Football success starts up front, even if it’s oddly the hardest place to notice. Dominating the chaos at the line opens opportunities for more glamorous plays by linebackers or rushers. Viewers naturally focus on the handoff recipient covering tremendous territory, not why there was so much space alongside his shoulders. Similarly, we tend to watch the interception instead the reason why the frightened quarterback was forced to hastily shot-put. The Buffalo Bills are focused on enabling unsung heroes close to the snap who ease the pressure on teammates. They do so without seeking adulation. Thank them while watching film.
Continued pass rushing pressure means opposing offenses can only dream of the nightmare ending. Credit goes to players glad to be on the Bills and in Buffalo. Seeing each spot on the line staffed by someone both eager and skilled has been a nonstop joy that could easily extend into this year. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman is similarly enthusiastic knowing he can leave cornerbacks in single coverage, as they won’t have to neutralize wideouts 10 seconds at a time. Survival-minded passers will have to prematurely initiate mechanics. Forget grabbing a cup of coffee.
Conversely, clearing defensemen from paths remains an obvious priority. Everyone cringes while recalling what happened when inexperienced and marginal blockers were ordered to waltz around last season. The league won’t let teams project dance steps on the field, which means keeping footwork simple is to an offense’s benefit. Rex Ryan’s preference for grinding and straightforward pulls could help the line catch up with their defensive equivalents.
The importance of claiming the trenches should dictate draft focus. This team already started this lesson last year. But they aren’t done learning. The Bills should be thinking offensive lineman when they finally pick to compete with the three they added in 2014. Last year’s rookies achieved varying success, including the Bizarro oddity of draftees performing better the lower they were picked. Fans can feel optimistic knowing that offensive line is not necessarily a position where players automatically start and excel. Plus, a simpler scheme could allow a young pro competently fill the non-Incognito guard role.
Buffalo needs indirect help gaining yards. The roster already contains a tremendous running back and a wideout corps that’s brimming with potential. Buffalo’s quarterbacks just want a chance to exhale. Enabling them to do their jobs is management’s top priority. Without a first-round turn, choosing prudently is almost as important who they don’t add.
Avoiding the impulse to add a flashy eligible receiver is the grown-up way of drafting. C.J. Spiller is gone along with the idea of building a penthouse before a foundation. Too many Bills teams during the playoff absence have been out of proportion, as they’ve featured a surfeit of ball handlers with few players of note blocking for them. Redundant talent is a football tragedy, especially when teams miss the playoffs because they leave themselves unprotected.
Noticing proficient manhandling on both lines is a reward for those paying attention. Fans have to watch closely to know the blocking or negation of it are succeeding. It’s much easier to spot when corps members fail. Good linemen possess enough confidence to find completing their assignments fulfilling whether or not they’re praised for it.
As acknowledgment of the challenges for the biggest guys, we should avoid only referring to those who can pass, catch, and rush as skill positions. The footwork and angles necessary to protect against strong and angry possible tacklers requires tremendous ability, just as doing the inverse and outmaneuvering offensive linemen is an exercise in expertise. Dominating up front takes far more than just bashing down a counterpart, although that part can be fun.
Buffalo will be in good shape if the offensive line can close the gap. The defense just needs to sustain their impressive play level even if they’re aligned differently in 2015. Ryan’s enthusiasm for rattling teeth will help both sides maximize capacities, whether through improvement or maintenance. Both lines are well-positioned to reduce strain on teammates by inflating pressure on adversaries. Simplifying the offense will help as much as complicating the defense. Give them credit even if they don’t need the attention.