Bills game preview
The new offensive line coach for the Bills this year is former Rams OL coach, Aaron Kromer, back for a 2nd stint in Buffalo. Presumably, the Bills will employ a zone blocking based rushing attack that will have elements similar to what the Rams did when Kromer was in LA, but we'll have to see if that indeed will be the case.
Reunited with Kromer in Buffalo is Rodger Saffold, who was waived by the Titans, then signed with the Bills. Saffold was in a car accident in the offseason and had a rib injury, but should be ready to play. Saffold is a very good blocker on screen passes, so I think how well the Rams defend against short dump passes will be one of the keys to the game.
It is unclear who will start against the Rams at right tackle. It could be former 6th round pick, David Quessenberry, who overcame Lymphoma early in his NFL career when he was with the Texans. Second year pro, Spencer Brown, is the other option. He's recovering from offseason back surgery.
Dion Dawkins, the left tackle, should be their best lineman. Last season, Dawkins had the 7th best OT pass block win rate in the league, only slightly trailing Whitworth and Havenstein.
A player I'll have an eye on is Mitch Morse, the center. The PFF grades for Morse have been steadily declining each year as his career has progressed, he was at 63.4 in 2021, but maybe this is a case where PFF is misleading. The book on Morse is that he's a very good pass blocker and a below average run blocker. Last season, he was 8th best center in the NFL in pass block win rate. Morse's profile is the opposite of Brian Allen's, because Allen is considered to be a good run blocker, but not as good of a pass blocker. If you like o-line play, watch Morse and Allen on Thursday night and see which one of them you think is the better player.
Last season, the Bills were 8th in pass block win rate, but only 23rd in run block win rate. PFF ranked their OL 17th in the NFL. Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips both were very effective run stoppers at DT (both of them were tied with Greg Gaines and A'Shawn Robinson as having elite run stop win rates), but Phillips left in free agency.
The Bills are strong in the defensive secondary with Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Taron Johnson and rookie Kaiir Elam. Uber athletic linebacker Tremaine Edwards is an x-factor, while his running mate, Matt Milano is a steady and intelligent disruptive force.
On the Rams side of the ball, is David Edwards an elite player? Last season, SIS data hub ranked Edwards as the best run blocking lineman in the NFL and the 4th best lineman overall in the NFL. Per SIS, he was tied in metrics with Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys. The elite SIS ranking doesn't match PFF's 66.9 season grade for Edwards. I'm not overly impressed by Edwards myself, but I consider him to be a smart and reliable player. Have we been selling him short as a player?
Around the NFL
1. Rookie Braxton Jones is expected to be the starting LT for the Bears. He was a late 5th round pick. I liked him as a draft prospect and did a fanpost about him, but I'm surprised he's progressed so quickly. He was a bit raw in college, so I thought he'd have more of a redshirt year as a rookie. It will be interesting to see if he can hold up and play well and what effect that might have on the performance of Justin Fields at QB.
2. Chris Paul, a rookie guard for the Commanders, was another draft prospect I liked. He was a 7th round pick. Paul played well in the preseason, but since Washington has veterans Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner at guard, Paul likely will just be a backup this year. Still, he's showed some early signs of being the type of pro I thought he could become and maybe down the road he'll get an opportunity to play.
3. I thought Josh Myers looked really good for the Packers in preseason. Injury sidetracked his rookie year, but he could be on the verge of breaking out. PFF gave him an 85.1 grade in the preseason. Creed Humphrey had a great rookie year, but without hindsight, Myers is the player I would have drafted at that slot and that's how GB played it, they took Myers one spot ahead of Creed.
4. Zach Tom for the Packers also looks like he could be a draft steal. GB got him in the 4th round this year and he had a great preseason. I don't know when he'll get a chance to play or what position it will be at, he was playing tackle for the Packers, but he probably could start at multiple positions. Tom was drafted 2 slots before the Rams got Decobie Durant. A little known part of the Brandin Cooks trade was that the Rams sent a 4th round pick to the Texans as part of the deal and the way the 2022 draft played out, that late 4th round pick could have been flipped into any of a number of different prospects I thought had potential, including Zach Tom.
5. The Packers drafted another lineman, Sean Rhyan in the 3rd round. I wasn't as high on Rhyan compared to Tom, I saw Rhyan as a Day 3 prospect. Rhyan reportedly struggled in the preseason. Way too early to panic, but it is still an example of why I'll never understand why some prospects get taken in the 3rd (Rhyan) while other players get drafted in the 7th (Chris Paul) or don't get drafted at all and become UDFAs. To my eye, you could just get a hat and throw their names into it, then randomly pull one out and probably get just as reliable draft outcomes as NFL teams do in the actual draft. Solomon Kindley getting dumped by the Dolphins is another example. I liked Kindley, I think I had a late 3rd or early 4th round grade on him, he was taken early in the 4th round in the actual draft. He had poor technique and needed to work on his body coming out of Georgia, but I thought he had upside potential to become a starting NFL guard. After only 2 seasons, the Fins decided it wasn't working out. A bad result, but far from alone in that category for his draft range.
6. Max Scharping, a former 2nd round pick, not working out for the Houston Texans is another example of a poor draft outcome for an OL pick. The Bengals claimed him. Houston had one the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season, so it is notable that they didn't even want to keep Scharping around as a backup.
7. You might remember that I did a fanpost about James Daniels, who eventually signed in free agency with the Steelers. Daniels struggled in the preseason, including a game where he had a 13.2 PFF pass blocking grade. He'll have to play better if the Steelers are going to improve up front. If they can't block, I don't think it will matter much whether it is Trubisky or Pickett at QB.
8. Austin Blythe is projected to be the starting center for the Seahawks this year. He signed a 1 year $4 million contract. How do you think he'll do this year?