Jon Feliciano’s extracurricular activities have been curtailed.
The Buffalo Bills’ right guard loves to stream Fortnite in his free time, but there hasn’t been much of that lately. All of Feliciano’s time has been spent at work, where he has developed into a key cog along the Bills’ offensive line.
“It’s definitely a different season. I’m learning a lot,” Feliciano said after Tuesday’s practice, the only one the Bills will hold this week before their Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys. “It’s been everything I’ve wanted, man. I’ve been having a great time out there and we’ve been winning, so that makes everything better.”
Feliciano signed a modest, two-year contract with the Bills last offseason that could pay him up to $7.25 million. The deal was an afterthought for most fans after the team gave lucrative contracts to center Mitch Morse and wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley on the first day of free agency.
It’s been just as important, though. Feliciano took over as a starter early in training camp and hasn’t looked back. He’s been on the field for 715 of the team’s 772 offensive snaps, spending most of his time at guard, but on two occasions sliding over to center.
That included last week’s win over Denver after Morse left in the first quarter with a finger injury. The offensive line didn’t miss a beat with Feliciano at center, paving the way to a season-high 244 rushing yards and giving up just one sack of quarterback Josh Allen.
“He’s a professional,” Allen said of Feliciano. “He comes in and works hard, knows his stuff, he’s always studying. And then it’s just one of those things off the field, there are a lot of guys I can say this with, but I trust him. I trust him with everything I’ve got. I know he’s going to be doing the right thing, and he’s going to have my back, and I’m going to have his. When you have that type of relationship with a guy, you don’t have to worry about him, you know he’s going to do his job.”
Morse practiced on a limited basis Tuesday and it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to play against the Cowboys. If not, Feliciano figures to get his first start of the season at center.
“It's not a big deal for myself,” Feliciano said of possibly changing positions. “That was my role for the last four years, to be ready to go to center at the drop of a dime. I've said it many times -- playing center here is a lot easier, because we have Josh and Josh is able to make a lot of the calls. Especially now with this up-tempo offense, it makes everything just a little bit easier. It was nothing, honestly.”
Feliciano spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Raiders. Over that time, he played a total of 576 offensive snaps, or 139 less than he’s played in 11 games this season. That has meant a commitment to his physical conditioning.
“I had to put down my (video) games,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just trying to make it to Sunday.”
Or, as is the case this week, Thursday.
Don’t expect much to change for the Bills offensively if Morse can’t play. That speaks volumes about the confidence the team has in Feliciano.
“Jon is a good player for us, both inside at guard and very flexible to play center,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. “Jon can step in and make all the calls. We have a lot of trust in Feliciano. Glad we have him. I’m glad we have Mitch, too. But, that’s why you go back to OTAs, and you go back to training camp, time on task. You never know. You only get so many linemen to go to a game with, and flexibility is important.”
Feliciano sits in the quarterback-center meetings during the week, but normally doesn't take a single practice rep at the position.
“I really don't need it,” he said without a hit of arrogance. “I know how to snap. I'm in the quarterback-center meetings. I'm doing that stuff. I'm studying like a center, but I don't need to get snaps. I'm more worried about what three technique (defensive tackle) I've got to block usually. The only time I really snap a ball is Sunday. I usually get one or two with Josh before the game.”
Feliciano’s addition is looking like one of General Manager Brandon Beane’s under-the-radar signings that has paid off in a big way.
“You can’t really just single out one guy, but having him there and just the meanness and the toughness that he brings, the attitude he brings,” is good for the team, Allen said. “He’s one of those guys that’s extremely smart. He does a lot of things with our line, especially when he got moved to center. How he can play both positions and be in sync, be locked in and communicate very well, not many guys can do that. I love the guy. He’s been awesome for us, and he’s going to continue to be awesome.”
In addition to Morse, wide receiver Robert Foster practiced on a limited basis Tuesday. Foster suffered a hamstring injury against the Broncos on Sunday, so it would be a surprise if he was able to play just four days later.
Right tackle Ty Nsekhe did not practice and is not expected to play against Dallas. He’s dealing with an ankle injury.