“I think he’s a smart, physical runner. He can get in and move on. He’s very physical, and his strength and power were apparent.” “I saw what I thought I saw in him. I think I’ll be moving on after next week.”
The Bills drafted a two-back backfield that should have very high upside and can run the ball. As much as it seems as if Bills fans are hoping to see one more running back like that on third down, the Bills do at least have that luxury in the past that can potentially give the team the option to go with the more talented, if flawed, two-back configuration.
How many fans have been caught in the middle of both of those narratives with this team lately? Let’s explore today three reasons that I believe the team can do so many more things in the future with what they have available in terms of running backs.
One of the biggest issues the Bills have had for the past two years (for this franchise or for any) has been the line of scrimmage. On the year the Bills are ranked 17th in the NFL in yards per carry and 32nd in sacks. If I had to give a description of a line that would work for the team at this point I would probably say that that was the first line of defense. A combination of inexperience and poor play by a very young group made life difficult for Brian Orakpo, the starting center. When you combine that with a situation where a lot of the offensive linemen struggled and were very one-dimensional, it seemed as if one bad play could take the entire offense out of the game. It does work from the perspective of taking the ball out of your quarterback’s hands, but at the end of the day it is still an offensive line with talent that can give it to your quarterback at times.
Of course after they drafted Richie Incognito in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft as a defensive end, it only seems to be getting worse. This year is no exception. When the Bills lost D’Brickashaw Ferguson to free agency, it only seemed to create more problems for a already struggling offensive line. It got so bad that they had to give Mario Williams some playing time, while they tried to get their right tackle, Jason Peters, back after losing their starter, Eric Wood, for most of the offseason. However, it was through that experiment with Peters that he took a backseat to the injury prone Incognito. When he is on the field, Williams has been one of the most consistent, steady, and reliable members of this Bills offense. His role continues to get more and more important because the Bills need him more so than anyone else.
Another young offensive lineman that could help this team out that I expect the team do very well with are first year player Jordan Mills and second year player Seantrel Henderson (which can be better because of his physicality). Mills came to Buffalo with great promise but has looked far more comfortable in his role now that he has the offensive line and a new offensive coordinator in Matt Nagy. In his first NFL start against the Cowboys, Mills was able to secure a two-yard rushing and a pass blocking touchdown. While he isn’t really what you would call an All-Pro caliber lineman, he is solid enough, if not great enough on the interior to be more than adequate. There was one stretch of 4 games where Mills was able to allow two or fewer sacks in each game, but in those 4 wins he only allowed 3 or 4 other sacks! If Mills can continue to be in this mode, he should be in a very good spot to be very productive in the off-season.
Henderson has played pretty well for the Bills this year, although he hasn’t exactly earned any Pro Bowl appearances. He was expected to be a quality fourth quarter back when he was selected with a third round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Henderson is already a solid starter when he isn’t dealing with injuries and has been an excellent asset off the edge. However, he could be much bigger, faster, and more versatile than what is currently expected of him and I think he should be a top 10 all season offensive tackle in the league. He has been a good option as the starter in pass pro for the Bills this year; he has always been able to come inside and play guard, but he can also move out and play tackle, a position he would excel at in this offense. The same could also be said for Jordan Mills, who is an excellent option as the starter at offensive tackle.
The last piece is the biggest, and most important. The Bills need to get rid of Eric Wood; that is a situation that is very difficult to move