There is a lot that Buffalo’s newest free agent signings have found appealing in their assessment of the Bills organization over the past 10 days. For Trent Murphy it was the blue-collar, grinder mentality of the team. For Star Lotulelei it was the familiarity with the playbook, and for AJ McCarron it was the opportunity to win a starting job.
For OL Russell Bodine and Marshall Newhouse some of those same things were factors in their decisions to sign too. But for linemen it’s often about who they’ll be working with the most, and for the Bills, offensive line coach Juan Castillo proved to be an asset.
Bodine didn’t have many friends in the league that could provide some insight on the type of coordinator Brian Daboll is, but he liked what he heard about Castillo.
“I’m excited to get to Buffalo and work with (offensive line coach) Juan (Castillo),” Bodine said. “He’s got a reputation for making good players into great players. I’m excited to get going.”
The pivot man, did his homework on the Bills when he knew he’d be paying Buffalo a free agent visit early this week, especially on Castillo. He called his former college roommate at North Carolina, who now plays guard for the Baltimore Ravens.
“My college roommate, James Hurst, played under (Castillo) for two years at Baltimore and had nothing but positive things to say,” said Bodine. “He’s got a reputation around the league of making guys better.”
Better is what every NFL player strives for with each passing year of their career. Bills newest offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse is entering his ninth NFL season, but is always trying to sharpen his skill set.
Newhouse, who has always had good feet, has never been satisfied with the level his run blocking or pass protecting skills have reached. He’s always pushing to be better. That’s why when he met with coach Castillo on his visit to One Bills Drive everything clicked.
“I have a lot of room to improve,” Newhouse said. “I think Juan Castillo (and I), we were real familiar with each other (when I was) coming out in the draft. Talking to him on my visit was enlightening and encouraging. He also sees room for growth in me as well.”
When pressed for specifics from his conversation with Castillo, Newhouse sounded pleased that his new line coach took the time to break down his individual game piece by piece before his visit to Orchard Park.
“It was consistency of use with my hands and my sets being more uniform and my posture being more uniform,” said Newhouse of where Castillo wants to improve Newhouse’s performance. “Those are things that I try to be as self-aware as possible and self-critique and definitely there are things in my career that have been slowly shaved away and gotten better. But there’s still room to grow and those are things we talked about. They’re things that he feels he can help me with on the practice field and in film study.”
Both Bodine and Newhouse know they’ll be entering competitions for starting roles once OTA practices begin in May with Ryan Groy and Jordan Mills respectively. Competitions that are likely to carry right into the preseason in mid to late August.
But no matter how those battle turn out; Bodine and Newhouse know they have a position coach who helped to target them and is determined to improve their level of play.
“I don’t think he would’ve had me come visit if he didn’t think that he could do something with the football that I have played already and make that better,” said Newhouse. “With a new offensive line coach yes, they each like their specific things, but my familiarity with and talking with coach Castillo he’s not going to ask me to do anything outside of my physical limitations. I’m definitely adaptable. I’ve shown that. It’s not the easiest thing, but it’s something that I have done, can do and will continue to do.”
With the 2018 free agency period officially open, here's a look at Buffalo's pickups.