The Buffalo offensive line was supposed to be in good shape for 2018. Sure they were going to need to draft some youth behind their veteran stalwarts, but Brandon Beane had to have felt good about this group at the end of the 2017 season. Then disaster struck.
First, it was the unexpected retirement of Eric Wood due to a neck injury. Then, Richie Incognito began doing Richie Incognito things and ran himself out of Buffalo. All of a sudden, Buffalo had holes all over their offensive line. The front office hoped that they could patch the offensive line with guys like Marshall Newhouse and Russell Bodine, but that never worked out. Instead, the Buffalo Bills were a one-dimensional offense that put Josh Allen’s health at risk week after week.
Tackles: Dion Dawkins, Conor McDermott
Guards: Wyatt Teller, Jeremiah Sirles, Ike Boettger, Vladimir Ducasse
Center: Spencer Long, Russell Bodine
Like most of the other position groups on this roster, offensive line is an option every time Buffalo is on the clock.
Free Agent Tracker
Tackles: Daryl Williams, Trent Brown, Donovan Smith, Ja’wuan James,
Guards: Rodger Saffold, Ramon Foster, Mike Iupati
Centers: Matt Paradis, Mitch Morse
There is not a more desperate need on this roster than the offensive line. It is hard to imagine a scenario where Josh Allen continues to progress in 2019 without a rushing attack to help shoulder the load. It’s also hard to imagine a scenario where Josh Allen stays on the field for 16 games dropping back behind an offensive line as porous as the 2018 group.
One of the biggest disappointments last season was the regression of Dion Dawkins. To his defense, has already acknowledged that he did not enter last season with the same focus and determination he previously displayed.
While it’s encouraging to hear a player accept that responsibility, Dawkins’s play was probably hindered by the lack of talent around him. There is no way that Beane and McDermott allow that supporting cast to be as bad next season. Dion might be playing a new position moving forward, but I expect him to re-emerge as one of Buffalo’s best offensive linemen in 2019.
Wyatt Teller slowly worked his way into the starting lineup last year. He flashed from time to time, but was also exposed against some better talent. The scouts will have earned their money if Teller works out as a starting guard for this offense. His development will be a critical part of the team’s offensive success next season. There are too many holes to fill on the line, and Beane has to be hoping that Teller doesn’t create another one.
The Bills added Spencer Long already this offseason on a very team-friendly contract. The contract could amount to starter’s money, however, the team can get out of that if Long does not factor into their long-term plans. Ideally, Long will provide depth on the interior line, with the ability to play either center or guard.
For Buffalo, it is going to take more than just an early round investment to turn this group around. The Bills will likely need to spend in free agency, as well as the draft to make sure the offense isn’t exposed the way they were last season. Fortunately, there are a number of players on the market who could come in and start right away.
One of the first things Brandon Beane did when he got to Buffalo was extend Eric Wood. With that move he showed how much he values the center position, and has spoken multiple times about the importance of having an experienced player at that position to help take the pressure off of a young quarterback.
It should come as no surprise that the Bills have been mentioned as potential landing spots for both Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse in free agency. Both of those players are going to get paid this offseason, and Buffalo has the financial flexibility to get a deal done with one of them.
Editor’s babble: Thanks to Joe Geniti for giving us a great summary of where the Bills sit regarding the offensive line at the moment. Here’s hoping the Bills get max production out of their middle round picks like they have over the last couple of years because the offense needs a lot of work. You can find Joe on Twitter @JoeGeniti.