Beginning with rookie mini-camp at the beginning of May, Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Jamon Meredith has been the first in line to take every first-team rep at left tackle. With 2009 starter Demetrius Bell recovering from surgery, the tackle who has only started four career games has manned the blind side in spring workouts.
Buffalo plucked Meredith off of Green Bay's practice squad last September after Brad Butler's knee injury forced him to the IR list. Meredith was a fifth-round pick from the University of South Carolina, but was unimpressive during the pre-season, allowing a sack and five hurries in less than three quarters' worth of work. The team cut him, swallowing his $172,500 signing bonus, and re-signed the prospect to the practice squad.
Upon his release, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quoted one scout speaking about Meredith: “He doesn’t compete and he gets beat. I think he’s soft. Pretty good foot athlete... He doesn’t like football.”
Three and a half weeks after signing with the Bills, Bell succumbed to injury (for the first time), and Meredith was on the field playing in a no-huddle offense he had barely had time to learn. He started in weeks six, seven, and eight at right tackle before Bell returned, re-claiming his spot. Bell went down again at the end of the year, and Meredith started the final game of the season at left tackle, a position he has held by default ever since.
Meredith was largely up and down during his time in the lineup. Against the Jets in week 6, Pro Football Focus graded Meredith as having an above-average game, excelling in pass protection but needing work in the run game. Conversely, the next week at Carolina, Meredith had a terrible game in pass protection, giving up a sack, two hits, and a QB pressure. In Week 17 against Indianapolis' backups, Meredith had a good game in pass protection, for whatever that is worth.
Two weeks ago, Meredith spoke to the team's official website, saying that having a full off-season in the offense really helped him figure things out.
“Last year calling plays on the line you have to know the terminology and since I came late I didn’t know all the terms, but Eric Wood helped me out a lot,” said Meredith. “But now I feel a lot more comfortable because I’m in the playbook early. I get the materials the same as everyone else at the same time and I like the offense.”
The Buffalo News spoke to Wood last week about the former Gamecock.
"He passes the eyeball test," Wood said. "He's one of the strongest guys on the team. We know he can handle his own physically... I knew he was a good player before the draft last year. It's like getting an extra draft pick, picking him up."
According to the News, Meredith is 6'5" and 311 pounds, up from 298 last summer. During the off-season with new strength coaches John Gamble, Meredith has added muscle to his frame.
"I've been on the 'Body by John' workout in the weight room," Meredith told Mark Gaughan. "It's gotten me a little bit bigger. Hopefully it can transfer out on the field."
If Meredith is going to be successful for the Bills this season, he's going to have to use that additional muscle to improve his run blocking while continuing to hone his pass blocking. Self-described as "not the best technician," Meredith will have to work on that deficiency if he wants to be the team's left tackle of the future. For now, it looks like he will at least start training camp with the first unit.