It takes an awful lot of faith in a young, inexperienced player to make the kind of move the Bills made on Tuesday in releasing seven-year veteran and two-year starter Langston Walker. But Buffalo's coaching staff is firm in their belief that Demetrius Bell can make their offensive line better.
"I feel comfortable with him in there," said offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. "He's a great athlete, a great talent. The only thing he's lacking right now is experience and he'll get tons of that coming up real quick. We like him a lot as a player, obviously, and I have the ultimate faith that he'll get the job done for us."
For Bell the starting role did not come as a surprise having seen time with the first unit through the tail end of the preseason. Ironically, he first got the news from the man he's replacing.
"I actually got a call from Langston last night when he told me he was being released," said Bell. "The situation was he just told me he was being released and he was coming to clean out his locker and he told me to have a good year."
Bell felt Walker took the news relatively well as he expressed confidence he would get on a roster somewhere in the league.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron admitted Wednesday that they may have overestimated Walker's ability this offseason to switch from the right to left side to replace the traded Jason Peters.
"Probably," said Jauron. "We clearly thought we could move him and he'd do the job. He just wasn't playing up to our expectations. So we felt like it was time to make that move."
Buffalo's coaching staff made it clear that Bell will be their blind side protector lining him up at left tackle with rookie Andy Levitre next to him in practice Wednesday. Neither has an NFL start under their belt, along with first-round pick and right guard Eric Wood. But offensive line coach Sean Kugler is undeterred.
"With all three of those young guys as far as being in a game setting in the National Football League in the regular season it is going to be new to them," said Kugler. "But they're guys that we're confident with and what they've shown to us in the offseason, on the field, in the meeting rooms, their communication those are the things that we're looking forward to."
Van Pelt sounds as if he has already come up with ways to put the young linemen in position to succeed with his game plan for the Patriots.
"Will we have to protect (Bell), Andy (Levitre), and Eric (Wood)? Yeah sure we will," Van Pelt said. "We will when Shawn Nelson will be out there – we've got to keep it where we're doing the things that they can do well and kind of help them out along the way, too, as they feel their way."
After practice Wednesday, both Bell and Levitre felt good about their pre-snap communication and execution.
"During preseason we took some snaps, and in training camp those snaps add up too," said Bell. "I'm comfortable beside him and know when we get a game or two under our belt it should be A-plus work every time."
"He's been in the system for a year and he knows what's going on and we've played next to each other in a couple of games," said Levitre of Bell. "We've been alongside one another in practice, so it's nothing new. I think we're doing fine and we both understand what's going on out on the field so it's going to be easier than most people think it's going to be. He's a good player, a very athletic guy and I'm looking forward to playing next to him."
The entire offseason Kugler set out to change the culture of the offensive line. He made it clear that he wanted tougher players that liked to mix it up and loved to play the game. Brad Butler is the only holdover from last year's starting unit that fit that criteria.
Kugler declined to comment on what Walker may have failed to provide, but called Bell a "competitor" and a "finisher" and it's clear that Buffalo's offensive staff would rather have those traits coupled with inexperience rather than experience and some less desirable qualities.
"They're inexperienced, but I like the group and I like the mentality," said Kugler. "How quickly will they jell? I'm again hoping, the sooner the better. They work at it, if you work at it you're going to jell quicker. I'm pleased with the group and this is the group we're moving forward with and I think the Buffalo Bills will be proud of this group, not only this year, but for years to come."
That's why Bell is determined to show Buffalo's coaching staff that they were right to put their faith in him and have high expectations despite his short NFL resume.
"I really don't think it should be anything different, no different than the expectations of us being young compared to us being veterans," he said. "I think we can get the job done just as good as anybody else. They put us in this situation for a reason so we've just got to take advantage of it."