Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 8-22

Posted by Chris Brown on August 22, 2014 – 12:53 pm

The preseason is winding down. Almost time for the real stuff. Let’s get to your latest round of questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – When are the Bills going to address Spiller’s contract?  Is he going to be another Bills 1st rounder they don’t sign and let them leave?

Thanks,
Steve Lehmann
Life-long Bills fan in Charlotte, NC

CB: The current issue concerning Spiller and opening discussions on a new contract is he is currently without representation. The Bills’ back does not have an agent right now and GM Doug Whaley stated recently that the club will wait until Spiller has secured proper representation before approaching him to negotiate a possible extension.

 

2 – Hey Chris,
Of course us Bills fans are constantly hearing a lot about EJ Manuel in training camp and his “ups and downs”.  The one term I hear used a lot is that he is patting the ball before he throws it.  I read that this can give the defender an extra step because when they see that they know he’s about to throw and it’s likely going to be in their lane. But I also read that it doesn’t always have a negative effect and in fact Drew Bledsoe was known to have a very quick release even though he pat the ball. I’ve also read that this is so the QB can make sure that the ball is secured in their hand before they throw it. Do you think this is something that EJ has to work on and do you think it is affecting his game in a negative way?

Also, a lot has been said about him not being able to read the field and get through his progressions.  Depending on who you listen to some say that’s something you have or you don’t.  But I think that he just needs more time and game time experience and maybe the experience will allow him to get used to the speed of the NFL.  I am interested in your thoughts.

Thanks always, Jillian

CB: There’s no denying that there have been times that EJ has patted the ball or hesitated to pull the trigger. I think all young quarterbacks go through that as part of their learning curve. I will say that Manuel is doing less of it now than he was at the start of training camp.

The patting of the ball is not the concern as much as does EJ trust what he’s seeing unfold around him? Over the past week or so the answer has been unequivocally yes. Now that doesn’t mean that EJ is going to start lighting it up every week on the field, but there is noticeable progress.

We’ll just have to wait and see how more time on the field in games brings his personal game along.

3 – Hello Chris,

Great coverage. I enjoy your analytical approach to our Buffalo Bills. Speaking of just that, I noticed that the Bills were #1 on fumbles last season at 32 according to NFL.com. The data that I saw had:

Combined Fumbles:
Spiller/Jackson at 10
E.J./Lewis/Tuel at 8
Goodwin/Graham/Johnson/Chandler at 6

I couldn’t account for the remainder so I am not terribly confident about the 32 fumbles. I don’t hear much conversation around that stat by reporters (if it’s correct). I would think that with the loss of Byrd and his take away ability that the coaches and media would make that a point of extreme emphasis in achieving a better giveaway/takeaway ratio, which is one of the keys in winning in the NFL.

Color me confused,
Alan from Northeastern NY

CB: To provide a clear picture of the fumble numbers from last season here are all the statistics. First, yes the Bills did have 32 fumbles in 2013 and that did lead the league. However, only 12 of those fumbles resulted in turnovers. That ranked sixth-most in the league.

Part of the reason there were so many fumbles was because the Bills had the most total rushes in the NFL (546). The more plays you have, in general the more fumbles you’re going to have.

Now all that being said the Bills still ranked first in the percentage of fumbles per touch (1.97%). There were only five other teams in the league with a percentage over 1.7 percent (Was., Oak., Sea., Ten., NYG).

So you’re right it is a legitimate concern. Really what it comes down to is ball security, having the proper points of pressure on the ball with your forearm, ribs and fingers and carrying it high and tight. When I get a chance I’ll see if coach Wheatley has any extra insight on it based on last season’s numbers.

 
4 – Chris,

As usual, thank you for the outstanding coverage from you and your staff, especially for those of us outside of NY State.

My question: The first 2 preseason games, I’ve noticed the offense has predominantly used the standard “huddle” before running plays. Gone is the no huddle or hurry up Offense that we’ve heard was going to be the norm. The Bills ran 64 total plays against the Giants 61 and 63 against Carolinas 69. A difference of -3 for both games. Will the Bills be scrapping the hurry up offense this year?  Thank you.

Steve
Pismo Beach, CA

CB: I have faith that the Bills will run their no huddle on offense this season. I don’t think you should expect it to be deployed on ever series of every game. Yes, they do want to go fast and I think there’s a good chance we see some of it on Saturday night against Tampa Bay, but Doug Marrone has said it will be slowed down or sped up based on game situations and on game plans for the particular opponent they’re facing that week.

Quite frankly that makes the most sense. For example, if you’re facing a club with a top five scoring offense, going fast for the whole game might not be the way to go knowing you run the risk of giving their top flight offense more possessions and the potential to score more points too.
5 – Hey Chris,

After the performance by Ron Brooks in the Carolina game, I’m wondering if the Bills are thinking of possibly moving Leodis. Brooks seems to have turned the corner, but he’d be corner #6 on the roster. Do you see him making the roster or getting unfortunately cut?

Thanks,
Tommy in the Pittsford branch of #Billsmafia!

CB: Brooks has had his best camp to date in his career with Buffalo. He was very consistent and got a lot of quality reps with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin slow to return to the team portions of practice in camp coming off of hip surgeries.

Brooks is essentially running as the fourth cornerback behind Gilmore, McKelvin and Graham if you consider Nickell Robey strictly a slot corner. So right now he’s in the top five at cornerback with rookie Ross Cockrell the likely number 6. So I think Brooks is in great shape to make the roster at this point.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz glad to have Graham

Posted by Chris Brown on August 22, 2014 – 10:41 am

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is pretty happy with a lot of the talent he has on his side of the ball this season. Having reliable players who execute consistently is something every coordinator covets. Schwartz believes he has that in a good number of his player, and confirmed recently that Corey Graham is one of them.

When asked what Graham has brought to the Bills defense Schwartz didn’t hold back.

“A lot. An awful lot. He’s a very good leader, he’s a student of the game,” Schwartz said. “He’s an excellent professional, meaning that he prepares every day. He’s competitive. He plays the ball down the field very well, he’s a good tackler. He’s very assignment sound. He gives coaches a lot of confidence in him. He’s been playing a lot of different positions for us. He’s been playing corner, he’s been playing nickel, he’s been playing dime. Even the last couple days he’s been playing some safety. I mean everything we’ve been giving him he’s done a good job with. I’m very happy to be working with him.”

After the injuries suffered by Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore last year Buffalo wanted to have another veteran corner that could play a lot and play well. McKelvin just suffered a groin injury earlier this week so Graham’s presence is comforting.

This Saturday however, Graham might be lining up at safety having been there in practice all week.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone: We’re close

Posted by Chris Brown on August 21, 2014 – 4:05 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone comes out of the team’s 2014 training camp believing that his team isn’t far off from contending for the postseason in 2014. He went so far as to say as much right after the final camp practice concluded.

“Here’s what I sense. We’re close. We are close,” he said. “What is it going to be to get over the top? It’s a matter of either you get over the top or you don’t and we’ve got to find a way to push ourselves over the top. There’s a lot less things I’m focused on from the year before. There’s a lot less this year. Now, this year is critical to get us over the top. I’m doing everything I possibly can to get us over the top and, if intensity is the answer, yeah I’m intense.”

Marrone has pushed the players hard through as he continues to help forge the team’s identity as a tough, physical team that is better conditioned than the other 31 in the league.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ: Only steps forward

Posted by Chris Brown on August 21, 2014 – 4:00 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel was happy with a lot of things that were accomplished in training camp by the offense. For him personally he was just pleased he got through it healthy after having his rookie training camp interrupted by a knee injury sustained in the Minnesota preseason game last summer. He felt being on the field every day made it easier for him to take positive steps toward the kind of quarterback he wants to be this fall.

“I think it’s gone well. Each day we’ve made progress. I don’t think there were any days where we took a step backwards. That was a big thing for myself. I didn’t want to have any days where I had a step or two back,” said Manuel. “Every day I worked on something whether it was the smallest thing that may not have been big to those watching our progress. But I’ve seen growth and development in myself. So I’m very happy about it.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills practice squad eligibility list

Posted by Chris Brown on August 21, 2014 – 3:56 pm

With the new rules expanding the Bills practice squad from eight to 10 players and allowing players with up to two accrued NFL seasons to serve on a practice squad here’s a breakdown of the players who are eligible from Buffalo’s roster.

The first list identifies what players are eligible under the original designation of practice squad player. These are the players who could make up the first eight spots.

QB – Dennis Dixon

RB – Ronnie Wingo

WR – Caleb Holley, Chris Summers, Sammy Watkins

TE – Dominique Jones

OL – Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Macky MacPherson, Antoine McClain, Cyril Richardson, J.J. ‘Unga, Jared Wheeler

DE – Ike Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson, Jacquies Smith

DT – Stefan Charles, Damien Jacobs

LBs – Xavius Boyd, Preston Brown, Jimmy Gaines, Randell Johnson, Ty Powell 

CBs – Ross Cockrell, Sam Miller, Bobby Felder, Kamaal McIlwain

 S – Derek Brim, Deon Broomfield, JaJuan Harley, Kenny Ladler, Jonathan Meeks

K/P – Jake Dombrowski, Dustin Hopkins

This second list is the group of players who could fill the two spots on the practice squad by having two accrued NFL seasons or being active for less than nine regular season games in any of their accrued NFL seasons.

QB – EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel

RB/FB – Bryce Brown, Evan Rodriguez, Frank Summers

WR – Marquise Goodwin,  T.J. Graham, Chris Hogan, Naaman Roosevelt, Robert Woods

TE – Chris Gragg

OL – Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston

 DT – Corbin Bryant

 LBs –  Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham

CBs – Ron Brooks, Stephon Gilmore, Nickell Robey

S – Duke Williams


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills on the radio

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 8:13 pm

Here’s a rundown of where you can find Bills players and coaches on the local radio airwaves in Buffalo an Rochester.

WCMF, Break room 96.5 FM
o 7:20 am – Aaron Williams

Kiss 98.5, Janet and Nick
o 7:30 am – EJ Manuel

The Fan 1270, Rich Gaenzler
o 1:40 pm – Mike Williams


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Chandler linking up with Manuel

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 1:41 pm

He missed a week of training camp action with a groin injury, but now back in the fold for almost two weeks TE Scott Chandler feels he and EJ Manuel are in sync and as ready for the regular season as they could be.

“I feel like these last two weeks have really been good for us just to be consistently out there together,” said Chandler. “We alternated knee injuries throughout our time together, but these last two weeks we’ve been able to get on the same page, look at a lot of film together and get some work in after practice.”

Chandler led the team in receptions and receiving yards last season and had four catches for 40 yards last Saturday at Pittsburgh.


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Bills coaches have special teamers identified

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 1:09 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone was asked about the importance of the last two preseason games as it pertains to jobs on special teams. Marrone gave strong indication that the core special teamers for their squad have largely been selected.

“I think we have that group,” Marrone said. “We’ll just wait. Obviously we’re still in a process, but I feel very comfortable about the guys that we have identified right now. I think when the roster is set, and we get down to the final cuts, we’ll talk about that role for those players.”

Buffalo signed free agents like Boobie Dixon and Corey Graham to provide some veteran leadership on special teams this offseason.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Safety gives Corey Graham new perspective

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 9:29 am

Bills head coach Doug Marrone hinted at it as early as the spring, not long after Corey Graham was signed by the club as a free agent. He and the defensive staff wanted to get a look at the seven-year cornerback at safety. That didn’t happen however, until the final week of training camp, and Graham had put the thought out of his mind.

“I was a little surprised just like you guys of the opportunity to play safety, but it’s fun,” said Graham. “It definitely is a different look. It would be a fun transition. I don’t know how much or how serious we’re going to be about it, but it’s good to start to learn it. I kind of learned it already in the past, but it’s good to finally get out there and play a little bit.”

When asked about Graham’s prospects at the safety position head coach Doug Marrone downplayed the significant of the move. He indicated it was done to make sure Graham could handle the role in an emergency situation if there were a rash of injuries at the position on game day.

“We’re just making sure that we’re training people for game day stuff,” said Marrone. “You know, how we want to do it. If we have four safeties out there then he can play safety, he can play corner, he can do a lot of different things for us. We had to cross train. We cross trained the backers too with Preston Brown and Ty Powell (in practice).”

In his two days lining up at safety Graham has found directing the traffic defensively pre-snap to be the most challenging aspect of the job.

“That’s probably the biggest thing, telling everybody what to do and get everybody lined up,” said Graham. “The mental part of it is probably the biggest thing. Playing it is a lot easier than corner.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone: Glenn, Henderson could be special duo

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 6:58 am

On Monday the Bills made a big time switch on their offensive line when Cordy Glenn was fully cleared for practice. Seantrel Henderson, who had been filling in at left tackle was flipped to right tackle where he played in college. Though head coach Doug Marrone has maintained all along that he’s still trying to find his best five linemen, he has no doubt that Glenn and Henderson are two of them.

Appearing on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 this morning on the Howard Simon show Marrone was asked about the two tackles who are currently lining up in starting roles on the left and right side. By the sound of Marrone’s responses the two tackles are likely to be fixtures at their positions.

Marrone was first asked about Cordy Glenn and how he’s looked in his return from a medical condition that kept him off the practice field for much of camp.

“He looks good, really good. I mean really good,” said Marrone. “He looks better than he did last year. He’s moving well, the term fresh legs is what people say out on the field. But he worked hard through that medical issue to make sure that his weight was down and that he was stronger. That takes a lot of discipline from his end not to blow up weight-wise and he looks good.”

When asked if he feels rookie seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson is starting caliber in this league right now the Bills head coach didn’t hesitate.

“No doubt. No doubt. I think (I feel that way) because I’ve been around that position my whole entire life,” said Marrone. “He’s a heck of a football player. A heck of a football player. You have seen it on TV. What’s there not to like? He’s probably one of the biggest guys, he has the most muscle mass. He probably has the quickest feet along with Cordy Glenn.

“He’s a bright kid. He’s smart. His work ethic is outstanding. He’s been everything that people obviously didn’t say about him when he was coming out which is why we were able to get him in the seventh round. I think he understands that and there are periods in time when people can change and one of them is when you go from college into this league. He understands that. We have to do everything we can to not only keep him progressing on the field, but off the field. He is a very talented football player and there’s no telling how good he can be.”

The thought of Glenn and Henderson together as bookend tackles is something Marrone believes could be special for a long time.

“We have an opportunity now that if (Henderson) keeps coming the way he keeps coming to have maybe the best (tackle) tandem in the league.”


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Bills on the radio

Posted by Chris Brown on August 19, 2014 – 11:56 pm

Here’s a rundown of where you can find Bills players and coaches on the local and regional radio airwaves Wednesday morning.

  • WCMF, Break room
    • 6:30 am – Doug Marrone
    • 7:45 am – Doug Whaley
  • K-Rock CNY (Syracuse & Utica), The Show (on-site)
    • 7:00 am – Macky Macpherson
  • WGR 550, Howard Simon and Jeremy White
    • 6:15 am – Doug Marrone
    • 7:30 am – Doug Whaley
  • CBS Sports Radio, Tiki Barber
    • 7:25 am – Brandon Spikes

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T.J. Graham assesses his progress

Posted by Chris Brown on August 19, 2014 – 7:55 pm

Coming back from offseason hip surgery has been a long and arduous process for T.J. Graham, but over the past week or so he’s demonstrated progress on both offense and on special teams. Still, it’s nowhere near where Graham believes his peak resides so he’s hoping to get there sooner rather than later.

Graham performed well on punt returns Saturday night in Pittsburgh averaging a respectable nine yards a return with a long of 23 yards. Any average that approaches the equivalent of an extra first down for the offense (10 yards) is considered pretty solid.

Graham was also targeted three times in the game and had one catch for 16 yards.

His past week he’s been a bigger factor in the passing game. The third-year wideout pulled no punches when it came time to assess his performance thus far in training camp.

“I’ve had some crappy days, but that’s just the growing pains from coming back from my rehab,” he said. “I’m trying to get better every day. This is the best I’ve been so far, but it’s not the best I can be.”

The N.C. State product is hopeful that there are enough opportunities left to make a full return to his optimum form.


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McKelvin returns to 11-on-11

Posted by Chris Brown on August 18, 2014 – 11:21 pm

Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn wasn’t the only player who saw team work for the first time in a while Monday night. Leodis McKelvin, who was sprinkled in for team work late last week, but did not play in last Saturday’s preseason game was participating in team reps in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11.

His best play was the pass breakup he had on a post route by Chris Hogan across the middle of the end zone. McKelvin appeared to be playing trail technique and reached his front arm out as the pass arrived to knock it away for an incompletion.

It was the first play McKelvin has made in a while, which explains why he let out a giant, ‘Owwwwoooh!!’ after making the play.

Hopefully it’s a sign of a lot more plays to come.


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Starting secondary hoping to reunite soon

Posted by Chris Brown on August 18, 2014 – 10:21 am

The Bills are taking a conservative approach with starting CB Leodis McKelvin in his return from offseason hip surgery. He has yet to play in the preseason as he was inactive again against the Steelers Saturday. Though he is being slowly worked back into the practice setting his time with his fellow starters in the secondary has been limited. Stephon Gilmore only began to see more action in practice and preseason this past week. Even though there’s just three weeks before the season opener at Chicago the starters in Buffalo’s secondary aren’t concerned about their limited time together.

“We want those guys to come in when they’re ready,” said S Aaron Williams. “We never want a guy to rush just because one person feels like the whole group needs to be together. I want the whole group to be together when everybody is 100 percent and ready for the season. We’re not going to rush Leo (McKelvin), (Stephon) Gilmore or whoever else is hurt to come back at a fast pace. That’s just going to cause problems later down the road. Whenever they’re ready to come back and feel 100 percent because they know their bodies more than we do then the excitement will come.”

What has kept the secondary from being concerned about fewer reps than usual on the practice field together is the time they’ve spent on the field over the past two seasons.

“Yeah it’s definitely an advantage when you have a few years under your belt together,” said Williams. “You know the chemistry of each other and you know how each person thinks and plays. Leo has a different playing style than Stephon. The fact that Da’Norris and I know that makes the calls a lot faster and a lot easier.”

A beneficial byproduct of McKelvin’s absence has been the opportunity for the rest of the secondary to get used to lining up and playing with veteran free agent signee Corey Graham.

“I’m with Corey every day and I talk to him and try to pick out how he plays. Every meeting we sit next to each other and have conversations about what’s going on and how he thinks and how I play things,” said Williams. “That communication has really helped both of us out especially with our chemistry knowing we have to get ready for the season. Corey has been with us a few months now and I’m starting to learn more and more about him.”


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Pepper’s mantra for D-line

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2014 – 9:47 am

Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson is very respected among his players. A 13-year NFL career that includes two Super Bowl rings, not to mention three more as an assistant coach, Johnson has the ear of his defensive line charges. His second unit in particular has been determined to not let there be a drop off in play when they go in for the starters this preseason. So far, so good.

“We’ve got real prestigious coaching, like Pepper Johnson, he stresses that to us every day,” said Stefan Charles who teamed with Jacquies Smith on the sack, fumble that Landon Cohen recovered and returned to the Steelers 16-yard line. “Have no fear and be out there as warriors, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Charles, Cohen, Smith and Corbin Bryant have done a decent job through the preseason as the second wave of defensive linemen.

“The coach is giving us the opportunity to make plays so when they come around you gotta make them,” said Charles. “We’ve got a lot of freedom on the D-line, we just got to get after it.  That’s what we try to do.”


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Run ‘D’ has stymied opponents

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2014 – 1:31 am

It has been a perennial problem since 2005, Buffalo’s run defense. Enter defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who through three preseason games has his first team defense locking down consistently in the run game.

Through three preseason games Buffalo’s first team defense has allowed 30 rushing yards on 18 carries, not counting Landry Jones kneel down at the end of the half. That’s a yards per carry average of 1.66. On Saturday the Steelers power run game managed just 11 yards on seven carries against the Bills first unit.

“I credit a lot to the coaches and the players I really do. Jim (Schwartz) even when he came here and everyone was asking about that if you go back and look at the scheme they run they’ve always been very good against the run,” said Doug Marrone. “There’s another level where there’s three linebackers instead of two or sometimes one or whatever we’ve been in the past. People have been able to make some big plays on us, so we’ve done a good job of keeping that ball inside.

“The players have responded well to it and have done a nice job up front. I think that’s something that we need to continue to do and play well.”


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Branch knows it’s up to the coaches

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2014 – 1:30 am

Initially it was characterized by head coach Doug Marrone as getting veteran Alan Branch back into the swing of things after being on the non-football injury list. But after only seeing action late in each of the three preseason games, veteran Alan Branch doesn’t know what to make of his standing on Buffalo’s roster.

When asked to assess his performance thus far in training camp he decided to put it in the hands of the men who will ultimately make the call on his role on the team.

“You are going to have to ask coaches that,” he said.

Head coach Doug Marrone was asked by the media point blank if Branch is going to be cut from the roster. His response?

“I can’t stand up here and say that,” Marrone said. “I tell the players that we’re competing for the roster. You never know. You want the player going for it. He’s working for a spot. He’s played well before and I’ll be excited to see the tape. I saw him get a lot of push tonight at times. We’ll look at it and we’ve got some time left.”

Branch, who was re-signed by the club this past offseason, didn’t deny that he’s surprised by his lack of playing time.

“I was pretty surprised, but it was coach’s decision. It has nothing to do with me,” said Branch. “I just have to keep going out there and practicing, doing what I can to try to make the team.”

When asked if he’s worried about making the 53-man roster Branch was professional.

“I mean the concern would be the same if I was on the first squad,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league is. It’s all on the coaches.”

Branch has not logged a defensive statistic this preseason in his limited time on the field.


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Legursky to start at LG

Posted by Chris Brown on August 16, 2014 – 6:32 pm

The revolving door at guard has another participant who get time with the starting unit.

Doug Legursky is going to start at left guard in the absence of Chris Williams, who missed the whole week with a back injury.

Kraig Urbik is also supposed to see time at left guard with Cyril Richardson expected to play right guard with the starters when Urbik is not lined up there.


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Steelers inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on August 16, 2014 – 6:27 pm

Here are the Steelers inactives for tonight’s preseason game against the Bills.

S Will Allen
CB Devin Smith
CB Shaquille Richardson
FB Will Johnson
LB Jordan Zumwalt
LS Greg Warren
TE Matt Spaeth
LB Jarvis Jones


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Bills inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on August 16, 2014 – 6:00 pm

Here are the Bills inactives for tonight’s preseason game against the Steelers.

K Dustin Hopkins
CB Leodis McKelvin
S Jonathan Meeks
LB Ty Powell
G Chris Williams
OT Cordy Glenn
TE Tony Moeaki
WR Marquise Goodwin


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