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Vic Carucci's Bills Mailbag: Signing of Hodges could be real coup for Bills

You have Buffalo Bills questions that you've submitted to me via Twitter @viccarucci.

I have answers:

@mclennon99: Gerald Hodges is a great add to the Bills defense and could very well be an opening day starter. Were you surprised the Bills landed him?

VC: Frankly, yes.

For one thing, I didn't think a linebacker of his caliber would be available this late in the offseason. It seems pretty clear that he entered the free-agent market expecting to get the big money paid in the early going, and as more and more time passed without him receiving an offer to his liking, he finally resigned himself to accepting a lesser deal but with the best possibility of starting.

That's where the Bills came in.

Hodges smartly took a short-term approach, with the plan of using the 2017 season to boost his stock and try to cash in next year. He saw it work for Lorenzo Alexander, who prospered after a Pro Bowl season with the Bills in 2016. It's fair to think Hodges could have the same success.

However, the Bills' new zone-oriented defensive scheme isn't likely to rely too heavily on linebackers. It will make heavier use of defensive backs, who will need to have the versatility to cover the pass and play the run.

@2Legs1Crutch: Has the culture and competency actually changed at OBD? It finally feels headed in right direction. Should I buy in or temper expectations?

VC: I don't think there's any doubt the Bills did the right thing by replacing the free-wheeling atmosphere that Rex Ryan created with a coach who intends to run a tighter ship.

Whether Sean McDermott can actually sustain such an approach remains to be seen. Players will only respond if the team wins.

And I think winning will be difficult this season because there are a lot of areas that need fixing and plenty of adjustment to change that must be made. Tempering expectations might be a good idea.

@Schultzy0620: How much more organized and structured do things seem with Sean McDermott versus Rex Ryan?

VC: I can't honestly say there's overwhelming evidence of better organization and structure based on watching the limited number of offseason practices that are open to the media.

Coaches are installing schemes and teaching, just as they did when Ryan was in charge.

The new defense doesn't call for the vast amount of substituting that Ryan's did, so that helps at least make the workouts seem a bit less hectic, but the real proof will come during games.

Will the Bills do a better job of avoiding penalties for having too many men on the field? Will they not get caught with too few?

No, Ryan didn't create a very high standard, so it should take much for McDermott to surpass his predecessor when it comes to keeping things in order.

@InYourEyes4u: With our cap mess and new GM in place why is Jim Overdorf still on board? He is/was the salary cap manager under Doug Whaley correct?

VC: Correct.

In his capacity as senior vice president of football administration, Overdorf has overseen the management of the cap, as well as contract negotiations. He shares in the blame over the Bills' cap issues.

I think the real question as far as Overdorf's future with the Bills is how he ends up working with the new GM, Brandon Beane. Owner Terry Pegula has essentially put Overdorf's fate in Beane's hands. It's possible, though unlikely, that Beane will conclude that Overdorf can run things the way Beane and coach Sean McDermott want them to be run and Overdorf can remain in his present role.

Although I wouldn't rule out Beane finding enough value in Overdorf's considerable experience to keep him around in a different capacity, it might take a little more time before the GM figures out what to do about him.

@lostnascarfan: How has the new GM/HC addressed the BILLS injuries issue they have had for years upon years?? Where's Rusty Jones when you need him???

VC: There haven't been any obvious moves. The training, physical conditioning, and medical staffs are pretty much intact.

Yet, injuries remain a problem.

It's hard to say whether the knee injury that rookie wide receiver Zay Jones suffered or the ankle injury that guard John Miller sustained in the offseason have anything to do with the incompetence of the people paid to help players heal and avoid injuries. The same goes for last year's second-round pick, linebacker Reggie Ragland, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, who is still recovering from an ankle injury.

It might also be that the Bills have picked their share of players who simply can't stay -- or get -- healthy. Tight end Charles Clay dealt with chronic knee problems before joining the Bills as an unrestricted free agent in 2015, and he's still dealing with them. Wide receiver Kolby Listenbee was drafted in 2016 after undergoing double sports-hernia surgery, and he still hasn't made his way onto the field. Defensive end Shaq Lawson, last year's first-round choice, was selected with a history of shoulder trouble and would miss six games as a rookie after undergoing shoulder surgery shortly after the draft.

Sammy Watkins, who is supposed to be the Bills' No. 1 receiver, hasn't been able to stay healthy since his rookie year in 2014. He's still recovering from a second foot surgery.

Still, I will say that there probably wasn't a better strength and conditioning coach in NFL history than Rusty Jones, who the Bills liked to call their "secret weapon."

@jirving14: Vic, with Sean McDermott saying they are concerned about Charles Clay's knee, could they revisit signing Gary Barnidge?

VC: Yes. Once they feel his price is more in line with what they want to spend.

Of course, it stands to reason that Barnidge will wait as long as he possibly can to see if a team finds itself with a desperate enough situation at tight end, either through injury or poor performance, to give in to his contract demands.

@buffalonyman1: How is Bills salary cap situation right now?

VC: According to data on the websites overthecap.com and spotrac.com, the Bills are somewhere between $8 and $9 million under for their top 51 players.

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