When an organization falls short of their stated goals, it’s only natural that they seek to identify what went wrong and look to make changes. As fans of the Buffalo Bills we get to do the first part. Affectionately known as “finger-pointing,” the offensive line for the Bills is perhaps the most commonly cited part of the team that went wrong.
Russell Bodine was picked up during the off-season in an attempt to help fill the gap left by an unexpectedly retiring Eric Wood, the beloved long time Buffalo Bill. Bodine began the season in the backup spot behind Ryan Groy, but replaced Groy in Week 3. A December injury to Bodine pushed Groy back into the starting role. If you put all this together, it would be no surprise for the Bills to look for an upgrade. Let’s turn to the tape and see if it agrees.
NOTE: Bodine isn’t circled at the beginning of each play as his spot never changes and he’s frequently obstructed by the quarterback.
When the Buffalo Bills picked up Russell Bodine it was accompanied by much rejoicing from fans of the Cincinnati Bengals, his former team. Upon review, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bodine was not the dumpster fire that was commonly portrayed. One facet of his game that seemed like a strength was move blocking. Bodine helps out Wyatt Teller and gets Malik Jackson off his spot. LeSean McCoy chooses a different lane, but arguably could have followed Bodine for a few more yards.
In a game of inches and split-second decisions, it’s hard to fault McCoy for not latching on to Russell Bodine’s hip. However, if he had, this run turns into a huge gain. Malik Jackson disengages from Wyatt Teller handily, but is swatted down by Bodine. Another solid block on the move is another lost opportunity. That tiny drift to the right from McCoy allows Jackson to get a hand on him after recovering from the earlier swat.
There’s some good and some less good on this play. Right away Bodine jams his right arm out, helping John Miller get on his block. Bodine looks to work on two defenders with Teller. It’s impossible to know for sure without assignments, but Teller seem delayed in finding someone to hit. Bodine meanwhile has to decide which of two players to attack and doesn’t get a good piece of either. The end result is a pretty heavy hit on Josh Allen.
Russell Bodine and John Miller are just fine two-on-one. When Miller disengages, the lane disappears quickly. Bodine isn’t in great position to prevent Malik Jackson from kicking sideways and blowing up the run. If there’s a consistent flaw in Bodine’s game, it’s the ability to match lateral movement and stop plays like this one.
Here’s one to just enjoy. Bodine helps Vlad Ducasse out with the first defender and moves on to the next man. Bodine does a good job with both blocks. Unfortunately, other blocks don’t go so well, including the one from Ducasse once he’s solo.
It’s possible Russell Bodine isn’t sure which direction the rushing attempt is going, especially with a back as shifty as LeSean McCoy. Even with that benefit of the doubt given, the indecision on which player to attack leads to Bodine missing both. Based on available evidence, it’s a decent bet the play was designed to flow to the right (our left). Had Bodine attacked Roquan Smith, there’s a good deal more room for Shady.
Bodine is a player who will always be described in context of his surrounding talent. As the Cincinnati weak link there seemed to be some unease in allowing Bodine to take on defenders by himself, with schemes seeming to limit his exposure. In Buffalo he is most assuredly not the weak link and often took on defenders by his lonesome. While technically he’s being helped by Wyatt Teller on this play, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit from the rookie’s presence. Bodine isn’t manhandled but he’s not winning either. As a power lineman, there’s much to be desired. On the other hand, it could be quite a bit worse and as they say “practice makes better.” With more exposure to one-on-ones in Buffalo, Bodine seems to have improved from his Bengals days that gave me the impression he was a consistent liability.
It’s Roquan Smith again, but this time there’s no decision. With Bodine committing to his man he makes Smith hesitate and gets just enough to let Ivory slip through. This would have been one of Ivory’s better runs this year if
*credit to JonR67 for the catch.
Bodine played and started in every game in his four years with the Bengals. You don’t go 66 games (two playoff games) without gaining some experience and here Bodine shows that value. Bodine doesn’t flinch when Whitney Mercilus is bearing down on him. Letting the block come to him pays off as Mercilus bails before making contact while Duke Ejiofor tries to slip by. Bodine is ready for it and Josh Allen has plenty of room.
Bodine ends up hitting three different Indianapolis Colts on this play and helps Vlad Ducasse and John Miller. Allen has another nice pocket, primarily thanks to Bodine.
Russell Bodine played a pretty competent brand of football in his first year with the Buffalo Bills. Never dominating in the trenches, Bodine was rarely a liability either. It was common to see Bodine helping out his guards with blocks and at times looked like the best protector for Buffalo. With Bodine at center, Buffalo is unlikely to establish a power running game without some true maulers to flank him. A more finesse- and speed-based game should be an easier style to get going with Bodine and require less overhaul around him (though it would still need some).
It’s widely expected that the Buffalo Bills will seek to improve the offensive line this off-season and Russell Bodine shouldn’t be considered safe. Time and energy are finite resources. There are several positions I’d allocate more into fixing than center and if using a strictly triage-based strategy there’s at least three spots on the offensive line I look at before hitting Bodine’s name. That’s not how the NFL tends to work though. With general manager Brandon Beane likely scouring all available players at all positions there’s no compelling reason not to sign an upgrade if one falls into their lap.