Buffalo Bills: j.j. unga

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills added defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to the active/non-football injury list Saturday.

It's not immediately clear why Dareus was placed on the list. The Bills held their conditioning test Saturday and will open training camp with a public practice Sunday night.

Dareus, who still counts against the 90-man roster limit, may be removed from the list at any time. He may not practice while under the active/non-football injury designation and cannot return to the list once he is removed from it.

The Pro Bowl defender has been under the spotlight this offseason following two arrests that led to him sitting out the final two weeks of organized team activities. He returned to the practice field for mandatory minicamp last month.

In addition, the Bills removed cornerback Leodis McKelvin from the active/physically unable to perform list Saturday. General manager Doug Whaley said the team was easing him back from offseason hip surgery but he is apparently ready to practice Sunday.

The Bills also added guard J.J. Unga to the active/non-football injury list Saturday.

After waiving two players Friday, the Bills signed wide receiver Tori Gurley and cornerback Kamaal McIlwain on Saturday. Both tried out for the team during minicamp.

Bills Bubble Watch: J.J. Unga

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they potentially fit in 2014.)

Name: J.J. Unga

Position: Guard

Age: 27

2013 stats: 3 games (no starts)

Chance of making 53-man roster: 35 percent

Why he should make it: The Bills sang the praises of Unga last season, especially down the stretch. Coach Doug Marrone inserted him into the first-team offensive line for parts of some games once the Bills were eliminated from the playoffs. Even though the selection of Cyril Richardson, the signing of Chris Williams and the return of Chris Hairston have muddled the waters at guard, Unga is still in the mix. With a strong training camp he could be deserving of a roster spot.

Why he shouldn't make it: Hairston saw reps with the first team at right guard this spring, a surprise given that he was a tackle before missing all of last season with an injury. That adds another player to the mix at guard and reduces Unga's chances of making the roster. Assuming Kraig Urbik is able to hold down his roster spot and Richardson isn't a major disappointment, there may not be room for Unga. He doesn't have the positional versatility of Hairston (guard/tackle) or Doug Legursky (guard/center). Unga still has practice squad eligibility, and that might be the best spot for him to begin this season.

Closest competition: Richardson, Hairston, Edawn Coughman
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.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Last Sunday's 27-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave the Buffalo Bills coaching staff its first significant opportunity to evaluate players who have otherwise been buried on the depth chart this season.

Guard J.J. Unga played seven snaps in place of Kraig Urbik at right guard, while Ty Powell came on for Manny Lawson at linebacker for seven snaps as well.

This week, Unga could start in place of Urbik, who injured his foot, while Marrone said Powell performed well and is in line for more playing time going forward.

With just three games left, the Bills won't have much of a chance to give other players a look, and coming off their worst loss of the season, coach Doug Marrone knows that there are more important goals for the team.

"For us, the most important thing for us is that we have to win a game. We have to put the best guys out there in the best position that we possibly can to win," he said Thursday.

But once Week 17 comes and goes, the Bills won't be able to evaluate their bottom-of-the-roster players in live action until next August. Other than Unga and Powell, here's a look at which players could get an audition in the final three games:

RB Ronnie Wingo -- After the Bills released veteran Tashard Choice, the writing was on the wall for Wingo to receive more playing time. He was active Sunday and played four snaps. The Bills will likely add another running back this offseason, either through the draft or free agency, but Wingo will still be in the mix for a roster spot, especially if he shows something late this season.

WR Chris Hogan -- The Bills got Hogan on the field for eight snaps in Sunday's loss. Now in his third season in the NFL, there may be limited upside for the former lacrosse player, but he can still have a serviceable career as a fifth or sixth receiver.

TEs Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg -- Moeaki is a veteran, but is coming off an injury and is essentially trying out for the Bills over the final month of the season. Gragg played eight snaps in Sunday's game but earned his first career start. Both players will be in the mix for roster spots next season, but neither is guaranteed anything.

OL Mark Asper, Antoine McClain, Jamaal Johnson-Webb, and Edawn Coughman -- In addition to Unga, these are the young linemen that the Bills have in their system. Unga appears to be leading the pack, but any of these players -- including Johnson-Webb and Coughman, who are on the practice squad -- could be worth a look late in these final games.

DT Stefan Charles -- The Canadian product was impressive in limited action against the Chiefs, which was his Buffalo debut. Since then, he's recorded just three tackles in four games, but it would make sense for his playing time to get increased down the stretch. Veterans Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus could both use a lighter workload.

Safeties Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks -- Drafted in back-to-back rounds last April, neither rookie has seen much playing time on defense. The Bills could have a hole at safety this offseason if Jairus Byrd departs through free agency, and at some point, the Bills need to know whether Williams or Meeks can help fill it.

Urbik (foot) likely a game-time decision

December, 11, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills guard Kraig Urbik (foot) will likely be a game-time decision after missing Wednesday's practice with a foot injury, coach Doug Marrone said.

Urbik has started all 13 games this season and played all but seven snaps in Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"I won't be able to update you during the week, saying 'is he close or is he not close?' I really think it will go all the way until the end. That's how I feel right now," Marrone said. "[His foot] was sore after the game. We thought it would be better and it's not."

If Urbik cannot play, the Bills will start undrafted rookie J.J. Unga at right guard. Unga, who was signed off the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad last month, was active for the first time Sunday. He replaced Urbik on seven snaps, likely for evaluation purposes.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso was limited in Wednesday's practice with a knee injury. Marrone said it was unclear when he got hurt.

"Basically we're just resting him," Marrone said. "I think it's one of things where you can't pinpoint that play. It's just sore. They asked me what I wanted to do, if I wanted to put him out there, go out there and practice. The guy has taken a lot of snaps. I just said 'You know what, let's limit him.'"

Here's a look at Wednesday's full practice report:

DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)
OL Kraig Urbik (foot)

LB Kiko Alonso (knee)
CB Brandon Smith (ankle)

S Jonathan Meeks (ankle)

Kraig Urbik not spotted at practice

December, 11, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills were back on the practice field Wednesday, but guard Kraig Urbik was not spotted.

Urbik has started all 13 games at right guard this season. In Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bills replaced Urbik with J.J. Unga for seven snaps.

It's unclear if Urbik is injured. We'll know more at 2 p.m. when Doug Marrone speaks to reporters.
TAMPA -- Offering some halftime thoughts as the Buffalo Bills trail the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-3:

1. This is an ugly one. The Bills have struggled in all three phases of the game. On offense, EJ Manuel has thrown two interceptions, including one that bounced off the hands of Stevie Johnson. Defensively, the Bills allowed an 80-yard touchdown run to Bobby Rainey on the game's second play, which set the tone. On special teams, Leodis McKelvin muffed a punt that was recovered by the Bucs.

2. This doesn't mean much within the game itself, but it's important in the larger context of where the Bills are this season: Bottom-of-the-roster players have begun to see playing time, likely for evaluation purposes. J.J. Unga played a few drives at right guard in place of Kraig Urbik, while linebacker Ty Powell stepped in for Manny Lawson for another drive. Expect to see more of that the rest of the afternoon, with Ronnie Wingo in line to see some carries in the later stages of the game.

3. Buffalo's running game has been hot and cold all season. Despite the warm Florida temperatures, they've been cold today. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have combined for 24 yards on nine first-half carries.

4. The Bills have dodged a few injuries today. In the first quarter, punter Brian Moorman went down after getting hit in the leg after a punt. He was on the field for the next punt. Then in the second quarter, cornerback Ron Brooks stayed down for an extended period with an apparent neck injury, but later returned.

5. Hey, at least this game isn't being played in snowy Philadelphia, right?

Bills add size to O-line with J.J. Unga

November, 20, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills filled their open 53-man roster spot on Wednesday, signing offensive lineman J.J. Unga off the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad.

Unga, 26, signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent this past spring. The Midwestern State product spent the first 11 weeks of the season on the Ravens' practice squad.

Coach Doug Marrone said that Unga, who played tackle in college, will switch to guard with the Bills.

Unga stands at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds. Marrone said Unga's size is part of what led to his signing.

"What we like to do is build a bigger team," Marrone said. "My philosophy has always been that this is a big man's game."

Here's a look at the size of the Bills' roster at offensive line:

Erik Pears: 6-foot-8, 316 pounds
Thomas Welch: 6-foot-7, 310 pounds
Mark Asper: 6-foot-7, 325 pounds
Cordy Glenn: 6-foot-6, 345 pounds
Kraig Urbik: 6-foot-5, 324 pounds
J.J. Unga: 6-foot-5, 320 pounds
Antoine McClain: 6-foot-5, 326 pounds
Bryant Browning: 6-foot-4, 325 pounds (practice squad)
Edawn Coughman: 6-foot-4, 313 pounds (practice squad)
Eric Wood: 6-foot-4, 310 pounds
Doug Legursky: 6-foot-1, 315 pounds