Fair or not, some of the struggles of Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel in 2013 were attributed to some below average play at certain positions of the offensive line. Some players struggled mightily which frustrated the offense during head coach Doug Marrone’s first year on the job, leading to an offseason full of movement.
The Bills have made a considerable effort to not only find replacements for a pair of starters in 2013 on the offensive line, but to improve the depth as well. Because of all the offseason maneuvering, there aren’t many things that are a sure bet for the final 53-man roster in early September.
The Starters (3) Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood, Chris Williams
- The Bills are set at left tackle, left guard and center for 2014 with Glenn, Williams and Wood. Glenn proved his draft doubters wrong last year and turned in an excellent season protecting the blindside of his then rookie quarterback. Glenn will look to continue to build on that success with a little more stability next to him in Williams. Although thought of as a former first-round bust, he’ll be a dramatic upgrade over both Colin Brown and Doug Legursky who weren’t effective at left guard for different reasons. Williams also has the size the Bills covet. Wood is a team leader and recently signed an extension, so he’ll be the leader of the offensive line for the next few years at least. Of course, there are five starters, but the right side of the line is very much up for debate.
The Depth (2) Kraig Urbik, Cyrus Kouandjio
- While it’s likely that Urbik will resume his role as the starting right guard in 2014, the Bills have made it clear through both OTAs and the mandatory minicamp that they aren’t satisfied at the position. Urbik lost some first-team reps throughout the workouts, most notably to Chris Hairston during the three day mandatory minicamp. Even if he loses his job, Urbik still likely lands on the roster as a depth/experience player. The Bills would certainly like the second-round pick Kouandjio to take hold of the starting right tackle job over Erik Pears, but he hasn’t earned the full amount of first-team reps just yet. Kouandjio, at worst, will be the backup swing tackle.
The Bubble (8) Erik Pears, Chris Hairston, J.J. ‘Unga, Mark Asper, Seantrel Henderson, Doug Legursky, Antoine McClain, Cyril Richardson
- It’s a very large bubble along the offensive line. Pears has been a starter but both his starting job and spot on the roster are in jeopardy if Kouandjio performs well enough. There are a lot of questions about Hairston considering he missed all of 2013, but his impact during spring workouts at guard was especially notable. He could be Urbik's biggest competition at right guard. Legursky started the majority of 2013 as the left guard, but struggled mightily in that role. However, he is the only player on the bubble with a considerable amount of experience at center, which could prove him to be valuable. Richardson and Henderson can be grouped together as the two rookies that can steal jobs if they have a good enough camp. For instance, if Kouandjio unseats Pears as the starting right tackle, a solid camp from Henderson could send Pears packing. The same goes for Richardson at one of the guard spots. ’Unga, Asper and McClain can all be clumped in together because they were the three Marrone discussed ahead of the draft that they were excited about getting a whole offseason and camp to work with. The eight of these players are likely fighting for just three spots. If someone plays well enough, the Bills could keep four of them, and nine offensive linemen total.
The Longshots (2) Edawn Coughman, Macky MacPherson
- Although he’s gotten some second-team reps, Coughman has never been mentioned along the same lines as ‘Unga, Asper and McClain even heading into the offseason. He’s not the biggest longshot in the group, though. Those honors belong to undrafted rookie center Macky MacPherson. Listed at 6-foot-2, MacPherson looks like he actually might be below the 6-foot level. He’s a former Syracuse offensive lineman and one that Marrone presumably trusts, but it likely won’t work out for MacPherson in making the roster outright.