The Buffalo Bills’ offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL through the first seven weeks of the season.
At least that’s according to the analytics website Football Outsiders, which ranks the Bills’ line 30th out of 32 teams.
The website ranks teams according to adjusted line yards, using regression analysis to assign responsibility to the offensive line for every carry by that team’s running backs. Losing runs receive are valued at 120 percent, while runs of 0 to 4 yards are 100 percent, runs of 5 to 10 yards are 50 percent and runs of 11-plus yards are 0 percent.
The Bills’ are averaging 3.30 adjusted line yards, ahead of only Denver and Philadelphia.
So what’s gone wrong? Runs that go nowhere are a good place to start. The Bills have been “stuffed,” meaning a run has gone for no gain or negative yardage, on 24 percent of their carries, a figure that ranks 26th in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.
That puts the offense in situations where the defense knows to expect a pass. As a result, the Bills’ pass blocking has suffered. Buffalo ranks 28th in Football Outsiders’ pass-protection rankings, with an adjusted sack rate of 8.8 percent.
Without knowledge of the play call and responsibility, it’s difficult to grade offensive linemen. With the Bills at their bye week, however, The Buffalo News is doing just that as part of its position-by-position look at the state of the roster. To do so, analytics website Pro Football Focus has assisted by passing along its ratings for each of the Bills’ starting offensive linemen:
Eric Wood: One of only two players on team to take every offensive snap, Wood has been the anchor of the interior offensive line. PFF ranks him sixth out of 35 grades centers, charging with eight quarterback pressures allowed. His run-blocking grade is slightly higher than his pass protection, although both are positive. When the Bills were floundering on offense in Week Seven against Jacksonville, Wood gathered the entire group on the sideline. In the absence of Fred Jackson, Wood appears to have taken on more of a leadership role. Grade: A.
Richie Incognito: The Bills’ decision to bring Incognito in on a one-year contract for just over $1 million is looking like one of the best bargains in free agency. PFF ranks him as the third-best guard in all of football (out of 80) grades, with strong reviews for both his pass- and run-blocking. He’s joined in Wood in taking every offensive snap and been charged with just six quarterback pressures allowed all season. Left guard was a turnstile last year for the Bills – Incognito has come in and solidified the position. His on-the-field performance after being exiled from the league for more than a year has been impressive. Grade: A+.
Cordy Glenn: Penalties have been an issue for Glenn, who has been called for holding five times this season (three have been accepted). That ties him for second-most penalties on a team that takes way too many of them. All three times the flags have been accepted against Glenn, the Bills’ drive has stalled. Still, with an overall grade from PFF that ranks ninth out of 77 graded offensive tackles, Glenn has given the Bills solid play. His pass blocking grade is much stronger than his run blocking, according to PFF. He’s allowed nine total pressures in playing 97 percent of the offensive snaps. Glenn is entering unrestricted free agency at the richest position along the offensive line, which will present a challenge for the salary cap-challenged Bills after the year. Grade: B.
John Miller: The rookie right guard from Louisville has had the types of struggles you’d expect from a first-year player. So much so, that PFF ranks Miller 79th out of its 80 graded guards. Both run blocking and pass protection are low, but the latter is particularly troubling. Miller has been charged with allowing 15 quarterback pressures in just 157 pass-blocking snaps (Wood and Incognito, by comparison, have played more than 270 pass-blocking snaps). A groin injury suffered in Week Three against Miami knocked him out for most of that game and all of the next one. Miller also missed Week Seven’s loss to Jacksonville, returning from London to his native Miami after the death of a family member. Grade: D.
Seantrel Henderson: The second-year right tackle also missed the game against the Jaguars, because of a concussion suffered the previous week against the Bengals. Henderson ranks 60th in PFF’s tackle grades, allowing 12 quarterback pressure in 187 pass-blocking snaps for a negative score in pass protection. His run blocking has also been scored negatively. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, however, remains committed to Henderson, saying earlier this season he feels he has the potential to become one of the best tackles in the NFL. Grade: C-.
Cyrus Kouandjio: The Bills’ “swing tackle,” Kouandjio has played in 32 percent of the team’s snaps, seeing spot duty until making his first career start for Henderson in Week Seven. A former second-round draft pick in 2014, it’s a check mark against General Manager Doug Whaley that Kouandjio hasn’t made more of a push for playing time in his second season. In limited duty, he’s taken three false-start penalties, all of which have stalled drives. Grade: C.
Kraig Urbik: The veteran took a pay cut to stay with the Bills as the primary interior offensive line backup. His versatility in that regard is a plus. Urbik has made two starts in place of Miller. He was the Bills’ lowest-graded offensive lineman by PFF against the Jaguars. Grade: D+.