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Getting a handle on Hangartner

Posted Mar 20, 2009

He wasn’t a big name signing by any means, but Buffalo’s addition of free agent center Geoff Hangartner early in free agency shores up an important position that was sitting vacant on Buffalo’s offensive line. It was no secret that the Bills wanted to address the position quickly and decisively and they feel they’ve done that with the fifth-year pro.

“He’s athletic, experienced, which was important for us because we thought we had to have an experienced guy for what we do and what we want to do and the difficulty of that position,” said Bills head coach Dick Jauron. “Our position is so tough on centers because of the 3-4 (defenses) and the quality of the nose tackles in our division. He played against a lot of quality players. He’s young enough to be around for what we hope will be a long time and a good run.”

Hangartner played both guard and center last season for Carolina, but Jauron confirmed they prefer him in the pivot for the Bills.

“The thing about Geoff that really stands out is he’s really intelligent,” said Bills offensive line coach Sean Kugler. “I think he may have had the highest test score of a lineman ever at the combine. He’s unbelievable. He’s athletic and competes and has all the things you’re looking for. He’s excited about being here and being a part of this. We’re happy to have him.”

The Bills new center is well aware of the caliber of nose tackles in the AFC East, having gone against one of them in practice every day for the better part of three seasons in the Jets’ Kris Jenkins. But Hangartner has molded himself into a bigger, stronger center adding 14 pounds of lean muscle mass to his frame over the past two years.

“He’s not a giant man but we liked his strength and we liked his athleticism and the experience again to go with that,” said Jauron.

“He’s 315 and he looks good,” said Kugler. “You can tell he takes care of his body and he’s going to need every pound of that. He knew coming in to compete in this division you’re going to go against those guys. He’s excited about that challenge and knows what he’s up against. He’s a competitive guy.”

The major task for Hangartner moving forward is getting a grasp of the offensive scheme, the line calls and most importantly developing a rapport with quarterback Trent Edwards.

“There needs to be that chemistry there and you have to have that trust,” said Edwards. “It’s the same with center as it is with the receivers. I’ve been playing the sport for a long time now and I’m at the point where it’s a matter of getting used to that (relationship) and having it benefit us on Sundays when it comes time to play.”

From a leadership standpoint Edwards needs Hangartner to pass the message along to his fellow linemen and sometimes the huddle as well on Sundays. It might be subtle, but it’s a must and Edwards believes Hangartner will deliver.

“The way that relationship works is you need to have him be an extension of you where you feel you can trust him and he can kind of impart your personality on the rest of the group even when you’re not there,” said Edwards. “With Geoff coming in I’m confident we can develop that kind of chemistry.”