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Vic Carucci’s Bills Mailbag: Keeping guard up important for O-line

You’ve got Bills questions/comments that you submit to me via Twitter, @viccarucci, and email, at, and I have answers.

Here’s what I have to say about what you have to say:

@carbin14 says: “Will the offensive line be in good shape? Do you see the team getting another lineman during the offseason?”

I say: Expecting what easily was one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season to be in “good shape” is expecting a lot.

It’s far too soon to conclude that the Bills fixed their weakest area on the team, guard, with the additions of veteran Richie Incognito and third-round draft pick John Miller. Or that center Eric Wood will rebound from what he would readily admit was the worst season of his career. Or that tackles Cordy Glenn and Seantrel Henderson will make the necessary strides to provide the consistency the Bills didn’t get from them last year.

I suspect Incognito will be a better right guard than Erik Pears, but that isn’t saying much. And that assumes that being away from football for more than a year hasn’t created more rust than can be knocked off before the season and that Incognito doesn’t short-circuit his comeback from a suspension with more bad behavior. I also suspect that Miller, based on his rapid grasp of the complexities of NFL blocking schemes, can at least provide a marginal upgrade over the disaster that was left guard, where the Bills had three starters that ranged from horrible to mediocre.

I do think that the line will benefit from its new coach, Aaron Kromer, being an excellent teacher and harping on the fact that all of the players in his position group be technically sound, which he staunchly believes is more important than physical talent.

I wouldn’t rule out the Bills acquiring another lineman during the offseason, but that would likely be for depth purposes because they aren’t going to make any major investment in that area.

@HeyWNY says: “What is the biggest change you have noticed since Rex Ryan took over as head coach, off the field, with the team?”

I say: First, that the job of covering the team is far more fun than it ever was covering his predecessor, Doug Marrone, who generally found most of his dealings with reporters about as enjoyable as a root canal.

Second, that covering Ryan presents its own set of challenges, although they are far different than the ones that came with dealing with Marrone.

The fun part with Ryan is that he always has something to say, whether it’s about the Bills or a player from another team (such as Tom Brady’s pitching futility). The challenging part is that he will say things to other media outlets that will generate news, and you never know when that will happen. With Ryan, more than with any other coach I have covered, you are always on call.

But he does provide ample useful material, which couldn’t be said about Marrone or many other coaches, for that matter. Ryan will offer fairly detailed assessments of players, often tossing in an anecdote or two that help put more flesh on the bone, so to speak.

I’ve also noticed a more relaxed atmosphere around One Bills Drive. Ryan has succeeded in putting employees throughout the administration building at ease with his causal, approachable, Buffalo-like personality.

As expected, players, just as most of those who were with Ryan during his six seasons at the helm of the New York Jets, love playing for the guy. They aren’t just enamored with the man, but they also are excited about his plan, especially when it comes to implementing a highly aggressive defensive scheme that puts everyone in a position to make an impact.

@BrettsterBills says: “Who is the favorite for the QB job? They say it’s ‘open,’ but there tends to be a general idea behind closed doors.”

I say: I honestly don’t know and I believe the coaches are being sincere when they say the competition is open.

The one tip that offensive coordinator Greg Roman did offer earlier in the week was that he expected to “have an opinion” of who the favorite is by end of OTAs, when the Bills will be doing their most extensive on-field work of the offseason. He also said he intended to keep that “under his vest,” but I think, from the opportunities the media has to watch the open OTA sessions, we’ll form some opinions of our own that I’m sure will be shared extensively.

@Griz78 says: “Any more news on a football adviser for the Pegulas? Wasn’t there a guy from Cleveland?”

I say: Nothing new that I’ve heard.

In January, I reported that the Pegulas had an interest in Ron Hill, a senior personnel associate for the Browns. There were questions about whether the Browns would allow him out of his contract, but I don’t know if that presented a stumbling block or if there was any significant pursuit of him.

My understanding now is that Ryan is more than satisfied with the working relationship he has with General Manager Doug Whaley and the rest of the player-personnel department, which might prompt the Pegulas to determine there is no need to add anyone else to the mix … at least for the time being.

Lou says: “First, I enjoy your columns and your writing with The News, and I’m glad you’re back. In your Inside the NFL article, where Tom Cable says colleges are making it tough for the college prospects to adapt to the NFL, I say, well too bad. Colleges should not or ever be the minor league for the NFL. If they want kids to adapt to their game, start a minor league and teach these kids your system and what it’s like to play in the NFL. I enjoy the college game and all the passing. I like to watch Baylor, Boise State and Utah play because they are fun to watch. I don’t care if it doesn’t translate to the NFL.”

I say: I appreciate your kind remarks. It’s great to be back!

I do, however, disagree with your premise that the colleges shouldn’t be a feeder system for the NFL. The reason you enjoy seeing those athletes perform at such a high level at the major colleges to which you referred is because they accept scholarships to those schools with the hope it will lead them to the NFL. That is the primary selling point in recruitment.

Therefore, if colleges are going to use the NFL dream to attract players, it’s only fair for players to receive some level of preparation for the pros during their collegiate experience.

Creating a developmental league isn’t practical, because unlike baseball and hockey, players aren’t teenagers when they become professional. For the most part, teenage bodies aren’t ready for the level of contact they must endure in the NFL. And taking a 21- or 22-year-old college star and putting him in a minor league for an extended period isn’t going to happen because that player is only interested in playing in the NFL and doesn’t want to see valuable years wasted in a place where he gets little to no exposure or the corresponding compensation.


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