The Buffalo Bills should get a huge piece of their defensive line back Sunday.
Defensive end Mario Williams was limited in practice Thursday for the second straight day, a good sign according to coach Rex Ryan.
“I think Mario looks good,” Ryan said. “He might not be 100 percent, but he’s good enough for us.”
Williams, who turns 31 at the end of next month, has just three sacks this season, putting him on pace for the worst season of his career. He missed his first game in four seasons with the Bills last Sunday against Kansas City because of a foot injury, and has also sat out big chunks of two other games because of injury and/or illness.
“Obviously that plays into it,” Ryan said of Williams’ decreased statistical production. “And the way people are attacking us a little differently. Make no mistake; this guy’s still a great football player. So I’m happy we have him, regardless of how many sacks he has or doesn’t have.”
Williams, who has not spoken to reporters this week, has two years remaining on his contract. He’s scheduled to count $19.9 million against the Bills’ salary cap in 2016.
In other injury updates, right guard John Miller (ankle), right tackle Seantrel Henderson (illness), linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle) and running back Karlos Williams (shoulder) did not practice Thursday. Miller and Bradham have been ruled out, and optimism from Ryan on Henderson and Karlos Williams being able to play is waning.
“I think so – now that he’s missed another day of practice – there will be some concerns there,” Ryan said of Henderson. “I’m not real sure. Usually with most illnesses, it’s ok, but now being away another day, there would be some concerns.”
That would leave the Bills without the starting right side of their offensive line against the Texans – and star pass-rusher J.J. Watt. Uh oh.
“Oh, I wouldn’t think a whole lot,” Ryan said when asked how big of a problem that could be, trying to deadpan as much sarcasm as he could muster. “Maybe a little bit of a problem. It might be a little bit of a problem if the starting group is out there.”
If Henderson is unable to play, Jordan Mills would make his first start as a member of the Bills. Mills joined the team from the Detroit Lions’ practice squad prior to the Week Seven game in London against Jacksonville.
“Yeah, if it has to come, absolutely,” Ryan said when asked if Mills was ready to start, which would then make Cyrus Kouandjio the team’s swing tackle. “We’d be ok if that happens, but we’ll see if it happens.”
Ryan said the team expects to know more on the status of Karlos Williams and Henderson following Friday’s final practice of the week.
If Karlos Williams is unable to play, the Bills may be forced to promote running back Mike Gillislee from the practice squad to have three healthy players at the position.
Left tackle Cordy Glenn (back), wide receiver Marcus Easley (concussion), quarterback Tyrod Taylor (right shoulder) and safety Bacarri Rambo (knee) all joined Mario Williams as limited participants in Thursday’s practice.
Buffalo Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn was mentioned earlier this week by NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport as someone who could get interviews for what’s expected to be several head-coaching jobs in the NFL after the 2015 season.
On Thursday, Ryan was asked about that possibility for his assistant head coach.
“I can understand why,” he said. “He’s a great football coach. … He’s got the respect of everybody – of all the players. I’ve seen him work with veteran players, young players, it makes no difference.”
Lynn, 46, won a pair of Super Bowl championships with the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s. He interviewed last year for the offensive coordinator openings in Miami and Tennessee – both of which currently have interim head coaches in place.
Ryan said he was particularly impressed with the work Lynn did while LaDainian Tomlinson was winding down his career with the New York Jets.
“LT was pass blocking better than he ever had,” Ryan said. “He took a lesser role, and here’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame back. So this guy can coach them all.”
Ryan said making Lynn his assistant head coach was “one of the easiest decisions I’ve made.”
“He’s great for our team, but if he gets that opportunity to be a head coach, that would be awesome,” he said. “If he gets a job he’ll be ready for that position.”
The Bills will host the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick Team Championships Saturday inside the ADPRO Sports Training Center, then recognize the winners during a pregame ceremony Sunday inside Ralph Wilson Stadium.
There are five age divisions for boys and girls ages 6-15 from both New York and Pennsylvania, with the top scorer in each group becoming eligible for the national championships, which will be held Jan. 3 during a game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. Each participant has one punt, pass and kick scored for distance and accuracy. The top four scorers from each age group from across the country will qualify as national finalists.
Bills safety Aaron Williams is scheduled to appear at the event to sign autographs for the participants at 12:45 p.m.