Chambers leading the pack to back up Peters (Photo Source)
Note: As Buffalo Rumblings counts down the days until the start of the Buffalo Bills' 2008 training camp (current count: 8), we'll be breaking down some of the bigger battles we're sure to witness during summer practices as part of a comprehensive package of pre-camp topics we'll explain in more depth in the near future. For now, we'll continue our Battles series by looking at the battle for the team's third tackle position. Previous installments: Backup TE
With Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters unhappy with his contract situation, the training camp battle for the right to be Peters' primary backup suddenly holds much more importance for the Bills. If Peters decides to hold out of even part of training camp - and nothing is out of the question at this point - and things get ugly, the winner of this competition becomes one of the most important players on Buffalo's entire offensive unit.
Meet the candidates...
The Favorite: Kirk Chambers (73)
The primary backup at both tackle positions last season, Chambers did not see a ton of action until the final two weeks of the season, when Peters went down with a season-ending groin injury. He's an unspectacular athlete with marginal instincts for the game, but there are worse options as a backup tackle - he's smart, tough, and while he needs a little help, he generally avoids making big mistakes. He's certainly the favorite, but if one of the other contenders surprises, he's certainly expendable as well.
The Upstart: Matt Murphy (70)
Like Peters, Murphy is a former tight end that has converted to offensive tackle, and he's got above-average athleticism for the position. That's where the comparisons end. Murphy is underweight and is making the full position switch for the first time; he's raw and needs some technique work, but he also has a bit of upside. He's got a lot to prove, but if he starts stealing reps and moving up the depth chart during camp, Chambers better keep his head on a swivel.
The Darkhorse: Patrick Estes (79)
Signed late in the 2007 season as a reserve once Peters went down, Estes has kicked around the league early in his career. He's a bit of an unknown commodity, but Buffalo's coaches reportedly like his smarts and his build. He, too, has some work to do, but don't immediately count this guy out of the competition.
The Longshot: Demetrius Bell (77)
Keep in mind that Bell, the first of Buffalo's three seventh-round picks this past April, is only a long shot for the time being. Blessed with rare athleticism for an offensive lineman, Bell is about as green as an NFL prospect comes, but he's got loads of upside and a solid athletic pedigree. He's very likely to end up on the practice squad, but don't be shocked to see him make quick advances under the tutelage of line coach Sean Kugler.
Predicting the Winner
It may be boring, and it may leave you a bit queasy, but for now, Chambers seems like the clear favorite to win this competition. The fact that the Bills have three upside guys behind Chambers, however, obviously indicates that the team is looking for an upgrade if one is available. Given the team's interior depth - both Jason Whittle and Christian Gaddis have an excellent shot at making the roster - only one of these guys will make the roster, in all likelihood. If Murphy or Estes surprises, that's great. If not, the team will grit its teeth and go to work with Chambers for another season.
Ultimately, my opinion is as good as all of yours'; let's hear it, folks. Who should/will be Buffalo's backup left tackle heading into the 2008 season?
Next Battle: Starting Cornerback