Slumping Bills bench guard Reyes, realign tackles

Updated: October 24, 2006, 4:57 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Losers of three straight games after a surprisingly competitive 2-2 start to the season, the Buffalo Bills will use their bye this week to dramatically shuffle an offensive line that has struggled to protect quarterback J.P. Losman in recent outings.

In an overhaul that affects three positions, the Bills have benched starting left guard Tutan Reyes and moved left tackle Mike Gandy into his position. Right tackle Jason Peters, who signed a contract extension in mid-July and is regarded as the Bills' top lineman, will move to left tackle. Rookie Terrance Pennington, a seventh-round draft choice, is the new starter at right tackle.

The massive overhaul leaves only two linemen, center Melvin Fowler and right guard Chris Villarrial, in their normal starting positions.

The Buffalo staff had apparently been contemplating the changes for at least a week but decided to wait until the bye to enact them. The Bills' offense statistically ranks 30th in the league, and the passing offense is No. 29.

Buffalo has surrendered 21 sacks in seven games and only five teams have permitted more sacks per game. Losman has been sacked once every 10.4 "dropbacks" and has been especially susceptible to pressure from the inside. Reyes, who was signed as a free agent in the spring, has suffered through recent inconsistencies.

"We just feel like this gives us our best shot all around," said coach Dick Jauron, who noted the embattled Losman will remain the team's starting quarterback. "So we're going to experiment with it. This is a good time for us to do it. If we were going to do it this season, we had to do it now [during the bye]. We needed to do something."

Beyond the recent pass protection woes, the moves make sense for a variety of other reasons, too. Gandy is a more natural guard, the position at which he began his career, and was always viewed as a stop-gap at the left tackle spot. The Bills always projected that Peters, a former college tight end who made the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and who is blessed with superb athleticism, would someday play left tackle. That is one of the reasons Buffalo awarded him the contract extension this summer.

Peters has very quick feet and long arms and, while he played well on the strong side, his skills-set likely is better suited to left tackle. And, clearly, the Bills have to do a better job of protecting Losman's blindside.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.