Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. This year we want your opinion on what the most likely answers to these questions will be. After reading each daily installment as the Bills get set for Year 1 under head coach Doug Marrone, go to the Bills daily fan poll leading up to report day at training camp and vote. You could be eligible to win tickets to night practice. Here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 28th and the Sept. 8th home opener.
With the offseason departure of Andy Levitre and spot starter Chad Rinehart, the Bills have been trying to find a suitable replacement at the left guard position. The competition has seen multiple contenders, which offensive line coach Pat Morris believes is important at this stage in the game.
“(The spring practices were) the time where you can see how guys move and see if they have a feel for the position,” Morris told Buffalobills.com during the team’s three-day minicamp. “Obviously when the pads come on it’s going to be a different story, but that’s what we’re looking at right now.”
As minicamp progressed it became clear that the battle at left guard was down to two men.
Each man brings versatility to the line in two very different physical packages. The question is which one will take the lead at left guard in training camp and secure the starting job?
The 6’7” and 326-pound linemen has been with the Bills for two seasons, including a stint as the starting center at the end of 2011 due to injuries, but this season will be the first where Brown has a strong chance to earn a starting position heading into the regular season.
Fighting for a position is nothing new to Brown. In his first year at Missouri, Brown walked on to the program and eventually earned a scholarship and a starting position at right tackle his junior and senior season. The 27-year-old leans on that experience and firmly believes the best thing he can do in a competitive atmosphere is focus on his own play.
“You’ve just got to do your best every play and then let the results speak for themselves,” said Brown. “I’m not worried about anybody else. I just make sure that I get a little bit better each day and then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Brown’s experience at all the offensive line positions is something Coach Morris highly values, and he believes Brown is adjusting well.
“There’s no question (versatility is important),” said Morris. “I think it’s important because when you suit up for the game you’re only going to have seven guys so the two that aren’t playing have to know all of the other positions. You’ve got to have position flexibility in this league.
“I think Colin’s been more confident. He’s been a center and right guard and hasn’t played a lot of left, so he’s kind of fitting into the position because he’s been there most of OTAs.”
Brown’s size and physicality make him an intriguing option for the job, but he is going to have to work to earn it due to the early pressure being applied by Legursky.
At 6’1” and 315 pounds, Legursky might appear to be less equipped to handle the size of NFL defensive linemen, but the 27-year-old makes up for it with solid technique and an advanced understanding of his opponents.
“I think it’s using my brain, being a cerebral type player,” Legursky told Buffalobills.com shortly after signing. “Thinking through stuff, trying to know what the defense is doing at all times and knowing what we need to do to execute plays right. Then using my technique as well. I’ve always tried to be a technician as much as possible. Those two things combined have helped me to be the player that I am.”
Legursky’s approach has made for a relatively successful career thus far. Undrafted out of Marshall, Legursky caught on with the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad in 2008. In 2009 Legursky started to find some spot work, and four seasons later he had appeared in 50 games, which included 17 starts.
Legursky has experience across the line, with most of it coming at center. Here in Buffalo it is clear that Legursky’s primary position is left guard, and he is focused on becoming a true starter.
“Nobody is in this league to be a backup,” said Legursky. “Everybody wants to be on the field and contribute to wins. I’m not here to be a swing guy. If that’s what I’m called upon to do then I’ll not say a peep about it and I’ll do it. But I’m coming in here fighting for a spot and that should be everybody’s attitude.
Though his experience is limited, it has come against some major opponents in major games. Life in the AFC North is a tough task for an offensive lineman, and having your first start take place in Super Bowl XLV is even tougher.
“Playing in multiple playoff games and multiple championship games all the way to the Super Bowl, for young guys and even veterans that haven’t been a part of that, it’s a different beast,” said Legursky. “For me to just give a little bit of advice leading up to those games is the least I can do. For them to see that I’ve played in the big games and stuff like that then hopefully they can trust me right off the bat, but I can’t just show up and say that I’ve been in big games. I’ve got to earn that trust.”
Given that Legursky worked his way up to an even split of first team reps on just his third day if practice, it is safe to say he is quickly earning the trust of the coaching staff. But Colin Brown is still seen as a viable option there and will not be content to let the starting job drift away, making this a very interesting camp battle at an important position.