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2020 NFL Draft: Reinforcements at guardby grif on January 23, 2020 at 3:04 pm
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images If Buffalo wants to upgrade their left guard position, here are the players they will be looking at. In early April, the Buffalo Bills signed guard Quinton Spain to a one-year contract in what essentially amounted to an afterthought. Spain had spent four uneventful seasons with the Tennessee Titans, where he started 48 games at left guard, and wasn’t re-signed. So he came over to Buffalo on a cheap one-year deal and played decently, if not spectacularly. The veteran could likely turn that into a decent contract, which general manager Brandon Beane might not be willing to shell out for such a middle-class player. In that case, the team could look to the draft, which is never really short on interior offensive-line prospects. Below are just a few of the players the Bills might consider. Tier I Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)John Simpson (Clemson)Ben Bredeson (Michigan) The Wisconsin center is exactly what you’d expect coming from that program—not the strongest or the most athletic, but he gets the job done consistently. Simpson hasn’t received much first-round hype, but I expect that to change after declaring for the draft. The big Clemson guard pass protected Trevor Lawrence really well all throughout the college football playoffs. A balanced, well-coached player, Bredeson will become a starter immediately for the team that drafts him. Tier II Nick Harris (Washington)Trey Smith (Tennessee)Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma)Matt Hennessy (Temple) Harris moves so well as a blocker that it would be hard to see him not end up in a Shanahan West-Coast style, zone-blocking scheme. Tennessee’s Smith is exactly the opposite. He has the power to move trucks, but injury questions hold him back. Oklahoma is becoming known for their athletic offensive lineman who can do well in space, and Humphrey is another one in that line. It’s a shame that Hennessy doesn’t have the size or athleticism to play for every franchise, because some team is getting a technician. Tier III Robert Hunt (Louisiana)Darryl Williams (Mississippi State)Logan Stenberg (Kentucky) A likely riser, Hunt toiled for the Raggin’ Cajuns but is starting to get noticed for his pro-ready traits. Darryl Williams has the look of an NFL starting guard or center but he doesn’t stand out in any one area. Stenberg is strong, but there’s worry that he doesn’t have the flexibility of a starting guard, so he may end up like former Bills guard John Miller.
Plenty of free agent guards if Bills want to replace Spainby Sean Murphy on January 23, 2020 at 3:03 pm
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images The question is whether those guards are better than Spain or not The Buffalo Bills were fortunate enough in 2019 to start essentially the same offensive linemen for all 16 games the team played. (Cody Ford and Ty Nsekhe rotated at right tackle, with Ford starting 15 of 16 games.) The last time Buffalo had the same five linemen start in 15 of 16 games was in 2007, when the vaunted offensive line of Jason Peters, Derrick Dockery, Melvin Fowler, Brad Butler, and Langston Walker accomplished the feat, with only Peters missing a start. Veteran Quinton Spain, signed by the Bills in April, was one of the four men along the offensive line to make 16 starts this year. He actually ended up playing more snaps on offense than anyone on Buffalo’s roster this year, appearing on 1,063 of Buffalo’s 1,069 offensive snaps. That’s an awful lot of snaps to replace if the Bills choose to allow Spain to leave via free agency. If Buffalo does part ways with such a durable performer in Spain, they have the option of signing a free agent to replace him. While there are plenty of guards available (80 in all, according to Spotrac), it’s debatable how many of them would be a true upgrade to Spain. If the Bills want to go the free-agent route in replacing Quinton Spain, here are a few names they could consider. Brandon Scherff Let’s start with the big fish, shall we? Scherff was picked fifth overall by Washington in the 2015 NFL Draft, and he has established himself as one of the league’s best guards in that time. As an unrestricted free agent for the first time, it’s to his benefit that he doesn’t turn 29 until December. He will probably command a top-level salary, perhaps even a top-ten average annual value, which is at least $10 million for his position. One of the only things preventing Scherff from potentially resetting the guard market entirely is his injury struggles over the past two seasons. His 2018 season ended after Week 9 thanks to a torn pectoral muscle, and while he recovered well enough to earn a Pro Bowl nod this year, he finished the season on injured reserve again thanks to elbow and shoulder injuries. Buffalo has multiple holes to fill, and the argument could be made that their funds would be better allocated to those areas (edge rusher, wide receiver, re-signing their own young players, etc.). However, the team has shown a commitment to improving the offensive line, and they have not shied away from spending big money—look no further than the mega-deal given to Mitch Morse last offseason—in their commitment to protect young quarterback Josh Allen. It isn’t my first choice, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Joe Thuney What’s better than signing one of the league’s best guards? Signing one of the league’s best guards who used to play for your biggest divisional rival! Thuney entered the league as a third-round draft choice of the New England Patriots in 2016, and the 27 year old has only improved with each season. This year, he did not commit a penalty—which, of course is shocking, since the Patriots never get away with holding calls...ever. He allowed only one sack, as well, and he would be an absolute upgrade over Spain if the Bills chose to go the free-agent route. While I don’t think he’ll quite hit Scherff’s valuation from Spotrac, which is a four-year, $49.8 million deal, he may come close—think four years and $40 million with around $15-$18 million guaranteed. That might sound steep, but think of how good the interior offensive line would look with Thuney joining Morse and Jon Feliciano. Graham Glasgow Perhaps more in the mold of a Brandon Beane signing is the versatile Glasgow, who has started at both left guard and center during his four years with the Detroit Lions. Drafted just 17 spots after Thuney in 2016, Glasgow has been a reliable piece along Detroit’s front five. He has only missed two games in his NFL career, and last year he did not allow a sack while committing only three penalties. If Pro Football Focus grades are your thing, he graded out at a 74.1 last year, which is right in the same neighborhood as Thuney (77.4) and Scherff (75). His intriguing versatility, excellent durability, and solid pulling ability all make him a good option for the Bills if they move on from Spain. Ereck Flowers If you know a New York Giants fan, they’ll probably laugh out loud at the suggestion that someone should sign the former first-round pick who proved to be a tremendous bust at left tackle. However, Flowers moved on to Washington this year and was adequate as a guard. He actually graded out higher than Spain did via PFF, earning a 64.2 grade versus Spain’s 55.4 mark. As Flowers is only set to turn 26 this season, it’s possible that another change of scenery could unlock all the athletic potential he has. Forgive me for being a bit gun shy, but the last time the Bills went with an Erik Flowers, it didn’t go so well. Andrus Peat Looking to buy low on a former first-round pick? Well, it depends on your definition of low. Peat graded out at a truly awful 49.7 via PFF, yet he was named a Pro Bowl alternate, the second-straight year he was named to the Pro Bowl in some capacity. Neither the grade nor the title of “Pro Bowl-player” means the same thing to everyone, so it would be up to the Bills’ scouts to determine whether the 26-year-old would be a good fit in Buffalo. Peat also has some experience at left tackle, which could immediately make him a more attractive candidate for a team like Buffalo who values versatility in its offensive linemen. I’m not certain that the team would be upgrading the position over Spain, however, if they were to replace him with Peat. Quinton Spain Maybe you want to see the Bills move on from “Mr. Undrafted” this season, replacing him with one of the bigger-name guards on this list (or on Spotrac’s list, which is eighty names deep). Perhaps you think the Bills should move on, but it just wouldn’t be an intelligent use of resources to do so. Well, you might just follow the advice of Stephen Stills and keep Spain, because if you can’t be with Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff, maybe you should just love the guard you have in Spain, who did not allow a sack while committing only four penalties on the year. Will Spain command a deal similar to that of Thuney or Glasgow? Absolutely not. Might he price himself out of Buffalo’s range? Certainly. Sometimes it’s just better to stick with who you know, and the Bills know exactly what they have in Spain—a reliable performer who could be better in run blocking but does a very good job in pass protection.
Intriguing in-house replacement options for Quinton Spainby Matt Warren on January 23, 2020 at 3:02 pm
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports The Bills do have one option... Buffalo Bills left guard Quinton Spain is a pending free agent, and with that, the team will need to re-sign him or replace him. If they want to shift around their current offensive line a bit, they do have options for replacing him that are already under contract in 2020. The biggest question mark is where they see Cody Ford’s future. Ford, originally drafted by the Bills to be a right tackle, was projected by many as a guard at the NFL level due to some suspect lateral abilities. The team saw fit to platoon him at RT with veteran Ty Nsekhe until Nsekhe was injured. Ford performed admirably with the veteran on the sideline, but Nsekhe was back to platooning when he returned. If they moved Ford inside to guard, it could shore up the hole left by the departure of Spain. With Nsekhe under contract for one more season, it could allow Ford to continue to develop or they could draft another tackle option to develop. They could also consider plugging in Spencer Long, who has a long history of starting on the interior offensive line in the league. He was Buffalo’s primary interior backup in 2019 and has a hefty salary for that role, but could fit in well at one of the guard spots. Buffalo has had a year to evaluate him in the practice setting and during his spot duty. Ryan Bates is another name to consider. Bates played offense in two games for the Bills in 2019 in spot duty at tackle, not guard. Buffalo traded for him in August after he was an undrafted free agent signing of the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m not ready to hand him the keys to a starting job without some competition. Ike Boettger has some game experience, though all of his snaps in 2019 came in Week 17’s meaningless season finale. It would be a pretty big leap from inactive on game day to starting offensive lineman. If the Bills moved Ford to guard, they could just carry the exact same interior offensive linemen as last year as reserve options.
2019 All-22 analysis: Quinton Spain, left guardby Skarekrow on January 23, 2020 at 3:00 pm
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images We dive into the tape of Quinton Spain to see what kind of year he had Prior to the 2019 season the Buffalo Bills played Pokémon with offensive linemen and tried to catch ‘em all. This led to a line with 80% new starters including left guard Quinton Spain. Let’s check in on his 2019 season to see how he did. Play 1 This block is a good representation of Quinton Spain’s normal. Good initial contact slows his opponent down and the block is maintained pretty well. Against a lineman Spain might give a bit of ground, but overall holds well in that scenario too. Note that Spain isn’t getting a ton of push and that’s also typical. Spain’s strength was good but not spectacular. There’s not a whole lot to talk about with this block and many more like it for Quinton Spain. That’s not a bad thing. Play 2 On the move and pulling, Spain added a valuable element to the offense. In this play, Spain is fast enough to his block that it’s easy to take notice. Beating a defensive back in the power game isn’t a shock, but cutting one off that early into a play kind of is. Play 3 Here Quinton Spain pulls to the other side and is face-to-face with T.J. Watt. He loses some ground at the end as Watt twists to get back into the play. Spain was initially effective against one of the better defenders he faced this season and bought the play some time. Play 4 If there’s a consistent weakness to Spain’s game it’s holding blocks with a direct one-on-one. In contrast, Spain does well when moving and bumping/slamming into opponents. Plays like this one are not rare. When Spain helps another player out, he’ll continue to look for the next block if necessary. Play 5 This play is similar to the last with Spain moving inside to help out Mitch Morse. When another defender looks to be coming in hot, Quinton Spain moves to negate this pass rusher as well. Play 6 Working on the interior of the line it doesn’t come up often, but Quinton Spain’s hand-fighting skills lack refinement. Defensive tackles aren’t often throwing a ton of finesse into the world so when they do it can be a bit surprising. A little speed or razzle-dazzle can get past Spain. Summary Quinton Spain isn’t a mauler by any means. Goal-to-go scenarios can be nailbiters (though this is admittedly a problem area for more than just Quinton Spain). On the other hand, Spain is good on the move and is pretty successful as a mosh-pit enthusiast who briefly slams into an opponent before moving on to the next. There’s zero reason not to try bringing Spain back to the Buffalo Bills based on his play. For linemen, solid but unspectacular can be harder to find than many fans might think. Quinton Spain fits that mold and could reasonably have a shot at getting better with experience in the same system. Culture fit and scheme fit need to be considered as well. Assuming those boxes are checked off, it’d be wise for One Bills Drive to try to work out a deal.
BBR: Running backs the Bills could consider in free agencyby Anthony Marino on January 23, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports Sean Murphy joins the show to chat free-agent RB options for Buffalo In this week’s episode of Breaking Buffalo Rumblings, the conversation is focused on some free-agent running backs the Buffalo Bills could consider this offseason. Sean Murphy joined the show to discuss his recent article, and some of the popular names in free agency. Give the most recent podcast a listen to hear what we have to say about Matt Breida, Melvin Gordon, Adrian Peterson and others who will likely hit the open market in March. Be sure to share your comments below on the free agents you want Brandon Beane to pursue, and any that you prefer the team stay away from. Thank you for listening to Breaking Buffalo Rumblings and go Bills! Editor’s note: If you’re viewing this article on Apple News, the embedded audio will be removed. Click through to the site in your browser or listen on iTunes. Subscribe to the Buffalo Rumblings podcast channel featuring Billieve, Blitzed Bills, Buffalo Rumblings Q&A, Breaking Buffalo Rumblings, Mafia Mavens, Circling the Wagons, and the Nick and Nolan Show: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Google Play | Spotify | Podbean | iHeartRadio | TuneIn | Megaphone