Inside The Bills

Manuel’s numbers tell story

Posted by Chris Brown on April 30, 2013 – 12:47 pm

While the world of draftniks panned the Bills pick of EJ Manuel as being far too early, Bills GM Buddy Nix and his scouting staff had all the proof they need, and if outside observers didn’t have the time to do all the travel, interviewing, tape watching, research and background checks then all you need to do is look at the numbers.

ESPN.com put together a comprehensive set of figures related to Manuel’s play and checked how it compared to the rest of the quarterbacks in the draft class. Here are just a couple of examples that should get Bills fans excited.

He can throw the football vertically down the field
Manuel improved his completion percentage on passes of 20 yards or longer in his junior and senior seasons. In 2012, Manuel completed 49.2 percent of his passes of 20 yards or longer, the highest completion percentage of any of Scouts Inc.’s top six quarterback prospects.

He can get himself out of trouble
In 2012, Manuel completed 55.8 percent of his passes when under duress, a higher completion percentage than Geno Smith (49.3), Matt Barkley (49.3) and Landry Jones (37.1).

These are two big areas where the quarterback play had been lacking, plays under pressure and deep throws. Add in that Manuel’s completion percentage actually went up last year when he threw from outside the pocket (66.8 to 70%) and add in his 81% figure for passes on target and you can see why the Bills saw him as the best quarterback in the draft.


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Nix initally surprised by slow go at QB

Posted by Chris Brown on April 28, 2013 – 7:59 am

Bills GM Buddy Nix said he’s rarely nervous and rarely is he shocked, but the way the 2013 NFL draft was playing out at the quarterback position was downright stunning.

After two days just three quarterbacks had come off the board in Buffalo’s own EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon.

“Really at first it kind of shocked me a little bit, but when you think about it people were worried about this quarterback class,” said Nix. “The hype or the lack of got people concerned and they went out and tried to give themselves some insurance bringing in a veteran quarterback and it kept it from being a priority in the firsts few picks. And once that got started and they started hanging on and staying out there people were worried about there being something that they didn’t know. I think those things happen. They slide a lot of times and you think, ‘Well if this guy is still there, then there’s something about them that I don’t know.’”

In total just 11 quarterbacks were drafted. It was the fourth-lowest total among position groups in this year’s draft to only center (5), fullbacks (3) and kickers (2) and punters (2).

Ironically, the Bills were strongly considering taking a second quarterback after Manuel had already been drafted.

“Very seriously we did (consider it),” said Nix.


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Marrone glad Nassib’s with Coughlin

Posted by Chris Brown on April 28, 2013 – 12:57 am

At the end of day two of the NFL draft, Bills head coach Doug Marrone was pained that his former college QB Ryan Nassib had yet to be drafted through three rounds of picks. At the end of the draft Marrone was happy to see that Nassib not only came off the board in round four, but was selected by a head coach that he’s very close with.

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is a close friend and colleague of Marrone’s and both are alums of Syracuse. Seeing Nassib selected by the Giants in round 4 on Sunday had him feeling a lot better about his former quarterback’s future than he did a day ago.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m very happy. I really am,” said Marrone. “And I’m happier that they’re in the NFC, that Ryan’s in there. I’m extremely happy. I’m not going to lie. It’s struggling and you go through it and its human nature. We sit up here and we get in front of you guys. We say things and talk and you listen to things, but anyone that gets up here and says I don’t listen to that or I don’t have any feelings, in my opinion they’re not telling the truth.”

Nassib was the 110th overall picks of the Giants, who also took his Syracuse teammate OT Justin Pugh in the first round with the 19th overall pick and the fifth quarterback off the board.


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‘Cuse G Chibane says now with Buffalo

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 11:54 pm

It appears Bills head coach Doug Marrone has brought a former player from his college team at Syracuse to Buffalo. Orange G Zach Chibane says he’s signed with the Bills as an undrafted rookie free agent.

 

Chibane (6’6″ 298) is a three-year starter at guard for the Orange as he made 38 straight starts.


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C Ryan Turnley indicates he’s a Bill

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 11:31 pm

Pitt C Ryan Turnley has given indication on his Twitter account that he’s agreed to sign with the Bills as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Turnley (6’6″ 320) was a two-year starter at center for the Panthers and spent a year at left guard as a sophomore. He’s a Hopewell, Pennslyvania native.

Bills RB Zach Brown, a Pitt alum, welcomed Turnley


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WR Norell: I’m a Bill

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 11:28 pm

Undrafted rookie free agent WR Kevin Norell out of Stony Brook says he’s agreed to sign with the Bills.

Norell (5’10″, 200) played the last two seasons at Stony Brook after two years at El Camino Junior College. A Los Angeles native, Norell knows Bills second-round pick Robert Woods. Woods even tweeted Norell after hearing the news.

 

Norell is coming off a monster season for the Sea Wolves as he posted 63 catches for 1,388 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Perhaps his 63-yard touchdown against Syracuse last season had an influence on Bills head coach Doug Marrone. Norell actually began his college career at Washington State.


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FB Gaskins says he’s a Bill

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 11:13 pm

University of Richmond FB Kendall Gaskins is the latest undrafted rookie free agent to announce that he’s agreed to sign with the Bills.

Gaskins even got a welcome from fellow Richmond alum and Bills CB Justin Rogers.


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QB Jeff Tuel says he’s a Bill

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 8:56 pm

When the 2013 NFL draft ended there were three quarterbacks that made pre-draft visits to One Bills Drive that went undrafted. One of them has reportedly agreed to join the team as an undrafted rookie free agent.

 

Tuel visited One Bills Drive on April 8th.


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WR Da’Rick Rogers says he’s a Bill

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 8:50 pm

With the undrafted free agent market playing out Saturday night it looks like the Bills landed a quality receiver in Tennessee Tech WR Da’Rick Rogers, who made a pre-draft visit to Orchard Park on April 10th.

That according to the receiver himself who tweeted that he’s agreed to join Buffalo as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Though Rogers does have off the field concerns after getting kicked out of the Tennessee program for failed drug tests, the risk is minimal as an undrafted player. Buffalo thought very highly of his route running ability.

“He’s the most polished of those three Tennessee receivers in my opinion in terms of route running and all that,” said Bills scout Tom Roth in reference to Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, who Rogers played with at Tennessee before finishing up at Tech. “He reminds me physically of Eric Moulds, that body type. That’s what I thought when I saw him. A big, physical, muscular guy. Explosive. He had a 39-inch vertical. He ran a 4.48 at the Combine. He’s got all the physical stuff.”


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Bills intend to add undrafted QB

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 7:36 pm

Bills GM Buddy Nix got the long term answer at quarterback for the future in first-round pick EJ Manuel, but Buffalo plans to add still another quarterback to the mix as they begin their recruiting of undrafted rookie free agents.

“We’ll try to get another one in free agency,” said Nix.

With the 2013 NFL draft concluded, three quarterbacks that made pre-draft visits to Buffalo went undrafted. Arizona’s Matt Scott, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and Washington State’s Jeff Tuel all visited One Bills Drive earlier this month.

Buffalo also put Bray through a private workout. Seeing the clear focus on adding team speed and versatility Scott might prove to be the more coveted quarterback prospect as he offers the most athleticism of the aforementioned signal callers. But there will also be stiff competition from the other 31 NFL clubs to land any one of them.

“It will be competitive, it always is,” said Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon, who takes part in the recruitment of undrafted rookie free agents. “If you look back historically some of the successes we’ve had with some of the undrafted free agents and it comes down to recruiting and situations within your roster structure and opportunity. We’ll be very competitive.

“If you look at the statistics even just last year, the percentage of undrafted rookies that make rosters and practice squads, it’s significant.”

Nix admitted that there were a couple of times on day two and three of the draft that they considered taking another quarterback.

“Very seriously,” said Nix.

 


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Gragg recovered from knee injury

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 6:14 pm

Bills seventh round pick Chris Gragg is a TE-H-back type out of Arkansas who had a knee injury, but showed he recovered from it in pre-draft testing at the NFL Combine.

Gragg ran a 4.5 40-time, had a 37.5 inch vertical and a 10’5″ broad jump, showing his explosion was still there. I’d expect him to be used as a move tight end in Buffalo’s offensive system.


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Kicker Hopkins can pump iron

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 5:09 pm

Bills sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins is a good-sized kicker at 6’2″ and 193 pounds. He’s also among the strongest kickers in the class when it came to the bench press.

Most kickers skip the bench press entirely. Hopkins had an impressive 20 reps on the bench. That was more than all but two of the wide receivers at the Combine and more than all but two of the cornerbacks in Indianapolis. He also out benched all but four of the safeties at the NFL Combine.

Here are some of the more notable NFL draft choices that he out benched as well.

K Dustin Hopkins – 20 reps of 225
OLB Jamie Collins – 19 reps
OLB Chase Thomas - 18 reps
OLB Khaseem Greene – 17 reps
LB/DE Damontre Moore – 12 reps


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Bills 5th round pick visited

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 2:30 pm

The Bills went with another safety in round five taking Clemson SS Jonathan Meeks. Meeks was one of the players that the Bills had in for a pre-draft visit.

Meeks visited the Bills on April 3rd.


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S Williams has some nasty to him

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 1:55 pm

Bills scout Brad Forsyth commented on Bills’ fourth-round pick Duke Williams’ aggressive nature on the field and admitted that there’s an angry edge to his game.

“He does have a bit of a nasty edge to him. That’s part of his personality,” said Forsyth. “That’s the way he likes to play the game and that’s something you don’t want to take away from him because it’s what makes him a good player.”

Williams hits like a linebacker sometimes despite being just 201 pounds. Here are some highlights.


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Sleeper edge rusher

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 11:35 am

He didn’t play at a big time program, but this edge pass rusher has a skill set that has him on the radar of a lot of NFL clubs here on Day 3 of the NFL draft.

Western Kentucky’s Quanterus Smith is coming off a knee injury that kept him from testing this spring, but his pass rush ability and his performance against top flight talent like Alabama last season has Smith as a popular conversation topic in NFL draft rooms.

Bills scout Brian Fisher believes the Hilltoppers’ best pass rusher does have something to offer at the NFL level.

“He’s got good height, length, best as an edge rusher,” said Fisher. “He’s got good speed off the edge. He does a really good job I think. He can hesitate and burst by guys. He’s got a little bend and balance turning the corner. He needs to improve as a run defender both with his reactions and his ability of hand use. He needs to play with lower pad level. He’s a guy as an edge rusher that has ability to come in as a designated pass rush guy and give you quality snaps there. Played very well against Alabama against an extremely talented offensive line. That was his best game this year. He was productive up until the injury.”

The Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year last season had three sacks and a forced fumble against Alabama as he effectively bent the corner facing one of the nation’s best offensive lines.

Smith (6’5″ 250) has 24 sacks over the last three seasons including 12.5 in a shortened 2012 in which he played in just 19 games before the injury. He’s projected as a seventh-round pick or priority free agent.


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A safety prospect with top takeaway skills

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 11:24 am

The Bills defensive staff during their first voluntary minicamp were pushing the message of thinking offensively on defense and going to get takeaways. As we prepare for the fourth round to start Day 3 of the NFL draft there’s a premier ball hawk still on the board.

Fresno St. S Phillip Thomas, who made a pre-draft visit to One Bills Drive earlier this month, is a premier takeaway artist. He has 20 turnovers in his college career, 13 of which were interceptions. Eight of those INTs came in 2012 when he led the nation in picks. He also had six forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

“He might have some of the best ball skills in this draft. You can see that in his interception production,” said Bills scout Matt Hand. “He’s a big safety so he can play the pass and the run. You’d like him to run a little faster, but he can cover the tight ends down the middle. He’s a very savvy player and can make a lot of plays. I think his ceiling is going up especially after he had to sit a year. Very productive coming off an injury.”

Thomas returned three of his eight interceptions last season for touchdowns. A physical hitter with solid football instincts, the centerfielder is always around the ball.

His game speed is said to be better than his timed speed after he ran a 4.57 40 time at the Combine. Thomas also had a 35-inch vertical and 10’2” broad jump. He additionally had 14 reps on the bench press.


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Merit to taking another QB

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 11:05 am

The Bills have their quarterback of the future in EJ Manuel, who was selected on day one with the 16th overall pick. But with just three quarterbacks off the board through the first two days the quarterbacks left on the board suddenly present good value. The Bills still have some positional needs, but come the fifth or sixth round might it make sense to stock away a second QB prospect?

Here are some of the more notable quarterbacks still on the board as we get set for Day 3 of the NFL Draft, including some that made pre-draft visits to Buffalo or had private workouts with the Bills.

Matt Barkley – USC (visited, private workout)
Ryan Nassib – Syracuse (private workout)
Tyler Bray – Tennessee (visited, private workout)
Matt Scott – Arizona (visited)
Tyler Wilson – Arkansas (visited)
Landry Jones – Oklahoma (visited, private workout)
Jeff Tuel – Washington St. (visited)
Zac Dysert – Miami (OH)

I’d expect the Bills to address some pressing positional needs like CB, TE or S first before considering another signal caller. Other NFL teams have parlayed extra young quarterbacks on their roster into future draft choices, most notably the Philadelphia Eagles.

 


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Manuel’s promise to Bills fans

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 12:54 am

In our one-on-one interview with Bills QB EJ Manuel, the first-round pick made a list of promises to Bills fans.

When we asked EJ what he feels he can promise Bills fans in his first year with the club this was his response.

“I promise you work ethic. I promise you to definitely give respect for this franchise, respect for the people who root for the Buffalo Bills. I’m never going to disrespect or embarrass the franchise,” said Manuel. “We’re going to go out here and work as hard as possible and just continue to lead like I’ve always done.”

When I asked EJ’s dad to describe Manuel’s character he summed it up in one word.

“Solid,” said the elder Manuel.


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Jersey numbers for Alonso and Woods

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 12:48 am

Here are the jersey assignments for Buffalo’s two second-round picks from Friday.

WR Robert Woods will wear jersey number 10.

LB Kiko Alonso will wear jersey number 50.

No official number has been selected for WR Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo’s third round selection.


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Sharpening routes has been Goodwin’s focus

Posted by Chris Brown on April 27, 2013 – 12:45 am

Bills third-round pick Marquise Goodwin is seen as a developmental wide receiver due in part to the spring practice time he lost at Texas every year as he ran track. But that makes Buffalo think his upside is higher knowing he hasn’t had that extra time on the field like most of the other prospects in the draft class. Goodwin has been training throughout the pre-draft process and there’s one part of his game in particular that he’s spent the most time refining.

“Running routes and just being able to finish through games. It was a question whether I could run routes rather than running in a straight line. Little did people know, yeah I ran vertical; really I ran a lot more routes with cuts more than I did vertical. For people to be skeptical about if I could be a polished route runner it was totally over my head. I’m glad for the opportunity that I have now. It’s all good now.”

Bills head coach Doug Marrone stated Friday that it’s on the coaches to develop Goodwin’s skill set and make him a weapon at the NFL level.


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