Today on BuffaloBills.com, Bills journalist Chris Brown brings up a point I’ve made a few times: because Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick gets rid off the ball so quickly after the snap, does that mean left tackle is less of a priority in the upcoming draft?
Despite a patchwork offensive line devastated by injury in 2011, the Bills only gave up 23 sacks for the season. While the offensive line played pretty well in 2011 – especially in the first half of the season before injuries hit – Fitz deserves a lot of the credit for that. Make no mistake, Fitz unloads the ball quick. According to Brown, Fitz only held the ball for an average of 2.5 seconds per pass play last season – a very brief window for any pass rusher. You’d basically have to come in untouched to get to Fitz that quick – i.e. the very first play of the Dallas game in 2011, where no one touched DeMarcus Ware and he killed Fitz for a big loss almost immediately.
So the thinking makes sense: if the line only needs to hold up for a few seconds, why bother wasting a first round pick on an upgrade to incumbent starter Chris Hairston? Hairston’s not exactly an All-Pro yet, but he’s not going to straight-up whiff on his blocks very often. He can hold up for 2.5 seconds.
Brown put this question to Chan Gailey, who predictably gave a non-answer:
“You always want to improve. If you get better linemen you can hold the ball a little bit longer. Your run game gets better. If anything we could use some depth there. We don’t know if we’ve got a guy that can play for 10 years or not. We might already. The question is are you trying to upgrade your football team at critical positions? Tackle is a critical position in the game of football today.”
Tackle is no doubt critical, but I’d argue that it might be less critical to the Bills than any other team in the NFL right now. Fitz is not going to hang around in the pocket even if the Bills upgrade at LT. He’s throwing quick or running.
Now, the Bills are almost assuredly taking a tackle at some point in this draft. But in the first round? Unless Matt Kalil somehow slips to them at #10 (in which case Buddy Nix should sprint that pick up to the podium himself in excitement), I don’t think it’s happening.