The Buffalo Bills quietly made a huge impact on their only line of defense for EJ Manuel this coming season. Our offensive line has 2 men on it that are Pro Bowl caliber starters in Center Eric Wood and Left Tackle Cordy Glenn, however the media isn’t even reporting what we have done to improve this ever important aspect of the offense. With the blockbuster trade that saw the Bills moving up to take Sammy Watkins at 4th overall, a lot has been lost in how great our second, fifth and seventh round picks were and how coupled with our off-season signings have taken this offensive line from an afterthought to a real discussion. Just take a look at what the Bills are dealing with now on the offensive line:
Eric Wood – 6’4″ 310lbs – C – A former first round draft pick who had durability concerns earlier in his career, Wood wears the captain C on his jersey for good reason. He is above all else a leader, the best player on the line and if the NFL Pro Bowl wasn’t a popularity contest for OL he would have made it last year. The anchor of the line.
Cordy Glenn – 6’6″ 345lbs – LT – Holding down that position and protecting EJ’s blind side, Glenn’s improvements from year to year could make him a Pro Bowler if he takes another step this season. Has consistently improved and has quickly become one of our most important players on the offense.
Chris Williams 6’6″ 326lbs – OG – Another former first round pick, Williams played a few years in Chicago before being tossed into a starting position for the St. Louis rams at LG. He was ranked horribly last season after they started the year with a 7th round RB in Daryl Richardson and a couple QBs that hold onto the ball for a long time. This is a situation where numbers don’t tell the whole story and we should expect him to reach his first round potential.
Kraig Urbik – 6’5″ 324lbs – OG – Kraig Urbik should not expect to start this season, but his versitility should keep him around. He played backup C when Wood went down with an injury to his ACL and did a serviceable job. The ability to play both positions should make him a lock for the roster as you can never have enough guys who can come in and play when needed at 2 separate positions.
Erik Pears – 6’8″ 316lbs – OT – Pears will most likely be cut from this team. He has a high salary and we now have a few OT to challenge him for his position. In my opinion he was the weakest memeber of the 2013 offensive line. It’s a shame to see his size, makes you wish he could catch the ball.
Doug Legursky – 6’1″ 315lbs – OG – Legursky was brought in for the 2013 season as a veteran to play a similar role to that which I expect Urbik to play in 2014. He can play both OG and C and did a serviceable job when the Colin Brown project was finally cancelled in 2013. The thing that stands out to me the most on paper when writing this would be his height. I expect him to compete with Urbik for that reserve role, but don’t see him making the team.
J.J. ‘Unga – 6’5″ 320lbs – OT – Few people know a lot about this man. He played at Midwestern State in Texas. He apparently was recruited by D1 schools but “didn’t qualify” (I have no idea if that’s acidemically or other reasons). He has incredible talent and has quick feet to play OG as well as OT, which works in his favor as he tries to make this team. In addition, Marrone has gone on record saying that he likes to take quick footed Tackles and move them to Guard. Another thing working in his favor.
Chris Hairston – 6’6″ 330lbs – OT – Once thought of to be one of the favorites for the RT position on the line, the draft would make it appear that Hairston is unable to pass the physical from the undisclosed injury that he has been battling.
Cyrus Kouandjio – 6’6″ 322lbs – OT – There were points in the off-season when mock drafts had Kouandjio going in the first round of the draft and they were accurate in my opinion. This mammoth of a man is already a fantastic run blocker and has some improvement on the pass rushing aspect, but it’s nothing he can’t learn. We should expect to see Kouandjio starting on opening day against the Bears. His draft stock slipped to what I can only tell is a “witch hunt” nagging knee injury he played through his entire career. He never missed time for it and the extra month of analysis this season screwed him out of the first round, but helped us greatly.
Cyril Richardson – 6’5″ 329lbs – OG – Taken in the 5th round, this was another absolute steal in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. Richardson started at LT in front of Heisman winning QB Robert Griffen III and moved to LG the next season. In 2012 and 2013 Cyril Richardson was the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year. Scouts have said that if he can get meaner and quicker laterally he has Pro Bowl potential and I am in agreement.
Seantrel Henderson – 6’7″ 331lbs – OT – Our 3rd steal of the draft and this was grand larceny. Henderson was projected a late 2nd early 3rd round pick before his draft stock dropped due to a failed drug test at the combine. A young man with all the potential in the world, he was the first OL to ever win the Offensive Player of the Year coming out of High School, signed with Miami and started every game that he wasn’t suspended from. Obvious “red flags” in this man’s life, but not in his game. If he is able to get his head screwed on correctly he will be a great fit as a swing tackle, potentially even a starting tackle on this team down the road.
It’s much too early to project a starting offensive line right now, or even the offensive linemen that have the potential to make the team. If I had to look at this right now I could obviously pencil in Wood and Glenn to start Week 1. Here would be my first idea on our OL:
LT – Cordy Glenn
LG – Chris Williams
C – Eric Wood
RG – Cyril Richardson
RT – Cyrus Kouandjio
OT – Seantrel Henderson
OT/G – J.J. ‘Unga
G/C – Kraig Urbik
Clearly I am very high on this rookie class of offensive line prospects and expecting the best from them, which could be considered foolish. Would we really be in a situation where we keep 2 rookies on the right side of the line? Well, to put it simply… Yes, because I think they are better than what we aready have. If these guys even get to scratch the surface of their potential we have drafted 2 starting quality lineman in the 2nd and 5th rounds of the draft.
In addition, since this is far too early to even be projecting anything like this and will differ from what we put out on the field after training camp, I am curious to hear what everyone else think about our offensive line, who do you see starting and do you see us carrying 8 or 9 lineman on the 53 man roster?