It's been hard to watch the offensive line during the preseason. The lack of OTAs and shuffling hasn't helped. The first two drives of this game (the last two drives of the preseason) featured what I suspect will be the starting lineup for at least the first couple of weeks of the regular season.
Run 1: Spiller
Bell pushed a filling DB past Spiller's lane. It wasn't a dominating block by any means but it did get the job done. Levitre went to the second level and locked up 55, walling him off from the play. Wood flowed with 99 down the line and did enough to keep him from closing off the rushing lane. Urbik went to the second level and locked up 57-the size disparity was much more noticeable than the Levitre-55 matchup. Pears tried to cut 90 but only caught his left leg; it was enough to keep him from impacting the play. Chandler had a nice block on the end of the line.
Pass 1: screen to Spiller
Bell gave lots of ground, not a bad thing on screen plays. Levitre pulled to the right side of the formation, a ploy that the Bills used with success last season though not on screen plays. Wood blocked 99, let him go to rush Fitz and glued himself to 55 before driving him all over the field. Urbik meandered downfield and Pears more or less shadowed 90 near the line of scrimmage.
Pass 2: overthrow bomb
The Bills kept in 7 blockers. Bell and Levitre stopped 99 and Levitre did a good job of keeping his head on a swivel (while engaged with 99) to see if any delayed blitzers needed to be picked up. Bell and Urbik (mostly Urbik) handled 90. Pears swung in a wide loop around the backfield with 92. Chandler had an effective block on the left side of the formation.
Pass 3: Spiller dump off
Bell was totally outclassed on the play. It appeared that the DE dipped his shoulder which somehow completely befuddled Bell, who was left flopping on the turf. His blown assignment led to the dump off pass which killed the drive. Levitre and Wood took care of 99, though he got more push against a double team than we'd like. Urbik was walked back to Fitz by 90 but did keep him off the QB. Pears shut down 92.
Run 2: Spiller
Bell attempted to get in front of 96 as 96 followed the flow of the play but was unable to get ahead of him. Instead he ran slightly behind 96 down the line. Levitre shot out of the line like a midget in a circus stunt....and promptly missed in a cut attempt on 52. Wood got under 91's pads and both drove and contorted him partially down the line. Speaking of dwarves, Urbik shoved 58 (who isn't a small man) about 10 yards downfield. Pears moved forward at the snap and then attempted to seal 59 inside and away from the play. McIntyre wasn't fast enough to keep 24 from shooting into the running lane and tripping up Jackson.
Pass 4: Easley drop
Bell turned and had to do little more than that given the speed of the throw to Easley. Levitre and Wood doubled a DT at the snap, leaving Urbik alone to handle 91-which he did. Pears stopped 75. Easley should have caught the pass but it had the look of a none-yard completion. I'm not sure why Fitz locked onto him as the DB wasn't 10+ yards off the line of scrimmage.
Pass 5: Johnson drop
Bell backed up all the way to Fitz but ultimately did stop his DE from disrupting the play. Levitre, Wood and Urbik blocked the two DTs though it looked like Levitre kind of got lost in the wash. Pears was handily beaten by his DE-the DE faked a looping route to Fitz and then, when Pears overcommitted, cut back to the inside. If Fitz had held onto the ball for another second it likely would have been a sack.
Thoughts on the last two drives for the starters in the preseason:
- The line is set: Bell, Levitre, Wood, Urbik, Pears for at least the first game or two.
- It appears that Bell will be given the opportunity to play his way out of his starting job. Unfortunately, Bell demonstrated in just 5 pass plays that he's prone to being abused. In Denver some wrote his poor performance off to the quality of Denver's starting pass rushers. I don't know that that case can be made here. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Bell yanked within the first two weeks if he continues to struggle. I suspect that Levitre will remain at LG with possibly Hairston coming in for Bell.
- Gailey clearly believes in Urbik. It goes beyond the obvious lack of competition at RG. Urbik was routinely expected to handle a DT one-on-one. He was significantly larger than Detroit's LBs but was still able to engage them at the second level.
- Pears is going to have a hard time when left on an island for any length of time. On the last pass play the DE created an enormous opening just by driving upfield and then cutting back inside.
- Chandler had some nice blocks both on run and pass plays. He's the type of TE that Gailey likes in that he supports the offensive line.