The Buffalo Bills’ offensive line was lacking in athleticism due to the loss of Richie Incognito and Eric Wood in 2018.
The signing of center Mitch Morse from Kansas City is a big step in filling that void.
Morse’s footspeed gives the Bills a center who can get to the second level in run blocking and make quick adjustments in protecting the interior of the line in pass blocking.
“We love his quickness and his leverage,” Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck said after Morse was drafted in the second round in 2015. “He’s a very explosive guy.”
The Chiefs have done a phenomenal job in drafting for explosiveness across the board at all positions.
Kansas City has a knack for drafting players who gain the advantage on their first one or two steps. It’s part of the reason the Chiefs ranked No. 1 in the NFL in both 20-plus pass plays and run plays in 2018. If the Chiefs make a trait priority, it’s a trend worth following.
Morse came out of Missouri in 2015 with the shortest wingspan of any offensive lineman in the draft (76 3-4 inches) and relatively short arms (32 1-4 inches).
That’s why he wasn’t projected as an NFL tackle, the position at which he started for 32 games in college. He was a right tackle for 18 games at Mizzou and left tackle for 14 games his senior year.
How did he survive on the edge in the Southeastern Conference?
When Morse went to the NFL Scouting Combine, he posted the third-best short shuttle time of any lineman in the draft class – 4.5 seconds. The short shuttle, in which the player covers 20 yards to his right and left, measures change of direction and agility.
Morse also had the fourth-best broad jump of offensive linemen in his draft class, at 9 feet, 4 inches. His vertical jump of 31 inches was second among guards and centers. Those numbers all compare favorably to Wood’s (4.51, 8-3 and 30 1-2), who gave the Bills exceptional athleticism at center for nine seasons.
It all speaks to the ability to gain the advantage on the first few steps, which has been evident in Morse’s play for the Chiefs the past four years.
A center with great mobility will give offensive coordinator Brian Daboll more flexibility to add more dimensions to the Bills’ attack.
Morse fits the zone run game well. Against the Chargers last season, he can be seen using his quick feet to get reach blocks on defensive tackles to help the Chiefs gain the corner.
And on outside runs and screens, both a Chiefs strength and a Bills weakness last season, Morse can be seen quickly getting to the second level. Quickness to the second level allows Morse the ability to get blocks on box safeties – he did it against the Chargers’ outstanding rookie Derwin James – before they can react and avoid.
The Bills didn’t even try to run outside all that much last season as the campaign wore on.
Morse has good natural strength. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 36 times at the Combine, which was second among offensive linemen in his class. Of course, shorter arms aid in the bench press.
At 6-foot-5 3-8 and 305 pounds, mobility is his clear strength over girth. Morse played part of his rookie season at 290. By his second year, his playing weight was up to 305-plus. He’s not a road-grader like Dallas All-Pro Travis Frederick.
But Morse brings plenty of experience – 52 starts – and smarts from an offense the Bills would like to emulate in many ways.
“The communication is huge in that department and we’ve done a really good job of communicating with each other and that correlates to putting points on the board,” Morse said in the middle of last season, as the Chiefs offense was setting the league on fire.