The 2018 Buffalo Bills offensive line took a significant step backwards after several successful seasons in which they led the NFL in rushing and appeared to continue this trend moving into 2018. Unfortunately, due to the forced retirement of C Eric Wood and the bizarre retirement/release of G Richie Incognitio, the loss of these two proved to be too great in order to protect rookie QB Josh Allen and as a result, was unable to open effective lanes up for RB LeSean McCoy, leading to his worst season of his career. Today’s post will identify injuries from the tackle position on the offensive line and how things will shape up in 2019.
First up is T Conor McDermott. The 2nd year player out of UCLA drafted by the Patriots before being picked up by the Bills saw him play sparingly, mostly during the last month of the season once they were out of the playoff race. Total, he played in 5 games with no penalties and did not suffer any injuries. From my vantage point, he is a player that is too good to keep on the practice squad, but not quite ready to play full time on the field. As he has been a part of this team the past 2 seasons, I expect that the coaching staff brings him back next season to continue his development.
T Marshall Newhouse is the next player to be assessed today. The veteran tackle had spent the early part of his career with the Packers before bouncing around to the Giants and Raiders. Newhouse was brought in to provide depth at a position that had some question marks going into 2018. Unfortunately, his time in Buffalo was short lived to just 3 games, eventually shipping out to the Panthers in exchange for a 2021 7th round pick. During his 3 game stretch, he did not suffer any injuries and had 1 holding penalty and 1 false start penalty. As he is an aging veteran who was moved for a low round draft pick 2 years from now, it is unlikely that Newhouse finds his way back to Buffalo.
T Jeremiah Sirles is another veteran tackle that has bounced around the league with stops at San Diego, Minnesota, Carolina, and Buffalo. During the 2018 season, Sirles saw action in 12 games, starting 5 with 1 false start penalty and 1 declined/offset penalty. In addition, Sirles managed to avoid the injury report and provided to be a solid depth option at the tackle position. While he is far from the long term answer at the position, his play this past season was rewarded with a one-year contact extension and I expect to see him on the field in 2019.
T Jordan Mills was an interesting player this year. The big man has been a part of the Bills since 2015; before that, he spent 2 seasons with the Bears. He appeared in and started all 16 games, recording 3 holding penalties and 2 false start penalties along with 2 penalties that were declined or offset. Mills was one of the few tackles this season to sustain injuries including a knee injury suffered in practice prior to the Colts game that did not force him to miss any games. He also suffered a left knee injury during the first Jets game that caused him to miss several plays but was able to return. He was one player this year that managed to sustain small injuries, require medical attention but never appeared to be anything serious. Most of his injuries may have been more contusions due to the brutal hits he has to endure but somehow he did not miss significant time. Mills is currently an unrestricted free agent and the team does not appear to be in any rush to re-sign him. I believe that his time in Buffalo has come to a close and it is possible that he could catch on with another team requiring veteran depth at the position.
Finally, T Dion Dawkins rounds out players at the tackle position. The 2nd year player managed to wow the coaching staff last year with his exceptional play as a rookie, but with losses to the offensive line due to Wood/Incognito, it appeared as though his flaws were exposed as a result. Dawkins managed to appear and start in all 16 games with 1 holding penalty, 3 false start penalties, 3 offset/declined penalties; a stark increase from 2017 in which he only sustained 3 total penalties. In addition to his tackle play, Dawkins got in on the passing game, hauling in 1 target for 1 reception for 7 yards and a TD during the win over the Jets. Injury wise, Dawkins only suffered what appeared to be a hip pointer injury during the preseason against the Bengals. Otherwise, Dawkins managed to avoid further injury and continued to provide stability at an ever changing offensive line. While I have heard some discussion that the coaching staff has fallen out of favor with him as he was not a guy they drafted, I would still keep him on the roster as he has shown he can play at a high level and his health issues are minimal. I expect to see him back in 2019 improving his play with new coaching along with experienced, more talented players added in allowing Dawkins to reduce the burden he was placed with this past season.
Overall, this is another position group that has to be addressed in both the draft and free agency. Outside of Dawkins, the rest of the players listed are merely depth players even with Mills starting the past few seasons. With the Bills picking at 9th overall, it appears as though they are going the best player available route which could dissuade them from going offensive tackle, but if that player happens to be a tackle, then they could certainly upgrade one side of the line and begin to re-solidify the offensive line.
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