Inside The Bills

Schwartz feels corners will be key to run ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2014 – 9:44 am

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a long track record of success defending the run with his defensive units. What’s interesting is what he feels is a key to a strong run defense. It’s not a mammoth nose tackle or a top flight middle linebacker. It’s top end cornerbacks. That’s why he’s excited about what he can do with this Bills defense. Here’s his explanation.

“I think what gives me confidence there is the fact that we have corners who can cover,” said Schwartz in his belief that the run defense can be much improved this season. “It’s hard to stop the run unless you have some corners that can win on the outside. It’s hard to get an extra safety in the box if you’re trying to protect your corners. With Gilmore and Leodis and also Corey Graham and Brooks has had an outstanding run in OTAs. We have some real talent at corner, guys that can win one-on-one on the outside part of the field. I think if you look across any run defense that’s a common ingredient and I’m excited for those guys.”

With corners who can cover in one-on-one situations the defense can commit a safety to the run front more often than not. Add in some of the other factors we covered in our Camp Countdown on how much the run defense will improve and Buffalo’s defense stands a good chance of being in the top half of the league in that all important category.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Touchback percentage made returns difficult

Posted by Chris Brown on July 1, 2014 – 9:13 am

The Bills did not have a good season on kick returns last year. We profiled who the team’s kick returner might be for the 2014 season in today’s installment of our daily Camp Countdown series on the home page. No matter who it is it will be interesting to see if circumstance and return philosophy has the impact it did on their productivity last season.

Buffalo’s kick return unit was largely the victim of circumstance last season. In facing a lot of the league’s big legged kickoff specialists the Bills far and away had the highest touchback percentage in the NFL in 2013. A whopping 71.8% of their kickoffs received went for touchbacks, good for most in the league.

The only other teams that were close were Atlanta (70.7%) and New Orleans (68.1%), which wasn’t surprising with both being dome teams. The league average for touchbacks however, was less than 50 percent (49.9%).

The Bills also had the second-highest number of kickoffs received that reached the end zone (91.8%). Only Atlanta had a higher percentage.

Now not every kick that reaches the end zone means it should be at touchback, but it at least appeared more often than not that anything more than five yards deep in the end zone the Bills would take a knee. Other teams chose to be more aggressive and paid the price for it so it’s not an easy call as to where the line of demarcation should be to take a knee or bring it out.

Either way it’s going to be interesting to see the steps Buffalo’s kick return unit takes in year two under Crossman.


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Expert personnel takes on Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on June 17, 2014 – 1:22 pm

NFL.com solicited the opinions of a pair of NFL scouting directors to get a handle on what should be expected from NFL clubs with second-year head coaches including of course the Bills with head coach Doug Marrone. Their takes on Buffalo’s potential fortunes in 2014 make a lot of sense.

Here was the assessment of both an AFC and NFC scouting director on the potential fortunes of the Bills this fall.

NFC scouting director: “EJ Manuel – is he really the guy? The formula here is, the best friend to a young quarterback is a run game, and they trade up for Sammy. Is EJ really good enough? … Defensively, they’re good; they’ve got probably the best interior combo in the league, though you don’t know the situation on (Marcell) Dareus – will he be suspended? And they took steps to shore up the run defense.”

AFC scouting director: “A lot will depend on how well (Manuel) can develop and improve. I like their defense, though; it can keep them in games. The run game can keep them in games. … They can be competitive. And the addition of Sammy will be very interesting to see. There’s no discounting his ability — it’s how he got the football at Clemson, and how that differs with how he’ll get it with the Bills. The redesigned perimeter game with him and (Mike) Williams will be interesting.”


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Overlooking the Bills?

Posted by Chris Brown on June 17, 2014 – 1:17 pm

Yes, New England has dominated the AFC East for more than a decade, and the other teams are doing their darnedest to threaten the Patriots perch atop the division. Some believe the Bills are being overlooked as a potential threat to unseat the Pats.

NFL Network’s Shawne Merriman is bullish on the Bills chances of ending their playoff drought as is NFL.com’s Marc Sessler. Here was the key part of Sessler’s assessment.

The quarterback position is a fair concern, but I view the Bills as a sneaky playoff contender because of a remaining roster stuffed with talent.

With an impressive cast of difference-makers up front, Buffalo’s defense is coming off a season that saw the team notch a franchise-record 57 sacks. With Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kiko Alonso in the fold, this sneaky front seven is among the best in the conference.

On offense, one of the NFL’s deepest backfields is complemented by a cast of wide receivers. Rookie Sammy Watkins looms as a No. 1 option on the perimeter — a legitimate deep threat whom NFL Media’s Bucky Brooks believes could see at least six to eight touches per game.


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Projection for Watkins 2014 season

Posted by Chris Brown on June 11, 2014 – 9:15 am

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks has put together a projected season stat line for Bills top pick Sammy Watkins along with a handful of other top rookie prospects for the 2014 season.

Brooks believes Watkins can be a dynamic weapon for Buffalo. He’s just not sure when it will all kick in for the Clemson product. Here’s his prediction.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

Best-case scenario: The Bills are counting on Watkins to add juice to the passing game as the No. 1 option on the perimeter. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound speedster is a dynamic catch-and-run playmaker who also excels as a deep threat on the outside. With the Bills increasing the pace and tempo of their attack this season, Watkins will get plenty of touches on quick throws, bubble screens and deep shots designed to take advantage of a fatigued defense. With an offense looking for more explosive plays in the passing game, Buffalo should work to get Watkins at least six to eight touches per game.

Worst-case scenario: Rookie receivers typically struggle with the NFL transition, thanks to the complexities of the pro passing game. Watkins could encounter some growing pains, considering that he played in a spread offense at Clemson that didn’t feature a lot of route conversions based on coverage. (Thus, he might have a tough time identifying sight adjustments and hot routes in the Bills’ passing game.) Additionally, Watkins’ lack of experience running pro-style routes could prevent him from making an immediate impact as a No. 1 receiver.

Projection: 65 catches, 950 receiving yards, seven touchdowns.

These projected numbers aren’t far off from what A.J. Green did in his rookie season in 2011. He had 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also the number four overall pick in the 2011 draft.


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Spikes anxious to “shock the world”

Posted by Chris Brown on June 9, 2014 – 2:07 pm

Bills MLB Brandon Spikes has made a good first impression on his defensive teammates. He’s also pretty excited about the collection of talent on his side of the ball in Buffalo. It’s why he believes the Bills are going to do some damage with their defensive unit this season.

“Me personally that just comes with the territory at mike linebacker you’re like the quarterback of the defense, and I embrace that role,” he said. “I’m just out here letting guys know I’m here and ready to get better and I’m all in. I think we’re going to shock the world this year so I’m anxious and I think the defense is anxious to so I think we’re going to open some eyes.”

Spikes has been working mainly with the first team defense in their base package and is also working in certain nickel packages. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman even has him as a backup on the kick return unit.


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