Inside The Bills

Wood, C.J. not worried

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2014 – 10:25 pm

Much has been made of the offensive execution in practice through the first week of training camp. The players themselves admit they’ve got to do better. At the same time they feel there’s enough time to get everything running like well-oiled machine come September.

“No it’s not a concern,” said C.J. Spiller. “We’re not even in August yet, but we have to get better. We understand that we have to be better as a unit.  We got the guys, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Third down, which has just undergone a good deal of installation on both sides of the ball, is where some of the execution problems lie according to Eric Wood. That’s when Buffalo’s vaunted pass rush, which set a franchise record with 57 sacks last season, can turn it loose.

“We understand that if we can block our front four then we’ll be able block about anybody,” said Eric Wood. “For my money, I think they’re about the best in the league, but that’s no excuse.  We got to be able to do our jobs and we got to do a better job.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

C.J. on importance of run game

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2014 – 2:49 pm

The run game was Buffalo’s bread and butter on offense as they ran more than any other team in the league and finished second in rushing yards per game. Blessed with the additional talents of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon, the Bills ground attack is as deep as it’s ever been. So just how critical will the Bills run game be to the team’s success this season. C.J. Spiller had an answer for that one.

In an appearance on NFL AM on NFL Network Tuesday, Spiller believes the run game will again be carrying the offense in 2014.

“I think it’s going to be very important,” said Spiller. “I think it’s going to take a lot of pressure off E.J. [Manuel]. I think if we have our running game going, he’ll feel more comfortable relying on that. Instead of having him, going out there saying, ‘Hey E.J., we need you to throw the ball.’ It’s going to be very important to make sure that our running game is going on early and late in the season. It’s going to be exciting. The offensive line is going to jell together and hopefully we’ll have another great rushing year.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller on change needed for division games

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2014 – 2:46 pm

The Bills have found it hard to compete for a division title in the AFC East as New England has largely ruled the division for the better part of the last dozen years. Buffalo usually plays all their division opponents tough, until some unfortunate play happens and the floodgates seem to open. C.J. Spiller knows what has to change to reverse that trend.

In an appearance on NFL AM on NFL Network this morning, Spiller addressed what the Bills need to do to truly contend in the AFC East.

“If you go back and look at those games, we always play all those teams close,” Spiller said. “Obviously, sooner or later, [they] kind-of get out of hand. Against those type of teams, you can’t make mistakes. That’s the thing that’s been killing us against [those] teams is that we make mistakes and it’s hard for us to bounce back. So if we can minimize them, I think we have a chance of competing as one of the top [teams] in the AFC. I’m looking forward to it. Still a lot of work needs to be done. We still have to go out there and play the games.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why C.J.’s 2013 injury hurt his game so much

Posted by Chris Brown on July 16, 2014 – 9:39 am

Last season when C.J. Spiller played his way through a very painful high ankle sprain, some outside observers couldn’t understand why his game was so negatively impacted when other backs in the league in recent years didn’t struggle as much to maintain their productivity. Spiller explained why a high ankle sprain is probably the worst possible injury for his unique skill set.

“A lot of people were saying that I didn’t have the year that I had in 2012, but to me playing on one wheel – especially the way I do it,” said Spiller. “If I was more of a power back it would’ve been a different deal, but with my ability to cut and accelerate I need both of my wheels healthy. Unfortunately I had one down, but to still get close to 1,000 (yards) – talking to Coach (Buddy) Nix we both agreed that it was a pretty good year playing on one wheel for the whole year that was tough to do and very painful, but I don’t worry about that. I know when I’m fully healthy the kind of player I can be.”

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett agreed.

“It’s funny, he didn’t have that bad of a year last year and he missed out on a game and was hindered by that, and he still had over 900-yards (rushing),” Hackett said. “I think with him being healthy and him being more familiar with the system, what we’re asking him to do, he’s going to be more and more comfortable just like the other guys will be.

We covered Spiller’s health and some other factors in examining whether he’ll be able to return to Pro Bowl form this fall in our Camp Countdown.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller senses big jump for run game in year 2

Posted by Chris Brown on July 14, 2014 – 9:38 am

In our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we profiled how offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will take advantage of the team’s running back depth with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon now lined up behind Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the depth chart. Spiller senses that after a year of experience in the system for most of the offensive unit that season two under Hackett will lead to even more production in the run game.

“For us to be second in the league in rushing with a new system and us trying to get comfortable with what was going on –  Now we have that year up under us and you can see the difference,” said Spiller. “Everybody is confident in what we’re doing and hopefully that will bring better things. But there’s a ton of work to be done before September 7th against the Bears. We’ve got to be willing to put in all the hard work necessary to put ourselves in the best situation to win.”

Buffalo averaged over 144 yards on the ground a game last season and that was without a lot of passing success as the offense was 28th in that category. So even when opposing defenses largely knew what was coming the Bills were still pretty productive running the ball.

What is most encouraging from the standpoint of Spiller is how he’ll fare in the offense in his second season running it. Some might recall that in his first season under Chan Gailey as a starter (2011) Spiller struggled at times to be productive. Then in his second season he had a breakout season. The dynamic Pro Bowl back is now in a similar situation going into his second year in Nathaniel Hackett’s system. One wonders if similar production to that of 2012 is on the horizon this fall.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-27

Posted by Chris Brown on June 27, 2014 – 11:42 am

We’re in the quiet period of the offseason, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues about the team to discuss. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hey Chris,
My question is about the defense and new DC Jim Schwartz.  I know Marrone has said that they will keep the terminology the same for the players, but what does that exactly mean?  I know Schwartz and Pettine have different philosophies but do you foresee Schwartz maybe trying to become more innovative with his D?  In my opinion I think that Rex Ryan and Mike Pettines defense is spreading into the league and can be a new look for NFL defenses.  I know the Chiefs acquired Bob Sutton who has a Jets backround and the Saints have Rob Ryan.   I really like the way Pettine disguised plays and also the way he looked for players that can be versatile.  It just seems like it’s a defense that is spreading into the league and it is very aggressive style, something that needs to match the explosive offenses that are continuing to evolve.  So I guess my question is do you think that Schwartz watched film and talked with Marrone about keeping some of the same looks and ideas that Pettine installed last year and maybe just putting his flavor on it?  What are your thoughts about it?

Thanks, Jillian

CB: I think coaches inherently trust the elements of their schemes that made them successful coordinators or coaches in this league. Jim Schwartz was a coveted head coaching candidates a half dozen years ago because of the way he ran his defense. It’s a scheme that has a long running track of success on third down and against the run, two of the chief problem areas for Buffalo’s defense.

In speaking with Schwartz on a couple of occasions it’s my belief that he’s been in the league long enough to know that you have to adapt to changing trends in the NFL or you’ll be left behind. I do believe some of his defensive scheme has adopted some of the language from Pettine’s scheme for the sake of continuity, but Schwartz believes in his system and he should. The Lions finished sixth against the run and first in third down defense last season.

So while I think there is a healthy respect for the schemes run by Pettine and the Ryans, there are other ways to be successful on the defensive side of the ball. Knowing Schwartz’s scheme is likely to address the two most glaring problems of Buffalo’s defense leaves me feeling encouraged that the team’s new defensive coordinator will have the right answers, they may just be different from what you witnessed here last season.

 

2 -  Hey Chris,

I love your work.  Everyday I look forward to the latest Bills news.  Thanks for keeping us updated.  Living in Dallas, all I get is Dallas Cowboys news.

Here is my question for you, “Can you give any insight on exactly what and how players are graded during the OTA practices?”

Thanks
Shawn Sieracki
Dallas, Texas
CB: Happy to help Shawn and thanks for the compliments. I’m going to turn this one over to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who I believe effectively explained what’s evaluated in the spring practices when there are no pads.

“The only thing we’re really evaluating with players now is their ability to grasp scheme and things like that,” said Schwartz. “The stuff that you’re seeing on the practice field, we’re not judging players on how they finish plays.  It’s a non competitive situation.  We want to learn, we want to learn their role in the defense.  We want to learn how everything fits together, and they are being judged on that and their work ethic.  But the on field stuff, it’s all about technique right now.  When we get to training camp, we’ll start judging them more on wins and losses.  Wins-whether it comes to a coverage or a pass rush or things like that—you have to be careful about judging too much on that stuff out there.  It’s non-contact; it’s not really football.”
3 - Chris

Thanks for your coverage of the Bills.  Is Buddy Nix still affiliated with the Bills? What is his role and did he have any input in the recent draft?

Regards,
Ron Jacobs

CB: Yes, Buddy is still affiliated with the Bills. He no longer works in the office, but is a special assistant to the personnel department. I know that GM Doug Whaley called on him a few times in the pre-draft process to scout a few prospects near his region where he lives in Tennessee.

He was also present in the draft room for all three days of the 2014 draft, sitting in the first row. Having been in the draft room for the whole weekend, Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon went to speak to him on about a dozen occasions.

Many of them appeared to deal with the conversations that Whaley and Brandon had with other NFL clubs concerning trade talks, and as you know Whaley made a handful on draft weekend. It’s clear to me that Nix is still a respected veteran voice in Buffalo’s personnel department.

 

4 – Chris,
Given the new additions on offense do you see the Bills being run heavy or pass heavy? With Dixon and Brown there won’t be enough carries to go around. Getting 4 RB’s the ball seems like a tough task. Given the league is pass heavy and Watkins is in the fold how is the ball going to go around. It’s a pass heavy league and EJ will need to throw 300 yards often. How do you see this shaking out?

CB: Here are the things you need to consider when weighing this question. Will the Bills simply have EJ Manuel carry the offense and throw it all over the field? It’s unlikely. Doug Marrone is a head coach who believes in a run game. Unless he’s got an all-world quarterback that will be his approach. The only difference is Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett will run it at a pace that no one can keep up with.

The pace of the offense last season was compromised by inexperience when injuries struck at quarterback and a new signal caller was starting seemingly every week. All three quarterbacks are a year invested in the system so that is no longer an issue.

So provided they gain the yardage they believe they on the ground consistently, it’ll translate into more first downs, more plays, more yardage and ultimately more points. With more plays there are more carries to go around.

Running as much as Buffalo did last season (they had more total rushes than any team in the NFL in 2013) they’d like to run more this year, as they only ran the ball 48 percent of the time. Keeping the injury factor in mind (See: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson in 2013), Buffalo now has the depth at running back to carry on should one or two of their backs suffer injuries.

The offensive line has also been beefed up with size and strength not only among the starting unit (Chris Williams), but among the reserves (Seantrel Henderson, Cyril Richardson, Chris Hairston, Cyrus Kouandjio). Pass protection is part of it knowing the Bills gave up the fourth-most (48) in the league last year, but it’s about being able to run the ball even when the opponent knows it’s coming.

C.J. and Fred will be the principal players in the run game, but Spiller and Jackson are both versatile talents and will be utilized in the passing game as well. With the depth at running back as well it wouldn’t surprise me if there are multiple backs on the field at the same time.

Hackett always talks about putting the five best skill position players on the field with the five linemen and the QB. One would think that Spiller and Jackson more often than not would be among that group with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon not far behind.

 

5 - @ChrisBrownBills

What is the competition for RT looking like right now between Pears and Cyrus?#bills

Z_bass10

CB: It’s hard to really make a call on it before the pads are on in training camp. I will say that early in the OTAs, the coaches rotated Kouandjio in with the first unit for a bit less than half the snaps. By the close of OTAs, Kouandjio spent most of his time with the second unit outside of a day when he spent a practice at left tackle due to a lack of numbers on hand.

Kouandjio has to adjust to the speed of NFL pass rushers. He found going against the likes of Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes challenging as you might understand. Pears held his own in the spring practice setting.

For me it’s a competition that’s going to have to wait until St. John Fisher when the pads are on and perhaps well into the preseason.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

C.J. listed among most unstoppable

Posted by Chris Brown on June 23, 2014 – 10:09 am

Bills RB C.J. Spiller looked like his game breaking, elusive self in OTAs and minicamp this spring. Back fully healthy Spiller is again poised to be a difference making talent for Buffalo in 2014. And NFL.com’s Gil Brandt is taking notice.

Brandt listed Spiller as one of his 11 unstoppable talents in the league, which included just five running backs. Here’s what he wrote about Spiller.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

Spiller has moves (23 missed tackles in 2013). Given his exceptional vision and explosiveness — the latter of which is reminiscent of Marshall Faulk in his prime — he’s a special talent as a runner and a receiver. Though he only logged 15-plus carries in six games last season, Spiller still managed to get within 67 yards of the 1,000-yard mark, bolstered by four runs of 40 yards or more. Significant lateral quickness makes him very difficult to bring down.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-20

Posted by Chris Brown on June 20, 2014 – 2:39 pm

Spring practices are over and there’s just a month to go before training camp opens. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

What do you think about Buffalo going after Jason Babin possibly? They did show interest in 2012 #LetsGoBuffalo

TheGoodfella28

CB: While their depth at defensive end is not ideal I don’t know that they could make that kind of a veteran investment in the position. Buffalo has a lot of money tied up in their defensive line and adding another player who would not come cheap might be a bit unrealistic.

 

2 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for the great coverage this off-season. I always look forward to Fan Friday. My question is in regards to the #3 QB spot. What have Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon been up to this off-season? Tuel showed a lot of promise last preseason but, clearly wasn’t ready when thrust into the spotlight. I still hold out hope for him. Living in Western Pa. I got to see Dixon play some as a Steeler. The guy has a motor for sure. Do you think Tuel’s spot is safe or does Dixon have a legit chance to overtake him? Maybe try to stash Tuel on the PS?
Thanks again, I look forward to your insight on this.

Scott

CB: I’ll have a story up on Buffalobills.com Saturday morning on Jeff Tuel. In my opinion he’s raised his game a peg or two. It’s clear to me he worked on his body in the offseason. He’s leaner and looks quicker on read option play keepers. Where he’s raised his game the most is his decisiveness in the pocket. He senses pressure and knows when to step up and he has shown a willingness to stick the ball into tight windows to make plays. There were times during the OTAs where he had the most impressive looking throws of the day.

I think he’s not only got a lock on the number three job going into camp, I believe he will provide healthy competition to Thad Lewis for the backup job.

 

3 – Hi Chris,

The recent comparison you made between Moeaki and Gragg today was interesting.

Gragg ran a 4.35 shuttle at pro day. Athletically Gragg seems superior in just about every test if you now include the pro day shuttle in his draft class and with Moeaki. Sub 4.5 40 at 244, 37.5 vertical, 4.35 shuttle…. great results.

However, Moeaki comments are encouraging. From a test comparison, the statement that Moeaki is the most athletic is surprising. Would be interesting to see a square out drill with both of them to see how they do. Shuttle or 3 cone is about closest to that.

Thanks
Mike

CB: I’m not sure there’s a question here, but I can tell you while Gragg is better on the stopwatch when it comes to football Moeaki is the smoother route runner. He transitions better from catch to turning up field. He also adjusts to the ball more effectively when it’s not on target.

That’s not a knock on Gragg, who is an athlete, but Moeaki’s body type, which isn’t as long-limbed as Gragg lends itself to being a more fluid athlete.

 
4 – Chris,

Thanks for all of the great reporting for “Bills Nation” out here in southern Nevada. Observations from OTA’s have indicated that E.J. is experiencing the same footwork and inaccuracy issues that have plagued him throughout his career. I believe he has had his own personal quarterbacks coach for a number of years. Why would he hire an offseason coach/mentor that has not been able to correct these problems?

Hank K.

CB: Thanks for the kind words. During OTAs EJ and the receivers were still working on getting their footwork lined up. With the precision needed in this passing game under coach Hackett, the quarterback’s footwork has to be in lockstep with that of the receivers. I intend to ask coach Hackett how much margin for error there is with that approach, but watching it on the field there doesn’t appear to be much. Unfortunately that’s how fine you have to cut things to be consistently successful in the NFL Sunday after Sunday.

In spring practices with new receiving targets on the field (Watkins, M. Williams, Moeaki) there’s going to be an adjustment period and I think we witnessed that in the OTAs. In minicamp the precision was improving. Hopefully that continues going into camp.

And to be clear it’s not a technique thing with EJ as much as it is a timing thing concerning the footwork. Yes, occasionally Manuel’s footwork will suffer in a pressure situation as it would for any QB, but on the whole the disconnect comes when the footwork of the QB and receivers are not timed up from the snap as it’s been explained to me.

 
5 – Hey Chris,

Love your insight and love for the Bills keep up the great work. I’ve a proposal I think the Bills should really consider about trading Fred Jackson or releasing him. They need to go with CJ Spiller and Bryce Brown. With the addition of Bryce Brown and also Anthony Dixon they have two power backs that are younger and faster than Fred Jackson. I’m a big fan of Fred Jackson as a football talent and as a leader, but why get Brown and Dixon and still keep Jackson.

Virginia’s biggest Bills fan.
CB: I’m going to disagree with your proposal. First, Jackson is still a more than capable back in this league. Some might not see him as a bell cow type back anymore, but his value is undeniable. He’s still the best pass blocking back on the roster, he’s an offensive spark for the team and he’s more than a respected leader. He’s the pulse of the locker room.

The additions of Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are to improve their short yardage success and to have a viable back in reserve should C.J. Spiller or Jackson get hurt, as was the case last year when both had to gut out games on one bad wheel last season. With as much running as this team intends to do they’ll need all four of them.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills on the radio

Posted by Chris Brown on June 17, 2014 – 9:45 am

A couple of Bills players will be appearing on the national radio airwaves today (Tuesday). Here’s where you can find them.

12:10 pm – C.J. Spiller on PFT Live with Mike Florio

1:05 pm – Fred Jackson on The Jim Rome Show


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-13

Posted by Chris Brown on June 13, 2014 – 11:32 am

Three weeks of OTAs are over. Only the mandatory minicamp remains next week before the countdown to training camp. As always we’ll have full coverage here on Buffalobills.com. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris,
I am hearing a lot of fans chatter about the Bills running back situation.  It’s come to be pretty crowded at the RB position at this point and since the Bryce Brown trade fans seem to think CJ is on the trading block? I don’t buy it myself.  I know that CJ and Fred are FA’s in 2015 and while it makes me very sad I tend to think that will be it for Fred Jackson.  As for CJ I don’t really know if they would like to lock him up long term.

I wanted to get your thoughts and see if you have a feel for what they might want to do.  My take is they brought in Bryce Brown because they liked him but also as insurance for the season and to see what he’s got.  I would also imagine that if they do like him after the year that he would most likely be Fred Jackson’s replacement.  To me CJ Spiller is more than just a running back and I do not believe that he has even scratched the surface of what he can be.  He’s a threat every time he touches the ball and I’m very optimistic that he is going to shine this season.  As long as he stays healthy and the coaches put him in the right situation he should be able to really show what he can be.

Like Sammy said I hope that I see CJ and Sammy play together for a long time to come.  And also what do you think of CJ’s contract situation and the RB market? Do you think that could be beneficial for the Bills or could CJ still demand a hefty contract maybe pending his season?

Thanks a lot, Jillian

CB: I think with the pressure on everybody at One Bills Drive to win this year and make the playoffs the thought of C.J. Spiller being on the trading block is absurd. Yes, C.J. is entering the last year of his contract. It’s my understanding though that Spiller wants to stay in Buffalo long term. For him to sign a long term extension now however, would not be in his best interest. He’s coming off an injury-plagued 2013 and the new offense took some getting used to.

Spotrac.com recently did a great job projecting a long term contract extension for Spiller based on what he’s done in his career to this point and presented a lot of good comp numbers from other backs in the league. Spiller presumably would want more than the $4-plus million they project, and to do that C.J. has to approach, or more likely, exceed his numbers of 2012 (1,244 yards rushing, 459 receiving, 8 TDs) to be able to negotiate more.

At this point Spiller is without an agent though he’s looking to hire one in the not too distant future. It’s my belief that both the Bills and Spiller will let the season play out and regardless of his production they secure a long term agreement that’s beneficial to both sides.

I will add that I am encouraged that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will diversify the ways in which he uses Spiller in the scope of the offense.

2 – Hi Chris,

I personally love the trade to go up and get Watkins, and right now after rookie camp, it looks like he is the real deal. This year is also the year that Stephon Gilmore is supposed to make the jump to an elite cornerback. With minicamp coming up and I’m expecting them to match up against each other, what would the coaches rather see? Watkins showing he is the real deal, but also Gilmore might not be the cornerback they hoped. Or would they rather have Gilmore shut him down, but also raise doubt about whether Watkins was worth what they gave up for him?

Thanks for all your coverage and GO BILLS!
Ethan
Washington DC
CB: In an ideal world for the coaches their head to head play raises the level of both players. That’s the competition that coaches and GM Doug Whaley have talked about all offseason. When the competition level is raised it inherently raises the game of the players involved and that makes the team better.

Gilmore however, is not expected to get a full workload in the team portions of practice next week. Coming off of his surgery he’s expected to be eased back into the practice setting and got a handful of snaps the last week of OTAs.

 

3 – Chris,
Thanks for the great Bills coverage for all of Bills Nation here in the desert southwest. Given the imminent change of ownership and the potential uncertainty that can bring, what is the mood of the Bills employees at OBD. Are people apprehensive regarding salary and benefit restructuring or can everyone, (including yourself) focus and keep it in the background. Thanks and the best of luck.

Hank from Nevada
CB: Our President and CEO Russ Brandon has stated more than once publicly and to us directly that it’s business as usual and we take him at his word. There is no sense in worrying about things we can’t control. So as far as I see it it’s in our best interest to do the best job we can do in the roles that we have until we know more about the future leadership of the organization. Thanks for your concern and well wishes.

 

4 – Chris,

How do you think the coaching staff views Chris Gragg? We keep hearing the Bills don’t have that “new-age” athletic TE on their roster, and if they do it’s Tony Moeaki, but Gragg has an intriguing skill set in my opinion. Is he a guy that they are planning on trying to get more use out of in his second year, or do you think he has an uphill climb to make the final 53?

Thanks!
Josh

CB: I don’t think there’s any debate about Gragg’s athletic skill set. He’s done all the right things this offseason including making it to each of the Bills player passing camps run by EJ Manuel in California and Florida this offseason.

With Scott Chandler limited he had the benefit of getting some first team reps in a rotation with Tony Moeaki and Lee Smith in OTAs.

I spoke to him this past week and he told they’ve expanded his responsibilities in the scope of the offense where he’ll be playing both the ‘Y’ (in line TE position) and the ‘F’ (detached). So there appear to be plans to broaden his role, but he’ll need to outperform both Chandler and Moeaki in camp if he’s going to get any significant playing time this season.

 

 

5 – Hey Chris,
Thanks for the great coverage this off-season. I always look forward to Fan Friday. My Question is in regards to the #3 QB spot. What have Jeff Tuel and, Dennis Dixon been up to this off-season? Tuel showed a lot of promise last pe-season but, clearly wasn’t ready when thrust into the spotlight. I still hold out hope for him. Living in Western Pa. I got to see Dixon play some as a Steeler. The guy has a motor for sure. Do you think Tuel’s spot is safe or does Dixon have a legit chance to overtake him? Maybe try to stash Tuel on the PS?

Thanks again, I look forward to your insight on this.
Scott

CB: At this point it appears that Tuel has the edge on Dixon for the third QB job on the roster. This offseason Tuel has definitely strengthened his body. He’s leaner, but stronger and it’s showing in his escapes from the pocket when a play breaks down and in his arm strength. Dixon is clearly the best athlete when it comes to taking off and running. He would win the footrace of all four QBs easy.

Tuel does have practice squad eligibility, but I’m going to have to check on Dixon. This will be a very hard battle to gauge because their reps on so limited. It’ll likely go all the way to the preseason games before a definitive call can be made.

I will say through the OTA practices I thought Tuel flashed more with the plays that he made.

 

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-6

Posted by Chris Brown on June 6, 2014 – 12:02 pm

Two weeks of OTAs are in the books with a week to go beginning this coming Monday. As always we’ll have full coverage here on Buffalobills.com. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

I liked what Bills did in rounds 1,2,3 however they did not address DE. Manny Lawson has never played end and Wynn is a bubble player at most. Hughes is more of a situational pass rusher. I’m a bit concerned what they are doing. Since they won’t blitz as much the DE’s are more important under Schwartz. This puts more pressure on young DB’s as well. What do you think the future is at DE for 2014?

CB: I don’t know that you can assume that this defense under Schwartz won’t blitz as much. From what I’ve witnessed in OTAs with the blitz packages going in there are an array of packages that Schwartz has in his playbook. How often he uses them remains to be seen.

Lawson and Hughes will likely split the right defensive end role with Lawson in on more obvious run downs and Hughes on passing downs.

What you might need to consider is how often Schwartz’s defenses in the past have put an opponent in a situation where blitzing is not necessary.

Knowing that Schwartz’s Detroit defense last season finished first in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed (30.3%) and were second in the league in red zone defense (Bills were 14th and 6th) I’m going to give Buffalo’s defensive coordinator the benefit of the doubt that he’ll know when to blitz and how often to do so.


2 –
Hi Chris
I’m a long time Clemson fan and enjoyed watching C.J. Spiller returning kicks. He is one of the best I have ever seen at it and I billeve he could challenge Devin Hesters records. With the need at special teams, Do you think the Bills should try C.J. returning kickoffs? He does hold the FBS record for kickoff return touchdowns with 7.

Thanks, Chris Gerland

CB: It’s funny that you bring this up. As I wrote in our OTA practice notes column earlier this week C.J. Spiller was one of the kick returners in practice along with T.J. Graham and Leodis McKelvin. Spiller hasn’t returned a kick for the Bills since 2011, but it looks as though he’s at least being considered for the 2014 season. That being said I wouldn’t get excited about this possibly happening until we see it in a preseason game.


3 –
Hi Chris,

With the new additions at cornerback, and a new defensive coordinator, it almost seems like Nickell Robey has been getting lost in the mix, after a productive rookie campaign.

I’ve been wondering, has their been any talk about trying him out at safety as a possible replacement for Byrd?

Between his solid tackling and his playmaking ability, I think he could transition well into the role, which would also serve to reduce his height concerns. Jim Leonhard has had a decent career at FS for a shorter defensive back.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Thank you,
John
CB: I don’t think you have anything to worry about with Nickell Robey. First, Robey has looked solid in his nickel corner role. Yes, he will have competition, chiefly in the form of Corey Graham, but knowing how much New England goes four wide as well as other opponents on Buffalo’s roster like Denver, Detroit, Kansas City and Green Bay chances are Buffalo will need to make use of both of those slot defenders.

To help you breathe easier about Robey’s role on this team I’ll refer you to a recent quote by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Robey.

“If you measure heart, if you measure things like that, he’s six-foot ten,” said Schwartz of Robey. “He’s been a guy that’s been impressive and it hasn’t just been from watching practice here.  Watching last year’s tape.  He’s very unique in some of the quickness he has.  He’s got great anticipation, sees the game very well and he’s certainly going to have a role. He’s been one of best players through our OTAs so far.” 


4 –
Hi Chris,

Thank you for all you do. Let me start by saying I’m extremely happy with our draft this year! My question is regarding our depth at the receiver position. I think it may be difficult for a guy like TJ Graham to make it on the field. Another guy I like is Marcus Easley. I know Easley helped out, and excelled on special teams last year. Do you think that they might keep a guy like TJ, and utilize his speed on special teams? If not I’m afraid I don’t think he’ll make the roster. I look forward to hearing your opinion!
Thanks,
Dan Edel
Buffalo native, teaching English in Thailand

CB: I do think T.J. is in for an uphill battle due mainly to the fact that additions like Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams are automatically ahead of him on the depth chart. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were draft choices deemed as fits by this coaching staff. Graham was inherited.

Add in the fact that the staff likes Kevin Elliott, who could carve out a role on special teams as well and both Graham and Easley will be battling for one of the final spots on Buffalo’s roster with players like Elliott and Chris Hogan, both of whom have shown well thus far in OTAs.


5 -
Chris;
With the trade of Stevie Johnson to the 49ers do they Bills have any financial obligations remaining from his contract?
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Howard
Rochester Hills, MI

CB: The figure I have is $10.225M in dead money, which the Bills can spread over the next three seasons, which is the length that Johnson’s contract ran.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller: Best I’ve felt since 2012

Posted by Chris Brown on May 30, 2014 – 8:35 am

The last time C.J. Spiller was on the team’s grass practice field every step was a chore. Planting and cutting, let along straight like jogging all made his high ankle sprain throb. Spiller battled through the 2013 season with that hitch in his step. The first week of OTAs that hitch was gone.

“I don’t feel nothing, I feel great,” said Spiller. “This is the best I’ve felt since 2012 when I had that great year. The ankle feels wonderful.  I just have to keep doing what I need to do to stay healthy this whole season and try to go out there and make plays.”

Spiller, for those that don’t remember had 1,244 yards rushing and just over 1,700 yards from scrimmage in 2012 and averaged an impressive six yards a carry, tied for the league lead with Adrian Peterson.

“That’s what I’m capable of doing,” said Spiller. “When I’m fully healthy I consider myself one of the best in the league, but when you’re not healthy it kind of hinders your game a lot.  It hinders our game plan.  So the biggest thing for me is to be healthy,  for all of our running backs to be healthy so we can expand our game plan.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ tipped by C.J. on Watkins pick

Posted by Chris Brown on May 28, 2014 – 4:42 pm

EJ Manuel was watching the 2014 NFL draft like the rest of us back on May 8th. He naturally got excited when he saw the Bills move up from ninth to fourth in round one. Before the pick however, EJ got a phone call tipping him off as to who the team was about to pick.

“C.J. called me right before the pick and I guess he got wind that we were going to take Sammy that we were trading up to get him,” said Manuel. “We were both excited. Obviously with C.J. being a Clemson guy, but if you watch college football on Saturday you always saw Sammy making big plays. So we’re very happy about the pick.”

As for his thoughts on Watkins on the practice field today, Manuel was encouraged.

“Well I was extremely impressed with him the first day beyond his physical attributes, he’s a big guy, he’s a big receiver,” said Manuel. “But at the same time he works hard too. He does a lot of things after practice. So whenever we’re finished he’s still out there walking through his routes on his own. That’s what you want to see from a fourth pick overall whose coming in with huge expectations. You want to see him put that front foot forward and work hard. So I’m extremely happy to have him on our team.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller on the radio

Posted by Chris Brown on May 28, 2014 – 7:06 am

Here’s where you can find C.J. Spiller this morning on the local radio airwaves with voluntary OTAs set to begin today.

Spiller will appear on the Howard Simon show this morning on Bonilla flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 at 7:45.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-16

Posted by Chris Brown on May 16, 2014 – 2:36 pm

The NFL draft is in the rearview mirror. Time to review it and other topics you’re wondering about courtesy of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills This weekend’s rookie camp, is it just rooks or are 2nd year guys encouraged to attend. i.e; Manuel, Gragg, Woods, etc.?

Grayson Tumult

CB: In addition to the draft choices, undrafted rookie free agents and street free agents with less than a year of accrued NFL time there are some first-year players who are eligible to participate this weekend. Here’s a look at the first-year players (have a year accrued in the NFL) who will be on the field Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Players like EJ Manuel or Chris Gragg are not eligible.

DB – 47 – Michael Carter
OL – 76 – Randy Colling
OL – 72 – Edawn Coughman,
FS – 40 – JaJuan Harley
DE – 98 – Ikponmwosa, Igbinosun
WR – 16 – Cordell Roberson
LB – 54 – Jacquies Smith
WR – 87 – Chris Summers
LB – 58 – Nathan Williams

Michael Carter is technically a rookie even though he came out in the 2013 draft class. He went undrafted and did not stick on an NFL roster so he does not have an NFL accrued season from the last calendar year.
2 – Hey Chris,

After seeing Free Agency pan out and how many teams weren’t willing to pay their own Free Agent RBs (or other FA RBs) a lot of money or even commit to long-term contracts, it looks like CJ Spiller wouldn’t require that much to keep in Buffalo after his rookie contract expires. I know that it’s been pointed out as a concern for the Bills Fan Community after this year when Fred and CJ become free agents, but I’m less concerned. Knowshon Moreno had a career year (completely destroying Spiller’s stats) and ended up in Miami on a 1 year, $3 million deal. Although he had Peyton as his QB, I think this is the future of all RBs– just like no RBs were drafted in the First Round last year, and it may be the same again this year. Do you see the Spiller contract situation shaking out the way that I do? And also, do you think the Bills will draft an RB at some point in the draft now that they’ve signed Anthony Dixon?

Thanks,

Nate from Garbage Plate City

PS- Go Bills!

CB: I think it’s very hard to see how the future will play out with C.J. Spiller. He has a player option first and foremost on his current contract. It’s going to be very interesting to see if offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has tweaked his approach in how to make the best use of C.J. Spiller on a week to week basis. Naturally the high ankle sprain injury hindered a lot of their plans last year for him. Fully healthy Spiller can be a dynamic weapon in this offense that is expected to move at a fast tempo.

While I think there is merit to your argument about running backs being had for relatively affordable prices it’d be hard to part with one of the four or five most talented athletes on your roster. While Buffalo’s roster arguably has the most talent from top to bottom than it has had in a while, Spiller is still one of just a handful of elite players. Money will naturally have a lot to do with the final decision and how it impacts both sides.

 

 

3 – Hello Chris.
Thanks for all the great coverage of the Bills year round. My question has to do with the 2014 pre-draft visits the Bills conducted this off-season. In a review of the 29 players that visited One Bills Drive, I found it rather interesting that they didn’t bring in a single QB. We have heard how Coach Marrone likes to have a high level of competition for every spot on the roster, so why not bring in a QB or two that has a decent chance to still be drafted in Rounds 3-5? Clearly the Bills can’t be content with just having Manuel, Lewis and Tuel, considering how few career NFL starts the trio has amassed.

I just think they could have added at least 1 or 2 potential QB’s into the mix. It would have also created some kind of confusion around NFL circles as to that the Bills are up to, which I believe would be a good thing.

Thanks Chris.
Dan Van Wie

CB: Even before the pre-draft visits began the Bills were pretty clear that they were content with their quarterback depth chart particularly with Thad Lewis as the backup. GM Doug Whaley reiterated as much right after the draft.

“We do not anticipate bringing in another arm,” said Whaley. “I’ll never say never, you never know what is going to happen. Someone could get hurt… But at this time we’re very confident with the guys we have on campus. Like I’ve said before, our philosophy should keep you .500 and Thad came in and got us close to the three, two and three. So we’re excited about that and then Jeff Tuel came in and played against Kansas City, did some good things but also had some mistakes. But we were conscious of the fact that he was an undrafted college free agent rookie so we expected him to make some mistakes.

“And Dennis Dixon has been in the league for a while and he brings a skillset that will compliment what we’re trying to do offensively. We have some competition. We do have some young guys, but they’re experienced in our system. And that was another thought process: if you bring someone else in, they’re just as young or younger and less experienced in the system so we’re very confident where we are right now.”

 

4 – Hi Chris,

The Bills front office said going into the draft that they really liked Sammy Watkins. However, Watkins’ agent is Eugene Parker.  Given our past trouble with his clients, does the front office take that into consideration?  They will never publicly say that they hate a certain agent.  But wouldn’t you rather draft players that you can keep for long term?

I just feel it may be a waste if they spent all those draft picks to move up to get Watkins and can only keep him for 4-5 years.

Thanks,
Bruce
CB: You make a great point and I understand your concern. Ultimately though the Bills are going to take the best player they can get for their team regardless of agent affiliation. Yes, they took a risk moving up the board, but they felt strongly that Watkins would put them over the top and into the postseason. It came at a cost and we won’t know if their calculated risk pays off until the 2014 season plays out.

With respect to Watkins long term future, I know the track record for second contracts to keep that guy’s clients in Buffalo isn’t strong, but let’s watch the kid play for a year or two before everyone starts to worry about those things.

 

5 – Chris
There is no question Watkins is a top talent..but what are your thoughts on the trade overall?  My opinion is that if you want to trade a first round pick it better be for a franchise quarterback…

CB: What you have to remember is a general rule of thumb is if you’re trading a pick that is in the following year it typically requires an increase of one round (a two this year equals a one next year). So if you don’t want to trade a second-round pick this year the way for a GM to get around that is to offer a first in the following year.

We can debate how equitable the trade was all day long, but I think this team hasn’t had a true number one wideout since Eric Moulds was in his prime. It was an absolute must for EJ Manuel’s development. He will help the 28th passing offense from 2013 take a big step forward and potentially into playoff contention.

I think after 14 years of missing the playoffs a bold move was required. Something drastic to end the postseason drought. You couldn’t find a more talented option in this draft class.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins grateful for C.J.’s help

Posted by Chris Brown on May 15, 2014 – 9:42 pm

Moving to a new city can be a daunting task for a 21-year old set to begin an NFL career. That’s why Bills top pick Sammy Watkins is so grateful to have fellow Clemson alum C.J. Spiller as a teammate.

Appearing on NFL Total Access Thursday night Watkins talked about what a big help Spiller has been in helping him get acclimated to things at One Bills Drive.

“We have six Clemson guys here. The transition has been so much easier because they know what goes on around here,” said Watkins. “They know what to do and the coaches. Since I have been here [C.J.] has been helping me out tremendously. Just the professionalism that he has right now and trying to teach me the ropes of this system that goes on with working out, eating right. He has been helping me out a lot.”

Watkins credits Spiller as the main reason he left Florida to enroll at Clemson. Now he’s following Spiller’s lead again in Buffalo.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins: Nothing but speed on the field

Posted by Chris Brown on May 8, 2014 – 11:54 pm

With the addition of Sammy Watkins to Buffalo’s offense there is another player with sub 4.5 speed on the field. As the Bills rookie receiver sees it there is speed to burn on the Bills attack.

“It could be a fast paced offense,” Watkins told Buffalobills.com. “You have nothing but speed out there on the field. You’ve got great guys who have already been in the game, veterans. You’ve got a great receivers coach that played the game and knows the game and knows how to get the athletes the ball. It’s going to be a great team. You’ve got another outstanding receiver in Stevie Johnson there and I can come there and learn from him and start my career.”

Adding Watkins speed to that of Marquise Goodwin (4.27) and T.J. Graham (4.41) in particular gives Buffalo three wideouts with sub 4.45 speed. Add in C.J. Spiller’s 4.3 speed and it’s a lightning quick offense.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

What Spiller will say to Watkins

Posted by Chris Brown on May 8, 2014 – 11:46 pm

Bills RB C.J. Spiller is one of Sammy Watkins newest teammates. Having both played their college ball at Clemson they’ve crossed paths a lot over the past four years. Spiller was naturally over the moon about Watkins being added to Buffalo’s offense in round one of the 2014 NFL draft. He realizes that Watkins’ phone is probably blowing up, but here’s what he plans to tell Watkins when he gets a hold of him.

“First I’m just going to congratulate him. Just going through the draft and the process. I’ll just keep it brief because a lot of people are going to be calling him,” said Spiller. “A lot of texts and his social media will be blowing up. I’ll congratulate him and let him know that I’ll be back in town next week and if he needs a place to stay my home is always open to him. He can stay there if he wants. We’ll just keep it short and brief and let him enjoy it with his family because he deserves it.”

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

C.J. picked to have a big bounce back year

Posted by Chris Brown on April 15, 2014 – 5:27 pm

While the NFL.com report that the Eagles called the Bills to inquire about C.J. Spiller perked up the ears of Bills fans, you might be more encouraged about the outlook for Spiller’s 2014 season with Buffalo.

NFL.com’s Marc Sessler says that C.J. Spiller is one of his strong bets to bounce back big in 2014. Here’s what he wrote.

RB CJ Spiller, Buffalo Bills: Spiller is running and cutting on the ankle that bothered him all last season and told the team’s official site last month, “I definitely feel that explosion coming back to how I was in 2012.” One former scout suggested the X-factor was never healthy during a campaign that saw Spiller fall from 6.0 yards per carry in 2012 to 4.3 one season ago. Spiller’s 456 yards after contact in 2013 were a shadow of the 742 he dialed up the year before, but that didn’t stop Chip Kelly and theEagles from wanting him in a trade. Buffalo wasn’t about to part ways with their most explosive weapon.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills draft pick positions overall rounds 1-7

Posted by Chris Brown on March 27, 2014 – 4:59 pm

C.J. Spiller

We knew Buffalo would be picking ninth in each round of the 2014 NFL draft, but with all the compensatory picks now handed out, we now know the pick overall in each round for the Bills as well. Here’s a look at players the Bills have drafted in those overall slots including four players on the current roster.

Round 1 – 9th overall
1968 WR Haven Moses San Diego State
2010 RB C.J. Spiller Clemson

Round 2 – 41st overall
1984 WR Eric Richardson San Jose State
2008 WR James Hardy Indiana
2010 NT Torell Troup Central Florida
2012 T Cordy Glenn Georgia
2013 WR Robert Woods USC

Round 3 – 73rd overall
1977 WR John Kimbrough St. Cloud 

Round 4 – 109th overall
1970 LB Steve Starnes Tampa
1976 LB Dan Jilek Michigan
1987 DT Leon Seals Jackson State
1989 WR John Kolesar Michigan
1995 DB Ken Irvin Memphis State
2004 TE Tim Euhus Oregon State 

Round 5 – 149th overall
1967 DE Bill Wilkerson Texas El Paso (formerly Texas Western)

Round 6 – 185th overall
1971 RB Tyrone Walls Missouri
1995 DE Shannon Clavelle Colorado
1997 T Marcus Spriggs Houston

Round 7 – 224th overall 
1995 RB Darick Holmes Portland State
2008 WR Stevie Johnson Kentucky


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Posted in Inside the Bills