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Meredith ready to tackle job ; Bills lineman gets lots of reps

The physique is the first thing you notice about Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Jamon Meredith.

He has broad shoulders, a chiseled upper body, and a tapered waist for an offensive lineman. He looks the part of an elite athlete. The question for the Buffalo Bills as Meredith enters his second pro season is: Can his play come close to matching his physique?

Meredith is getting a good chance to show coaches his answer. He has worked at left tackle with the Bills' starting offense all spring because prospective starter Demetrius Bell is on the sidelines rehabilitating his injured knee.

"I'm just ready to go," Meredith says. "I was with the first group in the rookie camp and it just carried on over. I'm going to hold the fort down. Hopefully, Demetrius will get back and we'll have a lot more healthy linemen."

Meredith was a fifth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers last season but made only the Packers' practice squad, not the 53-man roster. When the Bills lost tackle Brad Butler to a knee injury in Week Two, they quickly signed Meredith, a better raw line prospect than one normally would find on a practice squad.

The Bills' run of injuries last season quickly forced Meredith onto the field. Just 3 1/2 weeks after coming to Buffalo, he was thrown into the no-huddle offense as the starting right tackle against the New York Jets. He played in eight games and started four. He considers himself lucky to have gotten that much playing time as a rookie.

"We had some injuries, some guys went down, and I was just happy I had the opportunity to go in there and step it up," Meredith said. "I didn't really know exactly all the terms, but I had Eric Wood helping me out all the time."

"Last year I came in and I had to learn on the run. This year I get to learn at the same rate as everybody else, so it's a lot easier to adjust to the playbook and learn the calls and get familiar with my teammates."

Meredith benefited this offseason from the fact the Bills passed on taking a tackle in the early rounds of the draft and thus far have resisted bringing in veteran help at left tackle. Between Bell and Meredith, the Bills have an exceptionally green 1-2 combination at left tackle.

"I'm fortunate; I'm blessed," said Meredith. "The Lord has kept me safe. I work hard. I just listen to what my coach tells me to do."

Meredith says he's mindful of his nutrition but not as fanatical about it as one might suspect by looking at his physique.

"I'm not going to lie; I eat junk food," he said. "I shouldn't. I do. But I've always been fortunate that I've never been a real big fat guy. I've always had good metabolism. I've always kept it trim."

"He passes the eyeball test," Wood said. "He's one of the strongest guys on the team. We know he can handle his own physically. I knew he was a good player before the draft last year. It's like getting an extra draft pick, picking him up."

Meredith is 6-foot-5 and 311 pounds, up from 298 last summer. He looks bigger in the upper body after an offseason working with new strength coach John Gamble.

"I've been on the 'Body by John' workout in the weight room," Meredith said. "Hopefully it can transfer out on the field."

That was part of the scouting report on him coming out of the University of South Carolina. His weight-room strength wasn't always in evidence on the field. Meredith says he has been focused all offseason on honing his techniques so he can take advantage of his ability.

"Being naturally kind of strong and a little bit athletic, it kind of bails you out sometimes when your technique goes bad," he said. "I'm not the best technician. My coach will tell you that. Sometimes when my technique breaks down, I just turn to what God has given me and will it out. I'm working on it."

Brian Brohm took the snaps at quarterback with the first team Thursday morning. Trent Edwards went second and Ryan Fitzpatrick third. In the afternoon, Edwards went first. Sitting out due to minor ailments were Meredith, Ed Wang, Derek Schouman, Joe Klopfenstein, Jairus Byrd, Ashton Youboty, Terrence McGee, Keith Ellison and Nic Harris. Guard Eric Wood rested after getting his most extended work Wednesday. The Bills' last minicamp practice is today.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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