Buffalo Bills

Four Downs with David: The Offensive Line

Welcome back to “Four Downs with David.” In this week’s article, we will be covering a topic that is stirring up a heavy dose of conversation as of late…the offensive line.

We’ll cover takes on injuries and the offensive line rotation in general. We’ll cover position flexibility and how that could and should play a role in determining which players make the final roster. We’ll also touch on a prized free agent who may already be fighting an uphill battle to live up to his contract.

Again, these are all takes that I believe could be possible to some degree, each with their own level of heat! Special thanks to Adam Nannini for suggesting the addition of Scoville scale heat units (SHU) to each take!

1st Down – Mild (50 SHU), “Cody Ford is Better Suited to Play Guard…for now”

Projecting whether Cody Ford would play guard or tackle in the NFL was debated at length leading up to the NFL Draft. As evidenced by what we all saw through the Bills Embedded series, followed by comments made post-draft from Brandon Beane, it seemed clear the Bills envisioned Cody Ford as their long term fixture at the right tackle position.

At the onset of training camp, Ford was thrust into the first team unit at right tackle, where he had struggled dealing with speed around the edge. These struggles, in conjunction with injuries to other players, led the Bills to kick Ford inside to right guard, starting with this past Sunday’s practice. Reports also indicated that Ford was once again playing guard at Monday’s practice.

For the short term, I believe this is a good move for the Bills, and allows them to theoretically get their top five offensive linemen on the field at the same time. Ford should use this time at guard to showcase his physical strengths, gain confidence, and to learn from the two guys who should be on either side of him when it comes time for opening day (Mitch Morse and Ty Nsekhe). If the Bills still see Ford as their future at right tackle, there is nothing stopping them from doing so after a season (or two) adapting to the NFL game playing on the interior. This take is not an uncommon one among fans and analysts alike, thus it checks in as our “mildest” take of the week.

2nd Down – Medium (2,500 SHU), “Wyatt Teller’s Roster Spot is in Jeopardy”

Wyatt Teller hasn’t been talked about much so far during camp, but he has quietly been going about his business, earning second-team reps in recent practices due to injuries across the rest of the offensive line. He has even held up nicely against Ed Oliver in few different one-on-one situations during recent practices.

With that said, the injuries to other interior lineman (Jon Feliciano and Spencer Long) appear to be minor, as both were back in pads for Monday’s practice. Additionally, if Cody Ford’s move to guard remains somewhat permanent (much hinges on the health of Mitch Morse, which I will address in 4th Down), Teller could find himself firmly on the roster bubble. The injuries to LaAdrian Waddle and Jeremiah Sirles could force the Bills to keep a player like Conor McDermott on the roster as a backup tackle.

Suddenly, the Bills find themselves very thin at the tackle position, and it would appear that their plan was always to keep at least one, if not two, backup tackles on the final roster. In the wake of LaAdrian Waddle being placed on IR, the Bills signed Rochester native, Jarron Jones, to the roster on Tuesday morning. If the Bills only keep nine offensive lineman, we could see Dawkins, Spain, Morse, Ford, Nsekhe, Feliciano, Long, and McDermott all on the final 53, leaving only one potential opening for the likes of Teller, Ike Boettger, or Russell Bodine (cue the Michael Scott “No God, Please No” GIF). Teller is still more likely than not to make the final 53, but I think it’s now fair to say he’s no longer a lock.

3rd Down – Hot (10,000 SHU), “Mitch Morse will Start 9 Games or Fewer this Season”

The facts are clear…Mitch Morse has had multiple concussions throughout his career, and with each one, he has successively missed more games than the injury prior. In 2015, Morse missed a week 12 game due to a concussion. About a month later, he suffered another concussion and missed the Chiefs week 17 game, and both of the Chiefs playoff games that season.

Morse was concussion free during both the 2016 and 2017 seasons (missed games for other injuries), but then suffered another concussion during week 6 of the 2018 regular season. He went on to miss 5 games as a result. Taking each concussion successively, Morse missed 1 game, then 3 games, and then 5 games. He has already suffered an early training camp concussion, and I now find myself at more than a mild level of concern.

Medical findings have shown two key areas that should be of concern to all of us, including Morse. Firstly, those who have previous concussion history are more likely to sustain a future concussion. Secondly, the healing process takes longer and longer with each additional concussion that is suffered. Both of these points, combined with the fact that Morse is already on the shelf in camp with another concussion, concerns me that we may not see the Bills prized free agent play more than half of the team’s regular season game this year.

4th Down – Extra Hot (50,000 SHU), “Ty Nsekhe will Start the Entire Season at RT for the Bills”

This take comes with two fairly sizable assumptions. Firstly, for Nsekhe to start all year at right tackle for the Bills, it likely means that Cody Ford plays the entire season at right guard. Secondly, it assumes Nsekhe will stay healthy for all 16 games. For our readers and listeners, you will know that “The Bills Guys” are big believers in Nsekhe’s ability.

Even though he will turn 34 years old during the season, Nsekhe has shown enough ability for a guy who has only regularly been playing in the NFL since 2015, to be a reliable, and dare I say, above-average NFL tackle. While not an eye-popping ranking, Nsekhe did grade out as the 42nd best tackle in the NFL during the 2018 season (per Pro Football Focus). I believe that he is one of the best five offensive lineman on the Bills roster, and given the Bills recently moved Cody Ford inside, Nsekhe could find himself entrenched at the right tackle position…at least for this season.

Nsekhe has only PLAYED (not started) in 16 games once in his career, during the 2016 campaign with Washington. For him to start all 16 games in a season would be a career first, and would also shatter his previous high of starts in a single season, which is a mere five games. We are so early in the season, and for that matter, still so early in camp (yet to play a preseason game). What makes this take fiery is not the fact that Nsekhe doesn’t have the ability to start 16 games, but for all of the other variables to come together from now until the end of the season. Between injuries, the remainder of training camp/preseason, and how things play out with Cody Ford (to name just a few), there are still so many pieces that would need to fall into place for this scenario to play itself out on the field.

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