I'm not exactly sure why, but I've not only been getting a higher volume of emails from readers lately, but I've also been getting some extremely interesting questions. Just this week, I got three such inquiries, and decided to spin them all into a post for a slow off-season Sunday. I'm open to making this a weekly feature here, so by all means, keep those emails coming, folks. You can hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Brian, why do the so-called 'draft experts' continue to say that the Bills' biggest need is left tackle? Is there something wrong with Demetrius Bell that we should know about?
A: To be quite honest, I've noticed Todd McShay say that, but he's the only guy I've heard mention tackle as the team's biggest need; I certainly disagree with that assessment, but tackle is a big issue from a numbers standpoint. That said, I think it's clear that Bell is inked in as the team's starting left tackle, if perhaps only for the immediate future. I don't think we've dedicated enough time to pointing out just how important Bell is to the team, either - it was huge that he stayed healthy for 16 games last season, as there was nothing behind him. That may not change, so not only will Bell need to come back bigger and stronger, but he'll need to continue to avoid the injury bug.
Q: Marcus Easley is getting similar hype to what Stevie Johnson got a couple years ago, but he hasn't played a snap. What kind of role could he have next year?
A: It's interesting, because there is something of a vibe about Easley, just as there was with Johnson. Fans feel pretty vindicated on that one - justifiably - but I don't think there's as much buzz with Easley. We know that the kid is really talented, and I don't think the top of Buffalo's depth chart is so set in stone that he couldn't move up the ranks, but he's so far behind at the moment. Depending on whether or not they bring in another body or two for camp (whenever it happens, if at all), I think there's a fantastic chance Chan Gailey will start Easley off at the very bottom of the depth chart - below the likes of Felton Huggins - and make Easley earn his way up. They've done it before, and I think Easley is up to the task. I'm not counting on him having a role; if he makes the team and can contribute as a specialist and deep sub-package receiver to start his career, he'll be moving in the right direction.
Q: We spend a lot of time projecting rookies into the hybrid defense, but I'm more interested in how our current guys go in. Especially Spencer Johnson - no one talks about him! How do the Bills use him, and can he be a part of our long term future?
A: Last year, Johnson was used in a role that really is ideal for him - he was in a rotation, flipping between 3-4 end and 4-3 defensive tackle (though he did play some 4-3 end in heavy run looks, as well). I actually like Johnson most when he's lined up as a five-technique and playing a one-gap assignment, as he's got the penetrating ability to complement Kyle Williams nicely in that capacity. Other than Williams, Johnson is probably our best play-making defensive lineman at the moment, and until that changes, he'll continue to get a lot of playing time from a variety of different positions. Johnson isn't great, but he's versatile and can make a thing or two happen, and that'll suffice until the team upgrades its defensive line depth across the board. He's entering the fourth year of a five-year deal, however, so it's tough to say he's part of the team's long-term plans.