1 – @ChrisBrownBills who’s Gillislee’s backup?
CB: That would be rookie Jonathan Williams. Some might think it would be Reggie Bush, but Bush is more of a specialty player who is used only occasionally in the backfield, can be split out wide or return kicks. Williams has just 17 carries for 61 yards, which has largely come in times when the game has already been decided.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills is Watkins a game changer this week?
CB: I think the Bills would love it if he could be a game changer. The bottom line though is he hasn’t played in two months and will need a few series to get back into the flow of game speed. I anticipate that the offensive staff will use him as much as they can knowing they’ll be down Robert Woods.
I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s a game changing talent, but coming off the layoff it’s hard to know whether he can be that right away this Sunday.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills what have our secondary players been focusing on in practice?
CB: They focus on a lot of things. During individual position drills a lot of their work involves their footwork and tracking the ball. Tackling was a focus this week with emphasis on getting their head across the body of the ball carrier. Beyond that the focus is the game plan and executing the game calls for this week.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills will McCoy’s thumb affect him at all this next game?
CB: We hope to get that answer from McCoy himself after practice today. He has a good sized wrap on the thumb following the minor surgical procedure to re-attach the dislocated digit. The strength of his grip is probably the biggest concern because back have to apply three points of pressure on the ball to secure it under their arm and the thumb is one of those three. If he doesn’t have any strength to do that it could compromise his ball security.
Catching could be another potential issue. Hopefully we can get some answers from Shady before the game on Sunday.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills How is the team going to approach Watkins’ 5th year option and possible new contract? Great player but also some injuries.
CB: I would expect the Bills to pick up Watkins fifth-year option because of the injuries. I know that sounds strange, but a fifth-year option gives Buffalo time to wait and see if Watkins can put together a season where he can stay relatively healthy all season long.
Since the fifth-year option has to be picked up in May next year for his fifth season which would be in 2018, I’d be inclined to think Buffalo wants to take as much time evaluating his ability to stay on the field. It buys them time.
There’s no debating his talent level, but availability is critical. So I would think before the Bills even think about signing Watkins to a big time deal, they’ll see what he can do in 2017 and maybe even 2018 before they take that step.
Tags: Bills secondary, Fan Friday, Jonathan Williams, LeSean McCoy, Mike Gillislee, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
Do or die time for the Bills this weekend in Cincinnati. Got to decide if they want to be part of the AFC playoff race Sunday. Let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter at @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills FF,any thought to Incognito going to C and Groy LG? Groy has been ok at G when needed but IMO was a factor in SEA loss at C
CB: When there’s a significant loss on the offensive line, as is the case with Wood lost for the season to a broken leg, coaches often want as little disruption as possible when addressing the void in the lineup. Ryan Groy is expected to be the answer in the pivot.
First, and probably most important, Groy has operated as the swing center-guard since spring camps. He’s snapped to all three quarterbacks on the roster. He’s played a number of roles across the front including guard, tackle eligible and tight end on run plays. That equips him with a firm working knowledge of what everyone is doing on every play, which provides him with the wherewithal to make pre-snap checks efficiently and consistently.
Knowing how critical the communication is from the center in Buffalo’s offense, having Groy with the knowledge base necessary is essential in the pivot.
I’m not saying that Richie Incognito couldn’t play center, but with literally zero reps there since the day he arrived in Buffalo it’s not something you can just ask him to do with a week of practice. Incognito is a Pro Bowl guard. Moving him to address the need at center would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Which goes back to the old adage that you don’t change two positions to address one.
Groy at center makes the most sense as I see it.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
The collapse of the secondary is it players or coaching that’s to blame?
CB: Stephon Gilmore said it’s on the players to make plays. It’s his opinion that the coaches are putting them in position to make plays on the ball. That would seem to run in concert with Rex Ryan who said the majority of the issue is technique related.
Opponents are taking a different approach in attacking the Bills DBs and more often than not the Bills coverage players are not making the necessary adjustments in their coverage technique. That means playing proper leverage as a defender, footwork, driving to the hip of the receiver. All those things factor in, but based on what the coaches and players are saying it’s player error more than anything else.
3 – Chris,
Why doesn’t Time Warner Cable carry the Buffalo Bills programming on MSG in my area?
I looked online and it lists the shows on the guide where I live, but when you tune in it shows all NYC programming. But it will show the Sabres games. I am confused about this.
I live in Wayland, NY 14572 which is in northwestern part of Steuben County. My understanding is that everybody west of Syracuse would get the Bills programming. If you could find a reason for this it would be greatly appreciated thanks
CB: From what I have been told MSG only provides their WNY programming like our Sunday pre-game show, Bills All Access, at 11 am and the Rex Ryan Show (Sundays 11:30 am) as far as Rochester. If you draw a vertical line on a map from the middle of Rochester down through the rest of WNY everyone west of that line gets WNY programming on MSG. If you are east of that line, which I believe you are in Wayland, you get MSG’s NYC programming.
My solution for you would be to contact Time Warner Cable and demand MSG’s Western New York programming. You live in WNY, so it only makes sense.
4 – Chris,
I really would like to see Robert Woods as a Bill for the next 4 years. Can you give us an idea of what salary he is expected to command in free agency?
CB: Woods is on pace to set single-season career highs in receptions and receiving yards. His market value based on his average numbers the first four years would approach $9M per season. That might seem exorbitant, but that’s what the market bears.
Jacksonville’s Allen Hurns just signed a four-year deal this year for just over $40M. His numbers are marginally better than Woods, so it’s reasonable to think that Woods could command a contract in the neighborhood of $9M/year knowing the receiver market isn’t flush with players in their low to mid-20’s with his kind of experience.
Woods is just 24-years old. The only players with comparable age and superior numbers are Alshon Jeffery, Michael Floyd and Kamar Aiken.
I’m not optimistic that the Bills would pay that kind of money for Woods, knowing they’re likely to pay Sammy Watkins big money when his rookie deal is up, provided he can find a way to stay healthy in the next year or so of course.
5 – Chris
We heard an awful lot about Dez Lewis this offseason and with all the injuries at WR why hasn’t he been brought up to the 53 we’ve brought up 1 WR off the practice squad but not Dez not sure I understand has he fallen off I mean we really need help and he seemed to help last year and it was reported that he worked hard in the offseason and looked like he had improved in training camp what’s your thoughts
CB: Dez Lewis looked like a world beater in the spring practices and appeared like he had a chance to make an impact as the team’s third receiver. But when the pads went on in training camp he disappeared. He has never been able to re-establish the same kind of consistency in his game since.
It’s disappointing to see, but it’s a different game when the pads go on and some players can make the adjustment and some can’t. Hopefully Lewis can re-capture some of what made him look so promising in OTAs this past spring.
Tags: Bills All Access, Bills secondary, Dez Lewis, Fan Friday, MSG, Rex Ryan Show, Richie Incognito, Robert Woods, Ryan Groy
Posted in Inside the Bills
Hope everybody had a good 4th of July celebration. My favorite holiday of the year and there’s still a whole weekend to go! On to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net.
1 – Chris,
Thanks for your great coverage of the Bills this offseason.
First, is Fitzpatrick considering wearing a rib protector this season like those made by Evoshield? I heard RG III on an interview with Jim Rome recently and he is a spokesperson for the molded, rib-protecting equipment. Has Fitz worn something like this before or will last season’s injury make the team and trainers look into something like this?
Second, how many D-linemen do you see the Bills carrying into the season? We easily have 4 DEs in Super Mario, Anderson, Lights Out and Kelsay. And we have Dareus and Kyle Williams etched in as DT starters. Those are the only players that seem like a lock. Is it possible that they keep 8 or even 9 D-linemen on the roster through the season? I’d hate to lose either a veteran talent like Spencer Johnson or some younger talent with upside like Troup or Carrington.
Nate in Rochester
CB: If I’m not mistaken I believe Fitz does wear a measure of rib protection around the back and sides of his rib cage. When London Fletcher hit him last year it was with the crown of his helmet right into Fitzpatrick’s sternum. A rib protector isn’t helping up that high.
The defensive lineman count is going to be one of the more interesting decisions the coaching staff makes when it’s time to whittle down the roster. Going to a 4-3 defensive front the defensive staff can keep a couple of more defensive linemen, but I can’t see the number going higher than 10. Personally I think nine is the more likely number.
Under Chan Gailey with a 3-4 defense the Bills kept just seven defensive linemen each of the past two seasons. I could see that number increasing by two this fall, which will leave some capable talent off the roster this season.
2 – Hey, Chris.
In the current Bills’ “Lead the Charge” spot, Stevie Johnson says something like, “…when you hear 73,000 fans going ‘Buffalo, Buffalo, let’s go Buffalo’…”. I have been to Rich/Ralph Wilson stadium more times than I can count, and I don’t recall ever hearing that chant. (they do chant “Let’s go Buffalo, Let’s go Buffalo” at Sabres games, but that does not apply). Am I losing my mind, or can you confirm the writers of the spot just exercised some poetic license with the facts (to what end, I do not know)? Other than “Shout!”, do the fans really have any regular chant?
CB: I believe Stevie is referring to the portion of the ‘Shout’ song when the guy sings, ‘Let’s go Buf-a-lo!’ And the crowd responds ‘Let’s go Buf-a-lo!’ They sing that two times in a row every time the ‘Shout’ song plays. It’s right at the end.
I’m afraid you might need a refresher course on the ‘Shout’ song my friend. Please listen and read the lyrics as well.
3 – Chris,
All talk has been focused around the D-line, and with good reason, I am loving our D-line also. I would like to hear your thoughts on our secondary. How likely is it that we will see Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore as the starting corners, and Ron Brooks in the slot? Again, with good reason, all talk has been about Mario, Kyle and Shawne’s return. Not much is being said about Aaron, Stephon or Ron. I think this could be a great secondary, especially covering NE’s TE’s, if you add in Shepp and Barnett at the Mike and Will LB positions, respectively. This could become a feared group to pass against, and given the BIG boys up front, this could be a hard D to pass against.
Thanks for your coverage,
CB: The secondary has added some big time talent no question. I think knowing how physical Dave Wannstedt wants his cornerbacks to be there’s a very good chance that Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore wind up being the starters on the outside come kickoff weekend.
As for the slot I think it’s much more up in the air. As we profiled on Buffalobills.com as part of our Top 25 questions until training camp series, there are four worthy candidates for the nickel corner job.
In my personal opinion I think Justin Rogers lands the job in the end, but you’re right there’s a good mix of youth and vets and two safeties that work well together in Byrd and Wilson.
4 – Hi Chris
A quick question I hope you can answer. If Shawne Merriman displays he is healthy
& 1 of the best defensive players on the team, why not start him @ the outside
Linebacker spot they have reserved for Kirk Morrison?
CB: I think this is a very valid question, and I’d be interested in asking it of Wannstedt. I believe the reason we haven’t seen Merriman in that role to this point is the coaching staff did not know what they were going to get from the veteran pass rusher. With that kind of uncertainty placing him in a starting role in the spring might be a bit of putting the cart before the horse.
Coaches don’t like to depend on players that aren’t exactly locks health-wise. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff decided to just let Merriman rush the passer in the spring workout setting and see what they get. But if Merriman continues on his current path he’ll be able to handle a full time role instead of a part time one.
Then and only then might an expanded role as a strong side linebacker even be considered, but it’s certainly a role he could handle when fully healthy.
5 – Chris…
It would seem to me that the best evidence of whether or not the investment in the Bills defense has paid off would be made by Fitz and the Offense…they practiced against the ones every week last year and are watching them amp up this year…I also think if the defense you practice against is significantly better, year over year, then the offense stands to get better as well…just because they need to play at a higher level….you’ve watched the Bill’s for a long while…do you see any of that…do the guy’s on offense talk about how much better the defense is….do you think the offense is playing or trying to play at a higher level just to keep up….or is it just too soon to tell?
thanks for all you do to keep us current….and it’s great that Murph is now really part of your team….
CB: Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the most outspoken about the defense making their life difficult. He’s stated to me more than once that there have been days where they just can’t execute a lot of the same plays they were able to in practice last year because of the additional talent on that side of the ball.
Furthermore, Fitz believes it’s making them better as an offense. So the signs are encouraging, but we’ll know more when they all put on the pads at camp.
And yes we’re glad we’ve been able to add Murph to the fold full time. We’re looking forward to expanding our coverage of the team with Murph on board.
Tags: Bills secondary, defensive line, Fan Friday, John Murphy, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shawne Merriman, Shout song
Posted in Inside the Bills
Yahoo Sports is ranking NFL teams by position group. Buffalo’s defensive backfield had a very respectable ranking, though I may have them slightly higher.
Yahoo’s Jason Cole ranked them 11th, and looking at the teams he had ahead of them I can understand where he’s coming from. It’s hard to put a secondary from a non-playoff team much higher, but I think collectively they’re a better group than the Raiders (10th).
And though I have great respect for Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, I don’t know if one guy is enough to vault secondaries that benefit largely from a premier pass rush in Baltimore and Pittsburgh into the top five or six when they didn’t log as many INTs as the Bills last year.
Especially Pittsburgh (12), which didn’t even have half the intercepts that Buffalo had (28).
Tags: Bills secondary
Posted in Inside the Bills
With all the receiver talent coming into the AFC East it’s a good thing the Bills have a deep and experienced secondary.
With ESPN reporting Brandon Marshall to the Dolphins and Santonio Holmes trade to the Jets and Randy Moss still in New England, Buffalo will need every last man in their defensive backfield.
Fortunately there’s talent and experience and playmakers on the Bills back end.
Tags: Bills secondary
Posted in Inside the Bills
Injuries have really, really hurt Buffalo’s secondary. It’s forced them to shuffle the lineup at corner, safety and in the subpackages and it’s likely forced defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to take a different approach to his play calling at times. Aaron Schobel’s absence from the pass rush has also hurt.
Here are the figures following week 4 compared with the figures since then (last 3 games) that I wrote about on the home page.
Bills defense vs. the pass
1st 4 games – ranking 6th – avg. yards allowed 168.5
Last 3 games – ranking 13th – avg. yards allowed 257.3
Completion pct. Allowed
1st 4 games – 49.6%
Last 3 games – 76.2%
Touchdowns vs. interceptions
1st 4 games – 2 TDs vs. 3 INTs
Last 3 games – 5 TDs vs. 1 INT
Opponent passer rating
1st 4 games – 64.3
Last 3 games – 109.8
Yards per attempt
1st 4 games – 6.17
Last 3 games – 7.64
1st 4 games – 1.7%
Last 3 games – 4.95%
1st 4 games – 10
Last 3 games – 3
Tags: Aaron Schobel, Bills secondary, Perry Fewell
Posted in Inside the Bills