As OTA work continues, one of the positions of high interest for Buffalo Bills fans should be the offensive guard. The week one starting offensive line in 2022 is going to look significantly different than it did in 2021, as the Bills attempt to correct some of the difficulties from the area last season. The guards will be a big part of this. With the release of Jon Feliciano, there’s an opening at the right guard position that needs to be filled. This means that Ryan Bates will be getting a spot in the starting lineup again this season.
On the other side of the line, certain depth chart reports are showing the veteran Rodger Saffold getting the early nod. Saffold, who’s been with the Rams and the Titans in his career, can switch from both the tackle and guard positions. He’s sure to be needed as a guard in the situation he finds himself in now.
A Guard Problem?
It’s a tricky thing to analyze where the failings of the offensive line manifested last season on the surface. Weren’t the Bills one of the most explosive teams in the NFL last season? It’s certainly easy to see things this way. What’s more, in pure sack numbers, the Bills gave up the second least amount of sacks among all teams in 2021. Yet, if you dig a little deeper into the statistics you can find where the difficulties came into play.
TD% helps us make sense of this. Although it appears the offense is one of the most potent in the NFL, there were several teams last season that had a higher TD%. TD% quite literally means the percentage of offensive plays that ended in a touchdown. Tampa Bay, Minnesota, LAC, LAR, Dallas, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, and Cincinnati all had a higher TD% than the Bills in 2021.
Not a Guard Problem
This may not seem to be all that significant until you consider the high regard the offensive unit is held in. But there’s a reason for optimism. In April, Ryan Bates was signed to a four-year contract. This means Bates has been able to gain the trust of the coaching staff enough for them to believe he’s capable of filling his role for the foreseeable future. He was able to perform rather well late last season and postseason when he found himself thrust into the starting lineup on account of injuries and COVID-19.
Rodger Saffold looks in many ways to be a major improvement over the departing Jon Feliciano. The most important thing Saffold holds over Feliciano is his reliability. Indeed, he hasn’t been off the field more than two games in a season since 2015. The former pro bowler looks to be a major inclusion in 2022’s offensive picture.
Trusting the Process
It’s always a good sign when the anchor of the offensive line believes things are running smoothly. Mitch Morse knows that Saffold has proven himself to be a worthy addition to the offensive line and is confident that returning offensive line coach, Aaron Kromer, will be able to help get the line’s process of working together right. Why shouldn’t Bills fans feel good about the potential of this new offensive line?
I think this coaching staff from top to bottom has earned the benefit of the doubt from fans over the last couple of seasons. It wasn’t all that long ago, mind you, that the Bills were among the biggest jokes annually in the NFL. It isn’t just the unis that have improved, it’s the coaching of the team. The ultimate goal should be to let the offense loose — allow it to reach its fullest potential. 2022 is being framed as the season that happens.