Demetrius Bell has been a controversial figure in Buffalo. There are those who believe he is the second coming of Jason Peters - an unheralded project developing into a very good player at what is generally considered the offensive line's most important position. There are also those who believe that Bell is just an overhyped scrub. Then there are those who see him as a so-so performer, neither good nor terrible.
It's worth remembering that Bell was one of the many, many Buffalo Bills who was injured during Dick Jauron's final season of mismanagement. He missed a significant portion of the season, the off-season and training camp. Bell was excused from practice on Wednesdays in 2010 to help ensure that he was available on Sundays. It worked. For the first five weeks of the season, Bell was pulled for a series here and a series there, but still garnered the lion's share of the snaps.
There are two common questions about Bell. The first is whether or not he improved as the year wore on, and he was farther removed from the injury. The second question is whether or not he's going to become the left tackle Bills fans have pined for since Peters was shipped off to Philadelphia for picks that were used on Eric Wood, Shawn Nelson and Danny Batten.
Without further ado, here are the numbers.
|Demetrius Bell Run Grades - 2010 Season|
|1 (MIA)||D. Bell||1||8||3||1||71.7|
|2 (@GB)||D. Bell||2||24||2||0||75.0|
|3 (@NE)||D. Bell||2||17||2||0||75.0|
|4 (NYJ)||D. Bell||0||9||2||0||71.4|
|5 (JAC)||D. Bell||2||11||3||2||74.8|
|7 (@BAL)||D. Bell||3||27||2||0||75.6|
|8 (@KC)||D. Bell||1||25||1||0||75.0|
|9 (CHI)||D. Bell||1||16||1||0||75.0|
|10 (DET)||D. Bell||3||29||1||0||76.2|
|11 (@CIN)||D. Bell||1||20||0||0||76.0|
|12 (PIT)||D. Bell||0||15||1||0||73.8|
|13 (@MIN)||D. Bell||3||19||0||0||77.7|
|14 (CLE)||D. Bell||10||26||4||2||78.0|
|15 (@MIA)||D. Bell||1||24||1||1||75.0|
|16 (NE)||D. Bell||2||8||2||0||75.0|
|17 (@NYJ)||D. Bell||1||17||0||0||76.1|
|Demetrius Bell Pass Grades - 2010 Season|
|1 (MIA)||D. Bell||0||27||5||2||2||0||71.9|
|2 (@GB)||D. Bell||0||21||2||1||1||0||73.3|
|3 (@NE)||D. Bell||1||23||4||1||0||1||72.9|
|4 (NYJ)||D. Bell||0||36||0||0||0||0||75.0|
|5 (JAC)||D. Bell||0||33||3||1||0||3||73.3|
|7 (@BAL)||D. Bell||1||44||2||0||0||3||74.6|
|8 (@KC)||D. Bell||1||54||4||0.5||0.5||5||74.0|
|9 (CHI)||D. Bell||2||48||4||2||0||14||74.3|
|10 (DET)||D. Bell||0||23||2||0||0||0||73.4|
|11 (@CIN)||D. Bell||1||32||4||2||0||3||73.4|
|12 (PIT)||D. Bell||0||46||4||0||0||5||73.4|
|13 (@MIN)||D. Bell||0||23||4||3||1||6||72.0|
|14 (CLE)||D. Bell||1||24||2||2||2||1||74.3|
|15 (@MIA)||D. Bell||0||30||2||1||1||2||73.8|
|16 (NE)||D. Bell||0||21||0||0||0||0||75.0|
|17 (@NYJ)||D. Bell||0||29||3||2||1||0||73.1|
Answering the first big question - did Bell improve - is pretty straightforward. The numbers are what they are. Yes, Bell improved on run plays as the year went along. In the first eight games of the season, his run grades average out at 74.1% with 16 bad plays and three killed. In the last half of the season, his run grade average improved to 76% with nie bad plays and three killed. The number that jumps out to me is that Bell went from two bad run plays per game to one a game. While one is still one too many, the reality is that players are going to slip up from time to time.
The picture isn't quite as clear on pass plays. In the first half of the season, he averaged 73.7%, with 24 bad plays, 7.5 killed plays and 3.5 sacks. In the back eight Bell's percentage drops a tenth of a percent to 73.6%, his bad plays drop to 21, his killed plays increased to ten and he gave up more sacks (five). The drop in bad plays is encouraging; the increase in killed plays and sacks, not so much.
The second question - is Bell the long term answer at left tackle - is far more subjective. It might be worth looking at the man Bell replaced, Peters. In 2008, Peters graded out at 79.0% on run plays, with 31 bad and four killed. On pass plays, he graded out at 74.5% with 21 bad plays and 14 killed. At the time of the Peters trade, some thought he was elite, while others, myself included, saw him as a very good, but somewhat overrated, left tackle. I don't recall many who thought that he was a bum.
Whether or not you believe that Bell can reach Peters' 2008 level of performance likely colors your view of the man. It appears as though Chan Gailey will allow Bell the opportunity to continue to improve. My guess is that he'll be encouraged by the improvement in Bell's run play performance and not look to upgrade the position this off-season. Besides, with right tackle in clear need of help, Gailey may tell himself that cementing the right side will allow for greater support to Bell in pass protection.