AFC East: Kraig Urbik

Kiko Alonso, Kraig Urbik active for Bills

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
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Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso (knee) and guard Kraig Urbik (foot) are both active for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both players were listed as questionable. Alonso "tweaked" his knee in Friday's practice, which put his status for the game in doubt.

Alonso, the Bills' second-round draft pick, has played every defensive snap this season. Meanwhile, Urbik has started all 13 games at right guard.

Here's the full list of Bills inactives:

QB Jeff Tuel
S Jonathan Meeks
RB Ronnie Wingo
CB Brandon Smith
OL Mark Asper
OL Antoine McClain
TE Tony Moeaki

Urbik, Smith sit out Thursday practice

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills guard Kraig Urbik (foot) and cornerback Brandon Smith (ankle) were not spotted at the start of Thursday's practice.

Urbik, who played all but seven snaps in Sunday's loss, will likely be a game-time decision, according to coach Doug Marrone. If he cannot play, J.J. Unga will start in his place at right guard.

Smith, who has been inactive for the past five games, was injured in Wednesday's practice.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso (knee) participated at the start of Thursday's practice. He showed a noticeable limp during positional drills after being limited in Wednesday's session.

Double Coverage: Bills at Steelers

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
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Roethlisberger/ManuelUSA TODAY SportsBen Roethlisberger, left, and EJ Manuel are trying to guide their teams through difficult seasons.
Two teams that have combined for five wins and don’t appear to be going anywhere this season meet Sunday at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be angry after getting routed Sunday in New England, but the Buffalo Bills might be equally desperate after losing four of their past five games.

It looks like EJ Manuel will return for the Bills, but rookie quarterbacks have not fared well against Dick LeBeau defenses. But no rookie quarterback has faced the Steelers defense when it has been this vulnerable under LeBeau.

ESPN.com reporters Mike Rodak (Bills) and Scott Brown (Steelers) take an in-depth look at the first meeting between the teams since the Steelers won a 19-16 overtime game at Buffalo in 2010.

Brown: Mike, is this team Pittsburgh North? There are a lot of Steelers connections there with general manager Doug Whaley and a handful of the players. The two I’m interested in hearing about are the starting guards -- Doug Legursky and Kraig Urbik. How have the two played, and how has the offensive line played overall?

Rodak: Scott, I think Whaley would like it to be Pittsburgh North, eventually. The Steelers are one of the most successful franchises, and Whaley comes from that background. Defensively, there are similarities between Mike Pettine's blitz-heavy scheme and much of the zone blitzing that LeBeau uses. And offensively, Manuel is a big, mobile quarterback with some speedy receivers, much like Ben Roethlisberger and his pass-catchers in Pittsburgh. Ultimately, though, I think the Bills want to forge their own identity, and the Steelers connections don't run much deeper than Whaley and a few others.

As far as Urbik and Legursky, they haven't been Pro Bowlers by any stretch. Returning from a knee injury last month, Legursky helped stabilize a left guard position that has been reeling since losing Andy Levitre in free agency last offseason. But as a whole, the offensive line has allowed more sacks -- the seventh most in the NFL, to be precise -- than it would prefer.

Looking at the Steelers' big picture, what has gone wrong this season? From an outside perspective, an aging defense appears to be part of it, but that can't tell the whole story. What are the biggest problem areas?

Brown: Age is only part of the equation when looking at the Steelers’ struggles. The other half is that the Steelers were so good for so long at developing younger players to step in for veteran stalwarts who retired or signed elsewhere. That hasn’t happened in recent years, in part because the quality of Steelers’ drafts has slipped.

The drop-off in talent hasn’t been as severe as it would seem for a team that has lost 11 of its past 15 games, which leads me to perhaps the Steelers’ biggest problem on the field: This team is simply allergic to momentum. The Steelers, when they were winning regularly, played so well off one another as far as the different units. This season, more often than not, the offense has not been able to bail out the defense and vice versa.

I’m curious what has held back the Bills, aside from the instability and inexperience at quarterback. This team seems to have its share of talent, so why aren’t the Bills winning more?

Rodak: The quarterback situation is a big part of it, like you said. No matter who's been out there -- Manuel, Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel -- they haven't been able to make enough plays to win in the NFL. It's really been the defense that has picked up the slack in two of the Bills' three wins this season. Against the Baltimore Ravens, it intercepted Joe Flacco five times, and just when it looked like the Miami Dolphins were going to win a few weeks ago, Mario Williams came up with a game-changing strip-sack. So when dissecting why the Bills are 3-6, their quarterback play is the overriding factor.

Otherwise, I think the story is similar to Pittsburgh's. The defense has played well at times, but when it hasn't played well, the offense hasn't been up to snuff. And when the offense has started cranking -- and that's been rare -- the defense has dropped off. Doug Marrone referenced Wednesday the need for the defense to generate more turnovers -- it hasn't forced one in more than two games -- which has caused the Bills' turnover differential for the season to turn negative this week.

What has been the problem offensively for the Steelers? I've always counted Roethlisberger among the top 10 quarterbacks in the league, and at least on paper, there is some serious talent between Le'Veon Bell, Heath Miller and Antonio Brown. Is the offensive line really that bad to drag everyone down?

Brown: The offense played without Bell and Miller for the first two games, and it showed as the Steelers managed just two touchdowns in those contests. Bell has stabilized the running game, and Miller’s return has been huge considering his value in the running and passing game.

The offense’s struggles stem most from the ongoing shuffling along the offensive line. The unit, for whatever reason, is consistently decimated by injuries, and this season is no different. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a season-ending knee injury in the opener. The Steelers even lost a lineman (Levi Brown) to a season-ending injury in pregame warm-ups. Those kinds of things have happened to the Steelers’ offensive line, it seems, every season since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007.

The line has played better in recent weeks, and I thought it did fairly well in New England even with the crowd noise forcing the Steelers to use a silent snap count. It faces another challenge this week as the Bills have the kind of defensive line that can really give the Steelers fits.

Williams has been a beast, and the Steelers will probably have to give left tackle Kelvin Beachum some help with Williams. Mike, what about the two interior lineman, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus? They seem like they can be plenty disruptive.

Rodak: They certainly can be, Scott. Each has four sacks this season, which puts both on pace for career highs. It seems like each week, when we talk to opposing head coaches, they start off by mentioning Dareus, Mario Williams and Kyle Williams. They're the strength of the team. Kyle Williams in particular has shown a knack for being disruptive in the backfield at the right time, while Dareus has improved from what some felt were subpar seasons since being drafted third overall in 2011. The Steelers' offensive line will need to hold its ground and allow Roethlisberger to take shots at the weaker points of the defense.

What do the Steelers need to do to turn this season around? Does any hope remain that they will make the playoffs?

Brown: Believe it or not, the players still believe they have a shot at the playoffs given how mediocre the AFC has been aside from a few teams. But they are also realistic that their focus has to stay squarely on what is in front of them.

The biggest thing the Steelers need to do to turn around their season is get back to what has worked for them for so long. That starts with stopping the run. As much as some Steelers fans want to lay blame for the defense’s failings on LeBeau -- and the fact that he is 76 -- the reality is this: LeBeau didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. However, his defense doesn’t work if the Steelers can’t stop the run and force teams into obvious passing situations.

Offensively, the Steelers have been at their best this season when they have established balance. If they want to take better care of Roethlisberger, who is taking another beating this season, they need to limit his passing attempts. The best way to do that is establish the ground game and run Bell early and often. Sounds easy enough, no?

 

Steve Johnson among Bills back at practice

September, 26, 2013
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Wide receiver Steve Johnson was among several Buffalo Bills who returned to practice Wednesday.

Johnson
Johnson
Johnson, who sat out Wednesday's practice with a hamstring injury, took part in individual drills on Thursday. Two other starters -- defensive lineman Kyle Williams and guard Kraig Urbik -- were also back on the field.

Defensive end Mario Williams took part in individual drills Thursday after working with trainers for that portion of practice Wednesday. He sprained his ankle in Sunday's loss to the Jets, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who took part in individual drills Wednesday and was listed as limited in practice, left the practice field after stretching to work with trainers.

Cornerback Leodis McKelvin and safety Jairus Byrd were part of the scout team during the secondary's walk-through, working against a unit that continued to feature Aaron Williams at cornerback.

Mario, Stevie among Bills not practicing

September, 25, 2013
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Defensive end Mario Williams (ankle) and wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hamstring) were among several Buffalo Bills not practicing Wednesday.

Williams stretched with his teammates early in practice, but then departed for the indoor facility to work with trainers. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that Williams sprained his ankle in Sunday's loss to the New York Jets and should play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens unless his condition does not improve.

Coach Doug Marrone said Monday the team believes Williams and Johnson, who tweaked his hamstring Sunday but stayed in the game, "will be fine."

Running back C.J. Spiller, cornerback Leodis McKelvin and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who were all injured in Sunday's game and did not return, participated in the portion of practice open to reporters Wednesday.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Kyle Williams did not participate in Wednesday's practice, along with starting right guard Kraig Urbik, who missed four plays Sunday with a knee injury.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore stretched with his teammates but later went inside to work with trainers. Safety Jairus Byrd appeared limited, with Jim Leonhard and Da'Norris Searcy lining up at safety early in practice. Aaron Williams remained at cornerback.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who broke his hand in Week 1, stayed on the field for positional drills Wednesday. Cornerback Ron Brooks, who fractured his foot in the opener, watched practice from the sideline.

Locker Room Buzz: Buffalo Bills

September, 22, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 27-20 loss to the New York Jets:

Williams
Mario Williams' status unclear: Williams played sparingly in the late stages of the game, prompting speculation that he could be injured. Head coach Doug Marrone told reporters that he saw trainers working on Williams but had yet to speak to the medical staff, adding that coaches were discussing using Jamaal Westerman in that role late in the game. About an hour after the game, with every locker empty except for Williams', a team spokesperson said Williams was undergoing treatment and would not have time for comment.

Carrington in leg brace: Defensive lineman Alex Carrington, who was carted off the field late in the fourth quarter, limped around the locker room after the game. He was initially wearing a bandage wrap over his left knee and was later spotted wearing an immobilizing brace over that knee. A trainer assisted him dressing. Offensive lineman Kraig Urbik, who briefly left the game, also had a wrap on his left knee but was moving well.

No sign of Spiller: Running back C.J. Spiller, who left in the third quarter with a knee injury, was not spotted in the locker room after the game. His locker was empty by the time reporters entered.
On Monday, the AFC East blog reported the Buffalo Bills and guard Kraig Urbik were in the process of hammering out a four-year extension.

It turns out that both sides worked into the night and finalized an agreement. A source tells ESPN.com's AFC East blog that Urbik and the Bills agreed to a four-year, $15 million extension.

Urbik is a two-year starter for Buffalo who has the versatility to play both guard spots and center. He is one of the anchors of an offensive line behind which Bills tailback C.J. Spiller recorded his first 1,000-yard season.

The Bills are getting an early start on their 2013 free-agent class. Other Buffalo players who are set to become free agents include starting safety Jairus Byrd and guard Andy Levitre.
Starting guard Kraig Urbik is expected to sign a multi-year extension with the Buffalo Bills, ESPN.com's AFC East blog has learned. The Bills are hammering out a four-year agreement that should be finalized soon, according to a source.

Urbik
Urbik, a two-year starter for the Bills, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. His versatility has been an asset for the Bills. The 27-year-old can play both guard positions, as well as center if needed.

The AFC East blog also reported several weeks ago that the Bills began preliminary contract discussions with pending free-agent safety Jairus Byrd. No deal with Byrd is imminent. But the proactive approach with Urbik and Byrd shows that the Bills are willing to get an early head start on key members of their 2013 free-agent class.

The Bills (5-9) have two games remaining and will travel to play the Miami Dolphins (6-8) on Sunday.
Buffalo Bills starting center Eric Wood tore his MCL and could miss the rest of the season, according to the team's website.

Wood was injured in Sunday's 34-18 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The minimum recovery time is two weeks. But with just four games left, Wood may not return this season.

Wood has a history of leg injuries. Last year he tore his ACL and missed the final seven games.

The Bills struggled last year without Wood, who is one of their best offensive linemen. They tried different players at center last year and never found the right combination. Buffalo was 1-6 without Wood last season.

Buffalo guard Kraig Urbik will play center next weekend, according to Bills head coach Chan Gailey.

Tom Brady listed 'probable' vs. Bills

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
4:17
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Shoulder-gate is coming to a close in New England.

Brady
Brady
Patriots starting quarterback and MVP candidate Tom Brady is listed as probable for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills. He missed Wednesday’s practice with a left shoulder injury and was limited on Thursday.

The Patriots (12-3) need this win to solidify home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The key for New England will be to take a big lead early and sit their starters in the second half. The Patriots have two weeks to rest Brady after Sunday's game.

In other injury notes, New England will be without starting offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back, foot) and guard Logan Mankins (knee). Both are ruled out. The Bills (6-9) will be without receiver Brad Smith (hamstring) and offensive linemen Kraig Urbik (knee) and Demetrius Bell (knee).
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday morning in the AFC East:
  • New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan backs quarterback Mark Sanchez and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Morning take: Ryan has to back his quarterback and offensive coordinator. He still has one game left in the season. But behind closed doors, the head coach and the front office will evaluate all that has gone wrong in this disappointing season.
Morning take: This is huge for the Patriots, who need some type of running game heading into the playoffs. New England’s rushing offense has hit a wall lately. But with Ridley leading the charge, it could be making a comeback.
Morning take: I can't remember the last game the Bills had all of their starting offensive linemen and top reserves healthy. Buffalo needs to add depth at that position in next year's draft.
Morning take: Only if the team has determined it doesn't want Long long-term. He is in the final year of his contract and coming off a season-ending biceps injury. If the Dolphins don't intend on re-signing beyond 2012, maybe this should be considered.

AFC East links: Rex not worried about 'D'

August, 31, 2011
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Buffalo Bills

Alex Carrington is still adjusting to his new role as a linebacker.

Kraig Urbik knows he'll have to be on top of his game Thursday night when the Bills face Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit Lions.

Miami Dolphins

Running back Larry Johnson hopes he gets a chance to show what he can do Thursday in the Dolphins' preseason finale.

Jake Long says he's not optimistic that he'll see the field Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys.

New England Patriots

Wide receiver Wes Welker remains hopeful that he'll be on the field for the regular-season opener after injuring his neck on Saturday.

Owner Robert Kraft shared his thoughts of Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth.

New York Jets

Coach Rex Ryan on his defense: "I wouldn't trade this defense for anybody's in the league. You're not going to be perfect, but will we end up being the best defense in football? I think so. Believe me, the least concern I have is about our defense. I think our defense is going to be outstanding."

The offense, on the other hand, still has some work to do.

Newton in Buffalo; Ponder, Gabbert next

March, 28, 2011
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BUFFALO -- Cam Newton is in town to meet with the Buffalo Bills, but not before general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey spoke at a "State of the Bills" event for season-ticket holders at the Hyatt Regency downtown.

Nix revealed that the Bills will host Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at One Bills Drive. No other quarterbacks have been scheduled, but Nix did say they've accounted for only 25 of their 30 allowable on-campus meetings.

"We might bring in a couple more," Nix said.

Nix admitted quarterback wasn't Buffalo's greatest need because they have reliable veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even so, that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a monster payoff to picking up a future star.

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Paul Abell/US PresswireAuburn quarterback Cameron Newton will be a consideration for the Bills, who hold the No. 3 overall pick in April.
"I think we've got a lot of needs," Nix told reporters after addressing the fans. "Let me just say this to you -- and try not to read anything into this and try not to connect the dots, now -- but if you wait until you do not have a quarterback to draft one, you're too late.

"Now our greatest need is not quarterback. It's definitely not quarterback. Invariably, if there's going to be a franchise guy there and one we deem as a guy that can go eight or 10 years, be the face of the organization and take us to the playoffs and win every year, you can't pass him up."

Gailey said he will be completely frank about Buffalo's quarterback situation when he speaks with Newton on Monday night and Tuesday. The visit will begin with a physical and then include meetings with the Bills' staff.

"I lay everything on the table with guys when they walk in here," Gailey said. "I try to get them to understand exactly who we are, what we're about, where we're going and how we plan to get there. And if we end up working together, this is how they might fit into the scheme and into the system."

The Bills also met with Newton at the NFL scouting combine in late February and had dinner with him the night before his March 8 pro day at Auburn.

Other notes from Monday night's event:

  • Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon said new season tickets and renewals were selling better than at this time last year.
  • Brandon reaffirmed the team's commitment to playing games in Toronto, stating their season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since the Bills started playing games there in 2008. The Bills are making $78 million off the series, which runs through 2012. Brandon suggested the Bills would be interested in extending after it expires.
  • Brandon conceded if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been hammered out by late June or July, then training camp at St. John Fisher College "could be in peril" because of the "operational and logistical" elements that must be addressed ahead of time.
  • Nix on talking about the draft at this time of year: "I want to make one thing clear. There's an unwritten rule that it's not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft stuff. Everybody does it. It's accepted. So everything you hear or read or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it's the truth."
  • Gailey on how he views himself: "I'm not very flamboyant. That's just not me. I'm not a comedian. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a philosopher. I just coach football. I want to coach your football team and get us to where we want to be, and that's be champions again and have things rocking and rolling out at Ralph Wilson Stadium."
  • Nix was pleased with in-season additions of offensive linemen Erik Pears, Mansfield Wrotto, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart. Nix said Pears, a two-year starter for the Denver Broncos, could be the Bills' next right tackle, but added, "We also need another tackle. We need a tackle through the draft or through free agency -- if and when that happens."
  • Gailey reiterated the Bills will play a hybrid defense rather than a straight 3-4 or a 4-3. Nix noted his scouting department is focused on 3-4 players, but will not dismiss a player simply because he's not a perfect fit.
  • Nix will attend North Carolina's pro day Thursday to see defensive end Robert Quinn and Clemson's pro day Friday to check out defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who reportedly has failed physicals because he hasn't recovered enough from knee surgery.
  • Nix on Bowers' workout: "It's big for him. I'm not sure that you'd write him off if he's not completely healthy Friday. But it's time for him to show he either is healthy or that he needs more work and more time."

Buffalo's O-line needs some duct tape

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills can only draw a deep breath and trudge forward.

Injuries continue to pile up like lake-effect snow, but they still need to field a team Sunday.

The biggest concern is their offensive line. A knee injury will sideline center Geoff Hangartner against the Cleveland Browns in Ralph Wilson Stadium and force the Bills to juggle positions and play more backups.

Kraig Urbik, Hangartner's replacement in Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings, went on injured reserve with a knee injury. Left tackle Demetrius Bell missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury.

"You're putting your head in the sand if you sit there and say 'It doesn't matter. They'll just pick up where everybody left off,'" Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "You have to think 'How much communication can go on? What can they handle? What can't they handle?' And you have to adjust from there.

"But you can't be so simple that you walk out there and you diminish what you can do with the other people on your team. So there's a balance that you try to reach between all of that."

Eric Wood, one of the nation's top collegiate centers in the 2009 draft before the Bills converted him to right guard, will handle the snaps. A couple of rookie tackles who've gotten reps at guard, Cordaro Howard and Ed Wang, will handle Wood's usual spot.

The interior changes likely will impact the run game more than pass protection. The Bills rank 17th in rushing yards per game. The Browns rank 20th in run defense, but 12th in yards per carry allowed.

The Browns rank 17th in sacks with 24. Outside linebacker Marcus Benard leads them with 6.5 sacks.

Bills at Packers inactives

September, 19, 2010
9/19/10
12:32
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Here are the inactive lists for Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field:

Buffalo Bills
Green Bay Packers

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