The NFL’s top draft pick is ready to go, but there’s still a long way to go for him to make the jump to the next level.
For starters, he’s been getting better each day, from a footwork technique to a new approach to how he handles the press.
“I think we’ve just had some big improvements in the last couple of weeks,” coach Rex Ryan said of the sixth overall pick, who has been working with defensive coordinator James Bettcher in the offseason.
“It’s a little bit of a different approach to it.
It’s about getting to know each other better.
I think it’s helped me a lot.”
Bettcher, the longtime defensive coordinator for the Bills, is one of the few coaches in the league who’s coached on the same offensive line for at least four years.
So when Ryan got the call to be his new head coach, he jumped at the chance.
The Bills’ offensive line is arguably the NFL’s best in the pass protection department, but that doesn’t mean that they have a great tackle spot.
That’s something the Bills were in need of.
Ryan’s new-look offensive line has been solid this preseason, with six different starters in the starting lineup for the first time this season.
That means that the team has been able to utilize a variety of offensive linemen, from veteran starters like Chris Borland to rookie backups like Joe Barksdale, the seventh overall pick out of Arkansas.
With a new offensive line in place, Ryan can get a feel for what the rest of the Bills’ starters will look like in the regular season.
But right now, he has only played on the line for a handful of snaps.
That won’t change anytime soon, and Ryan will need to get used to watching his offensive linemen at the same time.
He’s spent most of his time at the right guard spot, and that could change with the arrival of rookies John Miller and Tyrod Taylor, as well as second-year offensive lineman Jake Fisher.
If Fisher can play through injuries and the Bills can keep him healthy, it could open up a spot for Taylor.
That could open the door for Miller to play guard, which could open a spot up for Fisher.
But that’s not a given.
There’s still some question marks at the position, and a lot of questions about where Taylor is coming from.
Bettchers offensive line was a major reason why the Bills lost out on drafting him with the sixth pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
They wanted to get rid of a number of starters who weren’t able to make it into the NFL after missing the 2015 season with injuries.
But this time around, Ryan is hoping to get the best out of Taylor.
The rookie is getting a chance to play alongside veteran offensive lineman Justin Ellis, who spent most this season on the team’s injured reserve list.
And that could open things up for Taylor to get a taste of playing behind an established veteran.
If he can handle the pressure of a starting position, that could be the best thing for him, Ryan said.
“We’re trying to find that balance, and the best balance for him is at the center of the offensive line,” Ryan said, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
“If he’s able to handle it, then it will be a positive.
And if he can’t handle it at the tackle spot, then I’m not sure.”
The Bills have spent a lot on their offensive line this offseason.
They’ve signed two first-round draft picks and traded for the rights to veteran free agents including left tackle Tyrod Blount and right tackle Mike Remmers.
That was a big investment for the team, but it will pay off.
The other major offseason signing for the Buffalo Bills was offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
The sixth overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft spent most 2016 playing on the left side, but was used more as a guard.
The Bills’ coaching staff had hoped to get him to play at center, but the rookie’s injury in camp last season forced him to switch positions.
He started at right tackle and will likely play in the center spot this year.
The second biggest offseason acquisition was tight end Zach Ertz, the Bills sixth overall draft pick.
He spent most last season playing as a tight end, but Ryan said he hopes to see him move into the center position this season, which will give him a better chance to make plays in the passing game.
“It’s just a matter of how you position him,” Ryan explained, per Chris Mortensen of ESPNNewYork.com.
“He’ll have a lot more chances to be able to take some hits, and I think he’ll be able play.
He’ll be playing at a position where you have guys who can make plays for you.”
The rest of Buffalo’s offensive line remains to be seen, but they’ve been solid in practice.
That makes it a little easier for them to get their new offensive linemen in game