3 Burning Bills Questions Entering OTAs

Who completes the defensive line for the Bills in 2015? What is the best starting five along the offensive line? And the question that no one has the answer to: Who wins the starting QB job?

The Buffalo Bills began OTA’s on Tuesday and while this year’s roster is loaded with talent, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Starting jobs aren’t generally decided during OTAs, but fans get a glimpse of what the coaching staff is thinking based upon the reps players receive. As June approaches, here are three burning Bills OTA questions.

1. Who Completes Buffalo’s Defensive Line?

Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus (minus Week 1) are locks to start along Buffalo’s defensive line. They are two of the best in the business as illustrated by their All-Pro status, but who starts along with the duo?

The most realistic candidates include Corbin Bryant, Alex Carrington, Stefan Charles and Jarius Wynn. While it’s too early to guarantee a winner, Stefan Charles is probably the most likely to win the job. He could play nose tackle or defensive end in Buffalo’s 3-4 alignment and has the most upside among his competition. Charles looked great in limited stretches last season but did struggle when he saw extended time. Alex Carrington could also be a dark horse candidate for the role as he won this job back in 2013 after a strong camp and preseason. A Week 3 injury that season put Carrington on the injured reserve and he spent last season with the St. Louis Rams. Carrington has shown the ability to win the job before, but Charles is my early favorite to win a spot on Buffalo’s defensive line.

2. Who Starts on the Offensive Line... and Where?

There’s a few scenarios that could play out this summer on Buffalo’s offensive line. Here’s a look at two of them.

The most realistic scenario involves Cordy Glenn starting at left tackle, rookie John Miller getting the left guard job, Eric Wood starting at center, Richie Incognito at right guard and Seantrel Henderson at right tackle. Buffalo’s interior was a mess last season, so having two new starting guards is no surprise. Glenn and Henderson both started all 16 games at their respective tackle spots and Wood is a mainstay at center. This is the lineup I expect to see come September, but one man could shake things up. That man is Cyrus Kouandjio.

Kouandjio, Buffalo’s second round pick in 2014, had an extremely disappointing 2014 season with the Bills. The offensive tackle was only active for one week last season but didn’t get on the field. It seems like Kouandjio took last season as a wakeup call. This offseason, Kouandjio has spent the majority of his time at LeCharles Bentley’s Offensive Line Performance Training Center. Working with Bentley doesn’t guarantee success, but he has a pretty good track record of helping offensive linemen. Players such as Chance Warmack, Kyle Long, Lane Johnson and Alex Boone are a few players who have seen a great deal of success after working with Bentley. Also working in Kouandjio’s favor is the fact that he’ll only be 22 years old come September. If Kouandjio steps up and impresses the Bills coaching staff, we could see a very different starting offensive line. It could look something like this:

Henderson (LT)

Glenn (RG)

Wood (C)

Incognito (RG)

Kouandjio (RT)

 

Miller would lose his starting job in this scenario, but it’d give the third round pick a season to work in at guard behind Glenn and Incognito. He has experience at both guard spots and could still see significant snaps in his rookie season in this scenario, just not as a starter.

Buffalo needs their best five linemen on the field in 2015 to make sure their ground-and-pound approach succeeds.

3. Manuel, Cassel or Taylor?

Sigh… It’s late May and even I’m sick of this topic. Buffalo could have E.J. Manuel, Matt Cassel or Tyrod Taylor under center come September. They’re expected to split reps equally as the team tries to decide which player gives Buffalo the best chance to win this season.

Manuel has only been given 14 starts in his first two seasons and he’s flashed potential. He’s worked with former NFL QB Steve DeBerg this offseason on his throwing motion, but he’ll have to improve his accuracy if he wants any chance of winning the job. In addition, Manuel needs to be more willing to run with the ball if there’s nothing available and work on feeling pressure around him. At times, he’s shown little awareness of defenders in his vicinity.

Cassel is the safe option. Give him a bad haircut and mustache and he’s Kyle Orton 2.0. His stats wouldn’t impress many people but he’d serve as a trustworthy game manager. He is probably the best at reading defenses among the trio and he’d get the ball out quickly when needed. If Cassel starts the season at QB, you can put the final nail in Manuel’s career with the Bills.

Taylor is the darkhorse of the position. No one knows just how good he may be. In Baltimore, the team trusted Taylor as their No. 1 backup to Joe Flacco. Flacco is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, so it’s not Taylor’s fault that he didn’t see any playing time in Baltimore.

There’s a legitimate chance that Taylor could win the starting job and impress Buffalo’s coaching staff. It’s no coincidence that Gary Kubiak, Baltimore’s OC in 2014, attempted to sign Taylor in free agency to join him in Denver. Taylor took less money in Buffalo for the better opportunity. There’s nothing out there that puts Manuel or Cassel ahead of the former Hokie. Taylor is by far the best athlete of the trio and would give the Bills a mobile quarterback under center. An offense involving Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin and others is very exciting to think about from a speed aspect.

Who wins? Who knows, but there will be no shortage of articles about this competition between now and September.

What questions do you have about the Bills at the start of OTAs? Share your questions in our forum!


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