Buffalo Bills guard Wyatt Teller is not taking his best strength for granted.
Teller ranked among the top five offensive linemen in the 2018 NFL Draft in the bench press and was viewed as one of the most well-proportioned, powerful players at his position in the draft.
Yet Teller knows his NFL success will depend on how he uses is strength.
“I’m not saying I don’t have strength on the field,” Teller said. “But a lot of people look at your physical weight-room strength and sometimes that doesn’t correlate to the field. The biggest thing is being able to translate all that strength I have in the weight room, all the explosion, onto the field so I can better our team. It’s being a technician.”
Teller is expected to get a big chance to show his development Sunday against the New York Jets. He has worked with the starting unit at left guard this week in place of veteran Vlad Ducasse.
Bills coach Sean McDermott was not committing Thursday on who will start. But McDermott acknowledged Teller held his own in his first regular-season action last week against Chicago. Teller played 17 snaps.
“He’s got the toughness,” McDermott said. “He’s a strong player. Young. I thought he did some good things last week in his first opportunity in a real game. I think he’s progressing.”
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Teller was a fifth-round pick of the Bills out of Virginia Tech.
He bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times at the NFL Combine. He was known as a weight-room beast in college due to his ability to bench press 460 pounds, squat 620 and power clean 400.
His body doesn’t look like that of a typical rookie offensive linemen. It’s more chiseled than most. Teller is not flabby.
“At Tech I believe we had one of the best nutritional staffs in the country,” Teller said.
“We had bod pods twice a year,” Teller said, referring to a machine that measures percentage of body fat. “They looked at everything. They were always checking up on us. It was a blessing for me.”
Teller built himself up after switching from defensive line to offense his first semester at Virginia Tech. He wound up making 43 starts for the Hokies.
He will need to develop his technique as a pro. He will need to improve his ability to get to defenders on the move beyond the line of scrimmage.
But strength is something that always came naturally.
“I remember him as a junior in our weight room after practice and we were hang cleaning,” said Scott Girolmo, who was Teller’s offensive coordinator at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Va. “Clean the bar all the way up to his chest.”
(On a hang clean, the palms are face-down on the bar.)
“I watched him hang clean 315 pounds and I was amazed,” Girolmo said. “He did it with horrible technique, it was like a reverse curl. He just pulled the sucker up. He’s always had freakish strength.”
When his blocking technique is correct, that strength should make Teller hard for defensive linemen to bull rush into the backfield.
“One of his strengths obviously is his strength, his long arms,” said Bills rookie defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. “If he gets ahold of you, it’s hard. People really haven’t seen anything on tape because he hasn’t played much yet. But I assume people won’t be running down the middle of him too often.”
The Jets rank 18th against the run and 11th in yards per rush allowed. The Bills’ pass protectors will be tested by New York’s blitz-heavy pass defense. The Jets’ best defensive lineman, Leonard Williams, more often lines up over right guard (Buffalo’s John Miller) than left guard. We’ll see if that changes Sunday.
Teller viewed his appearance against Chicago as an exciting exposure to his new level.
“It was nice going against starters in the NFL,” he said. “It was really cool. It was surreal. It’s kind of a dream come true. Ever since I was 5 years old I’ve always wanted to play at this level.”
“These are grown men,” Teller said. “These are 10, 12-year vets you’re going against. … In college you’re like oh my god that’s the fastest guy I’ve seen. That’s the biggest guy. Then you get here and I’m the slowest guy. I’m not even the strongest guy anymore. It’s weird. But iron sharpens iron. It’s part of the process. You have to take it in stride.”
Teller is an engaging, upbeat personality.
“I think his confidence, his never-ending and relentless positivity allow no moment to be too big for him,” Girolmo said.
Teller knows there’s no place for apprehension on the field.
“You learn how important every rep is because it’s going to give you consistency, it’s going to give you confidence for the game,” he said. “It really didn’t come until my junior, senior year at Virginia Tech that I finally started practicing how I should.”
“We work hard during the week,” he said. “The game is the fun part. That’s the part you work for.”