Buffalo Bills offensive tackles: Cordy Glenn headlines injury-prone group

Mark Konezny-US PRESSWIRE

Buffalo didn't make any personnel changes at offensive tackle this off-season, rolling the dice on the young talent on hand - and that the group's durability concerns will be more manageable.

The Buffalo Bills didn't make any personnel changes to their offensive tackle group this off-season, instead choosing to let a new coaching staff groom a solid stockpile of young talent already on hand. That decision is easily defended, but there is one major worry about this talented group of athletes: all of them have cause for concern from a durability standpoint.

Cordy Glenn

  • Age: 23 (24 in September)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2015 season. Scheduled to make a fully guaranteed $561,145 base salary in 2013.

Many that follow the NFL still believe that Glenn is miscast as a left tackle at the pro level. Though he committed a few too many penalties and had a propensity to start games off slowly before leveling off, Glenn largely proved those doubters wrong as a rookie, putting together a rather consistent first season despite also missing three games with an ankle injury. There is little question, however, that Glenn is Buffalo's most physically gifted offensive lineman; he's massive (6'5", 343 pounds) with light feet and great movement ability. Working for renowned offensive line coaches like Doug Marrone and Pat Morris, the sky is the limit for last year's second-round pick, regardless of whether or not outside observers think he belongs at left tackle on a permanent basis.

Chris Hairston

  • Age: 24
  • Contract: Signed through the 2014 season. Scheduled to make $555,000 in base salary in 2013.

Durability is a bit of a concern with Hairston; he has missed time in each of his first two pro seasons with foot and ankle injuries, one of which required surgery that landed him on IR a year ago. When he's on the field, however, Hairston has been a consistent and known commodity in his first two years: he's a smart, tough player that produces well in the run game but can struggle in pass protection, especially with speed. He's made 15 starts in those two years on both sides of the line, and while he's long been considered the favorite to start at right tackle, his ability to play both sides of the line makes him a valuable commodity to the team even if he can't win a starting job outright.

Erik Pears

  • Age: 30 (31 in June)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2014 season. Scheduled to make $2.1 million in base salary and a $50,000 workout bonus in 2013, and has already been paid a $100,000 roster bonus.

Pears was good enough as a 16-game starter in 2011 to land a rather lucrative contract extension, but the former street free agent signing struggled through groin and hip injuries early last season and eventually landed on IR. He is now healthy, returned to full-team activities on Tuesday, and once everyone is healthy will likely wind up competing with Hairston for the starting right tackle job. Take note of his $2.1 million base salary this season; if the Bills are fully healthy in training camp, Hairston wins the right tackle job and the younger talent develops nicely, Pears' spot on the final roster could be in serious jeopardy.

Zebrie Sanders

  • Age: 23 (24 in December)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2015 season. Scheduled to make $405,000 in base salary in 2013.

A fifth-round pick out of Florida State last April, Sanders landed on IR after training camp and missed his entire rookie season. Now we know why: he had surgeries to repair a torn labrum in both hips last year. He's now on the road to recovery, and assuming he's back at full health by the time training camp begins in late July, he'll be competing for a reserve role - and his progress on the field could help determine the fate of the man listed in front of him here.

Thomas Welch

  • Age: 25 (26 in June)
  • Contract: Signed through the 2013 season. Scheduled to make $630,000 in base salary in 2013.

Buffalo added the 6'6", 300-pound Welch last season as a depth acquisition following the injuries to Pears and Hairston. He wound up playing seven snaps on offense and eight as a blocker on kick attempts as a specialist, serving as the third tackle behind Glenn and Sam Young on select game days. He'll compete for a reserve role this summer, but he'll also face stiff competition for a roster spot.

Outlook

From top to bottom, durability is a major ongoing concern at the tackle position for the Bills. All three of the team's top players missed playing time last season, and Sanders - the project of the group - had the most serious surgical procedures of all. Glenn is obviously locked in as a starter, and assuming both are fully healthy for camp, Hairston and Pears will likely compete for the starting right tackle job. With other players listed on the roster capable of playing tackle - chiefly Sam Young, but also Chris Scott - it's not imperative that the team keep four pure tackles. They'll keep the best nine linemen on the team, in all likelihood, so don't be surprised if only three of these players make the final roster. That said, strong camps from Pears and Sanders could lead to the team keeping at least four of these names. There is some boom-or-bust factor to this group of players from that perspective.

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