Niagara Gazette

Bills

July 26, 2009

BILLS: No continuity where it counts — on the O-line

PITTSFORD — After losing eight of their final ten games in 2008 to finish under .500 for a third straight season, the Buffalo Bills opted to keep coach Dick Jauron and the rest of the coaching staff, citing the benefits of continuity.

Continuity wasn’t a consideration months later when the Bills dismantled their offensive line. And according to research conducted by the Football Outsiders think tank, that could very well mean another losing campaign in 2009.

In the 2007 Pro Football Prospectus, crafted by the mathematical minds that write for FootballOutsiders.com, Jason McKinley published an essay testing the theory that game-to-game and year-to-year continuity correlated to better offensive line performance.

“Given the importance of continuity, it might be better to play a consistent line game after game and year after year instead of constantly tinkering in an attempt to make small gains in talent,” McKinley concluded.

The Bills did no tinkering up front after the 2007 season, and the 2008 Pro Football Prospectus projected the team to win 7.2 games, a slight improvement from the 2007 projection (6.8).

After a third straight 7-9 effort, Buffalo threw a grenade in the trenches. Left guard Derrick Dockery after banking more than $18 million the past two seasons. Geoff Hangartner, a backup from Carolina, was signed to replace the departing center tandem of Melvin Fowler and Duke Preston. Then, in the most controversial move, the Bills traded Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to Philadelphia, unwilling to make him one of the highest-paid blockers in football.

With the extra picks obtained in the Peters trade, the Bills were able to draft Louisville center Zach Wood and Oregon State tackle Andy Levitre in the first and second rounds. Both rookies are expected to start at guard this season, while last year’s right tackle, Langston Walker, moves to the left side, and last year’s right guard, Brad Butler, shifts out to tackle.

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