When you take a look at Buffalo’s current roster, two positions simply jump out as freaking terrible: tight end and offensive tackle. The Bills probably have the league’s worst tight end situation…but it really doesn’t matter too much. It certainly seems like the Bills are simply going to spread the field most of the time and won’t have a big need for tight ends.
However, the weakness at tackle is a much larger problem. The probable starter on the right side is Erik Pears, who was cut by Oakland and Jacksonville in recent seasons and hasn’t been a regular starter since 2007. And he’s probably legitimately the best option on this roster to start there. Ugh.
Even more terrifying is the case of left tackle Demetrius Bell. Bell catches a lot of flack from Bills fans, but I’m a fan of the guy. The former 7th-round draft pick was about as raw technique-wise as an NFL rookie is ever going to be coming out of college, but he’s stuck it out and was a serviceable left tackle last season despite playing with an injury and barely practicing. If Bell stays healthy, the left tackle spot won’t be a disaster for the Bills in 2011.
Here’s the problem with Bell: he’s never healthy. Bell missed most of 2009 with an injury and played at way less than 100% in 2010 due to injury. And he’s hurt already in training camp this season.
So let’s make a not-so-bold assumption: Bell is going to get hurt and have to miss a few games in 2011. What happens then? Who steps in?
There’s a few options…but this is scary. Holy crap is it scary.
Possible backups include Ed Wang and CordaroHoward…guys who don’t have NFL measurables at tackle and are probably best suited to play guard. Wang was never really healthy in his rookie season and I’m not sure if anyone knows yet if he’s an NFL-caliber player. Howard is gutsy and versatile but is coming off shoulder surgery and will always be somewhat overmatched physically in the NFL.
And then there’s rookie Chris Hairston…who apparently hasn’t looked good thus far in camp. That wasn’t too unexpected, as he’s another project-type player.
To his credit, head coach Chan Gailey recgonizes that this situation is a problem:
“We don’t have a lot of depth [at tackle] right now,” Gailey said recently. “Ed (Wang) has played none and Cordaro (Howard) played very little last year. So we really don’t have any depth at that position. We have to develop it, and that’s what training camp is about to develop that. We’d love to have had some more time to do it, but you take what you’ve got.”
To his discredit (and the discredit of GM Buddy Nix), WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THIS LACK OF DEPTH CONCERN HIM MORE IN THE OFFSEASON?
Honestly, there might only be two NFL-quality tackles on this roster. And that’s assuming Bell and Pears are NFL-quality, and I wouldn’t stake my life on that. The fact that Buffalo didn’t bring ANYONE in via free agency to compete at tackle is freaking baffling. For all the positive moves that I feel Nix and Gailey have made, their bizarre refusal to truly upgrade at tackle is so frustrating. It’s gonna be tough to spread the field and throw the ball a ton if Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t drop back without getting hit.
So really, the player that might have the biggest say in whether Buffalo is good or not in 2011 is not Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s Demetrius Bell. Because if he sucks or he gets hurt…there’s not another person on this roster capable of being even a mediocre left tackle.