J.J. ’Unga may get more playing time at guard for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Starting right guard Kraig Urbik was unable to practice Wednesday, instead watching the workout with a boot on his left foot. Bills coach Doug Marrone said he probably won’t know for sure if Urbik can play against the Jacksonville Jaguars until game time.
’Unga, 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, was undrafted out of Midwestern State in Texas this year. He was signed by the Bills off Baltimore’s practice squad on Nov. 20. ’Unga spelled Urbik for seven plays in Sunday’s game in Tampa.
“If he’s not available, then J.J. will be in there,” coach Doug Marrone said of Urbik. “If Kraig is available, then we’ll probably increase J.J.’s reps anyway, depending on the limitations of Kraig.”
“This is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had,” ’Unga said. “I’ve only been here a little while, two weeks, three weeks. I’m comfortable enough. I still have a lot to learn. But I feel comfortable enough right now.”
’Unga, born and raised in California, is of Tongan descent. The punctuation mark before his last name is common in the Tongan language.
The sport of football runs deep in his family. His older brother, Paul, played at Arizona State. He has twin younger brothers, Feti and Uani, who played big-time college football. Feti ’Unga finished a career as a linebacker at Oregon State last fall. Uani ’Unga is a middle linebacker who leads Brigham Young in tackles this season. Cousin Harvey ’Unga is a third-year running back for the Chicago Bears and is BYU’s all-time leading rusher. Cousin Reno Mahe is a former Eagles special-teams ace.
The Jaguars might be without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who suffered a strained right hamstring in last week’s game against Houston. Jones-Drew did not practice Wednesday. He told reporters he hopes to return to practice on Friday. Jordan Todman is next on the Jags’ depth chart. The Jaguars this week signed former Colts backup back Delone Carter to the roster. Carter played his last two seasons for Doug Marrone at Syracuse.
Also sitting out due to injury were top receiver Cecil Shorts (groin), starting defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder) and kicker Josh Scobee (hip).
Jags starters who were limited were safeties Johnathan Cyprien (thigh) and Josh Evans (shoulder), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) and Austin Pasztor (shoulder). Limited for the Bills in practice were linebacker Kiko Alonso (knee) and cornerback Brandon Smith (ankle).
EJ Manuel’s second-quarter interception on a pass for T.J. Graham on Sunday came against a Tampa “2-Man” defense. The Bucs were playing two deep safeties with man coverage on the underneath receivers. Manuel had trouble handling that coverage in Pittsburgh, too. One good way to attack two deep safeties is to run the ball. The Bills, however, were not running well. What should he have done in that situation?
“I think the biggest thing is to take off and run,” Manuel said. “A lot of times when they have two deep safeties and they’re playing man under, the quarterback is really the catalyst to break that thing. Instead of trying to sit in the pocket and I guess pinpoint defenses apart, sometimes just using my natural ability. Like I said … one of those interceptions I could have just taken off and gotten 10, 12 yards and gotten down. I just gotta learn from it, bite the bullet and move forward.”
For the record, here were the snap counts from the Bucs game:
OFFENSE – Manuel, Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood, Doug Legursky Erik Pears (all 67), Robert Woods 66, Urbik 60, Stevie Johnson 59, T.J. Graham 46, Scott Chandler 38, Fred Jackson 37, C.J. Spiller 26, Marquise Goodwin 26, Lee Smith 12, Chris Hogan 8, Chris Gragg 8, ’Unga 7, Evan Rodriguez 5.
DEFENSE – Kiko Alonso 66, Jairus Byrd 66, Leodis McKelvin 66, Aaron Williams 64, Stephon Gilmore 64, Marcell Dareus 59, Kyle Williams 53, Mario Williams 52, Manny Lawson 49, Alan Branch 47, Nigel Bradham 47, Jerry Hughes 25, Nickell Robey 19, Corbin Bryant 18, Da’Norris Searcy 12, Stefan Charles 10, Ty Powell 7, Arthur Moats 2.