The Bills like their linemen on the tall side it seems
Toward the latter stages of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills took a flier with Virginia Tech offensive tackle Luke Tenuta. Like Spencer Brown last year, the Bills seem to have landed on a preference for tall players. Like…really tall. Let’s check out the film on the 6’8” rookie to see how he might fit into the team’s plans.
Ever since the Bills signed Ty Nsekhe I’ve had one major concern with the “extraordinarily tall” lineman they’ve seemed to enjoy adding. If the common understanding on the line is that the “low man wins,” isn’t it problematic to be so tall? Yeah, it can be. It’s only a few inches or so compared to many of his peers, but those few inches mean a player like Luke Tenuta does have a disadvantage when it comes to leverage. He needs to find a way to sink lower than a shorter player. Here, Tenuta does not and the result is clear that he struggles. This does seem to be a consistent issue for Tenuta, though there were some positive signs that he’s learning to accommodate for his difficulty in becoming the low man.
One thing that stood out as a positive is that Tenuta seems able to use his skillset equally as well on the move. On this play he’s using one of those accommodations I mentioned. He positions his right arm in a way to get leverage without having to crouch down. Tenuta maintains the contact throughout the play as well.
Here’s a better look at that accommodation. The right hand is driving up on his opponent’s shoulder. Personally, I don’t wholly agree that you need to be the low man to win at the line. Rather than visualize it as an elevation, I find it better to conceptualize it as a physics dilemma. Being able to gain upward force against an opponent is the key, and that’s not always from being low. Nsekhe was good at positioning himself in a way that allowed him to push upward, while preventing his opponent from doing the same despite his height. Tenuta is doing that here.
There’s a risk in taking large steps as a lineman. Anchoring successfully means being on the ground. Long steps mean there’s more time with only one foot on the ground. So it’s common to see linemen being sort of choppy in their footwork to decrease the amount of time they have a foot in the air. That said, I often came away feeling Tenuta’s feet were a little too choppy. Here you also see him nearly clapping his heels together—meaning he’s shrinking his base, which can be a problem for balance. Finally, he’s a bit slow to move into position and needs to turn his hips and run to catch up. It’s fine here, but as his competition gets faster in the NFL it could be a problem.
I like to end on positive notes and I want to be clear this clip isn’t suggesting some complete turnaround in footwork from the last play. I do think this play shows a little more “natural” movement for Tenuta. He seems overall more fluid and is able to come back into position while turning as a result. Check out the summary in a few short seconds to see why I think that’s a positive.
Let me know in the comments if you’re surprised by the sentence “Luke Tenuta shouldn’t be expected to step into a starter role.” For the record, I assume there will be zero comments expressing their shock at this opinion. Tenuta needs some work to get there and has a climb to surpass the players ahead of him on the roster.
What’s promising is that Tenuta seems to fit the mold of what the Bills appear to be looking for. He’s as good (or better) on the move. He seems to understand where he can improve and shows some signs of doing so. Play 5 shows there’s some natural fluidity to his game. Tenuta is currently guilty of the cardinal sin on the line in that he’s inconsistent. Inconsistent with flashes of potential means there’s a ceiling that’s promising. That’s a much better starting place than “consistent but ‘meh.’”