One could argue that the 2021 NFL season is a ‘make-or-break’ year for every player on a Buffalo Bills team that has Super Bowl ambitions, but this rings especially true for Cody Ford.
Though Ford has started 22 games throughout his two years in the NFL, he’s yet to stick, or catch on at any particular position. This can be attributed to many factors, a litany of injuries and a position switch being the two most prominent, but one thing remains true: the former second-round draft pick has failed to consistently flash.
He largely struggled at right tackle in his rookie season, allowing nine sacks (per Sports Info Solutions, subscription required) in 15 starts. Again, one could explain his shortcomings away by saying that any rookie is going to struggle against the likes of Von Miller and T.J. Watt, especially when that rookie has a nagging shoulder injury that requires offseason surgery, but this doesn’t change the fact that he struggled.
Buffalo attempted to make Ford’s transition to the NFL a bit smoother ahead of the 2020 season, kicking him inside to guard, the position he played throughout his first two seasons at Oklahoma. He started the year at right guard before moving over to the left side of the line in Week 3, showing marginal improvements before going on the injured reserve list with a torn meniscus in late November.
Entering his third training camp, Ford finds himself on the hot seat. He’ll compete with Jon Feliciano, Ike Boettger, and the recently-signed Forrest Lamp for one of two starting guard jobs throughout the next month, and while he’s certainly a presumptive starter, his role is not guaranteed. General manager Brandon Beane expressed confidence in Ford while speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, but reiterated that he won’t be handed a job.
“We believe in Cody a lot,” Beane said in his pre-training camp media availability. “I think, when he’s been out there, I think he’s done really good things. Cody, he doesn’t bat an eye. We played him at right tackle his first year, we move him in at guard, we bounced him around last year, whether it was left guard or right guard to start out. That’s not easy for a young player to just move around. He doesn’t say a word.
“I think the thing we’re going to try to do with Cody is figure out, he’ll get work at both guards, but figure out which spot is best for him. He’s going to have to go win it. He’s going to have to go show who he is and why we picked him where we did. But I’m very confident in him and I think, once he gets out there and gets his feet under him, I think we’ll see the Cody that we drafted.”
Beane feels that Ford’s lack of tangible success thus far can be largely attributed to his health. Between playing hurt in his first season and missing considerable time in his second, Ford’s body has prevented him from playing to his own standards.
Now fully healthy, Ford finally has the opportunity to prove that he’s a starting-caliber offensive lineman, that Buffalo’s brass was not misguided in trading up to select him in the 2019 draft.
This all starts with winning a starting job.
“Cody’s had a tough injury the last couple of years,” Beane said. “He fought through it the first year, last year, again, unfortunately, a couple of surgeries. He probably had as good an offseason as you could ask for dealing with two surgeries. That’s not easy, to also get your strength back. He’s in great shape, he’s excited. You see a big smile on his face, I saw him in the caf this morning. He’s ready to roll. He’ll come back in, like every position, these guys are going to have to compete.
Stay tuned to Cover1 for the latest Buffalo Bills news, storylines, rumors and more throughout 2021 training camp!