Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bills' offensive line answering the call so far


The question coming into this season for the Buffalo Bills' offensive line was whether they'd be able to duplicate their success of a year ago despite the loss of left tackle Demetress Bell and the injury to right tackle Erik Pears.

The answer: Yes.

In 2011, Buffalo's line allowed only 23 sacks, a league best. The Bills' squad has kept its protection stout in its first two games this year as well, and against two strong defensive fronts in the Jets and the Chiefs.

Buffalo boasts the only offensive line that has yet to allow a sack, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick expressed his appreciation Monday while addressing the media.

“They were nasty out there,” Fitzpatrick said. “They did a great job. It is really nice to see them getting some credit. The way C.J. (Spiller) is running the ball right now, no sacks in two games—the things you can look at stats-wise for an offensive line. They have done a pretty outstanding job the first two games.”

The running game, as Fitzpatrick mentioned, may be the most surprising of all. Much of the praise has gone to Spiller and his presence in Fred Jackson's absence, coach Chan Gailey made sure to point out just how well he thought the line was handling things this early in the season.

“They are working together as a unit and communicating extremely well right now,” Gailey said Monday. “They have given us two excellent performances, really, in the last two weeks. We have to continue to use them and what their abilities allow us to do.”

Cordy Glenn has been most impressive, stepping in as a rookie and winning the left tackle job over second-year tackle Chris Hairston, succeeding in the O-line's most demanding role.

And while center Eric Wood and guards Kraig Urbik and Andy Levitre have been equally proficient, Pears's efficiency after missing nearly the entire offseason has been very important to the line's success. Fitzpatrick applauded the development of the group and their communication level this early on.

“The continuity up front, we always talk about it in general, but those guys up front it is a big deal," he said. "The communication is much smoother. Being able to block various schemes with the way people are defending us, they have done a really good job with a lot of that.”

Buffalo's rushing attack currently leads the league with close to 400 yards, with Spiller amassing nearly 300 of those. That's tops among all running backs. Even more impressive, the Bills' rushing attack is averaging nearly 6.5 yards per carry and accounts for about 52 percent of their total offense.

Gailey attributes much of Spiller's early success to his patience behind the strong line, and his explosiveness once his blocks are set.

“He is not just seeing the first cut and saying I am going to take that 100-hundred-miles-per-hour. He tries to see everything and read everything," Gailey said. "Then when he makes a good decision, he is exploding through the crease.

"The thing to me is that he is running with confidence which means he runs stronger. He runs through arm tackles. I see that a lot more than earlier in his career.”

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