Quinton Spain thinks togetherness is critical on the offensive line.
“When I was in Tennessee, that’s what it was about,” the Buffalo Bills’ left guard said Wednesday. “The more you hang out with each other, the better bond you build with each other, that person’s going to play for you.”
“That’s what I feel like when I came here, I just wanted to make that bond,” Spain said. “You see we’re out there and we play for each other and go to war for each other.”
Spain has fit right in as a new Bills starter through four games and helped the running game get off to a good start. The Bills rank fourth in the NFL in rushing yards at 147 per game.
Bills coach Sean McDermott puts a huge priority on team chemistry, and that’s what he mentioned first Wednesday when asked about Spain.
“I appreciate his leadership,” McDermott said. “Obviously, he played for Tennessee last year. I think he’s made a impact on our locker room, and he’s made an impact on our offensive line. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Q.”
Spain returns to his former NFL home Sunday when the Bills visit the Titans.
Spain started 48 games at guard for Tennessee over the past four years. His contract was up after last season, and the Titans wanted to upgrade their line. They signed Los Angeles Rams free-agent guard Rodger Saffold, widely viewed as one of the top five at his position in the NFL. Saffold got a deal worth $11 million a year, tied for fifth most among guards in the league.
The Bills signed Spain three weeks into free agency to a one-year deal worth $2.05 million.
Spain says he has no hard feelings toward the Titans and doesn’t view Sunday’s game as any different than last week’s game.
“They got a good player they signed out of L.A., and I’m here in a good situation myself,” Spain said. “It’s a business. I understand. It’s just a regular game to me, it’s an away game, and we’ve got to try to get a win.”
Spain was well liked in the Titans’ locker room. After he signed with the Bills, Titans tackle Taylor Lewan tweeted: “The Bills got an absolute steal, not just as a player but as a teammate, too.”
The first priority for the Bills on the offensive line was to get more physical after last season, when the running backs averaged a meager 77 yards a game. Spain, 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, offers that in the run game.
The Bills have used Spain pulling more than he was used in Tennessee, and it has worked. Spain has pulled on seven of the Bills’ 13 runs of 10 or more yards.
“They felt like the right guard pulled better than me so that’s what they did,” Spain said of his Titans tenure. “I do whatever they call. If it’s me to pull, I’ll pull. If it’s me to block down, block down.”
Spain is encouraged by the Bills’ run production.
“It’s going good,” he said. “Everybody’s on the same page, and we have the backs who are running downhill and making people miss and gaining yards.”
“He looks like he’s doing a good job,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel told Buffalo reporters Wednesday. “He’s got the white sleeves like he always wears, so you can always point him out. He’s pulling a little bit more. He’s doing a good job getting out there on some plays. I saw they hit a couple of those last week against the Patriots. He’s big in pass protection.”
Spain is hard to bull rush but he does not have elite lateral quickness in pass protection. He has been responsible for one of the Bills’ 10 sacks allowed and seven other hurries, according to The Buffalo News’ charts.
The Titans have a stout defensive front that Spain knows well.
Jurrell Casey, a four-time Pro Bowler, is conservatively one of the top 12 defensive tackles in the NFL. Nose tackle DaQuan Jones is a stout, 322-pounder.
“They’re great players,” Spain said. “They’re good against the run on first and second down. They like to counter their front. They’ve been doing a great job this year. We’ve got to get good movement on them. If we’re double teaming, we’ve got to get movement off the ball.”
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Besides quarterback Josh Allen, fullback Patrick DiMarco missed practice with a concussion, and safety Dean Marlowe was limited with a concussion. Backup linebacker Corey Thompson remains out while recovering from ankle surgery.
The special-teams units could juggle some assignments this week. DiMarco and Thompson see extensive time on special teams, and Marlowe is on a couple kicking units.
The Bills’ nickel defense might get second-year cornerback Taron Johnson (hamstring) back. He was limited in practice. Also limited was running back Devin Singletary (hamstring). Tight end Tyler Kroft remained out with an ankle injury.