Bills Offensive Line a Big Problem for Browns


The Cleveland Browns take on the Buffalo Bills tomorrow in a huge game for the AFC Playoff Race. The Browns are coming off their thrilling come from behind win against the Atlanta Falcons while the Bills destroyed the New York Jets in their displaced Monday Night Football game.

Both teams are in the thick of the very difficult playoff race in the AFC. The Browns are still very much in their division race, only a half game out, while the Bills are a full 3 games out of the AFC East and are likely fighting for a Wild Card spot.

We covered already how concerned we are related to the Bills defensive line. You can read all about it here as we compare the Bills to the Jaguars and Texans and the way they beat up on the Browns offense. We also looked at how Kyle Orton has been successful at leading the Bills since taking over the reigns at quarterback.

Today we tackle the concerns that the Bills offensive line creates for the depleted Cleveland Browns defense.

The Bills offensive line is built around a bunch of very large guys: all are over 310 pounds and stand at at least 6’4″. That is huge even for an offensive line. The Bills are setup to play cold weather, smashmouth football up in Buffalo. Lets take a look at each player individually:

  • Cordy Glenn – Glenn was a 2nd round pick by the Bills and is in his 3rd season in the league. The former Georgia standout can struggle a bit against a good pass rusher but has the size and strength to maul blockers up front.
  • Kraig Urbik – Urbick was a 3rd round pick by the Steelers in 2009 out of Wisconsin. Likely the least known name on the Bills line but he plays a vital role in their run game.
  • Eric Wood – The center was the Bills 1st round pick in 2009. The Cincinnati native has locked down the Bills center of the line for years and is an aggressive, intelligent blocker.
  • Erik Pears – The huge 6’8″ right guard is the veteran of the group, 9 seasons. He was undrafted out of Colorado State but has made a home for himself in Buffalo for the past 5 seasons. He has been in and out of the lineup during that time but started all 16 games last season as well as all games so far this year.
  • Seantrel Henderson – Henderson was drafted late, in the 7th round, but many believed he had the talent to go much higher. His work ethic and commitment to football has been questioned for years. He earned the starting right tackle job and has played very well in his rookie season.
  • Cyril Richardson – The Bills primary backup lineman is the rookie Richardson. He was a mid round favorite of this writer for his strength and power. He was a 5th round draft pick but will likely be starting very soon for the Bills.

That offensive line has helped the Bills maintain a decent rushing attack, although they are only ranked 22nd in rushing yards, while being without Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller for different parts of the year. They are not a perfect bunch but they have helped the Bills run the clock and keep the opposing offense off the field (sound familiar?).  The Bills have been in many games because of this ability.

The Browns defensive front 7 has struggled at different times this season and continues to deal with a rash of injuries. Karlos Dansby has already been ruled out, joining Armonty Bryant, Phil Taylor and John Hughes as out for this weekends game from the front. Teams who have success running the football against the Browns have done so in two ways and not having their leader Dansby on the field could make them worse.

The first is that opponents take advantage of Ahtyba Rubin the middle of the field and kickout the outside players to open lanes:

As the simply draw play above shows the blocking of the Browns front 7 withe the Bills offensive line and fullback. The Bills will often have a tight end to help block as well. If just these 6 blockers taking on the Browns front 7 opponents have been able to make plays. The Browns freed up inside linebacker can try to fill the hole that the fullback is looking to clear but that has opened up a ton of cutback lanes, back to where the unblocked X above just vacated.

To counter this Browns linebackers have often taken to “crossing the face” of the defender blocking them. Most often this means coming more inside to try to counter the block. This, especially when outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard, Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger have done it, has led to many of the long gains we have seen this season. By doing this the Browns fail to maintain contain on the outside. Backs have popped the run outside and had only corners and safeties to deal with as opposed to any of the front 7.  Big problems.

The Bills are likely to use similar techniques to take advantage of where they have the advantages. With little pure talent and brute force in the middle of the Browns defense expect to see Bills running backs to attack up the middle often. Thankfully only the aged Fred Jackson has shown the ability to bounce runs outside. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are more between the tackles runners. Yet don’t be shocked if after pounding the middle for a little while the Bills use a counter trap to spring a long outside run, catching the Browns not maintaining contain.

The Browns have their work cut out for them this week against the Bills. The Bills smart QB play won’t give the Browns many chances to make turnovers, especially with Tashaun Gipson out. The Bills defensive line can cause havoc as others have to the Browns this season. And the Bills offensive line presents trouble for the depleted front 7 of the Browns. The game is likely to be close but can the Browns steal a victory on the road?

What do you think about the Bills offensive line?