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Bills revamped, high-priced offensive line raises expectations

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) -Nicknamed "Mouse" for his 5-foot-8 frame, Jim McNally often gets lost in the shadows of the hulking Buffalo Bills offensive linemen he coaches.

McNally would like to keep it like that, away from the spotlight. It's a reason he responded with a wink when asked who has the bigger target on them: the Bills' new, improved and very expensive line, or McNally, who has to mold this group into a successful unit.

"I'm going to put it on them," McNally said, showing he's learned more than a thing or two entering his 28th NFL season as an offensive line coach.

"Well, really, in all seriousness, (Derrick) Dockery's played for four years, right? And Langston Walker's played for five years, right?" McNally said, referring to the team's two high-priced offseason additions. "So, bottom line, most of their molding has been done. So it's up to them. And I'm certainly going to help them."

The Bills spent a considerable amount of attention and money to bolster their line through free agency in March. Dockery, who takes over at left guard, signed a seven-year, $49 million contract, while Walker, who will play right tackle, signed a five-year, $25 million deal.

They join returning starters Jason Peters, who successfully made the switch to left tackle last season, and center Melvin Fowler. Jason Whittle, another offseason free agent addition, Duke Preston and Brad Butler are competing to start at right guard.

The additions were necessary upgrades to what's been a patchwork unit for most of this decade. The line struggled last year to both open running holes and protect quarterback J.P. Losman who, despite his mobility, was sacked 49 times - or once for every 10 times he dropped back.

Now comes the hard part: The linemen need to prove their worth.

"Of course I signed a huge contract, probably one a lot of people didn't expect," said Dockery, who had been a four-year starter with Washington. "Now it's my opportunity to go out and prove to people by what I do on the field, not by what I say."

No pressure, added Walker, who had an inconsistent five-year stint with Oakland, and only emerged as a full-time starter last year.

"Well, it puts a target on the back of myself, Dockery and Whittle, because we were paid as everybody knows," said Walker, listed at 6-foot-8 and 366 pounds. "But I don't think about it. ... We just go out there and play with the rest of the guys, play as a unit and try to take care of business."

Dockery was the key addition, and not only because he signed the most lucrative contract in team history.

At 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds, and yet quick on his feet, he and Peters are expected to solidify the left side, responsible for keeping the pressure off Losman and opening holes for running back Marshawn Lynch, the first-round pick who takes over after Willis McGahee was traded to Baltimore in March.

Dockery is being counted on to fill a position that has been in disarray since the Bills released Pro Bowler Ruben Brown after the 2003 season. The Bills have gone through eight changes at the position in the interim. Tutan Reyes and Mike Gandy split time there last season.

Dockery shrugged when informed of the players who have preceded him.

"My thing is I'm not just here for a one-and-done type thing. I want to be one of the mainstays here," he said. "They brought me in to be a stalwart."

Fowler enters his second year with the Bills and believes this unit has the potential to be a solid group for years to come.

"You always have to live up to expectations when you're paid the amount of money that we're paid," Fowler said. "A lot's riding on it. And we have to perform."

Time will tell, coach Dick Jauron said.

"I do believe we're significantly better off," Jauron said. "But (the additions) aren't going to pay off until we win."

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