It’s a do or die week for the Bills. Step 1 of as win four straight scenario for Buffalo’s playoff aspirations. Let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter at @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills Dennis Thurman said D is still a work in progress. Nearly 2 years have passed what are the issues? Players or the scheme?
CB: I think there are a lot things that have cropped up along the way for the defense that have compromised its consistency. Last year losing Kyle Williams and Aaron Williams, two main directors of communication last year was a big issue. Mario Williams dissension was another problem as was Rex Ryan’s decision to try to blend some of the successful concepts from Jim Schwartz’s scheme in with his. He admitted himself that was a mistake.
This year I think the absence of Marcell Dareus (suspension/injury) for half of the season hurt, as well as the loss of Aaron Williams again. That compromised the consistency of play at safety.
Adding Rob Ryan to the staff improved red zone defense greatly in the first half of the season. It’s hard to determine why the goal to go defense has struggled so much of late to devalue what were impressive numbers when they were defending inside their own 20.
The other big problem this year has been a lack of takeaways. After getting 12 in the first six games, the Bills have just two in their last six games for a total of just 14, and they both came in Stephon Gilmore’s two interception game at Cincinnati. Fourteen takeaways is seventh-fewest in the NFL.
Then I think there is an issue with mental toughness. The ability to respond when adversity strikes. Players have admitted that it is an issue that has proven tough for them to overcome.
We’ve all witnessed substitution problems with changing personnel groupings and getting calls in on time before the offense snaps the ball. It has happened far too often for an NFL club, and stretches back even to last season. That has to get fixed. There’s no excuse for having 10 men on the field or 12 men in the huddle. That’s an operational, chain of command type thing that has to be rectified.
The scheme has been tweaked and changed over the past two years to try to reduce the volume and allow the talent of the players to come through, and the miscommunication on plays has been reduced. Players admit they still struggle with responding and making something positive happen when the opponent steals the momentum of a game.
So in a long-winded way I think both scheme and the players are responsible for the shortcomings of the defense.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
Another year of great work man! Why has Jerel Worthy not been in lineup more? When hes been in, was making plays.
CB: I don’t disagree with your assessment. Since Marcell Dareus has come back the defensive line rotation has usually left Worthy as the odd man out. However, Adolphus Washington has been getting less playing time of late. The last four games he’s gotten 18, 20, 24 and 10 snaps. Worthy’s snap counts have been 22, 10, 1 and inactive.
Washington and Worthy to me are similar players. I think Washington has hit a bit of the rookie wall, so perhaps Worthy sees a bit more time down the stretch.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills is it a possibility that Sammy Watkins or Cordy Glenn gets traded at the end of the season always being injury prone?
CB: I think trading Watkins or Glenn is highly unlikely. Glenn is the team’s most talented lineman. Even Eric Wood would tell you that. He just signed a giant extension and has missed just two games this season with a high ankle sprain. He’s not going anywhere.
While I understand your frustration with Watkins lack of availability due to injury it doesn’t take away the fact that he’s a dynamic, game changing player. You don’t trade that commodity away. You have him at an affordable price on his rookie contract next year, so seeing how healthy he can stay in 2017 is definitely worth it knowing how he can change the complexion of a game.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills how many 4th Quarter comeback wins does Tyrod have?
CB: By my count he has two. Last year Week 5 at Tennessee and this season Week 12 against the Jaguars.
5 – Hi Chris;
As always many thanks for keeping Bills fans current on the team. The past couple of games I have gotten the feeling that Rob (and Rex) are calling more of the defensive plays than Dennis has been. I felt all along that would be the case once Rex brought his brother on board. Is this actually the case?
CB: I took a look at this last week in Oakland and it appeared that Assistant HC Rob Ryan was calling the plays from the sideline with defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman organizing personnel groupings. Earlier in the year Thurman was calling the plays, but it seems like those duties have vacillated back and forth through the course of the season. Based on observation it seems like Rob Ryan has handled more of those responsibilities the past few games. We’ll try to get that confirmed this coming week.
Tags: Bills defense, Cordy Glenn, Dennis Thurman, Fan Friday, Jerel Worthy, Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan, Sammy Watkins, Tyrod Taylor
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills chances the #bills shut down Watkins the entire year? Curious as to why no urgency in adding another WR with 2 down?
CB: I don’t think the Bills are at that point yet, but I’ve got to believe that if the medical staff gets to a point where they determine that Watkins’ foot even with rest is not improving to where he can play on it then the discussion to shelve him for the season could come up.
I’m not a doctor so I’m not going to pretend to know the protocol for how that decision is ultimately reached. But it Watkins can’t play this Sunday after not playing on it for 17 days it could beg the question if the foot will ever be good enough to play on in its current state.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills with the poor QB play, what are the chances the Bills get serious about the position, be it thru a trade or the draft
CB: I don’t believe after three games that the Bills are actively seeking other options at quarterback. I do believe they need more passing game production out of Tyrod. I like Anthony Lynn’s approach with Taylor of identifying the best matchup pre-snap instead of working his way through the reads. Find the best matchup and exploit it.
The trade market on quarterbacks is typically limited unless someone wants to give up a lot, like Minnesota did to save what they believe can still be a playoff run type season. I believe much like everyone anticipated Tyrod will be given this entire season to prove he can advance his game and take the next step. If he can’t then perhaps a change in course will take place like you’re describing.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills #bills how will the bills defense attack qbs since both have quick release and can run?
CB: Buffalo’s defense relies on disguise and a multitude of looks to slow the opposing quarterback down just enough with his decision making for pressure to get there and disrupt the opponent’s passing game. Properly utilized in the right down and distance situations this can be very effective.
Through the first three games the Bills have been more aggressive with their blitz packages on the whole. Even early in the Jets game they brought some pressure just to disrupt the timing of the Jets pass game. I suspect there will be pressure packages and some new looks from Buffalo’s defense for the Patriots QB this week whether it’s Garoppolo or Brissett.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills was our “great secondary” a product of getting pressure rushing only 4?
CB: I don’t think anyone will argue that the improved pass pressure helped last week. But I will also say that Buffalo’s coverage players made more plays on the ball even when the pressure wasn’t generated up front. Against the Jets there were jump ball situations where the Bills corners and safeties just didn’t win. Against the Cardinals more often than not they did.
Perfect stat line to illustrate that – passes defensed.
Against the Jets – 4 pass breakups, 0 interceptions on
Against the Cards – 10 pass breakups, 4 interceptions
5 – @ChrisBrownBills has Spikes contributed to our better run defense so far this year or has it been more the change to full 3-4?
CB: It has unquestionably been the scheme. The defensive unit just looks more comfortable in this run front defensively. The defensive linemen have done a great job of constricting the rush lanes in this scheme. Preston Brown and Zach Brown have been the biggest factors at the second level. Brandon Spikes has only played 13 of 224 defensive snaps so far this season. He was inactive in Week 2.
Spikes has been used as a strong side OLB up on the line of scrimmage on obvious run downs in the limited time that he’s been on the field defensively. I think that’s a good spot for him since he’s a bigger LB and can set the edge. He could have a bigger role this week if LeGarrette Blount is on the field as much as he’s been for the Patriots over the first three weeks of the season.
Tags: Bill secondary, Bills defense, Brandon Spikes, Fan Friday, pass pressure, Sammy Watkins, Tyrod Taylor
Posted in Inside the Bills
Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald is as classy a player as there is in the NFL. Coming off of Sunday’s loss to the Bills, Fitz tipped his hat to Buffalo’s defense.
“I wouldn’t say they confused us,” Fitzgerald said. “They run a really intricate defensive scheme. Coach Ryan does a great job of bringing blitzes from multiple personnel groupings and you have to tip your hat to those guys. They played really well.”
Fitzgerald was the Cardinals leading receiver Sunday, but managed less than 10 yards a catch with seven receptions for 60 yards.
Tags: Bills defense, Bills-Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, Rex Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills
Buffalo’s third down defense, as pointed out in our game coverage of Saturday’s shutout win over the Giants, was dominant. It was rooted in two main factors, execution and their effectiveness on first and second down.
The Bills defense had solid execution on third down as they looked very much in sync across the board. Helping was the fact that they did a great job of creating long down and distance situations on third down for the Giants offense. By keeping New York’s gains on first and second down to a minimum, nine of New York’s third down situations were 3rd-and-8 or more.
“(The Giants) were one-for-11 on third down, which was the first of the game because we weren’t on the same page,” said Rex Ryan. “The rest of the time we were, so I’m really happy with that. I’m really happy with the way the ‘D’ played.”
Ryan is referring to New York’s only conversion, which came on a 3rd-and-12, when Odell Beckham Jr. was able to slide underneath Stephon Gilmore on a slant. It appeared that Gilmore thought he had inside help, but it wasn’t there, which could explain Ryan’s comment of not being on the same page. Either way it was an impressive night of third down defense. Here’s a look at how each of the Giants third down plays ended in futility aside from their first conversion of the game.
Giants third down situations
3rd-and-12 – first down reception by Odell Beckham Jr.
3rd-and-11 – nine-yard completion (Manning to TE Will Tye)
3rd-and-19- Rashad Jennings 11-yard carry
3rd-and-16 – Manning sacked by Lorenzo Alexander
3rd-and-2 – incomplete
3rd-and-10 – incomplete
3rd-and-8 – Ryan Nassib three-yard scramble
3rd-and-9 – incomplete
3rd-and-13 – incomplete
3rd-and-14 – Nassib sacked by Lavar Edwards and Kroy Biermann
3rd-and-7 – incomplete
Tags: Bills defense, Bills preseason, Rex Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills
Buffalo’s defense certainly had its share of shortcomings in 2015, but there was one area where they were top 10 good.
ESPN Insider’s Aaron Schatz from Football Outsiders in previewing NFL defenses for 2016 looked at the sneaky strengths of the Bills defense in addition to the league’s other 31 clubs. Interestingly when it came to crunch time late in games, Buffalo’s defense was pretty darn good last season. Here was where they stood per Schatz.
Although the Bills’ defense struggled overall (24th in DVOA), they improved to sixth in the league in the fourth quarter or overtime. This wasn’t just a case of opponents running out the clock in wins: The Bills had a better-than-average defense in the fourth quarter whether they were winning or losing the game.
That strong defense late in games helps explain why five of Buffalo’s eight losses last season were by eight points or less. Rex Ryan is obviously looking to get his defense in a place where they’re performing that well in more than just late in the fourth quarter in 2016.
Tags: Bills defense
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills who is the starting RT, nickel corner, how far apart are gilmore and organization on new agreement?
CB: The favorite going into camp for the starting right tackle spot is Jordan Mills. Seantrel Henderson has to prove he’s healthy and capable of practicing day in and day out if he’s going to try to win the job back. Cyrus Kouandjio has an uphill battle in front of him to unseat one of them for a starting role.
Nickell Robey is the incumbent and favorite to keep the nickel job, but he’ll have big time competition from Sterling Moore. Corey White is another corner who may factor in there, but Moore will likely be his stiffest competition inside.
As for Gilmore there is no new developments at this point, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change in the next couple of weeks. As has been stated before, the deal Washington handed Josh Norman ($15M/yr) threw the entire cornerback market out of whack. It’s inflated the market beyond where it was expected to be right now and has NFL clubs with top corners concerned they won’t be able to keep them under contract due to where the market was set with the Norman deal.
Norman is largely a zone corner and got paid $15M per year. Players like Gilmore, a man-to-man corner arguably have a tougher job than Norman and are probably expecting at least that much. If Gilmore holds fast to a $15M/yr. contract demand there’s likely to be no new agreement anytime soon. I can’t see the Bills going that high.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Does Jonathan Williams chances take a big hit because of his lapse in judgement? I am really disappointed.
CB: I’m sure the Bills coaching staff is disappointed too after all the encouraging signs they saw from the rookie running back in minicamp. I felt he had a legitimate chance of being the team’s backup to LeSean McCoy. He’ll still be able to compete for that role at training camp, so I don’t know how big a hit this DUI charge will have in terms of where he ends up on the running back depth chart.
Williams’ DUI charges will now be handled in the courts. If he’s found guilty a first offense under the NFL’s revised policy (2014) for DUI will result in a two-game suspension. Based on informed NFL sources that suspension stands a good chance of being imposed at some point during the 2016 regular season.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills where do you think the Bills will rank defensively now that Rex has more guys who supposedly fit his system?
CB: If everything goes according to plan with Ryan’s more traditional 3-4 scheme, the starting lineup stay relatively healthy and rookies like Reggie Ragland and Adolphus Washington contribute as expected and Shaq Lawson can be back in time to play more than half the season (10 games?) then I think this defense can flirt with being a top 10 unit again.
Granted those are a lot of variables I listed, but the key here is they feel they’ve greatly improved the coaching staff on that side of the ball with DL coach John Blake, Asst. secondary coach Ed Reed and Assistant head coach Rob Ryan. I think the players on defense also learned a very hard lesson last season when they did not fully buy into Rex’s system. So I believe the motivation will be there to redeem themselves after a down season.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills who’s your sleeper going into training camp to make a big impact, possibly start?
CB: I don’t know about sleepers that will start, but I think Dez Lewis could challenge for the No. 3 WR role. He’s really come on entering his second season and had a solid spring. I think Blake Annen is a tight end candidate who could be Charles Clay’s understudy from a pass catching perspective even though vet Jim Dray is the designated blocking TE. And I think with a strong camp rookie Kevon Seymour could be one of the first corners off the bench if there’s an injury to Gilmore or Darby during the season.
I outlined some top sleepers in our Camp Countdown this week.
5 – Chris,
Can you give an update on how Kolby Listenbee looks and his chances to make the roster? He has the straight line speed that no one on the roster has but is raw in his routes. I don’t expect him to win the 3rd WR job but is his long term potential and ability to stretch the field make him have more value than some others? Is he a special teams guy either as gunner/returner?
CB: Listenbee was very limited in the spring coming off double sports hernia surgery. That was followed by an inflamed pelvis. He’s been here at One Bills Drive since minicamp working to complete all his rehab and get medically cleared. At this point I’m not sure it’s going to happen by training camp. His rehab has had some peaks and valleys.
There’s no debating his playmaking potential knowing his straight line speed is world class, and he figures to be an option on kick returns. It all depends on whether he’s cleared medically to participate when training camp opens.
Tags: Bills defense, Fan Friday, Jonathan Williams, Jordan Mills, Kolby Listenbee, Seantrel Henderson
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Chris,
Thanks for your tireless work on covering the Bills! Here is my question. Will the Bills be able to carry Seantrel Henderson on the Non Football Injury list, while he is attempting to gain his strength, build his weight back up and determine if he can resume his football career? This will open a roster spot for the team through camp and maybe beyond.
CB: Yes, the non-football injury list is an option for Buffalo with Henderson should your scenario prove to be the case come training camp. Henderson was at 306 during minicamp when he was doing workouts in the weight room on his own in practices. He wants to get up to 325 to 330 pounds when he’s back playing again. We’ll know if the five and a half weeks between now and training camp proves to be enough time for him to accomplish that. If not, the NFI list would seem to be a distinct possibility.
2 – Chris,
I’m curious if you think P Colton Schmidt had trouble holding for K Dan Carpenter last season? In his interview with Brian Moorman he mentioned how difficult it was for him to hold kicks, since he never did it in college. Is it possible the chemistry wasn’t there between the FG kicker and the holder, and the unit suffered as a result?
CB: I give Schmidt a lot of credit for being so honest. There were at least two misses for Carpenter last season that I recall which could’ve been attributed to a less than ideal hold by the Bills punter. One was because the snap was off line and there wasn’t enough to get the ball down and spin the laces out, though I can’t remember the game. On the whole though I felt Schmidt acquitted himself well on holds.
I felt the chemistry was pretty solid between the two with the operation of the kick. I expect it to be even better this year based on what I saw in the spring practices.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills
Do you think that the defense can make it back to a top tier defense in the NFL?
CB: This is one of the questions we intend to address during our Camp Countdown, which commences on July 4th. I think there are a host of reasons Buffalo’s defense has a chance to be a top 10 unit again. Much of the talent is still on this roster from the last two times they finished in the top 10 (2013, 2014).
They have upgraded their defensive coaching ranks with the addition of Rob Ryan, John Blake and Ed Reed.
Fixtures in the middle of their defense are healthy again (Aaron Williams, Kyle Williams). Rookie additions look poised to make an impact early (Ragland, Washington and eventually Lawson). And no longer is Ryan trying to blend his proven defensive scheme with elements of Jim Schwartz’s scheme that some players clung to in 2015.
4 – Chris,
Thanks for keeping those of us on the away team up on how our Bills are doing.
I haven’t heard anything about Nick O’Leary since the one game last year. What’s the story?
Thanks again for all you do.
CB: O’Leary is a tight end who didn’t see quite as much action in the spring practices as other tight ends battling for the No. 2 job behind Charles Clay. Blake Annen, who we profiled on Buffalobills.com recently and Chris Gragg got the most work after Clay during the team periods of practice. Both run well and offer more size and athleticism than O’Leary. What O’Leary needs to do is highlight his versatility as much as possible when put in a move tight end role or H-back set.
With true fullbacks on the roster though that task may prove difficult. It’s clear the offensive staff was giving Annen and Gragg most of the reps after Clay. Jim Dray is the clear blocking tight end for this offense. So O’Leary has to have a strong camp to outperform one of the other tight ends and stick.
5 – Chris,
The Bills just signed another FA RB?? With the uncertainly at both the RG & RT positions, and almost NO depth to provide any real backup for either position, Whaley is worried about RB’s. Wait until there is a injury to the OL. The Bills need to get their act together in a hurry. What say you??
Fan in TN
CB: After taking a breath you probably saw the main reason Boom Herron was signed as a free agent. Karlos Williams weight gain and lack of availability in the practice setting was the main reason. Without him taking reps, it would’ve put additional strain on the backs still healthy.
After watching five running backs go down to injury last summer at training camp at the same time, I think you could understand why they made the move.
Offensive line has some depth. Granted none of them are household names, but there’s a veteran C/G in Fernando Velasco, a backup guard in Ryan Groy. Cyril Richardson is still on the roster after serving on the practice squad last year.
I respect the concern for a lack of depth. Undrafted rookies usually aren’t the answer for depth in a win now type of season. I think early in camp if it’s obvious their young depth players aren’t coming along I expect they’ll address things up front.
Tags: Bills defense, Boom Herron, Colton Schmidt, Fan Friday, Nick O'Leary, Offensive line, Seantrel Henderson
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Hi Chris
Thanks for all you do to keep us Bills fans informed! My question is about extending Gilmore and Tyrod. With Gilmore being under contract under the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, if he and the Bills were able to strike a long term deal this offseason, does that work like the franchise tag where his new deal would replace his current contract, or is this year’s salary set in stone and they can only negotiate an extension for next year and beyond?
If it is an extension that doesn’t impact his present salary for this season, how would that work with his signing bonus? Would a prorated portion count against the cap this year? Same thing with Tyrod, if the team signed him to an extension so they could keep him at his low salary for this season, if the extension were signed this offseason, would there be any impact on this season’s salary cap from his signing bonus if his salary doesn’t change? Thanks!
CB: New long term deals typically replace the existing one. The club usually does this to more effectively spread out the amortized portions of the contract (e.g. signing bonus). On occasion teams will tack on an extension to the current year, but it’s uncommon.
2 – Chris
Can you give us more insight into UDFA Justin Zimmer. He was the fastest/quickest/strongest tackle in this year’s draft with something like 86 tackles, 13 sacks, 26 tfl, and 4 ff’s. This kid should have been drafted just based on his measurables alone. 44 Reps/4.85 40 with outstanding short shuttle and 3 cone times- Are you kidding me? Mo Boehringer got drafted on pure potential and this kid is way more experienced than him, even at Ferris St. Can Coach Blake morph this kid into the next Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins? With Adolphus Washington we really strengthened the interior D.
CB: One reason why Zimmer went undrafted is because he has short arms. While this might sound ridiculous these are parts of the player measurables that carry weight especially when it comes to line play. If you can’t keep offensive linemen from getting into your chest then you’ll have problems making plays.
Now Zimmer to his credit was ultra-productive at the FCS level. He’s quick and agile and obviously powerful and he’s a hustler. To say he could be the next Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins is a stretch. That being said he’ll be interesting to watch when the pads go on in camp.
3 – Chris,
Last year’s defense was a disappointment. Veteran players could not fully adapt to this complicated front seven scheme then play at a high level. Also, expectations turned out to be unrealistically high.
Is there any way 3 rookies can leap to the NFL, play in this same defensive front, simplified or not, and have success? Or do we need to start managing expectations now to avoid more disappointment?
CB: First, I’m going to tell you that in this first week of OTAs the players admitted they assumed with an accomplished defensive coach coming in the door that they just expected to be just as good as they were the year before and did not put the required time in to master the defense. Just about every place Rex Ryan has been his players have never had a problem absorbing and implementing the defensive system he employs. They’ve never had a problem playing fast.
Buffalo’s players pretty much acknowledged that a lot of their shortcomings last season were on them because they didn’t buy into the system. That’s changed now, so I’d be interested to see how well they can play in this defense with the talent they have on hand.
Now will it be an adjustment for the three top draft choices? Probably, but their talent will help to carry them until they do have it all down pat. Additionally all three draft choices are workers and committed to being great. Those are all encouraging signs. As we all know the proof will be in the results on the field.
4 – Hey Chris ,
Do you think the Bills have any interest in trading for Sam Bradford ? Personally I think he has had a pretty raw deal since entering the league, his first three seasons the Rams had nobody really legit to play with on offense except for Danny Amendola , he tore his acl twice and the Eagles were a mess to begin with before he got there, Buffalo has a lot of good players on offense right now I would be really curious to see who would win the starting job between Taylor and Bradford, thank you.
CB: I’d be surprised if the Bills pursue something like this if in fact Bradford is offered up again. The biggest question facing this team is whether or not they have a franchise quarterback. That won’t be answered if you add another QB to the mix. They should stick with Tyrod Taylor this season and see what kind of step forward he can make.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills Didn’t the Bills defense want to be the ‘85 bears last year?
Joe gnozzo @joegnozzo51
CB: I don’t think the bar was ever set that high. From a scheme perspective that wasn’t the plan either. Rex’s defense does have some 46 principles to it, but the biggest issue in terms of scheme in 2015 was Ryan’s attempt to blend some of the successful concepts of the team’s 2014 system that helped them finish fourth in the NFL with his own scheme.
The blend did not work by Ryan’s own admission by midseason and the unit never recovered when they tried to eliminate that in season.
This year they’re going to be more of a traditional 3-4 and play strictly Ryan’s defensiv
Tags: Bills defense, Fan Friday, Justin Zimmer, Rex Ryan, Sam Bradford, Stephon Gilmore, Tyrod Taylor
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills head coach Rex Ryan admitted midway through his first season with Buffalo that he made an error in judgment. He tried to blend the successful defensive scheme of his predecessor, which helped the Bills rank fourth in defense in the NFL, with that of his own. Simply put it didn’t work. Meanwhile in New Orleans, his twin brother and current Assistant head coach Rob Ryan was asked to change the defensive scheme entirely from what he had run the past dozen years as a defensive coordinator in the league. The Saints defense finished last in the league. Suffice to say both have learned to trust their instincts and go with what has been successful for them year in and year out in the NFL. Their defensive scheme and their defensive scheme only.
In an interview with MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas, the Ryans explained how this year Buffalo’s defense will go exclusively to Rex Ryan’s traditional 3-4 scheme.
“We are going to see things one way, and we are going to do it our way. That’s what it takes to win,” said Rex Ryan. “There is a certain style of defense that wins, a certain style of play that wins in this league, and nobody understands that more than we do. Our family has been to six Super Bowls as coaches, and we know it takes a physical brand of football and it takes physical players.
“I said I was going to build a bully, it wasn’t the appropriate word, but I want to be physical. I think we are getting it right. We brought in Richie Incognito, all he does is go to the Pro Bowl. Doug Whaley and company did a great job in the draft. Shaq Lawson is a physical player. Reggie Ragland is the most physical linebacker in the draft. That was a Ryan defensive player, a linebacker, going back to the days of when our dad was coaching the Bears, and even before that.
“There are people that, I know for a fact, don’t believe in me; they don’t believe in the direction of the football team. That’s fine and dandy. I believe in it, and I am surrounding myself with people that believe in it also. People who are smart enough to believe in it. Because the Ryans are going to get it done.
“We never lost a fight in our life. Ever. And we ain’t losing this one. And that’s a true statement. Not just because we are bad a**es—because we are, individually—but collectively, it’s a lot different. To this day, no man is going to whip me. Why? Because I’ve got my brother with me. And I’ve got my brother, Dennis Thurman, with me. Ed Reed is here for a reason. These players are going to be like that, too. We want to fight like brothers. I don’t know if we have 100 percent buy-in from even the entire building. I don’t know yet. But the people directly with me, my coaching staff and the players, that’s where it starts. I don’t know all the business people yet; they should be “all in,” but I don’t know. There’s times when the doubt part, that can be driven through the media. But I’m going to surround myself with the very best, and I’m going to win.”
Tags: Bills defense, Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills were busy in free agency this week with a handful of signings and more visitors in today. Let’s get to your questions this week from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter at @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills
Do you think that the defense’s transition back into a full 3-4 scheme will make them better this year?
CB: I’ve got to believe it’s going to help. Trying to merge the Bills’ 2014 scheme with Rex’s scheme last year was done in an effort to appease players who were successful in the old scheme. As Ryan himself admitted halfway through last season it didn’t work.
It convinced Rex to go back to what he knows works and that’s his scheme, which is a more traditional 3-4. Now that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to see multiple fronts from one week to the next and from one series to the next. The system is rooted in a traditional 3-4, but what makes Ryan’s scheme so confounding is the variety of fronts that he throws at offenses through the course of a game.
Buy in by the players is critical because his scheme demands complete understanding and mastery of it to execute it properly. Some players didn’t want to commit to that kind of study. One such player is no longer on the roster. Fortunately I think we saw the results of that player buy in over the last two games last season and what it can mean for the defense. Provided that buy in from the players continues and some key adds are made in the draft (couple of starters please?) I think the defense will be better.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills what are the chances bills trade up or down in the first round and why?
CB: I think there is a greater likelihood that the Bills move back in round one than move up. First and foremost the Bills need capable and talented bodies for their roster. They not only need to land a starter or two in this draft (LB, DL), they need reinforcements for depth at a few positions too (CB, S, OL, WR, TE).
The two additional compensatory picks in rounds four and six were huge. It’s my belief that Doug Whaley would like to keep all eight of those picks in a perfect world. He’d have to part with some of those if he wants to move up.
The way that moving back in round one becomes a reality is if the Bills have a limited number of first round grades for this year’s class.
Let’s hypothetically say they have legitimate first round grades on just 16 players in this draft class. Perhaps they only have 16 prospects they deem as truly worthy of a first round draft choice. If the Bills are on the clock at 19 and all 16 of those prospects are already off the board, I think moving back becomes more likely.
Whaley and his staff likely have a few players they like that they believe will be there at 19, but if none of them are available why sit there and reach for a player that doesn’t match the value of your pick? Slide back a few slots add another draft choice somewhere on day two and match a prospect with the appropriate value.
3 – Dear Chris:
My question is on who the Bills will be looking for in this year’s draft. I know the Bills will be looking to re-tool the defense, and I assume they will be transitioning to a 3-4 with Rex. My question will they be looking for an inside linebacker like Reggie Ragland to put next to Preston Brown or a player with a body type like Nigel Bradham say Jaylon Smith?
Also at D-line will they draft a defensive end like DeForest Buckner/Shaq Lawson, or will they draft a defensive tackle like Jarran Reed or Austin Johnson, plus what do you think our top needs are overall?
Sincerely: John from PA.
CB: I think the key ingredient that needs to be added at linebacker in a prospect is speed. With the league in subpackage defense just about two-thirds of the time you need linebackers who can cover ground and handle coverage assignments with backs and athletic tight ends.
I wouldn’t mind Ragland as a prospect, but I’m not convinced he can cover the type of athletic tight ends and backs we see at the pro level every week. With that in mind I’d prefer a more athletic type linebacker like a Darron Lee.
Bradham was Buffalo’s fastest linebacker and he’s in Philadelphia now, so that speed at linebacker has to be replaced as I see it.
As far as defensive line goes I think both end and DT are both on the table. I don’t expect Buckner to be there at 19 and it’s unlikely that Lawson is either. Both are versatile guys you can position up and down a 3-4 front.
Jarran Reed has a chance to be there. His value isn’t as high because he doesn’t offer as much in terms of pass rush. But I wouldn’t have a problem lining him up at nose tackle and flanking him with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams and let them win on the edge.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills Do you think the Bills will go about training camp differently this year? Due to the top players getting injured last yr..
CB: I’m not sure there’s much they can do differently. There are strict guidelines set out in the CBA as to how often players can practice during training camp, days off, etc.
What we witnessed last summer with all five running backs going down I believe was an anomaly. The receivers who went down with injuries late in camp was a domino effect. When you lose two receivers in one day it immediately puts more strain and demand on the bodies of the receivers who are left. It’s more reps for them.
Now to the coaches’ and athletic trainers’ credit they backed things off on the healthy players still practicing, and signed more players to help fill the void.
Training camp is a grind, and the Bills do everything in their power to keep players on the field and healthy. There is also a responsibility on the part of the players to do right by their body day in and day out so they can perform at their best. Their body is their livelihood.
Buffalo does make use of GPS technology to track the workload of players each day at camp, so they’re all closely monitored as a means of being proactive and backing players off when the analytics dictate it’s warranted to prevent injuries before they happen. But nothing is perfect.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills You think there’s a player in this year’s draft that could become Buffalo’s next QB in the event that they can’t keep Tyrod?
CB: I think that’s difficult for anyone to predict, even those with the trained eye, like NFL scouts, player personnel executives and general managers. I think what you need to keep in mind is Buffalo has every intention of keeping Tyrod Taylor for the long term provided he continues on his current trajectory of performance.
And there’s no reason to think that he won’t. People are wondering why a contract extension hasn’t happened yet for Tyrod. I personally think it benefits both parties to wait for a few reasons.
First, Buffalo’s cap situation for 2016 is not conducive to working out a long term extension for Taylor. The market value at his position alone makes such an undertaking difficult for year one of an extension, which would be in 2016.
Second, the Bills, understandably so, want to see more from Taylor before they make a sizable commitment to Taylor. There’s recent Buffalo history where they jumped the gun in handing out a long term deal to a QB (see: Ryan Fitzpatrick).
I think the Bills want to believe in Taylor as their starting quarterback, but one year of solid production isn’t enough to go on when you’re talking about the multi-million dollar commitment a quarterback contract demands.
Third, Taylor stands to get a much more lucrative contract from Buffalo if he can back up last year’s production with even more production and wins in 2016.
So while it’s true that Taylor’s agent can stand on the table and argue that his client is underpaid this year at $3-plus million for 2016, even he knows that waiting and letting his client perform and build more of a starting QB resume this fall will only benefit his negotiating duties in getting Taylor a lucrative long term contract.
Tags: 2016 NFL draft, Bills defense, Bills training camp, DeForest Buckner, Fan Friday, Rex Ryan, Shaq Lawson, Tyrod Taylor
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills
Do you see the Bills improving on Defense this year? They lost a couple guys but I don’t think they could fall any further.
CB: I think a lot will hinge on what the Bills are able to add to the roster defensively via the draft. I believe they have to come away with at least two plug and play starters on defense. Buffalo has eight picks and they’ve done a good job of late of finding instant contributors beyond the first round (Darby, Woods, Alonso, Brown, Karlos, Miller). If that continues in this year’s draft I’m optimistic they can rebound from last season’s disappointing results.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills what moves will be made next year in order to pay Tyrod and Gilmore?
CB: Contrary to popular thinking the Bills cap situation for 2017 is quite healthy. Last I checked Buffalo was projected to be about $50M under the cap next offseason, which should afford them more than enough space to handle sizable long term extensions for both Gilmore and Taylor.
CB: I think among the quarterbacks you mentioned the only one that gives me pause is Kevin Hogan. While GM Doug Whaley is right about Hogan’s pro readiness having worked in a pro-style system and his vast game experience at Stanford, I just can’t see his throwing arm allowing Buffalo to do all the things they do with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.
I watched Hogan throw at the NFL Combine with my own eyes and while I respect his game, I can’t get past his lack of arm strength. He’s a strict West Coast system, horizontal passing game QB. That’s not what the Bills do. They drive the ball down the field a good deal with Sammy Watkins. That element of Buffalo’s passing game is critical to their success.
That’s why I can’t see them drafting a quarterback that isn’t capable of executing those kinds of plays. Cardale Jones certainly has the arm strength to do that. Hackenberg’s arm strength is good enough, though he probably needs some refining of his mechanics, and Cook has demonstrated enough examples in the Michigan State offense that pushed the ball downfield to convince me he could handle that as well.
So I’d say those other QBs you listed would all be on the table for Buffalo.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills in your opinion what’s more important need in draft LB’er or true NT, true 3-4 DE for Rex system?
CB: I think we need to take into account not only Rex’s system, but the offensive trends in the league and where the depth on Buffalo’s roster lies. Right now there is not only no depth at linebacker, but limited options for starters.
I think the most pressing need position is LB, but there is a need for an additional pass rusher and those players go early. So although LB is the bigger need, the value in drafts typically dictate that you get your pass rusher first and second level players later.
Of course if the right value at LB falls into their lap at 19 (e.g. Ragland, Lee) you can make a very good argument to take them in round one.
As for nose tackle, it’s a deep defensive tackle draft, so if there is a position where Buffalo can afford to wait it’s there as the talent goes into the fourth round this year.
5 – Hey Chris,
I am curious about Jaylon Smith with this most recent news he will miss at least the whole 2016 season and maybe more, he was easily my favourite player entering the draft before all of this happened, how far in the draft do you think he could fall and do you think the Bills would have any interest should they have a chance at selecting him? Also should a receiver like Laquon Treadwell still be available at the Bills selection do you think they would go that direction over an offensive tackle or a defensive player ? Thank you.
CB: I think a lot will depend upon the medical re-check that takes place on April 14-15th in Indianapolis where doctors will perform a full examination on his surgically repaired knee again after taking an initial look in late February.
Doctors will be assessing his progress over those six weeks between exams and put together a prognosis for his future playing career. Teams will have their own physicians formulate their best opinion on what kind of career Smith can expect to have and develop an appropriate draft grade off of that.
The first installment of our On the Clock series focused on the medical component of the pre-draft process last month and highlighted Jaylon Smith’s situation and how it was not all that different from Willis McGahee.
Whether he’ll be a first round pick will hinge on how team doctors believe Smith can recover. He told NFL Network’s Mike Mayock at the Notre Dame pro day this week that he’s leg pressing 600 pounds and squatting 400 pounds. But it will all come down to the medical.
I hate to tell you this, but I don’t think Laquon Treadwell will be a day one pick. So I don’t see the Bills or anyone else taking him in the first 31 selections.
Tags: 2016 NFL draft, Bills defense, Cardale Jones, Christian Hackenberg, Connor Cook, Fan Friday, Jaylon Smith, Kevin Hogan, Laquon Treadwell, Salary cap, Stephon Gilmore, Tyrod Taylor
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills head coach Rex Ryan came in with a lot of promises about his defense in 2015 and the end result with a ranking of 19th in the league did not meet the expectations. But what happened in the last two games of 2015 has him convinced it can be used as a springboard for this year’s defense.
Ryan, who has admitted more than once that he made a mistake in trying to blend the successful components of Jim Schwartz’s scheme in with his own last season, said he finally scrapped that idea completely in Week 16. What was witnessed were two of the better back-to-back defensive performances of the season, and it was done without five starters on defense. It has Ryan convinced the defense will be able to hit the ground running from the start in 2016.
“At the end of the year the thing I was encouraged about was we figured it out,” he said. “The communication part of it improved more than anything from coach to player and player to coach. I think that bodes so well for us moving forward. I’m excited about it.”
Ryan had been appealing to his players all of last season to come to him with honest feedback during games for what play calls they prefer over others based on what had happened in games. The players largely did not do so whether it was during the week of preparation or during games. It didn’t change until Week 16.
“They now know when I ask for feedback I mean that,” Ryan said. “I want that and when they finally did it we were a lot more effective. It’s my system, but its ours as a team and it’s theirs as players. We saw it late in the year and in the fourth quarter of the last game and I told them, ‘Here are our options what do you prefer?’ And a guy would say, ‘I like this one.’ And we went with it. That’s always worked best for me. Having the input from our players and the coaches.
“That’s what I’m really excited about taking off from there, from that point. Will there be some things we’ll tweak with the system? Of course. There are always ways you’re trying to get better, but we know we have to get better on defense, but I truly believe we will. Being together and going through the growing pains we did will benefit us going forward.”
Buffalobills.com Combine coverage is presented by NAPA Auto Parts.
Tags: Bills defense, Rex Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills
He had the job of running the defense out at the outset of the 2015 regular season, but near the end of the campaign head coach Rex Ryan put Manny Lawson in that role when the unit’s effectiveness was compromised. Lawson was out of position on the inside, but that was what the defensive staff felt was best for the unit at the time. Now entering 2016, Ryan needs Brown to re-assume that role as quarterback of the defense and do a great job.
“I think if everything stays the same and we have all our players back then Preston has to be more vocal and there has to be more ownership that way,” said Ryan. “It’s not good enough to just know your job. You’ve got to bark it out and be the quarterback back there. And he can do it. He’s a smart enough kid and his dad is a football coach. So he’s got to come out of his shell.
“(Jets LB) David Harris was a quiet guy, but on the football field he ran the whole thing. He’s got to grow into it. It doesn’t happen overnight. I think when you come into a new system it’s tougher to play, but yeah I expect Preston to be able to take that step and he needs to.”
Buffalobills.com Combine coverage is presented by NAPA Auto Parts.
Tags: Bills defense, Preston Brown, Rex Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills What’s the biggest lesson learned between Wk1 and Wk16 defensively with this team?
CB: I think the biggest lesson learned by the players was that if there was more accountability player to player on defense, there would’ve been unanimous buy in and the defense would’ve performed more consistently and been more effective in Ryan’s scheme. That didn’t happen until after the embarrassing defensive performance at Washington when the players that did buy in called out the players who didn’t. We saw improved collective play from the defensive unit after that.
I believe the biggest lesson learned by Rex and the coaches is just how multi-faceted a lot of their defensive talent is particularly some of their defensive linemen like Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes specifically. Dareus and Williams are athletic enough to play end in a 3-4 look and Hughes can be an end in a 4-3 look or an OLB in a 3-4. He’s that versatile.
There are other examples at LB and in the secondary, but Rex has expressed that a year with those players has provided him with a better grasp of everything that players like that can do, not just their primary strengths.
2 – Hey Chris,
Here is my concern. It seems to make more sense for a coach to change their scheme to fit the players than change the roster to fit the scheme. Why has Rex Ryan, the great defensive mastermind who was figured out and canned in NY, been reluctant to implement a scheme where our star defensive line can pass rush like they have proven they are good at doing and rely upon a better cover based defense? We consistently get beat while trying to change in and out of “complex” blitz packages that always seem to come up short while letting the QB find a quick under or hot route. What should we expect for the future I’m so desperately trying to not give up on? Suddenly find myself hoping for a Sean Payton and Jim Schwartz led team and I can’t stand the coaching turnovers.. But I have to admit Ryan’s defensive scheme is old news…
-Losing faith in OR
CB: Rex took steps to try and mold his defensive scheme to the talent of the personnel. As mentioned above Ryan admitted that he is in a much better position to coach to some of the players’ versatile strengths now that he knows the depth of their talents having worked with them for a year. I know that’s small consolation in light of how the defense underachieved, but I don’t think it’s something that should be taken lightly.
Rex referenced Jerry Hughes specifically saying he now realizes that Hughes is so much more than a hand in the dirt type, rush the passer player. That he can do a number of different things well. He also said the big difference he noticed at the end of the season was that players were finally giving him answers when he asked for their opinion.
It was his contention that his offer to the players from the very beginning of the season to give him feedback fell on deaf ears until the last two games. Rex in making in-game adjustments would ask for the opinion of the players. Until the Dallas game he said those appeals were not met with answers and he couldn’t understand why.
Once he got some more input from players we saw the difference. Buffalo’s last two games were their best back-to-back defensive performances of the season in terms of points allowed (6 and 17). And that was without a handful of defensive starters (Darby, Gilmore, A. Williams, K. Williams, Bradham). So Ryan is encouraged that the proper give and take now exists between the players and himself and the value of that should not be discounted.
3 – Happy New Year Chris:
Do you think the Bills organization will make a play for Miami Dolphins Olivier Vernon?
Thanks from a true Bills fan in NewportNews, Va.
CB: I would be surprised if the Bills pursued Olivier Vernon only because he’s going to command a sizable price tag and GM Doug Whaley has made it clear that they’re going to be pursuing “dust settle” type free agents. The focus this offseason will be for the Bills to re-sign their own, chiefly Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn.
Buffalo’s cap situation needs some restructuring this offseason before we reach free agency and Bills Senior VP of Football Administration, Jim Overdorf will be tasked with that as he has in the past. But knowing the priorities that Incognito and Glenn are combined with their cap situation I wouldn’t expect to see a top tier free agent like Vernon to be on the Bills radar.
4 – Chris,
Hypothetical of course. Just what if, with all the defensive needs and offensive tackle needs, Laquon Treadwell and/or Connor Cook were available at pick 19? How are we going to fill our need at receiver? Not in free agency as per Whaley’s statement and later in the draft will not fill that need either.
CB: I do believe the Bills will make efforts to land a true No. 2 receiver that can draw attention away from Sammy Watkins. Robert Woods played more than half the season with a severe groin injury and might be best suited for the slot. Percy Harvin is a player the Bills would like to return to the fold, but has to get healthy first and is not a lock to return.
I know the Bills would like to add size to the position as evidenced by the reserve/future signings of Greg Little and Jarrett Boykin. But I don’t think they’re putting all their stock in those two wideouts.
Unfortunately this year’s receiver class doesn’t offer a lot of quality size. There are 6-1 and 6-2 guys aplenty, but the 6-4 and 6-5 targets of quality just don’t exist in this year’s class. I suppose there could be a prospect or two that could possess a ‘big receiver’ game because they play bigger than their listed size. I’ve still got homework to do on the 2016 draft class, but Treadwell would be a tempting option.
Personally I don’t think Connor Cook is worthy of a first-round pick. In a draft without a lot of elite QB talent I suppose it’s possible he’ll be moved up a lot of draft boards as the draft draws closer due to supply and demand, but Treadwell is a more worthy first-round pick to me than Cook. That being said I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills found better value at another position in round one.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills What are the fates of Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes? Are they staying or leaving?
CB: I feel good about the playing futures of Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes in Buffalo. I’ll actually have more on Kyle Williams in a story on Buffalobills.com slated for Monday. Hughes is a cornerstone piece for this defense moving forward, which is why he was signed to the long term contract extension last offseason.
Mario Williams situation is a lot more precarious, chiefly due to his cost-prohibitive contract. I think it would be difficult for any defensive player to live up to a contract that has a cap figure of almost $20M for 2016 ($19.9M). With Buffalo’s cap situation in a restrictive position right now, addressing Mario’s contract will probably be pretty high on Jim Overdorf’s to-do list.
There are a few paths they can take with it as we all know. What kind of steps Mario and his agent are willing to take is the big question.
Tags: 2016 NFL draft, Bills defense, Connor Cook, Fan Friday, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams, Laquon Treadwell, Mario Williams, NFL free agency, Olivier Vernon, Rex Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills
Buffalo’s defensive effort was one of their better performances of the season in the season finale win over the Jets Sunday. DE Mario Williams felt part of the success was rooted in a different defensive approach.
“I think the calls were definitely different in general, especially that last play,” said Williams of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third interception. “That was a call from the field. That was called from myself, and talking to the DB’s. The play there that was originally called… we ran that a few times… more than a few times before. And just getting input from players out there on the field because we’re the ones who have to go out there and execute it. And it turned out great.”
Manny Lawson explained further.
“A lot of it had to do with trust,” said Lawson. “From player to coach and coach to player. We went out there and we got a feel for them, we felt exactly what they were trying to do and then we communicated to the coach and told them what we think would work better for us and our coaches trust us to go out there and get it done.”
Tags: Bills defense, Manny Lawson, Mario Williams
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills who has a legitimate chance of making a case for a starting job Sunday?
CB: I don’t know if this one game is enough to vault a reserve player into starter status for 2016. I think there have been some players that have done a good job of performing when given the opportunity here at the end of the season.
Corbin Bryant, Mike Gillislee and AJ Tarpley are a few players that come to mind. I think Mario Butler has had his moments as well. Jonathan Meeks is expected to get an extended opportunity Sunday. We’ll see if he can make himself part of the offseason conversation as well.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Chris, fans near & far see dysfunction again, which is very frustrating. Is there anything you understand that we may not?
CB: I think the one thing that I have learned in the last 16 years with this club is that change sets the timeline to success back. Every time you make a change in this league, whether it’s to your front office, coaching staff, offensive or defensive scheme or wholesale changes with your personnel you lengthen the timeline toward reaching success.
Sometimes change is necessary, but when such changes are made immediate success is rare. So despite the fact that most of us were convinced that the Bills were destined for the playoffs we lost sight of the fact that the team was going to have a new offensive scheme, new defensive scheme, new coaches on the whole and a new quarterback who was new to all the players around him.
The history of the league has taught us that such widespread change usually does not result in a won-loss record good enough to reach the postseason.
In fairness to the Bills a lot of that change was thrust upon new owners Terry and Kim Pegula. Their head coach quit and their starting quarterback retired. So change had to happen. That change unfortunately set back the clock to playoff success.
I realize fans are impatient. We’ve been waiting a long time to reach the postseason, but time and again the league more often rewards clubs that stay the course than they reward the clubs that constantly vote for change.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills if Mario leaves who fills that void? Clearly our pass rush stunk this year so where do we go from here?
CB: I think if that proves to be a move that the Bills decide to make they’ll need to look for a pass rusher high in the draft. They’re already heavily invested in Jerry Hughes over the long haul, as well as Marcell Dareus. That’s why a high draft choice makes the most fiscal sense. Team a young, promising pass rusher with Hughes on the other end and it doesn’t impact your cap as much as a high-price free agent.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills how could Rex Ryan best defend his coaching this year in light of the team’s underachievement? Injuries, schedule, other?
CB: I think injuries were certainly a big part of the problem. Losing Aaron Williams and Kyle Williams turned into a big problem from both an execution and a leadership perspective. Aaron ran the secondary and had a firm grasp of the defensive system. You didn’t have for the last 14 games of the season. Kyle missed the last 10 games. Those two losses were the most damaging.
As we all know there were a host of others that kept the offense from progressing as it wanted to as well, which is why they didn’t really take off until the second half of the season.
Rex did admit that he wasn’t sure there was full buy-in from all the players on defense. It was something he had never experienced before and it may have caught him off guard as to how to best handle it. Players at this level are supposed to be pros, which means coaches coach and players play. You can argue that perhaps Rex should’ve enacted strict consequences for those kind of actions, but a player owes it to his teammates and coaches and ownership to execute his assignments within the scope of the scheme to the best of his ability on every play and do what’s necessary during the week to ensure that.
That ultimately led to underachievement on defense this season.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills Do the Bills plan to keep Gillislee into next year along with Karlos and Shady?
CB: I think that’s a safe assumption. Rex Ryan all but said that Gillislee has earned the right to be here next year. There is a question as to whether he’ll be an exclusive right free agent or restricted free agent based on his accrued season time. Either way I anticipate the Bills will get him under contract this offseason.
Tags: Bills defense, Fan Friday, Mario Williams, Mike Gillislee, playoff drought
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills GM Doug Whaley couldn’t deny that the defense did take a step back this season in its first season under head coach Rex Ryan. Whaley acknowledged that improving the defensive side of the ball will be a focus this coming offseason, but he’s confident that Ryan, his defensive staff and the personnel will be able to improve the performance of the defense in 2016.
“Defensively we did take a step back,” Whaley said in his weekly appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550. “We expected there to be a transition, but we didn’t expect there would be a drop off based on our history of our defense and Rex’s history of coaching defense we didn’t expect a drop off like that. So we’ll make a concerted effort to fix in the offseason just like last year. We made a concerted effort to make the offense better and we accomplished that goal.”
When asked why the defense took a step back this season, Whaley pointed to a few key things.
“There was a lack of consistency there and that goes along with changing parts due to injuries and getting adapted to the scheme,” he said. “I think it was a combination of Rex trying to tweak a little bit from what he normally does to fit our personnel and our personnel trying to fit what they used to do to what Rex does. So that contributes to the lack of consistency and again the injuries with Aaron Williams, Kyle Williams and Nigel Bradham. So you had young guys in there that are trying to adapt to this as well.
“At times you saw we showed we can be a pretty good defense, but the lack of consistency really killed us. That will be a major emphasis in the offseason is to be as consistent as possible.”
Whaley understands the fan frustration with the disappointing performance of the defense this season, but he’s resolute in his belief that it will be better in 2016 for a host of reasons.
“If you look at it in totality you have a head coach that’s been a defensive coordinator or a head coach for 11-plus years and this is only the second time his defense is not ranked in the top 10 and the other time he was 11th,” said Whaley. “So if you look at it analytically or look at the percentages he’s not going to be a bad coach. He’s going to improve that defense. So we have the basis to take a step forward. If you take that 16 years off of it and look at a first-year coach, first year ownership and first year quarterback I think we’ve got something to build on.
“I think it’s just a combination of those guys getting more comfortable with the scheme that is really complicated and bringing in some parts that fit a little better.”
Tags: Bills defense, Bills Radio Network, Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Chris,
Do you think that the team is lacking quality player leadership right now? With huge games coming up, I’d have a lot more confidence in the Bills chances of winning if they had a leader on the field like Fred Jackson or Kyle Williams. Guys who should be filling this role like Mario Williams or Marcell Dareus just seem to be complaining. Who do you think can step into that leadership over the last few weeks to help the team make the playoffs?
Dan in Uganda
CB: I think the leadership is pretty solid on this team. The issue this year is there is new leadership that is kind of feeling its way. Tyrod Taylor has asserted himself as more of a leader in the second half of the season. He’s in a natural leadership position, but it’s hard to lead when you haven’t done anything yet. But I feel like Taylor has successfully navigated that as the season has worn on.
Eric Wood is a solid leader on offense, LeSean McCoy has put pressure on teammates to perform and follow his lead. On defense it’s a bit more complicated. With Kyle Williams and Aaron Williams no longer on the field the defense lost its two best leaders. Manny Lawson has tried to fill that void as has Corey Graham, but it’s been hard for them to help keep the defensive play at a consistent winning level, for whatever reason.
There’s no debating that the defensive play has been largely uneven for most of the season.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills How do you think Rex is going to get the defense back up to snuff?
CB: I think it’s safe to say that he and his defensive staff will be doing a lot of work in the offseason to devise a more effective way to deploy their defensive scheme and devise a way to re-generate an effective pass rush even when opposing offenses are getting the ball out in less than 2.5 seconds.
There will also be personnel changes in the offseason, as there are every year, but I believe there will be some recognizable names on this unit that will be moved off the roster. Ryan’s history shows that he does have certain player types that he deems as fits for his defensive system.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills Know it’s early, but: top need in the draft, to your eyes? DE?
CB: I think there are a lot of current personnel situations that have to unfold first before one can accurately assess some of the top needs for the Bills in the draft. For example, what does the future hold for the playing career of Aaron Williams with his neck injury? Can Seantrel Henderson continue to improve or does his illness compromise his effectiveness as a player?
It’s clear that Cordy Glen and Richie Incognito are priorities to be re-signed, but what about Nigel Bradham? If he’s not back there are holes to be filled at linebacker. Will there be a couple of cap casualties with some of the team’s cost prohibitive contracts or will they be restructured?
I just think there are too many unknowns right now to clearly say this or that is the team’s top positional need.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills who has the better chance of being re-signed. Glenn or Bradham?
CB: I would say Glenn at this point. One of the big positives this season is how the offensive line has come together, particularly the left side with Glen and Incognito. From what I understand both Glenn and Incognito are among the top priorities for the club this offseason.
5 – Hi Chris,
I know it’s that time of the year you probably don’t look forward to having to answer these questions, but I’ll try not to be too negative. I’m just wondering what you think this team can do to right the ship at this point for next season? It seems like this defensive personnel isn’t going to return to greatness under Rex. Do you think they should stick with this coaching staff and scheme and try to rebuild the defense to fit the scheme? I for one have had enough with Rex and think we should look for a coach that is willing to use a 4-3. I know you believe in continuity of scheme, but I can’t condone tearing apart a defense we just finished putting together after 4-5 years of drafts and FA additions.
CB: I’ve addressed a number of fans when I’ve appeared on local radio shows and the John Murphy show, who are demanding another coaching change. My response is the Bills are on their seventh coach in 15 years. What has all that change gotten them?
I realize as well as any fan out there the level of frustration of not having a playoff team. I’ve been here covering this team for every one of those years and the five years before it.
As hard as it is you have to separate the last 15 years from what the Bills are trying to build now. You can’t lump Rex Ryan and his staff in with everything else. I know everyone feels it fits because Buffalo is unlikely to make the playoffs again, but to scrap the whole thing because the defense underachieved this year is not the solution.
It’s my belief you need only to re-tool the defense, move some cost prohibitive contracts off the books, add some good fits, re-sign your starting offensive linemen who are up and continue to develop depth.
Rex Ryan himself admitted he made some judgment errors with his defensive personnel and how he deployed them and tried to mesh his scheme with some of the successful principles that worked last season.
As I mentioned above, what changed was how opposing offenses attacked his defense. Week 2 against the Patriots, Tom Brady provided the blueprint for beating Buffalo’s pass rush, blitz packages etc. Get the ball out in less than 2.5 seconds. Future opponents followed suit.
It’s my contention that with Rex’s creative mind and the staff that he has that they will devise ways to counteract that approach.
It’s a cat and mouse game in the NFL where offenses evolve and change to defeat defensive strategies. Then defenses come up with answers for those new problems and have the upper hand. It goes back and forth. Unfortunately in a year where much was expected from Buffalo’s defense, opposing offenses figured them out and had a definitive answer.
Now it’s on Rex Ryan and his staff to find new ways to maximize their talent and reclaim their status as one of more creative and effective defensive minds in the game.
Tags: 2016 NFL draft, Bills defense, Cordy Glenn, leadership, Nigel Bradham, Rex Ryan, Tyrod Taylor
Posted in Inside the Bills
As Rex Ryan said his team is out of mulligans. A win streak has to start this weekend against Houston. Here are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter at @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hi Chris,
My Bills related question is regarding Tyrod Taylor NEVER going under center. I think this is really limiting our play action and he also very rarely keeps the ball on a read option limiting its effectiveness. Why is this? Also – are we every going to throw a screen/quick slant to Sammy or ever get him in motion – this is nearly as intolerable. I’m also starting to see Robert Woods as a solid #3 with Hogan #4 and dire need of a large WR #2…thoughts?
CB: Taylor has been under center, but it has been relatively rare. You’re right about him keeping the ball a lot on read option plays. In my opinion there were a handful of plays against the Patriots where if he kept the ball he had an entire side of the field open to him with as strong as New England’s defense was flowing in the direction that LeSean McCoy was headed on those plays.
I don’t know if his knee injury has made him more hesitant to take off and run on read option plays. I can’t imagine the coaching staff has advised him against taking off and running on those to protect him, otherwise you wouldn’t call such plays in the first place.
I understand your frustration with quick slants or receiver screens with Sammy. I think if you’re having trouble getting Watkins the ball as was the case in the second half last week why not put it in his hands at the line of scrimmage and see what he can do from there?
The team has two very capable blocking receivers in Woods and Hogan, so it would stand to reason that you could put them all in a bunch formation and throw Watkins the ball. You might only get four yards, but if someone falls down on defense you might get a lot more.
2 – Chris,
There is no doubt Rex is a great motivator, but penalties come when emotion takes over. Emotion can burn out over time and cloud judgement, purpose burns longer and sharpens judgement. Do you believe we get too high early, can Rex channel emotion more at the end of a game than at the beginning?
Jim in Florida
CB: I think you can make an argument that while this team does get off to some great starts, finishing has been a problem. This is most apparent in one particular statistic, which for most of the season has been a strength for the team. Buffalo has the number one run defense in the NFL in the first half. No other team gives up fewer rushing yards in the first half of games than Buffalo. In the second half however, the Bills rank 27th in run defense.
It’s only one arbitrary statistic, but it does speak to the up and down play of the team this season. Buffalo’s most inefficient quarter in terms of points for and against is the third quarter where opponents are outscoring them by almost a 2:1 margin (44 points for; 84 points against).
There are other team stats that point to a drop off in the second half of games as well and in a conversation I had with Manny Lawson he agreed that something has been missing particularly in the fourth quarter of games. He and other leaders have tried to impress a sense of urgency upon the other players, but for whatever reason the units on offense, defense and special teams can’t collectively raise their level of play to a point where they can consistently finish games and win.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills what is up with the D? I understand there are injuries, but this unit is avg/bad after 2 years of solid/elite play.
CB: The struggles of the defense are perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2015 season. A defensive unit that proved capable of switching from Mike Pettine’s scheme to Jim Schwartz’s scheme from 2013 to 2014 and improve to become a top five unit in the league, a solid run defense and the best third down unit in the league has slipped in a lot of areas this season.
There’s no need for me to outline where the fall off has occurred. The players claim that Rex Ryan’s scheme is something they’re still trying to master. Why that is the case this late in the season is unclear. New schemes at most typically take a team 6-8 weeks into the season to fully grasp and play fast on Sundays.
Ryan admitted last week that he made the mistake of trying to blend some of the successful principles of last year’s defensive scheme in with his own scheme. After seeing that wasn’t working he scrapped some of the defensive concepts from last year and went exclusively with his own scheme.
Whether that presented a whole new learning curve midway through the season is unclear.
What is clear is the results haven’t been there. With so much talent on that side of the ball these results were totally unexpected. But facts are facts. Now we’ll have to see what they can scrape together by way of performance over the last five games.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills interest in Kaepernick next year?
CB: I would be surprised if the Bills have interest in Colin Kaepernick. He’s a career 60 percent passer with great athletic ability. Fortunately the Bills have grade ‘A’ intel on Kaepernick as a person, leader and worker from offensive coordinator Greg Roman. If the reports out of San Francisco this season are accurate, Kaepernick lacks in two of those categories.
His skill set is similar to Tyrod Taylor. Taylor however, in my opinion, is a better leader, more dedicated worker and the numbers say a more accurate passer.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills
Can you give us bills practice squad roster as of now?
CB: Running back Mike Gillislee will be called up to the active roster, but he’s currently on the practice squad with the following players.
WR Dezmin Lewis
WR Walt Powell
CB Sammy Seamster
CB Merrill Noel
DE Cedric Reed
LB AJ Tarpley
G Cyril Richardson
TE Nick O’Leary
DT Jerel Worthy
Tags: Bills defense, Colin Kaepernick, finishing games, Mike Gillislee, practice squad, Rex Ryan, Tyrod Taylor
Posted in Inside the Bills
At the outset of the season head coach Rex Ryan tried to combine his defensive system with some of what worked so successfully for the Bills defensive unit last season. The results were mixed through much of the first half of the season. Now headed down the stretch Ryan has swung the majority of the defensive scheme to what Ryan’s schemes have always been about, which is a myriad of blitz packages and simulated pressures. To his credit Ryan admits now that he probably tried to make everybody on defense happy coming in the door knowing the unit was very successful last year.
“I made a mistake in trying to tie in what was effective the year before, running similar defenses to what they did the year before, but to me, especially when you play New England, that’s probably not the way to go, obviously evident by our Week Two performance,” said Ryan. “I knew better. I was sitting back there telling [defensive coordinator] Dennis Thurman, ‘I know better,’ and I should have taken that approach instead of saying, ‘Hey, we have this talent. We can do this. This is what we know how to do.’
“Well right now, this is our defense, and this is what we’ll be moving forward. And each game is different. This game, they’re going to screen you a zillion times. They run all kinds of different things. The quarterback is different. I’m not saying he’s Tom Brady. He’s not, but he runs. There are different challenges on each opponent, so will it look exactly like it did this week? I doubt it. Do we think we’ll be effective? Absolutely.”
Tags: Bills defense, Rex Ryan
Posted in Inside the Bills