"We're gonna put the defense in some compromising situations with our tempo and the different schemes we have. It'll be a little bit of an adjustment. The no-huddle brings a level of toughness for us. We have to be in better shape, we have to communicate quicker. It's going to create its problems for us, but that's why we're out here practicing." - Eric Wood, via The Buffalo News in May
For four years, the Buffalo Bills had one constant along an offensive line that improved significantly in that time frame: left guard Andy Levitre, the consistent anchor that departed for Tennessee via free agency this past March. The Bills are therefore in need of a new anchor on their offensive line, and Levitre's draft classmate, center Eric Wood, is the best candidate for the role.
Drafted in the first round in 2009, Wood has endeared himself to fans over the years largely for off-field reasons: he famously told Aaron Maybin to "give back some of that money you ain't [expletive] earned" during training camp in 2010, then made his feelings on the Bills in Toronto Series quite plain this past year. One could argue that even though Levitre has been the line's best player for four years, Wood has been the emotional leader of the group; he's certainly been the go-to guy for reporters. These intangible factors have made him something of a favorite in the Bills' fan base.
Now, the Bills simply need him to be their best offensive lineman, and to galvanize a group that will not only feature a new starting left guard, but also tackle the challenge of working within an up-tempo offense. It's easy to argue that second-year left tackle Cordy Glenn is the Bills' most important offensive lineman over the long haul, but he's not the vocal leadership type. That's Wood, the player tasked with making the line calls in a no-huddle offense with a new starter to his left.
After four years, we have a good idea of what Wood is as a player - prone to getting beat on occasion, but also an athletic, mobile technician that plays the game with an admirable level of tenacity. We'd have an even better handle on Wood as a player had he not missed 17 games in his first four seasons (he has yet to complete a full 16-game season in the lineup as a pro). More than ever, the Bills need Wood on the field as often as possible; a little luck in the injury department would do wonders for his career.
New head coach Doug Marrone was an offensive lineman during his playing days, and cut his NFL coaching teeth as a top-notch offensive line coach. He, along with well-regarded offensive line coach Pat Morris, will be charged with taking Buffalo's offensive line to the next level - and if that's going to happen, Wood will be spearheading the efforts on the field. A strong season from the veteran center could result in a nice new contract, as well.