Bell evolving into Bills' left tackle of choice
August, 28, 2009
By Tim Graham | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
When Langston Walker takes the field at left tackle Saturday night, do not assume that's what the Buffalo Bills prefer.
Sources close to the team tell me there's a growing belief among some coaches on Dick Jauron's staff that Demetrius Bell should be the left tackle when the regular season opens Sept. 14 against the New England Patriots.
Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert is said to favor Bell because he has outperformed Walker and would give Buffalo the best chance to win.
That's disconcerting news for a team that was comfortable plugging Walker into the critical blind-side protector role vacated by the trade of two-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters.
Bell has gotten some first-team reps in practices and preseason games. That hasn't been by accident.
Bell's progress, however, has been interrupted by a back injury that Jauron has labeled "week to week." He was carted off the practice field Monday and hasn't been able to practice. He already has been ruled out for Saturday night's exhibition against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
That part of Buffalo's staff favors Bell speaks as much about the club's dissatisfaction over Walker's inadequacies as it does Bell's development.
Bell was drafted in the seventh round last year out of Northwestern State as a project. He was deactivated for 15 games, and didn't get on the field for the only game he suited up.
Walker is entering his eighth NFL season and started all 16 games in each of his past three seasons. He's a natural right tackle, but the Bills were relying on his experience when they traded Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles and chose not to draft a tackle.
Bills fans have been intrigued by Bell's development, even comparing him to Peters. The Bills signed Peters as an undrafted tight end and converted him into one of the NFL's most dominant tackles when he's on his game.
If Bell is able to win the job from Walker, it could make the Bills' offensive line even more inexperienced. Rookies Eric Wood and Andy Levitre are expected to be the starting guards on opening night.