A perpetually reshuffling offensive line is usually a leaky, sieve of an offensive line. The Buffalo Bills know this as much as any team over the past 16 years.
After a rocky 2015 campaign — one plagued by porous guard play — the Bills signed veteran Richie Incognito, drafted John Miller and brought in coaches Greg Roman and Aaron Kromer.
The result? The NFL’s No. 1-ranked rushing attack. Both Incognito and center Eric Wood were Pro Bowl replacements.
Incognito’s agent and the Bills still have not been able to find common ground quite yet as free agency nears. Here's the full Sunday story on how Incognito went from unwanted to wanted.
Echoing what Wood said after the season, the guard Miller explained just how crucial it is for five players on the line to stick together long term.
“Definitely going into Year 2,” Miller said this week, “I think it’s important for an offensive line to stay together and you should try to keep it together as long as you can. The more experience and more time you have to get close with one another and get that cohesiveness down, it makes for better schemes and helps us count on one another for sure.”
As injuries riddled the Bills’ backfield and the right side of the line, the left side of the line stuck together and, for once, Buffalo’s offense had a great thing going. Whether it was LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Mike Gillislee or Tyrod Taylor, the offense was usually at its best running behind Incognito.
Miller (high ankle sprain) and right tackle Seantrel Henderson (Crohn’s disease) missed time. But against a cutthroat 2016 schedule, full of the NFL’s best run defenses, it’d help the Bills to keep their front line together. Left tackle Cordy Glenn signed the franchise tag and now Incognito could potentially sign next.
For all of the risk, the dangers in bringing in someone from the bullying incident in Miami, Miller repeated that Incognito set a positive tone for everyone.
“Man, working with Richie Incognito day in and day out was a blessing for me coming in as a rookie and coming in to earn a position,” Miller said. “Just seeing the way he handled his business, the level of professionalism that he carried himself with, watching the work, I’d go up to him after practice to get pointers. I’d pick his brain on technique because he’s an old veteran who has been around for a while.
“I know he’s going to be a free agent but hopefully they can work out a deal and bring him back. That’d be beneficial for not only him but the entire team and organization.”
Miller lists off all cogs in the Bills’ rushing machine. It takes all five, he repeats, to get this group humming.
If Incognito is not re-signed, they’ll be starting over at a position of strength, of team identity.
No wonder one source said Roman was pushing for Incognito’s re-signing behind the scenes. This is a run-first team that leans on a mobile Incognito.
And Miller said that Incognito “definitely” found a way to play between the whistles.
“A lot of people look up to him as a leader on our team,” Miller said.“He was always a cool, calm, collected type of guy. He has a great sense of humor. He’s one of those guys you gravitate to. I know me as a rookie, playing the same position, I know I wanted to get close to him and ask about different things and pick his brain. He’s a great guy, man.”