With the 2012 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take a look at the training camp positional battles that will ultimately determine the opening day starters.
In my first installment, I’ll take a look at the offensive tackles, a position the Buffalo Bills really addressed in the draft this year.
The Bills currently have five offensive tackles on the roster, with right tackles Erik Pears and Sam Young, along with left tackle Chris Hairston, the only returning ones from last season’s squad.
The right tackle position is all but locked up after Buddy Nix inked Erik Pears to a three year, $9.3 million deal, keeping him on the team through the 2014 season. Sam Young saw time across the line but mainly due to injury.
The left tackle position is where it gets a bit tricky. With Demetress Bell’s departure to the Philadelphia Eagles, second-year man Chris Hairston, a fourth-rounder out of Clemson, is the incumbent starter. Hairston performed relatively well in his seven starts last year, and Buddy Nix has had high praise for him.
However, Nix knew there needed to be some competition for the 23-year-old Hairston and addressed the position twice in the draft with the selections of Georgia’s Cordy Glenn and Florida State’s Zebrie Sanders.
Glenn played 50 games for the Bulldogs, seeing time across the whole offensive line, with 28 starts at left guard, 18 starts at left tackle and four starts at right guard. His versatility is most likely what drew the attention of the head brass at One Bills Drive, considering the recent surplus of injuries to the offensive line.
At 6’6″ and a whopping 346 pounds, Glenn has surprising athleticism and could definitely make a push at Chris Hairston to take over the starting left-tackle spot on the depth chart.
Zebrie Sanders is another interesting prospect for the Bills, as he made 50 starts in his tenure as a Florida State Seminole, primarily holding down right tackle until playing his final seven games at left tackle. A surprising stat I came across was that Sanders recorded 139 knockdown blocks in his career, which is a credit to his long arms, technique and strength.
Sanders won’t get a starting role right away, but he could be the swing tackle Coach Gailey is looking for.
The outlook for the Bills’ offensive line seems brighter, considering that significant depth was added at the key positions. As of now, Hairston and Pears will be the starting bookends entering training camp, but Cordy Glenn definitely has a chance to see some playing time this year due to his versatility across the line. Sanders is a work in progress, but as a fourth-rounder he needs some time to be coached up.
The Bills’ line performed well last year, allowing the least sacks in the league (23), and with the additions of Glenn and Sanders, it will bring some much needed competition to a position that hasn’t had that in quite some time.