In the weeks leading up to the start of Buffalo Bills training camp, Buffalo Rumblings will be taking a look at the ten most intriguing positional battles set to take place at St. John Fisher this summer. Previous entries in this series can be found in our training camp section.
Knowing what we know about Chan Gailey's fast-paced passing attack, the typical impact that the left tackle position holds in traditional NFL offenses is muted in Buffalo, where quick throws rule the day. Still, the Bills have been looking for a long-term starter on the blind side since trading Jason Peters more than three years ago, and they think they've found that guy in rookie second-round pick Cordy Glenn.
This year, however, Glenn must hold off second-year pro Chris Hairston for the starting job he'll eventually hold down for the foreseeable future.
From a purely athletic standpoint, Glenn has a clear advantage over Hairston: he's got quicker, nimble feet, which will make his life far easier than Hairston's is in terms of pass protection. That's the area that Hairston struggled in as a rookie, as he had a lot of trouble with speed and double-moves off the edge - particularly as the season progressed. The jury is still very much out on whether Glenn can perform well enough in pass protection on the blind side, but purely in terms of this competition, he's already got a leg up.
Glenn had a leg up, anyway, considering he's a higher-round investment that the Bills may have taken with the No. 10 overall pick this past April had the top ten picks fallen differently. The organization very clearly believes he's the franchise left tackle, while the best they've been able to muster about Hairston is that they're confident they can win with him in that position. That's talk fitting of a swing tackle; the goals are clearly much higher for Glenn.
Still, Glenn's a rookie, and it's not always fair to expect a rookie to seamlessly walk into a starting job in the NFL - even though that is the expectation these days, and particularly at a position as difficult as left tackle. Hairston's advantage in this competition is that he has playing experience at the position in this offense - and though it may only serve him in the event that Glenn struggles to adjust to the pros, it's an advantage nonetheless.
In the end, this may not turn out to be much of a battle. Glenn is the clear favorite, and it'd take a stumble on his part to even out the odds and give Hairston a better shot at a starting job. Here's the good news: whoever wins the battle, the Bills will be a much better run-blocking team from the position. Hairston flashed dominance as a run-blocking tackle as a rookie, and Glenn - the former guard - will improve the team in that area regardless of where he lines up over the long haul.