Buffalo Bills biggest training camp battle lays within the trenches, per PFF
By Avery Duncan
According to Pro Football Focus, the Buffalo Bills’ battle for the starting right tackle position appears to be a good, and important, one.
Pro Football Focus recently released their 2019 edition of the year’s biggest NFL training camp battles. For the Buffalo Bills, it centers around their offensive line; specifically, the right tackle position.
Rookie Cody Ford and veteran Ty Nsekhe are the two candidates set to compete for the starting job at right tackle. Each has their individuals strengths, and are upgrades over what had been previously trotted out. PFF’s Mark Christopher analyzed the battle, saying;
"Ford will likely be given every chance to win the position seeing as the team traded up in the second round to acquire him. The Oklahoma product was elite in pass protection in college, giving up just 12 pressures across 716 snaps en route to three straight 80.0-plus pass-blocking grades. Nsekhe has played both guard and tackle during his time in the NFL, and he still flies under the radar somewhat despite playing at an extremely high level as a swing tackle throughout his tenure in Washington. Since 2015, Nsekhe has earned a 71.9 overall grade and a 77.2 pass-blocking grade across his 1,006 snaps at tackle, 49th and tied for 34th, respectively, among the 95 tackles who have played at least 1,000 snaps at tackle in that span."
As Christophers notes, the Bills traded up for Ford to nab him in the second round and he should get the opportunity to start day one. During spring practices, he did just that, while Nsekhe played at different positions.
Ford earned considerations as an early first-round pick before the draft — it was a surprise when he slid to No. 38. Many saw Ford as a pro-ready guard pre-draft, including NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein; who compared him to Pro-Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks. However, the right tackle is his native position, and he has a galore of athleticism, physicality, and body size to boot.
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Ford measured in at 6-foot-4, 329-pounds with 34-inch arms at the NFL Combine. He impressed in the drills; as his 5.12-second 40-time, 28.5-inch vertical, and 104-inch broad jump — good numbers for his size. Ford’s a good pull-blocker, carries his weight well, and aims to protect quarterbacks like a Secret Service bodyguard would for a The President.
However, critics cite a lack of finesse and frantic feet when blocking fleet-footed edge rushers — a reason why many see him as a guard. But, he plays the game the right way, and if he proves to be a quick-learner, improvement in his footwork and technique may be seen in training camp and pre-season ball.
Ford is on the opposite end of the NFL-spectrum to veteran Ty Nsekhe. The former Washington Redskin didn’t enter the league with much hype. He went undrafted out of Texas State, made his rounds through the Arena Football league, then found a home with the then-St. Louis Rams.
He lasted a season with the Rams, playing two games. After bouncing around some more, including the Canadian Football League, he landed with the Washington Redskins as a 30-year-old. For four seasons, he proved to be one of the NFL’s best backup offensive tackles and offensive line swiss army knives.
Nsekhe switched between both tackle and guard positions in Washington. He played 54 games and started 16. However, he played his best ball, throughout his course in the national capital, at right tackle. The 6-foot-8, 330-pound unit played 403 snaps last year and allowed one sack — roaming between positions, per PFF.
Though now 33 years old, the signing of Nsekhe for the Bills is an intriguing one. He’s a known commodity that’s played virtually everywhere and found success in the latter half of his career.
The battle for the starting right tackle position couldn’t have a more stereotypical storyline; between a promising rookie and a veteran that’s seen it and done it all. As PFF notes, each may prove to be a good option in their own right for the Bills.