"I'm definitely going to show all the fans and the organization what I can do. They gave me the extension and I'm going to show that I was worth it. So I'm going to go out every game and play as hard as I can."
Those were the words of Bills offensive tackle Jason Peters shortly after he signed a five-year extension with Buffalo this past offseason. Now voted by Bills fans as the team's 2006 Unsung Hero, Peters is being recognized for his dominant efforts after becoming the anchor of Buffalo's offensive line.
Little did anyone know how much Peters would provide to Buffalo's offensive front in 2006. Already the linchpin of the front five at right tackle to start the season, Peters' move to left tackle during the bye week at midseason proved to be one of the best moves by the Bills' coaching staff.
After watching Peters the last nine games of the season, it was obvious that it may have been one of the staff's easiest decisions in all of 2006.
"He's very, very talented," said offensive line coach Jim McNally. "His potential is unlimited. He's close to 350 pounds and he can run as fast as you want him to run. He's strong, he has good agility, balance, direction. He has all the tools."
Buffalo's offense took a major step forward after the offensive line changes in week eight, which moved Peters to left tackle, Mike Gandy to left guard and inserted Terrance Pennington at right tackle.
Scoring jumped from 14.2 points per game over their first seven outings to 22.2 points per game over their last nine games. Lee Evans' production spiked sharply after the offensive line shuffle as his receiving yards per game went from 61 to more than 95. It was due largely to improved pass protection, which provided J.P. Losman with enough time to allow deeper pass routes to develop.
Peters was a major reason for the improvement primarily because he effectively neutralized the opponent's best pass rusher week in and week out.
"I don't have the exact number, but I believe he was charged with two or three sacks the whole season," said McNally. "Two of those three sacks were what I would consider coverage sacks. He wasn't cleanly beaten on a play the whole season. There was a sack that he gave up in his first start on the left side when Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila pushed him back a bit and he sacked the quarterback. But after that I don't think there was a clean sack where he just got beat."
Buffalo's left tackle was so effective that the staff could afford to let him operate on his own on the left side and focus on giving help to the rookie Pennington on the right side who was thrown into the fire.
"That's what we did," said McNally. "We left Jason over there by himself. More often than not we had Peters on the open side because of his talent level. So we were able to help Terrance (Pennington) with tight ends and the backs and that's pretty much what we did for the remainder of the season."
"I think I do have the quickness and the ability to handle the blind side," said Peters of playing left tackle. "I just have to work on my techniques and get better each week."
According to McNally, with Peters' talent level, getting better each week will happen naturally.
"All he needs to do is to continue to play," McNally said.
"He was born with certain skills and he's developed them," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's got unique skills for a man that big. He's a 300-plus pound man that's very athletic and not afraid to work. He works very hard in practice, is physically tough and likes to play. I just picture this guy getting better, every game, every practice. He wants to be really good and he's got the tools to be really good. We're very excited about where we can go with him."