Just how dire is the state of the Buffalo Bills' offensive line?
In their final preseason game against Detroit, announcers are sure to ramble about the NBA's resident postal man Karl Malone to fill up the dull, dead air.
Not convinced? Demetrius Bell is the lowest rated player on the polarizing video game Madden. The long-lost son of Malone. The afterthought seventh-round pick. The miniature pixelized figure getting robotically bulldozed every other play on Madden.
Yeah, that guy. Bell will probably start at tackle in Buffalo's preseason finale Thursday against Detroit. While Scout.com did learn Jason Peters may end his holdout soon, he's not back yet. And with Langston Walker sidelined with a mild arm injury, the 219th overall pick Bell will most likely start.
"It's a big deal for me," Bell said. "It's a lot of pressure, but I'm ready for it."
Bell is considered a raw, long-term project. Tonight's game should give the Bills tangible film copy to use as a starting point, especially if Bell faces Detroit's No. 1 defense for a possession or two.
Bell initially attended Northwestern State on a basketball scholarship then switched to football a year later. Two weeks before the 2006 season in college, Bell was vaulted into the starting left tackle spot – with no previous experience at the critical blindside-blocker position. The sudden promotion paid off. Bell started 22 consecutive games and was a conference all-star as a season.
Potential is there. Experience isn't. Buffalo will most likely hang onto Bell through the final cuts – maybe reserving him on the practice squad. In a year or two, when Bell is caught up to NFL speed, the Bills may blow the dust off their diamond in the rough and start Bell.
Bell has opened the coaching staff eyes with his basketball-athleticism. Head coach Dick Jauron lauded Bell's on-the-job training, but he's a realist too. Bell isn't ready for the Big Show quite yet.
"I think that's a stretch," Jauron said. "Could he play? I think he's athletic enough. But you'd like to get him more seasoned before he had to be out there."
So for now, Bell is simply that no-name on Madden that eight-year olds insert into their lineup for laughs.
"It makes me feel even better because this time next year, I want to see what my rating is," Bell said.
Tonight, those inferior player ratings could receive a boost for future years.
He'd have to a lay a Winston Justice-on-Monday Night Football egg to get cut, probably.
One series isn't going to make-or-break Trent Edwards' chances this season as the Bills' starting quarterback. Edwards promises he'll be ready to go a week from Sunday to start in the team's opener against Seattle.
So tonight against Detroit, there's no use pushing the envelope.
"I'm going to have to wait and see," Edwards said. "I really haven't been told anything as of right now. I'm going to take it and see how it goes. I'm trying to get better. I'm trying to get healthy. I'm very concerned about our game a week from Sunday, and that's all I'm worried about."
With Bell starting at tackle along an iffy offensive line, Jauron doesn't want Edwards in harm's way. Nothing good can come out of Edwards playing one, brief series with the starting lineup.
"(Edwards) has had a ton of time in our offseason program and our (organized team activities)," Jauron said. "He's had a good deal of time. If you're talking about game time, he hasn't. If you're talking about game time in this game (against Detroit), he's not going to get a lot more, either, were he to play."
Another tight end down
The thumb injury Derek Fine suffered against Indianapolis last weekend appears to be more serious than initially thought, as Jauron said he'll miss a "significant amount of time."
Fine had surgery done to repair the damage. The dinged digit is a particularly serious matter for the position he plays.
"You don't realize how much you use your thumb until something like this happens," said Fine.
Fine's injury comes at a bad time. Derek Schouman, who was one camp's brightest surprises, is out for multiple weeks, which leaves Robert Royal, Tim Massaquoi and Courtney Anderson as Buffalo's only three tight ends.
Royal's entrenched as the starter, but tonight provides an opportunity for Massaquoi and Anderson to blot their names on the roster radar. Schouman is still expected to make the roster, so the Lions' game may be the last shot for Massaquoi and Anderson.