The Buffalo Bills have had to test their depth on the offensive line out of necessity this season. Cody Ford, Mitch Morse, and Jon Feliciano have all missed time with injuries, prompting starting roles for Ike Boettger and Brian Winters.
The mix-and-match nature of the season has left the coaching staff exploring various groupings. They found one they liked as of late and stuck with it against Arizona on Sunday: Dion Dawkins at left tackle, Boettger at left guard, Feliciano at center, Winters at right guard, and Daryl Williams at right tackle.
That left Morse – who was activated following a one-week absence stemming from a concussion – out of the lineup against the Cardinals. McDermott said Morse was healthy and referred to the absence as a coach's decision.
"We know Mitch is a good player and just felt like for that week, meaning last week, we felt like we had at least some momentum with the group we had had in when Mitch went down," McDermott said. "Wanted to take a look at it one more week there."
Added offensive coordinator Brian Daboll: "They've played a couple of games together, and that's the direction that we decided to go with last game. That doesn't mean anything for next week or the week after that. We just had some continuity going with those guys. They've done a good job in there together. And we'll see where we go from there.
"With Ford having practiced on a limited basis last week after sustaining an ankle injury against Seattle, the Bills could have their full stable of offensive linemen healthy for the first time this season when they come out of the bye week. That would offer a chance to establish continuity up front - though, as Daboll emphasized Monday, it would not take the emphasis away from depth and flexibility.
Feliciano moved to center from left guard during the first quarter of his season debut against New England, a move necessitated by the injury to Morse. Against Seattle, the Bills fielded seven different linemen after temporarily losing Winters and Williams to injuries.
"They've all got to be ready to go, as you've seen in a couple of those games where three guys had to play for certain guys who went down," Daboll said. "The guys we have out there active in a game, they've all got to be ready to go, know their assignments.
"We mix and match them during the week because you never know when you're going to have to use a particular guy at a particular position. Again, the five that we go with, but it's really the eight guys that are out there that really all have to be on pace with what we're doing."
Regarding Morse, McDermott said the lineup will be determined on a week-to-week basis.
"I really appreciate the way the guys have stayed resilient," he said. "It hasn't always been at the level we want it to be, but they've been working together on it and then we expect the same moving forward."
Here are more notes to take us into the bye week.