Word of Muth
Dive into the details of offensive line play with a former all-PAC-10 left tackle

Word of Muth: Buffalo Fling

Frank Gore
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Since the Jets and Cardinals are officially eliminated from the playoffs and I don't want to write about the Ravens every week, it's time to add a new team for the rest of the season. The Buffalo Bills were interesting to me since they're a 10-4 team that seemingly no one talks about once the early game tailgates are done and all the furniture has been broken. If they are brought up, it's always about their awesome defense or polarizing quarterback. Plus, they just played a prime-time game that a lot of people watched.

Watching Buffalo's offensive line against the Steelers, I thought they played alright overall. They weren't great by any means, but when you look at offensive line play around the league, they aren't in the bottom third of the NFL or anything. They looked like a middle-of-the-road unit I'd say.

The one guy up front who did really struggle was Quinton Spain. He was matched up with Cameron Heyward for a lot of the game and had a rough night as a result.

via Gfycat

Spain (67) at left guard here gets beat quickly, but luckily Josh Allen gets rid of the ball even quicker. Spain loses here because his hands are too wide. He lets Heyward (97) get both his hands inside Spain's and right onto his breastplate. Now Heyward has all the leverage so Spain has to start leaning forward to avoid getting bull-rushed straight back. But when Heyward starts to feel that, he just yanks the guard down onto his face. The rest of the Bills line is good here though.

via Gfycat

The rest of the line is not good here, however. Spain is once again getting beat because of his hands. This time the defender (Tyson Alualu, 94) is long-arming him by shooting one hand right into his chest. One arm is longer than two in this type of situation and Spain just can't get his hands on the defender. What he needs to do is chop or clamp down on Alualu's long arm to either knock the arm off him or at least cause it to bend at the elbow so Spain can replace his hands and get some control again. But he doesn't do that and he gets beat around his edge as a result.

The rest of the pressure comes from the offense's right edge. I'm not sure if right tackle Cody Ford (70) knows that the tight end is going to chip on the way out, but he certainly doesn't take a very smart set if he is expecting the help. He's way too flat here and not taking into account that there's a good chance the tight end will widen T.J. Watt (90) at the snap. He needs to get more depth on his set like left tackle Dion Dawkins (73) does so he can react to whichever way Watt falls off the chip.

The pass-blocking was pretty decent overall though. That was the only sack of Allen, and I don't think pressure was too big of a factor for most of the night, The ground game was another story. The run blocking showed some flashes, but I think it's fair to say the Steelers controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part. The biggest issue was that Buffalo didn't sustain blocks. Too many defensive linemen and linebackers made tackles after shedding their Buffalo blockers.

via Gfycat

This is a good example. The Bills get a hat on every Steelers defender here, but three guys still meet the back in the hole. The nose tackle (Javon Hargrave, 79) and Heyward do really nice jobs of holding their gap, bench pressing their blockers off, and violently shedding to make a tackle for a short gain. That's textbook defensive line play where every gap is accounted for, but guys can also make a play once the back chooses a hole. It's never good to be on the other end of that as an offensive lineman.

A lot of the time when the Bills did have success on the ground it was with clever schemes that you don't see every Sunday. Where they struggled was when it was time to just line up and run inside zone.

via Gfycat

This is a nice variation of counter that goes for a good gain. The guy who makes the play is the tight end Lee Smith (85) who is supposed to step down and block a linebacker, unless the edge defender crashes with him, in which case he's supposed to slow down and drag the defender down with him. Smith gets just enough of Watt with his outside arm to force the defender to get caught up in the wash of the play.

Spain as a pulling guard reads what's going on and gets up on the play-side linebacker. He seals him inside with a nice block and allows the back to get to the second level and make someone miss.

via Gfycat

This is a Sprint Draw that Devin Singletary probably should've scored on if he set up center Mitch Morse's (60) block a little better. The play sets up really well because of how much the Bills move Allen around in the passing game, and Allen's general ability as a runner. Morse does a great job of climbing quickly and totally covering up the linebacker. Again, if the back cuts it up inside Morse's block a little quicker, I think he scores.

Dawkins at left tackle is awesome here as well (I thought he had a solid game overall). Jason Peters used to be great at these kind of draw blocks, where you set on the edge rusher quickly, club him up field, then go get someone down the field. Dawkins executes the club perfectly and throws the edge out of the play. Then he has a long way to go and a quick guy to track but he locks onto him and makes a second block 15 yards down the field. Really impressive athleticism.

The last thing I wanted to point out really doesn't have anything to do with offensive line play except for that it's a protection concept I've never seen.

via Gfycat

This fake Sprintout Right, Boot Left is something I've never seen before. I'm not sure I'd ever run it as all it takes is one guy sniffing it out and he gets an 8-yard sprinting head start at a quarterback that is about to turn blindly right into him. Maybe Dawkins takes too wide of a loop here and he's supposed to get back to help Allen quicker, but this would make me nervous as a playcaller. Looks cool as hell, though, when the quarterback doesn't get killed.


6 comments, Last at 20 Dec 2019, 5:29pm

1 GIF's

2nd run blocking GIF (4th overall), I think you have the wrong one or wrong comment. Back goes for no gain.

3 I think the GIF is of the…

In reply to by Joseph

I think the GIF is of the failed inside zone blocking mentioned in the paragraph above.  As you point out, the GIF of the successful run is missing.

2 Counter gif

That's Feliciano at RG pulling on the counter, not Spain

4 GIF fixed

All the errors noted so far are related to having the wrong GIF embedded. That, and everything else, has been fixed.

5 This is an accurate…

This is an accurate placement for this line, middle-of-the-pack, I think. The pass blocking was better when Neskhe was playing RT, as Ford is currently better at guard.

Still, when you consider this is the unit's first year together, and last year's line was a complete dumpster fire other than Dawkins, well...

6 Interesting Game for Them This Week

Pates not exactly pass-rush demons and uneven against run but will play a lot of contain on Allen and test 0-line IQ on stunts and delayed blitzes. Secondary does force QB to go through his reads so the big guys will have to hold their blocks for a while.