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All-22 review: What are the Bills getting in Connor McGovern and Deonte Harty?


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The Bills conducted a relatively muted free agency period that mainly revolved around improving their long-term cap health, filling key holes in the starting lineup and refreshing a pair of positions on offense with new pieces.

The four new players the Bills added so far are guard Connor McGovern, receiver Deonte Harty, running back Damien Harris and receiver Trent Sherfield. But it’s McGovern and Harty who come in with the most significant financial commitments.

What are the Bills getting in these two new pieces on offense, and what is fair to expect? The Athletic went back and watched the film on each player to break down where they excel and where they might struggle.

LG Connor McGovern

McGovern signed a three-year, $22.3 million deal that breaks down to a one-year complete commitment with little cap savings in 2024, which likely facilitates a second guaranteed year on the team. He spent almost the entire 2022 season at left guard, which is where the Bills plan to use him, so that’s where we based our film study.

What McGovern does well

The first thing that stands out about McGovern is his deceptive size and arm length. Usually with guards, you see them be a little shorter than a typical lineman with smaller arms. But McGovern is huge comparatively. He has a 6-foot-5 frame with over 34-inch-long arms, a length acceptable by offensive tackle standards. And on the film, you can see how the height and arm length impact his game positively as a pass blocker immediately. The long arms help catch the defender even if they worm free, and he combines that with quick feet to put together a lot of controlled pass-blocking reps.

But even more impressive is how he maintains that control even after losing at the beginning of the rep. McGovern uses his long frame to get wide and establish a balanced base, combining a perfect blend of maintaining enough balance to hold his ground while not extending his legs too wide to throw himself off balance. Even if he gets bull-rushed and knocked back by a defensive tackle, McGovern’s recovery is excellent, and he appears to be at his best working backward. He shows that in this rep against the 49ers in the playoffs.

(NFL Game Pass)

The 49ers overloaded the offensive left side to force one-on-one matchups. McGovern (No. 66) is working against defensive lineman Charles Omenihu (No. 94), who just signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Chiefs.

(NFL Game Pass)

After a failed initial jab missed the mark, Omenihu gets in McGovern’s pads, and at this point, the defender probably believes he has the guard right where he wants him.

(NFL Game Pass)

The control of the rep continues in Omenihu’s favor as he attempts to put McGovern on skates to collapse the pocket on Dak Prescott. But this is when the rep begins to shift in McGovern’s favor because of his balance, control and natural length.

(NFL Game Pass)

McGovern knows he has to make up for lost ground, so he plants the right foot, shifts his weight forward, anchors down and turns to his left to uphold the natural pocket. And along the way, McGovern repositions his left hand that initially missed, to get more control of Omenihu.

(NFL Game Pass)

In this image, the power has totally shifted to McGovern. He now has both feet under him with both hands inside Omenihu’s pads, as the defender has to resort to a last-ditch effort of extending his outside arm at Prescott. It falls short as Prescott stays right on his spot in the pocket.

(NFL Game Pass)

With disarray to Prescott’s right, he escaped the pocket for a scramble gain. But while he does, McGovern finishes the rep by continuing to control Omenihu and washes him out past the pocket. He extended his arms and dumped Omenihu to the ground, which is an excellent result given how the rep began.

In addition to being a solid one-on-one pass blocker, McGovern excels as a side-to-side mover on combination blocks. Some guards don’t have quick enough feet to meet a looping defender to the spot on a stunt, but McGovern routinely shows it on film as he did on this example.

(NFL Game Pass)

McGovern admitted it took a while for him to get entirely comfortable at left guard, and this was his first full game there in 2022. On this rep, he picks up the defensive tackle as the edge rusher is already showing signs of a stunt.

(NFL Game Pass)

McGovern drives the defensive tackle all the way to the left tackle, and at this point of the rep, it looks like the looping edge rusher is about to have a clear lane at quarterback Cooper Rush. But that’s where the athleticism and the side-to-side movement skills come into play.

(NFL Game Pass)

McGovern recovers with just one gather step, starts moving horizontally to his right and gets his right shoulder into the stunting defender.

(NFL Game Pass)

Although McGovern doesn’t have both his hands inside the pads of the edge rusher, you can see the recovery to gaining control of the rep in his perfectly wide base. He took the control back on the rep by anchoring down after his successful side-to-side move and is gathering his power to go on the attack.

(NFL Game Pass)

Once again, McGovern observed the normal pocket parameters, powered forward and washed out the edge rusher to the right of Cooper Rush. In what could have easily been a sack, McGovern’s skills helped lead to a 15-yard pass completion.

In addition to all those positive signs, if McGovern doesn’t have a defensive line assignment, you can tell he has an internal clock that, once it expires, he constantly searches for work to help a teammate. And in the run game, McGovern is quick enough to pull from left guard to the other side of the line — a staple of the Bills’ rushing attack over the last two years.

What McGovern struggles with

You’ll notice that most of his listed strengths were about pass blocking, which should be telling. McGovern is not a total liability as a run blocker or anything like that, but that is usually where he had most of his negative reps. He looks in control and comfortable working backward, but it’s slightly the opposite when working forward in the run game.

McGovern tended to make the initial contact, get on his toes and lose a bit of the balance that makes him a good pass blocker. Despite having those long arms, there was a bit more leaning than you would like to see as a run blocker, which opened himself to some losses by dropping his head. He’s not much of a people mover, so maybe it’s how he tries to win the rep. But he can get brushed aside by a defensive tackle with good hand-to-hand combat. There are still run-blocking reps that McGovern excels in, usually highlighting his athleticism, but he’s not much of power blocker.

So, what are the Bills getting in McGovern?

It really depends on what they ask him to do, but he seems to be a nice fit into the Bills’ blocking scheme that requires more movement ability out of their front five. McGovern could struggle a bit if they swing to a more power-based run game with Damien Harris. But as a pass blocker, which is what the Bills ask their offensive linemen to do more often than not, they are getting a good player. McGovern looks like an average to slightly above-average starting guard in the Bills’ scheme and a significant upgrade over Rodger Saffold at left guard if McGovern’s 2022 tape holds up.

WR Deonte Harty

Harty signed a two-year, $9.5 million deal that is locked in for 2023, but has a relatively easy out in 2024 if the Bills choose. He had a toe injury for almost all of 2022 that deterred his season, so we focused on his 2021 film.

What Harty does well

Simply put, Harty is a speed merchant. GM Brandon Beane wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “When you just turn on the tape, you can feel speed.” That quickness will force a lot of cornerbacks into playing it safe. Because getting beaten over the top can lead to lost starting roles, Harty gets several opportunities against off-coverage. When they do, his speed and long-ball potential freezes defenders on underneath routes. He generally doesn’t have to worry about deception in his breakdown and can instead do a quick break to his route destination. But the reason he gets those opportunities is because of the long speed. And reps like this one against the Titans are why teams will play it safe with him.

(NFL Game Pass)

On third down, the Titans look like they’re bringing pressure with man coverage on the back end. Harty is at the bottom of the formation, with the cornerback playing tighter but not press coverage.

(NFL Game Pass)

The Titans indeed bring pressure, and drift into Cover 1 with their cornerbacks playing man coverage. Harty is about to run a go route and releases to the outside of the cornerback, but keep an eye on his plant leg, which is important. The defender sees Harty gearing up and prepares for a sprint by already turning his body just a yard into the rep.

(NFL Game Pass)

Harty sees the defender turned outside and with his nearby teammate on a crossing route to attract the single-high safety attention, Harty planted his foot and burst inside, thwarting the cornerback’s last ditch effort to get his hand on him.

(NFL Game Pass)

The cornerback is completely turned around, and now it’s time for an all-out sprint. This is where the rep goes from good to great.

(NFL Game Pass)

Within just 10 yards of the sprint, Harty is already ahead of the cornerback by a full yard. And the quarterback already sent the ball Harty’s way.

(NFL Game Pass)

Now only 20 yards from where the sprint began, Harty is a full two yards ahead of the cornerback, the type of speed you just don’t find anywhere. All that’s left is to track the ball and make the play.

(NFL Game Pass)

The ball is pretty far out ahead of Harty, but he leans forward to make a tough-hands catch while running in a full sprint and then stays upright for additional yards after the catch. On a great team, that’s game-changing play potential right there.

In addition, there is an obvious potential for ample run-after-catch yards with him due to his speed. Harty is also versatile, playing on the perimeter, at slot receiver and even lining up in the backfield. They used him in motion a lot, on jet sweeps and catching passes out of the backfield. He is a multi-use player who is still only 25 years old.

What Harty struggles with

His 2021 film was quite impressive, but the one thing that may limit Harty a bit is his breakdowns on short-to-intermediate routes against tighter pre-snap coverage. He lacks some deception in his footwork, to the point that unafraid cornerbacks can get in his pads, stay with him, neutralize the route and force the quarterback elsewhere. Besides that, he has some obvious limitations due to his smaller frame (5-foot-6, 170 pounds). His release against press coverage could improve, but many cornerbacks won’t chance it due to the long speed. Some concentration drops pop up, though manageable and not an overwhelming staple of his game. And for any smaller player, fumbles forced through the contact of a bigger player can occur.

So, what are the Bills getting in Harty?

Beane said they looked at Harty to fill their WR4 role and everything Harty showed on film in 2021 indicates a chess-piece player from multiple spots of the offense with the potential to make game-changing plays at any moment. His overall speed on one side can attract attention away from Stefon Diggs, and if it doesn’t, they have a potential one-on-one matchup with what is likely the fastest player on the field. The Bills also have had a lot of trouble with quick screens over the years, but Harty allows them to do slower-developing screens to him, allowing the blockers to get out ahead of him and the speed to erase that gap in time lost. Additionally, Harty has the potential to be a menace during Josh Allen’s many improvisational plays, with defenders losing track of him deep enough to take the top off the defense. He should play at least 25 to 40 percent of snaps each week and is a clear upgrade over Isaiah McKenzie.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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