Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Buffalo Bills' top unanswered questions
By Mike Rodak
The Buffalo Bills received a slight reprieve from practice Tuesday, as their morning session was shortened to a walk-through because of rain in the area.
With three remaining preseason games following joint practices this week with the Pittsburgh Steelers, let's take a look at some of the unanswered questions about the Bills' roster:
What will be Robert Woods' role? The Bills' second-round pick has been in the headlines ever since he played into the third quarter of the Hall of Fame game earlier this month. Coach Doug Marrone telling Woods to play more with a "chip on his shoulder" certainly didn't quell the speculation about Woods' role, and the questions continued Friday night when Mike Williams and Sammy Watkins were the top pairing on the outside. The remaining three preseason games could determine how Woods fits into the offense this season after starting 14 games and catching 40 passes from three sub-par quarterbacks last season. We've seen the Bills use various combinations of Woods, Chris Hogan, Watkins, and Williams dating back to early in organized team activities. While game-specific pairings at receiver could continue into the regular season, most teams settle on a top group. At this point, there is little assurance Woods is among the top trio.
What's next for Henderson? Following Cordy Glenn's return to practice over the weekend, Marrone pumped the brakes on any possible position switch for seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson, who has been starting in Glenn's place at left tackle. Marrone stressed Glenn is being eased back into the lineup and until that happens, Henderson is holding down the fort -- and doing it well. Still, unless Glenn suffers a setback, Marrone will need to make a decision about Henderson. Does he join the competition at right tackle? Does he get a run at right guard? If the Bills want to have their five best offensive linemen on the field, then what we've seen from Henderson thus far suggests he should be part of that group.
Who starts at right guard? The competition at this position continues to churn. Incumbent Kraig Urbik has rotated with rookie Cyril Richardson through two preseason games, with others (Chris Hairston, Antoine McClain, and J.J. Unga) waiting on deck. An injury to left guard Chris Williams postponed the battle this weekend, as both Urbik and Richardson ran with the first team in practice. If Williams remains out as the preseason continues, then the Bills may not have an answer about a starter until later this month. Even then, there are no guarantees. Last season, left guard Colin Brown started five games before he was released and replaced in the starting lineup by Doug Legursky. This question could linger into the fall.
Who starts for Bradham? Through the first few practices of training camp, there wasn't much of a competition at weak side linebacker. Nigel Bradham seemed to have won over the coaching staff after a rocky 2013 season and was the favorite to replace Kiko Alonso. That changed when Bradham lost his appeal of a one-game suspension. As a result, the Bills will be without Bradham for the season opener in Chicago. Who starts in his place? From a depth chart standpoint, it would be Stevenson Sylvester, a four-year veteran who has been the second-team Will linebacker in the preseason. Yet rookie Preston Brown has drawn praise for his work at middle linebacker, where he's played almost exclusively in training camp. Between now and Sept. 7, the Bills will need to decide who starts in Bradham's place. It's not a major question, but one that could factor into the defense's performance on that first Sunday of the season.