After a disastrous 2018 season in which the Buffalo Bills’ offense was mired by mediocre receivers, and horrendous offensive line play, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane decided to do something about it. In addition to signing John Brown and Cole Beasley to help bolster their receiver corps, they signed a slew of free agents at offensive line, and drafted Cody Ford in the second round of the 2019 draft. Some players such as Jon Feliciano and Mitch Morse, have remained on the team, as has Ford, but the offensive line still has yet to be completely solidified for the 2021 season.
Ford was originally drafted to be the right tackle for the Bills, and in his rookie year, he struggled greatly at that spot. After lucking into a cheap signing in Daryl Williams, who ended up playing very well for them and earning a second contract, Buffalo decided to move Ford to left guard, where he started until he tore his meniscus. In that time, however, it was difficult to say that Ford had a permanent hold on that position for the foreseeable future, and it seems that the Bills agree.
Ford’s replacement, Ike Boettger, came in and struggled early on, but ultimately settled in and had a solid, if unremarkable, season for the Bills. In addition, Buffalo took a flyer during the offseason with the signing of Forrest Lamp, a veteran from the Chargers who played his first full season in the NFL in 2020. Lamp has always been a top-tier athlete, but injuries early on in his career seemed to stunt his development.
All in all, the Bills seem to be willing to give some faith to Ford by having him be the presumed starter, but the Bills also understand that hope is not a plan. Boettger and Lamp will certainly have their opportunities to earn this starting job, especially if Ford proves to be inconsistent while he recovers from his meniscus tear. Boettger is certainly a favorite of offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, who specifically mentioned Boettger when talking about the competition at Guard. Boettger has been on the team for a few years now and the Bills certainly feel like he has earned a chance to be on this roster, either as a starter or as an important backup.
Lamp remains the wild card here. His athletic traits would be a huge boost for this team, but his injury history makes it hard to commit to him as the starter. Beyond that, his first full year playing resulted in a season that was only average for him. If he had played better, the Chargers certainly would have found money to keep him around, but they obviously felt he was replaceable. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised by Lamp taking someone’s job, rather than pinning the hopes of that position on an oft-injured, replacement-level player. That said, Lamp is far and away the most athletic of the three, and depending on what the Bills want to do in the run game, it may end up swaying things towards either Lamp or Ford, as they present two different ends of the run blocking spectrum. Ford is more of a typical gap/power guard, where Lamp’s athleticism gives more flexibility on zone-based concepts.
While it seems like Cody Ford will be the starter, or at least given the most opportunity it’s to be the starter, I’d imagine that Ford is kept on a relatively short leash. Ike Boettger has started plenty of games for this team and played admirably down the stretch in 2021. Boettger could easily come in to replace Ford in the starting lineup. With Lamp, however, it’s more likely he’ll be a solid backup for this team than a surprise starter, but it’s better to have someone like Lamp as a backup than someone that’s a complete unknown.
Most NFL teams are only one or two injuries away from disaster, and the Bills are no exception. That being said, Brandon Beane has done a good job of building depth in the offensive line in particular, especially after seeing how the Chiefs had their title hopes derailed by losing two of their starting left tackles before the Super Bowl. Between the competition at left guard, and the two new rookie tackles, it’s clear that Buffalo wants to have contingency plans available should the worst occur.