It’s a reasonable certainty Jalen Ramsey has no idea who the big rookie is that the Buffalo Bills are starting at left guard Sunday.
There are probably more than a few Bills fans who don’t know his identity, either, but they won’t be on the other side of the ball from him.
Ramsey will. Oh, there’s a chance the Jacksonville Jaguars’ cornerback noticed the number, 75, while watching videotape of the Bills’ offense. However, it’s a safe bet he’s unaware of the name or anything else that would prompt him to offer an assessment of Wyatt Teller of any kind.
Ramsey did see fit to offer an unfavorable review of another rookie who will be starting for the Bills Sunday: Josh Allen. Ramsey called Allen “trash” in the August issue of GQ magazine and stood by that remark this week. Sunday at New Era Field, Ramsey gets a chance to back up his words when the seventh overall draft pick makes his first start after missing the last four games with an elbow injury.
Of course, between the quarterback and the cornerback will be Teller, making the second start of his NFL career.
Teller didn’t come in with anything close to the hype Allen received. Teller was a fifth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech. He was someone General Manager Brandon Beane and the rest of the Bills’ scouting staff concluded had the smarts, strength and athleticism to make a successful transition from the spread-style offense most colleges use to a far more complicated scheme that would ask him to pull and use his considerable power to match up against massive defensive linemen.
“He is a strong kid, naturally strong,” Beane said. “Some guys can get knocked back immediately because they don't have the girth, the weight about them to hold it. You’re not going to knock him back as far, even when you’ve got him. He’s able to be firm, even if he doesn’t get that first punch, but he’s also athletic enough to move and to pull and things like that.”
After being inactive for eight of the first nine games of the season, Teller got his first pro start in place of Vlad Ducasse in the Bills’ 41-10 victory against the New York Jets on Nov. 11. Not only did he perform well enough to keep the job, but he also demonstrated some qualities that contributed to the overall improvement of one of the worst offenses in the league. The biggest was the infusion of muscle he provided the run game, playing a key role in springing LeSean McCoy for a season-high 113 yards and two touchdowns.
When the 6-foot-4, 314-pound Teller wasn’t consistently knocking the defender he was assigned to block — usually 6-5, 302-pound Leonard Williams — backward, he was looking for someone else to hit. Hard.
“I thought he brought an innate toughness and physicality to our front, which is important when you try to build an offensive line,” coach Sean McDermott said. “There were times, in the run game in particular, where he was driving and drive-blocking guys down the field 4 or 5 yards. And that’s what I want to see. That’s what we want to create.”
Allen and Teller are best friends. Teller was excited to learn he would make his first NFL start against the Jets mainly because it looked as if he would be doing so with Allen at quarterback. Two days earlier, however, the decision was made to go with Matt Barkley and give Allen more time to heal.
Suffice it to say that Allen and Teller are especially thrilled they’ll get to face the Jaguars together. Allen lights up when he talks about his friend. The first thing he mentioned when Teller’s name came up Wednesday was that it was the guard’s 24th birthday.
The Bills are paying Teller $480,000 this year to protect whoever is playing quarterback and to open holes for whoever is running the ball. Still, it’s hardly a reach to say he has at least a little bit of extra incentive to help keep Allen upright and give him the time to make throws and the room to use his equally effective legs.
That’s his buddy back there, someone who knows him as well as almost anyone.
“Wyatt is a big kid in a grown man’s body,” Allen said. “He loves video games, he’s very emotional. I wouldn't say he’s hyper, but he has a lot of energy and he’s always on. There’s no turning him off, but that's what makes him Wyatt. That’s one of the reasons why I love him.
“He’s a very loyal person. You talk to anybody on this team, he’s got your back. He’s not going to say anything bad about you, because that's just the type of person he is. He loves this team, loves this game and I love him.”
Whatever Ramsey might want to bring Allen’s way, whether it’s just more talk or something else, you can assume he’ll have to get past Teller to do it.
Not that Teller is looking to do anything but his job. He fully understands that to be successful at football’s highest level, he must maintain focus and concentration. Most of all, he has to keep those emotions in check.
“Don’t ever get too high, don’t ever get too low, don’t overreact,” Teller said, as if reminding himself of the coaching points he has been hearing since his first practice with the Bills. “Stay mentally tough and stay solid, and come together as a team. We don’t have distractions, stuff like that.”
Without mentioning Ramsey’s name, Teller added, “Obviously, people can say stuff. Even a player could say something and that doesn't hurt us, as a group.”
He was humble about what he did against the Jets. On more than a few occasions, teammates gave him direction. Some of the most helpful guidance was from fullback Patrick DiMarco.
“He knows more about the offensive line than I do,” Teller said with a smile. “For example, during a play, if I didn’t have the right step, he already knew it because he knows exactly how it’s supposed to look.”
Teller’s biggest takeaway?
“I need to improve. A LOT,” he said. “The mindset is keep on getting better. A lot of mistakes were made. You see a lot of good blocks, you see more bad blocks. Finding that consistency and confidence each play is most important for a rookie.”
Allen, who has taken the high road with Ramsey’s criticism, agrees that it’s a long shot the cornerback has even the slightest clue who Teller is.
“I wouldn’t expect him to,” Allen said. “I wouldn’t expect a lot of people to know Wyatt's name. Young rookie, hasn’t played that much.”
The quarterback paused, then smiled.
“But people will know his name in the future.”