The Buffalo Bills think they got at least one thing sorted out from their ugly offensive showing against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Coach Doug Marrone says the new-look right side of the offensive line looks set. Veteran Erik Pears is the starting right guard, and rookie Seantrel Henderson is the starting right tackle, barring injury or an unexpected development.
As for the most important position on the team – quarterback – Marrone acknowledged starter EJ Manuel is a work in progress.
The Bills spent a lot of time in Monday’s practice trying to correct mistakes made in the 27-14 loss to Tampa. They have 12 days to figure out how to get their struggling offense on track by the season-opener in Chicago.
Asked about Pears today, Marrone complimented his play against Tampa defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. It was the first start at guard for Pears, who has played the last three seasons at right tackle.
“I thought he did some really good things against who I respect as one of the top players at his position,” Marrone said. “I like him there at right guard, and I like Seantrel at right tackle. I’m not going to totally commit myself to it. … If an injury occurs something might change. But if everyone remains healthy ... and they continue to keep playing like they’re playing, I see that as how we’ll go.”
That shift puts veteran guard Kraig Urbik in jeopardy of not making the 53-man roster. The starting left guard is Chris Williams. He missed the Tampa game and Monday’s practice with a sore back. But rookie fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson started in Williams’ place Saturday and took the first snaps with the starters again Monday.
Urbik is due to make $2.27 million this season.
Meanwhile, Marrone didn’t mince words about the offense’s need to improve after Saturday’s loss.
What about the starting QB? Through halftime of the Tampa game, Manuel had directed 17 preseason drives and produced three field goals, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a fumble. He marched the Bills to two TDs in the third quarter against Tampa’s second-string.
Asked if Manuel gives him confidence the Bills can be a playoff team, Marrone said:
“At that position, we have to have people around him playing well, there’s no doubt about that. We have to play well around him.”
“There are things that go on that are very difficult to see,” Marrone said, referring to mistakes and breakdowns at other positions. “We’re going with him. He’s not going to turn around and be a franchise guy overnight. That doesn’t happen often in this league. We’re going to work with him. He’s working hard to progress. We’re going to stick with him. I’m going to support him 110 percent, and we’re going to get him better. And the way we improve offensively is we make sure that as he gets better everyone gets better around him.
The Bills practiced for two hours Monday, working mostly on plays that went wrong on Saturday.
“We spent a big part of the day making corrections,” Marrone said. “I think you make a mistake if you say hey, let’s put it behind us and let’s move on. To me that’s a big mistake. Later in the year sometimes you have the ability to do that. … Today we spent extra time watching the film, making sure the corrections are there. We spent time today on the field going through corrections, things that have given us problems in the preseason.”
Said center Eric Wood: “We just had individual breakdowns that we’ve got to correct. It’s a lot of correctible things. We’ll get all those things worked out before Chicago.”