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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Spiller catching passes from EJ in Cali

Posted by Chris Brown on March 26, 2014 – 1:56 pm


In the offseason C.J. Spiller often heads to California for training in preparation for the next NFL season. This offseason is no different, but he had a workout partner this week from Buffalo’s roster.

Quarterback EJ Manuel joined Spiller out in California to work on more football related material than just pure training. Appearing on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Spiller outlined the work he and Manuel are doing.

“I feel good. I’m actually out here in California getting some throws in with EJ just trying to get some timing down,” said Spiller.

Spiller is also optimistic about how his ankle has come around since the end of the 2013 season.

“The ankle has been responding pretty well since the offseason started being able to plant and cut so I definitely feel that explosion coming back to how I was in 2012,” he said.

Spiller dealt with a high ankle sprain for most of last season and lacked his trademark burst and elusiveness.


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RBs draft value sliding in pass happy NFL

Posted by Chris Brown on February 19, 2014 – 10:03 am

The NFL is showing a propensity to lean toward the pass more and more every season. The beneficiaries have been wide receivers, offensive tackles and quarterbacks (the productive ones). The have nots are the running backs and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock sees their value as a commodity in the draft sliding.

“It has become a pass first league. If you look back the draft 40 years ago, running backs were the most valuable commodity there was,” Mayock said. “Today with all the spread offenses and teams throwing the football 60 to 70 percent of the time there has been a completely different emphasis in how you draft offensively. It starts at quarterback, it goes to wide receiver, a left tackle and even lately it’s even gone to what kind of tight end you can draft that can beat teams vertically on defense.

“So I do think it’s going to devalue running backs. I do think the good news is you can get in the second, third and fourth round and find different flavors of running backs. You’ll see some teams that will draft two or three running backs in one or two drafts just so they have a big back, a third down change of pace guy. I think that’s where the league has gone and will continue to go.”

The good news is a team like the Bills, who could be in the market to add some youth at the position behind C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson could wait until the middle rounds and still land a quality player.

For more Combine coverage presented by NAPA Auto Parts, click here.


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Mario, Spiller named All-ACC in BCS era

Posted by Chris Brown on January 13, 2014 – 5:14 pm

With the BCS era coming to a close with Florida State’s National title win over Auburn a week ago, ESPN put together their All-ACC team for the entire BCS era (1998-2014) and a pair of Bills appear on their roster.

Named the starting running back for the all-star team was C.J. Spiller. He was also named the unit’s return specialist.

On the defensive side of the ball Mario Williams, an N.C. State alum, was also named to the squad. Here’s what was written about the two college all timers.

RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller accounted for an ACC-record 191.4 yards per game and scored a touchdown in every game. Over his four-year career, he racked up more than 3,000 yards rushing, 2,000 yards in kickoff returns, 1,000 yards receiving and 500 yards in punt returns. 

RS — Spiller: One of the best return men of all time, Spiller set an ACC single-season record with four kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2009. He led the league in all-purpose yards in 2008 and 2009 and holds the ACC career mark in the category.

DL — Mario Williams, NC State: Williams was a force throughout his entire career, but most especially his junior season, when he set single-season school records with 14.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss en route to All-ACC honors. He became the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft in 2006. 


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Fred, C.J. play time breakdown

Posted by Chris Brown on January 2, 2014 – 5:09 pm

Injury played a large role in the division of playing time between Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in Buffalo’s backfield in 2012. It was again a factor in 2013, and likely will be every season knowing the punishment that running backs endure in the NFL. There were other factors that impacted the play time of the two backs this season.

Being the more accomplished pass protector, Jackson was on the field more often in third down situations. This was part of what tilted the playing time to the veteran back this past season. Spiller’s high-ankle sprain, which had a more detrimental effect on the assets of Spiller’s game (cutting ability, elusiveness, explosion) than Jackson’s sprained MCL affected the assets of his game (power, balance, strength).

Spiller suffered the high-ankle sprain in Week 4 against Baltimore, and re-injured it at Miami in Week 7. Jackson dealt with his sprained MCL for more than half the season as well.

Here’s a look back now at the week by week snap counts and play percentage for both Jackson and Spiller this season.

Week by week plays and play percentage

Player                    Jackson               Spiller
Week 1                 26 – 41%               37 – 59%
Week 2                 30 – 40%              44 – 59%
Week 3                 62 – 72%              19 – 22%
Week 4                 41 – 49%              31 – 37% (injured)
Week 5                 50 – 65%              13 – 17%
Week 6                 39 – 57%              17 – 25%
Week 7                 39 – 58%              14 – 21% (re-injured)
Week 8                 51 – 72%              DNP
Week 9                 41 – 51%              23 – 29%
Week 10              44 – 66%              22 – 33%
Week 11              36 – 54%              27 – 40%
Week 13              37 – 58%              24 – 38%
Week 14              37 – 55%              26 – 39%
Week 15              52 – 68%              22 – 29%
Week 16              42 – 53%              37 – 47%
Week 17              36 – 52%              33 – 48%
——————————————————-
Totals           663 plays             389 plays
Avg. plays/gm   41.4                        25.9


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C.J. on his pass game role

Posted by Chris Brown on January 1, 2014 – 9:31 am

As we profiled on Buffalobills.com today, C.J. Spiller is going to continue to have a major role in Buffalo’s offense even though things didn’t go according to plan in 2013 thanks mainly to a high ankle sprain injury. Spiller was also asked about his usage as a pass receiver moving forward.

“Yeah I mean anytime you can try to get the ball and try to help your team win you always want to do that. This is the first year in the offense so we’ll go back and look at some things and see what we can do,” said Spiller.

Spiller made it sound as though he was free to provide some feedback to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett about splitting wide more often as a receiving option heading into next season.

“We’ll bounce ideas off each other and try to see if we can split me out wide and do certain stuff,” Spiller said. “If we’re able to do that then that’s fine, but if not I can’t sit around and holler about it. I have to just do what’s asked of me and first and foremost I’ve got to run the ball effectively. Then we’ll get the passing game going. We have so many weapons on the offense it’s just crazy then what we had in previous years. That’s probably one of the reasons why I’m not going to have as many passing yards because of what we have in the receiving room.”


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#Bills to draft ninth overall

Posted by Chris Brown on December 29, 2013 – 9:20 pm

Based on how things shook out in Week 17 the Buffalo Bills will be drafting ninth overall in the 2014 NFL draft.

With the Bills losing along with the Titans and Giants winning it locked the Bills in as the only team in the league with a 6-10 record for the 2013 season. The Vikings are right in front of Buffalo with a 5-10-1 mark.

The last time the Bills had the ninth overall pick was 2010 when they chose C.J. Spiller.


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Fan Friday 12-20

Posted by Chris Brown on December 20, 2013 – 12:00 pm

Sunday will be step one in trying to post a winning record in the division for the first time since the 2007 season. Let’s see if the Bills can make it a season sweep of the Dolphins. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris,

As a Bills’ fan for decades, I believe coach Marrone is a good coach. The question is whether he can turn around the losing culture. I have a few questions regarding accountability and talents.

What are the Bills going to do with the undependable players? This includes, but not limited to, Steve Johnson, Leodis McKelvin and T. J. Graham.

What is Jairus Byrd’s long term prospect with the Bills? The Bills like to get rid of established players to save a few bucks. In the end, this contributes to a longer wish list for the ever rebuilding process. A
recent example is the Offensive line. My suggestion is to get rid of Steve Johnson and save some money for Byrd’s contract. (Note, The Bills is in the business to make money. I suppose a better product would lead to increased revenue. In this case, a true contender in NFL).

What is the long term plan for the QB position? I mean both first string and backup in this case? While coach Marrone indicated EJ Manuel is the long term solution. I beg the difference. EJ is not playing any
better than JP Losman by comparing their rookie year. Lewis and Tuel are littering their path with interceptions and fumbles. How long do you think these two can keep their job in NFL?

Marcus Easley seems to be doing a very good job in special teams. What is the possibility of moving him to CB if the Bills cannot use him as WR? This may afford the team to get rid of Leodis McKelvin thereby saving more money.

The New England Patriots seem to be able to overcome huge deficit consistently. When playing with the Patriots (as well as other teams), what are the Bills doing to safeguard our calls/signals from being stolen?

Please keep up with the good work.
Regards,
C. J. Wong, Ph.D.

CB: I understand why you feel like the players you mentioned are not dependable. This is where the coaches and front office make their offseason evaluations, but being dependable goes beyond just game day. It’s about being a professional every day of the week in everything that you do. So if the players you mentioned struggle in those areas then they could be at risk with respect to their futures here.

Doug Marrone is only going to keep players on this roster that he feels he can win with the way he wants to win. He has stressed accountability time and again and has been clear in explaining to his players what accountability means. They’ve had all season to prove they’re on board. If they’re not, and only the coaches and their teammates would know for certain if that’s the case, then they won’t be here long term.

As for Jairus Byrd, the safety has said he’s open-minded to staying here long term, which is an improvement in terms of where that situation was this past summer. I think Byrd is smart enough to know that he can really flourish in this defense with the talent he has around him on that side of the ball. Talent that is tied up long term for the most part. Byrd has to be convinced that he can win here and as is usually the case the money has to be right as well.

At the quarterback position EJ is their long term answer at the position. You may not be convinced, but the people that make those decisions are. I believe this offseason will be dedicated to putting more talent around Manuel to help him succeed. We’ve certainly seen flashes of ability. What has me most encouraged is the way in which Manuel performs when the game is on the line. Buffalo has needed a clutch quarterback for the longest time and Manuel has shown he has that ability. With improved talent around him he’ll also be better for the other portions of the game too.

I believe the decision makers still see Jeff Tuel as a developmental type prospect. Thad Lewis is still being evaluated, which is why Sunday’s game is huge for him. He’s proven he’s tough and that he can deliver big plays. Now he has to prove he can learn from his mistakes and improve from some of his shortcomings in the first meeting with Miami. It’s really the perfect litmus test for him.

I completely disagree with your Marcus Easley idea. Easley doesn’t not have the foot quickness to play CB, and Leodis McKelvin is having his most consistent season in a Bills uniform at cornerback. Not to mention he’s playing at very affordable money for his position.

Finally, the reason the Patriots are able to overcome big deficits is primarily one reason and one reason only, they have one of the best quarterbacks in a generation in Tom Brady. End of story.

 

2 – Hi Chris, I live in Western Canada so it is always hard to get coverage on the Bills out here.  So I really appreciate all your updates.

My question is about Stevie Johnson.  It seems every year there is a play that he fails to make that costs us a game.  The game against Pittsburgh in OT where he dropped the wide open pass, the game against the Jets when he again dropped a game winning TD, and of course against the Falcons which just didn’t just cost us that game, but our season.

He is a great receiver, no doubt about that, but I question if he is ever going to be a clutch number 1 receiver.   We all agree that we need a big “go up and get it” receiver.  So if we get that receiver, someone has to go.

I think we should consider trading Stevie Johnson this off season.  Robert Woods is precise in route running and has good chemistry with EJ, and Goodwin and Graham are fast on the outside and can also move inside when needed.   I think Stevie is odd man out and gives us the most return for our buck, plus maybe he is to used to losing in Buffalo.  What do you think we could get for Johnson?  A 2nd rounder or maybe someone like Bowe in KC?

Paddy, Vancouver Canada

CB: I think Johnson is the type of receiver whose return in a trade would be limited. The reason why is he is a possession receiver. He’s a move-the-chains player not a stretch the field, deliver a game-changing play every week type wideout. Johnson is a very unique player with a unique skill set, but he is not going to blow the doors off a defense. All that being said I think at best he’d get you a fourth-round draft choice. Frankly, it might be even less because his contract may not fit the role another team might envision for him, so to take on that salary would likely lead to a team offering less in return like a fifth or sixth-round pick.

3 – Hey Chris,

My question is regarding the offensive line.  How do you see the Bills helping the line in the off season? I know they have to see how guys like JJ ‘Unga pan out over the last 3 games, but if they do go after a guy in the draft, do you see them going after a guy who can be versatile? Are there typically guys who can play guard and tackle?  I would imagine that’s what coaches look for in any player on the field.  Do you think free agency is possible?  Also, do you think Chris Hairston will be able to return to form?
Thanks, Jillian

CB: I would not be surprised if there are wholesale changes made on the offensive line. As I see it the only players who have job security are Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood. Kraig Urbik rebounded real well this past week after a down week in Tampa, but I think he will be pushed for his starting job this offseason and into training camp based on what we saw the past couple of weeks with J.J. ‘Unga. Beyond those three I expect to see change there. I think the organization will look to the draft and free agency to address the offensive line.

 

4 – Chris,
Thanks for the great reporting, week by week for the Bills. Yourself and John Murphy do a great job but My question is based of everything about this youth movement and getting these unknown guys more playing time. I been listening and reading about the guys y’all are naming but I keep seeing this guy left out…. Duke Williams? Why is he not getting involved in the discussions and not getting more reps? What part of his game is lacking that has him buried on the depth chart? Because before the season he was getting hyped up as a utility guy in the secondary, that could play multiple positions. What happened? Please explain that to me.

Brian in South Carolina

CB: Thanks for the kind words. I’ll be sure to pass them along to Murph. Duke Williams is a player that has been seeing time mainly on special teams. The reason he has not seen time at safety is because there is quality and experienced talent in front of him in Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy and Jim Leonhard. I do think heading into next season Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks could challenge for bigger roles and what happens with Byrd and Leonhard this offseason with both being free agents will have an impact on that as well.

 

5 – Chris,

I have been surprised at the lack of two back sets the Bills are utilizing this year. I would think this would confuse defenses as Fred is a highly capable pass-blocking back and we all know about CJ’s home run ability with every touch. Would these formations not mix things up and keep opposing defenses off balance… not knowing to expect run or pass?

Also, I am concerned (as are many fans) about the utilization of CJ Spiller. Not in terms of number of plays per game, or on the year, but the play calls he is being used in. They seem to heavily favor running him behind the left or right guards. Why not more screen plays? I think all of us get excited when CJ Spiller has the ball with 3-4 blockers in front of him with the ability to pick and choose which lanes he wants to take.

Thanks!
Jim from Massachusetts

CB: We saw some split backfield in training camp, but there has been very little of it during the season. I do think there is an element of predicitability there when they have only Fred or C.J. on the field in a single back set. Heading into last week’s Jacksonville game I know that Spiller had not been on the field for more than 40 percent of the snaps since Week 2.

However, when he is on the field he got the ball 60 percent of the time. While the usage is admirable I fear that it makes Buffalo’s offense predictable when Spiller is in the backfield.

Jackson is usually on the field in third down situations because they trust him with blitz pickup and blocking assignments.

I don’t know a one-thousandth of what Nathaniel Hackett knows about football, but I do think a split backfield with C.J. and Fred in the offensive backfield on third down could create a lot of headaches for opposing defenses. That’s where I think it could be most useful for Buffalo’s offense.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fred, C.J. join 700 duo club

Posted by Chris Brown on December 15, 2013 – 3:45 pm

With today’s rushing efforts against the Jacksonville Jaguars both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller have better than 700 rushing yards each this season. It puts the Bills running back duo in select company in team history.

Jackson and Spiller are just the second Bills running backs tandem to produce at least 700 rushing yards each in a season in Bills annals. The only other duo to pull it off were O.J. Simpson (1,817) and Jim Braxton (823) in 1975.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hard not to think hangover

Posted by Chris Brown on December 8, 2013 – 11:33 pm

The Bills appeared to have a hangover type performance in their Week 10 loss at Pittsburgh, when the emotional loss to Kansas City from the week before looked like it lingered in the minds of players. Fast forward to Sunday’s game against the Bucs, again off an emotional overtime loss to the Falcons, and the performance made it hard not to think hangover again.

It’s clear that the thought had cross head coach Doug Marrone’s mind postgame.

“I said this earlier in the week, we played a Kansas City team which was a tough game and came back in Pittsburgh and did not play well in a lot of areas,” said Marrone. “We played a game last week, which was a very difficult game for our players. We talked about it during the week coming back and we played even worse than we did in the Pittsburgh game. That’s very disappointing when you want to grow and you want to go forward.

“We didn’t bounce back like I thought they should. Nor did they bounce back like they thought they should. That’s why I don’t think it’s the coach saying it, we feel like that as a team collectively. Does that bother me that one phase of what you need to do to become a winning football team that we didn’t take that challenge and overcome that? Absolutely that bothers me.”

Buffalo’s players weren’t ready to call it a hangover.

“I don’t think so,” said EJ Manuel of a hangover effect. “For me I don’t think being that it was an emotional loss or whatever, it was a loss last week, I don’t think that was the reason I came in and played flat this week. I know there were some errant passes I had, some forced passes that I don’t normally do. That’s where the interceptions come from. You just have to continue to stick to your reads and do a much, much better job at that. That’s where I felt I struggled today and I’ve just got to get better from it.”

“I can’t say we lack mental toughness. I think they just came out and beat us,” said Stevie Johnson.

Jairus Byrd wouldn’t call the performance a result of a hangover effect, but he did admit that the loss to Atlanta was a difficult one.

“That’s a question for each man, but the last week did hurt,” Byrd said. “It did hurt, knowing all that was out there for us. When we weren’t able to do that, each person is different and you’ve got to move forward, but that one hurt.”

C.J. Spiller however, wasn’t sugar coating anything as he referenced how the week of practice didn’t get off on the right foot and that a lack of focus was the reason for all of their miscues Sunday.

“First day of practice didn’t come off well,” he said. “We picked it up and I thought from them on we had a good week of preparation, had a good game-plan going into it. We knew exactly what they were doing. They didn’t come out there and do anything that surprised us.

“They played good on defense. They played with more passion, more energy, and they just beat us. We “were just not focused, is what it comes down to. When you’re not focused, those things happen.

“I hope that [the loss] didn’t linger on, because if that’s the case then this loss will linger on [and] it would show next week. Your profession in this league, win or lose, you have to move on from the game. I said it earlier in the week that’s what you got to do. That’s what being a pro is all about. Win or lose, you have to put that game behind you and focus on the next opponent because if you don’t then stuff like this happens.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-6

Posted by Chris Brown on December 6, 2013 – 11:49 am

It’s the final quarter of the 2013 regular season. Buffalo will try to post a winning record in these last four games, three of which are on the road. Here’s your latest edition of queries on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Thank you for all your coverage of the Bills for us fans! I have two questions for you. First of all, it seems as though as of late the Bills offense has been pretty successful on the deep Go routes from TJ Graham and Marquise Goodwin. Do you think that Coach Marrone and Hackett would consider getting Spiller more involved in some deep plays in the passing game?

Last year it seemed to work pretty well and it would give another added dimension to the offense given his speed and talent in the open field. My second question is, so far we have not seen many “trick” plays like fake field goals, fake Punts, flea flickers etc. Do you feel that this coaching staff just doesn’t feel comfortable running those plays, or is it just the fact that the situation to use a trick play just hasn’t come up yet?

Thanks, Eileen in Ontario

CB: I think the Bills will continue to work on pushing the ball down the field to take advantage of the speed that T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin bring to the offense. Those plays have been successful at times, but we all need to realize that those are not high percentage plays. Any coach will tell you the NFL is more about getting first downs than touchdowns, because the better an offense is at getting first downs, the more successful they are at scoring touchdowns.

The offensive staff has made a concerted effort to go with high percentage plays in an effort to keep the offense on the field.

As for trick plays, I think we will see a few before the season is over, but again the coaching staff is trying to build a foundation on consistent plays that are productive. There is a time and place for trick plays, but they are not something that any coach wants to hang his hat on.

2 – Chris,
First off, thanks for doing an awesome job covering all the Bills News. My question for you is in regards to the Bills Defense. I feel that Jim Leonhard really played well, especially with his takeaways while he was filling in during injuries. Why don’t the Bills sub him in on obvious passing downs? I think he could be a strong player in the backfield and result in more turnovers for the Bills D.

Secondly, do you feel that Nickell Robey has the intangibles to eventually be considered to play a boundary corner as well as nickel? He seems to be excelling and really playing good football and seems to just keep getting better every week.

Thanks, Tim in Niagara

CB: There’s no question that Leonard’s playing time on defense has suffered since Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore returned to the lineup. Gilmore’s return allowed Aaron Williams to return to safety with Byrd manning the other safety spot.

I like Leonhard as a player, and he is a heady player when it comes to anticipating and making big plays (INTs). That being said, Byrd and Williams offer better coverage ability by virtue of both of them being former cornerbacks. Byrd was a corner in college and Williams was a corner in college and his first two season in the NFL.

That provides DC Mike Pettine with a lot of versatility in coverage assignments in his defensive scheme and as Pettine himself has said the strength of his defense is its versatility.

That’s not to say that Leonhard, if needed, could not be a productive player in this defense. He’s proven that already this season. But Byrd and Williams offer more versatility and that helps to keep opposing offenses off guard.

As for Nickell Robey, he has done very well as the team’s nickel corner. At 5’8” and 165 pounds that’s his position. He would be hard pressed to be as successful on the boundary as a cornerback. The receivers on the outside in this league are just too big and too physical. Robey based on his body type alone, would be a target out there for fade passes and jump balls.

His best fit is as a slot defender and he can play for a long time in this league in that role.

 

3 – Chris:
EJ’s decision making, release time and downfield accuracy appears to have room for improvement.  This may be explained by his lack of NFL experience.  Since there is no QB coach in the organization and Offensive coordinator Hackett’s collegiate playing experience is defensive orientated, how is EJ be coached up in a professional manner?
Conrad in Elma
CB: I understand your point about Hackett’s playing experience, but he has been working at the elbow of a host of offensive coaches at the position since he was a kid. He knows how to school quarterbacks on footwork and throwing technique. Decision making is something that should improve the more he plays and gets accustomed to defensive looks.

I’ve wondered about how challenging it has been for Hackett to balance the responsibility of getting an offensive scheme implemented and executed effectively in year one while also helping a rookie quarterback make strides in his first year in the league. That’s a big ask.

Add in the fact that he had to get a second rookie QB and another young signal caller ready to play at different points in the season and you see the demands that were placed on Hackett this season.

 

4 – Chris,

What is the status of Carrington? He was playing great before he got hurt. Hope he is doing well.

Michael J. McCarthy
Pittsfield, MA

CB: Alex Carrington had successful surgery on his torn quadriceps tendon that landed him on injured reserve. I talked to him a couple of weeks ago and he told me he’s progressing well in his rehab. He’s working here at One Bills Drive on a daily basis with the trainers on his rehab regimen. The rehab timetable is typically 7-9 months and he’s just 11 weeks removed from suffering the injury, so he’s got a long road in front of him, but he’s walking under his own power.

5 – Chris,
Something that I noticed during the Falcons game about EJ. Do you remember back in the day when Dan Marino would get behind center? He would always lick his hands and you knew was going to be a pass.

During Falcons game I noticed that EJ would leave his mouthpiece in his helmet during running plays, and put it in during passing plays…. I’m wondering if anybody else is noticing this?? like the opposing defense….. if you could pass it along :-)

Thanks,
Mike bills fan
Longwood Florida

CB: To clear this up for everyone. I saw that it was a popular topic on Twitter during the game last week, but there was no merit to it. There were run plays executed during the game when his mouthpiece was tucked into his helmet facemask instead of his mouth.

There is no absolute situation in terms of play calls when it comes to the location of EJ Manuel’s mouthpiece.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller’s day ranked 2nd best of Wk 13

Posted by Chris Brown on December 3, 2013 – 9:51 am

On a day where he came close to a single-game career high in rushing yards, C.J. Spiller’s effort in a losing cause last Sunday ranked as the second-best day by a running back in Week 13.

Ranked ahead of Spiller from last Sunday’s action was Adrian Peterson, who rolled for 211 rushing yards on 35 carries. Here’s how they were ranked by Advanced NFL Stats.

Rank

Player

Team

Opp

WPA

EPA

EPA/P

SR(%)

Att

Yds

YPC

RushTDs

Rec

RecYds

RecTDs

1

28-A.Peterson MIN CHI

0.83

8.6

0.22

46.2

35

211

6.0

0

2

0

0

2

28-C.Spiller BUF ATL

0.30

6.2

0.33

36.8

15

149

9.9

1

2

8

0

3

22-M.Forte CHI MIN

0.24

1.3

0.05

46.2

23

120

5.2

0

2

31

0

4

29-D.Murray DAL OAK

0.22

3.4

0.15

60.9

17

63

3.7

3

5

39

0

5

28-C.Johnson TEN IND

0.20

4.7

0.19

44.0

18

69

3.8

0

6

32

1


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Posted in Inside the Bills