If you want to blame any position for Buffalo's offensive inefficiencies last year, the easy choice is the offensive line. Riddled with injured vets, green rookies and inferior talent, last year's unit was once again among the worst offensive lines in recent Bills history. But thanks to a $75 million spending spree and better coaching, that should change this coming season. The Bills are bigger, stronger and more athletic up front, and it should allow the team to do a lot more offensively. We start our examination of the offensive line by taking a look at the tackles.
When putting together the offense - from the trenches to the skill positions - it is looking like the team was aiming for versatility. The Bills want to be able to beat teams in a variety of ways. That takes a variety of skills from the skill positions, but most importantly it takes a variety of skills from the offensive line. The tackles on Buffalo's roster are athletic enough to do a lot of different things.
The three sure-fire tackles on the roster are all nimble athletes, despite their larger-than-life stature. They have the ability to pull on running plays and get to defenders at the second level. They are massive enough to push the pile on conservative runs up the middle. What the team would like to see more of is the ability to get out and block on screen passes - and this group has the athletic ability to do that as well. They have a good mix of pass protection and run blocking skills. That's quite the contrast to last year, when the Bills' tackles couldn't seem to get out of their own way.
71-Jason Peters: Widely considered one of the most underrated tackles in the league, Peters has been getting a fair amount of national attention this off-season and is being touted as a potential Pro Bowler. He was the lone bright spot of the offensive line last year, and now he's the gem of a unit that could be special if they gel quickly enough.
66-Langston Walker: Perhaps the most questionable of Buffalo's off-season signings, Walker brings a (literally) huge upgrade to Buffalo's running game on the right side of the line. Was extremely underrated in Oakland (where he got a bad rap), and the statistics prove this. Athletic enough to hold down this position for a long time if he takes to Jim McNally's coaching.
79-Terrance Pennington: Started half the season at right tackle as a rookie seventh-round pick. The coaching staff has confidence in him, which is why he'll likely serve as the primary backup at both LT and RT this season. A good athlete with solid intangibles, Pennington is still very green but has the skills to start at this level. A potential "diamond in the rough" draft pick.
60-Brad Butler: Buffalo's "jack of all trades" as far as the offensive line is concerned. A tackle in college, Butler will likely be counted on as a reserve at both tackle slots. Also will be a valuable backup on the interior, and could emerge as a darkhorse candidate to win the starting RG position. A favorite of McNally's that is trying to crack the lineup at this point; his versatility makes him the most valuable backup we've got.
Rounding it out: Walter Stith, Randy Hand, Kirk Chambers. All three are tough and gritty, but just aren't talented enough to crack this roster. It's possible, but unlikely, that one could land on the practice squad.
The addition of Walker should bring more balance to a line that relied heavily on its left side last season. The starters are talented, the backups are young and versatile - quite the stark contrast to last season. Things are looking promising on the edges of Buffalo's offensive line. The key now is to decide on a starting unit, let them play together throughout training camp and the pre-season and take to the coaching. The faster this line can gel, the better off the offense will be.