Close-knit Bills' O-line looks to build off '11 success

Posted June 21, 2012 @ 1:58 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Heading into the 2011 season, the Bills’ offensive line was the biggest question mark on that side of the ball. The unit quieted any doubts with sensational play, even with key players injured. Last season, the Bills allowed the fewest sacks in the league (23), 11 fewer than they allowed in 2010.

Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris is entering his third season with the unit, and credits the group’s camaraderie for its success.

“That is a really close unit we have in that room,” he told PFW. “The guys have worked together real well and communicated real well. I think communication was the biggest part. They all stand on the same page. … Communication, trust factor and those guys enjoying each other on and off the field (have been key).”

This summer, D’Alessandris said there has been an emphasis on getting younger players up to speed. In Chan Gailey's spread offense, the offensive linemen's pass protection is "pretty unique," said D'Alessandris. Among the young players looking to join veterans Andy Levitre and Eric Wood up front are second-year man Chris Hairston and 2012 second-rounder Cordy Glenn. The Bills also drafted OT Zebrie Sanders and OG Mark Asper in April.

All eyes will be on the competition on the blind side between Hairston and Glenn. After letting Demetress Bell walk in free agency, the Bills are counting on a young player stepping in to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“(Hairston) is a versatile player. He can play left tackle and right tackle and had to do it last year for us. I’m continuing to see him grow as a professional. He is starting to feel more comfortable at his position and moving much more fluidly in his position to his assignments in the run and pass game,” D’Alessandris said. Hairston, a 2011 fourth-rounder, started seven games last season.

Glenn played multiple positions on the line at Georgia and, at times, was projected as a first-rounder.

“We’re tickled to death to have (Glenn),” D’Alessandris said. “He is a big, athletic, physical offensive lineman.”

One knock on Glenn is that his size fits better as a guard than as a tackle.

“He started 13 games at Georgia at left tackle,” D’Alessandris said. “His growth potential is on the rise. In all areas — the run game, pass protection, play-action, screens — every day I see growth and I see him getting better. I’m anxious to see as time goes on how he continues to develop. He has some very good traits as a left tackle.”

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