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Posted: Tuesday, 13 August 2013 12:33PM

Cornerback still unresolved issue for Bills

Pittsford, NY (WGR 550)  -- As the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Mike Pettine had a big advantage by being able to employ Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie as their top two cornerbacks. It allowed the defense to do a lot of unique things and put pressure on their opponents because they knew their cornerback play was so strong.

In Buffalo, Pettine is bringing the same ideologies, but with different bodies.

"Schematically it's tough for our corners," the defensive coordinator said Tuesday. "Most of the time they're locked up one-on-one outside. We don't play a lot of Cover-2. It's rare that they have that safety protection over the top, so that's a challenge for our guys."

A challenge for any individual corner, but it's also a daunting obstacle for the entire defense with so many questions surrounding the starting job opposite second-year player Stephon Gilmore. Can a position that is as heavily relied on as cornerback is in Pettine's defense get by without a second strong player?

Due in part to some injuries and poor play, the Bills are certainly trying a little bit of everything to see if that player is on their roster right now.

"We've had about six guys over there… and that's all me," said defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson. "I'm just trying to give our guys different looks to see how they work with different rotations so to speak. That's what I'm doing right now. Experimenting a little bit."

There's no exaggeration in the number given out by Henderson. The Bills have tried six different players as an outside cornerback with the first team through 13 practices. So far in order, Justin Rogers, T.J. Heath, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey and most recently Crezdon Butler have gotten the starting reps.

The experimentation links to both Brooks and Robey, who have the frames and skill-sets that indicate they're best suited on the inside as a nickel or dime corner. It's Henderson's theory though that all must be ready when called upon.

"I got two little midgets out there, when it's all said and done," he said, referring to Brooks and Robey. "You just got to give them opportunities. You never know who's going to go down, number one. You could have two corners down and you've got to find out who's the next guy. You can't be afraid to put them out there and they can't be afraid to be out there."

With injuries to both Rogers and McKelvin, none of the six have stuck to this point in time. The overall volatility at that spot has been the best friend to McKelvin, who many consider to be the favorite to be the starter when the Bills open up their regular season.

"I would like to have Leodis back and playing, but obviously we want to be smart about it and bring him back when he's fully healed and ready to go," Head Coach Doug Marrone remarked Tuesday. "Knowing that he's going to be back provides a sense of, I don't know if comfort is the right word, but you feel that he's coming back."

Unsure when McKelvin will return, the Bills will continue on with working different players into the starting lineup at cornerback in the hopes that they learn everything there is to know about them. Even with the uncertainty, Marrone doesn't feel pressure to make a move.

"As far as going out and looking somewhere else for that player who may not be in camp right now, I don't see that," he replied. "We have enough players here to make us sleep better at night."

"For now, we're testing them all," Pettine added. "We get tested every day in practice and certainly they got tested in [Indianapolis]."

The Bills have one more practice before they head back to Buffalo for the team's second preseason contest. It's the fourth of five night practices in training camp this summer. Practice starts at 6 pm, and fans need a ticket for entry.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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