Inside The Bills

Marrone on adding another RB – “Probably”

Posted by Chris Brown on October 20, 2014 – 4:05 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone is down a pair of running backs for the foreseeable future. Without Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, Marrone has just Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown healthy at running back. He also has FB Frank Summers. So when asked about the possibility of adding another back Marrone said the chances are good.

“Probably. I think we’ll probably do something,” he said. “I think a lot of it depends on where Fred is at, but yeah I would say yes we could bring somebody in. We’ll have to discuss those things.”


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What Brown & Dixon learned from Fred & C.J.

Posted by Chris Brown on October 20, 2014 – 2:12 pm

Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are both out indefinitely after suffering injuries Sunday, but since Bryce Brown and Boobie Dixon were added to Buffalo’s roster in the offseason, the team’s top two backs made sure to help their two backups learn the offense and handle any and all assignments. Now all of the time they invested in Dixon and Brown needs to pay off. Both Brown and Dixon feel they’re ready due in large part to the efforts of Jackson and Spiller.

Both Brown and Dixon were asked what they’ve learned from Jackson and Spiller since they’ve been on Buffalo’s roster.

“I just learned the rhythm of the offense and the pace that I have to work at to hit the holes clean,” said Dixon. “They’ve been doing it for two years now and this is my first year so I’m still trying to get in rhythm with it. But I’m learning the tempo I have to have to hit the holes and keep the offense going.”

“Those guys have taken me under their wing and they’ve helped me out,” said Brown. “Watching C.J. and watching Fred, guys who have had success and played on a high level for many years, that benefits me. I know people say it’s frustrating (not playing), but I had an opportunity to watch these guys and learn from these guys. I told them (Sunday night) that I’m praying for their speedy recovery because those guys are the heart and soul of our team. Whether they’re on the field or not we can’t win without them so their presence is definitely needed.”

 


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Marrone update on RB situation

Posted by Chris Brown on October 19, 2014 – 7:37 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone didn’t reveal a whole lot about the injuries sustained by C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, but he sounds like he’s already planning to be without both of them come next Sunday against the Jets.

“Yeah, they’re out,” said Marrone. “C.J. [Spiller] will be out for an undetermined amount of time. I think that’s out there already, from what they told me. We’re going to look at Fred [Jackson]. We really don’t have any timetable on that. We have Boobie [Dixon] and then, obviously, we have Bryce [Brown]. It’s not like we have to go out on the street to get somebody to come in. I have no problem bringing up Bryce. We talked about him last week, which I hoped wasn’t a jinx.”

Spiller reportedly has a broken collar bone, while Jackson’s groin injury will be re-evaluated on Monday.


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Dixon ready to go in wake of Fred, CJ injuries

Posted by Chris Brown on October 19, 2014 – 7:32 pm

Fred Jackson left the game in the first quarter with a bad looking groin injury. C.J. Spiller was carted off with what’s been reported as a broken collar bone. There’s a very good chance that the duties of the run game will fall squarely on the shoulders of Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown. Dixon knows he was largely brought in to be the go-to guy if there were a rash of injuries at running back. After this week’s casualty list he assures that he’s ready for an increase in his workload.

Dixon has respect for Jackson and Spiller, as well as gratitude. The two backs have been schooling Dixon up on the protections knowing Dixon is new to their offensive scheme.

“Watching Fred and watching C.J. they got me ready,” said Dixon. “They’re talking to me all the time, letting me know what I need to do, what I need to be looking at. Where my eyes need to be. So when my time came, I was ready (Sunday). It’s a credit to them also.”

When asked if their potential absence from the lineup this coming week changes things, Dixon doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think it does,” he said. “We’re all pros. It’s the NFL. One guy goes down, another guy has to step up. We got me, we got Bryce. We got Frank.  And I think we’re ready to go.”

In Sunday’s game Dixon averaged 3.9  a carry as he rushed 13 times for 51 yards.


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Hackett on using C.J. and Sammy

Posted by Chris Brown on October 19, 2014 – 10:55 am

They are two of the most physically gifted players in the entire league, but in the eyes of some C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins haven’t been utilized enough in Buffalo’s offense. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett commented on the number of offensive plays run by the Bills the participation of Spiller and Watkins in those plays.

Through the first six games Spiller and Watkins have had the ball put in their hands on 28 percent of the offensive plays run, with 107 combined carries and receptions out of 382 plays run. When asked if they need to get more involved more often Hackett said that is always the plan.

“Of course. There are all kinds of things and those kinds of things need to be executed the right way,” Hackett said. “Sometimes it looks like they might not have been a priority, but they probably were and some circumstances changed that. I think whenever you have those guys on the field you always want to try to highlight them as much as you can.”

Hackett denied that Watkins was ignored in last week’s game against the Patriots because he was being covered by Darrelle Revis.

“No, I think we wanted to utilize him in certain situations,” said Hackett. “We wanted to let him work on him a little bit and then once we came out in the second half we targeted him and he started doing a good job so it’s one of those things where he’s young and we wanted him to get a feel for everything and then we start feeding him.”

Hackett also said they’d like to feed Spiller the ball as much as possible too, but he again came back to execution.

“(C.J. is) another guy we have to keep feeding him the ball and get him up field,” said Hackett. “When you get that opportunity to make a play the key is to take advantage of it. The thing with C.J. is he wants to sometimes do too much. We always say, ‘See three, get three.’ If he focuses on that he’ll hit his stride again.”


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Rush frequency impacted by time & score

Posted by Chris Brown on October 15, 2014 – 5:44 pm

The Bills run game has had its share of struggles not just this past week against New England, but the past three games. A good part of why is rooted in being behind on the scoreboard. Trailing in the game has contributed to calling more pass plays than usual, which is why Buffalo’s run percentage is down from what it was last season.

Last year when the Bills had the number two rushing offense in football they ran the ball 49 percent of the time. Over the last three games here is the run to pass figures for the offense.

Houston – 24 runs, 44 passes
Detroit – 22 runs, 43 passes
New England – 23 runs, 38 passes
—————————————-
Total – 69 runs, 125 passes

Three game run percentage – 35.5%
Three game pass percentage – 64.5%

“Obviously it’s very frustrating, but at the end of the day, the other teams do a great job of having a good game plan for trying to come in and trying to stop our running game. It’s going to take a group effort,” said C.J. Spiller. “Everybody has to do their job from the offensive line o the running backs to the tight ends to the receivers. It’s not going to be one person that just waves a magic wand around us and automatically change. It’s going to come from a group effort and we will. We’re working hard at it. The good thing is that we have another shot on Sunday to try and correct the mistakes.”

 


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Teammates backing EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on September 29, 2014 – 2:15 pm

Though the naysayers outside the walls of One Bills Drive have been very critical of Bills QB EJ Manuel, his teammates remain confident that their quarterback will get things done.

“My confidence is the same,” said C.J. Spiller. “It’s not a one man show but obviously in this league, the quarterback is really the focal point and the emphasis of wins and losses of teams. Obviously he didn’t have his best day and he didn’t get a lot of help either. We still have faith in him. He’s our starting quarterback. We’re going to back him.

“People are going to try to divide us and point fingers saying who should start and who shouldn’t start but we have all the confidence in the world that he’ll get the job done. Yesterday was one that just got away from him. He’ll learn from his mistakes, he takes it tough. But he’ll be fine, we’ll back him and we’ll make sure he’s ready for Detroit.”


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Texans’ ‘D’ wary of Bills team speed

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2014 – 9:37 am

Houston safety D.J. Swearinger said it earlier in the week and no one in the Texans’ locker room or on their coaching staff is denying Swearinger’s statement that the Bills have the fastest collection of skill players on offense in the league.

Texans’ defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel felt his safety’s statement about Buffalo’s skill position speed was pretty accurate.

“Well, speed is always dangerous,” Crennel said. “They’ve got a lot guys that run fast and play fast. When you are not able to match the speed, then you have to make sure you’re in position, use your leverage and use the proper techniques so that you can make a play. And then generally if you can keep it from being a one-on-one game with speed and then use more than one guy to help contain the speed, then you give yourself a chance.”

“They’re fast. They’re fast across the board,” said Houston head coach Bill O’Brien. “Obviously (Sammy) Watkins is fast. C.J. (Spiller) is fast. Fred Jackson is fast. (Robert) Woods is fast. I would agree with D.J. there. I haven’t seen all the teams yet. Maybe he has. He might know better than me. They’re one of the faster teams that’s for sure. I don’t think there is any slow teams in this league though.”

“You have to be pretty aware of it because they have players,” said Texans’ OLB Whitney Mercilus. “C.J. Spiller, also you’ve got Sammy Watkins, so the thing is you’ve got to be very attentive to some of those guys and all that.”

 

 

 


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Goodwin, Spiller added to injury report

Posted by Chris Brown on September 25, 2014 – 3:29 pm

The Bills had a pair of additions to their injury report Thursday. C.J. Spiller was added to the report with a chest injury, but was a full participant and is not expected to miss any practice time the rest of the week. Marquise Goodwin however, saw his injury designation changed from an illness to a head injury. Head coach Doug Marrone confirmed that Goodwin is currently going through the league-mandated concussion protocol.

Player Pos Injury Participation Thursday
Marcus Easley WR Knee DNP
Randell Johnson LB Knee DNP
Chris Williams G Back DNP
Marquise Goodwin WR Concussion DNP
Keith Rivers LB Groin LP
Da’Norris Searcy S Ankle LP
Sammy Watkins WR Ribs FP
Robert Woods WR Ankle FP
EJ Manuel QB Abdomen FP
CJ Spiller RB Chest FP

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Penalties magnified with no turnovers

Posted by Chris Brown on September 22, 2014 – 2:45 pm

A team that has a high number of penalties in a game can sometimes get away with it if they win the turnover battle. On Sunday in what was a turnover free game between Buffalo and San Diego, the Bills’ 11 penalties were magnified.

The most costly infraction were the two defensive penalties in the red zone that gave the Chargers a fresh set of downs in first-and-goal situations. Defensive penalties gave San Diego five first downs in the game. Meanwhile on offense two of their longest plays from scrimmage were wiped out by penalty. C.J. Spiller’s 29-yard run and Robert Woods 21-yard catch were also taken away by penalties.

“Against a good team like that, a playoff team, a team that’s very experienced, you can’t have many mistakes, especially the penalties,” Spiller said. “You need every yard you can get. Just because of the way the game was going. Obviously, we see that they were trying to milk the clock and keep our offense off the field. Every chance we got we should have taken advantage of it because we didn’t get too many.  At the end of the day it is what it is.  We’ll correct those mistakes.  The only thing we can do is get better.”

After facing a team that made the playoffs last year Spiller believes the players on his team see the difference.

“We’re not where we want to be,” he said. “Penalties really killed us, that’s no excuse. Now we see where we need to be at to be a playoff contender.  I don’t think they made too many mistakes yesterday and that’s what playoff teams do.  You have to minimize those mistakes and the penalties.  We have to do that to take that leap.  But I think we’ll be fine.  There’s a lot of football left to be played.  It’s just one loss.  Obviously, it’s disappointing.  The only thing we can do is regroup and get ready for the Texans.”


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Fan Friday 9-19

Posted by Chris Brown on September 19, 2014 – 11:45 am

Week 3 and the Chargers are coming in. Should be a tight game. Let’s get to your questions this week on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills Does potentially bad weather this weekend favor the Bills?

BrianGriffo

CB: I would tend to think so. Buffalo’s run game is vastly superior to that of San Diego’s. The Chargers have found it difficult to get their run game on track, though in their defense they’ve faced to pretty strong defenses in Arizona and Seattle. But without starter Ryan Mathews (sprained MCL), who is not expected to play a rainy day would favor Buffalo’s ground game.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Will we see Bryce Brown at all this year ?

kochsteve44

CB: That’s difficult to determine at this point. It seems clear that the coaching staff wants a fullback active (Frank Summers) with three tailbacks on game day (Dixon, Jackson, Spiller). If one of the top three backs sustains an injury then it’s likely we see Brown, but if not, based on the first two weeks he’ll be the inactive player from that position group.

 

3 – @ChrisBrownBills Who is more primed for a ‘letdown’ both after big emotional wins. SD, does have the cross country trip.

rahdoo

CB: You are correct the Chargers do have to come east, which is never easy. They’re leaving a day early (today) to get their body clocks adjust to the time change. Last year San Diego was 3-2 playing in the Eastern time zone including their AFC Wild Card playoff win at Cincinnati.

Against the Bills they’ve dropped three of their last four played at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

I don’t know that either team is more susceptible to a letdown than the other. Both are coming off big wins. I think the Bills strengths match up more favorably than the Chargers strengths, but that advantage is not a big one.

 

4 – Chris,

What is Marquise Goodwin’s role on this team? He played sparingly in Chicago, and overall has not produced much at all since the Jets game at Home last season. Are the coaches going to use him?

He is a 3rd Round pick that seemingly is not on the radar screen with the offensive coaches.

In limited playing time last year, he had 3 TDs on only 17 receptions.

How does a man with 4.27 wheels not get the call to test deep once or twice a game? Or get a bubble screen once a game?

I would hate to see a similar fate for Goodwin, as our other speedster TJ Graham, who was a 3rd Round pick as well.

Thanks,
Brian
CB: Through the first two weeks Goodwin has gotten 21 plays out of a total of 116, which is about 18 percent of the snaps. The fact of the matter is the Bills took steps to upgrade their receiving corps with Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams the primary additions. Both sit at the top of the depth chart with Robert Woods.

That leaves Goodwin in the fourth spot, but through the first two weeks the Bills have largely used 11 (1 back, 1 TE, 3 WR) or 12 (1 back, 2 TEs) personnel. There have been few four-wide sets.

I don’t know this, but it appears as though the Bills have a specific package of plays in the game plan for Goodwin each week, and that package only spans 10-15 plays. Could it increase based on the opponent? Yes. Could it stay the same the whole season? Yes again.

Obviously injuries at the receiver position will also impact how much Goodwin sees the field on offense as the season wears on. Ultimately it’s up to the coaches how much or how little they choose to use him on offense.

 

5 – Hey Chris,

After watching the Bills lately, it seems like Hackett and Marrone have the offense operating very well. My one question is, why don’t they use Dixon and Jackson earlier, to wear down the defense, and then later in the game use CJ to really explode?

Thanks,
Tommy H.

CB: I don’t want to speak for coach Marrone, but Spiller’s home run ability is the difference maker here. Knowing that any carry or reception by Spiller could go the distance almost mandates that he be on the field throughout the course of the game. I also think that Spiller and Jackson offer good differing changes of pace, where Dixon and Jackson might be too similar and allow the opposing defense to get a better read on run plays.

 


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Bills go back to back on Spec. Tms. POW

Posted by Chris Brown on September 17, 2014 – 10:13 am

In Week 1 it was K Dan Carpenter earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. In Week 2 C.J. Spiller took the honors thanks in large part to his 102-yard kick return for a touchdown, Buffalo’s first six-point score of the game in the win over Miami. It’s not often that players on the same team win the conference Player of the Week honor back to back.

In fact this is the first time Bills players have won AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors back to back since 1994 when P Chris Mohr in Week 2 and Steve Christie in Week 3 won in consecutive weeks.

One could make the case that Carpenter could’ve won the award again in Week 2. After his 11-point performance including the game-winning FG in Week 1 at Chicago, Carpenter had a 17-point day against Miami.


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Fred: We’ve got to keep our heads on straight

Posted by Chris Brown on September 15, 2014 – 8:55 am

The Bills are 2-0 for the first time since a 3-0 start in 2011. Having been on that 2011 team and see that club finish 6-10 Fred Jackson isn’t going to let anybody feel good for too long about winning their first two games.

“We’re excited about being 2-0 but we just have to keep coming to work,” said Jackson. “It’s a great start but it’s just a start. We know we have to keep coming to work and that there will be more tests throughout the season and as long as guys keep making plays we like our chances.”

Offensively speaking Jackson has two areas in particular where he feels they’ve got to improve and fast.

“Even with a win you have to look around and see what you can do better,” he said. “Third-downs, we can do better on third downs. Red-zone, we’ve got to focus on that. There’s a lot that we can take away from this game. We’ve got to score more points and we know that as an offensive unit. Our defense did a great job, and we’ve got plenty of stuff we can work on offense.”

Buffalo finished 1-for-6 (17%) in the red zone and 5-for-15 (33%) on third down.

“At the end of the day, the offense we’re looking at 17 percent, that’s unacceptable in the red zone,” said C.J. Spiller. “To get where we want to go we’ve got to be a whole lot better. We’ll look at the tape, see the things that we probably missed and clean it up and try to come back next weekend and be a whole lot stronger. On third down, we were 33 percent, nowhere near what our goal is. There are some things we’ve got to clean up to put us in a better position to be able to be efficient.”

 


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Marrone addresses C.J. on kick return

Posted by Chris Brown on September 6, 2014 – 9:34 am

The Bills primary kick returner on Sunday will be C.J. Spiller. In his weekly interview on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 Friday, head coach Doug Marrone explained his process in reaching that decision.

Marrone was asked if Spiller was chosen because Marquise Goodwin is not fully healthy. Here was his response.

“I would say Goodwin is healthy, but he’s banged up so we went in there with C.J. and C.J. is a great kick returner,” said Marrone. “We feel we have three great kick returners. We’re very fortunate. We have C.J. and Marquise Goodwin and Sammy Watkins. So we have three guys we feel we can put back there.”

Spiller having done it for his entire college career as well as his first two seasons in Buffalo is looking forward to the return duties.

“I’ve done it before so it’s nothing new to me, it’s like second nature,” Spiller said. “I’ve done it my whole career so it’s not like it’s something that’s brand new. I feel comfortable fielding the ball and protecting it and giving us the best field position possible.”

When asked if Spiller has free license to bring any fieldable kick out on a return no matter how deep it is in the end zone, Marrone indicated that it’s more a case of kick hang time than distance.

“We have some rules,” he said. “If it’s nine yards deep and it’s not a long hang time let’s take it out, but if it’s nine yards deep and a five second hang time let’s take a knee. It all depends on what we want to do. If it’s right for us yes we want him to take it out.”

 


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Fan Friday 9-5

Posted by Chris Brown on September 5, 2014 – 11:45 am

Well Bills fans the regular season is here. Let’s hope Buffalo can get off to a good start in Chicago, even though the Bears do very well when they open the season at home (18-3) since 1984. On to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net or on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,

How is Chris Williams doing at left guard?  Is he getting any competition from any of the other guys?  Having signed him as a free agent, is it still possible that the Bills will look to one of their other offensive linemen to take the spot?

Paul Blachowicz
Lancaster NY

CB: This is a hard one to answer because he’s been in and out of the lineup so much this preseason. He missed the last three preseason games with a back injury so it’s been difficult to judge any kind of progress in terms of chemistry with his new line mates in games. His teammates have taken well to him and head coach Doug Marrone said he is the unequivocal starter at left guard, even though rookie Cyril Richardson spelled him in the lineup when he was out. Richardson looks like the only realistic threat to Williams’ position in the starting lineup and Williams play would really have to falter for that to happen the way it looks right now.

 
2 – Hi Chris,

My question is why does everybody from analysts to announcers call EJ a mobile, read option type QB? From what I can tell running is not the strongest part of his game at all. Sure he’s had a few good runs when the defense is in man coverage and it’s wide open but just about every QB in the league can do that. Maybe he’s not being decisive enough and isn’t running full speed, but his acceleration doesn’t seem to be all that which is what I would think is a QB’s best friend when scrambling. When he’s throwing the ball well I have no problem with him being our QB, but it seems to me he’s getting this stereotype which doesn’t fit him.

Dan

CB: I’m going to assume that you’re referring mainly to TV broadcasters. Unfortunately I don’t hear the television broadcast because I’m working the game too in the press box. If there are a lot of references to EJ being a mobile QB I haven’t heard it. Yes, he has the mobility to make yards with his legs when things break down or to escape a collapsing pocket, but he has even said himself he wants to be a passing QB that can run when absolutely necessary.

 

 

3 – @ChrisBrownBills Has Cyrus gotten any looks at guard in practice, or solely at tackle?

RDotDeuce

CB: Cyrus Kouandjio has been working strictly at offensive tackle. I have not seen any reps for him at the guard position. First of all Kouandjio is a very long-limbed player and knowing a guard needs to really win on leverage inside, it may prove more difficult for him than other taller tackles that a coach might want to shift in to guard. Second, it’s clear that the coaches want to get him as many reps as possible at tackle. He just turned 21-years old, he’s still growing into his frame and simply needs time on the job. The more reps he gets every day in practice at tackle the shorter the learning curve gets for him to be ready to contribute.

 

4 – @ChrisBrownBills will we see vanilla Defense scheme allowing Cutler 6 seconds to pick secondary apart?

Kenjones1999

CB: I think here are two things you need to keep in mind regarding Sunday’s opponent and Buffalo’s defense. First, Cutler never needs six seconds to get the ball out. The Bears offense is largely based on three step drops. It’s very difficult to sack Cutler, which is why Chicago gave up the third-fewest sacks in the league last season (30).

All that being said the Bills defense will not be vanilla. I’m assuming you’re referring to how Jim Schwartz often relied on his front four to rush the quarterback in Detroit and routinely dropped seven into coverage. That won’t happen a whole lot this season. The reason why is for the first time in a long time Schwartz has quality cover corners in Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, which gives him the liberty of sending extra rushers on passing downs.

I’m not certain we’ll see a lot of extra blitzers this week because of how quickly Cutler gets it out, but through the course of the season we’ll see a variety of looks from coach Schwartz.

 

5 – @ChrisBrownBills Great work Chris! Does #1 on depth chart chart for kickoff returns (Spiller) mean more 1st down touches for Freddy?

superdoops74

CB: I would not assume that Fred Jackson will see more first down work following a kickoff return by C.J. Spiller. Spiller addressed that very question this week, so I’ll let him explain why that might only be in the case in a few situations this season.

“If Fred sees me break a 50 or 60 yarder (on a kickoff) he’ll start the offense off,” said Spiller. “If not I’ll just stay out there and start the series, but the good thing is he’s always watching making sure that I’m good. That’s what it takes, another set of eyes because you want to make sure you’re full speed and you can give your team the best of your ability. I do a great job of judging when I need to start on the offensive series and when I need to come out. I have no worries at all about that.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller not worried about wear and tear

Posted by Chris Brown on September 4, 2014 – 2:57 pm

With the news this week that C.J. Spiller will serve as the primary kick returner for the Bills in addition to his offensive duties there has been some concern outside the organization about the toll the extra duty will take on his body. For Spiller it’s not even a remote concern.

“Not at all,” he said. “I do a great job of taking care of my body, getting in the cold tub and getting massages. I’m not really worried about wear and tear at all. I’m young. I’ve got a long while before I’ll have wear and tear.”

Spiller, who in his career has averaged 182 touches a season, isn’t worried if he has an extra 20 or so touches on kick returns.

With the kickoff line moved up to the 35, teams don’t have many opportunities to return kicks anyway. Last year Buffalo had just 23 kick returns all season. So in essence it would push Spiller’s touch total to just over 200.

“They’re trying to get rid of it,” said Spiller, who last returned kicks for the Bills prior to the line being moved up to the 35. “Kick return is a huge momentum swing because the offense can go down and put a great drive up and score and then if your kick return team has a good return or even takes it to the house it swings the momentum back. That’s why I love doing it and love watching just because of the momentum it brings.”


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Aaron, C.J. named as top breakout candidates

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 9:48 am

The Bills have a lot of young talent on their roster with starting experience. Two such players hold so much promise that they made a list of top breakout candidates for 2014.

On a Top 25 Breakout Players list for 2014 put together by Rant Sports, S Aaron Williams was listed 16th. RB C.J. Spiller meanwhile was ranked number one overall. Here is what was written about each of them.

16. Aaron Williams, SS, Buffalo Bills
A disappointment in his first two NFL seasons, Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams came on strong in 2013. Williams’ game still needs some refinement, but he showed he has the talent to succeed and should be ready to improve even more in 2014.

1. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Once upon a time, C.J. Spiller was viewed as perhaps the most dangerous playmaker in the entire NFL. However, after some major consistency and injury problems, Spiller’s reputation has fallen off a bit. That said, Spiller still has the talent to become one of the best running backs in the NFL, and I think 2014 is the year Spiller will put it all together.

 


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Bills ‘O’ not happy, but ready to move on

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:22 pm

Buffalo’s players on offense were obviously disappointed with their first half showing on Saturday, but they’re also not going to let the shortcomings of their performance negatively impact them moving forward.

“I wouldn’t say discouraged, but disappointment,” said C.J. Spiller. “Everybody saw what we did, with me having that fumble and turnovers and penalties that killed us. If you want to be considered one of the best you can’t have those type of things and Saturday that took place.”

“This is a preseason game that we can’t allow to linger,” said Fred Jackson. “What we’ve got to do is go in, look at film, make corrections and move on. That’s what we’ll do. We’ve got a team full of a lot of resilient guys. We can’t let this define us as a team. We have to continue to go in and focus, don’t pay attention to the outside noise and do our job.”

“The  biggest thing is we cant let this game define our season. If we let this linger on into the season we’re in trouble. Obviously, it’s disappointing and it wasn’t our best effort.  But at the end of the day, we’ve got to watch the tape and we got to be able to move on. That’s what great teams do.  They’re able to put good games and bad games behind them and move forward.  If we want to get to that level we have to do that.”


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Fan Friday 8-22

Posted by Chris Brown on August 22, 2014 – 12:53 pm

The preseason is winding down. Almost time for the real stuff. Let’s get to your latest round of questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – When are the Bills going to address Spiller’s contract?  Is he going to be another Bills 1st rounder they don’t sign and let them leave?

Thanks,
Steve Lehmann
Life-long Bills fan in Charlotte, NC

CB: The current issue concerning Spiller and opening discussions on a new contract is he is currently without representation. The Bills’ back does not have an agent right now and GM Doug Whaley stated recently that the club will wait until Spiller has secured proper representation before approaching him to negotiate a possible extension.

 

2 – Hey Chris,
Of course us Bills fans are constantly hearing a lot about EJ Manuel in training camp and his “ups and downs”.  The one term I hear used a lot is that he is patting the ball before he throws it.  I read that this can give the defender an extra step because when they see that they know he’s about to throw and it’s likely going to be in their lane. But I also read that it doesn’t always have a negative effect and in fact Drew Bledsoe was known to have a very quick release even though he pat the ball. I’ve also read that this is so the QB can make sure that the ball is secured in their hand before they throw it. Do you think this is something that EJ has to work on and do you think it is affecting his game in a negative way?

Also, a lot has been said about him not being able to read the field and get through his progressions.  Depending on who you listen to some say that’s something you have or you don’t.  But I think that he just needs more time and game time experience and maybe the experience will allow him to get used to the speed of the NFL.  I am interested in your thoughts.

Thanks always, Jillian

CB: There’s no denying that there have been times that EJ has patted the ball or hesitated to pull the trigger. I think all young quarterbacks go through that as part of their learning curve. I will say that Manuel is doing less of it now than he was at the start of training camp.

The patting of the ball is not the concern as much as does EJ trust what he’s seeing unfold around him? Over the past week or so the answer has been unequivocally yes. Now that doesn’t mean that EJ is going to start lighting it up every week on the field, but there is noticeable progress.

We’ll just have to wait and see how more time on the field in games brings his personal game along.

3 – Hello Chris,

Great coverage. I enjoy your analytical approach to our Buffalo Bills. Speaking of just that, I noticed that the Bills were #1 on fumbles last season at 32 according to NFL.com. The data that I saw had:

Combined Fumbles:
Spiller/Jackson at 10
E.J./Lewis/Tuel at 8
Goodwin/Graham/Johnson/Chandler at 6

I couldn’t account for the remainder so I am not terribly confident about the 32 fumbles. I don’t hear much conversation around that stat by reporters (if it’s correct). I would think that with the loss of Byrd and his take away ability that the coaches and media would make that a point of extreme emphasis in achieving a better giveaway/takeaway ratio, which is one of the keys in winning in the NFL.

Color me confused,
Alan from Northeastern NY

CB: To provide a clear picture of the fumble numbers from last season here are all the statistics. First, yes the Bills did have 32 fumbles in 2013 and that did lead the league. However, only 12 of those fumbles resulted in turnovers. That ranked sixth-most in the league.

Part of the reason there were so many fumbles was because the Bills had the most total rushes in the NFL (546). The more plays you have, in general the more fumbles you’re going to have.

Now all that being said the Bills still ranked first in the percentage of fumbles per touch (1.97%). There were only five other teams in the league with a percentage over 1.7 percent (Was., Oak., Sea., Ten., NYG).

So you’re right it is a legitimate concern. Really what it comes down to is ball security, having the proper points of pressure on the ball with your forearm, ribs and fingers and carrying it high and tight. When I get a chance I’ll see if coach Wheatley has any extra insight on it based on last season’s numbers.

 
4 – Chris,

As usual, thank you for the outstanding coverage from you and your staff, especially for those of us outside of NY State.

My question: The first 2 preseason games, I’ve noticed the offense has predominantly used the standard “huddle” before running plays. Gone is the no huddle or hurry up Offense that we’ve heard was going to be the norm. The Bills ran 64 total plays against the Giants 61 and 63 against Carolinas 69. A difference of -3 for both games. Will the Bills be scrapping the hurry up offense this year?  Thank you.

Steve
Pismo Beach, CA

CB: I have faith that the Bills will run their no huddle on offense this season. I don’t think you should expect it to be deployed on ever series of every game. Yes, they do want to go fast and I think there’s a good chance we see some of it on Saturday night against Tampa Bay, but Doug Marrone has said it will be slowed down or sped up based on game situations and on game plans for the particular opponent they’re facing that week.

Quite frankly that makes the most sense. For example, if you’re facing a club with a top five scoring offense, going fast for the whole game might not be the way to go knowing you run the risk of giving their top flight offense more possessions and the potential to score more points too.
5 – Hey Chris,

After the performance by Ron Brooks in the Carolina game, I’m wondering if the Bills are thinking of possibly moving Leodis. Brooks seems to have turned the corner, but he’d be corner #6 on the roster. Do you see him making the roster or getting unfortunately cut?

Thanks,
Tommy in the Pittsford branch of #Billsmafia!

CB: Brooks has had his best camp to date in his career with Buffalo. He was very consistent and got a lot of quality reps with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin slow to return to the team portions of practice in camp coming off of hip surgeries.

Brooks is essentially running as the fourth cornerback behind Gilmore, McKelvin and Graham if you consider Nickell Robey strictly a slot corner. So right now he’s in the top five at cornerback with rookie Ross Cockrell the likely number 6. So I think Brooks is in great shape to make the roster at this point.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-15

Posted by Chris Brown on August 15, 2014 – 5:07 pm

Ok fans an important week for the Bills is in the books. The passing game really took a step forward this week in Latrobe. Let’s hope it carries into the game Saturday night against the Steelers. In the meantime let’s get to your latest round of questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills

1 – Hi Chris,

Long time reader of your articles – including your Fan Friday.

I’ve noticed EJ and Woods are playing with visors in camp. Is this new and can we expect them to wear them in the regular season? To me, it makes a lot of sense for EJ – as it shadows the ability for the defence to see where he’s going to throw too or what he’s looking at. Is that the intention here? What scope do you have on this? Overall, I think they look fierce. But I highly doubt that’s the reasoning behind wearing them…

Thanks,
Mike Barwick

CB: Yes, they and a handful of other players wear visors. Some are shaded and some are clear. The shaded ones are designed to act like sunglasses in most cases. For receivers that’s important when they’re looking up for a ball, not unlike an outfielder in baseball. It helps keep them from losing a ball in the sun. Whether EJ’s primary purpose is the same I don’t know, but I’ll ask him. The other reason for the visors is to keep from getting poked in the eye, which is something that could happen to Manuel if a pass rusher is reaching out to block a pass, misses and connects with the helmet.
2 – Hey Chris,

I am very excited for the 2014 season, looking at the roster it seems a lot of the decisions made on the draft and free agency the last three years we’re really good ones. The depth is so good this year I haven’t heard too much about Ron Brooks.  I really like watching Ron Brooks I know he has had some injuries but where do you think he stands with the team? Do you think we will see him playing corner this season or just as a special teams player? Always appreciate your time.

Alexander Albanese
Toronto

CB: Brooks has had a pretty solid camp. He’s been afforded the opportunity of getting a ton of reps due to the limited participation of starting corners Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore who are both coming off offseason surgeries. He’s been running opposite Corey Graham in training camp at cornerback with the first team defense.

Brooks has performed well, but at times still has trouble with the bigger wideouts due mainly to his stature. He’s got great catch up speed and is sudden in his breaks on the ball. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes him so I anticipate him being one of the top five corners on the roster. How many they keep is the bigger question.
3 – Chris,

I couldn’t help notice the pass rush has been extremely productive in the spring and training camp. My question is do you feel that’s due to the talent of the DE’s or is it a product of inconsistency on the offensive line with Glenn being out and other shuffling that’s been going on. Appreciate the training camp coverage and can’t wait for the season. Also one more thing, is there a schedule that lists which practices are full contact?

Dan T.
Western MA

CB: It’s a bit of both. Jerry Hughes might be the most impressive of the front four when it comes to pass rush consistency. Of course that’s been helped by the fact that rookie Seantrel Henderson has been manning the starting left tackle role in Cordy Glenn’s absence. But make no mistake that group is pretty special.

Unfortunately no we don’t have a schedule for the public that lists full pads, shells or shorts and helmets. Typically once the preseason games start however, full pads practices are earlier in the week.

 

4 – Hey Chris,

Jerry Hughes had a tremendous season last year rushing the passer and it’s clear that Doug Whaley pioneered an amazing trade to get him when the Indianapolis Colts were looking to go in a different direction. And if Training Camp is any indication, it sounds like we can expect a similar season this year. Through listening to a lot of people on the radio and around town locally, it seems that Jerry Hughes will not be able to be re-signed if he has another great year– almost as if it’s a foregone conclusion that they cannot keep a stout DE since he’ll be too pricey.

In my opinion, if you run a base 4-3, having a Mario Williams AND Jerry Hughes-caliber player would be extremely important (SEE Freeney and Mathis, Strahan and Umenyiora). I think they should find a way to pay him if he’s anything like last year’s player. An annoying thing of being a Bills fan is seeing the Bills actually draft great talent, develop it, and watch it walk away. And in this case, the Bills didn’t even have to draft him to get it. What are your thoughts?

Also, have you tried a garbage plate since being in Rochester? It probably goes outside the exercise regimen, but you gotta treat yourself to the finer local delicacies.

-Nate in Rochester
PS- Go Bills!
CB: In a perfect world yes they would be able to keep Jerry Hughes long term, but it’s a question of balance. Obviously the Bills would love to keep Hughes, but you have to look at the money invested on the rest of the defensive line.

The three highest cap figures on the entire team are the other three defensive linemen that Hughes lines up with. Mario Williams ($18.8M), Marcell Dareus ($6.49M) and Kyle Williams ($6.25M).

In 2015 those cap numbers go to $19M (Mario), $8.06M (Dareus) and $5.85M (Kyle). That’s a total of $32M for three members of the defensive line. If Hughes has another 10-sack season or more he’s likely to be asking for top 15 perhaps top 10 defensive end money.

Top 15 would put him somewhere between $6.5-$8M per season while top 10 would have him north of $8.5M per season.

I’m not saying the Bills won’t try to do it. It’s not my decision as to how the Bills choose to spend their money. I just know that investing that much of your cap dollars in one facet of your team is not a common practice.

All that being said there have been reports citing sources close to the process of setting the salary cap for the NFL that the cap, which went up a surprising $10M this past year to $133M could move as high as $145M in 2015. Would that extra cap space be enough to make the fourth major investment in the team’s defensive line? I’m not sure it is.

With respect to your garbage plate suggestion, I’m familiar with it having gone to college at SUNY Geneseo. In fact I won a bet by eating two in one sitting. Almost didn’t hold them down, but got through it.
5 – Do you see a scenario where Spiller is traded this year?  I’ve heard rumors, and with the Jackson extension, Brown trade, Dixon signing, and no first round pick it seems like an possible and unfortunate rumor…am I crazy for thinking this or can they keep all four running backs?

Sean from So Cal
P.S. See you in Chicago week 1!

CB: I’m sure you saw GM Doug Whaley dispel those rumors this week. First, Whaley said that he has not been contacted by any team expressing interest in C.J. Spiller. He later followed that up with Channel 7’s Jeff Russo in an interview later in the week where he said he has not reached out to any other team himself about C.J. Spiller.

As Whaley said himself he understands with all the talent in the Bills backfield why people are trying to connect the dots. I just think with the team in ‘win now’ mode it would be highly unlikely that they would trade one of their best playmaking assets on offense in Spiller.


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Posted in Inside the Bills