Inside The Bills

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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Fred’s message to team

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:49 pm

With a first half not going particularly well for the offense, Fred Jackson felt it was necessary to huddle up the offensive unit. Here was the gist of his message to the team.

“I was just telling everybody to calm down,” said Jackson. “We’ve got a lot of people that just weren’t on the same page. We’ve got turnovers, we’ve got penalties, things like that, it’s not going to allow you to win a lot of football games. Everybody just has to calm down, go out there and work and let things take care of themselves.  Don’t do everybody else’s job, just do your job and we’ll get back in this thing.”

His teammates echoed the message.

“Basically to stay together,” said Mike Williams. “This is a lesson for us and somebody is testing us. To show that we’re a better team we can go out there and adjust. The second half is about adjustments no matter if you’re up or you’re down. You’ve got to go and make the adjustments and that’s basically what his message was to us and that’s kind of what we did.”


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Offense holding stuff until regular season

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:30 pm

Facing a Tampa defense Saturday night that is a lot like the one they’ll face in Week 1 at Chicago in terms of scheme there was a good chance that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and head coach Doug Marrone were going to play things close to the vest and not make use of plays they feel might work best against that system. EJ Manuel and Mike Williams essentially confirmed that they are holding onto some key parts of their playbook for the regular season.

“There are a few things that I asked him for and of course he said, ‘Hey we’re saving this and that for the regular season,’” said Manuel. “Which I understand, but at the same time we still want to go out there and win and move the ball and score touchdowns. But there are some things that we’re going to continue to save for Chicago.”

“I don’t want to give away a secret, but I think we’ve been doing what we can,” said Mike Williams. “I’ll just say it like that. I think we’ve been doing what he’s been giving us and we’re trying to get better at that. Our play calling has been simple really. We’ve been trying to get better at the simple things and take away the penalties.”


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Bills ‘O’ not happy, but ready to move on

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:22 pm

Buffalo’s players on offense were obviously disappointed with their first half showing on Saturday, but they’re also not going to let the shortcomings of their performance negatively impact them moving forward.

“I wouldn’t say discouraged, but disappointment,” said C.J. Spiller. “Everybody saw what we did, with me having that fumble and turnovers and penalties that killed us. If you want to be considered one of the best you can’t have those type of things and Saturday that took place.”

“This is a preseason game that we can’t allow to linger,” said Fred Jackson. “What we’ve got to do is go in, look at film, make corrections and move on. That’s what we’ll do. We’ve got a team full of a lot of resilient guys. We can’t let this define us as a team. We have to continue to go in and focus, don’t pay attention to the outside noise and do our job.”

“The  biggest thing is we cant let this game define our season. If we let this linger on into the season we’re in trouble. Obviously, it’s disappointing and it wasn’t our best effort.  But at the end of the day, we’ve got to watch the tape and we got to be able to move on. That’s what great teams do.  They’re able to put good games and bad games behind them and move forward.  If we want to get to that level we have to do that.”


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Brown, Powell vying to be Wk 1 starter at LB

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:10 pm

The Bills know they will be without Nigel Bradham in Week 1 of the regular season at Chicago as he serves a one game league-imposed suspension. Over the past week or so they’ve begun to narrow down who their best option might be to replace him in the lineup. Right now it’s down to two candidates according to head coach Doug Marrone.

“For the first game? Yes. Both [Preston Brown] and Ty [Powell] will play in there,” said Marrone.

Brown got first crack at playing in Bradham’s weak side linebacker position and did it alongside the other starters on defense Saturday night. Powell came in with the reserves and saw reps there as well. The defensive staff is expected to make a final decision in the next week.

“The more things I can do to help the team I’m just trying to do that,” Brown told Buffalobills.com. “Going out as SAM, WILL, mike, whatever it is I’m willing to do it.”


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Watkins update

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:05 pm

Bills WR Sammy Watkins was unable to play on Saturday due to his bruised ribs suffered the week before at Pittsburgh. Head coach Doug Marrone provided an update on his status and why he was made inactive for the Bucs game.

“At the end of the day they told me he couldn’t play,” said Marrone of Watkins. “I know there were mixed reports out there. I think Sammy spokes to someone and said, ‘If coach wants me to play then I can play.’ And then the doctors said he couldn’t play. I told Sammy that you can’t talk about injuries. That’s what gets you in a bind and it doesn’t make us look good when you start saying those things. The doctor, at the end of the day, said he couldn’t play.”

No word on whether or not Watkins will be able to practice fully when the team resumes work on Monday.


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Marrone on Dixon and backup QBs

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:00 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone made Dennis Dixon the second quarterback in the game on Saturday night after EJ Manuel’s time on the field was over. The move came as a surprise, but Dixon’s two snaps in the preseason prior to the Bucs game and his lack of satisfaction with the backup quarterback play to this point led to the move.

“I wanted to bring Dennis in because I haven’t seen him in a game. I wanted to actually play him longer than that, but then I got a little concerned about the ball security,” said Marrone after Dixon fumbled twice.  “Then we went in with the players who have been playing the best in practice and the games. Jeff [Tuel] had been playing well on that and we put him in. I’m not going to say I’m satisfied because I’m not.”

When asked if Dixon is still in the mix for a backup spot, Marrone confirmed that every quarterback on the roster is in the mix.

With Marrone saying more than once that he needs to see more from the backup QBs, he was asked if he would look outside the organization for another backup QB option. This was his response.

“I’ll be very honest. I think in talking with Doug [Whaley] and not talking for Doug, our conversations are always, ‘Hey, if we can better our football team, whatever we have to do we will do,’” said Marrone. “We wouldn’t be doing right to ourselves, the team or the fans if we felt we could upgrade ourselves by going outside and not do that because, maybe, we were too comfortable.”

 


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Marrone: Starters may need to play Thursday

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 9:39 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone had no intention of playing his starters in the preseason finale on Thursday against the Lions, but in the wake of Saturday’s performance against Tampa Bay he’s giving strong consideration to putting them on the field against Detroit.

“We’ll be looking at what we’re going to do on Thursday,” said Marrone. “Last year we didn’t play our starters at all. This I think we’re going to have to take a good look and play.”

Buffalo’s starters have no problem with going out there and playing against Detroit if the head coach deems it necessary.

“If coach Marrone wants us to go play, we’ll go play,” said EJ Manuel. “We want to definitely come out and have a good showing before we go into the regular season so if he wants us to play we’ll be ready to go.”

“If our coach wants us out there we’ll be out there,” said Fred Jackson. “That’s just how a lot of guys are going to be. We need work just like anybody else. We can’t say we’re excused from anything, especially after the performance we had in the first half.  We came out and made some plays in the second half but it’s not enough. We have to continue to keep working, if we’re playing we have to continue to put in the work.”


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Bucs inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 4:01 pm

Here are the inactives for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their game against Buffalo this afternoon.

CB Mike Jenkins
RB Mike James
RB Charles Sims
CB Danny Gorner
DE Da’Quan Bowers
DE William Gholston


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Stepping in for starters

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 4:00 pm

Here are the players who will be stepping in for the starters who are not playing for the Bills against the Buccaneers this afternoon.

Cyril Richardson will start at left guard for Chris Williams
Corbin Bryant will start at defensive tackle for Kyle Williams

As expected Erik Pears will start at right guard with Seantrel Henderson starting at right tackle.


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Watkins among Bills inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 3:32 pm

Here are the Bills inactives for tonight’s game, which includes WR Sammy Watkins with bruised ribs.

WR Sammy Watkins
CB Mario Butler
CB Bobby Felder
S Jonathan Meeks
G Chris Williams
TE Tony Moeaki
DT Alan Branch
DT Kyle Williams


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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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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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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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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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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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