Buffalo Bills training camp preview: Offensive line

2020 Buffalo Bills training camp preview for the team’s offensive line.

The Buffalo Bills are putting the final touches on their preparations for training camp in 2020, one that’s not going to be like any other.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, everyone from fans to the organization knows things aren’t going to be the same during 2020’s camp. Safety precautions between players and owners are still being discussed and worked out.

Still, the end goal for training camp is the same as usual. The Bills need to trim their roster down and find the best bunch of guys to send into battle together on game day.

Bills Wire will go group-by-group, breaking down each position ahead of camp’s *expected* start on July 28. This round is the offensive line:

Buffalo Bills center Mitch Morse. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Players (age)

  • Mitch Morse (28: 6th season)
  • Spencer Long (29: 7th season)
  • Ike Boettger (25: 3rd season)
  • Jon Feliciano (28: 6th season)
  • Marquel Harrell (23: Rookie)
  • Quinton Spain (28: 6th season)
  • Ryan Bates (23: 2nd season)
  • Evan Boehm (26: 5th season)
  • Garrett McGhin (24: 2nd season)
  • Daryl Williams (27: 6th season)
  • Trey Adams (23: Rookie)
  • Victor Salako (26: 2nd season)
  • Dion Dawkins (26: 4th season)
  • Cody Ford (23: 2nd season)
  • Ty Nsekhe: (34: 6th season)
  • Brandon Walton (22: Rookie)

2019 recap

The 2019 recap for this offensive line would be a long one, but we’ll keep it short and sweet. The Bills turned over… just about everything along their line a year ago. In 2018, the group was very bad. From that season, the only starter that survived was left tackle Dion Dawkins. Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane saw fit to add as many bodies as he could in free agency and the draft in 2019, and told them all essentially the same: Best man wins. That grouping, from left to right, ended up being: Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, and Cody Ford with a mix of Ty Nsekhe at right tackle. Overall, this unit’s play was much better than 2018, but they do not rank amongst the NFL’s best just yet, there’s room to grow.

Now here’s a rundown of storylines to follow in this position group:

Does continuity reign supreme?

Earlier this offseason, a study was released about continuity in the NFL. The Bills have the most continuity among their roster heading into next season. A big part of that is having all five (or six) guys who spent time starting on their offensive line returning. That’s right, all six of those guys mentioned in our 2019 recap are back once again. Spain was re-signed this offseason in an effort to do just that.

So is that it? Are we all said and done?

Well, the Bills should really not do that, but we’ll see if the coach staff does. There’s one big thought on both sides of the fence. Why keep the same group together? Chemistry builds over time with an offensive line, so another season of… seasoning… could be great for this group. On the flip side, why shouldn’t the starter roles just be given back over? Well, best mans, right? If there’s someone better, give that person the job. You’d still likely have a big chunk of chemistry growing on a line with maybe just one new face.

We’ll see which route the Bills are going.


2020 Offensive Line Rankings

Rankings the NFL Offensive Lines for fantasy football

Offensive lines are tough to rank given rate of injury to the position, the complexity of five players playing cohesively (or not), and the quality of the ball handlers in the offense. All that goes into a game-by-game matchup against a different defense each week. The higher an offensive line is ranked, the more advantageous and reliable it should be.

These rankings also put more premium on offensive lines that return intact from last year and that are not installing a new scheme. The lack of practice time due to the COVID-19 situation is bound to negatively impact teams that introducing anything new.

The metrics below show the values for the listed category and the rank from 2019. The “% Pass – Hurry, Hit or Sack” indicates how clean the pocket. It has the percentage of plays that the quarterback was either hurried, hit or sacked.

1. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles offensive line has been a strength for several seasons. LG Brandon Brooks and C Jason Kelce are both elite and went to the Pro Bowl. Aged Jason Peters was released and Andre Dillard takes over after being their 1.22 pick in 2019. With RB Miles Sanders taking over this year and DeSean Jackson healthy again, the offense should move even better and help keep this offense as one of the better units in the NFL. There are no weaknesses in this always reliable offensive line.

2. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are always in the argument for the best offensive line. They sent OT Ronnie Stanley and OG Marshal Yanda to the Pro Bowl plus OT Orlando Brown as a replacement.  Four out of every five passes, no defender was even close to Lamar Jackson. This team set an NFL record with so many rushes and yet still had the highest yards-per-carry from their running backs. Plus Jackson rushing as well. The impact of a rushing quarterback is always positive for any offensive line and this one is already one of the top units. Yanda retired in the offseason, and his spot will be filled after a competition that will include D.J. Fluker and 3.42 pick Tyre Phillips. This offensive line is one of the elite units.

3. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys offensive line returned to elite status with a healthy 2019 and they placed near the top in almost every blocking category. C Travis Frederick retired so Joe Looney will start again as he did in 2018 when Frederick was out due to Guillain-Barré syndrome. This offensive line sent three players to the Pro Bowl last year – Frederick, LT Tyron Smith, and G Zack Martin who is at least in the argument for the best overall lineman in the NFL. RT La’el Collins was undrafted in 2015 but has worked his way up from a guard to being yet another strength of the line. No concerns about this unit again this year.

4. New Orleans Saints

This is another offensive line that always ranks near the top for several seasons. LT Terron Armstead comes off a Pro Bowl season. C Erik McCoy turned in a great rookie season and RT Ryan Ramczyk can be dominant. Even with Alvin Kamara playing injured last year, they still ended with top-ten marks in most rushing categories. The Saints spent their 1.24 pick on C/G Cesar Ruiz who should start at right guard. This is a talented unit that refreshes on occasion but always successfully. Drew Brees enjoyed the cleanest pocket in the NFL last year with about six of every seven passes thrown without any pressure, hit, or sack. No wonder Michael Thomas had time to catch 149 passes.

5. Indianapolis Colts

This remains one of the top offensive lines and proves that spending those high draft picks pays off. All five starters return and all five played every game last year. That showed up in the rushing marks despite former fourth-round running back Marlon Mack as their best runner. That should only improve with rookie Jonathan Taylor joining the backfield. Jacoby Brissett was the surprise starter with Andrew Luck bailing on his career in August. Philip Rivers is an upgrade at quarterback as well. Pro Bowler LG Quenton Nelson is one of the best in the business and C Ryan Kelly was a replacement at the Pro Bowl as well. LT Anthony Castonzo has his contract extended in the offseason. This is one of the strengths of the offense and should excel even more with Taylor and Rivers.

6. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders own one of the most expensive offensive lines and it shows. Derek Carr enjoyed one of the safest pockets and upgrades to their receivers means he’ll hold the ball even less. C Rodney Hudson and LG Richie Incognito are two of the best interior linemen in the league. Hudson and RT Trent Brown both went to the Pro Bowl. Brown ended the year on injured reserve with a pectoral injury and returns healthy. The Raiders move to new digs this year with the same formidable offensive line. Adding TE Jason Witten also helps the overall blocking.

7. Green Bay Packers

The Packers already had one of the premier lines and LT David Bakhtiari comes off a Pro Bowl season. RT Bryan Bulaga left and Ricky Wagner comes over from the Lions as a replacement and will be the only new starter this year. This O-line is one of the better units in the NFL and shouldn’t drop much with the swap of Bulaga/Wagner. 2020 will be OC Nathaniel Hackett’s second season and his season-long tinkering improved the team as the season progressed, especially the rushing effort.

8. Kansas City Chiefs

The same set of starters return from 2019 and their lower marks for rushing metrics were more about the mish-mash backfield that couldn’t stay healthy than the blocking. Adding Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a needed upgrade and the O-line still did a great job keeping the pocket clean for Patrick Mahomes despite a below-average rushing offense that no one feared and every reason to try to get to Mahomes before he killed them with the pass. RT Mitchell Schwartz is a standout and LT Eric Fisher keeps the rush away from Mahomes. The Chiefs added OT Lucas Niang (3.32) who may switch to guard and challenge RG Laurent Ducernay-Tardiff. This is a solid unit that should play better with improved rushing production.

9. New England Patriots

The Patriots offensive line has always been an advantage and an underrated part of their success. Losing Tom Brady has an obvious impact but at least Jarrett Stidham beings in all-new mobility to the offense and likely won’t just sit down when the pass rush passes the line of scrimmage. LG Joe Thuney was the franchise player and all five starters return from last year. C Ted Karras left for the Dolphins but David Andrews was already a previous starter and should keep this unit performing at a high level. The yards-per-carry fell last season, but that was as much about running backs missing or playing injured.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

The first year without OL coach Mike Munchak and it all fell apart. The backfield was slammed with injuries and underperformance. Ben Roethlisberger only lasted one full game before leaving and taking the passing offense with him. And yet, RG David DeCastro and C Maurkice Pouncey went back to the Pro Bowl. All the blocking marks fell in 2019 and often significantly like only rushing 1.3 yards before contact. LG Ramon Foster retired and will likely be replaced by Stefen Wisnieski. The return of Roethlisberger should have a dramatic impact on the passing offense. The offensive line is far more talented than what 2019 seemed to suggest.

11. Los Angeles Chargers

This was an average offensive line by metrics and considered below average by most. C Mike Pouncey was lost to a knee injury last year and his return will give a much-needed boost to the blocking, also important with the Chargers moving on from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor or the rookie Justin Herbert. RT Bryan Bulaga comes over from Green Bay and signed a three-year, $30M contract. He’s expected to switch to the left side to fix the biggest hole from last year. RG Trai Turner was acquired in a trade with the Panthers as a further upgrade. This offensive line should be much better – health willing as always – and they’ll have to mesh with any changes by OC Shane Steichen who moved up from QB coach.

12. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings offense line ranked well in most metrics despite being one of the lowest-paid set of starting linemen in the NFL. They did not gain or lose any notable blockers in free agency and spent their 2.26 pick on OT Ezra Cleveland for much-needed depth. The starting lineup returns from 2019. The Vikings are moving on to OC Gary Kubiak but OL coach Rick Dennison remains from last year. Dalvin Cook – when healthy – makes the offensive line look better than it is.

13. Cleveland Browns

The Browns offense disappointed in 2019 after a promising first season for Baker Mayfield. They did face one of the worst schedules which did not help. The Browns looked to upgrade by grabbing the best free-agent lineman – RT Jack Conklin from the Titans who signed a 3-year, $42M contract who should prove advantageous to the rushing effort. The Browns also used their 1.10 pick on LT Jedrick Wills. Those two additions to the tackle spots revamp the weak spots in the line. G Joel Bitonio was already a stand-out who was a replacement in the Pro Bowl this year and C JC Tretter was also above average. This should be one of the most improved lines this season and they’ll face a far easier schedule as another plus.

14. Chicago Bears

The Bears return five starters from 2019 but this unit produced mostly average measurables despite going against one of the softest schedules. Questionable quarterback play did not help, nor did an inconsistent commitment to running the ball. The offense gets yet another coordinator in Bill Lazor. He brings in Juan Castillo who helped the O-lines with the Bills and Ravens recently. C Cody Whitehair is the standout here and losing G Kyle Long to retirement was probably overdue. RG Rashaad Coward is a suitable replacement. LT Charles Leno does a solid job and the passing game success is more on the quarterback(s) than the blocking. The same goes for David Montgomery needing to improve as a rusher.

15. San Francisco 49ers

The offensive line improved all marks from 2018 other than negative runs but they also were one of the rush-heavy teams and were roughly average considering the percentage of lost-yardage runs. The offense – and the line play – improved as the season progressed and that should carry over to this year. The 49ers traded for LT Trent Williams from the Redskins who takes over for the retired Joe Staley. That’s a critical spot since Jimmy Garappolo never leaves the pocket. The blocking is better along with the rest of the offense so long as Garoppolo remains healthy and Raheem Mostert can replicate his success from the second half of 2019.

16. Houston Texans

The Texans spent several years saddled with one of the weaker lines, but adding Pro Bowler LT Laremy Tunsil in a trade last year has paid off. Especially for him since he just signed a three-year, $66M contract. Their first-round pick of RT Tytus Howard last year saw him struggle with injury by partially tearing his MCL and missed eight games, ending the year on injured reserve. His return should – health willing – be a nice upgrade to a line that already did a better job in the rushing effort. The weakness is now in the middle which still needs to be addressed and Deshaun Watson doesn’t always do the line any favors holding onto the ball and trying to buy time. This line is improved from their bottom-of-the-barrel in past years, but it still has work to be done.

17. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams offensive line has been an asset for several years but underperformed in 2019 when the rushing marks all fell – as did the production of Todd Gurley. The same grouping returns though RT Rob Haverstein went on injured reserve last year and may battle his then-replacement Bobby Evans. LT Andrew Whitworth remains the standout and helps keep a clean pocket for Jared Goff. This is a mature offense returning the same blockers that had been among the best in the league until last year. The Rams let Gurley leave and brought in the rookie Cam Akers which could help the rushing marks since his knees are both healthy. The Rams were top-ten in rushing categories a year ago, this unit needs to return to form.

18. Carolina Panthers

This is a new offense installed by HC Matt Rhule and it has plenty of work needed to improve in 2019. G Trai Turner was a Pro Bowl replacement and best blocker but left in a trade. The Panthers received LT Russell Okung which should help the line but the positive marks from last season were more about how good Christian McCaffrey was than how well the O-line blocked. They turned in low marks in the passing game but adding Teddy Bridgewater should help since he’s reasonably mobile and has a quick release. The new spread offense will take time to be installed and there are three new starters. Hopefully, the line will hit their stride later in the season if they can stay healthy.

19. Denver Broncos

The Broncos line did a good job when rushing the ball but the passing stats were well below average which partially reflects relying on the rookie Drew Lock. The rushing marks are a good sign for Melvin Gordon as the major upgrade in the backfield over Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. The offensive line also got a makeover this year by adding G Graham Glasgow from the Lions with a four-year, $44M contract and drafted C Lloyd Cushenberry (3.19). C Connor McGovern left and that likely causes the rookie Cushenberry to replace him. RT JaWuan James missed most of last year and will also improve the 2019 marks so long as he can remain healthy.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers offensive line has long been one of the worst in the NFL and the marks from 2019 are almost exactly the same from 2018 before HC Bruce Arians and OC Byron Leftwich took over. Notable this season is the addition of Tom Brady who won’t take off on 50+ runs like Jameis Winston. There’s no mobility to evade the rush but an obvious upgrade in decision making and getting rid of the ball faster with the switch to the vastly experienced Brady. LG Ali Marpet is a standout and RT Tristan Wirfs (1.13) will start as a rookie protecting a 43-year-old quarterback. Ronald Jones improved from a disastrous rookie year but the Buccaneers have not committed much to the run. Adding RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn should help but Brady is trading one of the top offensive lines for one of the weaker ones. Health willing, the Bucs should see improvement this year but it still can only aspire to be average.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars offensive line was a liability the last few years and the Jaguars did nothing to upgrade it. This will be OC Jason Gruden’s first season and he’s used to sub-par blocking having spent the last six years with the Redskins. LT Cam Robinson comes off a solid 2019 season and C Brandon Linder is an asset, but the Jags just are not addressing this weak link in the offense. Gardner Minshew is one of the better mobile quarterbacks for a reason – he cannot risk sitting still too long in the pocket. No changes from 2019 here other than Gruden installing his offense.

22. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals entered 2019 with one of the worst offensive lines but they played better than expected, perhaps aided by their rushing quarterback Kyler Murray. His impact had the defenses more concerned with tracking him and all the rushing marks rose in 2019, including the No. 3 in yards before first contact. The negative runs were also in the top ten. The Cardinals return all of the same blockers which will help with continuity and further improvement. They also drafted OT Josh Jones (3.08) for better depth. They gave up 50 sacks but Murray was able to throw 76% of his passes without any interference from the defense. Guards J.R. Sweezy and Justin Pugh provide the veteran core of the group.

 23. Detroit Lions

The second season for OC Darrell Bevell hopes to improve on the lackluster rushing marks and drafting D’Andre Swift should help. The Lions lost G Graham Glasgow but brought in RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai from the Eagles on a five-year, $45M deal. He’ll replace Ricky Wagner while Joe Dahl is promoted up to take over for Glasgow. The Lions also drafted G Jonah Jackson (3.11) to challenge Dahl. C Frank Ragnow is the standout of the group that combines for one of the lowest salary totals.  This looks to be average again, though Swift positively influences the rushing marks with better talent in the backfield.

24. Atlanta Falcons

Most of the average marks above were not about the offensive line but instead the play of Matt Ryan – they could have been worse. The rushing marks were among the lowest and it was more than just a lack of a talented backfield (though that was present as well). The aging C Alex Mack has long been the best of the linemen and the Falcons spent their 3.14 pick on Matt Hennessy as his eventual replacement. LT Alex Mack is above average and yet still not enough to keep the Falcons from giving up 50 sacks. The only notable change was bringing in G Justin McCray and losing G Wes Schweitzer. Injuries were an issue in 2019 but even with health, this doesn’t project to be better than average if even that.

25. Buffalo Bills

This was a below-average unit last season and the same starters all return – good for continuity but only LT Dion Dawkins has been a notable difference-maker. The Bills did not use the draft for the line this year and all they did in free agency was to add RT Daryl Williams and C Evan Boehm to inexpensive one-year deals for depth. C Mitch Morse was good last year and should do even better in his second season in Buffalo. Having a second year together will help them all but any improvement still won’t make them any better than average.

26. Tennessee Titans

The Titans offensive line hasn’t been an advantage and they ranked poorly against the run in all categories other than average rushing yards. Derrick Henry had a big year but his yards to first contact show that he worked for his production. The Titans lost RT Jack Conklin and will replace him with backup Dennis Kelly or draft pick Isaiah Wilson (1.29). LG Roger Saffold is the standout here and LT Taylor Lewan remains solid. Ryan Tannehill is a major upgrade as a passer over Marcus Mariota, but he lacks the same mobility. He was heavily sacked in Miami and still went down 30 times in just 11 games last year with the Titans. The offense has succeeded more in spite of the blocking than because of it.

26. Tennessee Titans

The Titans offensive line hasn’t been an advantage and they ranked poorly against the run in all categories other than average rushing yards. Derrick Henry had a big year but his yards to first contact show that he worked for his production. The Titans lost RT Jack Conklin and will replace him with backup Dennis Kelly or draft pick Isaiah Wilson (1.29). LG Roger Saffold is the standout here and LT Taylor Lewan remains solid. Ryan Tannehill is a major upgrade as a passer over Marcus Mariota, but he lacks the same mobility. He was heavily sacked in Miami and still went down 30 times in just 11 games last year with the Titans. The offense has succeeded more in spite of the blocking than because of it.

26. Tennessee Titans

The Titans offensive line hasn’t been an advantage and they ranked poorly against the run in all categories other than average rushing yards. Derrick Henry had a big year but his yards to first contact show that he worked for his production. The Titans lost RT Jack Conklin and will replace him with backup Dennis Kelly or draft pick Isaiah Wilson (1.29). LG Roger Saffold is the standout here and LT Taylor Lewan remains solid. Ryan Tannehill is a major upgrade as a passer over Marcus Mariota, but he lacks the same mobility. He was heavily sacked in Miami and still went down 30 times in just 11 games last year with the Titans. The offense has succeeded more in spite of the blocking than because of it.

27. New York Giants

The Giant’s attempt at fixing their line last year was helped when they acquired RG Kevin Zeitler but most of the rest disappointed. Switching to a rookie quarterback didn’t help nor did Saquon Barkley getting banged up. Right tackle was a weakness and the G-Men drafted Andrew Thomas (1.04) as an immediate starter that should upgrade this line significantly, if only later in the season and years beyond. They also added OT Matt Peart (3.35). The Giants are installing a new-ish offense with OC Jason Garrett who brought along OL coach Marc Columbo who spent the last four seasons with the O-line in Dallas. The offensive line received sorely needed attention the last two seasons and it will pay off, but this is a bad year to have new players and a new system to install.

28. Washington Redskins

The Redskins imploded last year with a rookie quarterback throwing to a substandard set of receivers. That was enough to finally send Jay Gruden packing and HC Ron Rivera brought OC Scott Turner with him from Carolina. The pass blocking was one of the very worst in the league and now there is an entirely new scheme to install. RG Brandon Scherff went to the Pro Bowl but the rest of the line is far less talented. The unit lost LG Ereck Flowers and brought in Wes Schweitzer as a replacement. LT Cornelis Lucas comes in to replace Donald Penn. Trent Williams held out all last season and now is with the 49ers.  This line will struggle again in a year that has all new coaches and schemes.

29. Cincinnati Bengals

The line was considered average going into 2019 but failed to play as well. Joe Mixon’s stats took a dive to start the year but later recovered.  The Bengals rated among the worse in almost every blocking category during the first season for HC Zac Taylor’s new offense though injuries were a problem like former first-round pick LT Jonah Williams missing his rookie season. They also added G Xavier Su’a-Filo from the Cowboys that should also help the interior. C Trey Hopkins was the best of the line and just re-upped with the Bengals. This is yet another line that should have been better but disappointed. Adding Su’a-Filo and keeping the unit healthy should make a difference.

30. New York Jets

HC Adam Gase inherited one of the worst lines in the NFL for his first season and the results were clear. Le’Veon Bell showed what happens when a top running back runs behind a bad line. The marks were among the worst in both rushing and passing. The Jets used the offseason to revamp everything. They brought in T George Fant, C Connor McGovern, and G Greg Van Roten and signed them to pricey three-year contracts. C Josh Andrews also came in on a one-year deal. The Jets used their 1.11 pick on LT Mekhi Becton who will start. No question that the Jets tried to upgrade their offensive line, how well it all works remains to be seen. And this is not a great year for trying to bring together a lot of different pieces into a coherent whole.

31. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks line has not been an advantage for many years and 2019 proved even worse than usual. Russell Wilson’s production and effectiveness are even more impressive considering how little his offensive line has helped. He’s dealt with one of the least clean pockets in the NFL for several years and he’s been twice as likely to be sacked, hit or hurried than, say, Drew Brees. The Seahawks tried to address the issue by drafting G Damien Lewis (3.05) and brought in OT Brandon Shell and C B.J. Finney who both signed two-year deals. T Cedric Ogbuehi was also added for one year. T George Fant, G D.J. Fluker, and T Germain Ifedi all left. Adding three new starters won’t help to get the offense off to a fast start so any turnaround will take time.

32. Miami Dolphins

This is almost certainly the most improved unit if only because they were so clearly the worst offensive line in the NFL last year. There is nowhere to go but up.  There’s a newer offense scheme coming with OC Chan Gailey unretiring and the Fins mined the draft and came away with LT Austin Jackson (1.18) and G Robert Hunt (2.07) who may switch to right tackle. They brought over G Ereck Flowers from the Redskins on a three-year, $30M deal. That’s at least three new starters on a team that will feature a rookie quarterback and with one of the worst schedules in the league again this year. The acquisitions may pay off over time, but it’s hard to expect them to turn around quickly. But hey – nowhere to go but up.