Buffalo Bills Offensive Line Review: Right Tackle

ORCHARD PARK NY - DECEMBER 12: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills looks to pass with pressure from David Bowens #96 of the Cleveland Browns at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 12 2010 in Orchard Park New York. Buffalo won 13-6. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

When I'm faced with some unpleasant task I generally try to tackle the worst part of it first. Getting through the hardest (or lamest, as the case may be) makes the rest of the task seem somewhat less woeful. And so, as the first in a five-part series, let's take a masochistic look at the Buffalo Bills' right tackle position.

The Bills initially filled the right tackle slot with Cornell Green, a free agent refugee from the Oakland Raiders. Never mind that the Raiders had a terrible offensive line in 2009; we were assured that Green was the man. We were later informed that Green was injured and had been secretly been playing hurt all year long. I'm not sure I believe that a hale and hearty Green would have been any better than the playing-through-(alleged)-pain version. Nevertheless, Green played over five games before being pulled due to injury during the Jacksonville game, placed on IR, and was ultimately released.

Cordaro Howard, a rookie from Georgia Tech (where Chan Gailey had recently been head coach), was the first scrub to take the field at right tackle. Following a pair of poor performances in Baltimore and Kansas City, the Bills evidently realized that Howard wasn't the answer. However, not being sure who might be better at right tackle, Gailey began what I refer to as the yo-yo solution. He pulled a right tackle out of the game after a series or two and inserted another guy. Generally, this went on throughout the game, which I believed hurt the consistency of the line as a whole.

First up in the yo-yo rotation was Mansfield Wrotto. Perhaps less than anxious to try this at home, Gailey yanked Howard and Wrotto in and out of the game for a series here and a series there while playing in Toronto. Another Georgia Tech alum (and another point of annoyance for me - not because I have anything against Georgia Tech, just coaches who lock onto ‘their' guys), Wrotto had spent the first three years of his career in lovely Seattle. He had started five games and appeared in 16, though he started none and appeared in only two in 2010. That's not a successful career arc, so it's no wonder why Seattle let Wrotto go. Regardless, Wrotto was the starting right tackle until the Week 16 game against New England.

Erik Pears was picked up on waivers toward the end of the season. He had started 30 games prior to his stint in Buffalo, and appeared in 44. In his three years in Denver, he started 26 games and appeared in 32 - all in 2006 and 2007. 2008 saw no game appearances at all due to a non-football injury (appendectomy). He played 10 games at left tackle in 2006 and 16 at right tackle in 2007, so you can see why the Bills were interested. He had experience and was part of a unit that had success running the ball.

Here are the numbers for the season at right tackle:

Right Tackle Run Grades - 2010 Season
Week Player(s) Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
1 (MIA) C. Green 1 10 3 1 72.1
2 (@GB) C. Green 3 24 2 0 75.7
3 (@NE) C. Green 1 18 2 0 74.1
4 (NYJ) C. Green 1 9 1 0 75.0
5 (JAC) C. Green, C. Howard 1 17 2 0 74.0
7 (@BAL) C. Howard 1 28 3 2 73.8
8 (@KC) C. Howard 2 24 1 0 75.7
9 (CHI) C. Howard, M. Wrotto 0 15 3 2 71.7
10 (DET) M. Wrotto 4 24 5 3 74.4
11 (@CIN) M. Wrotto 3 16 2 0 76.0
12 (PIT) M. Wrotto 0 15 1 0 73.8
13 (@MIN) M. Wrotto 1 20 1 0 75.0
14 (CLE) M. Wrotto 4 28 8 1 73.0
15 (@MIA) M. Wrotto 1 21 4 0 72.7
16 (NE) M. Wrotto, E. Pears 3 8 1 0 78.3
17 (@NYJ) M. Wrotto, E. Pears 2 16 0 0 77.2
Totals 28 293 39 9 74.4
Right Tackle Pass Grades - 2010 Season
Week Player(s) Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
1 (MIA) C. Green 0 26 14 2 1 5 68.0
2 (@GB) C. Green 0 22 5 0 0 0 71.3
3 (@NE) C. Green 0 26 5 1 0 2 71.8
4 (NYJ) C. Green 0 28 2 0 0 0 73.7
5 (JAC) C. Green, C. Howard 1 32 6 0 0 0 72.4
7 (@BAL) C. Howard 0 39 8 0 0 2 71.6
8 (@KC) C. Howard 0 47 12 3.5 2.5 1 70.9
9 (CHI) C. Howard, M. Wrotto 2 46 6 1 0 5 73.5
10 (DET) M. Wrotto 1 22 2 1 1 1 74.2
11 (@CIN) M. Wrotto 0 34 3 2 0 2 73.3
12 (PIT) M. Wrotto 4 41 5 0 0 0 74.6
13 (@MIN) M. Wrotto 0 21 6 2 0 4 70.6
14 (CLE) M. Wrotto 1 24 2 0 0 1 74.3
15 (@MIA) M. Wrotto 0 28 4 1 0.5 3 72.5
16 (NE) M. Wrotto, E. Pears 0 18 3 1 0 0 72.1
17 (@NYJ) M. Wrotto, E. Pears 1 26 2 1 0 2 74.3
Totals 10 480 85 15.5 5.0 28 72.4

To be honest, I had never looked at all of the right tackles as one amalgam. They're scrubpar! As a whole, Buffalo has seen run grades a full point below any full-time starter at any other line position. Bear in mind that Buffalo has faced a lot of 3-4 fronts this season, meaning that the right tackle has most often gone against a linebacker or large defensive end (275-285 range typically), while the centers and guards have been facing behemoth nose tackles, albeit with assistance some of the time. The low pass protection grade is another thing that needs to be addressed; a screw-up on one of every six pass plays does tend to lower a score.

By way of comparison, the jettisoned Langston Walker - though hardly elite - managed a run grade of 76.0% in 2008. More impressively, he killed just four plays compared to the 15.5 killed by Buffalo's 2010 right tackles. On passing downs, he needed a little less help (20 snaps) than the scrubs who closed out 2010 (28). My point is not that Buffalo should bring back Walker so much as the situation hasn't improved since his departure. Injuries and incompetence plagued right tackle in 2009, and 2010 turned out to be more of the same. The turnstile (pun intended) approach to right tackle has got to change if the Bills are to find consistent success in 2011. Mere scrubs have proven not to be the answer for two straight campaigns. Via the draft or free agency, Buffalo needs to bring in someone who can bring starting caliber consistency to the position.

And, yeah, it was a pain in the arse to compile all of those stats. Have I mentioned that I hate the yo-yo approach that Gailey seems to favor?

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