Realities of Bills' OL Situation More Apparent

With many fans holding out hope that Jonas Jennings would be resigned, the stark realities of the Bills offensive line situation have now become glaringly blatant. What Commander Tom and the team have up their sleeves is anyone's guess. But if the strategy is one of relying on the castoffs of other teams as well as former and current 7th round draft picks again, then the Bills are in a world-heap of trouble heading into the season!

While Jennings received a very handsome contract from the Niners, it was too much for a second tier tackle and particularly for a player that has been unable to string 16 games together without injury in any one of his four seasons to date. While it is wise that the Bills did not offer similar compensation, what is disturbing is the absolute lack of any depth to account for and backup the situation. This is the result of past seasons of ignoring the offensive line in planning ahead.

To regular readers this situation is no surprise as the implications sternly went up during the 2003 offseason in warning towards a breakdown and lack of a strategy to look forward as far as the offensive line went. That warning was direly repeated last offseason as well as Commander Tom once again attempted to make lemonade by squeezing a handful of turnips. There is an absurd overreliance on coaching to overcome a lack of talent.

An overemphasis by the Bills on skill position players has only left the team with the leftovers from the failings of Commander Tom's risky approach and moves. The goals of the team were not achieved, namely to make the playoffs, but yet the Bills appear to be more a team on the front end of yet another two or three season rebuild than a team approaching playoff readiness.

Recent statements by the team appear to indicate that the Bills are on the verge of over-relying on Losman's mobility and therefore discounting the line situation and overstating and over-relying on the abilities of linemen not of starting caliber which fits perfectly with the "strategy" used to date in "building" an offensive line. Meanwhile, how Willis McGahee is expected to improve his average performance of his first season this past year is not laid out.

While mobility in a QB is good, it is no substitute for solid line play by any stretch, nor does it open holes for running backs. As stated in the past, Bledsoe was a part of the problem with the Bills offense. The other primary issue was the play of the offensive line. With Jennings now gone, the issues of the line just multiplied by two given the notion that Jennings was the Bills only above average lineman and one of only four viable starters on the line, now reduced to only three with two aging ones. Throw in the fact that the most important spot on the OL is now vacant, and the concerns heighten.

At present, and until hopefully some above average linemen are added, the line presently features Trey Teague, free agent following the season and who will turn 31 this season, 32-year old Chris Villarrial, and superproject underachiever Mike Williams as the only viable starters. No doubt One Bills Drive will attempt once again to convince fans and media that the ragtag bunch on the roster otherwise are anything other than what they are, namely players suited to backup roles at best and otherwise simply fortunate to be in the NFL. This is the same approach that has been used since Commander Tom took over, in attempting to pass off notions that linemen such as Kris Farris, Ben Sobieski, Mike Pucillo, Marques Sullivan, Ross Tucker, and Lawrence Smith are capable starters and therefore ignoring the true and imminent needs of the team here.

At present, and again, patient to see what the Bills move is in this area, it appears that both J.P. Losman and Willis McGahee certainly have their work cut out for them. The line currently due to "protect" them clearly will rival the worst in the league unless substantially upgraded. Even then, with Teague being a free agent at seasons end and with Villarrial at 33 next season, an upgrade for this season still would leave the team woefully short looking down the road past this season. This is not what the Bills' offense needs following a season during which their ability to move the ball offensively ranked among the bottom ten teams in the league.

It simply cannot be understated how badly and to what extent the Bills need offensive line help for both starters as well as reasonable backups. The problem with the line now appears to be insurmountable for a single-season fix using all of the resources the team has. Given that the Bills will not use all of their resources to rebuild only the offensive line, the problem becomes even more glaring.

It was this analyst's hope that either Casey Rabach or Mike Wahle would be signed. However, both have already been snatched out of free agency. Cosey Coleman may be somewhat of a value pickup relatively speaking and at 26/27 this season is at the forefront of his prime. Rick DeMulling is a similar type of player at 28 this season. Justin Hartwig at center is a similar type of player who will turn 27 later in the season but is a restricted free agent.

The Bills are probably wise this season to wait out the "crazy money" given their modest amount of current cap space. However, the longer they wait, the greater the odds that the remaining above average linemen also sign elsewhere.

How the Bills squirm their way out of this situation remains to be seen. If hindsight is to offer any sort of guide, fans can likely expect the front office and coaching staff to overhype would-be backups and for the draft to produce a 4th or 5th rounder along with another average signing of a past prime lineman. Meanwhile, with the Bills' top draft picks, expect more skill position players if things hold sway. Then again, perhaps this will be the offseason that jackslaps some common sense and reason into the failed philosophies of this team!

Stranger things have happened.


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