, which makes him valuable, but with the influx of talent this offseason along the offensive line, he could find himself on the outside looking in.
Contract status for 2021: Signed a one-year deal this offseason with $350,000 guaranteed ($987,500 cap hit, $350,000 dead cap if cut)
Age: 26 (27 on 8/21/21)
2020 Playing time: 14 games, 871 offensive snaps (81 percent), 8 special teams snaps (2 percent) for the Cincinnati Bengals
Key 2020 statistics: 3 penalties for 15 yards, 2.5 sacks allowed for Bengals
Hart came to Buffalo this offseason on a one-year, low-cost deal as the presumptive replacement for Ty Nsekhe as the team’s primary backup tackle. A top backup with a lot of experience would be fine, but then the Bills spent two consecutive draft picks on offensive tackle prospects leaving Hart on the outside looking in. He’s a prime trade candidate in mid- to late-August; the type of player that general manager Brandon Beane loves to flip for a late-round selection.
Contract status for 2021: Signed; one year, $990,000 ($990,00 cap hit; $0 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: Turned 33 on 1/11/2021
2020 Playing time: One game, two offensive snaps (.18 percent)
Key 2020 statistics: N/A
I had no idea that Devey is as old as he is and I pay attention to this team like it’s my job. The veteran is listed as a tackle here for balance purposes, but he has started games at tackle, guard, and center professionally. He is versatile, which is one of the Bills’ top wants with their reserve offensive linemen, so he has that going for him. With the line in such a state of flux, the Bills could do worse than Devey as the eighth offensive lineman if they can’t re-sign some of their other players.
Players that left this offseason
- Ty Nsekhe (Dallas Cowboys)
- Trey Adams (retired)
The Bills have the same two starters from a year ago, but the rest of the depth chart at the position has been overhauled. It remains to be seen how the rookies can adjust to the NFL after limited playing time in 2020. Looking into the future, you can see a 2022 where Brown takes over as the right tackle, Doyle moves up to be the swing tackle, and Dawkins remains steadfast at left tackle, providing the Bills with a sold stable of tackles for years to come. It’s a testament to general manager Brandon Beane’s short-term and long-term roster building. The biggest questions are how far can the rookies come and what’s the trade market going to be for Hart in August.