The left side of the Buffalo Bills' offensive line will now hit free agency. Both Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito, two big reasons the Bills finished with the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing attack, are unrestricted free agents in March.
Eric Wood has been around since 2009. The players to his left and right have changed often.
He hopes the Bills value continuity up front this spring and keeps this front five together.
“Very important," Wood said. "Those guys are tremendous players. They were vital to any success we had this year. So that’s going to be big.”
So much for aging and unathletic. Contrary to what Hall of Famer Bill Polian said, this Bills' front five was dominant at times in the run game. Buffalo averaged 152 rushing yards per game, 4.8 per carry and scored 19 touchdowns. LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Mike Gillislee and Tyrod Taylor all were factors, all in very different ways.
For all of the talk about "carryover" and building a "foundation" for 2016, this might actually be one positive that can spill into next season if the Bills are able to re-sign Glenn and Incognito.
"We wanted to win more games. We weren’t perfect up front." Wood said. "We were physical. We played with high effort. We probably weren’t as assignment and as technically sound as we’d like to be at times. We’ll grow. I’m excited about our line, our backs are tremendous. They make us look good at times when we don’t deserve it. Ty’s great. Receivers block well. Tight ends block well. And we have one of the better fullbacks in the league.
"It’s not on us up front with that rushing deal. But we don’t get other stats so we have to claim that one.”
Maybe no other position group is so dependent on continuity, too. When linemen stick together, they learn each other's tricks of the trade. They develop their own communication presnap, even fooling defensive linemen with Manning-like audibles, deception. So much can change during the course of a play, too, so it helps when you know exactly how the player next to you will react.
Defensive linemen, Wood said, "stem" fronts and "switch techniques." Constant dialogue is a must.
The team's offensive guard play was rough in 2014 so Incognito was signed and John Miller was drafted and, now, maybe they have something to work with long term.
"The communication goes inside out," Wood said. "As the year went on, it definitely got easier and easier. We were building. And we build — I don’t want to say ‘something special’ because we weren’t perfect — but we built a pretty good offensive line and we’d definitely like to keep it that way.”
"Communication is vital. The more familiar you are with the offense, the longer you play in it, we became more assignment sound as the year went on.”
Especially in Greg Roman's complicated blocking scheme.
Sometimes, the communication is verbal. Other times, Wood said, you simply point.
"The more familiar, the more comfortable you are with the guys around you," Wood said, "the easier that is.”