OTAs wrapping up today with only mandatory minicamp left before the break. Let’s get to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net.
1 - Chris,
With all the attention the Bills off-season moves garnished (and deservedly so), I feel the Bills special teams are getting overlooked. I was hoping that you would provide some insight on what you see the Bills doing with the gunners? I am really intrigued at the prospect of having Leodis McKelvin on one side and Ron Brooks on the other. McKelvin looked outstanding in the latter part of the year as a gunner and I read Brooks performed very well as a gunner in college. With that kind of speed and athleticism on the outside I would think the Bills would see a lot of fair catches on punts (even Moorman would have a hard time “out kicking his coverage”).
Displaced Buffalonian in Santa Barbara, Ca
CB: In the OTA setting players like McKelvin and Brooks have been focusing more on defense than anything else, though McKelvin has been in the rotation as a punt returner with C.J. Spiller and Justin Rogers.
Some of the gunners that I’ve seen line up to this point have been Kamar Aiken, Naaman Roosevelt, Ruvell Martin and even David Nelson. Now Roosevelt and Nelson are two players I don’t anticipate seeing out there come the season. They’re probably just being used as bodies for walk through type drills because none of them are running 40 yards down the field live in OTAs.
I could however, see Aiken and Martin as a part of the competition at gunner. I think your suggestion of Brooks is a good one, but we’ll have to see how he handles things when the pads go on and the play gets a lot more physical. But no question he can fly. Other candidates that I would put in the gunner category are David Clowney, Prince Miller and Isaiah Green.
2 – Chris,
Am I beating a dead horse wondering what Merriman’s role will be? Has he ever played in a 4-3 defense? My football knowledge only goes so far, (not very) but I don’t see him being able to play OLB in a 4-3. So It would seem their options are, play him at DE as part of a rotation, use him like Dallas used Charles Haley, or release him. I’m wondering about a forth option, playing him inside at MLB. What does his future look like to you?
CB: I think the Bills are hesitant to give Merriman a prominent role coming off of Achilles surgery. As such I anticipate that he’ll be a part of the team’s nickel pass rush package and other pass rushing personnel groupings. Basically I expect him to be a situational pass rusher to start the season and if he shows he can take on a bigger workload he might begin to factor in more on run downs. It’s truly and wait and see situation. And no, he’s not a middle linebacker.
3 – Chris,
Dorin Dickerson would be the perfect short yardage / red zone RB with his size and speed. I wonder if that could be in the works?
CB: Dickerson is going to be used as an H-back if he makes the squad. I think he’s done very well in these OTA practices to carve out a niche for himself in this offense. He’s at least given the offensive staff something to strongly consider as a new option in their offense as a ‘move’ tight end/H-back. At 227 pounds however, he’s not a short yardage guy.
Your best short yardage player on this roster is Fred Jackson, who can earn a yard just about whenever you need it.
4 - Hi Chris,
A lot of fans are worried about the #2 WR spot. We have several guys that can play over there. I think we missed on that spot this offseason as far as getting that big guy that is not covered even when he is covered, but I think we are still ok and can work on that in the coming years. I do like the drafting of Graham. I could see a bunch of guys playing there, but I think the main guys will probably end up being Easley, who looked great last preseason and Brad Smith who played really well during the season. My question is how do you feel about the #2 WR spot, and these guys going forward and also do you think Brad Smith would be willing to go to WR full time? Would the coaches like that or do they want him for wildcat plays only? Also do you think Jones will shift inside now to the slot to share time with Nelson now that Graham is here as well?
Thank you for your time
CB: Unfortunately for Brad Smith I don’t foresee a full time role for him anywhere. He could factor in at wide receiver, but not as a full time #2. I think his presence in a Wildcat type package at QB will be expanded.
The main candidates I see for the number 2 receiver job, removing primary slot receiver David Nelson from the equation are Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and Derek Hagan. I believe unless Easley grossly outperforms Jones and Hagan it will eventually be a two-player race. Jones being the incumbent from last year stands a good chance of remaining in that role.
I do believe long term that Easley offers the best physical skill set for what they want outside opposite Stevie Johnson, but he has to deliver on a consistent basis for that to happen.
The offensive staff wants to be able to move Jones around, particularly inside as the second slot receiver opposite Nelson in the four wide sets. So there will still be opportunities outside for guys like Easley and Hagan.
It’s certainly going to be one of the most intriguing position battles in camp.
5 - Hi Chris,
How many receivers do the Bills plan on keeping on the roster for the start of the regular season? Obviously, you have Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley, Derek Hagan, and Ruvell Martin. Will another one be in the mix? As always, looking forward to your response.
Tony, Ormond Beach, FL
CB: I think six receivers are a lock for the roster knowing how much Buffalo makes use of the four wide sets. In your listing you omitted Donald Jones, who will make this team barring a complete collapse in training camp. There’s an outside chance that seven receivers are kept if the position numbers allow it, but I’m not anticipating that. I think they keep a couple on the practice squad in the event of injury and keep six.
Tags: Brad Smith, Dorin Dickerson, Fan Friday, Leodis McKelvin, Marcus Easley, Ron Brooks, Shawne Merriman, Special teams
Posted in Inside the Bills