Muhammad Wilkerson and the New York Jets? The Bills offensive line never let them get off the runway. JJ Watt and the Houston Texans? No problem. But on Sunday, the Bills will square off against a defensive front that head coach Rex Ryan labeled one of the most imposing in the NFL.
The Washington Redskins defensive front is led defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. At 6-3 and 349 pounds, and nicknamed "Pot Roast" by his teammates, Knighton is among the NFL's most immovable at his position. He headlines a group that also includes defensive end Jason Hatcher, outside linebacker Trent Murphy, and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who leads the team with 7.5 sacks. Ryan praised the unit in his Wednesday morning press conference.
"This is one of the most physical teams in the league," he said. "That's what I see from them. They're huge up front on both sides of the ball. On defense, we all know the guy [Knighton] from his treadmill commercial, that dude's huge. He is enormous playing nose tackle in there. You've got Hatcher, a guy who I've always thought was a good player. My brother coached him in Dallas. He's 6-7, 310. They've got some monsters out there."
Ryan's offensive linemen followed their coach's lead, heaping compliments on the Washington front seven, which refers to itself as "Capital Punishment."
"It'll be a challenge for us," said center Eric Wood. "They have a really talented front seven, really physical, that's been noted this week. I've gone against Knighton in the past, and I have a lot of respect for him, really tough to move, and he can make plays as well. They've assembled that defense with some talented players, for sure."
"They're big. They're massive. Pot Roast is a big, talented, athletic guy," said left guard Richie Incognito. "Hatcher, good ballplayer—he's been playing at a very high level for a very long time and this year. The two talented guys on the outside, Murphy and Kerrigan. They're a good group. They're your typical NFC East defensive line—big, tall, physical. We know going into this game we're going to have to out-physical them."
That sentiment, the need to out-physical the opponent, is one to which this offensive line is accustomed. Incognito, in particular, has oversimplified the strategies for slowing down burdens such as JJ Watt.
"We just have to block them up," he said before the Bills game against the Texans.
The Bills offensive line is coming off a game against Philadelphia in which it committed four penalties for holding, illegal use of hands, or grabbing the facemask of an Eagles pass rusher. It allowed a sack of quarterback Tyrod Taylor on the first drive of the game, but it kept Taylor upright for the remainder of the contest.
Incognito was critical of his performance against Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, but Ryan defended Incognito on Wednesday, maintaining that he is playing at a Pro Bowl level in his return to the NFL following a year-and-a-half long absence.
"Everybody gets beat," he said. "Take a look at them all. Richie is the best guard in football right now. He's playing as good as any guard in the league, and he gives up one sack. From that point until late in the fourth quarter, Richie was playing great. He was blocking him like he always does, but he made a couple of really uncharacteristic errors on his part where he let his technique down. When Richie plays his technique, Richie's as good as anybody in this league, and he has been all season."
As Ryan indicated, despite Incognito's self-criticism, the Bills are better off for having him on the interior of their offensive line. Wood agrees. He has fun blocking next to Incognito.
"We've taken some guys on some rides this year," he said.
While Wood, Incognito, and their line mates know the Redskins will present a challenge, they're confident in their abilities knowing they've gotten the better of some pretty stalwart defensive fronts so far this season.