Around the AFC East: Look back at Week 9
By Scout.com Staff
When the Buffalo Bills spent the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft on behemoth Texas right tackle Mike Williams, it was assumed he'd eventually play the more demanding left tackle position in the NFL.
But left guard?
In a move that could blow Buffalo's salary structure apart, the Bills began practicing Williams full-time at left guard on Monday as preparations got underway in earnest for Sunday's home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Williams, who has struggled with injuries, personal problems and pass blocking in his young career, has missed four starts in his last six games due to a high ankle sprain. That injury opened the door first for journeyman Greg Jerman, then for converted tight end Jason Peters when Jerman went down with an ankle injury of his own.
Peters, a second-year street free agent from Arkansas, made his NFL debut at right tackle two weeks ago in a hard-fought 21-16 loss at New England and impressed Buffalo's coaches with his performance against Willie McGinest.
"We're going to keep him working there," coach Mike Mularkey said. "He's got one game under his belt, he looks comfortable. He's got some talent and we have to see if we can get more out of him."
With a 3-5 record and with an offense ranked 26th in scoring, Buffalo is trying to see if it can assemble a more dominant and more consistent offensive line, even at this late juncture.
Peters, 6-4, 328, is much more athletic than Williams, and with his quickness should be better equipped to handle speed pass rushers off the edge as he develops.
Meanwhile, Williams, who has unusual size at 6-6, 360, would make Buffalo stronger inside against bigger interior defensive linemen.
The odd man out appears to be free agent Bennie Anderson, who has started all eight games at left guard but is coming off two poor outings. He was flagged for three penalties in loss at Oakland and against the Patriots, and he took blame for a game-turning sack that helped fuel New England's late rally.
Though he didn't declare himself fully recovered physically, Williams said on Monday that he was "ready to go" for the Chiefs. Mularkey wasn't ready to pencil him in at left guard, but things are in motion.
"We'll give him a shot there this week, see how comfortable he is to a new learning experience," Mularkey said. "There are some different rules in there and I want to see how comfortable he is.
"He's had one full day of practice... I'm not throwing him into the wolves right now. I'm easing him in, seeing how it is for both him and Jason. As many reps as they can get, the better."
Buffalo's line has done a good job in run support for running back Willis McGahee, who is fourth in rushing with 790 yards. However, pass protection has been weak, with Buffalo quarterbacks being sacked 20 times. Time to attack deep through the air has been a problem -- the Bills have just seven pass plays of 20 yards or more.
"I'm looking for the best five linemen we have, where they best fit into the scheme," Mularkey said. "We're still evaluating. I don't know if Mike, being unfamiliar that position, can be (one of them), but I know that prior to his injury, he was playing good football and Jason Peters is playing good football. We'll see where it takes us."
The move won't sit well with Buffalo's bean counters.
Anderson was signed to a three-year, $5.1 million free agent deal last spring, very affordable for a starting guard.
Williams, on the other hand, is in the fourth year of a six-year deal that originally could've been worth as much as $44 million had he hit certain incentives and escalators. Williams has struggled to become the dominant player the Bills' scouts predicted he'd be, however, and won't earn the full amount of his deal. Still, at least $17 million is guaranteed.
Despite the sub-par play of Gus Frerotte, Dolphins coach Nick Saban is still sticking with the 12-year veteran as his starting quarterback entering Sunday's home game against New England.
The public cries for Saban to bench Frerotte in favor of Sage Rosenfels continued after the former's shaky performance in last Sunday's 17-10 loss to Atlanta. Frerotte threw a third-down interception deep inside Atlanta territory with less than three minutes remaining to severely damage Miami's comeback chances. Frerotte finished 13 of 22 passing for 103 yards and no touchdowns as the Dolphins (3-5) failed to convert any of nine third-down attempts.
"I guess we will always have hopes that the backup quarterback will solve all of our problems," Saban said Monday when asked about the quarterback situation. "Nobody here is disappointed in Sage. You have heard me say that time and time again.
"I think it is a slippery slope when you start (changing quarterbacks) because now you really create a lot of chemistry issues. What if that doesn't work out well? What do you go back to? Where do you go next? We evaluate what everybody is doing and we are going to make the decision based on who is going to give us the best opportunity we feel to win."
"I think there is a lot of potential there," Saban said of his corps of receiving targets. "We have good enough receivers that they can be a little more productive. We just have to tie it together and be more consistent in what we are doing and execute better. We can't drop balls -- none."
Asked what he can do to offer support to a struggling quarterback, Saban said, "You have to be positive and supportive and definitely show people that if they execute and do what they are supposed to do and make good choices and decisions, they need to believe that that will help them get the best outcome. You can't force things to happen. We'll have bad plays when we do that."
Perhaps you've heard this one before -- the Brooks Bollinger era starts Sunday when the Jets visit Carolina.
Coach Herm Edwards made official Monday what most everyone had suspected after Sunday's game against San Diego, when he named Bollinger the starter. Of course, Bollinger also was named the starter before the Jets' game at Baltimore on Oct. 2, and that didn't last very long.
Bollinger went 14-for-28 for 149 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 13-3 loss, running a game plan more conservative than Bill O'Reilly. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger opened things up when Bollinger was inserted in the third quarter against San Diego, and should do the same here.
"We opened it up a little more than Baltimore," Heimerdinger admitted. "We gave him some shots at deep things that we probably didn't in Baltimore. Some things that Brooks does good we'll try to build on."
At 2-6, the Jets might as well find out if Bollinger can play in the NFL, even if they don't view him as more than a backup long-range. Bollinger will turn 26 next week, while Vinny Testaverde will turn 42 the same week.
Much like Chad Pennington, Bollinger has been criticized for a perceived lack of arm strength, although he did overthrow Justin McCareins on an out route in the third quarter Sunday. But his ability to make plays on the run is invaluable for a quarterback playing behind a banged-up offensive line.
One of Bollinger's shortcoming-literally-is his lack of height. Listed at 6-1 but probably standing under 6 feet, he had three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage against San Diego.
"It's a frustrating thing," Bollinger said. "But I am what I am. I just have to find a way to decrease that in crucial situations."
"We've got to break an old habit that he's too short on his drops," Heimerdinger said. "It's not his release so much as the depth of his drops."
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