At this same time a year ago, the Buffalo Bills only had one question along the offensive line and that was if then-rookie Cordy Glenn would beat out incumbent Chris Hairston for the left tackle position. Glenn won that battle and Hairston enters his third year in a competition for now the right tackle position. Amazing how things can change in a year. What was once viewed as a strength is now turning into a huge blemish that the Bills are trying to cover with makeup. A year ago, four of the five positions were established; this year, three out of five are questionable. Either way it’s tough to figure out if these buffaloes will be able to lead the stampede or if they will just graze around.
The first hole that needed to be plugged was the one that was left when Andy Levitre accepted a six year, $46.8 million contract to join the Tennessee Titans. So far that spot is between holdover Colin Brown and free agent pick up Doug Legursky. So far in camp it appears to be a coin toss with the unproven Brown showing spurts of talent, but Legursky showing more consistency. Neither of the two have separated themselves and it appears it will take the preseason games to figure out who can hold that spot down. Playing in the AFC East it is crucial for the guards to hold the point of attack against big bodies like Vince Wilfork, Randy Starks and Jets rookie Sheldon Richardson as they look to create havoc in the backfield.
Second to the left guard saga is the questionable tackle play. On the right side, Erik Pears was viewed as possibly expendable depending on the performance of Chris Hairston, who has been on the physically unable to perform list and unable to compete. Also worrisome has been second year left tackle Glenn and his inability to show the promise he did early last year. Glenn has struggled against the Bills athletic pass rushers and exposed a weakness that needs to be corrected immediately. If these questions persist it does not bode well for the Bills. The best hope is Pears solidifies the right side, Glenn works on his technique and Hairston acts as an insurance policy.
Finally there is the uncertainty of Eric Wood. Wood has yet to play a full season and enters a contract year. Wood is a dominating center that can stabilize the line. For the Bills, the question of the cost of extending Wood should not weigh heavily. Currently Scott Wells for the St. Louis Rams has the highest base salary in the league for a center at $5.5 million a year. If Wood hits the open market, which the Bills should try to avoid, he should fetch somewhere around that four million a year range. That is not overly expensive compared to the $7.8 million haul that Levitre just got.
With either rookie EJ Manuel or the fragile Kevin Kolb poised to be the starting quarterback, these issues need to be figured out quickly. A good line is one that is familiar with each other and understands their responsibilities. If the line still has questions going into the opener then not only will the quarterback struggle, but so will the running backs with the lack of running lanes. The Bills didn’t give up many sacks last year, in part to Fitzpatrick’s quick throws, the rest to the play of the line. With a new scheme and new players, this year’s line needs to meld together now instead of into the season.