The Buffalo Bills weren’t very active on the open free agent market, but they did manage to retain two of their most important players in left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito. After being exiled from the National Football League for his bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins, the Bills took a chance on Incognito, signing him to a one-year “prove it” deal for the 2015 season. Richie Incognito rose to the occasion, performing as one of the best guards in the entire league in both pass protection and run blocking. The team was able to bring him back on a three-year, $15.75 million deal to keep an integral part of their offense intact. Incognito kept his nose clean off the field and for the first time in his career, he physically dominated his opponents without resorting to dirty play.
Offensive linemen need to be nasty and Richie brought the attitude that Buffalo has lacked for years. The following play against the Indianapolis Colts is a perfect example of this “play through the whistle” attitude. It’s the first quarter of the first game of the season and Richie gets a great punch off on the defensive tackle hard enough to knock him around the edge, but that isn’t enough as he works to cut down the linebacker.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s offense is a throwback power rushing attack that relies on man/gap blocking principles and Richie Incognito was a key cog in the Bills’ run game that gained 2,432 yards and 19 scores on the ground at a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. They had 70 rushes go for 10 or more yards, the most in the league, with 122 runs that moved the chains for a first down, the third-most in the league.
The left guard in Greg Roman’s offense is extremely important, as they need to have the quickness, power and awareness to locate and seal an edge defender on power runs to the right, as well as on “pin and pull” sweeps to the left.
For a 6’3” and 320-pound guard, Incognito has surprising foot speed that allows him to pull out and get to the second level quickly. The following plays illustrate Richie Incognito’s dominance on one of the staple run plays in the Bills’ playbook—the pin and pull sweep. In this play, the left tackle—Cordy Glenn—will “down block” to the right, while the left guard—Richie Incognito—pulls out to the left as a lead blocker. Here against the Patriots, Incognito quickly opens a rushing lane for LeSean McCoy, locking onto inside linebacker Don’t’a Hightower and driving him back off of the ball.
The play worked so well they ran it again in the same game with the same result—a big chunk of yardage.
Here, Karlos Williams scores a touchdown on another similar blocking scheme with Incognito sealing the edge.
Power is another staple run that the Bills ran with great success and it’s a similar concept to the pin-and-pull sweep. Instead of pulling to the left, the left guard pulls around the whole offensive line to the right side and is responsible for sealing the force defender that’s tasked with setting the edge, while the right side of the offensive line will block down to the left. Here’s a 41-yard score by Karlos Williams on a perfectly executed power to the right.
Here’s another power run from an unbalanced formation with the Bills backed up at their goal-line.
In addition to the plays where Richie Incognito needs to get out in space, he has to have to the power to drive a defensive lineman off the ball in one-on-one situations on gap runs between the tackles.
Here in the season opener, Richie Incognito is tasked with an extremely difficult assignment on another power run. The Colts’ nose tackle is shaded over center Eric Wood’s shoulder and there’s a four-technique lined directly over right guard John Miller, who’s the pulling guard here. Wood needs to block the four-technique while Incognito needs to “reach block” the nose tackle in order to clear a running lane. While the run gains just four yards, Incognito’s strength, balance and leg drive is illustrated as he drives the nose tackle completely out of the play.
Richie Incognito proved to be a devastating run blocker, as Bills’ running backs averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry when running behind the left guard according to ProFootballFocus, while gaining 413 yards and four touchdowns on 43 carries on rushes with Incognito as a pulling lead blocker through the team’s first eight games that I charted.
In the passing game, Richie Incognito was just as dominant, surrendering only two sacks, five quarterback hits and 12 hurries on the year, the ninth-fewest total pressures allowed by a guard according to ProFootballFocus.
Richie’s “seek and destroy” mentality showed up regularly on screens as well, chipping the three-technique defensive tackle before getting down-field with a full head of steam, leading the way for LeSean McCoy before knocking a defender out of bounds.
Incognito regularly showed the ability to drop into his pass set while maintaining a wide base and low pad level, sink his hips and anchor against defensive tackles on a regular basis.
One of the most important traits than an interior offensive lineman can possess is the ability to continue looking for work. Richie Incognito will regularly look to deliver a blow to a defensive linemen engaged with a tackle or center in order to knock them off balance and keep a clean pocket.
The Bills definitely have questions to answer on the right side of the offensive line, but retaining Richie Incognito is huge for the team’s offense. While he’s 32-years old, Incognito showed great athleticism and a work ethic that fans haven’t seen in a while. Incognito seems to have realized his mistakes and is taking his game seriously, which should put some fear in defensive linemen that have to battle with him for 60 minutes in the trenches.