Buffalo Bills: Erik Pears

Continuing a position-by-position look at the Buffalo Bills' roster with an eye toward free agency and the draft:

Position: Offensive line

2014 snaps:
Stat of note: Bills runners gained an average of 2.22 yards before contact on runs to the left side of the line (30th in the NFL), 1.65 yards before contact on runs up the middle (31st in the NFL) and 2.8 yards before contact on runs to the right side of the line (18th in the NFL).

Pending free agents: Pears (unrestricted), Hairston (restricted)

2015 cap hits (position rank):
  • Wood: $6 million (46th in NFL)
  • Urbik: $3.675 million (74th in NFL)
  • Williams: $3.35 million (77th in NFL)
  • Glenn: $1.548 million
  • Cyrus Kouandjio: $1.092 million
  • Richardson: $558,000
  • Henderson: $522,700
  • Alex Kupper: $510,000
  • William Campbell: $510,000
  • D.J. Morrell: $435,000
  • Darryl Johnson: $435,000
Money line: The Bills have less than $17 million committed to their 2015 salary cap for offensive linemen, well below the league average of about $22 million. They've been able to save money at the position because of Glenn, who enters the final year of his rookie deal. He's not an elite left tackle but the Bills aren't paying him anywhere near that sort of money, which opens up the ability to spend at other positions.

Market watch: Pending free-agent guards include Mike Iupati, Rob Sims, Dan Connolly, Paul Fanaika, Davin Joseph, Clint Boling, Orlando Franklin, Mike McGlynn, Daryn Colledge and Will Montgomery. Pending free-agent tackles include Doug Free, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Newton, and Byron Bell. Pending free-agent centers include Dominic Raiola, Stefen Wisniewski, Jonathan Goodwin, Samson Satele and Rodney Hudson.

Draft need: Moderate -- The Bills just drafted three offensive linemen last season, so they might not have room to add more than one more in the draft this spring. Still, they need the help. Urbik, whose play last season didn't justify his salary next season, is a candidate to be released, which would open up a roster spot. With Glenn entering the final year of his deal and Kouandjio potentially moving to guard, it wouldn't hurt for the Bills to draft a tackle.

Scout's take: "The right side is bad. I had hopes for Henderson after watching him in the preseason but I thought he had a really rough year. I think Pears is just a guy. Outside of quarterback -- which I don't think they'll be able to properly address this year -- I think right tackle is their biggest need. ... It's a pretty deep guard draft for power players. That might be a good move for them. I never understood the Williams signing from the start. I didn't think he was a good player before he got to Buffalo. I don't think he's a tackle. I don't think he's a guard. I wouldn't count on him at all. I can live with Urbik as a starting guard, though." -- ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson

Quote of note: "[Kouandjio] had a slow start of camp and he fell behind. ... There were some mitigating circumstances because of that, but once he settled in and got comfortable, he started moving around and looking like the player we saw coming out of Alabama. We're excited to see him next year, and it's going to be interesting." -- Bills general manager Doug Whaley to Syracuse.com's Matthew Fairburn, during the 2015 Senior Bowl.

W2W4: Bills at Lions

October, 3, 2014
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills (2-2) look to snap a two-game losing streak when they travel to face the Detroit Lions (3-1) on Sunday.

Here is what to watch for:

1. Calvin Johnson questionable: For a second consecutive week, the best offensive player for the Bills' opponent is questionable for the game. Last week it was Arian Foster, who ended up playing. This week, it's Johnson. He was limited in practice Friday after not practicing Wednesday and Thursday, the same sequence that led to him playing last Sunday against the New York Jets. He was kept to two catches for 12 yards in that game and even if Johnson plays against the Bills, he might not be his usual self. That, of course, is a huge break for Buffalo.

2. Replacing Kyle Williams: Chances are against Williams playing Sunday. He's listed as doubtful after not practicing Wednesday and Thursday and riding an exercise bike at the start of Friday's practice. Williams has been a big part of a run defense that ranks second in the NFL, so his absence would naturally be a hit to a strong defensive group. Still, it's worth noting that the Bills have used a heavy rotation at defensive tackle this season. Corbin Bryant has played in 35 percent of snaps and Stefan Charles has been in for 24 percent of snaps. It's a downgrade from Williams when either is on the field, but the Bills haven't exactly been exposed when Dareus or Williams have rotated out, either.

3. As for that other Kyle: I should probably mention Kyle Orton at some point, huh? He'll be the biggest story Sunday for a Bills team that was strong across the board in the first four games but needed better quarterback play. This is our first chance to see if Orton can provide it. He'll have to knock some rust off; Orton doesn't have the benefit of training camp or the preseason and hasn't seen any regular-season action to this point. Players spoke this week of a focused Orton who was vocal about how he wanted things done. It's the right attitude for the situation. Orton is no stranger to success at Ford Field, completing 24 of 34 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns in his last appearance there. In terms of passer rating, it was the fourth-best game of his career.

4. He'll need help, though: If Orton steers the Bills' ship back on course, he won't be able to do it alone. The Bills' offensive line is coming off its worst performance of the Doug Marrone era, a loss to the Texans in which J.J. Watt couldn't be slowed down. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh isn't likely to give the Bills a reprieve. Suh has just one sack this season but could be licking his chops at a Bills offensive line that has shown holes early. Analytics website ProFootballFocus.com has graded right guard Erik Pears among the league's worst linemen, and rookie Cyril Richardson must learn on the fly as he continues to fill in for an injured Chris Williams at left guard.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Remember training camp last summer, when there was a true quarterback competition between EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb?

Those were the days. With Manuel virtually entrenched as the starter entering his second season, the Buffalo Bills have surprisingly few position battles brewing as they progress through their second week of training camp.

[+] EnlargeDa'Norris Searcy
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Da'Norris Searcy seems to have the upper hand in the race for the Bills' open safety spot.
How many starting spots are up for grabs? Here's our rundown:

Right guard: Coach Doug Marrone confirmed last week that there was a competition at this position. Kraig Urbik started 16 games last season, but with an influx of depth players along the offensive line this offseason his job isn't safe. His main competition is Chris Hairston, who began to see some reps with the first-team late in spring practices. Through the first eight practices of training camp, we'll peg Urbik's reps with the first team at around 70 or 80 percent. Hairston is getting some time, but it's not an even split. We'd expect Urbik to be the starter in preseason games.

Right tackle: This was our top competition of the spring but it's barely been a contest. Second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio hasn't received any time with the first team and looks to be coming along slower than the Bills would have hoped. Marrone had praise last week for Erik Pears' play through the early part of camp, noting that Pears was healthy after apparently being banged up last season. The real competition for Pears might be seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson, who has held up fairly well at left tackle in place of Cordy Glenn. If Glenn returns soon then Henderson could get a crack at the right tackle spot.

Third receiver: There might not be a clear-cut winner of this battle. The Bills have used a variety of receiver groupings through the first eight practices. Mike Williams, Chris Hogan, and Marquise Goodwin have all seen time alongside Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. How each of those players are used in the regular season could be determined by the situation. T.J. Graham, who we considered part of this mix in the spring, has barely seen any time with the first-team offense. He's fighting for his job.

Weakside linebacker: This spot opened up when Kiko Alonso suffered a season-ending knee injury. Nigel Bradham has seen the most reps with the first-team defense, but we've also seen the Bills mix-and-match their personnel here. Preston Brown, Jimmy Gaines, Stevenson Sylvester, and Randell Johnson have all rotated through in different groupings. We'd still put our money on Bradham but like the third receiver spot, this could depend on the situation and the offensive style of the opponent.

Safety: This has been Da'Norris Searcy's job to lose since the spring. The Bills have almost exclusively used Aaron Williams and Searcy as their top pairing at safety, which is a notable step down from the Williams-Jairus Byrd combo from last season. The key for the Bills is not putting Searcy in a spot where offenses can expose a weakness in the defense. He's not a rangy ball-hawker like Byrd. Ideally, the Bills would like for Duke Williams to grow into a larger role, but he hasn't shown it yet in training camp. Williams and fellow second-year safety Jonathan Meeks should see plenty of time in the preseason, and they will need it.

Bills Camp Report: Day 4

July, 23, 2014
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus worked with strength coaches for the duration of practice. Coach Doug Marrone had no indication of when Dareus may re-take his conditioning test -- that's up to the strength coaches, he said -- but the Bills have a large gap between practices this week. They aren't back on the field until 6 p.m. Friday, which could give Dareus time to pass the running test. Another player who didn't pass the test? Defensive tackle Alan Branch, who is on the active/non-football illness list. We're told that Branch needed to be put on that list because of a technicality. Branch and Dareus worked out together on the sideline Wednesday.
  • Is the Bills' starting right guard spot up for grabs? Asked that question Wednesday, Marrone simply said, "Yes it is." Incumbent Kraig Urbik struggled in Tuesday's practice, leading Chris Hairston to get more reps with the first team Wednesday. Hairston has been plugged in along the line -- including both at left tackle and right tackle -- since returning this spring from a year-long absence. Urbik has cap numbers of $3.375 million, $3.675 million and $4 million in the remaining three years of his deal, which the Bills extended in 2012. While former general manager Buddy Nix inked the deal with Urbik, it would be a disappointment for the team if he lost his starting job.
  • How about right tackle? At the beginning of OTAs, Marrone said he wanted to throw second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio into the mix with the first team, leading to reps with the top unit. Those dwindled by the end of spring practices and we've seen Erik Pears exclusively with the first team so far in camp. Asked if that was a reflection more on Pears or Kouandjio, Marrone said it was a "little bit of both," adding that "Cyrus is coming along. Again, the closer you are to the ball, the tougher it is to play in this league." Pears started 16 games last season but dealt with an injury. At 32, his job appeared to be in jeopardy this summer but he's been holding off Kouandjio to this point.
  • Safety Aaron Williams stepped away from an early portion of practice and met with the team's medical staff on the sideline. Williams, who is coming off shoulder surgery and was eased back into action during spring practices, had his shoulder/arm area examined by a team doctor. He returned to the rest of practice and didn't appear to have any issues with that arm, but it's something that bears watching as the Bills progress through several more padded practices and preseason games. The team gave Williams a large extension this offseason and if he misses time, they have a drop-off on their safety depth chart. Besides starter Da'Norris Searcy, none of the other six safeties have playing experience on defense at the NFL level.
  • Sammy Watkins continues to show off his eye-opening talent and Wednesday was no exception. He made an impressive catch in a routes-versus-air drill that was captured by WGR 550's Sal Capaccio. You should check it out.

Bills Bubble Watch: Erik Pears

July, 15, 2014
(Continuing a month-long series analyzing Buffalo Bills players who are on the roster bubble and where they potentially fit in 2014.)

Name: Erik Pears

Position: Offensive tackle

Age: 32

2013 stats: 16 games (all starts)

Chance of making 53-man roster: 75 percent

Why he should make it: Pears might have more at stake this training camp than any other Bills player. After starting 16 games last season, he could easily hold down his job at right tackle. After second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio split reps with the first team early in organized team activities, it was mostly Pears who lined up with the top unit into minicamp. If Kouandjio doesn't beat out Pears for the right tackle job in training camp then Pears' roster spot is safe.

Why he shouldn't make it: Pears' starting job will likely be an all-or-nothing proposition. If Kouandjio takes over by the start of the season, there isn't much reason for Pears to stick around. Yes, he provides veteran insurance in case Kouandjio's play slips, but if Pears is on the roster for Week 1 then his $2.75 million base salary is guaranteed. If the Bills feel comfortable with either Chris Hairston or Seantrel Henderson as their third, "swing" tackle behind Kouandjio and left tackle Cordy Glenn, there is no reason to pay Pears that salary to sit on the bench. It's one of the brutal realities of the NFL for older players like Pears.

Closest competition: Kouandjio, Hairston, Henderson

Counting the Bills: Offensive line

July, 11, 2014
Continuing a series analyzing the economics of the Buffalo Bills' roster, position by position:

Position: Offensive line

Total cap value: $22,525,875
Compared to NFL average: 4.6 percent less
NFL positional rank: 20th

Portion of Bills' total cap number: 16.3 percent

2014 cap numbers:
Eric Wood: $5.95 million (4th on Bills, 36th among NFL offensive linemen)
Erik Pears: $3.45 million (Bills: 11th; NFL: 64th)
Kraig Urbik: $3.375 million (Bills: 12th; NFL: 66th)
Chris Williams: $2.4 million (Bills: 18th; NFL: 92nd)
Cordy Glenn: $1.326 million (Bills: 26th; NFL: 135th)
Doug Legursky: $1.1 million (Bills: 28th; NFL: 142nd)
Cyrus Kouandjio: $874,331 (Bills: 32nd; NFL: 160th)
Chris Hairston: $748,977 (Bills: 34th; NFL: 174th)
Mark Asper: $570,000 (Bills: tied for 47th; NFL: tied for 242nd)
J.J. Unga: $495,000 (Bills: tied for 59th; NFL: tied for 297th)
Antoine McClain: $495,000 (Bills: tied for 59th; NFL: tied for 297th)
Cyril Richardson: $468,000 (Bills: 68th; NFL: 337th)
Seantrel Henderson: $432,700 (Bills: 70th; NFL: 350th)
Macky MacPherson: $420,000 (Bills: tied for 78th; tied for 402nd)
Edawn Coughman: $420,000 (Bills: tied for 78th; tied for 402nd)

Average per year:
Wood: $6.9 million (4th on Bills, tied for 25th among NFL offensive linemen)
Urbik: $3.65 million (Bills: 12th; NFL: 65th)
Williams: $3.287 (Bills: 13th; NFL: 72nd)
Pears: $3.1 million (Bills: tied for 14th; NFL: 78th)
Glenn: $1.216 million (Bills: 25th; NFL: 137th)
Kouandjio: $1.202 million (Bills: 26th; NFL: 138th)
Legursky: $1 million (Bills: tied for 31st; NFL: tied for 150th)
Hairston: $645,000 (Bills: tied for 41st; NFL: tied for 224th)
Richardson: $603,000 (Bills: 46th; NFL: 241st)
Henderson: $567,700 (Bills: 53rd; NFL: 275th)
Asper: $525,000 (Bills: tied for 59th; NFL: tied for 300th)
MacPherson: $510,000 (Bills: tied for 68th; NFL: tied for 354th)
Unga: $495,000 (Bills: tied for 77th; NFL: tied for 397th)
McClain: $495,000 (Bills: tied for 77th; NFL: tied for 397th)
Coughman: $465,000 (Bills: tied for 84th; NFL: tied for 433rd)

Most overpaid: Pears and Urbik. The Bills had problems on the right side of their line last season, where Urbik (right guard) and Pears (right tackle) were positioned. The pair of veterans both face stiff competition this summer, especially after the Bills drafted Kouandjio (second round), Richardson (fifth round) and Henderson (seventh round). In addition, Hairston looked to be pushing for a starting job during OTAs and minicamp this spring. Pears, 32, is in the final season of his three-year extension and the Bills can avoid paying his $2.75 million base salary by cutting him before Week 1. If Urbik loses his starting job, he'll be among the most overpaid Bills. He has three years left on his deal, meaning the Bills will have eat some money if they keep him on the bench or cut him, the latter of which is unlikely.

Most underpaid: Glenn. There's nothing that can be done about Glenn's contract until after this season, as he and the Bills will have to wait until after his third year to renegotiate his contract. He was arguably the Bills' best lineman last season, and with another strong season will be at the top of the list for an extension.

Bills sign 2nd rounder Kouandjio

May, 29, 2014
The Buffalo Bills signed offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio to his rookie contract Thursday.

Kouandjio, who played at Alabama, was the Bills' second-round pick. He is the final Bills' draft pick to sign his rookie deal.

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Kouandjio split first-team reps with Erik Pears during organized team activities Wednesday and Thursday. Kouandjio and Pears will likely compete for the starting right tackle job in training camp.
The shorts and flip-flops are out in Buffalo, which can only mean one thing: training camp is right around the corner.

While an exact date hasn't been announced, the Buffalo Bills will begin training camp as early as the third weekend in July. That's sooner than usual because the Bills will play in the Hall of Fame game in early August.

Even before the Bills kick things off at St. John Fisher College, players can get in valuable work over the next three weeks during organized team activities. While the emphasis is on teaching and installation -- not so much evaluation -- players who excel in OTAs could carry that momentum into training camp.

Obviously, it's beneficial for every player to attend OTAs, pick up the system quickly, and build a head of steam entering the summer. Yet for some Bills, it's even more important that they don't fall behind in the coming weeks.

In our view, here are the players who will be under the microscope the most in OTAs:

EJ Manuel: This is a no-brainer. Unlike Geno Smith, his 2013 draft counterpart in New York, Manuel won't face veteran competition during training camp. It's a move designed to take some pressure off Manuel, whose health and up-and-down rookie season have been well-documented. Yet it keeps the spotlight squarely on Manuel, as backups Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel don't pose a challenge to supplant Manuel as the opening-day starter. How Manuel and Sammy Watkins, the Bills' 2014 first-round draft pick, fit together during the three weeks of OTAs will be of top concern from an outside perspective.

T.J. Graham: Graham could face an uphill battle during training camp this summer and will need to be sharper than most players over the next few months. He can't control how Mike Williams fares in training camp, or how Marquise Goodwin's role within the offense changes in his second season. Those two players are Graham's main competition. Goodwin is a near-lock to make the roster, while Williams' guaranteed salary makes him an unappealing cut come August. Yet if Graham can leap-frog either on the depth chart, it will help his case to stick. What Graham can control, then, is how he can become a more complete receiver. He's mainly a speed threat, but improving his pass-catching and route-running abilities should be his top goals.

Erik Pears: Pears turns 32 next month and while he proved durable last season with the Bills, his health and conditioning should be of prime concern as he preps for training camp. Pears faces stiff competition at right tackle from second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio. Like Graham, Pears' fate could be out of his control. If Kouandjio develops well over the next few months, then I don't think the Bills will hesitate to make him their starter at right tackle. If Kouandjio is slower to come along, then Pears could hold onto his starting job. He struggled as a run-blocker last season and while OTAs don't involve contact, improving his technique should be tops on his list.

Marcell Dareus: The Bills exercised Dareus' fifth-year option for 2015 in April and within two weeks he was arrested for felony drug charges in Alabama. Dareus' court date hasn't been set yet and since he faces felony charges, the legal process could be drawn out. In the meantime, Dareus must make a good impression on the coaching staff if he participates in OTAs. He ended last season on the wrong note when he was suspended for parts of the final two games. OTAs are voluntary and the coaching staff can't discipline players for not taking part, but I can't imagine too many around the Bills' facility will be happy if any of Dareus' issues from last season carry over into OTAs or minicamp.

Duke Williams: The Bills want to give Williams a chance to make an impression and earn a starting role. As we've noted previously, Williams didn't take advantage of his opportunities last season. The Bills weren't able to re-sign Jairus Byrd and didn't sign any veteran to replace him. That leaves a gaping hole in the secondary. While the Bills signed Aaron Williams to a contract extension and praised him as their next young star, he will need to continue to prove it. Even then, who will start alongside Aaron Williams? Duke Williams has the chance to take over that spot but he'll need to take steps forward during OTAs, minicamp and training camp to lock down that role.
As we step away on vacation, we'll provide a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Offensive tackle

Current personnel: Cordy Glenn (signed through 2015), Erik Pears (2014), Chris Hairston (2014), Edawn Coughman (2015)

Draft need: High

State of the position: There is little doubt the Bills will target this position in the draft. Pears is 32, entering the final year of his deal, and showed at points last season that the Bills could use an upgrade at right tackle. Hairston probably isn't the answer. While he started 15 games for the Bills between 2011 and 2012, Hairston spent all of last season on the reserve/non-football illness list. The last update from coach Doug Marrone and general manager Doug Whaley was that Hairston still had medical hurdles to clear before returning, and even then, it's not known how Marrone -- who has a keen eye for offensive linemen -- views the former fourth-round pick. That's not to say Hairston couldn't contribute if healthy, but it shouldn't preclude the Bills from drafting an offensive tackle.

The Bills have a good shot at plucking one of the top three tackles off the board when they select at ninth overall. If they do so, will he play left tackle or right tackle? Glenn performed well at left tackle last season and moving him to right tackle to accommodate a rookie at left tackle seems like a risky move. The safer option would be to start the first-round pick at right tackle and keep Glenn at left tackle until performance dictates otherwise. Of course, that raises a debate over whether right tackle is a position worthy of selecting early in the first round. A case can be made either way, but it's important to note that even a second-round or third-round tackle should be able to compete with Pears and Hairston for the starting job.

Sweet spot: Any round, especially first round.

Possible targets: Greg Robinson (Auburn), Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Taylor Lewan (Michigan)

Examining potential Bills cap cuts

February, 3, 2014
With Super Bowl XLVIII in the books, Monday is the first official day of the 2014 NFL offseason.

It's also the first day teams can release players who are under contract for next season. In some cases, teams might release players to free up salary-cap room. In other cases, the team might determine the player isn't valued as highly in a new scheme.

Both scenarios could come into play with the Buffalo Bills. The NFL hasn't announced an exact salary cap for next season, but the Bills are currently projected to be in the middle of the pack in terms of cap space.

While the Bills will have sufficient cap space to make free-agent moves this offseason, it's typical for some players to be released for financial purposes. Here's our best guess which players could be on the outs in Buffalo:

QB Kevin Kolb: What's not clear is how Kolb has recovered from an August concussion that ended his season. What is clear is that the Bills view EJ Manuel as their starting quarterback entering next season, so Kolb -- even if healthy -- would enter the offseason as a backup. With a $3.6 million cap number, including a $1 million roster bonus, it's hard to see that happening. It would be a surprise if Kolb remains on the roster at the start of the 2014 league year in March.

WR Stevie Johnson: Johnson could be one of the toughest calls the Bills make this offseason. He's under contract through 2016, so by releasing him now, the Bills would have to absorb significant "dead money" this season. The true savings in releasing Johnson would come in 2015 and 2016. If the Bills feel like Johnson isn't a fit within their offense, they could make the decision to cut ties with him now. He's due a $1.75 million roster bonus in March that essentially sets a deadline for that decision to happen. Unless they want to take a larger "dead money" hit, they can't wait until May to see if Sammy Watkins, the top receiver in the draft, is still on the board at ninth overall.

TE Tony Moeaki: Once Moeaki recovered from a preseason injury last season, he signed a two-year contract with the Bills. He's due a $1 million base salary, a $250,000 roster bonus, and a $100,000 workout bonus this offseason, which suggests the Bills had competition in signing him. Still, Moeaki did not play an offensive snap after being signed in early December. If the Bills feel like things will come together with Moeaki by next season, perhaps he'll stay in the fold under his current deal. If not, it's possible they cut ties with him.

OT Erik Pears: Pears started 16 games this season for the Bills, but there have been indications that the Bills want to upgrade along their offensive line. The journeyman right tackle turns 32 in June and has a $3.75 million cap number. The Bills could deem that too rich for a position they could target in May's draft. This could be a case where the Bills could ask Pears to restructure in order to remain in Buffalo.

OT Chris Hairston: Hairston, who spent all of last season on the non-football illness list, has a cap hit of about $750,000. That's not significant on its own, but it's also not clear where Hairston stands health-wise. If he can't pass a physical or can't participate in the offseason program, he could be released. Hairston started 15 games between 2011 and 2012, but it's not known how the current coaching staff views the former fourth-round pick.

OLB Manny Lawson: The potential for Lawson to be released moves onto the radar under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Lawson is considered to better fit in Mike Pettine's defensive scheme, where the 'Sam' linebacker plays closer to the line of scrimmage and is used more as a blitzer. In Schwartz's system, both outside linebackers typically play off the line of scrimmage and are used 'in space,' requiring better athleticism. Lawson will turn 30 this summer and doesn't have excellent range as an off-the-line player. Even though Lawson brought a veteran presence to the locker room, it's possible the Bills look to restructure his contract or release him. He has a $3.1 million cap number this season, but is signed through 2016, so like Johnson, the cap savings would come down the road.
Back in September, we broke down the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, position-by-position. Now that the Bills' season has ended, we'll review those grades:

Position: Offensive line (preseason grades)

Cordy Glenn -- 100 percent
Eric Wood -- 100 percent
Erik Pears -- 100 percent
Kraig Urbik -- 99.1 percent
Doug Legursky -- 65.9 percent
Colin Brown -- 34.1 percent
J.J. Unga -- 0.9 percent
Thomas Welch -- 0.7 percent
Sam Young -- 0.7 percent
Mark Asper -- no snaps
Antoine McClain -- no snaps


Preseason take: This is a significant concern for the Bills. With Legursky out of action for at least several weeks, they are dangerously thin along the interior of their line. Welch and Young are both younger pieces at tackle, but would be practice squad candidates on most other teams. The Bills sifted through upwards of 15 offensive linemen in training camp and did not come away with much. It'll be a position to address in the draft next spring. Grade: D+

Postseason review: The Bills were fortunate that their offensive line stayed almost fully healthy all season because depth was a significant concern. The Bills continued to sift through players, jettisoning Brown when Legursky returned, and later, swapping out Young for McClain. The Bills picked up Unga on their bye week and he could be a player to develop, but otherwise, the cupboards are mostly bare behind the top group. This grade was accurate and the Bills were fortunate.


Preseason take: Glenn is the youngest starter on what is a relatively experienced position group for the Bills. They can expect consistent play out of Wood, Urbik and Pears. It remains to be seen if Brown can step in for Andy Levitre at left guard and provide a reliable presence over 16 games. Grade: B

Postseason review: From an injury standpoint, this position held up well all season. The age and experience of Wood, Urbik, and Pears came in handy for a young offense but there was still shaky play from the veterans along the line. Brown, of course, was not a reliable option in place of Levitre. He was released once Legursky returned and has been out of football since. This grade may have been a bit generous.

Mario Williams among Bills' ironmen

December, 26, 2013
For NFL players, staying healthy and avoiding injuries is a difficult task. Anything from poor preparation to bad luck can affect a player's durability, so when he is able to play a full 16-game season, something is going right.

With one game remaining, the following Bills players are set to cross the finish line unscathed. They have started all 15 games to this point:

T Cordy Glenn
T Erik Pears
G Kraig Urbik
C Eric Wood
DE Mario Williams
DT Kyle Williams
LB Kiko Alonso

There are several other players who have played in all 15 games so far, including some appearances as a reserve:

RB Fred Jackson
WR Marcus Easley
WR Chris Hogan
WR T.J. Graham
TE Scott Chandler
TE Lee Smith
T Thomas Welch
DE Jerry Hughes
DT Alan Branch
DT Marcell Dareus
LB Nigel Bradham
LB Arthur Moats
CB Nickell Robey
S Jim Leonhard
S Da'Norris Searcy
S Duke Williams
K Dan Carpenter
LS Garrison Sanborn

Overall, 25 Bills have appeared in every game this season. That ranks third in the division, behind the New York Jets (28) and the Miami Dolphins (27). The New England Patriots have the fewest "ironmen" in the AFC East -- 20 are set to finish a full season Sunday.

Dustin Hopkins in uniform at practice

September, 4, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills kickers Dustin Hopkins and Dan Carpenter were both in uniform for Wednesday's practice, although it was unclear if Hopkins was participating in the session.

Hopkins suffered a groin injury in Monday's practice, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, causing the Bills to sign the veteran Carpenter on Tuesday.

Both kickers, along with punter Shawn Powell and long-snapper Garrison Sanborn, emerged on the outdoor practice field toward the end of the media portion of the session. The specialists were likely practicing inside Ralph Wilson Stadium, so it is not immediately known if Hopkins was healthy enough to kick on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, defensive end Alex Carrington and right tackle Erik Pears both returned to practice Wednesday. The pair of starters had missed Monday's session with ankle soreness.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (fractured wrist) and offensive lineman Doug Legursky (knee) were the only two players not spotted.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills were without a pair of starters for Monday's practice, as defensive end Alex Carrington and offensive tackle Erik Pears both were out of action.

Head coach Doug Marrone said afterwards that both are dealing with ankle soreness.

"His ankle was sore today, and it’s good because tomorrow we’re off, so we just wanted to give him two days off. He shouldn’t be a problem," Marrone said of Pears.

Otherwise, the Bills were close to full health on Monday, with cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and offensive lineman Doug Legursky (knee) -- who both have longer-term injuries -- the only players not spotted.

The Bills will practice next on Wednesday.

EJ Manuel practices again on Monday

September, 2, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel was back on the practice field Monday, one day after returning from knee surgery.

Reporters had access to only stretching and light-intensity position drills. Head coach Doug Marrone said that Manuel would take part in the full practice on Monday, after sitting out team drills on Sunday.

Elsewhere, the Bills were without a pair of starters who were present for Sunday's practice. Defensive end Alex Carrington was spotted at the start of practice riding an exercise bike, while right tackle Erik Pears was also out of action.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and offensive lineman Doug Legursky (knee) also remain out.

Bills players will be off Tuesday before returning to practice Wednesday.