Bills Sign Former Patriots, Bucs Lineman as Injuries Hit Training Camp

Caleb Benenoch

Getty Caleb Benenoch participates in a drill at the NFL combine.

The Buffalo Bills are adding a fresh face to the offensive line after injuries and COVID-19 depleted their depth in training camp.

The team announced on Wednesday that they signed offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch, who spent time with the New England Patriots last season and had a stint as a starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His addition comes at a critical time, with five linemen missing practices this week for various ailments.

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Bills Add Needed Depth

The Bills signed Benenoch one day after he came to Buffalo for a workout, giving the 26-year-old the chance to compete for a roster spot. Benenoch got off to a promising start in the NFL after being drafted in the fifth round in 2016, playing four seasons for the Buccaneers that included a stretch of 22 starts between 2016 and 2018. He has struggled to find a permanent place since then, however, appearing only in one game in 2019 and not at all last season. He has spent time with the Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, but only as a practice squad or training camp player.

As Nick Wojton of USA Today’s Bills Wire noted, Benenoch could be something of a utility lineman if he were to earn a roster spot with the Bills.

“Between his college and pro career, Benenoch has a Bills trigger word attached to his name: Versatile. He has experience playing both at guard and tackle,” Wojton wrote, adding that he earned a 44.8 grade from Pro Football Focus in his last season as a starter in 2018.

Benenoch had an unusual path to the NFL. As Bruins Nation noted, he was born in Nigeria and his family moved to Texas when Caleb was nine. He had grown up playing soccer, but his mother accidentally signed him up for “football” when they arrived in their new home, not realizing it was a different sport in the United States. Benenoch, who eventually grew to 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, was a natural fit for the new sport.

Bills Linemen Ailing

Benenoch arrived at Bills training camp not a moment too soon. Within hours of his signing, the team announced that lineman Jon Feliciano would miss his third straight practice due to a sore shoulder. As Wojton previously noted in Bills Wire, Feliciano suffered the injury during training camp on Monday, sitting out the rest of practice and missing Tuesday.

Other members of the line have missed time as well, Wojton noted. Both Dion Dawkins and Ike Boettger were on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, though the team has indicated that both are expected back early this week. Lineman Marquel Harrell also missed a practice this week after suffering a foot injury.

Though the Bills had one of the top passing attacks in the league last season, general manager Brandon Beane stressed the need for the running game to improve, saying he expects more out of the line in 2021.

“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,” Beane said, via the team’s official website. “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.”

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