When you trade Jason Peters, cut Derrick Dockery and Robert Royal, and let Melvin Fowler and Duke Preston move on through free agency, you open a glaring hole in the trenches.
The Bills felt last year that they solidified their defensive line through additions of Marcus Stroud and Spencer Johnson, and were content with a starting offensive front in Langston Walker, Brad Butler, Melvin Fowler, Derrick Dockery, and Jason Peters. Now, Buffalo fans are scratching their heads at an offensive line that is only two fifths of what it was last year.
Disgruntled Pro Bowler Jason Peters was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for three draft picks. Derrick Dockery ended up where he started in Washington, and Robert Royal appears to take Kellen Winslow Jr.'s spot in Cleveland.
But who came to the Bills?
The free agency period brought in two players: former Carolina Panther Geoff Hangartner, and journeyman Seth McKinney, both C/G players who've done well when called upon.
In the draft, the Bills selected 28th overall C/G Eric Wood, hoping for him to fill the hole that was opened when Dockery left. With Hangartner projected as the starting center and Wood being heralded as the new left guard, who would fill the left tackle responsibilities?
As of now, the projected line is, from right to left respectively, Brad Butler, rookie Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner, Eric Wood, and Langston Walker.
Langston would move back to the spot he played in Oakland, and Butler would move back to his natural college position of tackle. The Bills front office seems content with this line, but an interesting prospect just became available.
Levi Jones has come on the market, and could help protect Trent Edward's blind side while the rookies get used to the system. With the selection of Andre Smith, the Bengals felt that Jones was expendable, and the Bills could take a chance on the tackle who turns 30 prior to the 2009 NFL season.
He would help solidify an offensive line that needs to give Trent Edwards time to throw to a revamped receiving corp, including new additions in Terrell Owens, rookie Shawn Nelson, and Dominic Rhodes out of the backfield.
With the backfield and receiving corp seemingly solidified and an offensive line that is ready to work together, it's time to look at the Bills defense.
A healthy Aaron Schobel makes the Bills secondary look good, as well as help create some havoc in the oppositions back field. Hoping that he comes back healthy, Bills fans are also excited in rookie acquisition Aaron Maybin.
With probably the quickest first step of any defensive end in this years draft, the undersized but very quick Maybin brings hope to a pass rush that had a meager 24 sacks last season, good enough for 28th in the league.
With a very strong secondary, consisting of stand outs Leodis McKelvin, Terrance McGee, and Donte Whitner, the Bills have the tools to stop high powered passing offenses that make up the AFC East. With the addition of ball hawk Jairus Byrd, who had 17 interceptions in his career at Oregon, you should expect more turnovers in the pass defense.
The only real hole, if you can call it one, is at linebacker with a depth player Keith Ellison manning one of the OLB spots. With the recent release of Pisa Tinoisamoa, the Bills could take a look at the speedy tackle machine. There have been some injury concerns in the past, but he was healthy for the majority of each season.
Rookie Nic Harris, a converted safety, could fight for the role of outside linebacker, along with backup Alvin Bowen, who missed all of last year with a torn knee ligament. It should be the most interesting position battle this offseason in Buffalo.
Do the Bills feel they have a team that Donte Whitner guaranteed would get to the playoffs last year, or are they heading back to another 7-9 season?
As Terrell will tell you, Bills fans, just get your popcorn ready, it'll be an interesting year.
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