Over their final three games of the 2013 regular season, the Buffalo Bills will continue to take a peek at young players on the back end of their roster. Doug Marrone told reporters on Monday that the idea behind that is to have a firm understanding of how his project players are progressing heading into the off-season.
"What we're trying to find out are who the people that we can go out there and win with," Marrone said. "I want to make sure that I know exactly where everyone is at as we keep moving forward with this team."
Marrone went out of his way to single out four players, in particular, that will continue to see playing time over the next three weeks.
WR Marquise Goodwin
"Honestly, I think Marquise Goodwin - and I talked to Coach Hackett about this - I think we have to get him in there more." - Marrone
Goodwin played a season-high 57 snaps in Week 11 against New York, catching six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown with both Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods out of the lineup. Since those two returned to starting roles, Goodwin has once again been marginalized, playing a combined 49 snaps in losses to Atlanta and Tampa Bay - as compared to 117 for Woods, 114 for Johnson and 88 for T.J. Graham. It's not clear if Goodwin's playing time spike will be accompanied by a move up the depth chart, but getting him above 30-35 snaps per game seems like a very achievable goal - if a meager one.
TE Chris Gragg
"Chris Gragg, again, did some good things out there. We're happy with that." - Marrone
The Bills' seventh-round pick has played just 46 snaps this season, including eight on Sunday (his season high was 16, which came largely in garbage time at Pittsburgh). It's hard to envision his role growing significantly in the offense, however, and if things go well enough on the Tony Moeaki front that the veteran can make an appearance by year's end, that could impact the team's plans for Gragg, as well.
OG J.J. Unga
"I thought he did very well, and I think we're going to increase his playing time... Right now, I think he's better suited at right (guard)." - Marrone
That last part of Marrone's quote is of particular significance, because it means that Unga will continue to spell Kraig Urbik, and not Legursky, in the starting lineup. He only took seven snaps in Tampa Bay (as compared to 60 for Urbik, and 67 for Legursky), but as his role grows in the offensive line shuffle, the only player affected playing time wise will be the man the team re-signed to a four-year deal last December.
LB Ty Powell
"Ty Powell did a very good job yesterday, so that's exciting. We need to grow with that... It's tough in some situations to get them in there - especially probably with Ty a little bit more so on the defensive side. We have (Manny Lawson), we have Jerry Hughes, and both of those guys are doing a nice job. He went in there on special teams, he went in there and made some plays. We've got to figure out a way to get him some more playing time, because he's a good football player."
Powell played seven snaps on defense in Tampa Bay. The 6'2", 249-pound rookie out of Harding might be athletic enough to play inside, so if the team is looking for a way to get him onto the field, not pigeon-holing him into the (very) situational pass rushing role vacated by Jamaal Westerman might be a good start. Powell is athletic enough to cross-train; give him some snaps inside, too. Why not, right?
What other young Bills players would you like to see incorporated into the lineup more?