Here's the Bills news of note for Nov. 17th.1 - The most consistent DBs will playNo more mistakes was the edict of Bills head coach Rex Ryan to his team and the media on Wednesday. Of particular focus regarding that mantra are the men in Buffalo's secondary, especially when it comes to preventing big plays.
Buffalo's defensive backs have been victimized several times this season. They've given up a total of 21 pass plays of 25 yards or more in their first nine games, which is tied for 26th in the NFL.
"I thought that was going to be a real strength of our team--the play of our corners," said Ryan, after both Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore were among the league leaders in pass breakups last season. "We have to step it up, these last seven weeks, we have to step it up and make that a true fact."
That's why Ryan has opened up Ronald Darby's left cornerback spot, Nickel Robey-Coleman's nickel corner role and the safety job currently manned by Robert Blanton to competition in practice this week.
"We're going to give guys opportunities to run with the ones," he said. "We'll evaluate it and then we'll play the hot hand. It's probably a good possibility that guys will play, it won't just be one guy out there all the time. So let's see them prove it on the practice field and on the game field."
Ryan attributes the problem mainly to technique. He believes teams have changed their approach to Buffalo's corners this season and the Bills cover men have not adjusted their technique to effectively counter those changes from opposing receivers.
"We just have to make a play or two, that's the big thing," said Ryan. "And once we do, I think the confidence level will get better."
At practice Wednesday, Darby and Corey White split reps at left cornerback, while Kevon Seymour got the majority of work in the slot in place of Robey-Coleman.
Sergio Brown, James Ihedigbo and Jonathan Meeks all rotated through at safety with incumbent starter Robert Blanton.
2 - Decisions to make at center and right tackleAfter seeing Eric Wood get carted off the field a week and a half ago everyone knew a replacement would need to be found for the Bills center spot. That's a two-horse race between Ryan Groy and Patrick Lewis.
Tyrod Taylor confirmed he got more work with Groy in practice Wednesday even though Lewis did rotate in at times.
At right tackle the pool of candidates might be even larger.
Jordan Mills has not been at his best the last two games and with the team's margin for error razor thin the rest of the way, Ryan and his offensive staff are looking for the most consistent play on offense as well no matter who it is.
"We're going to work some guys in there," said Ryan. "Obviously at center, we've got to make a decision there. I think Jordan Mills is a good player, but I think Seantrel Henderson has looked really good in practice. We'll see how he steps up and get him some reps and maybe (Cyrus) Kouandjio as well."
Henderson, rotated in for Mills, who still got more of the work in practice. Now strong enough and fit enough now to put his rare athletic skill set on display. Henderson has put a few good weeks of practice that could earn him the nod at a spot where he made his last start on Nov. 29th, 2015.
"I'm just blessed. God is the reason I'm here. My career could've been over, but I'm here and I'm happy to be here every day," said Henderson in reference to his undisclosed medical condition. "I'm happy to be practicing and I'm happy to be around the team. I'll just keep progressing and hopefully we keep winning so we can get to the playoffs."
3 - O-line ranks fourth in the NFLBills GM Doug Whaley prioritized re-signing LT Cordy Glenn and LG Richie Incognito this past offseason knowing keeping the offensive line intact would be crucial to the team's success on offense. Currently ninth in the NFL in scoring, seventh in red zone touchdown percentage, second in rushing and first in yards per carry average, Buffalo's offense has been above average despite a myriad of injuries at the skill positions.
That has largely been thanks to an offensive line that has performed admirably through the first nine games this season. Their play has earned them a ranking of fourth among NFL offensive lines from ProFootballFocus.
4. Buffalo Bills (82.2)
The Bills definitely have an issue on the line, and while RT Jordan Mills threatened to maintain passable play earlier in the season, that has fallen off a cliff lately, as he has recorded two of his worst games in the past three weeks, surrendering 17 total pressures and four sacks against the Dolphins and Seahawks—two good pass-rushing teams. Elsewhere, though, the line has been solid, and LT Cordy Glenn has yet to surrender a sack or hit on the QB, despite Tyrod Taylor having the league's highest average time to throw (by some distance, in fact, at 3.05 seconds).
The depth of the group will certainly be tested over the final seven games with Eric Wood now on injured reserve, but Aaron Kromer's group has arguably been the most consistent group on the roster this season.