“Aging and unathletic” was the criticism the Bills offensive line face a few years ago.
But, led by then left tackle Cordy Glenn, guard Richie Incognito and center Eric Wood, the guys up front answered the bell and helped paved the way for a rushing attack that ranked first in the league in 2016.
They finished sixth last season as LeSean McCoy rushed for more than 1,000 yards and surpassed the 10,000-yard mark in his career.
While Glenn was replaced by Dion Dawkins, who returns as the starting left tackle in 2018, Incognito and Wood are no longer with the team.
Looking to replace 22 years of experience at center and guard, nationally, expectations aren’t overly high for the group.
Ryan Groy might have the toughest job of all – replacing Wood.
“Eric is a tremendous person. It’s tough shoes to fill,” Groy said when asked about the task he faces. “I’ve learned a lot from him over the years, to try to sit in his hip pocket and learn everything I could. I think I’ve picked up a couple of things and I’ve very thankful he’s a good teacher, took me under his wing and helped me out.”
Throughout training camp head coach Sean McDermott has tinkered with the unit. However, one of the lasting images from the preseason is the offensive line getting pushed around against the Browns and Bengals, surrendering a combined nine sacks, which included six against Cincinnati.
They took those poor performances personally.
“You always do,” Groy said. “At the end of the day, nobody gave us a shot at the beginning of the year either, so it’s not anything new. We’re going to come in with an underdog mentality and do what we can. We’re going to protect Nate (Peterman) and do everything we can scheme wise to protect him.”
That could prove to be easier said than done in the season opener in Baltimore.
According to the analytics web site Pro Football Focus, the Ravens generated the ninth most pressures (hits, hurries and sacks) against opposing quarterbacks last year.
If there is a guy the Bills are keeping an eye on, it’s veteran Terrell Suggs.
“He’s been doing it for 16 years and you don’t see many pass rushers do that for so long. It’s a credit with how he works,” right tackle Jordan Mills said. “He can wreck a game plan…if you give him something, he’ll take it and destroy a game.”
Dawkins said his mindset changes when lining up against a prolific pass rusher like Suggs.
“Everything has to be right,” the left tackle said. “Every key has to be right on time – my posture – everything has to be at it’s best.”