The offensive side of the ball for the Bills has seen a lot of change. New offensive coordinator, two new quarterbacks, two new free agent linemen, four new draft choices and a brand new offensive scheme.
One of the few things that remains the same is veteran OL Ryan Groy, but he has some newness on his plate as well. In addition to the scheme, he has a new starting role he’s fighting for at center and a leadership void he may need to fill with the sudden retirement of Eric Wood.
So how is he handling all that’s changed on offense?
“It’s been smooth really,” Groy told Buffalobills.com. “It’s just part of being in the NFL. Guys leave. Guys come in. This is my fifth year in the NFL. It’s the third or fourth offense I’ve been working. You’re kind of used to transition, and at the same time a lot of it overlaps.”
Working primarily at center this spring, after spending the last season plus as the interior swing guard-center for Buffalo, Groy welcomes the opportunity to win the starting role in the pivot.
“I like it,” he said. “The other part of that is once you know center you know the other positions and other assignments. So if I’ve got to move to guard for whatever reason I’ll be able to fill the spot easily because I know the call for him being the center.”
“He’s a big, powerful man and when he latches onto you he’s hard to get rid of,” said Kyle Williams, who routinely faces him in practice. “He’s not so different than maybe Richie (Incognito). He has a little bit different skill set, but similar players. I think any role they throw at Groy, he’s going to be just fine.”
Groy’s stiffest competition is expected to be free agent center Russell Bodine, but Groy, who started seven games at center for Buffalo in 2016 when Wood was lost to a broken leg, is more focused on making the new offense functional with two new quarterbacks.
“Josh (Allen) and AJ (McCarron) it’s the first time I’ve snapped the ball to them,” he said. “I have experience snapping to Nate (Peterman). And Russell (Bodine) is new, so the guys have to get used to taking snaps from him. The first couple of days you’ll have a couple of balls on the ground. You obviously never want to have that, but you’ll get that early on when you have new centers and new quarterbacks.”
For a center, the mental link up with the quarterback is critical. They have to see the defensive sets the same way pre-snap.
“It’s how well you can bounce ideas off each other and whether you’re thinking the same. If you’re walking up to a play and you have checks or certain things that you’re looking for,” Groy said. “If you’re not on the same page, looking for the same thing, it all gets jumbled and becomes a big mess.
“So, it’s understanding the offense well enough to where you have the same vision, whether you see something or he sees something and you get to the right call and go. Communication is definitely number one.”
Groy will need to accomplish that with all three quarterbacks over the course of the spring and summer until the quarterback competition works itself out. He too will be part of a position battle with Bodine.
Entering his fourth season with the Bills he recognizes it’s his best opportunity to start, but as one of the three longest-tenured offensive linemen on the roster (Jordan Mills and John Miller are the others), Groy is more focused on being an example for the new and younger linemen on the roster.
Check out photos of the Bills offensive line.
“Leadership is something that number one comes natural and number two it shows over time,” said Groy. “I don’t think it’s something where somebody comes in day one and is just yelling, ‘Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah,’ and everybody is thinking, ‘Oh okay he’s a great leader.’ You start from day one when we came in here for OTAs and you’re leading by example. You’re not missing reps. You’re not taking plays off. You’re doing your job every day to the best of your ability.
“Then when you gain respect you start getting more vocal. You start bringing guys in. You get the tempo up in practice when it’s needed. And you slowly build from there. It’s not like, ‘Eric is gone, I’ve got to talk more.’ It’s just us slowly building roles and understanding if something is missing and I need to speak up in certain situations and do that.”
Being a leader might be new, but Groy clearly understands the responsibility involved.
“In my mind I know I’m not a rookie or second-year player anymore. Now I can lead by example a lot more,” he said. “I can come in early and watch film. I can bring the young guys in and help them understand building blocks of the offense and know what to look at and what you’re thinking on the field. That’s a huge part in what helped me learn the game.”
“Ryan Groy, the leadership he has shown… these guys are stepping up, and that’s what you want to see,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “They understand what’s at stake. They understand [that] there’s an opportunity for them to step up, and increase their leadership influence. I’ve been nothing but impressed with how he’s handled things.” There’s also one more thing that will be new for Groy this year.
He and his wife, Sara, welcomed their first child, a baby girl, over the weekend.
For Groy, 2018 could be both career and life changing.
“It’s exciting,” said the new father. “I’m looking forward to all of it.”