The left side of the Buffalo Bills' offensive line is, obviously, strong. That's why the front office committed top dollar to Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito this off-season. Center Eric Wood is fresh off arguably the best season of his career.
The right side? Not so stable.
Rookie guard John Miller impressed coaches immediately with his high football IQ during his pre-draft visit, started from Day 1, but had an up-and-down debut. He faded down the stretch through a nagging high ankle sprain, but will start again at right guard. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson struggled — Buffalo's loss to the New York Giants was particularly ugly — and then landed on injured reserve after losing a substantial amount of weight with Crohn's disease.
Signed midseason, Jordan Mills wasn't a savior. He didn’t swoop in with a cape. But the veteran wasn’t a total liability through his five starts, either. The Bills did rank No. 1 in rushing. And he has the trust of coaches—Mills probably has the inside track to start in 2016.
No doubt, the Bills will stage an open competition between Mills and Henderson but that’s the early guess here.
Henderson endeared himself to ex-coach Doug Marrone, but Mills is the one who started 29 games under current Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer with the Chicago Bears. He’s more scrappy, than overwhelming. And whenever Henderson was down, Mills got the call over 2014 second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio.
Certainly not what General Manager Doug Whaley envisioned. Two years ago, Kouandjio was likely pegged the long-term, blind-side protector of EJ Manuel. At No. 44 overall, he selected Kouandjio over the likes of running back Jeremy Hill, end Kony Ealy, receiver Allen Robinson and guard Justin Britt.
Yet this week, here was the restricted free agent Mills inking his low tender to stay and compete.
Quite possibly, Henderson turns it on in Year 3. But don’t forget coaches gave him the proverbial swift kick in the rear by lining the former troubled Miami Hurricane up on the second team into training camp. Now, Mills gets a full offseason with the Bills.
Outsiders may be reading these names and cringing, but the Bills aren’t alone in this plight. Offensive tackle play — league-wide — is as poor as its been in years. Simply replay the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl triumph over Carolina where Von Miller abused tackle Mike Remmers to become just the second defensive player to win Super Bowl MVP honors in the last 13 years.
Well, the Panthers extended a $2.55 million second-round tender to Remmers this off-season. Such is the state of affairs.
Freakishly talented edge rushers are in high supply. NFL-ready tackles from spread schemes are not. Don’t count on this year’s draft providing any quick fixes at all—especially on a Bills team in need of defense.
But in the 6-foot-5, 316-pound Mills, the Bills at least have a sense of familiarity.
And that just may be enough for him to win the job this year.
This was one topic on last week's podcast as well.