Underrated Bills OL breaks down transition to center: It's 'my natural position'

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Connor McGovern is excited to be moving back to his "natural position" of center, a spot he has considerable experience in.
Nov 26, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Buffalo Bills guard Connor McGovern (66) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 26, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Buffalo Bills guard Connor McGovern (66) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

An offseason position change is generally a tall task; asking an athlete, in any sport, to learn the intricacies and responsibilities of a new position can be a burden, to some, an ask that places them behind the proverbial eight-ball and sets them up for failure.

This fortunately hasn’t been the case for Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Connor McGovern in his offseason transition to center. Why?

It’s the position he’s most comfortable playing.

McGovern, a now sixth-year player who started 17 games for the Bills at left guard last season after inking a three-year deal with the team in the preceding spring, is moving to center this year following Buffalo’s offseason decision to release stalwart starter Mitch Morse. The 32-year-old had served as the anchor of the Bills’ offensive line for five consecutive years, his absence ushering in a wave of changes not only for his former unit, but for quarterback Josh Allen; the signal-caller has played the vast majority of his professional career with Morse as his snapper.

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With a bevy of additional responsibilities on their plate compared to guards and tackles, center is one of the most difficult positions in football—it’s not a spot that any offensive lineman can easily transition to. McGovern’s current move isn’t necessarily a “transition,” however, as he has vast experience at the position; he logged nearly 1,000 snaps at this position throughout his collegiate career, also seeing a handful of snaps at the pivot throughout his four years with the Dallas Cowboys. 

It’s the position the 26-year-old has always wanted to play, but not the one his employers have ever needed him to man consistently. Now finally given the proverbial ball as the anchor of Bufflao’s offensive line, McGovern is relishing in the opportunity.

“I would say center is my natural position,” McGovern told reporters at One Bills Drive after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “It’s just [me] going back home.

“I missed it a lot, honestly. I got drafted as a center originally, and then new coaching staff came in [in Dallas] and I got moved to guard and always kind of [sought] my way back to center. Every time something happened, played a little bit, then always went back to guard. Now, officially, I can move back to center permanently, for right now. So I’m very happy.”

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McGovern’s preference for manning the middle of the line dates back to his childhood; the Larksville, PA native was undersized in his youth, thus frequently tasked with playing center. Though he’s been moved around a fair bit throughout his collegiate and professional careers—seeing snaps in the middle of the line, at both guard spots, and even at fullback—he’s never wavered when moved back to center, as it’s the position he played when developing his passion for the game.

“It’s hard to believe, but I was actually undersized growing up, surprisingly,” McGovern said. “So I was always a center because I was usually the smallest one, and then once I hit my growth spurt finally, I just stayed at center. 

“Went to Penn State as a center and moved to guard, then went back to center. It was just always something natural, I always liked being the guy right in the middle. It was always comfortable for me.”

The relationship between a center and their quarterback is one of the most important rapports in football, as poor chemistry between a signal-caller and his snapper can potentially derail an entire offense. McGovern already has a relationship with Allen thanks to the fact that he spent the 2023 season in Buffalo, and the two have already worked with each other to establish their exchange.

“It’s just getting used to each other,” McGovern said of snapping to Allen. “I would say after the first three or four reps, he found out where I place the ball, I found out where he likes his hands naturally. Just went from there.

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“Mitch [Morse] had a little different of a snapping technique. He would usually bring it to the left a little bit more. The first day me and Josh were just working on it, I found out where Josh likes to put his hands and where I can feel it, and so we just got used to it.”

McGovern is already a trusted voice within Buffalo’s offensive line room, a testament to the leadership role he carved out for himself last season. Now the unequivocal leader of the unit, he’s eager to help the group thrive.

“It’s the center’s job to make sure everybody’s on the same page,” McGovern said. “Last year I helped Mitch a lot with the calls, but at the end of the day, it was his show to run. Now it’s mine, and I just love that extra weight on my shoulders to do that. Just gotta be the tip of the spear.”

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Kyle Silagyi