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Vic Carucci’s Mailbag: QB play will determine fate of offense

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:

@Jiillyy says: “Would you agree that this offense will be as good as the O-line can be and are you confident offensive coordinator Greg Roman can put it together?”

I say: Just as with any offense, it will be only as good as the quarterback play allows it to be.

By the current standard, that figures to have more to do with keeping mistakes to a minimum than it does with the ability to generate a maximum amount of big plays.

From what I’ve seen so far in OTA practices, the Bills don’t have a true difference-maker at quarterback and aren’t likely to have one emerge between now and the start of the season. EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor – the three vying for the starting job – have had, at best, decent stretches. But there have been too many times when their throws have been off target or they have simply been unable to find open receivers.

In saying that, I am not dismissing the importance of the line being much better than it was in 2014. That should, first, help the Bills improve in the area where they are expected to make their biggest strides: the running game.

Secondly, it should help the quarterback make fewer errors.

And, yes, I have faith that Roman and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer can put together, at the very least, a solid group from the available talent, which looks to have been upgraded from last year.

@bigangelbill12 says: “Who are your starting four linebackers and your starting five offensive linemen for Week One?”

I say: If Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes are considered outside linebackers in the Bills’ 3-4 base scheme, the answer at linebacker is fairly simple: They’ll be on the outside while Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown are the inside starters.

If, by chance, Hughes is classified more as an end, I would say it’s quite possible that Manny Lawson, who has impressed coaches with his quick grasp of the defense and ability to communicate well with the rest of the front seven, would move into that vacancy at outside linebacker.

As for the offensive line, I wouldn’t be shocked if it turned out this way: Seantrel Henderson at left tackle, Richie Incognito at left guard, Eric Wood at center, John Miller at right guard, and Cordy Glenn at right tackle. The coaches believe Henderson, who started at right tackle for his entire rookie year last season, has the best physical attributes to be on the left side and are giving him a chance to prove he belongs there. They are also curious about what they have in last year’s second-round choice who never saw the field, Cyrus Kouandjio, who has been getting plenty of reps at right tackle.

Although coach Rex Ryan has said that the Bills made Miller a third-round draft pick from Louisville with the intention of starting him immediately, Miller has so far exceeded expectations with his ultra-quick grasp of blocking assignments and the offensive scheme. There have been multiple times in meetings when he has been the one explaining to veterans what they’re supposed to be doing on the field rather than the other way around.

@10akYe says: “Who’s No. 2 at running back: Boobie Dixon or Fred Jackson?”

I say: Jackson.

I’m willing to go as far as to say that is the only role he will play, or he won’t be on the roster.

At 34, Jackson needs to make the case he is still viable enough to step in if anything were to happen to the new starter, LeSean McCoy, or to simply help ease what is expected to be a fairly heavy rushing load for the former Eagle. The coaches think he is capable of doing so, but they won’t know that for sure until they see how things go through training camp and the preseason.

As long as Jackson can hold up well enough physically, and show he is fully recovered from the groin-muscle injury that slowed him last year, he is a lock for the No. 2 spot. If not …

@antelopeezer says: “What was Matt Simms thinking, moving from fourth QB at the Jets to fourth at the Bills? Where did he benefit?”

I say: Although Simms requested his release from the Jets, the Bills claimed him off waivers, which is different than Simms picking them as a landing spot.

Nevertheless, he is thrilled to be with the Bills because he believes he has a far better chance of competing for a backup role than he did with the Jets, who sealed Simms’ fate when they made Bryce Petty their fourth-round draft pick to join a mix that already included Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Simms knows he has the support of Ryan, his former head coach with the Jets, and Bills quarterbacks coach David Lee, who held that same spot with the Jets and was firmly in Simms’ corner.

Plus, Simms recognizes that the quarterback situation with the Bills is as wide open as any in the league.

@JasMollica says: “Not a Bills fan, but seems like there is a TON of energy around the team: coaches, players, fans, than in the past. Rex factor?”

I say: Absolutely, although I would say the “Pegula factor” is a close second.

Ryan sets a perpetually upbeat tone with his highly approachable, larger-than-life personality. And the Pegulas don’t flinch when it comes to writing big checks.


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