Inside The Bills

Schwartz tempering enthusiasm for pass rush

Posted by Chris Brown on July 28, 2014 – 12:33 pm

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is as eager to see what kind of success Buffalo’s pass rush can have in his scheme as anyone else, but he’s not going to get giddy about successful plays in the practice setting of training camp.

On Saturday night there was a third and long team segment where the defense logged eight “sacks” in 17 plays. Schwartz is all too aware of the talent on his defensive line, but he’s not going to make any false assumptions knowing practice only replicates a real game so much.

“You don’t want to read too much into it,” he said. “We’re going to have a good rush group. We can rush with four. We can bring blitzes. They’re hard to handle. There are three Pro Bowlers up there and right now the fourth guy was a double-digit sacker from last year so that gives us a lot of optimism with where we can be with that pass rush. It’s hard to really judge too much in practice here because we’re not hitting the quarterback so it’s hard to finish pass rush moves. You don’t want to hit him or hit his hand when he’s trying to throw. But then again offensive linemen are doing the same thing. Also quarterbacks really are not trying to make you miss so let’s not read too much into it right now.”


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Marrone: no plans for another TE

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2014 – 8:34 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone has lost three of the four tight ends he brought to training camp to injury. They’ve since added a tight end in Dominique Jones. In the wake of Scott Chandler’s groin injury Sunday however, Marrone doesn’t intend to add another.

“I think of it as we’re going to try to put some different people in there without having to go out and bring another person in,” he said. “There are a lot of things that we can do. I don’t want to say I like it because then I’d be saying I’m happy that someone got hurt, but it forces our hand to do some things that we might have to do during the year to be successful.”


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Watkins latest ‘wow’ play

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2014 – 8:04 pm

Sammy Watkins has been routinely turning in dynamic and high degree of difficulty receptions in the passing game since training camp started. On Sunday he turned in another.

Watkins took off down the sideline on an outside release. CB Ron Brooks was stride for stride with him. Despite the tight coverage EJ Manuel put the ball up anyway. The pass drifted inside a little bit to where Brooks had positioned himself, but Watkins jumped as the ball was arriving and reached his hands up, out and over Brooks to pull the ball in and kept running. The fans in attendance went nuts.

“My confidence is huge in him,” said Manuel. “I’ve said it before, I was a Sammy fan before we even went and picked him up. When he got here and he showed what he could do to all of us the confidence is only going to go higher.

“When the ball is going to Sammy, he looks at it like it’s his ball, and nine times out of 10 he’s going to come down with it. That was just a prime example of it.”


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How EJ changed his throws to ‘Big Mike’

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2014 – 7:56 pm

Mike Williams put on a show in the red zone in Sunday’s practice showing his expert ability to high point the football and out jump defenders. He told EJ Manuel at the outset of training camp to put the ball “in the clouds” and he’ll go get it. On Sunday he was true to his word, but Manuel shared how he’s changed the way he throws to Williams based on a conversation they had.

“Well, at first when I started throwing to him, I used to just lead him,” said Manuel. “Mike just wants the ball up there so he can go up and get it. Instead of having to throw it 60 yards down the field and having him have to track it. That’s just an example of us getting a better rapport with one another.”

“I can see him progressing as it goes,” said Williams of Manuel. “He’s feeling his way right now. There are new guys on our team that he’s going to be throwing to. It’s kind of a different offense when you put it all together like that, but as I saw it he got better and better with that.”


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McKelvin held out of team work as precaution

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2014 – 6:54 pm

Bills starting CB Leodis McKelvin has been held out of team work for the past three days of practice. Coming off of hip surgery in the offseason the team doesn’t want to overwork the veteran corner.

That according to head coach Doug Marrone.

“We just rested him and are making sure,” said Marrone. “Again, he’s coming off of an injury from the offseason and we’re just going to work his way back in here. Leodis has something that I admire. When he gets back in there, he’s going to go 110 percent every single time. We just want to make sure that we back him off a little bit. We’re in camp for awhile, so we’re just being smart.”

Marrone did not provide any details on when McKelvin would again participated in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 work.


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Hughes expecting offensive retribution

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2014 – 10:31 pm

He was part of what looked like an ambush of a pass rush in Saturday night’s practice for Buffalo’s defense. Jerry Hughes was in the thick of a series that featured more than half a dozen sacks over 17 plays from scrimmage. But the veteran is very leery of the offense coming back Sunday and tearing things up.

“We’re giving our offense plenty of looks,” Hughes told Buffalobills.com. “Once they see the film and make their corrections they’re going to be coming after us and we’ll have to step it up.”


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Wood: Henderson is making progress

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2014 – 10:28 pm

As the first week of training camp wraps up Seantrel Henderson has taken every snap at the starting left tackle position except on day one when Chris Hairston had to be a last second replacement for practice. He’s replacing Cordy Glenn, who is on the non-football illness list, with no word as to when he might be removed from it. Henderson’s veteran teammates up on the line see a pretty talented physical specimen who will just need time on the job.

“Seantrel is doing a great job.  I’ve seen a lot to like out of him,” said Eric Wood. “He’s really taken this opportunity to run with it. He’s extremely talented.  He’s really working on his technique diligently, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”


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Wood, C.J. not worried

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2014 – 10:25 pm

Much has been made of the offensive execution in practice through the first week of training camp. The players themselves admit they’ve got to do better. At the same time they feel there’s enough time to get everything running like well-oiled machine come September.

“No it’s not a concern,” said C.J. Spiller. “We’re not even in August yet, but we have to get better. We understand that we have to be better as a unit.  We got the guys, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Third down, which has just undergone a good deal of installation on both sides of the ball, is where some of the execution problems lie according to Eric Wood. That’s when Buffalo’s vaunted pass rush, which set a franchise record with 57 sacks last season, can turn it loose.

“We understand that if we can block our front four then we’ll be able block about anybody,” said Eric Wood. “For my money, I think they’re about the best in the league, but that’s no excuse.  We got to be able to do our jobs and we got to do a better job.”


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Moeaki out indefinitely, Gragg to return soon

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2014 – 9:15 pm

The Bills were down numbers at tight end, which is what prompted the signing of TE Dominique Jones Saturday. The hamstring injury suffered by Tony Moeaki is going to keep him out indefinitely, while Chris Gragg’s dehydration that forced him to be hospitalized for a couple of days won’t be back until the second full week of camp.

That according to head coach Doug Marrone.

“We’re waiting for Chris (Gragg) to come back, which hopefully will be sometime next week,” Marrone said. “We’re not sure so I’m not going to go on record again but we hope that he will be back sometime next week. And with Tony (Moeaki), he’ll be out not for the whole camp, but he’s going to be out for a significant amount of time. And when I say significant, I think it’s very difficult to define. If you’re out three or four days in camp, that’s a lot of reps on everybody for what you’re trying to get done. So, hopefully we’ll be able to get him back quickly.”


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Cockrell trying to show he’s multi-faceted

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2014 – 11:10 pm

As we profiled in 4 things to take from practice, rookie CB Ross Cockrell is starting to settle in at cornerback. Friday night was probably his best practice session of camp as he was anticipating pass plays and making plays on the ball with a couple of pass breakups and raking another ball out near the goal line.

“A couple days of film study never hurts anybody,” Cockrell told Buffalobills.com. “I’m getting adjusted to the speed and tempo of the game. Seeing the receivers for a couple days now, and continuing to work hard on my footwork and and some of the little things coach Henderson and coach (Samson) Brown are teaching me.”

The coaches clearly have faith in Cockrell as a student of the game with all that they’re putting on his plate. The fourth-round pick is lining up at both boundary corner and in the slot in the nickel packages.

“It’s something I’m trying to show that i can play both the outside corner and the inside nickel,” said Cockrell. “It’s challenging because inside there’s a lot more space and you don’t have the sideline to help you. You have to be in tune with the run as well. I’m getting all that and trying to make plays.”

 


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Watkins playmaking will open things up

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2014 – 11:03 pm

With all the plays being turned in by Sammy Watkins in the training camp practices, it’s bound to lead to greater attention from opposing defenses and that will lead to more opportunities for the other receivers.

That doesn’t always reveal itself in the structured nature of practice, but in a game when opposing defenses are reacting Watkins is going to draw added attention. That will benefit the likes of Robert Woods, Mike Williams, Marquise Goodwin and the rest of the receiving corps.

“I don’t think it’s ever been just Sammy and Sammy knows that too,” said EJ Manuel. “He’s obviously getting an opportunity to make plays just like the rest of those guys. Obviously, all I want to do is just give those guys an opportunity to make a catch and they do the rest.”

“We’ve just got so many guys that can go out and make plays, we’ve always got a lot of speed on the field,” said Watkins. “We’ve got guys that can go over you, we’ve got guys that can run great routes, so when one guys making plays, that’s when other guys start to open up because they start to double or run a certain coverage. With everybody making plays, it’s been hard for the coaches and the offense because they want everyone on the field at the same time.”


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Chris Gragg to practice soon.

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2014 – 6:59 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone confirmed that Chris Gragg is out of the hospital, but he is not going to practice right away.

“He’s out of the hospital,” said Marrone. “He’s back. We’re still just going to be careful about when we put him back on the field, so it’ll probably be a couple of days just to make sure.”

Gragg is in attendance at the Friday night practice.


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LB Johnson passes physical

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2014 – 1:57 pm

Bills seventh round pick LB Randell Johnson has been on the active non-football injury list since before training camp opened. He was finally moved of that list Friday.

Johnson passed his physical and was moved to the active roster.

The rookie linebacker has largely lined up at the outside linebacker spots since OTAs.


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Pears performing well

Posted by Chris Brown on July 23, 2014 – 2:24 pm

While there is a competition going on at right guard, as we covered in Wednesday’s practice notes, there does not appear to be much of a battle to this point at the starting right tackle spot.

A lot of people outside the organization assumed that second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio would be quickly challenging veteran incumbent Erik Pears for the starting right tackle job. As head coach Doug Marrone sees it Pears has put himself in a good position in the early going to retain his starting gig.

“I think Cyrus is coming along. The closer you are to the ball the tougher it is to play in this league,” said Marrone. “Erik really feels healthy. He was coming off an injury last year and has really performed well. It’s still going on (the competition). Nothing is locked in stone yet. It wouldn’t be smart of me to say anything is locked in stone. Everyone has to go out and prove that they can do it. We’ll see how it goes as camp goes along, but Erik has done a very good job so far.”

Pears did play hurt last year, which compromised his effectiveness at times. Also Kouandjio just turned 21 on Monday and is relatively young in football. His learning curve might prove to be a bit steeper than some anticipate.


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Rodriguez released from hospital

Posted by Chris Brown on July 23, 2014 – 11:03 am

Bills FB Evan Rodriguez has missed the past two days of practice due to complications from cramps along with TE Chris Gragg. Head coach Doug Marrone provided an update on the fullback’s status.

Marrone said that Rodriguez had been released from the hospital where he apparently spent Tuesday getting effectively hydrated.

Gragg was also hospitalized, but according to the team has not yet been released.


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C.J. on importance of run game

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2014 – 2:49 pm

The run game was Buffalo’s bread and butter on offense as they ran more than any other team in the league and finished second in rushing yards per game. Blessed with the additional talents of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon, the Bills ground attack is as deep as it’s ever been. So just how critical will the Bills run game be to the team’s success this season. C.J. Spiller had an answer for that one.

In an appearance on NFL AM on NFL Network Tuesday, Spiller believes the run game will again be carrying the offense in 2014.

“I think it’s going to be very important,” said Spiller. “I think it’s going to take a lot of pressure off E.J. [Manuel]. I think if we have our running game going, he’ll feel more comfortable relying on that. Instead of having him, going out there saying, ‘Hey E.J., we need you to throw the ball.’ It’s going to be very important to make sure that our running game is going on early and late in the season. It’s going to be exciting. The offensive line is going to jell together and hopefully we’ll have another great rushing year.”


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Spiller on change needed for division games

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2014 – 2:46 pm

The Bills have found it hard to compete for a division title in the AFC East as New England has largely ruled the division for the better part of the last dozen years. Buffalo usually plays all their division opponents tough, until some unfortunate play happens and the floodgates seem to open. C.J. Spiller knows what has to change to reverse that trend.

In an appearance on NFL AM on NFL Network this morning, Spiller addressed what the Bills need to do to truly contend in the AFC East.

“If you go back and look at those games, we always play all those teams close,” Spiller said. “Obviously, sooner or later, [they] kind-of get out of hand. Against those type of teams, you can’t make mistakes. That’s the thing that’s been killing us against [those] teams is that we make mistakes and it’s hard for us to bounce back. So if we can minimize them, I think we have a chance of competing as one of the top [teams] in the AFC. I’m looking forward to it. Still a lot of work needs to be done. We still have to go out there and play the games.”


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LB Kitchens, CB Smith out for a while

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2014 – 12:18 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone addressed the status of a pair of defensive players who were injured in practice on Monday and did not participate on Tuesday in undrafted rookie LB Darrin Kitchens and CB Brandon Smith.

“(Kitchens) and Brandon Smith will both be out for a period of time,” said Marrone after practice Tuesday. “Lower body injury for Smith and a lower body injury for Kitchens.”

Both players were seeing most of their time on the field with the third team defense.


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Marrone: Hopkins a kickoff specialist only

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2014 – 11:01 am

It’s early in camp and Dan Carpenter has taken all the FG attempts. Dustin Hopkins has only taken kickoffs in practice. On Tuesday head coach Doug Marrone confirmed that Hopkins is strictly a kickoff specialist.

In fact Marrone stated that kickoff specialist is the role Hopkins has to try and land.

“He had to tr to make the roster as a kickoff specialist,” said Marrone.

Carpenter is coming off a career season where he hit on almost 92 percent of his kicks in 2013.


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Moorman booming them

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2014 – 9:43 am

Brian Moorman is still booming punts here Tuesday an at this point I outperforming rookie Jake Dombrowski.

Moorman has shown he’s more consistent mixing distance and hang time together. With the punters being asked to flip the field position on long punts today Moorman was consistently kicking 50 yards plus with hang times around five seconds.

His three best punts of the special teams segment were as follows. Hang times are unofficial.

55 yards – 4.9 seconds
55 yards – 5.11
60 yards – 5.19

Dombrowski’s best kick was a 50 yarder with a 5.25 hang time.


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