Let’s get to another week of your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net. Keep them coming!
1 - Hi Chris,
Thanks, as always, for your helpful, informative coverage of our team. Setting injuries aside, it appears to me that the Bills have a potentially powerful offense. But no matter how good an offense is, it will not overcome a weak defense—note the Packers. Consequently, although I’d love to see the team improve at left tackle, I think it would make the most sense to focus the draft (and free agency) on acquiring a real pass rusher, help at linebacker, and perhaps a defensive back, with a good wide receiver as another priority. My belief is that if you dramatically improve the defense, given the potential excellence of Williams, Dareus and Kelsay, the team has an opportunity to go to the playoffs. I don’t suggest disregarding offensive tackles, but the priority, I think, should be on the defense. I’d appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.
CB: I think the Bills front office has made it clear that improving the pass rush is the top priority this offseason. Where they choose to address it is the question. It could be free agency or the draft or both. The price for a proven pass rusher in free agency can get cost prohibitive pretty quick, but there might be a free agent or two that makes sense.
A guy I think would make a lot of sense is Dallas’ Anthony Spencer. Not a guy that’s going to cripple your cap like Mario Williams or possibly even Cliff Avril knowing there will be a line of teams knocking on his door. Spencer is coming off a down season, but has pass rush ability and would likely benefit with a move back to weakside DE in a 4-3 defense instead of OLB in a 3-4 (where he played in Dallas).
That’s where Spencer lined up in college at Purdue and would likely welcome an opportunity to play there again. Without production through the roof the past couple of years he might also be reasonably priced.
So I would anticipate that Buffalo will have that need thoroughly addressed by the time the draft is over and done with in late April.
2 - Hello Chris,
I listen to all of you radio appearances and appreciate all of your coverage on the website and just want to say thank you.
My question is: How you feel about Buffalo taking a guy like NO’s Robert Meachem or NYG’s Domenik Hixon in Free Agency? I see a relatively moderate price tag and a lot of upside. My rationale being that the Bill’s love small price tags that could return big dividends and there is also a proven track record that comes along with them. Other guys I like are INDY’s Pierre Garcon or Anthony Gonzalez who have a little size and hustle to them. INDY is rebuilding so I think we could get them relatively cheap. What are your thoughts? Do you think any of these could be a possibilty in the offseason?
CB: I think the biggest upside comes with Garcon and as such he’ll command the biggest price tag. Now Colts owner Jim Irsay has publicly stated that Garcon and Mathis are two of their free agents that they intend to re-sign. Knowing Reggie Wayne is probably out the door at 33-years old, Garcon could be enticed by that knowing he’d be the top target in Indy. Of course he also might be playing with a very talented, but nevertheless rookie QB. Does he want to go through a growing pain year?
Garcon can run and is freakishly strong on the ball, fitting Buddy Nix’s description of needing a guy that’s open even when he’s not open. Best of all he’ll turn 26 just before the 2012 season. So I’d put him at the top of your list. What I like best about him is he had 70 catches last season without Manning.
Meacham offers the most speed. He runs a 4.4 flat and has 20 touchdowns over the past three seasons. That’s a pretty good number knowing Drew Brees spreads the ball around. He’s got the size the Bills are looking for at 6’2” 217. It’s just hard to definitively say he could take a leap in production as the team’s number 2 in Buffalo. That being said I think he’s a worthwhile risk and would welcome the chance to be a weekly number two instead of fighting to be the number three in New Orleans.
Domenik Hixon is a guy I’m not a big fan of. Only runs a 4.7 and is coming off a major knee injury. He might be even slower now and isn’t a physical guy on the outside. Anthony Gonzalez is another smaller guy. Super smart, but can’t stay healthy.
3 - Chris,
Last year most of the draft gurus were predicting that the Bills would draft the top rated outside linebacker, Von Miller. This year its OLB Courtney Upshaw. How does Upshaw compare to Von Miller?
CB: Upshaw’s game is totally different than Miller’s. Miller is a pure pass rusher whose game is based on speed and quickness. Upshaw’s game is all power and strength. He’s not slow, but he’s not going to blow past guys off the ball. He’s going to drive them back into the QB or knock them on their wallet. Miller is probably more athletic, but Upshaw is a better all-around player in terms of playing the run and the pass.
Some teams even think he could be an OLB in a 3-4. I think that might be possible on the strong side, but I think he can handle DE in a 4-3 even though he’s only 6’1” and change. He’s just so thickly built I think he could hold up at the line.
4 - Hi Chris,
Really enjoy your coverage of the team. My question is: how much better do you think Fitzpatrick can be if he had more time in the pocket? The line played well this year, but I’m convinced the lack of sacks was more due to Fitz’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly. Is improving at LT a higher priority than another stud WR (assuming Stevie stays)?
Thanks and keep up the good work!
CB: Thanks for the kind words. With respect to protection for Fitz you’re right, Chan Gailey’s offense is largely a timing attack. Oftentimes Fitz would get rid of the ball in less than two seconds by design. I think Chan likes using Fitz’s ability to diagnose defenses quickly to their advantage and get the ball in the hands of the playmakers as quickly as possible.
Now I suppose if you added a true deep threat to the passing game in free agency this offseason the team might be more inclined to further solidify the left tackle spot to improve protection that much more to allow more time for those deep routes to develop.
I asked Buddy Nix about whether he feels he has a defined answer at left tackle knowing Bell and Hairston flip-flopped all year due to injury. This was his initial answer, and his answer to my follow up question.
“Demetrius Bell has got all the tools. He’s got the good feet. He’s a good athlete. He’s what you look for at left tackle. The problem with Demetrius is injuries. He started the first four games for us and gets hurt. He missed eight and comes back and plays three and he ends up hurt again. He was rehabbing last year the whole year couldn’t practice all week. All those things enter into it.
“Chris Hairston I think can be a really good left tackle. He’s a rookie. It’s going to take him a little bit. He got some good experience this year. So we at least have a couple of possibilities at left tackle and those are the two. With his length and all that with Chris Hairston, he’s a smart guy and can be a left tackle and play over there and be serviceable for us. Demetrius it remains to be seen. We’re going to try to re-sign him. He’s up.”
Follow up question: Will those two options keep you from seeking a better option there?
“We’re going to draft a tackle if we can. If there’s one there is what I mean. If there’s one there that we think can play we’re going to draft a tackle. You can never have too many tackles. You can move a guy, now you can have exceptions to this, but it’s easier to move a guy from tackle to guard than guard to tackle obviously. So we draft tackles, we’re in pretty good shape at guard and center.”
5 – Chris,
First off great work covering our Buffalo Bills in the offseason. Every year you do a supreme job of getting information to Bills fans all over the nation and for that, thank you. My question is regarding the nature of our first two picks in the upcoming draft. I understand our primary need is to draft a player who can help our pass rush which I couldn’t agree with more. I agree with it so much that i was wondering what is the possibility of the Bills addressing their pass rush needs in both the first AND second round. I have been doing scouting of my own on defensive prospects and have seen Vinny Curry, DE from Marshall showing up on alot of up and coming lists. He is a fine physical specimen who has a whole college career of success (albeit in the FCS) and seems to have a tremendous upside. I think its safe to say if he was in the BCS he would be a first round pick. So Chris what do you think of Vinny and the possibility he last until the Bills second round pick.
Thanks So Much, GO BILLS!
Taylor – Gillespie, IL
CB: Glad you enjoy our coverage of the team. Thanks for your readership and viewership. Vinny Curry had a good week at the Senior Bowl. He’s a high motor guy with good strength and power. I don’t see him as all that different from Courtney Upshaw in terms of skill set, he just isn’t quite as powerful as Upshaw.
The knock on him is he doesn’t have the elite speed to beat NFL tackles around the corner with regularity so some teams don’t see him as a true RDE. A lot of scouts are projecting him to left end because he’s strong enough to hold up over there and offers enough pass rush ability to be productive down the line.
Some do have concerns that his pass rush repertoire is limited, which is what drops him to a second-round prospect. But if he tests well at the Combine he could move into the top half of round 2 because you know what you’re going to get from him every snap.
Tags: Anthony Spencer, Buddy Nix, Chris Hairston, Courtney Upshaw, Demetrius Bell, Fan Friday, pass protection, Pierre Garcon, Robert Meacham, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vinny Curry
Posted in Inside the Bills