Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 8-29

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 8:36 am

The preseason is now in the books and rosters will all be down to 53 by Saturday at 4 pm. For now let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills do you have an early projection for which wideouts will make the team?

NunnBetta

CB: I honestly believe the wide receiver position is pretty cut and dry in terms of personnel. Most of them have solidified their roles either on offense or their contributions on special teams. I think the bigger question is how many do they keep?

In Doug Marrone’s first season as head coach the Bills kept six receivers. I think this time around there is a realistic chance they keep seven. Now that obviously means they would have to trim from another position, presumably on offense. Do they only keep two quarterbacks? Do they keep one less tight end?

The Bills will also have an extra roster spot to play with knowing that Nigel Bradham will presumably go on the reserve suspended list and not count toward the 53-man roster.

 

2 – @ChrisBrownBills Will Coach Hackett be on sideline or in booth this season?

MDermody88

CB: The Bills offensive coordinator made a move down to the sidelines last season and intends to stay there. He’s been on the sideline all preseason so I’ve got no reason to think that will change this coming week.

 

3 – Chris:

Thanks for your coverage on the team!
I have a question on the Bills Offensive philosophy in short yardage and Red Zone.  It appears (at least in the preseason) that the Bills are going the stay with the tight formations on short yardage and goal line situations (basically power on power) why don’t they use the spread more?  Not to bring up previous situations but the Bills seemed more consistent and successful (under Chan Gailey) spreading the defense which opened more running lanes and the middle of the field. Do you see the Bills incorporating some of that offensive thinking?

Thanks
Joe
Blasdell

CB: I think what you saw in the preseason is only some of what you should expect in the regular season. The Bills have spent the better part of the last two offseasons trying to increase their size and girth on the offensive line. That was done with winning those short yardage battles by plowing straight ahead in mind. In all likelihood that will be the approach a good amount of the time this season, but I wouldn’t rule out some spread looks as well.

 

4 – Chris,

So far through the preseason games, the Bills run defense looks a lot better than it has in years. I feel a big reason for that has been the addition of Brandon Spikes at MLB (and of course, Jim Schwartz as DC). I know Spikes signed a one-year deal with the Bills in the offseason, do you see the Bills offering him a long-term contract extension sometime during the season? I would love to see Spikes re-signed as I feel he’s been a great mentor to the younger players on the team, as well as being a great MLB.

Thanks for the great coverage on the Bills!

Steve B.
Fredericksburg, VA
CB: There’s no question that Spikes is a guy that younger players follow. They respect his instincts for the game. To further illustrate that I’ll let LB Ty Powell explain it himself.

“Me and Preston Brown are usually side by side, following Spikes and stuff,” said Powell. “Spikes has a lot of knowledge of the game, he has great instincts, so we just follow him around.”

The young linebackers on the roster are just trying to soak up whatever they can about playing linebacker in the NFL from Spikes.

As for an extension I would expect that to be a wait and see situation, but the run defense is probably the most encouraging thing about this team to come out of the preseason.

 

5 – Hello Chris,

Love the work you do for the Bills and Fan Friday. I am wondering if the I-formation seen in preseason, is what we will be mainly seeing by the Bills. With all the talent they have a wideout, Williams, Woods, Goodwin, seems crazy they wouldn’t stick to more of a spread offense? Plus this would create space for Spiller. Maybe they are just not showing much of their packages at this point but still. Thanks for the Bills Coverage.

David
Rochester

CB: My suspicion is that while that is a part of their offensive playbook we won’t see nearly as much of it in the preseason. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has always been about putting his five best playmakers on the field for the offense. That should mean more wideouts on the field more often come the regular season.


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Why Chandler and Gilmore sat out

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 8:24 am

In the preseason finale Thursday almost all the starters opened the game on offense and defense. There were however a couple of missing pieces from the lineups on each side of the ball. The offense was missing their starting tight end and left guard. The defense was missing their starting cornerback opposite Leodis McKelvin. Here’s why.

Scott Chandler was reported by the team to have a knee injury. Meanwhile Stephon Gilmore was reported to have a groin injury. The severity of each injury is not known and it’s presumed that both injuries were sustained in practice during the week.

Rookie LB Randell Johnson also suffered an ankle injury. He was a game time decision Thursday and tested it pre-game, but could not go.

WR T.J. Graham also came out of the game with an ankle injury.


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QB Palmer makes no excuses

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 12:29 am

He had just two days to learn an offensive system here in Buffalo after being immersed in Chicago’s for the better part of the last calendar year. It made executing Buffalo’s offense a big challenge for even a veteran like Jordan Palmer, but following his three interception performance he only pointed at himself.

“It was a crazy couple of days. It wasn’t coming from the streets; it was fresh out of another offense but at the same time it’s the NFL and I’ve been doing this for a long time and I needed to do a better job moving the team better and protecting the ball better and so it was frustrating when you couldn’t do that,” Palmer said. “It was not a good example for the other two quarterbacks we have on the team and it is unfortunate I couldn’t protect the ball better and move the team better.”

Palmer tried to set realistic goals for his opportunity Thursday night.

I really wanted to have first and foremost no mental errors. The information I owned, I wanted to not see ghosts and make stuff up and panic at all so that was definitely one goal,” he said. “The other goal was to just move the football and not throw for a lot of yards and touchdowns because all that stuff is irrelevant in this situation. It goes to move the team so I think that’s what was frustrating.”

When offered the opportunity to use his newness to the offense as an excuse Palmer didn’t bite.

“I wasn’t panicky, I wasn’t confused, ‘Who’s this guy? Where’s this guy going?’ Whether it was an incompletion or a turnover it was kind of a different story on each one,” said  I didn’t know he was going to run that angle, he’s right, so it was a timing thing. There were different reasons as to why things didn’t go right, but I own all of them. I’m the quarterback , I’m the one back there pulling the trigger so I’ve got to make better decisions and move the team and score and I’m frustrated I couldn’t do that.”


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Why Marrone still looking for kickoff guy

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 12:18 am

With the preseason coming to a close head coach Doug Marrone is still trying to nail down a kickoff specialist for his squad. They claimed P/K Jordan Gay off waivers this week and he had a kickoff to start the second half. It went to the goal line and he had a punt. Marrone sees a big advantage in having a kickoff specialist.

“Last year we led the league in kickoff returns against us,” said Marrone. “I just think you’re playing with fire with that. I think you can have a big advantage for a couple of reasons. One, you can take that phase out of the game meaning that your 30-something spots that you use for special teams two coverage teams and kickoff return and punt. If you’re a team that can kick it out of the end zone 90 percent of the time you’re taking out a lot of shots (on your guys) and you’re saving a lot of reps and you’re taking a lot of opportunities away from the other team.”


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Offensive players not concerned

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 12:09 am

The Bills offense knows they didn’t finish the preseason the way they wanted to, but it hasn’t dampened the unit’s confidence in their ability to move the ball and score points.

Bills C Eric Wood said preseason results shouldn’t be shaking anyone’s belief on the offensive side of the ball.

“You just have to put it behind you and not lose your confidence,” said Wood. “I have a lot of confidence in this offense. We’ve put in a ton of work and I’m not going to get down because of a couple of preseason games.”

RB Boobie Dixon admits there were some struggles at times this preseason, but he’s convinced they’ll be straightened out by the opener in Chicago.

“We’ve really just got to watch the film and then we’ll figure that out,” he said. “Right now it’s just that everybody’s got to stay positive and stay together. We can’t let all the outside noise throw us off track. It wasn’t pretty but it was the pre-season still. We’ve got the regular season coming up and we’ve got a chance to write it next week so that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”


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Lions inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 6:49 pm

The Lions are sitting seven of their starters on offense tonight in the preseason finale with the Bills. Here’s their inactive list

QB Matthew Stafford
WR Golden Tate
RB Reggie Bush
S Don Carey
CB Rashean Mathis
S James Ihedigbo
C Dominic Raiola
OT Rob Sims
WR Calvin Johnson
TE Brandon Pettigrew
DT Ndamukong Suh
DE Jason Jones
LB Kyle Van Noy


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Gragg to start against Lions

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 5:56 pm

With Lee Smith injured and Tony Moeaki still not 100 percent fellow TE Chris Gragg figures to see a lot of playing time against the Lions. Gragg hasn’t seen a lot of time with the starters, but that’s going to happen in the preseason finale.

Gragg is going to start with Scott Chandler also inactive tonight. In this final preseason game, Gragg just wants to tighten up some of the nuances of his personal game.

“Really just my details,” Gragg told Buffalobills.com. “I want to be focused on every play, not to have little mistakes. I haven’t had any big outrageous mistakes, but little things. Stepping this way or making sure I catch the ball with my hands and tuck it under my outside arm. It’s some of those little things that we’ve been harping on, those are the things that are going to help us get to that next step.

“I’ll get some time out there with EJ and I want to make sure our timing is going great so we can go out there and make plays this season.”

Gragg has heard coach Marrone’s call for the other players on offense to be better around QB EJ Manuel. The second-year tight end knows what his head coach means.

“That means that we want to make it easier for him,” said Gragg. “We want the line to protect, the receivers to run the right routes and then EJ just has to deliver the ball. We want as little as possible on EJ because I know he has to do a lot. He’s a quarterback in the NFL. So we want our professionals at the other spots as great as they can be so they can make EJ’s job easier.”


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Bills inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 5:54 pm

Here are the inactives for the Bills for their preseason finale tonight against the Lions.

CB Corey Graham
CB Stephon Gilmore
CB Mario Butler
TE Scott Chandler
CB Bobby Felder
S Jonathan Meeks
TE Tony Moeaki
TE Lee Smith
G Chris Williams


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Schwartz’s ‘D’ looks ready for real games

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 4:45 pm

They say that preseason statistics don’t hold a lot of water, but Buffalo’s defense under Jim Schwartz looks ready for the regular season.

Through four preseason games the Bills defense ranks 11th in red zone defense (50% TD rate), ninth in pass defense (192.5 yds/gm), fourth in total defense (273.5 yds/gm), third in run defense (81 yds/gm) and is first in yards per carry allowed (2.75).

Schwartz’s charges are also 14th in points allowed (20.3), which is the category Buffalo’s new defensive coordinator has at the top of his list. They’re also third in interception rate (4.31%).

Where Schwartz wants his unit focused is on tightening their third down defense. Their conversion percentage allowed of better than 46 percent is not where they want it heading into the regular season.

“That’s a big down for us. That’s something where we must get off the field so we need players smart enough and with good game situation skills and can manage situations like that,” Nickell Robey told Buffalobills.com. “That’s one part of the thing that we have to get in this tune-up game. I feel like tackling is another emphasis that we have to get, stopping the run is the first one because in order to stop the pass you’ve got to stop the run. But getting off on third downs has to happen.”

Buffalo’s defense made corrections in practice this week based largely on some of the failed efforts to stop the third and longs last week against Tampa.


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Aaron, C.J. named as top breakout candidates

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 9:48 am

The Bills have a lot of young talent on their roster with starting experience. Two such players hold so much promise that they made a list of top breakout candidates for 2014.

On a Top 25 Breakout Players list for 2014 put together by Rant Sports, S Aaron Williams was listed 16th. RB C.J. Spiller meanwhile was ranked number one overall. Here is what was written about each of them.

16. Aaron Williams, SS, Buffalo Bills
A disappointment in his first two NFL seasons, Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams came on strong in 2013. Williams’ game still needs some refinement, but he showed he has the talent to succeed and should be ready to improve even more in 2014.

1. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Once upon a time, C.J. Spiller was viewed as perhaps the most dangerous playmaker in the entire NFL. However, after some major consistency and injury problems, Spiller’s reputation has fallen off a bit. That said, Spiller still has the talent to become one of the best running backs in the NFL, and I think 2014 is the year Spiller will put it all together.

 


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Cutler not thrilled with Palmer joining Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on August 27, 2014 – 9:23 am

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler wasn’t jumping for joy that his former teammate and fellow quarterback Jordan Palmer found another job in the league after he was released on Sunday. That’s because Palmer signed with the Bears Week 1 opponent, the Buffalo Bills. Cutler believes there will be some intelligence gathering on Chicago’s offense by Buffalo’s defensive staff with Palmer.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Cutler told the Chicago Tribune Tuesday. “It’s not exactly what you’d want. He can give them a few things I’m sure. He’ll be meeting with (Bills defensive coordinator Jim) Schwartz pretty much immediately.”

When asked about what Palmer would be able to share with Buffalo’s defensive staff Cutler said there are some important elements and indicated that some changes might be necessary.

“He knows snap counts, some of the stuff we do with some of our checks, what plays we like,” Cutler said. “But they still have to defend it. So I don’t think we’ll change much if anything. Maybe a few tweaks here and there. But we’ll just have to go play football.”

Bills head coach Doug Marrone downplayed the intelligence gathering angle on Tuesday indicating that it wouldn’t be pursued by him with Palmer.

“No (I won’t),” said Marrone. “But I do have a lot of respect for Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer. They’re good coaches and they do a good job so I know he was coached well. I’m not part of that hey let’s bring the guy in and get information. I think that would be very disrespectful to Jordan if I did that honestly. My conversation with Jordan was, ‘I’m happy to see you and happy to meet you. I’m going to give you an opportunity to get a position. We’re going to do whatever we can to get you ready for this game and play you.'”


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Palmer confident EJ will succeed

Posted by Chris Brown on August 26, 2014 – 5:50 pm

Bills newest QB Jordan Palmer is very familiar with EJ Manuel having traveled in some of the same quarterback circles over the last three years. They were even counselors together at former NFL QB Trent Dilfer’s ‘Elite 11′ camp. Palmer has seen enough of Manuel and his game that he’s confident he’ll be a successful NFL starting quarterback.

“I’m very confident,” said Palmer of Manuel being a success. “The first thing you have to be, if you’re going to be young, talented and given the reins of an organization, is you have to be all-in. This has to be your life, this has to be your job,  this has to be everything to you. I know EJ well enough to know that this is. So right there, you’re ahead of a good number of guys.

“Talent wise—the guy can make every throw, he’s a great athlete. He’s a smart, really conscientious quarterback.  Really thinking through things, and then the talent around him. I can go on and on why I’m confident in EJ.  I’m excited to come here and build on that confidence and get to see it in person now.”


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Richardson benefiting from Williams’ injury

Posted by Chris Brown on August 26, 2014 – 5:46 pm

Head coach Doug Marrone still sees free agent signee Chris Williams as his starter at left guard, but what rookie fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson has been able to do while Williams has been out with a back injury is convince his head coach that he’s going to be a solid player in the NFL.

“Am I concerned (about Williams absence)? Yes,” said Marrone. “I’m not going to say I’m not concerned. At the same point I get a little excited too. Here we are and Cyril Richardson… did he make some mistakes in the last game? He did, but there were some things that he showed (in Saturday’s game).

“I have no doubt having coached that position before that he’s a future starter. So I’m happy about that, but I’m not happy about the way I feel with Chris and the availability, but when you get injured you can’t help that. If we didn’t have somebody behind him I’d be a little more nervous about that situation.”

Essentially Marrone has seen enough of Richardson to believe he can be a starting caliber guard in this league in time. Marrone did confirm that when Williams is healthy he will be plugged back in as the starting guard so it’s not a job he’ll lose due to injury, but the time that Richardson has had on the field in Williams’ absence has cemented him as the team’s swing guard.


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Palmer someone EJ has worked with before

Posted by Chris Brown on August 26, 2014 – 5:38 pm

Bills newest QB Jordan Palmer is someone that EJ Manuel not only knows, but has worked with before in the past. It has Manuel looking forward to spending more time with him as a teammate.

“Yes, I worked with JP,” said Manuel after Tuesday’s practice. “One year I was a counselor and he was, obviously, a counselor training some of the younger quarterbacks. That was probably the main time I’ve had an extensive period of time to workout with him and talk with him. I saw him in the offseason during the Super Bowl time up in New York and just catching up with him and seeing how things are going.”

Manuel is referring to former NFL QB Trent Dilfer’s ‘Elite 11′ camp where some of the top high school quarterback prospects perform. Palmer, who has been referred to as a coach on the field, is someone Manuel feels can only help him knowing this is going to be Palmer’s seventh NFL season.

“It’s going to be great,” Manuel said. “Even today after practice he brought up a couple drills that we could do. Some stuff that I’ve never done, some stuff that I’ve never seen before, but I thought it was pretty cool ways to throw the ball, while you’re still conditioning at the same time. I think the more experience he can bring to our room the better.”


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Marrone still open to kickoff specialist

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 5:04 pm

Even though Bills K Dustin Hopkins was one of the 11 cuts made by the team on Monday, head coach Doug Marrone said they’d still consider adding a kickoff specialist.

Citing performance as the main reason for Hopkins’ departure, Marrone was asked if he’d still explore the idea of having a kickoff specialist on his team.

“We’re trying to make sure we have a guy who’s a kickoff guy,” said Marrone. “That hasn’t changed.”


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Backup QBs need to step forward

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 5:02 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone has made no secret that the quarterbacks behind EJ Manuel on the depth chart need to perform better and time is running out with one preseason game remaining. Buffalo released Dennis Dixon on Monday leaving Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis on the roster. Both will need to put up solid performances to convince their head coach that he doesn’t need to look outside the organization for better options.

“I think it’s what you see,” Marrone said. “Either they have to play better or we have to look to see if there’s someone who can better that position, like we would any other position.  If we feel at the end of the day that it’s not good enough to win with, which we haven’t seen yet, there’s only two ways to go.  Either you put a lot of work into those guys in getting them better,  until you get to where you feel comfortable with it. Or you have to upgrade that position some other way.”

Tuel has completed 64 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 73.9.

Lewis has completed just over 51 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 41.


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McKelvin comes thru Tampa game well

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 4:58 pm

Leodis McKelvin say his first game action in the preseason last Saturday coming off of offseason hip surgery and a groin injury earlier in the week. All indications are he came through the game alright as he was practicing with his teammates on Monday.

“I think when a player is out for a while and you come back, we saw that with Stephon earlier in the preseason, we see that now with Leodis,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “We expect him to get better and better and progress from there. I think it’s a progression. I don’t think you can put him right back out on the field and expect him to be at the same level when they were playing at their best.”

Marrone didn’t rule out the possibility of McKelvin playing a bit in the preseason finale, knowing his reps have been limited thus far in the preseason. McKelvin had four tackles in last Saturday’s game.


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Watkins a full participant at practice

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 4:54 pm

It took just over a week, but Sammy Watkins is back as a full participant in practice.

Monday was his first full session since sustaining bruised ribs in the Pittsburgh preseason game back on Aug. 16th. Watkins missed last Saturday’s preseason contest and feels it hurt his progress within the offense.

“I think it hurt us a lot,” said Watkins. “Me and EJ and the rest of the guys couldn’t go out there together. That’s why it’s important that I come out this week and practice and try to get back on the same page and work my way back in the offense. I feel if I keep working and doing the things I’ve been doing in camp I can succeed.”

Watkins who said he feels ‘alright,’ said if he gets the call to play on Thursday against the Lions he’ll be ready.

“If I play I’m going to be out there with the guys and giving 100 percent effort and making as many plays that are presented to me,” said Watkins. “Blocking, doing the things I need to do.”


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Starters likely to see action vs. Detroit

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 4:52 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone and his offensive staff were obviously less than pleased with the performance of the offense on Saturday against Tampa Bay. That’s why there are plans to have a good number of offensive starters play against the Lions in the preseason finale on Thursday.

“I’m looking for them to play some,” said Marrone. “I’m looking to play those guys. How much will depend upon as the week goes and what I want to see and what I want to accomplish, but I do plan on playing them.

“It’s probably more on the offensive side with our thought process than the defensive side. When I say that I may not play every single starter, but on offense I want to play guys who haven’t played together for a while.”

That could include Sammy Watkins, who left the Pittsburgh preseason game on the first drive with bruised ribs and missed the Tampa preseason game last Saturday.

 


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Bills current roster count by position

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 11:50 am

In the wake of Monday’s 11 player cuts here’s where the Bills roster stands in terms of numbers by position.

QB – 3 – EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis
RB – 4 – Bryce Brown, Boobie Dixon, Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller
FB – 2 – Frank Summers, Evan Rodriguez
WR – 9 – Mike Williams, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley, Naaman Roosevelt, Caleb Holley
TE – 5 – Scott Chandler, Tony Moeaki, Chris Gragg, Lee Smith, Dominique Jones
OT – 12 – Cordy Glenn, Seantrel Henderson, Chris Hairston, Cyrus Kouandjio, Erik Pears, Kraig Urbik, Eric Wood, Doug Legursky, Cyril Richardson, Antoine McClain, Jared Wheeler, Chris Williams
DL – 12 – Jerry Hughes, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, Jacquies Smith, Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant, Manny Lawson, Landon Cohen, Jairus Wynn, Bryan Johnson, Ike Igbinosun
LB – 9 – Brandon Spikes, Nigel Bradham, Keith Rivers, Preston Brown, Ty Powell, Jimmy Gaines, Randell Johnson, Xavius Boyd, Kiko Alonso (Active/NFI)
CB – 10 – Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham, Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks, Ross Cockrell, Sam Miller, Nickell Robey, Mario Butler, Bobby Felder, Kamaal McIlwain
S – 6 – Aaron Williams, Duke Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, Jonathan Meeks, Deon Broomfield, Kenny Ladler
K/P/LS – 3 - Dan Carpenter, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn 


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