With just three days to go until the season kicks off, the Buffalo Bills may still have one position battle yet to be won.
Head coach Sean McDermott was quiet this week about who will be starting at guard for the team, a position that had been up for grabs through training camp and the preseason. As Nick Wojton of USA Today’s Bills Wire noted, there are two spots open with three possible players to fill them, but McDermott has yet to reveal the winning combination for Sunday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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Decisions to Make for McDermott
Throughout the preseason, the Bills had been splitting time at guard between veterans Jon Feliciano, Cody Ford, and Ike Boettger. As Wojton noted, Feliciano seems to have a spot secured though it’s less clear who will start between Ford and Boettger. Ford is going into his third season and struggled with injury, leaving Boettger to fill in for the final stretch of the last regular season and playoffs. He ultimately started seven games last season, but McDermott would not say whether he’s back in the starting lineup to kick off the 2021 season.
“We’ll see. There’s good competition there, as I said last week,” McDermott said. “I think we’ll know a little more as the week goes on… Comfortable rotating if we want to rotate but also comfortable with a little continuity if we go that route as well. Very confident in both Ike and Cody and in Jon.”
Wojton predicted that Ford would win out, since the Bills coaching staff has expressed confidence in the 2019 draft pick and he has been working hard to improve on his play. Ford said that he worked with a mental coach in the offseason, helping him gain an important edge.
“That was the one thing that really helped a lot was to be able to talk to someone other than a coach or a teammate or even just a friend. It was me just getting my feelings out,” he said.
Bills Counting on Strong Line Play
While the Bills had a high-flying air attack last season, general manager Brandon Beane said the team would need to improve their ground game for the upcoming season, and specifically pointed to the play of the offensive line.
“I think it’s so unfair to look at the running backs to point blame on the running game,” he told the team’s official website after the conclusion of last season. “Running the football is very complex and it’s obviously the o-line, it’s the tight ends, it’s the receivers and if one guy doesn’t make his block the play’s probably dead.”
Beane said that the offensive line had lapses last season that prevented the team from making some big plays on the ground, and hoped to fix the mistakes for the coming season.
“And so, there were times this year where we’re one guy away, and whether it’s a tight end or whether it was a lineman, it’s a big gainer and you’re going, ‘Gosh, if we just get this guy blocked.’ We had that at times. I’m not saying there’s no blame – sometimes the running back missed the hole – but it’s one of those things you got to practice, you got to emphasize and you got to work on it and that’s something that we’ll definitely look at.”