Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown and Mitch Morse are locked into Week 1 starting roles for the Bills, but uncertainty clouds the guard spots. And recent developments have Buffalo’s swing tackle role in flux.
If healthy, Connor McGovern is in place as the Bills’ starting left guard. The Bills gave the former Cowboys starter a three-year, $22.35MM deal early in free agency. The fifth-year blocker, however, suffered a knee injury this week. No return timetable has emerged for the team’s top guard investment, ESPN.com’s Alaina Getzenberg notes. Considering the team has already held a long-running right guard battle, McGovern’s availability adds to the confusion here. For what it’s worth, McGovern does not believe this is a serious injury, per the Buffalo News’ Ryan O’Halloran.
Ryan Bates and second-round rookie O’Cyrus Torrence have competed for the RG role. Although the Bills matched a Bears RFA offer sheet (four years, $17MM) for Bates last year, Torrence may be close to overtaking him for the starting gig. The Bills have given Torrence two preseason starts and used him throughout Josh Allen‘s cameo in the second exhibition game. This usage points to a starting assignment coming soon, The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia writes (subscription required).
Pro Football Focus graded Bates as a mid-pack guard last season, ranking him 41st at the position. The team chose Torrence 59th overall — the earliest O-line investment for the Bills since the Cody Ford pick (39th) in 2019 — and ESPN’s Scouts Inc. graded the Florida product as the draft’s best pure guard prospect. Torrence made 34 straight starts to close his college career, and Buscaglia adds the Bills have been pleased with his development.
McGovern being unavailable for Week 1 would open the door to Bates (19 career starts) keeping a starting role, though the team also has UFA addition David Edwards as an option. A three-year Rams starter, Edwards signed a low-end Bills deal (one year, $1.77MM) this offseason. A concussion limited Edwards to four starts last season, but the former Super Bowl starter has made 45 first-string appearances. Edwards’ arrival also complicates matters for longtime Bills blocker Ike Boettger, who worked with the third-team O-line during the first two preseason tilts. Boettger (17 career starts) sticking around for a sixth Bills season may hinge on his performance against the Bears tonight, Buscaglia adds.
The Bills have run into hurdles to fill the swing post behind Dawkins and Brown. Brandon Shell retired midway through training camp, and Tommy Doyle suffered a season-ending injury. David Quessenberry, a former Titans starter who filled this role last year, has not impressed this summer, and Buscaglia notes rookie UDFA Ryan Van Demark is battling the veteran for the job. Quessenberry, who turned 33 this week, has 26 career starts.
It would be interesting to see if the Bills will look outside to address this swing issue. Jason Peters, who began his career with the team, said recently he is looking to play a 19th season. Peters, 41, may be a name to watch, per Buscaglia. Peters caught on late with the Cowboys last year, signing on Sept. 5, and played both tackle and guard as the team dealt with injuries.