Bills have task of filling void left by Wood

Posted Feb 1, 2018

There's no mistaking the hole the sudden end of Eric Wood's career leaves in Buffalo's lineup and locker room. GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott are now tasked with filling that void this offseason.

The abrupt news that Eric Wood’s career was suddenly over following the discovery of a troubling neck injury has left both a void on the field and in the locker room. Knowing how much rosters change from one season to the next, Wood was viewed as a stalwart as both a player and leader. So how do the Bills go about filling the holes the ninth-year lineman leaves behind?

“It’s a big void,” admitted Bills GM Brandon Beane. “You know what leadership he brought. There’s a reason we re-signed him in August and extended him two years. You hope to get all the years. Unfortunately, here we didn’t. That’s a big void on the field and in the locker room. We’ll do our best to try to (fill) that.”

Fortunately, Buffalo has plenty of time to address the situation. There is more than a month before free agency and just under three months until the NFL draft.

Replacing Wood on the field on the surface appears to be the easier of those two tasks. The Bills matched an offer sheet signed by Ryan Groy last offseason when the Los Angeles Rams tried to sign him away as a restricted free agent. That decision looks very astute now.

Groy, as the roster sits now, would be the best option to take over the starting center role vacated by Wood. He started the last seven games of the 2016 season when Wood landed on injured reserve with a broken leg. By all accounts from the coaching staff that season he performed admirably.

Despite having 40 games and 11 career starts under his belt, the 27-year old is not assuming anything.

“I’m just going to go into the season preparing as the starter and who knows, anything can happen,” said Groy in an appearance on the John Murphy Show. “I’m going to work hard in the offseason and prepare as I’m the starter, kind of like I did last year.”

Groy’s seven starts in 2016 were among his first at the NFL level in the pivot. He served as the backup center and swing guard this past season.

Having been an undrafted player, Groy has had to work his way up the ladder and 2018 could be his best shot at a starting role.

“You know there’s not many guys in this league that’ve come in right away and been a starter, and had to go in after someone was hurt,” Groy said. “It’s kind of how most everyone’s gotten their role. Somebody has to be out of that spot to get their shot. It’s kind of how it goes, and obviously here it’s very unfortunate.”

Buffalo will likely add competition to the roster for the starting center role, but knowing that Groy is in the fold for 2018 is certainly reassuring.

Replacing Wood’s leadership looks to be the bigger challenge. That’s not to say there isn’t quality leadership elsewhere on the roster, but a good portion of it sits on the defensive side of the ball. Only Tyrod Taylor can be viewed as a leadership equal to Wood on offense.

“Yeah it is a void,” said Lorenzo Alexander, who saw first-hand the impact Wood’s leadership had on the offense as a whole. “For me too, being able to bounce ideas off him. We used to drive to games together and be able to talk about more than just Sunday was always helpful to me.”

There are certainly others on offense who are capable of filling that leadership hole. LeSean McCoy comes to mind, and Pat DiMarco could be another if the new scheme allows him to play a larger role on the field.

Knowing other valuable leadership could be leaving if Kyle Williams chooses to retire among other possible roster changes, the potential dearth of leadership is an issue already on the head coach’s radar. And it may be one they have to address with new additions via free agency.

“It’s certainly something we have to keep our eye on, collectively, Brandon, myself, our staff, to make sure we have enough leadership on this team,” said Sean McDermott. “That’s something as you build a team, build a roster, year to year, that you want to make sure you have enough player-driven leadership.”