In 2010 the Bills offensive tackle position was one marked by injury and more change than Buffalo's coaching staff would've preferred to endure. Heading into the 2011 campaign there are still questions, but the Bills assistants believe they have the answers on their roster.
Buffalo was a bit hamstrung at the tackle position from the very start last season as neither of their projected starting tackles were healthy heading into the season.
"For us at that point in time we were trying to find the best fit and at the time Cornell (Green) was the best fit," said Bills offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris. "Injury came about for him. Demetrius (Bell) we knew his situation coming into the season. It was rehab, rehab, rehab and no strength training in his lower body because of trying to get on the field from the injury he had the year before."
With Green soon headed to injured reserve and Bell fighting to get through just 50 plays a game early in the season, Buffalo had to turn to undrafted rookie Cordaro Howard. Come the middle of the season he too was injured.
"Luckily we had Mansfield Wrotto and we trained him there and he stepped in and did a very good job," D'Alessandris told Buffalobills.com. "And then a late season acquisition Erik Pears stepped in and did a nice job there finishing up the year. It was a revolving door, but we had to get them ready."
What all the shuffling at right tackle did was give D'Alessandris and the offensive staff a good handle on what they have at that position heading into this season. Pears was a player that impressed late in the season, and with a full offseason of strength training should be even better in competing for the starting job there in 2011.
"He came in here a little light, but it was because he wasn't playing," D'Alessandris said. "He was just trying to sustain. He came in here and he learned the offense very fast. The guy will do it exactly how you coach it. You could tell he's pro and if you ask him to do it a certain way he's going to do it that way.
"Now this offseason hopefully he's much larger, bigger and stronger and more prepared and now he has a concept of what's expected of him when he comes in here. So we're looking forward to the next step he makes."
Howard, now with 10 NFL games under his belt, is expected to be in the tackle mix as well as Ed Wang, who spent time training at both guard and tackle as a rookie. Wrotto was re-signed in February, but told Buffalobills.com at the time that he's expecting to line up more at guard than tackle.
Buffalo also added a rookie in fourth-round pick Chris Hairston, who head coach Chan Gailey said will line up at right tackle as well only deepening the pool of competition there.
"He has some very good skills," said D'Alessandris. "He's a big man. He's got good feet and now coming in to learn the system, once he can learn the terminology he gives himself a chance to play."
While D'Alessandris waits for the competition to determine who ultimately lines up on the right side, it's a virtual lock that Demetrius Bell re-assumes his role as the starting left tackle in 2011.
"I saw him grow mentally, physically, understanding the game," he said. "So I'm excited for the future with Demetrius to see where he can continue to grow."