Thursday, October 16, 2014

Marrone high on Kounandjio; Urbik's role still backup


Doug Marrone and the Buffalo Bills have decided to shake things up with their offensive line, just not the way you'd expect.

According to Chris Brown of, the coaching staff has decided to give rookie Cyrus Kounandjio another shot to prove his worth, though it won't be at tackle, where he was projected to start at the beginning of preseason workouts. The second-round pick has been reportedly taking snaps at guard with the scout team for the past couple of weeks, a move that Marrone feels could be a permanent one for the 21-year-old.

"I think he’s done a nice job," Marrone said. "Of any of the players who haven’t been playing I see him as one of the most improved. From what you’ve seen of him in the preseason and what you see now when you watch it, his movement skills have truly been a 180 from what we saw in preseason. So I’m really excited about that.

"If he keeps going the way he’s going we could get a spot for him somewhere just like a lot of other people."

Given the performances by Cyril Richardson and Erik Pears this year, the change for Kounandjio makes sense. 

In six games, Pears's overall rating is dead last among guards, according to ProFootballFocus, with Richardson not far behind (fourth worst) in the three games he's played since Chris Williams went down with a back injury. Even when he was healthy, Williams's play was nothing to write home about.

Another body would be hugely beneficial for the unit if Kounandjio can continue to improve, and it may wind up being more of a question of when he sees playing time if he continues to progress like Marrone described. 

The bigger question at guard for many fans, however, continues to be why veteran Kraig Urbik hasn't been given a shot at the starting role thus far, a question Marrone didn't seem to fully answer Thursday.

"I think we feel comfortable with what his role is for the team right now," he said via Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550. "If someone is not playing well or not improving based on us, I think that that's a possibility. We talk about that too, but I think those guys are getting better in there. 

"I think he's our best option if something would ever happen to Eric Wood. That's what I see his role as right now, to be ready in case we ever do anything."

Urbik's ability to play center is certainly a plus, though reasons why he hasn't seen more time at guard are becoming harder to understand. The 29-year-old ranked in the top 25 among all guards the past three years, according to PFF, with his strongest year coming in 2013. He had only one penalty called against him a season ago, whereas Richardson has had four in three games. 

The Bills will need a strong effort from their guards from here on out if they hope to make get their running game back to top form, and it will be interesting to see who becomes the next man up for Marrone if the current duo's inefficiencies continue.

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