Bell doesn't view himself as a fill-in for Birds
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- We’re all looking at Demetress Bell as a stop-gap, a one-year replacement, a temporary fill-in until Jason Peters gets back.
Bell’s not looking at it that way.
“I signed a five-year deal and I’m looking forward to a five-year deal,” Bell said. “Whatever happens when Jason gets back, we’ll just have to deal with that whenever that time comes.”
Just a week after Peters, the five-time Pro Bowl left tackle, tore his Achilles on March 28, Bell signed an unusual five-year deal worth $34.5 million, including an $8.5 million bonus in 2013 that brings his cap figure next year to a whopping $9.6 million.
Since Peters is due $10.4 million next year and has a cap figure of $10.75 million, it’s pretty clear that both won’t be here in 2013. Bell’s deal is structured so the Eagles can simply release him after this season and keep Peters or keep Bell and release Peters.
So Bell is essentially auditioning to become the Eagles’ long-term left tackle in the event that Peters isn’t able to return next year as the all-pro offensive lineman we’re used to.
“I’m looking at a five-year deal, whatever happens when when he comes back,” said Bell, who backed up Peters in Buffalo. “I’m just here one year, one play at a time, one year at a time.”
Bell is one of the big unknowns of this 2012 season. Maybe the biggest.
He’s only started 30 career games and only played more than eight games once during his three years with the Bills. Injuries limited him to eight starts in 2009 and just six last year. Yet the Eagles are relying on him to replace perhaps their most important offensive player.
“Every day, he’s gotten better,” head coach Andy Reid said. “He looks like he’s picking things up mentally, and we have thrown a ton at him. He’s been able to handle that, and physically he has gotten better every day out here.
“I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen. He has to continue to work, and he has plenty of room to improve. He’s definitely getting better.”
Bell seems to be hanging in there a couple weeks into training camp at Lehigh. He’s been consistently winning most of his battles in 1-on-1 drills and he’s shown good athleticism and strength.
So far, Bell seems to be picking everything up well.
“Really well,” right tackle Todd Herremans said. “He showed up when we first signed him to work and he knew what his job was going to be. He has been putting in extra hours and time and really focusing in on getting ready to play.”
Bell isn’t quite sure he’s ready to play just yet. There’s still a few days before the preseason opener against the Steelers at the Linc Thursday night.
But he feels like he’s on the right track.
“It’s the second week of training camp, second week of live snaps,” Bell said. “I think I’m taking it in pretty good. I definitely wouldn’t say I’m there yet, but I’m getting there.
“The more and more we do live reps every day, the more I talk to my guard, the more we talk and communicate, the more I pick it up.”
Bell is the only newcomer on an offensive line that was one of the NFL’s best by the second half of last year. Four pieces in place, one that’s trying to fit in.
“He’s miles ahead of where everyone was last year when they walked in here,” offensive line coach Howard Mudd said. “[Last year] I had sent [the players] a video before the lockout. I gave them a video of drills and Indianapolis stuff and said, ‘I want you to look like this, look at the left guard, that’s what I want you to look like.’
“So he’s got a big advantage learning the techniques from the OTAs. When we say we want you to do the following things, he may not be able to execute it yet, but he knows what it is.”
Bell said one thing that’s helped him along these past two weeks is going head-to-head with the Eagles’ numerous pass rushers, who all have different strengths, different moves, different tricks.
“I think they’re going to make me better,” he said. “You don’t see pass rush like this in the league, period. Depth, depth, depth, depth, so I think it’s good for me.
“Pretty tough [camp]. Tough, grind-it-out training camp, live periods, I think that’s good for us. Every snap, you’ve got a guy who’s pretty good, a guy who can start at any level.”
The Eagles have had only two full-time left tackles the last 14 years and both were flat-out studs. Tra Thomas manned the left tackle from 1998 through 2008 and Peters the last three years. The last non-Pro Bowler who was a full-time left tackle for the Eagles? Barrett Brooks back in 1996.
So Bell has some big shoes to fill.
“They are,” he said. “Huge shoes to fill, but it’s my job, that’s why they brought me here, and I don’t think they would have brought me here if I couldn’t do it.”E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com