Improving the running game is a goal of the Buffalo Bills over the next work week.
The Bills rank 25th in the NFL in rushing at 98 yards a game, and the team recognizes it needs to block better for running backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.
"In an honest evaluation, we've got to do a better job up front of getting those guys bigger creases, getting them in space," Bills offensive line coach Sean Kugler said after Wednesday's final bye-week practice. "They're both outstanding. We're finding things that they do well. We try to evaluate the things we do well and get it going for the future. We're going to work our tails off to improve in that area."
Lynch has yet to have a 100-yard game this season. His game-by-game rushing totals are: 76, 59, 83, 57 and 44 yards. He's averaging 3.5 yards a carry, off his average of 4.0 yards last season.
The Bills think Lynch is doing a good job of getting the yards that are available. They need to make his job a bit easier.
"As a team, we need to run the ball more effectively," Kugler said. "It's going to help us in a lot of areas. It sets up a lot of things by being efficient in the run game. . . . We know we have to play better for the offense to be more efficient. Those guys [on the offensive line] will accept that challenge, because it is a good group.
"We're a work in progress," right tackle Langston Walker said. "It hasn't been as good as it was last year. Obviously, we haven't gotten Marshawn over 100 yards in a game yet. But he has scored. We're running more in the red zone, which was an emphasis from our coaches.
"So we're going to take this week and re-evaluate things and I guess, in coachspeak, self-scout, and see if we can change things and make things better," Walker said.
The fact the Bills have been playing from behind in four of their five games has not helped the running total. Since the opener against Seattle, the Bills have not been in position to protect a lead by pounding the run.
"We're having to pass the ball a little bit more than maybe we'd want to, but we won four games doing what we were doing," Walker said. "We want to get better. We've got 11 games left. It's 11 chances to get better."
The coaches think the offense -- both the line and the receivers -- can do a better job of finishing blocks. Because Lynch and Jackson are so hard to bring down, they can keep plays alive longer than blockers might normally realize.
"Marshawn is that type of runner who doesn't want to go down," Walker said. "We do need to finish blocks because those are the times when Marshawn might break a tackle, and if he didn't have this one guy hawking him down that's a run for 20 or 50."
Just like quarterbacks, linemen have a clock in their heads; meaning they know how long a running play typically lasts. Lynch and Jackson, however, can make the play last longer than normal.
"That clock needs to be to the whistle," Kugler said. "Our clock needs to go off when that whistle goes off."
Pass protection suffered in the loss to Arizona, with four of the five sacks allowed coming during catch-up time in the fourth quarter.
Left tackle Jason Peters has been responsible for three of the team's 16 sacks allowed, and those have been some highly visible plays. But Kugler said Peters is playing better than people realize.
"Jason's really been playing pretty well," Kugler said. "I know it gets skewed because there has been one or two things a game that he's had an issue with.
"But as long as he just continues to work, Jason is an outstanding player," Kugler said. "Nobody is going to step on the field and just start performing, especially after not being there for OTAs and minicamp. It's hard. But he's getting better each day, and he works at it. He's working his tail off to get to where he wants to be. He's a very prideful player. He wants to be the best. He will be. I have no problem with his work ethic, and I have no problem with how he's progressing."
The play on which quarterback Trent Edwards was injured in Arizona actually unfolded the way it was drawn up. The Cardinals' Adrian Wilson blitzed late, after the snap of the ball, from his safety position. He was unaccounted for, and it was up to Edwards to get rid of the ball. Edwards made an excellent play, unloading to James Hardy just before being leveled by Wilson.