Swing Lineman: Ryan Groy

The Bills went into their bye week with tons of adjustments that needed to be made on both sides of the ball, but some could argue that the biggest adjustment is at the center position. Starting center Eric Wood went down with a leg injury and was placed on injured reserve. As a result, Rex proclaimed the center position up for grabs.

Competing for that spot as the Bills are on a collision course with the Bengals this Sunday is Patrick Lewis, a waiver wire pickup from Seattle. He has yet to dress for a game, but he does offer a good amount of experience. Lewis started for the Seahawks last season, including two playoff games.

But the lineman that was dressed for the Seahawks game, and who has game experience in 2016, is swing lineman Ryan Groy. Groy has been used as the extra lineman to provide power in heavy formations and to help pass block on certain play calls. As a swing lineman, Groy must master several positions across the offensive line.

In college, Groy was a three year starter at Wisconsin, where he played every position along the offensive line in his 54 collegiate games. He is known for intelligence and effort, both of which are traits that are crucial to that swing position.

When Wood went down in the fourth quarter, Groy was thrown into a tough spot. The Bills were behind and were facing one of the best pass rushing defenses, and hands down the loudest crowd, in the NFL. That being said, Groy did a tremendous job considering the circumstances. Per Pro Football Focus Groy was charged with one QB hurry for the game.

Most fans are worried about the drop-off at center, and they should be. Eric Wood is irreplaceable. This play shaped my perception of Groy’s play.

Shady gets blown up on the gap run. But why?

Whether it’s Groy or Lewis that starts, their play will hinge on the lineman beside them and Tyrod Taylor’s ability to pick up the slack. Although the play was blown up by defensive end Damontre Moore, there was an obvious miscommunication between guard 2nd-year guard John Miller and Groy.

Based the alignment of the defensive line, specifically Damontre Moore, the linemen block the play incorrectly or just fail to execute.

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On this gap run, both Miller and Groy pull, and Moore blows the play up. The blocking needs to be adjusted for this type of play to work properly. It is unknown if the call was made and possibly missed, but this is what should have actually happened. Miller should have performed a down block on Moore, allowing Groy to pull. That is an adjustment that needs to be made at the line of scrimmage and something Wood did seamlessly from play to play.

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If offensive line coach Aaron Kromer didn’t want Groy pulling because he lacks the athleticism, then Groy must fire out of his stance and reach block Moore, which is also a very difficult block. Moore is a quick, penetrating defensive end, making Groy’s assignment difficult whichever way you slice it. This play contributed to his -1.4 run blocking grade per Pro Football Focus. So, some minor tweaks need to be made in the run game to accommodate Groy’s weaknesses. These kind of blown assignments are fixable, and the bye week should help clean some of them up.

But there were some good things from Groy as he settled into the game. It’s something that most fans probably didn’t catch, but it is a big adjustment between Groy and Taylor: the snap process. Playing the Seahawks and their 12th man causes many offenses to have issues, but it also gives the defense the upper hand in pass rushing scenarios. With opposing offenses unable to hear the snap, they must use silent counts.

Most of this game the process was guard Miller alerting the center that Taylor was ready for the snap, then the center would dip his head and snap it. Defenders knew this and they were able to jump the snap, and they had great success doing so.

On the Bills’ final drive, Groy and Taylor switch up the snap process. Yes, it’s minor, but the adjustment paid off because it forced the defenders to refocus on the ball. The tweak caused defensive end Frank Clark to jump offside, and it gave the Bills a first down with the ball on the 10-yard line.

 

There is no doubt that the Bills’ offensive line took a hit with Eric Wood going down. But let’s not let a couple of bad plays shape the perception of a player. Swing lineman Ryan Groy was thrown into a difficult spot and performed as best he could from the center position, which is the position that he probably took the fewest reps at this season. He does have the abilities to execute this offense.

 

The mistakes shown by Groy on film are correctable. Whether it’s Groy or Lewis that starts, both will have a lot of responsibilities to carry out. Whoever can execute consistently will start for the rest of the season.


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