The Buffalo Bills’ offensive linemen are often criticized about their pass blocking and are often blamed for the struggles in the passing game.
Some of that blame is unwarranted due to the fact that their quarterback holds onto the ball (snap to throw) longer than anyone in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor holds onto the ball on average for 3.13 seconds. This stresses pass protection and the offensive line’s ability to stay engaged and mirror pass rushers.
In week 13, that didn’t matter. The offensive line did a good job of staying engaged and blocking for an extended period of time — 3.63 seconds, to be exact! The next longest snap to throw attempt was 3.14 from Jacoby Brissett.
While the stat box shows the Bills’ offensive line gave up two sacks, PFF credited those sacks to Taylor and Peterman. The offensive line as a whole only surrendered six pressures in the game. The three highest-graded offensive linemen were LT Dion Dawkins, RT Jordan Mills, and LG Richie Incognito. Mills was the highest-graded pass blocker with a raw grade of 3.4, and for most of the day he was matched up with DE Eric Lee.
Lee is a long armed pass rusher with very few pass rushing moves and no counter moves. But that length was what Belichick and the staff wanted to utilize. They wanted to use him as a bluff rusher, someone who fakes as a pass rusher, then drops into the underneath zone to cover or use his length to get in the passing lane and/or spy the QB.
But the length also allows him to control offensive linemen and to get his hands in optimal positions to gain leverage. This can really be used versus the Bills this season because of some of the techniques being utilized by the offensive lineman.
Mills has been utilizing the ‘hug’ technique a bunch this season to stay engaged with pass rushers, and that has often left him open to bull rush moves. As Mills kick slides, his hands will come up from outside in and he will attempt to ‘catch’ the defender, lock on, and then keep his feet moving to take the defender where he wants to go. As he does that, the QB then can manipulate the pocket as needed. But this leaves Mills’s chest open, so theoretically, Lee would able to use his long arms to get his hands inside and then drive Mills back. Surprisingly, Mills was able to anchor quite well versus Lee because the latter lacks the lower body strength to consistently power rush an offensive tackle OR to counter.
Mills has had his ups and downs, but it was pretty clear he played a decent game versus the Patriots.
How much of the passing game can be blamed on the offensive line? Quarterback? What percentages would you use?
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