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Buffalo Bills' offensive line rebuild may extend to tackle position

The Buffalo Bills need to make major improvements to their offensive line - but will any of that work, sure to happen this offseason, include personnel tweaks to the tackle position?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There's no reason to beat around the bush with this topic: the Buffalo Bills' offensive line regressed at every position in 2014, and is the biggest reason (aside from the quarterback play) that the team couldn't muster enough offensive firepower to crack the postseason.

Greg Roman is the Bills' new offensive coordinator, and he, along with Ryan, will attempt to re-tool Buffalo's offense into a power-running, almost retro-feeling outfit. In order to accomplish that, the Bills are probably going to need to make fairly drastic personnel changes up front, and it's fair to say that most fans are expecting that to happen starting in March.

Will it happen at tackle, though? The two tackle positions were not at all impervious to the dramatic decline in play that Buffalo's line as a whole saw in 2014, but considering the position features the line's best player and three intriguing young projects in the fold, should fans be expecting the forthcoming player changes up front to extend all the way out to the edge?

Current personnel

Cordy Glenn

  • Age: 25 (26 on September 18)
  • 2015 cap #: $1.55M ($1.05M savings if cut)
  • 2014 snaps: 1,046 (98.5% of total)

Heading into the 2014 season, Glenn was considered one of the best young offensive tackles in the NFL, having just completed a rock-solid 2013 campaign, his second as a full-time pro starter. Which is why it was so concerning when Glenn missed nearly the entirety of training camp with an illness that has still not been identified to the public.

For whatever reason - the illness itself, or the missed camp time, but probably not the team's continued revolving door of awful at left guard, which he handled just fine the year prior - Glenn dropped off fairly dramatically in 2014. He slipped most noticeably in the running game, where that decline played a major factor in the Bills morphing from one of the league's better run offenses (in 2013) to one of its worst (in 2014). Glenn is still, however, Buffalo's best offensive lineman by a comfortable margin, and we can reliably count on him being the starting left tackle as he heads into the final year of his rookie deal.

Seantrel Henderson

  • Age: 23 (as of January 21)
  • 2015 cap #: $523k ($485k savings if cut)
  • 2014 snaps: 1,062 (100.0% of total)

Buffalo took a flyer on the former No. 1 overall high school recruit in the seventh round after Henderson's miserable college career and worse pre-draft run. They probably did not expect that he'd end up playing every snap on offense in 2014, all of them as the starting right tackle.

A solid preseason showing, enviable physical tools, and, probably, Doug Marrone's belief that he could mold Henderson into a quality starter did not manifest in quality right tackle play, however; instead, Henderson was one of the league's worst players at his position last year, struggling equally in both pass protection and in the run game. Sure, he's young, and there is still considerable upside here, but in no sane universe will this guy be handed a starting job again.

Chris Hairston

  • Age: 25 (26 on April 26)
  • 2015 cap #: restricted free agent
  • 2014 snaps: 37 (3.5% of total)

Back when Chan Gailey was the Bills' head coach, through the end of the 2012 season, Hairston was a useful player as the team's top reserve tackle. He performed well enough in 2012 - especially in the run game, where he was more often than not a net positive - that many expected he'd unseat Erik Pears for the starting right tackle job in Marrone's first year on the job. Instead, he contracted an illness that cost him the entirety of the 2013 season.

After returning to full health last season, Hairston again locked down the swing tackle position, but was never able to crack the lineup - whether it be outside (Glenn and Henderson were both healthy) or in (Hairston took camp reps at guard but didn't play there, despite horrible performances by every interior player this year). It will be interesting - assuming he's retained as a restricted free agent - to see if Hairston is given a shot at a starting gig for an offensive line that needs a near-complete overhaul.

Cyrus Kouandjio

  • Age: 21 (22 on July 21)
  • 2015 cap #: $1.09M (-$859k savings if cut)
  • 2014 snaps: 0

No 21-year-old player (he won't be 22 until just about the time his second NFL training camp begins) can yet be labeled a bust. That said, this 2014 second-round pick was, indeed, a rookie-season disappointment, showing very poorly in preseason play and spending most of the year on the inactive list. The new, run-oriented focus of the offense bodes well for the powerful Kouandjio, but until we see him in action, there will be questions about whether or not he has the foot speed to handle pass-blocking duties in today's NFL.

Offseason needs

Glenn is fine. There's no reason for the Bills to complicate their line rebuild by moving him out of the left tackle slot, either, so let's not drudge up the "Glenn to guard" rhetoric again. Glenn is the left tackle in 2015.

The right side is a complete toss-up. It's not absolutely necessary, I suppose, for the team to acquire a potential starter there, given that they have three young options they could conceivably work into a competition for the job, but still - that's an important job to lock down, and leaving it in the hands of [victorious unproven talent] might be a pretty big risk to take. That's especially true if some players (Kouandjio and Hairston, in particular) are thought of as interior linemen; in that case, the Bills might be wise to put themselves in the market for a veteran starter here.