Saturday, July 27, 2013

2013 Training Camp Preview: Offensive and Defensive Lines

by Coast

Perhaps among the least exciting but most important positions on an NFL team are the offensive and defensive lines. The Bills defensive line was supposed to be a strength of the team the past few seasons, but in my opinion has been a colossal disappointment.

The Bills defense ranked 2nd worst in the NFL in yards rushing allowed in 2012 at 145.8 per game...even after spending $100 mil on Super Mario and another $25 mil on Mark Anderson. The Bills also were expecting big things from then 2nd year pro Marcell Dareus. Yes, I know the Bills linebackers were atrocious which didn't help, but it all starts in the trenches...and the Bills were simply not good enough. The Bills have actually been atrocious in stopping the run for years...ranking 28th in 2011, 32nd in 2010, 30th in 2009, 22nd in 2008, 25th in 2007, 28th in 2006 and 31st in 2005. Good God...their highest ranking in rush defense in 8 years is 22nd?! They ranked in the bottom 3 of the league 3 times and bottom 5 of the league in 5 of the last year years.

Coincidentally, 2005 was the year the Bills drafted "underrated" Kyle Williams. If Kyle Williams is so good, why has the defense been horrendous since he has been on the team? Is he underrated or is he just mediocre? I would take the latter based on how this defense has performed.

Last year was the year Marcell Dareus was supposed to take that next step. He has just not been enough of an impact player on defense in his first two seasons to warrant the top 5 selection that he was. He has 5.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons as a Bill...but I think at least 1/3 of them were in Toronto in one game against Rex Grossman. Marcell did have off the field distractions last year that understandably could have impacted his play, so I am going to give him the 2013 season before I consider him a bust.

Mario Williams...the highest paid defensive player in NFL history...the highest paid player in the history of Buffalo sports...didn't earn his paycheck. Yes, he had 10.5 sacks...but if you take out the Colts game, he really had a minimal impact on games...and even in the Colts game, the Bills lost. There has been a lot of drama surrounding Williams since he has been on the team as well. He had some mysterious wrist injury that was allegedly the reason why he was invisible the first half of 2012. He is in the news because his fiancee left him and wants to keep the ring. Mario needs to get his shit together asap and be an MVP caliber player in 2013 to warrant his massive contract.

Alex Carrington is still on the team...the unquestioned 2nd best player from the worst draft in recent memory in 2010. Carrington can block field goals...yay.

Another bust from 2010 is Torell Troupe...he has been often injured and has made zero impact as a 2nd round pick. This will be his last chance to earn a job...odds are good he will get the ax.

The Bills picked up free agent tackle Alan Branch. Branch started all 31 games that he played the past 2 years for the Seahawks. The Seahawks had a good defense & Branch was a contributor so Branch should provide some solid depth at the position.

The offensive line on the other hand has been a relative strength for the team. The Bills ranked 10th in sacks allowed in 2012 and 1st in 2011. The Bills also ranked 4th in the league in yards per carry in 2012 and 5th in 2011. I know that Fitz' ability to get rid of the ball quickly, and CJ Spiller's ability to just be outstanding has helped the offense significantly in these statistical categories, but still impressive nonetheless.

The anchor of the Bills line is center Eric Wood. There is no doubt Wood is a stud...but his problem has been staying healthy. He has never played 16 games in a season (10, 14, 9 and 14).

The most important player on the line along with Wood is 2nd year man Cordy Glenn at left tackle. Glenn seemed solid in his rookie year. You never really heard his name called during games in 2012...which is a good thing for an offensive lineman. I have high hopes for Glenn being a star in his 2nd season.

Another returning starter is Kraig Urbik at right guard whom the Bills have locked up with a contract extension through 2016.

After Urbik, the line is in a state of flux. Andy Levitre got overpaid by the Titans, so the left guard position is up for grabs. Doug Legursky, the veteran free agent pick up from the Steelers, may be the favorite to win the job based on his experience as he has started 17 games in the past 3 seasons (also started in Super Bowl XLV). Colin Brown will also battle for the starting position.

Chris Hairston probably would have been the favorite to start at right tackle, but will begin training camp on the PUP list. With Hairston out, Erik Pears has a chance to take a hold of the position. Both have played a number of the games in the past few seasons and both have been adequate.

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