The Buffalo Bills selected Cody Ford in round two of the 2019 NFL Draft, and one of his strengths was supposed to be his versatility. It’s a common trait the Bills hold in high regard when discussing offensive linemen. Ford played 727 snaps at right tackle and 56 snaps at right guard in 2019, but with the Bills’ addition of Darryl Williams this offseason, Ford has been relegated inside.
I believe that Ford’s ceiling is higher at guard, but his play on the field has me worried about that potential. However, there is a lot of pressure on Ford to play and be the impact player that he was drafted to be. Certainly, shifting among right tackle, right guard, and now left guard isn’t giving Ford the opportunity to hit his stride at any position.
To make things worse, the Bills’ staff decided to bump Ford over to left guard in place of Quinton Spain with Aaron Donald coming to town.
“That was just a decision for that game, that week, that we came up with. Have confidence in all three of those guys… how it shakes out going forward, we’ll see. It’s a good group to work with,” Brian Daboll said to the media during the week. “We just felt that was the direction we wanted to go with … and basically that was it.”
Well, it was no surprise that Ford surrendered seven QB pressures, the most among the linemen, but there were some bright spots.
Run Blocking on Outside Zone
I have been tracking Ford’s play every week, and this week was by far his best week as a run blocker. While I thought he and Williams worked well together and had some nice combination blocks on the right side, week three was much cleaner.
Ford excelled on zone combination blocks with center Mitch Morse and left tackle Dion Dawkins. On zone runs, linemen need to work together to secure the first level and then, based on the defensive front, one lineman will work to the second level.
On the first play clip, Ford has a defensive tackle head up over him in what is called a 2-technique. With the Rams only showing a 5-man box, Ford and Morse have to work a combination block to the inside linebacker.
On the snap, the defensive tackle plays into Morse, so Ford knows he has to help his teammate get leverage on the Rams’ defender before climbing to the linebacker. So he uses a Punch-and-Pass or Punch-and-Climb by punching the left shoulder to stymy the defender’s momentum.
This gives Morse the time and angle to lock down the defender.
In the second clip, Ford and Morse must work a much more difficult combination block. The defensive tackle is in a 2-technique alignment, but the linebacker is in a 30 technique.
For linebackers, think about it in the same manner as defensive linemen, but just add a 0. So if the DT is in a 2t, a linebacker head up over the guard would be in a 20 alignment. This linebacker is in a 30 tech because he is aligned just outside the shoulder of the guard.
The Bills run outside zone, so the defensive tackle doesn’t play as directly into Morse; he initially works wider.
This forces Ford to play heavier into the defensive tackle. So he uses more of a Ricochet block to bounce the defender over to Morse but then has to get on his horse to cut off the linebacker.
He does a great job of staying square and then taking Micah Kiser where he wants to go so Devin Singletary can cut up inside.
But the final clip is the one that can get fans super excited. Dawkins and Ford need to secure Donald then work to the second level.
On the snap, Donald plays into Dawkins because he wants to make it difficult for him to Ricochet him over to Ford, all while keeping his linebacker or defensive back clean.
Dawkins gets a good piece of Donald, but watch Ford use a help technique. He places his left hand on the back of Dawkins while likely letting him know verbally that he is ready to overtake the block. He gets hand leverage on Donald and throws him to the turf. That’s the sort of teamwork and finish you want to see from Ford.
— .. (@A134789762) October 3, 2020
One of the biggest issues I have noticed with Ford in both the run and pass game is his hand usage. He is inefficient with his movement, generally plays with wide hands, and struggles to win hand placement and establish a firm grip on defenders.
You can see that here against Michael Brockers. Early on in the rep, it looks like he is firing his hands inside, but Brockers has him beat. You can see both of Brockers’ hands aiming for the bicep, so once he makes contact his hands will naturally slide up to the armpit area so that he can stack Ford.
It’s textbook. Look at what low pad level and great hand placement does to Ford. It stands him straight up. Ford attempts to circle his hands back over the to regain leverage, but he doesn’t stand a chance.
Brockers is able to stack and disengage for the tackle.
Ford Needed Help
Ford was rarely left alone against Donald, in fact, the Bills generally slid protection to him. As a result, Ford typically only had to only worry about one gap, which sounds much easier than it is. Even in those situations, Ford surrendered his gap. The protections that offensive line coach Bobby Johnson designed seemed to not only give the linemen help vs. Donald, but also sort of funnel him wide. Use his penchant to shoot upfield against him so that Allen could step up into a long, narrow pocket or simply take off.
But Ford had his struggles with this strategy, as well, and I don’t know if he is injured, but I noticed a brace on his right shoulder — a brace that was not there in week three. Did that possible injury have anything to do with moving him to the left side? Trust me, pass protection is difficult, but not having power with an inside hand (right shoulder at left guard) versus not having power with the outside hand (right shoulder at right guard) is a big difference. But, that’s just pure speculation. Either way, Ford used his two-handed punch to keep Donald wide, but far too often it hindered his game.
In the first clip below, there’s a considerable amount of impact between Ford and Donald as Ford went for the two-handed punch, but Donald absorbs the blow and bounces wide. As you can see, the line slid to Donald, so Ford only has to worry about the B-gap between himself and Dawkins.
Ford is already open with his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, which is a big no-no.
If the edge rusher had remained out wide, Donald would have the B-gap, but Ford would likely be saved by Morse, who is using a Help or Overlap technique.
Similar circumstances unfold in the second clip below. The line slides to Donald, and Ford stunts the rush for a millisecond. He has to maintain the B-gap with Morse taking the A-gap. Donald uses a Karioka Rush into the B-gap while keeping his frame clean and bending the corner.
The edge rusher bull rushes Dawkins so that Dawkins can’t squeeze the gap. Donald then bends and flattens to the QB. He gets a hit on Allen, but the anticipation by the QB wins this rep.
In the 4th quarter, Ford surrendered a pressure to Greg Gaines, and it’s in that clip that I noticed him grab his shoulder. On the snap, the line slides to the right. According to Eric Wood, Ford has Gaines one on one.
While Morse is sliding right, he has his Drag hand up so that if Gaines hits that hand, he knows that he needs to help Ford. Gaines reads the protection and realizes that the B-gap is there for the taking with Dawkins solo’d up with the edge rusher.
The counter for Gaines is easy because Ford’s inaccurate punch has his weight on his toes and base too wide.
Gaines is able to flush Allen out of the pocket, and the Rams register the sack.
You can see Ford reach for that shoulder after this rep.
— .. (@A134789762) October 3, 2020
Both Brian Winters and Ford struggled against Donald and the Rams, which wasn’t a surprise. But the Bills need to figure out their best situation at guard because the continuity that was preached all offseason has yet to show up, especially from their second-round draft pick, Cody Ford. Whether he is banged up physically or not, he is struggling pretty much everywhere he has played thus far in his career. Through three games, he has surrendered 11 QB pressures; that’s tied for the 4th-most in the NFL. The pressure is on for him to hit his stride and settle in or for the Bills to make another move at the position.