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Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 9-20

Posted by Chris Brown on September 20, 2013 – 11:44 am

The second big division game in three weeks coming up on Sunday. Don’t forget the 4:25 pm start this week. Here are some of the more popular questions from you the fans this week. Keep the questions coming on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 -  Hi Chris,

I noticed that Jamaal Westerman made the roster, however I know very little about this athlete. Can you you provide a bit of information as to how he made the team.

thanks & regards
from Richard in Los Angeles

CB: Westerman was a late free agent signee during training camp. The advantage he had was he spent three seasons in Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme with the Jets as a reserve OLB from 2009-2011 after New York signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers.

He split last season between Indianapolis and Arizona, and through his first two weeks here it’s clear he’s got an important role on special teams (39 snaps in 2 games) with a rotational role on defense where to this point he’s been used sparingly.


2 –
Hi Chris.

I’m curious about how our offense is called and I’m hoping you can shed some light. Does the Marrone/Hackett offense use simplified terms as part of the fast-paced attack? I would assume so, given the emphasis on fast execution and the fact that it’s an established trend made clearly successful by the likes of Peyton manning, New England and others…but I’ve read that our offense is based on the west coast system, which of course uses long, complex terminology…I’ve always believed that this simplicity is key to why manning and Brady-led offenses make fewer self-defeating mistakes than most other teams. Thanks…

CB: I know there was a detailed piece in the Boston Globe last year by Greg Bedard on the short-worded plays in New England’s offense. Sometimes just one word said it all. The Bills do similarly keep their play calls short for the purpose of moving faster as well. Oftentimes the plays are just three to five words. So your suspicions are correct.


3 –
Chris,

I read in two different articles that the new CBA says that if Carpenter is on our active roster on opening day and then we cut him after the Pats game we have to pay him the entire season veteran minimum of $630,000.00. Is that the way the CBA works now?

Thanks.
Long time Buffalo Fan

CB: Yes, that’s right, but that’s always been the case even prior to the new CBA in 2011. When a vested veteran player (4 accrued season in the league) is signed prior to the first regular season game so long as he is still on the roster the Saturday before the opener his salary for that season is guaranteed.

The Bills were really in a difficult spot due to Hopkins injury. They needed someone to kick and have to bite the bullet on Carpenter’s salary even though he’s unlikely to be here for the whole season.

This is why you often see NFL clubs wait until the Tuesday after the season opener to sign veteran free agents they might need to fill a hole on the roster. By signing a veteran player in Week 2 a  team is free to release said player without owing him his full season salary.

The Bills in this case didn’t have that option.

4 – Chris,

Don’t you think the Bills may get more from the WR position going with Easley and Hogan over Graham and Goodwin ?

I think Easley is ready to take the next step and Hogan has a knack for getting open.  Goodwin is now injured and Graham has yet to show he can gain separation and make plays.  Easley has good speed as well to try and stretch the field.

Randy C

CB: While I don’t disagree with your assessments of Easley and Hogan, I do disagree with your assessment of T.J. Graham.

Graham has been open, he just hasn’t been targeted much by E.J. Manuel. In fact on the final drive in the Carolina game alone he was wide open on three plays. What you have to understand is if Graham is not the primary or secondary read, it’s less likely that he’ll be targeted in the passing game.

Through two games he’s been targeted a total of four times.

We also need to consider the possibility that in an effort to not put too much on Manuel’s plate the offensive staff might only be having him read half the field on certain pass plays so he has only two reads instead of three or four in an effort to avoid sacks by getting the ball out faster.

But in watching the game film I can tell you Graham is getting separation and is getting open a good amount of the time.


5 –
Hi Chris,

Thank you for the great Bills coverage you provide day in and day out.

Question,  is tight end Mike Caussin on the Bills Injured Reserve list?  I know he was initially waived injured.  I don’t see his name listed in the injured reserve section of the Bills Roster on buffalobills.com.  I read he had season ending hip surgery on August 21.  Any word on how he is doing?

Thanks!
Richard

CB: Yes, Mike Caussin is on the Bills injured reserve list. He was waived-injured on Aug. 14th and when he was not claimed by another NFL club, he reverts back to Buffalo’s injured reserve list. And that’s where he is at this time.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 4-5

Posted by Chris Brown on April 5, 2013 – 12:30 pm

Another week closer to the NFL draft. Keep the questions coming at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Here’s the latest edition for you Bills fans.

1 - Chris,

Due to the advent of a new coaching staff, at what point in time can the Bills coaches give information to existing Bills players with reference to new terminology or verbiage that will be used in calling of plays? Also the new playbook, which would take even more time to put together. Is the timing this kind of information contractually limited by the CBA or otherwise? Or is it simply delayed until all is put together by the staff?                                                         

Thanks, Bill S.
CB: The new coaching staff does get the benefit of an additional voluntary camp here in the spring. Buffalo’s additional camp will run from April 15th to the 18th prior to the draft. At that point classroom work is permitted in addition to on the field work. The offseason conditioning program began on Tuesday. Yes, the timing is contractually limited by the CBA, as well as practice time (e.g. limited time on the field per day, days per week, etc.) So it does present a great challenge for a new staff coming in with constraints put on the amount of practice and classroom time.

 

2 – Hey Chris,

I was wondering if you might be able to enlighten some of us on practice squad eligibility & whether or not if in any way it counts towards the cap? Or is that a cost that is separate from the cap? I know those guys have to get paid but am unsure about the inner workings of it. Last year that was where we had David Snow stashed at right & I know he went back & forth for a bit, so how much longer would he be eligible?

I do know that they are not secure with the team once they are put there & can be signed away, but can the team offer them more to stay? Or once an offer has been made by another team or are they just gone? I know that in the past we have picked up a few players from other teams squads such as Brian Brohm & have tried to pick up others that either didn’t want to leave or were offered more money by the team we were trying to get them away from to stay – I guess?

I was just wondering if you might be able to clear some of that up for those of us that aren’t as well verse on the workings of that part of the team …

Thanks as always for your time !!

Mr T from Fort Myers Via Nashville

CB: First, practice squad players do not count against the cap. Only the top 51 player salaries count towards the cap, so the two lowest paid players on the 53-man roster don’t even count let alone the practice squad players.

Players are eligible for the practice squad for up to three years provided they do not appear in nine regular season games in one year. If they are in the third year of practice squad eligibility and they’re on the practice squad, whenever there is an opening on the 53-man roster they’re the automatic promotion (See: Gibran Hamdan).

You’re right the players on the practice squad can be signed to the active roster of any other NFL club at any time. There are instances where the team that he’s been with tries to retain him by putting him on their active roster.

It’s funny you mention Brian Brohm because that’s exactly what Green Bay tried to do when they found out the Bills were going to sign him off their practice squad. They offered him the same money that the Bills were offering on their active roster, but it’s the player’s choice. He thought he had a better chance to play in Buffalo with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Hope that helps.

 

3 – Chris:

It would seem that player evaluations can hinge on subtle differences, to me a player who doesn’t beat or come very close to their 1st 40, may not have the competitive spirit needed to succeed at the next level. I’d rather have someone who fights to the final whistle. Some of the QB’s did not impress at this, I’d rather have a not as developed player with desire, than a strong arm and quit in him. How would you and the coaches evaluate the two 40 times?
Jim from Florida

CB: While I don’t dispute for a second that it’s better to have a player that fights to the final whistle or is supremely self-motivated, I think you may be putting a bit too much weight on a player’s second run of the 40 at the Combine or a pro day.

There are several reasons why a player might run a slower 40 the second time. First, perhaps their get off wasn’t as technically sound. Their footing may not have been as good off the line. I realize this might sound a bit unrealistic, but players will tell you there is a fatigue factor involved from the first run.

I’m sure there are instances of some prospects that don’t fight to the final whistle, but that will be far more noticeable in games on tape than in their second run of the 40.

 

4 – The off season though the combine has been frustrating because once again I have no clue what the defense is going to look like, so I have no idea who I should be paying attention to. OLB seems to be a glaring need, but is it? It looks to be Bradham and that’s it, but because of the uncertainty surrounding the scheme,  I’m left asking are Kyle Moore, Mark Anderson & Mario Williams DEs or OLBs? Should I be paying attention to the interior D Line guys, guys that are projected as 3-4 DEs? Right now the only projected first round front seven defender who I’m sure can fit into whatever D they run is Ogletree. I used to love this time of year. Any light you can shine on this situation would be appreciated.

Pete Howell
Fairport

CB: When coach Pettine says his scheme is going to be multiple he means it. Gone are the days where you can sit in a 4-3 or 3-4 and not change things up. A perfect example of this was the way that former defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt chose to sit in the same 4-3 front last season. Despite having great depth of talent on his front line, the same looks became easy to block and counter for opposing offensive line, which is why they weren’t all that effective last season.

Pettine knows to be effective you have to be multiple. Just as it’s difficult for you to not plug DEs and OLBs into roles, Pettine wants opposing offenses to have that same difficulty. He doesn’t want opponents knowing where anyone is going to line up on any given play. Keeping an offense guessing while also possessing an attacking mindset unnerves an offense.

All that being said I think they will line up more in the 3-4 than the 4-3, but roles will shift and change from week to week. Manny Lawson might be a true SLB on first down, but he might shift to a third down pass rusher in passing situations and Mario Williams might kick inside. That’s just one example.

 

5 – CB, 

Buddy had mentioned following the way the Bengals drafted AJ Green and Andy Dalton. Do you seen a scenario where the Bills go QB in round 1 and WR in round two? What do you think of the possibility of Geno Smith and Justin Hunter? I think these two are the might be the best players available when the Bills will pick in rounds 1 and 2. What are the scouts saying about Hunter, can he separate from DB’s at his size/speed? 
CB: I think this could definitely be a possibility in the first two rounds. Buffalo needs to add a quarterback early. And the value at wide receiver in this draft begins in round two and lasts all the way until round four. Hunter has some intriguing physical skills. He ran a 4.36 at the Combine and is 6’4”, but he’s just 196 pounds and has a lean build, which means he’ll be limited in the bulk he can add.

He also has a reputation for inconsistent hands. That’s why despite first round physical skills he’s expected to last until round two.

As for his separation ability, he’s not considered very good run after catch despite his speed because he’s a straight line speed guy. Elusiveness is not a strength.

Personally I’d prefer Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins in round two if he’s there for Buffalo.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-23

Posted by Chris Brown on March 23, 2012 – 11:19 am

The NFL draft is just about a month away. Let’s get to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net.

1 - Hey CB,

Thanks for all of your hard work reporting on the Bills–it’s really appreciated.  I was just wondering if you could layout the off season calendar from OTAs to Training camp and explain the new guidelines under the new CBA opposed to years past? 

Thanks,
Aaron
NYC
CB: You can find all the OTA and minicamp dates right here. As far as OTAs go players can only go against “air.” In other words no offense vs. defense, no kickoff team vs. kick return team. Team drills can only be run against air and there are no one-on-one drills allowed either. Also during the first phase of OTAs there are no helmets worn and obviously no pads or shells without any live contact.

In the second phase of OTAs helmets can be worn, but there is still no live contact and therefore no pads or shells. A maximum of 10 practice days can be scheduled over this three week period, with no more than three days over each of the first two weeks.

For the mandatory minicamp coaches can have two-a-days on two of the three total practice days, but there are still no contact drills or use of pads allowed.

So in summation contact drills, unit vs. unit drills and one-on-one drills are now prohibited.  

And per the CBA each team is required to film all of these OTAs and minicamp practices and hold onto them until a month into the regular season in case the league wants to review them to make sure the rules are being followed.

2 – Chris,

I could use some clarification on how the salary caps works under the new CBA.  My understanding is that the salary cap is the most that a team is allowed to spend on player contracts, and under the new CBA that was reached last year, every team has to spend up to 99% of the cap beginning in the 2012 season.  I also understand that teams that were under the cap last year have the ability to roll that money over to next season to spend extra money.

Any additional info on this topic would be greatly appreciated. 

-Brendan
Las Vegas

 

CB: The way it was outlined in the new CBA was confusing to a lot of people because the league talked about collective team spending and then in the next breath individual team spending. It kind of muddied the waters with respect to what each team has to commit to spending-wise. I’ll try to present it as simply as I can (no easy task).

League-wide there has to be commitment to cash spending of 99 percent of the cap in 2011 and 2012. That means all the teams collectively. If the league’s 32 teams fail to reach the 99 percent level then the league has to make up the difference.

In 2011 and 2012 there is no salary cap floor (minimum). That does not kick in until 2013. At that point each individual club is committed to cash spending of 89 percent of the cap from 2013-2016 and 2017-2020. 

For the 2013-2016 seasons, and again for the 2017-2020 seasons, the clubs collectively will commit to cash spending of at least 95 percent of the cap. Again if the 32 teams do not reach that figure the league makes up the difference.

So starting next offseason there is technically a salary cap floor for all NFL clubs (89% of cap), but as far as the higher percentage, that’s a figure the league’s teams have to reach collectively.

The most important thing to remember is it’s not cap space, it’s cash spent by the clubs. That adds up a lot quicker than cap space knowing contracts with respect to the cap can be spread out over the length of the deal. Hope that all makes sense.

 

3 - Chris,

These two months of speculation of the draft are like sitting in a closed room, watching the walls of its paint dry. I am impressed with your tenacity for finding new information and working your sources for the fans of the Bills. I wonder how many Bills fans are aware that we could have picked Ron Gronkowski in the second round of 2010, instead we picked DT Torell Troup. Belichick had the next pick and he rewarded his Pats with what turned out to be the best TE in the business. I’m sure Buddy hasn’t forgotten that snafu as another draft approaches.

There are some really good quality picks for TE in the early second round. Did you think Buddy will take a chance on one of them? And who do you think is the best pick between Dwayne Allen, Orson Charles or the Stanford TE? It’s high time the Bills paid respect to a such versatile position with a huge upside.

Go Bills!
Buffalo Bill

CB: First, I wouldn’t call taking Torell Troup a snafu. Yes, Gronkowski has panned out to be a tremendous talent, whose value has largely been maximized by a very good coach and outstanding quarterback. Troup has been mired by a persistent back problem his first two seasons, but with his back issues rectified I think he’ll prove to be a solid contributor. Only time will tell.

As for the TE position this year, Stanford’s Coby Fleener is the most complete. After clocking a 4.45 at his pro day he’s probably not going to be there in round two. That leaves Dwayne Allen from Clemson and Orson Charles from Georgia. Both are lacking a bit in size, and some NFL scouts consider them H-backs more than true tight ends.

I believe Allen’s hands are a little better than Charles’, but both are pretty good blockers. Allen looks a bit stronger physically than Charles. Both have good intangibles. I think it’s going to come down to whether a team wants a more versatile TE or not. If they want versatility I think Charles can line up in more places than Allen. Allen however, is stronger and a more natural pass catcher.

Both could come off the board in round 2.

 

4 - Chris,

Love the Bills’ coverage year round. There seems to be changes in the wind with the 10th pick. It appears they might lean towards Left Tackle. But at that spot, is that the best player available? Reiff and Martin both have concerns. I know they would like to add a tackle but both players have just as much risk as Ingram, Coples, and Upshaw. I would like to see them trade down or draft Floyd from ND. A sure handed big receiver with speed. Floyd would be a great addition across from Stevie and give Fitz targets. What’s your assessment on Floyd, LT.  Need vs value at pick 10?

CB: This is the great debate for the Bills heading into the draft. Reiff and Martin are widely viewed as players worthy of coming off the board between 10 and 15. Floyd has enhanced his overall stock with a solid Combine workout and squeaky clean senior year off the field.

Truthfully the debate isn’t need versus value. They need a starting left tackle and a number two wide receiver. The question is what is Buffalo’s draft grade on Martin, Reiff and Floyd? If the grades are close I think they pull the trigger at left tackle because they need a starter there. It’s harder and harder to find a capable starting left tackle with each passing round. This draft is deep at receiver and you can arguable get a quality player in round three, though he won’t have 4.47 speed that Floyd possesses.

What we also need to remember is if the grades on Martin, Reiff and Floyd are not close to that of the 10th pick Buffalo could trade down from there and re-group presumably armed with an additional pick.

 

5 - Hi Chris,

I know that Buddy and Chan want a deep threat that is open even when he isnt, and they dont see a pass rusher at 10, would it not make sense to go after Mike Wallace, if they gave him enough money in year 1 Pittsburg wouldn’t be able to sign him and they would have the scariest deep threat in the league, which should open things underneath for everyone else to shine even brighter
                                       
Thanks from North of the Border

CB:  I think the premise of your thought is a good one. You know what Mike Wallace is being a proven deep threat in the NFL. However, where things get sticky is in the money you would have to commit to Wallace. After committing number one receiver dollars to Stevie Johnson there’s no way they’d be able to do the same with Wallace, who will absolutely be looking for big, big money.

When you consider the fact that the Bills told Robert Meachem to take the four-year $25.9M deal from San Diego, it was an indication that $6.5M per season for their number two receiver is too steep a price as they see it. You’re not getting Mike Wallace for less than $6.5M per season so it makes giving up the 10th pick not worth it. I’m sure the Bills would love to have Wallace, but I don’t see Buffalo willing to accommodate Wallace’s contract demands after what went down with Meachem.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-12

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2011 – 5:10 pm

Well I know there will be questions about the trade, but there are some other issues on your mind too. Remember submit questions to AskChris@bills.nfl.net and it could appear here.

1 - Hello Chris and thanks for the continued updates.  I’ve been a Bills season ticket holder from Rochester for years (and again this year) and have just moved to Charlotte NC so your updates are very welcomed.  A lot has been made of the Bills lack of TE.  David Nelson came on at the end of last season and most of his catches seemed to be out of the slot and up the middle of the field.  What are your thought on him possible putting on a few lbs as he ages and becoming a solid TE for the Bills in the future.

Thanks for you continued coverage.

Dave, newly transplanted to NC
CB: Ironically David Nelson has bulked up, to 221 pounds, which is about 13 pounds of lean muscle more than last season. That being said I don’t see him as a tight end in this offense. A lot of what he’s asked to do in the slot is similar to that of a tight end anyway and now with 13 more pounds on his frame he’ll be able to block more effectively. But he’s still 25 pounds shy of a typical NFL tight end, so I don’t see that as a true option for him. I feel like you take away from his game if you do that.

 

2 - I am sure you will get this question alot.  With the new CBA have the Bills free agency plans changed?  Will they be more active?

Ronald
Atlanta, GA

CB: Buddy Nix said flat out that the new CBA and all of its rules have not changed their approach to building the team the way they see fit. So in essence no their free agency plan will stay the same, no quick fixes, no big splashes.

 

3 - Hey Chris-
 
I know that free agent signing cant be made offical till friday at 6 but what do you think about Tyler. I really like Thigpen, he did okay in K.C.  I was also wondering if he could push out Fitz, I fell that Buffalo needs to let all players fight for their jobs.  We saw it back in the 2009 preseason with Edwards and Fitz, Fitz outplayed Edwards in the preseason but they still started trent becuse they said that Fitz was never there to unseat Trent and then Trent goes out and drops to 2-5 before we end the season at 6-10

CB: The key to the signing of Tyler Thigpen was the fact that he had a foundation of knowledge in Buffalo’s system. With no spring workouts to get a new QB up to speed, getting one who knew the system coming in was a must. As for this season however, Fitz is the starter, end of story and Thigpen has been told as much.

 

4 - Chris, 

I understand that Lee Evans was not a big part of the offense last year.  I understand that we have a lot of depth at the receiver position.  How can we justify letting Lee Evans go for a 4th round pick?  I believe he’s worth at worst a 3rd round pick and I don’t see how we get better this year or in the future with this move.  Lee Evans is a consummate pro.  Please shed some light on this for all of us.

Thanks,

Bob

CB: The market value for receivers has been very depressed ever since Randy Moss with four good years left in him was acquired by New England from Oakland for a fourth-round pick. So increasing the value in return was not going to happen.

As for justifying the trade, all I can say is I have it on good authority that Evans wanted to move on. I don’t know that he asked for a trade, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I don’t know that the offense will produce more right away without Evans, but I do think that in time this receiving corps will outproduce Evans over his last two seasons. My pick to ultimately replace Evans in the ‘X’ receiver role is Marcus Easley.

5 - Chris, a lot has been made of Maybin showing up to camp weighing only 228 lbs, but I want to know about Dareus.  I know he is a big man, but I read he weighed in around 340ish.  Did he show up to camp heavy and overweight?  I thought he played last year at least 20 lbs lighter than that.  Thanks for keeping us all in the loop,
John
Youngstown

 

CB: Yes, he did report to camp at 343 pounds, but by those I’ve spoken to he can carry it. It hasn’t affected his agility or stamina. I suppose we’ll know for sure by watching him in the preseason games, but I haven’t seen it affect his play at all. He was 319 at the combine though.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Former Bill reps retired players

Posted by Chris Brown on July 15, 2010 – 12:02 pm

Former Bills LB Cornelius Bennett has taken on an important role on behalf of retired NFL players.

Named Chairman of the NFLPA’s former player board of directors, Bennett has been sitting in on all of the CBA meetings between the league and the players union.

He doesn’t have a vote, but he does have a voice in the meetings, which he plans to use in helping to ensure that former players are properly compensated with respect to health insurance benefits.

“The one thing that’s certain is that former players’ benefits have to be improved, both pension and health care,” Bennett said in a telephone interview this week. “That’s my No. 1 fight — to make sure we get something out of the deal, and not just a token.

“I feel we deserve something because of our legacy,” Bennett told the Alabama Press-Register. “We’ve helped make this an $8 billion industry and growing.”

Bennett believes those former players that need the most help are those that played prior to the breakthrough CBA agreement in 1993 that brought the advent of free agency where players really started to make big money.


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Posted in Inside the Bills