Now that week one's 34-10 trouncing of Seattle is out of the way, Bills fans will slowly begin to sober up (figuratively, and for those who were at the Ralph, literally) and refocus on the offseason's biggest story: the status of Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters.
Peters ended his 43-day holdout on Saturday, conveniently returning to the team at the last possible moment he could do so without losing a game check. He was not in the lineup Sunday, as he did not have a roster spot waiting for him just yet. The question now: When does Peters step back into his role as Buffalo's nimble LT, and subsequently relegate lumbering Langston Walker to his natural position on the right?
It would seem obvious that a team with just one Pro Bowler would want him on the field as soon as possible to protect franchise-quarterback-to-be Trent Edwards. The matter, however, isn't that simple. Peters did not work out with the team all summer. He was near invisible for the month of August, save for scattered text messages exchanged with Derrick Dockery. The Bills offense spent all of their OTAs and training camp familiarizing themselves with Turk Schonert's new offense; Peters spent the same time familiarizing himself with an Xbox controller and a bean bag chair.
Taking this into account, and also considering that Walker and stunt-double Kirk Chambers held their own against Seattle's above average defensive line, there is no reason for the Bills to put Peters on the field next Sunday at Jacksonville. As long as his absence isn't a factor, as it wasn't Sunday, Peters needs to ride the bench.
It may even be a liability at this point to throw Peters back into the fire. If most people sat at home scratching themselves for 43 days, would their job performance be up to par upon return? Unlikely. A week of hitting the weights will not be a sufficient replacement for training camp, and it's hard to imagine Peters' Arkansas study habits helping him to pick up the playbook in a heartbeat.
Of course, natural ability does have its place in the NFL, and Peters is one of the most gifted tackles in the game. It is yet to be seen if Walker can continue to defend Edwards' blind side playing a position he had shown ineptitude at in Oakland. If and when he and Chambers struggle, expect Peters to shuffle back onto the field and seemingly restore order.
Don't expect the tackles to go into turnstile mode anytime soon, though. Chambers told the Buffalo News after the game, "We're playing as a team and I felt like we protected as a team." That unit jelled this offseason without its all-Pro leader, and isn't looking back. Chambers certainly is ready to relinquish his newly acquired starting spot, and proved himself by neutralizing once dominant pass rusher Patrick Kerney.
"In the NFL, you get a chance to prove yourself every time you go on the field," Chambers said, "It's not just a matter of pride. It's a matter of us going out and proving what we're capable of doing and having fun while we're doing it."
Peters had his own fun for 43 days. He can wait to join in on the Bills' for at least another week.