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Assailed Bills O-line performs well Bell, rookie guards hold their own

There were a lot of questions -- make that concerns -- about the Buffalo Bills' offensive line. And why not, with three starters who never took a snap in a regular-season game.

It was enough to make one wonder if the Bills' coaching staff was of sound mind when making that decision.

But for one game at least, the decision was a success.

Second-year left tackle Demetrius Bell and rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre held their own against the New England Patriots' defensive front seven for most of a disheartening 25-24 loss Monday night.
Bell got the left tackle job when the Bills surprisingly released Langston Walker, who was anointed as their guy after trading Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles.
But the coaching staff grew increasingly impressed with Bell, a seventh-round draft pick who didn't play football at any level before 2005 and had only two years at left tackle at Northwestern (La.) State. Despite a sore back that sidelined him for a couple of weeks in the preseason, the Bills felt the time was right to give him a chance.

For the most part, Bell didn't let the team down Monday night. He made some nice blocks on run plays and protected quarterback Trent Edwards pretty well until late in the game.
"There were a lot of things I could have done better," Bell said. "For the most part, I finished every play and played every play. I didn't leave any doubts in my mind as far as playing hard and as far as working my techniques. But towards the end I kind of got out of my comfort zone. It was poor technique that got me beat. But overall, I had a hard-fought game."

If there was one thing Bell has to improve on it is penalties. He was flagged twice for failing to line up on the line of scrimmage and once for a false start. He also was penalized for holding, but the Patriots declined it.
"It wasn't inexperience," Bell said. "It's just making sure my head is even with the butt of the center. It's my job to get up on the line. On the false start, it was a lack of concentration. Those are mistakes I'll get cleaned up."

As for Wood and Levitre, they also were not totally pleased with their debuts. But they do think facing a defensive front line like the Patriots can only help them in the future.
"It was a great learning experience," Wood said. "We got to play against a great defense, and even though everything didn't go perfectly I think we as an offensive line made strides."

"We have a long way to go to be a more consistent group," Levitre added. "But this was a step in the right direction."

The Bills can say the same thing about several other players who appeared in their first game. Defensive end Aaron Maybin got decent pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and safety Jairus Byrd had some nice plays as well. Middle linebacker Marcus Buggs, who spent last year on the practice squad, got a lot of playing time in the second half after Paul Posluszny went down with a broken left arm.

Rookie tight end Shawn Nelson showed why the Bills consider him a fourth-round steal, catching two passes, including an 11-yard touchdown.
"I'm really proud of our young guys," coach Dick Jauron said. "They play hard and give us a real chance and they're just going to get better. It's optimistic about that, but I'm so disappointed with the loss."

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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