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2011 will be Chandler's best shot yet

After being a fourth-round draft choice in 2007, he's lost a season to injury and bounced around from one NFL practice squad to another. It wasn't until his 12th career game late last season that he made his first NFL reception. Though he was only with the Bills for the final five weeks of the 2010 campaign, Scott Chandler will enter the 2011 season with perhaps his best chance ever to earn a starting tight end role in the NFL with Buffalo.

Chandler was claimed off waivers by the Bills last Dec. 3rd after the Dallas Cowboys released him. While there he served mainly as a blocker in nine games with pass catching threats Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett handling the receiving duties at the position.

Buffalo had good working knowledge of Chandler's game since Bills GM Buddy Nix was the Assistant General Manager in San Diego when the Chargers made him a fourth-round pick in 2007. Even Bills tight ends coach Bob Bicknell had familiarity with him having seen him twice a year in the AFC West.

"I had known Scott a little bit from my time in Kansas City and I knew Buddy (Nix) knew about him too," said Bicknell. "When they said that we had an opportunity to get him and we picked him up it was a good pickup for us. It helped us solidify a position a little bit more than it was."

The Iowa product quickly got to work learning the Bills playbook on the fly in the hopes of getting some time on the field before the season was over with just five games left. With only two days before his first game with Buffalo he was inactive against Minnesota, but he would appear in each of the last four games as he worked to have the game plan mastered each week.

"I've learned in this league that there are guys that can come in and do it," said Bicknell. "They've had enough background with enough teams where the calls might be a little different, but for the most part they can come in and figure it out on a game-by-game basis. The one thing I'll say about Scott is he is a pro. If he gets here on a Monday and he has to play on Sunday, he's not going to use only being here for  six days as an excuse. Some of the guys that have enough experience are able to do that. It's an important part of it."

Chandler (6'7" 272) was used mainly as an in-line blocker, but didn't see a lot of time on the field. Buffalo's four-wide sets proved to be a popular formation with the emergence of their young wideouts in the second half of the season. Still when called upon Chandler executed.

"He was just getting there at the end," said Bicknell of Chandler's handle on Buffalo's offensive scheme. "You watch him and mental errors are the first thing you can very easily judge a player on and that was not a problem with him. He would go in with the game plan and to say that he had the basis of our offense from start to finish, obviously he didn't, but he did have the basis of the game plan for Miami and the New York Jets. He knew what his responsibilities were and we spent extra time throughout those weeks to make sure he was ready. He did a good job."

Bicknell says Chandler actually lamented the fact that the season was over following the season finale against the Jets. The tight end felt like he was just hitting his stride in the Buffalo offense.

Where those five weeks are likely to prove most valuable now is when the Bills return to the practice field. Chandler will be able to hit the ground running largely surrounded by the same players on offense with a scheme that is familiar to him.

"He's a physical kid in terms of his size. He can run. He can be a physical matchup against the people he's running routes against just with his size," said Bicknell. "He catches the ball very naturally. He can move. He was a good blocker. He's got some things he can work on there, but he really did a good job for us as a point of attack type of guy. He kind of gives us a little bit of both where he can be a pass receiver and also a run blocker."

Bicknell believes Chandler's most important asset is his ability to handle defensive ends in the blocking game, while also having enough athletic ability to create mismatches underneath in the passing game.

"He's an at the point of attack run blocker that can hold the point against big defensive ends. It's the toughest matchup in the NFL in my opinion, the tight end against the defensive end. Those athletes over there are as good as any in our league, so he's able to hold the point against them and he's also able to get downfield and catch the ball when it's thrown to him," Bicknell said. "I know he had one catch that I remember against Miami. It was a little flat route where he catches the ball and turns it up and gets a first down. That's the type of player that we need."

With a tight end contingent that currently consists of Chandler, veteran David Martin and Shawn Nelson the opportunity is there for Chandler to land the number one tight end role this fall.

"I see him coming in and being our starting tight end and having a great year," said Bicknell flatly. "When we can have some people that are here week after week and year after year I think you can have a little more of an opportunity to play them every down. I think Scott is a 'Y' tight end, which is our on the line tight end. He lines up next to the tackle and does the thing that a normal tight end does and I think he can be a very solid player in this league."

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