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

Word of Muth: Mistakes Were Made

Buffalo Bills OL Jon Feliciano
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

There isn't a lot to say about how Buffalo ended up losing to the Cardinals last Sunday. It's one of those things that happens and you just have to do your best as a coach, a player, or a fan to move on. You learn much more from what happened the previous 125 plays than you do from what happened on the last play anyways, so let's not dwell on the Hail Mary that everyone is talking about.

What I learned rewatching the game is that the Bills' offensive line injury issues are continuing to take a toll on the offense. Buffalo has dealt with multiple injuries up front this year that have required a constant shuffling of personnel and positions along the line. The result is that the running game looked a little rough against Arizona.

Jon Feliciano (76) at center was one of two guys who played on Sunday that was supposed to be in the lineup before the season, but he was slotted in at guard before the injury to Mitch Morse bumped him inside. Feliciano struggles here because the defender gets right into his chest. Feliciano is playing too high and exposing his breastplate; that allows the defensive tackle to stab him and keep the center from ever really engaging the block. He never gets closer than that arm's distance. Brian Winters (66) at right guard could've helped out more by getting at least his inside hand involved with the defensive tackle, but the defender is clearly playing the inside gap here and Feliciano needs to be able to make this block by himself.

Left guard Ike Boettger (65) really isn't any better. He doesn't gain any ground with his first step and his aiming point is bad. There's no reason he can't be flatter here. With the first step and angle of departure he has no real chance to block that linebacker.

Boettger is once again an issue here. He allows defensive tackle (and Stanford alum) Josh Mauro (69) to penetrate too much, which forces the running back to stop his feet in order to cut back. The left guard starts with his inside foot on the 35-yard line; by the time the back cuts upfield the defender's feet are on the 33. Play-side interior pressure just kills outside zone.

And once again, the back side of the play isn't any better. Right tackle Daryl Williams (75) misses a cut block that effectively kills any chance this play might have had. Williams' issue is that he tries to cut on his first step essentially. He takes that first step to open his hips, then lunges for the defender. Typically you want to throw no sooner than your third step and sometimes even later than that. Regardless of when you throw, the key is to continue to run your feet through the cut block. You never want to lunge and hope the guy simply trips over you. That's called a coffee table cut because you're just hoping the guy hits you with his shins and falls over like you're a coffee table in the middle of the night.

The look the Cardinals are running is actually a great one to run outside zone into. If Boettger can just stalemate the defensive tackle and Williams can slow down his man, with the linebackers bailing at the snap, the Bills should be able to gash them right in either A-gap. It didn't happen here, but you could tell Buffalo liked this play against this front for Arizona, they just never hit it like they wanted. The Cardinals ran this double A-gap front a lot throughout the game as well, so it would've been nice if Buffalo could've run it against this look a bit to make them pay for it.

The defensive personnel has changed, but Arizona is still going with the double A-gap amoeba look ("amoeba" meaning everyone standing up walking around at the line of scrimmage). You can see Buffalo talking about how they want to handle it, but it seems like there were some wires still crossed at the snap. Feliciano and Boettger seem to be doing one thing, while left tackle Dion Dawkins (73) and the running back are doing something else completely. What they're doing doesn't make any sense, and without knowing what was called at the line it's impossible to tell who's wrong. I'm guessing someone missed the check at the line and the result is an unblocked rusher.

Plays like this are why you need to be able to run against some of these exotic fronts. They're a pain in the butt to get sorted out in protections, especially with the running back involved, because you never know who a back will consider a down guy vs. a linebacker.

This time the Bills are all on the same page and just full-sliding the protection. Of course, if you guess wrong (or if the defense is reading the slide), you end up with an unblocked defender. That's what happens here, but Dawkins makes a really nice effort to take a clean hit off Josh Allen. Great awareness and a big play in the game. This was a huge third-and-5 on the Bills' final drive of the game. There ended up being a much bigger play for Arizona to end the game, but at the time, this was huge.

Dawkins probably played the worst game I've seen from him this year though. He got himself into bad body position multiple times in pass protection where he was bent way over and playing with poor balance. He didn't give up any sacks, but he gave up more pressure than I've seen in previous games. Still, plays like the one above and what he did on the first touchdown were highlights.

Get two big fella! He helps chop down the down guy, then springs up and gets just enough of the safety to spring Allen for an easy touchdown. A lot of athleticism and effort on display here for a 325-pound man, and it's a good way to wrap up the week.


12 comments, Last at 23 Nov 2020, 12:32pm

1 To count the next to last…

To count the next to last gif as a highlight for Dawkins seems curious on a play when the defense only rushed three and got immediate pressure. All I know about o-line play is what I've read here, but even though Dawkins doesn't seem to make any clear mistakes, he gets destroyed by the bull rush. From what I gather, that wasn't his man. But it had to be somebody's man, right? Or did the line call just assume that guy would drop?

3 By design, perhaps?

I could be wrong, but seeing as this is a sort of misdirection screen, it may be that Buffalo *wanted* pressure, in that they wanted an aggressive front 4 (or 3) to go after the RB, leaving Allen wide open for the screen and subsequent run to the end zone.

5 "Next to last"

He's asking about the slide protection on the 3rd & 5 in the 2nd to last gif, not the Allen TD

8 I have to imagine that his…

I have to imagine that his first read would be to his inside to protect against an LB/DE stunt, and then look to the outside.  He gave ground to the rusher who was coming full speed, which obviously you'd prefer he didn't, but a slower reaction and Allen takes a huge hit.  It's really on Allen to go to a hot read (or run, given his skillset) in that situation.

2 3rd GIF

It's hard to know, but what was the play call on this play?

If it was a "max protect" with just a 2 or 3 man route (since 88 stays in to block also), the back should have had the unblocked rusher, and he screwed up. If it was supposed to be a screen, and he missed the audible or something, then maybe you could understand why he went to the right.

In the GIF, there are 6 potential rushers, and 7 potential blockers. The TE actually takes a rusher just off the screen, so even if that guy blitzed, he was accounted for by the TE. If he doesn't rush, I suppose the TE could turn around to make himself available for a checkdown. On the left side, there is the potential of more rushers than the line can block--so WHY, RB #26 (Singletary?) are you going to the right? 

I'm betting the RB screwed up. To me the protection call on that play is simple--block the guy in front of you, let the TE & RB take the furthest guys out.

4 Other than trying to pad his…

Other than trying to pad his INT stats, what was Allen thinking on that first pass play??  Somehow he got the ball to the RB, but throwing from that angle on your way to the ground is not something he should be doing, unless it's the final drive of the game and you're desperate. 

6 Post-bye health

Reeeeally looking forward to the OL getting to full health after the bye. The guard play has underwhelmed all season as they've never had Ford, Morse and Feliciano all healthy at the same time. I've gotta think that with those 3 and a couple games of continuity, the run game would be significantly better off.

7 Always Great

Always great commentary. It would be easier to follow if you used their numbers or positions every time, instead of just once and then their name.

9 The last play

On the Allen TD, why is the center cut blocking air/doing a pushup? The guard and tackle are both going low on the DT (because going high-low is a penalty). But why the center?

11 He's trying to fool the…

In reply to by Darren

He's trying to fool the defense into thinking he slipped and fell down. The whole point is fooling the defense into chasing the action to the right so they are unprepared for the throwback to the left.