I've been on vacation over the Christmas break so I've just now gotten to the Dolphins and Pats games. I won't do my usual breakdown, given that the games are a week or more in the past; plus I somehow only managed to record the first half of the Pats game. There were a couple of things that stood out.
I'd be surprised if we see Geoff Hangartner at center again unless Eric Wood suffers an injury. He's averaged 77.6% on run plays the past three weeks compared to Hang's 75.4% season average. Wood has averaged 74.9% on pass plays the past three weeks compared to Hang's 74.7% season average. Chan Gailey has talked about getting more physical on the offensive line. Wood has been left one-on-one with NTs even more often than Hang was, which has freed the guards to take on other defenders. This has helped the line as a whole take it to defensive front sevens.
The jury is still out on Chad Reinhart. Initial signs have been positive. He's averaged 77.3% on run plays and 75% on pass plays. In the past two and a half games he's killed just 2 plays. He has a knack for finishing defenders on run plays. On passing downs, whether it's just his inclination or something he's been told to do, he looks around for a defender; if none comes his way he plows into Mansfield Wrotto's defender--often bailing Wrotto out and putting the defender on the ground. Buffalo would be foolish to let him get away given the potential he's flashed.
Looking long term, Wood and Levitre are entrenched starters. There's a good chance that Reinhart remains the starter at right guard. Buffalo will likely keep no more than two interior reserves. Urbik and Hang figure to be those two guys. Demetrius Bell will almost certianly remain on the roster and might start simply by default. Right tackle is still unsettled, to put it mildly. My guess is that Buffalo will keep 3 dedicated OTs with Levitre as a swing tackle emergency reserve. Ed Wang did nothing in 2010, which might prove to his advantage; he didn't have the opportunity to screw anything up. I am hopeful, despite a quote by Buddy Nix that Buffalo needs 'more weapons', that the Bills will expend at least one high draft pick on an OT. Being a cynic, I won't be at all surprised if the OT is picked in the 3rd round or so and projected to be the opening day starter at.....right tackle.
LT: Bell, Wang
LG: Levitre, Urbik
C: Wood, Hang
RG: Reinhart, Hang
RT: draft pick, Wang
I heard Chan Gailey talking about the decision to abandon the run against the Patriots after the first drive. He said something to the effect that the Patriots changed their defensive look to stop the run. Granted, I only had the first half of the game to look at....a first half in which Buffalo ran the ball a dozen times and never for less than 2 yards and averaged an astounding 7.0 yards per carry. Okay, there was a 27 yard anomoly to begin the game. Drop that from the mix and the Bills ran for 5.2 yards per carry. If that's what Buffalo's run game looks like when the defense is trying to stop the run then the Bills clearly needed to run more, not less. And, at that point of the game, score didn't dictate a pass happy offense. Gailey made the decision to abandon the run when down by just 4 points--not because of score, ineffectiveness or down/distance. He's got to stick with the run even though it goes against his nature.