Offensive linemen (9-10):
Sean Allen, Demetrius Bell, Kyle Calloway, Kirk Chambers, Christian Gaddis, Cornell Green, Geoff Hangartner, Nick Hennessey, Cordaro Howard, Andy Levitre, Jamon Meredith, Andre Ramsey, Ed Wang, Jason Watkins, Eric Wood.
There isn’t a lot of mystery as to which Bills will make the squad as linemen, but there is as to who will be starting more than just a few weeks into the season. I believe Cornell Green could turn out to be a massive disappointment and Demetrius Bell’s progression could be a tricky one for Chan Gailey to navigate.
You can almost count on the team squeezing Cordaro Howard onto the practice squad. Remember that Gailey recruited Howard to Georgia Tech and new Bills OL coach Joe D’Alessandris was also GT’s line coach as well.
The rest of the line is unremarkable, but coaching is the great equalizer. Bills fans felt good about the 2007 offensive line and then Derrick Dockery ate too many pancakes and Jason Peters forgot he wasn’t a pre-teen whose parents wouldn’t buy him a cell phone.
Let’s take a look at the line since 2007.
2007: Peters, Dockery, Melvin Fowler, Brad Butler, Langston Walker
2008: Peters, Dockery, Fowler/Duke Preston, Butler, Walker
2009: Demetrius Bell/Jonathan Scott, Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner, Eric Wood, Kirk Chambers
2010: Bell, Levitre, Hangartner, Wood, Cornell Green
It’s been worse — and it’ll likely be rough — but look for some pleasant surprises. Wood and Levitre were two of a precious few rookie linemen to start every game for their teams before Wood suffered a brutal injury. If Wood’s ready to go, the middle of the line will be fine. I believe the odds of Bell being a difference maker are better than Green’s, who could be making way for Kyle Calloway or Ed Wang by Week Five.
Tight ends: Michael Matthews, Shawn Nelson, Derek Schouman, Jonathan Stupar
It’s going to be a tough break for Jonathan Stupar, who will again be hoping for a practice squad spot. Matthews is a tough player who, like Howard, played for Gailey at GT. Schouman is a solid No. 2 who needs to stay healthy. He’s been a productive receiver when not on the injured reserve.
I won’t be absurd and say Nelson is the key to the season — it’s obviously the quarterback and the line — but look for him to be one of the breakout stories in the league if Brohm, Edwards, Fitzpatrick or Brown find him with the football. Gailey’s last job was working with Tony Gonzalez, and while it’s foolhardy to compare Nelson to one of the best tight ends in NFL history, the 6’5″ kid may be used in a similar fashion.
Nelson isn’t just a big drop-off target, but is invaluable in the seam, where he was spotted for several mid-length grabs in his rookie season. Look for Nelson to be second to Lee Evans in receptions this year, unless the Bills do a lot of screen passing. I haven’t seen enough of Gailey’s offense to know if he’ll screen a ton.
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