The center position can frequently be the most significant on the offensive line. They are responsible for assignments, blitz pickups, quarterback communication, and much more.
The battle for the starting center job in 2018 is between recently acquired Russell Bodine, and familiar face, Ryan Groy.
Groy originally signed with the Bills in 2015, but he is not quite used to challenging for the starting role; as Eric Wood was a perennial starter in Buffalo.
“It’s just part of being in the NFL,” said Groy. “Guys leave and guys come in. This is my fifth year in the NFL. I am kind of used to the transition.”
Groy’s experience with the Bills certainly works to his benefit, and he realizes the importance of communication at the position.
“The thing when you build chemistry is to have the ability to communicate and understand what you’re looking for on the field,” he said.
However, familiarity for Groy and this year’s group of quarterbacks will not come easily; having only played with Nathan Peterman to this point.
“Josh [Allen] and A.J. [McCarron], it’s the first time I’ve snapped the ball to them, and I have experience snapping to Nate,” said Groy this spring. “It’s kind of funny the first week or two. You’ll have a couple of balls on the ground.”
Although he is not tremendously accustomed to the starting role, starting just eight games in his three seasons in Buffalo; the Bills’ front office has shown confidence in the 27-year-old Groy.
On March 20th, 2017, the Bills chose to match a two-year offer sheet extended to Groy by the Los Angeles Rams.
As for his competition, Russell Bodine has a similar level of familiarity with the current group of quarterbacks; seeing limited time with A.J. McCarron in Cincinnati.
The Bills signed Bodine to a two-year deal this year, to provide more insurance after the loss of Eric Wood.
Previously, Bodine started each and every game throughout his four years in Cincinnati, making him a viable option to start in 2018; bolstered by some confidence in him by head coach Sean McDermott.
“We lost a couple of guys on the offensive line that were some of our leaders in some ways, shapes, and forms,” said McDermott. “Russ Bodine has stepped up.”
An early vote of confidence from the head coach is sure to turn some heads, but coach McDermott is not the only one who believes that Bodine is a great fit in Buffalo.
“I’ve known Russ, we came in the same year and I’ve known him for a while,” said former Bengals, and now Bills teammate A.J. McCarron. “He’s awesome. I love pushing his buttons and he does the same with me. He’s an unbelievably hard worker and he is super smart.”
Many factors including familiarity, experience, and confidence shown by the coaching staff, will affect the final decision.
However, both Groy and Bodine appear ready to compete no matter the surrounding circumstances.
If McCarron starts at quarterback, Bodine may be the smoother option, as Groy is also comfortable at guard.
Conversely, Nathan Peterman’s experience with Groy could allow for him to snag the starting role.
Although both centers have a level of comfort built into this year’s roster, perhaps the determining factor in who wins the starting job, will lie within the ability to create a stronger bond with 2018 first-round pick, Josh Allen.
Groy took most of the early offseason reps as the number one option, but the tide could very well change as training camp progresses.