Inside The Bills

Rex camp gets stamp of approval from players

Posted by Chris Brown on August 26, 2015 – 12:06 pm

The first Bills training camp under head coach Rex Ryan is in the books and the players gave it their overwhelming stamp of approval.

“He did everything in his power to take care of us heading into the season,” said Fred Jackson, who missed some time with a hamstring injury. “It’s one that veterans really appreciated. Having us done every day by six or seven o’clock we were able to get back to our rooms and get off of our feet and get the mental part of it. It was a camp that I think definitely allowed me to add some years to my NFL life. It’s one that I’m appreciative to be a part of.”

“I felt it was good. It was a great learning experience, you know, Rex coming in, bringing in his defense, we were able to learn something new every day,” said DT Corbin Bryant. “(Defensive line coach) Karl Dunbar was able to teach us the techniques that he wants us to take on out on the field and, you know, it’s been good. It’s been a little different than last year. We’ve had a lot more time off of our feet to recover and study on our own and other things like that. But I think this has been one of my better training camp experiences.”


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Bills injured RBs pushing to get back

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2015 – 3:15 pm

It was a lineup of injured Bills working on the sidelines at the team’s final training camp practice Tuesday. Boobie Dixon, Bryce Brown and LeSean McCoy were all working with the strength and conditioning staff as they all rehab injuries. When asked what the mood is like in the running backs room with all the injured guys, Fred Jackson offered the following.

“Anxious. Guys want to get back,” said Jackson. “The worst thing is to sit and watch other guys go out and practice and not be able to help. Those guys are busting their butts trying to hurry up and get back out here and contribute to this team. As long as they do that they’ve got the coaches and the training staff to get them back out here.”

Jackson has been back for each of the last three practices coming off a hamstring injury.


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EJ on staying in Buffalo: I love it here

Posted by Chris Brown on August 24, 2015 – 11:55 am

Bills QB EJ Manuel has been battling all offseason to try and win back his starting job. Head coach Rex Ryan has given every indication that it’s his intention to keep three quarterbacks. Still, Manuel was asked the question about how important it is for him to remain a Buffalo Bill.

“I love it here,” Manuel said. “As you can hear the fans out here every day watching us in practice, that means a lot to us and I think sometimes I don’t know if they understand how much that means to us to have a packed house out here every night practice we’ve had. When we’re on the grass field, having a packed house out there it means a lot to us and hearing fans cheering for us during practice, because during the season we don’t have that and, not that it gets boring, but it’s a difference when you’re out here playing in front of a crowd. So I love it here and I want to stay here.”


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WR Davis takes advantage of extra reps

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2015 – 4:22 pm

Bills undrafted rookie WR Andre Davis has put up some head turning plays the last couple of days. The beneficiary of additional reps Monday due to all the receivers pulling out of practice early, Davis had the catch of the day.

Davis pulled in a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cassel. As the ball cleared his outside shoulder on the left sideline, Davis snared the ball with his left hand and pulled it in to his body as he reached the end zone behind the Cleveland cornerback.

“I had a go route. Cassel gave me a chance—great throw out there and I was able to put my hand on it and I grabbed it, brought it in,” said Davis.  “It definitely was the best day at camp I’ve had. I got a chance to come out here and compete. We’re down a couple of guys and coach gave me a chance to come out here and compete. With the Browns coming in, I came in here and had a great opportunity and that’s what I did. I competed.”

“He’s doing a great job competing for the ball and he goes up and obviously has ability down the field,” said Cassel. “When he goes up he’s got good ball skills down the field. He’s a guy that has to continue to compete for a job and when he can show up like he did today that’s going to make an impression on the coaching staff.”

Here’s a look at Davis’ big catch.

 


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Pettine on Whitner’s reception by Bills fans

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2015 – 3:43 pm

Former Bills first-round pick Donte Whitner, whose twitter battling, which has included knocks on his former team and the city of Buffalo was not well received on the St. John Fisher campus by Bills fans. Whitner was met with a good deal of booing by fans in attendance. Even Browns head coach Mike Pettine understood the reception.

“That’s his history here. I wasn’t here when he was here before. I wasn’t part of him leaving,” said Pettine. “I do know this: Bills fans are very passionate, very protective of their Bills, very protective of their city, as they should be. I feel it’s very similar fan bases, Cleveland and Buffalo.”

Whitner largely ignored the boos directed at him Monday.


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Bills coaches eager for sessions with Browns

Posted by Chris Brown on August 16, 2015 – 5:48 pm

As much as the players might be looking forward to working against a different team in the training camp setting with the Cleveland Browns coming in for a couple of days of joint practices Monday and Tuesday, the coaches are just as eager to get started, knowing how much it can enhance the players’ preparation for the regular season.

“Yeah I think we’re going to work together on that and really try to get some quality stuff done,” said Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman of their collaboration on the practice plans with the Browns coaching staff. “Some stuff that’s scripted, some unscripted stuff, you know where it’s just put the ball down, it’s first and ten, let’s go. But I think we’re mapping that out right now. So it’ll be really good to get different styles of players, different, slightly different schemes and I think it’ll be great work for us. Really looking forward to it.”


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Rex: Can’t have drop off when pads are off

Posted by Chris Brown on August 16, 2015 – 4:42 pm

Bills head coach Rex Ryan stepped to the lectern after Sunday’s practice and it was the first thing he mentioned. With the players understandably out of pads just two days removed from their first preseason game, Ryan was a bit disappointed that the intensity of practice fell off with the pads off as well.

“Today’s practice obviously when you take the pads off that intensity goes down a little bit,” said Ryan. “I understand it, but it’s still not acceptable because these days are running out so you’ve got to get better. Anytime you’ve got a chance to compete against each other you’ve got to do that. At the same time we’re trying to protect each other.”

Fortunately for Ryan and his coaching staff things will be dialed up over the next two days when the Cleveland Browns roll in for joint practices.


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Gilmore set to embrace Revis role

Posted by Chris Brown on August 13, 2015 – 8:59 am

Many suspect that CB Stephon Gilmore will be pegged to take on the Darrelle Revis role in Rex Ryan’s defense for the Bills this season. When asked about it Wednesday Gilmore said he’s ready and willing to take on the responsibility that role demands if he’s asked to do so.

“I definitely feel like I can fill the role of being a great corner or the best corner in this league,” said Gilmore. “I told them whatever they want me to do I’ll do it for this team. We’re expecting big things this year, so I’m looking forward to it. So, I feel like I just got to go out and work on my game and whatever the coaches tell me to do that’s what I’m going to do and I work on my game and my technique and study film.”

Gilmore has done that by going against Sammy Watkins in practice almost every day. Even in individual one-on-one drills Gilmore will wait until Watkins is up in the rotation to go against him instead of another receiver.

“I feel like Sammy is one of the hardest players to guard in this league,” he said. “You just got to get him the ball and I feel like me and him going at it every day, I mean, there aren’t too many people as good as him.”

It’s not clear yet whether Gilmore will simply be asked to follow the opponent’s best receiver every week during the regular season, but he’s preparing as if that will be the case. He’s often lined up at both left cornerback and right cornerback in the same practice so he’s accustomed to flipping to the other side of the field, should he need to in a game when following an opponent’s top wideout.

“If they tell me to cover one guy the whole game, then I’ll do that, and play physical and just lock in and worry about my responsibility, and that’s shutting that guy down,” said Gilmore. “So just worry about that and then everything else will take care of itself.”


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Roman: Offense is right on schedule

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2015 – 10:45 pm

The Bills offense hasn’t always looked great in training camp, but part of that due to the fact that it’s new for just about everyone on that side of the ball and part of it is due to Roman purposely making life difficult for the unit with a bad play call here and there.

In an effort to force the offense to find solutions or push through adversity Roman might give the offense a crummy play call on purpose.

“If you’re always getting the perfect defense for the perfect play and you’re always getting great angles and you’re always getting favorable numbers, I think that’s what you want to do on game day,” said Roman. “But leading up to game day, you want to put yourself in tough positions and learn from those why this particular technique is not applicable and is not going to work or this play needs to be changed or, you know, I made a horrible call here, you know, help me out, here’s why. All learning opportunities, and that’s how you get better. Training camp’s a grind and in order to get better I think you’ve got to put yourself through all those situations.”

So even though it hasn’t always looked pretty, Roman believes the progress of the offense is on track.

“I’m happy with where we’re at right now,” he said. “I thought we started off a little slow. I thought the first couple days, our passing game was a little out of sync. But around the fourth day, we started to get going and guys are starting to really get it. We’ve been throwing a lot at them and I think we’re right on schedule. I think it’s all about where we go from this point forward.”


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Hughes: Iron sharpens iron

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2015 – 9:31 am

Most observers have commented on how both Seantrel Henderson and Cyrus Kouandjio are only going to benefit by going against Mario Williams every day in practice. But what about a veteran like Jerry Hughes going against another vet like Cordy Glenn?

As Hughes sees it the benefits are mutual.

“Cordy is a tremendous athlete,” said Hughes. “I’ve always said he’s one of the top tackles in the game, just on his size and his patience, and how well he can move with how big he is. It’s always fun going against him in practice. Iron sharpens iron.”


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Watkins proves a quick study

Posted by Chris Brown on August 11, 2015 – 7:24 am

Bills WR Sammy Watkins is always eager to learn more about the NFL game, which is part of why he has enjoyed the coaching of receivers coach Sanjay Lal. Lal cuts the responsibilities of the receiver position to the finest details. Watkins has very quickly applied some of those details to his game and it made a difference in Monday’s practice.

On Watkins route against Ronald Darby in the two minute drill that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown catch there was a subtle move that may not have been noticed by most who watched the play. But after stemming his route up the field, when Darby turned to run with him he was stride for stride down the sideline. Watkins then tucked his inside shoulder, gave Darby the slightest of bumps and then flared his route outside, where Matt Cassel hit him in stride, while Darby tried to close the space Watkins just created for himself.

“It is one of those things you start to repeat,” said Cassel of his throw and Watkins catch. “If you guys saw the route, it was just as impressive of a route because he went and stacked the guy and leaned into him used his big body, left me room on the outside. Those are all technique things that the coaches have done a tremendous job of coaching him up. Then taking that coaching out onto the field. And that is what we want to see this time of year.”

Coaches often say that NFL players make their biggest jump from year one to year two of their careers. Watkins looked poised to be one of those players.


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Cassel: Glad plan is for him to start Friday

Posted by Chris Brown on August 9, 2015 – 11:44 am

Matt Cassel didn’t get a ton of work Saturday night in the Bills’ blue-white scrimmage. Even head coach Rex Ryan admitted that a lot of run plays were called during Cassel’s time on the field. In the next breath however Ryan indicated that Cassel would probably start in the team’s first preseason game this Friday against Carolina. Cassel liked the sound of that when he got the news.

“Great. I hope I play the whole game to be honest with you,” said Cassel. “I honestly would embrace the chance to start and go out there and play a little bit. And get into a rhythm.”

 

 


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McCoy’s goal for Saturday scrimmage

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2015 – 2:10 pm

Initially LeSean McCoy joked that his goal for Saturday’s live scrimmage was not to get hit. Eventually he did lay out some of the things he and the offense hope to accomplish against Buffalo’s top flight defense.

“Just minimizing the small mistakes. Doing the little things to be a good team,” he said. “Not having too many mental errors, and just playing hard. Playing this game we’ve been playing for years. Same type of tempo. Go hard, aggressive. Just like I said before, just kind of minimizing all the small mistakes.”

McCoy has proven extremely elusive in training camp thus far with defenders having a tough time bottling him up. Now that they’ll be able to take him to the ground and tackle him we’ll see if they have any more success.


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Playing hard & being mindful of teammates

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2015 – 12:50 pm

Perhaps one of the more difficult parts of playing in a live intra-squad scrimmage is balancing the ability to play live and take ball carriers to the ground while also remembering that the people you’re facing are your own teammates. Veteran DT Kyle Williams believes it’s something that everyone comes to learn quickly.

“Everybody here is still professional,” he said. “They understand we’re in this thing together, but we’re also here to challenge each other and make each other better. If we don’t do our job defensively and play as hard as we can and show them a good look and try to beat them at whatever scenario we’re in, we’re not doing them any favors. And vice versa for them with us. That’s the only way we’re going to be as good as we want to be on offense and defense is just challenge each other and staying after each other.”

Williams said the live scrimmage will be the first of many levels where the intensity of play goes up.

“There are different levels. You go to OTAs and minicamp, then you put pads on and it goes up a little bit. Then you start going live in practice and it jumps a bit, then live in the preseason it’ll get a little higher. Then when you hit the regular season it’ll keep going up,” said Williams. “We’ve got to get accustomed to running and hitting and taking guys to the ground. That’s the only way we’re going to be as good as we want to be.”


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Woods getting open a lot

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2015 – 10:13 am

His quarterbacks don’t see him on every play, but they’re quickly realizing that most of the time Robert Woods is open. Through the first week of camp Woods has been getting consistent separation and has been making difficult catches when defensive backs have been able to stay with him.

“I think I’m doing pretty well so far,” said Woods. “I’ve got a lot to work on and keep improving. Just keep making plays so they keep seeing me.”

Woods may have an added advantage over the other receivers. He’s one of the only receivers who has a rapport with two of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. He’s obviously played the last two seasons with Manuel, but he’s also caught passes in the summer from Matt Cassel with both of them often meeting up at their alma mater – USC.

“Just the timing,” said Woods. “Both of those quarterbacks know how I run my routes just from experience working out. Being here for two years helps being a step ahead.”

His best catch in camp thus far was a pass that was behind him that he snared by reaching back behind his body with his left hand while coming across the field right to left full speed to pull in a touchdown during red zone work on a pass from Matt Cassel.


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TE Gragg making progress with blocking

Posted by Chris Brown on August 7, 2015 – 3:10 pm

Much like draft classmate EJ Manuel, it’s year three for TE Chris Gragg. Though he rarely saw the field under the previous coaching staff, he’s seen an awful lot of it in this training camp. So far Gragg has turned in some quality plays.

Set back with a knee surgery in January, Gragg was playing catch up in the spring, so the new offense is still something he’s trying to master even now.

“It’s new to me. A lot of people don’t know, I was limited during the offseason, I had knee surgery in January, so I was limited,” he said. “So this is my first time coming out here and getting full speed reps. And like you said, this extra time is really helping man. You want to put good days together, consistent days together, that’s what helps you make the team. I know I’m one of those guys, they say I’m on the bubble, but I feel like I really want to be on this team. I see where this team is going and I think as long as I keep getting better every day I can do that.”

One area where Gragg has worked constantly is with his blocking. Being a former receiver it’s not his strong suit, but head coach Rex Ryan commended Gragg for his willingness to battle in one-on-one pass pro drills.

“That’s one of the things I really want to focus on, I know I have to get better at,” he said. “It’s coming along slowly but this new offense, we have a lot of things that we do. Even before the play, shifting motions and knowing your landmarks so you can get your job done on the run play, so that’s one of the things I want to continue to focus on during camp.”


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TE group still jumbled behind Clay

Posted by Chris Brown on August 7, 2015 – 9:25 am

The Bills tight end contingent has its share of talent, but in terms of how the depth chart falls behind starter Charles Clay it’s still pretty muddled through the first week of training camp.

Head coach Rex Ryan likes the group, but it’s likely going to take the preseason games for some players at that position to make a case for themselves.

“It’s going pretty good. There are guys with a lot of ability there,” said Ryan. “We have some guys that can run, guys that can catch and guys that can block. So there’s a good combination. You’re right you’re going to have to earn it to get playing time on the field. It’s a deep group.”

One player that Ryan likes chiefly for his blocking ability is Matthew Mulligan, who he had when he was coaching with the Jets.

“I don’t know if you can say perfect blocking tight end, but he’s pretty darn good,” said Ryan. “He is a big physical guy; he’s close to 280 pounds, strong as an ox, dead lifts like 600-something pounds. If you ask him, he’ll tell you exactly, its 653 pounds. You know, one of those guys. Big old meathead guy. He’s a great kid from Maine, I had him with the Jets, and we lost a lot when (he wasn’t on the roster anymore). His presence of a blocker is pretty big.”


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Richardson kicks out to tackle

Posted by Chris Brown on August 6, 2015 – 3:39 pm

Bills second-year guard Cyril Richardson has had a good first week of camp. The coaches are happy with his progress and Rex Ryan said he’s pushing rookie John Miller at right guard. On Thursday however, he got a bit of a curve ball as they kicked Richardson out to offensive tackle. But Richardson did relatively well knowing he hasn’t lined up there on a football field more than four years.

The last time Richardson lined up at offensive tackle was his sophomore year at Baylor, but after getting the news the day before about his tackle duties Thursday he got out to the field early to work on his sets.

“This was something that popped up,” Richardson told Buffalobills.com. “I did a little stuff in the walk through the other day, but it really happens out here so I had to come out a little early and get some reps in and figure out how I move at that position again.”

Through the course of practice Richardson lined up at both left and right tackle. It appears evident that with players on the second unit the coaching staff wants to know just how versatile their linemen are and Richardson appeared capable at tackle.

“Old habits don’t die,” he said. “I got a lot of really good coaching from a really good coach to help me out with what I really need to be doing out there and how it runs with this offense.”

Richardson credited the linemen next to him for helping him out on the edge.

“It just really starts with communication,” he said. “What’s the defensive end look like he’s about to run and really just putting my body out there and making sure that he doesn’t get a really good pass lane.”

Richardson isn’t sure if his time at tackle will continue, as other guards have been kicked out to tackle periodically in camp. But OT Terren Jones left practice early and did not return. If he suffered an injury they might be calling on a guard again Friday.


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Cassel: skill position group is outstanding

Posted by Chris Brown on August 6, 2015 – 7:23 am

Matt Cassel has played with a lot of talented players at running back and wide receiver. Randy Moss, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, etc. But the skill position talent he is surrounded by in Buffalo has him pretty pumped up.

In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Cassel called the skill position talent, which includes LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Percy Harvin, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Charles Clay among others, pretty special.

“It’s an outstanding skill group. It’s still our job to come together as a group,” said Cassel. “We had no time with Sammy in the spring so getting him up to speed is important. It won’t take much time he’s a smart kid, but at the same time there are little nuances to the offense just being out all spring where we have to get him caught up. All of them have tremendous playmaking ability. The nice thing is being able to get the ball in the guys’ hands at five yards and let them do the rest. So it’s all about find that matchup and then get them the ball.”


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TE Manhertz: I still have a lot to learn

Posted by Chris Brown on August 5, 2015 – 5:04 pm

Bills TE Chris Manhertz was taken off the PUP list on Wednesday and got on the training camp practice field for the first time. He’s encouraged by how far he has come, but knows he has some ground to make up after missing four practices.

“It feels good. It felt like forever being on the sidelines,” Manhertz said. “Just glad to be out here healthy and learning every day. The crazy thing is I have a lot, a lot to learn still. I’m just soaking it in every day in the meetings, through practice, watching films, just studying everything and trying to get  a grasp on everything.

Manhertz says the biggest task is getting a handle of offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s voluminous playbook.

“The most challenging part is probably the mental aspect, the playbook, reading coverages, recognizing different fronts and just adjusting on the fly with that,” he said. :Eventually I will understand it to a tee.”

Manhertz was a basketball player at Canisius before trying to make a career of football.


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