Bills' O-Line Changed Drastically In 25 Days

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears rushes against Erik Pears #79 of the Buffalo Bills during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

My, how things can change in just 25 days.

When the Buffalo Bills opened training camp on July 29, they made a very clear statement about what they wanted their starting offensive line to look like. Demetrius Bell was the left tackle. Erik Pears was the right tackle, and Eric Wood the center. Andy Levitre and Kraig Urbik were the left and right guards, respectively.

We speculated at the time that other players - Geoff Hangartner, Chad Rinehart and Mansfield Wrotto, specifically - would sneak in first-team reps at some point, but it was clear that this was the line the Bills wanted to roll with.

Of course, when we proclaimed that those three players would get reps, we figured that Rinehart and Wrotto would be challenging for playing time at right guard and right tackle, respectively. Bills fans spent the entire off-season focused on the right side of the line as the perceived weakness of the unit. In 25 days, however, all of the attention has shifted to the left side, while Urbik and Pears seem entrenched as starters.

Here's a position-by-position rundown of how things have changed over the past 25 days at each line position. It's not surprising - to us, at least - that something has changed about the perception of each and every spot.

Left Tackle, July 29: Bell is the unquestioned starter, and does not appear to have legitimate competition for the spot.
Left Tackle, August 22: Levitre and Bell split first-team reps. More splitting of time is expected, perhaps in pre-season game No. 3.

Left Guard, July 29: Levitre is the unquestioned starter, and perceived by most to be the team's most consistent lineman.
Left Guard, August 22: Levitre is still running with the ones, but before he split at left tackle, he was already losing reps to Rinehart.

Center, July 29: Wood is the nominal camp starter, and Chan Gailey says that Hangartner will compete for the job.
Center, August 22: Hangartner is a forgotten man on the line, and Wood is now the unquestioned starter.

Right Guard, July 29: Urbik gets the first crack to lock down the job, but Rinehart is expected to get reps eventually.
Right Guard, August 22: Despite early struggles and only minor improvement, no player has yet to take a first-team rep away from Urbik.

Right Tackle, July 29: Pears gets the first crack to lock down the job, but Wrotto might get a look, if not a free agent acquisition.
Right Tackle, August 22: Pears has been quiet - which is probably a good thing - and hasn't lost a first-team rep yet.

Buffalo begins regular season play in another 20 days, when they travel to Kansas City for Week 1. Knowing how much has changed of late, it's possible that the line could look entirely different once again for the game against the Chiefs.

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