Ever since the Buffalo Bills closed out their 4-12 season with embarrassing blowout losses to yesterday's AFC Divisional Playoff participants, we've been diligently breaking down the team's offensive line - to the best of our abilities - here at Buffalo Rumblings.
Ron From NM, our resident O-Line guru (for what that's worth), took a subjective look, statistically, at each of the five offensive line positions. In case you missed any of those, or need a refresher, check these links.
Boiling it all down: Demetrius Bell and Andy Levitre will be the team's starting left tackle and left guard, respectively, moving forward into the 2011 season. Both players started 16 games for the Bills - a hugely important factor - and showed improvement in some areas during the 2010 season. We also know that Eric Wood, the team's best young lineman, will be a starter. Where he plays, and the eventual fallout of that decision, is all that's left to figure out.
We spoke briefly last week about Chan Gailey's indecision over the future of the center position, where Geoff Hangartner was steady for much of the season, and where Wood closed his campaign out on a high note. That decision is forthcoming; rather than speculate yet again as to what that decision might look like, we'll simply state the two outcomes and let y'all choose which would be more desirable.
Scenario 1: Hangartner remains the team's center, avoids losing his job due to injury. In this scenario, the early projected starters along the offensive line would look like this:
D. Bell | A. Levitre | G. Hangartner | E. Wood | SOMEBODY
The upside to this decision, aside from keeping the line's most intelligent player at arguably its most important decision, is that it would return 80% of the team's starters from the beginning of the 2010 regular season to its original roles. That would help continuity a touch more than the scenario you'll read below. However, Gailey has also said that he'd like a bigger, more physical offensive front, and barring gains from Bell that would somehow trickle across the entire line, that seems unlikely sticking with the same personnel.
Scenario 2: Wood remains the team's center, team attempts to get more physical up front. In this scenario, the early projected starters along the offensive line would look like this:
D. Bell | A. Levitre | E. Wood | SOMEBODY | SOMEBODY
Wood would return to his more natural position here, giving the Bills a slightly different line mentality with the 2009 first-round pick as its proverbial leader. The gains there would be offset by creating a giant question mark at right guard, where conceivably Hangartner would compete with the likes of Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart for a starting job. In both scenarios, the team needs a right tackle - but you already knew that.
That's as simplified as we can be about the state of the Bills' offensive line at this point in time. Buffalo has a lot of areas to address this off-season. Where do you land, Bills fans - preserve continuity and start Hangartner in the pivot, or move to get physical by starting Wood, even if it adds an additional question mark up front?