Inside The Bills

Bills will go big to fix goal line defense

Posted by Chris Brown on December 4, 2016 – 2:05 pm

Head coach Rex Ryan is never afraid to tell it like it is and when it’s come to his team’s defense in goal-to-go situations it hasn’t been good at all. Over the last five games their red zone defense has slipped from first in the league to 19th, and the main culprit is goal-to-go situations. But Ryan and his defensive staff have come up with a very logical solution.

According to Ryan the Bills have given up 12 touchdowns on 22 goal-to-go plays. When opponents have been in 1st-and-goal situations anywhere from the five-yard line or closer they have scored 100 percent of the time against Buffalo.

Ryan said getting Marcell Dareus back in the lineup on a regular basis will help their goal line defense. Dareus is coming off his best game of the season against Jacksonville. He had eight tackles including three for loss along with a pair of sacks. But there’s another part of the plan to pair with Dareus on goal line defense.

“Having Marcell back will certainly help and we’re going to activate (DeAndre) Coleman a 340-pound defensive tackle,” said head coach Rex Ryan in his weekly appearance on Coffee with the Coach presented by Tim Horton’s. “I think that’s going to help us also.”

Coleman was just called up from the practice squad this week, and based on Ryan’s plans will see action at least in the goal line situations.


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Key to beating Raiders? Fewer possessions

Posted by Chris Brown on December 4, 2016 – 1:15 pm

Just about every team in the AFC is trying to figure out how to stop the Raiders high octane offense that seems to routinely put up 30 points a week in almost effortless fashion. Some teams have come up with the right formula to beating Oakland, and though Atlanta simply outscored them to win, only Kansas City succeeded in executing that formula. And it’s a way that perhaps the Bills can put themselves in position to get a seemingly unlikely road win.

Back in Week 6 the Chiefs went in with the approach of establishing a ground game to set up favorable down and distance on third downs, and converted more than half of those (7-13) to keep their drives alive. Kansas City rushed for 183 yards in the game and went 3-for-6 in the red zone to win going away 26-10.

The key was limiting Oakland’s possessions by keeping their own offense on the field. The Raiders average a shade over 12 possessions per game this season. The Chiefs ability to keep their own drives alive allowed Oakland to possess the ball just 10 times. The Raiders had just 23:15 of possession time.

Add in the fact that Kansas City stopped two of those possessions with takeaways, and it’s more like an eight-possession game for the Raiders.

Buffalo would appear to be in a position to take the same approach with their strong rushing attack and a defensive scheme very similar to that of the Chiefs. Head coach Rex Ryan seems to be in agreement.

“I think the big thing is as a team you try to keep their possessions to a minimum,” said Ryan on his weekly appearance on Coffee with the Coach presented by Tim Horton’s. “I saw the other week against Houston they had just six possessions. Typically in an NFL game you get 12 possessions so I think if we can do that we’ll be in good shape.”

Actually the Raiders had 11 possessions in that game, but they only ran 51 plays as Houston’s defense got off the field on third down allowing the Raiders only four of 13 conversions. The Texans led 20-13 early in the fourth quarter, and only allowed Oakland to have 23:33 in time of possession.

The problem was they got beat over the top for a 75 and a 35-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter and lost 27-20.

One other team that came close to pulling off the upset over the 9-2 Raiders with this formula was Baltimore. The Ravens held a 27-21 lead in the fourth quarter and only let the Oakland offense run 54 plays with time of possession just over 25 minutes, but lost by one when Derek Carr hit Michael Crabtree for 23-yard touchdown with two minutes remaining.

It’s a formula that appears feasible, you just have to have your run game work well in controlling the clock, finish drives and then get stops defensively, and ideally a takeaway or two to keep Carr’s opportunities with the ball to a minimum. It’s just been very hard for most of Oakland’s opponents to pull off.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

To spy or not to spy Tyrod

Posted by Chris Brown on October 2, 2016 – 10:25 am

Through the first three games of the season when Tyrod Taylor has dropped back to pass he’s had a linebacker spying him at times. Not often, but enough in Week 1 and Week 2 to keep Taylor from really victimizing Baltimore and the Jets in the first two games this season.

Last week against the Cardinals, there wasn’t much spy at all and Taylor rolled up more than 70 yards on the ground including a 20-yard touchdown run on a broken pass play.

That kind of production all but guarantees Taylor will be seeing a lot more linebacker spies when he drops back to pass moving forward. When asked what he’s expecting from New England, Taylor said a little bit of everything.

“They mix it up and I definitely anticipate they’re going to mix it up this time around too,” Taylor said.

Taylor doesn’t believe that opponents will do a lot of spying on him simply because to do so they have to commit their most athletic linebacker. That takes their best cover linebacker out of the equation and as Taylor sees it that’s fine by him.

“If you have your second-best cover linebacker on Shady that’s to our advantage,” said Taylor.

Regardless of what kind of advantage it might present to the Bills offense, head coach Rex Ryan believes Taylor’s production last week will compel opposing defensive coordinators to spy Taylor at times even if opponents have to commit their most athletic linebacker.

“We can expect a lot more of it, especially in the passing game,” said Ryan. “That’s when we’re going to see it the most. The thing is the guy that you usually put a spy on him has to be one of your best athletes or he’s not going to be able to keep up with Tyrod. But it is something we definitely have to expect.”


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Strong CB play will give Bills ‘D’ options

Posted by Chris Brown on October 11, 2015 – 11:08 am

As we covered on Buffalobills.com this week both Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore have been at the top of their game the last few games making them one of the best cover tandems so far in 2015. Bills head coach Rex Ryan admits that their lock-tight coverage outside gives he and defensive coordinator more options with play calls defensively.

In his weekly appearance on Coffee with the Coach presented by Tim Hortons, Ryan explained some of the things their coverage ability provides.

“It really helps. Obviously you can do so much more man coverage,” he said. “Usually you isolate those guys and maybe double the inside guys. So there’s a lot of different things that it allows you to do. It’s not easy to find corners who can play that well. But those two have been exceptional.”


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Rex breaks down Titans red zone success

Posted by Chris Brown on October 11, 2015 – 9:58 am

Bills head coach Rex Ryan, in his weekly appearance on Coffee with the Coach presented by Tim Hortons, is fully aware of how successful the Titans have been in the red zone early this season. They’re tied with Pittsburgh for the best red zone touchdown efficiency in the AFC as they’re scoring touchdowns better than three quarters of the time. As Ryan sees it the problem for defenses is there isn’t one thing they can key on with all that Tennessee’s offense has in their arsenal.

“There are a few things. It starts with their quarterback. A quarterback who can run maybe won’t see the same coverages that he might see in the red zone,” Ryan said. “The other thing is they have a couple of huge guys. They’ve got (WR Dorial) Green-Beckham at 6-6 or whatever he is, so that presents a huge problem a size mismatch like Gronkowski, a mismatch size-wise. They have speed with some other guys and they go three tight ends a lot down there a bunch. So they have size, an accurate quarterback who can also run. That’s what makes them extremely tough down there.”

Buffalo’s red zone defense is ranked 16th in the NFL.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Some insight on number of QBs for the 53

Posted by Chris Brown on August 18, 2015 – 8:55 am

Bills head coach Rex Ryan and his offensive staff have a lot of decisions to make in a couple of weeks as they will need to whittle the roster down to 75 and then 53 players. With a roster as deep as Buffalo’s there will be some tough calls, but when it comes to the number of quarterbacks Ryan envisions keeping he sees more than two.

In the first episode of Coffee with the Coach presented by Tim Horton’s, Ryan explained that in keeping the best 53 players on their roster he sees more than just two QBs on the regular season squad.

“No, we’re going to keep 53 really good players and I have a funny feeling that means three quarterbacks,” said Ryan.

Determining the starter at quarterback will be the first order of business, but if the team does keep three QBs all of the signal callers in the competition are expected to stick.


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Special teams edge tilts heavily toward Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on December 21, 2014 – 2:30 pm

More often than not the Bills have won the special teams battle in their games this season. On paper Sunday’s game might present the most lopsided matchup of special teams for Buffalo this year.

Oakland ranks last in the league in opponent average drive start at better than an opponent’s own 33-yard line. For their offense the situation is no better. Their average drive start on offense ranks ranks last in the league as well at less than their own 24-yard line.

Part of that has little to do with special teams. Oakland has the sixth-most giveaways this season with a total of 27. That combined with just 11 takeaways gives the Raiders the worst turnover differential in the NFL at minus-16. Bills head coach Doug Marrone addressed the Raiders’ special teams in his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment presented by Tim Horton’s on Buffalobills.com.

“A lot of it is with the turnovers,” said Bills head coach Doug Marrone of Oakland’s field position issues. “That’s the first thing that you look at. The second part is the opportunities. They have 30 more punts than we have this year. When you give teams in the NFL that many opportunities someone is going to take advantage of it.”

And take advantage they have. Opponents are averaging almost 12 yards a return on Oakland punts making the Raiders the second-worst punt coverage unit in football. It explains why the Raiders have given up nine punt returns of 20 yards or more, which is the most in the NFL this season.

Raider opponents also have the highest collective kick return average in the league at a fat 31.9 average per return. A little more than 94 percent of the time Oakland opponents return a kickoff for more than 20 yards, more than 25 percent about the league average.

This despite the fact that the Raiders have the seventh-best touchback percentage in the league (62.2%) with veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

Perhaps most surprising is the unit is coached by former Bills special teams coach Bobby April, who had some of the best special teams units in football during his time coaching in Buffalo (2004-2009).

Suffice to say that Buffalo return man Marcus Thigpen is likely to have his share of opportunities today.


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Fired up Packers ‘D’ expected by Marrone

Posted by Chris Brown on December 13, 2014 – 2:59 pm

While Bills fans see a Packers defense that surrendered 37 points to the Falcons last week and perhaps an opportunity for the Buffalo offense to get back on track, head coach Doug Marrone sees something different.

Marrone believes Green Bay’s defense will come out motivated to redeem themselves after allowing Atlanta to climb back into the game this past Monday night.

“I think what that convinces me of is they’ll come in here and their defense will be ready to go right off the bat,” said Marrone in his weekly appearance on Coffee with the Coach presented by Tim Horton’s. “There has been a lot of focus on that. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan are two of the better players at their positions in the league and they were able to take advantage of some man-to-man opportunities and really played well. Defensively they had a big lead at the time, but they haven’t played that poorly all year in the secondary. It’s actually been the strength of their defense. What it does is it gives you some optimism where we might be able to run the ball and throw the ball just as well. We’ve been challenged all year offensively so our job is to make sure we’re efficient.”


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Denver’s move away from Manning planned?

Posted by Chris Brown on December 7, 2014 – 9:23 am

Since the Broncos lost to the Rams they have flipped the script on their offensive identity. Following the road loss to St. Louis, Denver has relied heavily on the run and gotten plenty of production out of C.J. Anderson, who has posted back-to-back 160-yard rushing days in their last two victories. But why move the offensive identity away from the sure fire first ballot Hall of Fame QB in Peyton Manning now with four games left in the regular season?

Has the change been opponent specific or is there something else at work here?

I asked coach Marrone in our weekly Coffee with the Coach segment presented by Tim Horton’s on Buffalobills.com. Marrone obviously has seen the shift in offensive philosophy as well, but why it’s happening is anyone’s guess.

“That’s a great question. You really don’t know. They went into the St. Louis game and they didn’t play well and wound up losing that game,” said Marrone of the Broncos. “C.J. Anderson was inserted due to injuries at running back and he ran the ball very well. I think in this league all of us don’t want to be one-dimensional. So you want to show that you can run and pass and be 50-50.

“You don’t know whether strategically they decided they were not going to throw it as much, we’re going to concentrate on the running game. You don’t know how they’re going to come after us. So it’s kind of a wait and see as to how this game goes, but make no mistake about it every defense starts their planning with stopping the run.”

With Denver showing the ability to win both ways Buffalo’s defensive approach will be no different. After witnessing Manning’s 50 percent completion outing last week, something that has happened only 12 times in his 252-game career, it makes one wonder if there are other reasons for the shift.


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Marrone: Jackson tweaked groin vs. Chiefs

Posted by Chris Brown on November 13, 2014 – 5:30 pm

Bills RB Fred Jackson was limited in practice this week and was listed as questionable for tonight’s game. In his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment presented by Tim Horton’s on Buffalobills.com, head coach Doug Marrone revealed that Jackson aggravated his groin injury in last Sunday’s game against Kansas City.

“He tweaked that groin again during the course of the game,” said Marrone of Jackson. “I think it’s very admirable for Fred. We know what type of player he is and how tough he is to be out there, but that’s what happened during the course of that game. I think it’s very difficult… it’s one of those things during the course of the week this week to make those types of decisions.”

That explains why Jackson was on the field for just 27 snaps last Sunday. So in a short week with less time for Jackson to recover the rushing load will likely fall largely to Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown tonight against the Dolphins.

Dixon had just two carries for three yards in the first meeting with Miami. As a team the Bills rushed for 113 yards on 33 carries for a 3.42 yards per carry average.


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Marrone pleased with players on short week

Posted by Chris Brown on November 12, 2014 – 12:24 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone was a bit concerned about how his players would rally physically on a short week coming off a hard fought game against the Chiefs last Sunday. But heading into their final day of practice this week before their Thursday night game with Miami, Buffalo’s sideline boss is pleased with what the players have given him on the practice field.

In his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment, presented by Tim Horton’s, Marrone was encouraged by the tempo at which the players performed in Tuesday’s practice.

“I think one of the things we caught a break on was with the weather on Tuesday,” said Marrone. “It was outstanding so we were able to get outside and we practiced a lot faster than I thought we’d be able to and that’s good because now we can back off a bit here on Wednesday and slow it down. We’ve got to make sure that they’re rested up because we’re now at a point where we’re within 48 hours in the game.”

Marrone’s Coffee with the Coach segment will appear in its entirety on Buffalobills.com Thursday morning.


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Variety key to protections vs. Chiefs pass rush

Posted by Chris Brown on November 9, 2014 – 10:15 am

They stand third in the league with 27 sacks and their top pass rusher leads the league with 12. Justin Houston and his fellow defensive teammates can wreak havoc on an opponent’s passing game, especially if they can force third and longs. Bills head coach Doug Marrone knows that their protection plans are key in keeping the Chiefs pass rush at bay.

In his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment presented by Tim Horton’s, head coach Doug Marrone said the most important part of their protection plan will be variety.

“With the edge players and also with the pressure that they bring what happens is you have to make a decision as to whether you want to keep seven players in to protect,” Marrone said. “If they don’t pressure then we’re not going to be as fast getting into the coverage and displacing the underneath coverage. If you don’t leave anyone in and don’t protect the edges, now you’ve put yourself in jeopardy of getting beat.

“The next thing is do you set it up a certain way to slow them down where they’re wondering if this guy is going to crack block or who is blocking. You do some things like that and you also have some guys hit them on the way out. Some people call that a chip.

“I think there are a couple of different ways to do it. You can’t lock yourself into one. You have to keep mixing it up on them. To be successful you have to let those two ends know you have a plan for them and you’re not just going to let them take over the game.”


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Chiefs offense a model of efficiency

Posted by Chris Brown on November 9, 2014 – 9:11 am

The Chiefs offense isn’t going to wow anyone with game breaking plays, but they will methodically march down the field en route to putting points on the board. Kansas City head coach Andy Reid has his offense executing at an extremely high level this season.

The Chiefs are ranked second in third down conversions (52%), first in third and long conversions (45.5%), third in average number of plays per drive (8.91) and second in number of drives that chew up five minutes of game clock or more (17). In addition they are fourth in fewest fumbles lost with three, first in fewest penalties called against them (39) and fourth in red zone touchdown efficiency (70.4%).

In short Kansas City is not a team that’s going to beat themselves, which puts an onus on the Bills to play error free football on Sunday.

“This team is extremely efficient,” said head coach Doug Marrone in his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment on Buffalobills.com. “They’re not going to beat themselves. We’re going to have to play well in all three phases to beat this team. When you see their offense, defense and special teams playing that way it’s going to take all three phases of our team to beat them. That’s our challenge. We’ll have a good sense of where we are.”


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Orton has shifted offensive focus

Posted by Chris Brown on October 19, 2014 – 10:05 am

Whether it was intentional or not the presence of veteran QB Kyle Orton in the lineup has shifted the identity of the Bills offense a bit. They’re throwing more on first down, and overall as what was once a run heavy scheme has essentially flipped the past three games.

It began in EJ Manuel’s last start at Houston when they threw the ball 44 times, a departure from being a very run heavy club. Then when Orton entered the lineup the higher propensity to pass continued. The past three weeks the Bills have thrown the ball almost 65 percent of the time, while running it just over a shade of 35 percent (35.5%).

 

In his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment, presented by Tim Horton’s on Buffalobills.com, head coach Doug Marrone wasn’t the least bit shocked by the shift.

“I think whenever you put someone new in at that position your offensive identity is going to change,” said Marrone. “Your goals and how you want to be may not, but at the quarterback position, it’s like anything else, Kyle is not going to run around and make any plays with his feet. So you lose that, but you do gain an experienced guy in the pocket who has been playing really well for us.”

Working with Orton has been a process. After not getting any exposure or work with him through the offseason the coaches are learning as they go when it comes to what Orton likes and executes most effectively.

“For us as coaches we’re getting a better feel for him in practice,” Marrone said. “He hasn’t been here that long and he wasn’t here in training camp with us. So now after a few games we have a better feel for what he wants, where we need to go and where we can go with him.”

 


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Marrone: Fans will be louder than Week 2

Posted by Chris Brown on October 12, 2014 – 8:27 am

Back in Week 2 just after it had been announced that the Pegulas had the winning bid for the Bills franchise, Buffalo was hosting Miami in their home opener. The energy in the stadium was electric and the fans had an impact on the game as they forced the Dolphins into some penalties due to the crowd noise. This Sunday with the Pegulas now officially the owners of the team and a big division game against New England, head coach Doug Marrone expects the atmosphere to be even more amped up in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“My expectation is it’s going to be an even greater atmosphere,” said Marrone in his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment on Buffalobills.com and presented by Tim Horton’s. “I think that our fans can play a big difference in this game. We’re focused on going out there and beating a divisional opponent, beating New England. And I think our fans will be able to play a big role in this game and help us.”

Patriots QB Tom Brady has played enough games in Ralph Wilson Stadium to know the din that Bills fans can manufacture on game day.

“It’s always a tough place to play. Communication is always an issue,” said Brady. “I’m sure it’s going to be rowdy. The fans are going to be into it. It’s a one o’clock game, everybody is going to get up and get rolling. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. If you love football, then one o’clock Sunday in Orchard Park is where you want to be.”


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Do similar offensive approaches mean much?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 27, 2014 – 10:23 am

With a pair of head coaches for Sunday’s game between the Bills and Texans, whose offensive philosophies mirror each other in many ways, one might wonder if Doug Marrone and Bill O’Brien are filling in their defensive coordinators on how to prepare for the Houston and Buffalo offense.

Buffalobills.com asked coach Marrone that very question in our weekly ‘Coffee with the Coach’ segment presented by Tim Horton’s. As Marrone sees it the similarities won’t have either defense any more prepared than usual.

“No, I think obviously you see it on film,” said Marrone. “I think our philosophies are similar, but around the league a lot of those philosophies exist. We’re trying to establish the run first, picking the matchups and deciding what we want to do. You do that week to week. We’re excited about it and it’ll be a great challenge. We know that they have a very good staff and they have good players and we feel the same way about our team. It’ll be a good game for us.”


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Bradham’s improved play to be seen today

Posted by Chris Brown on September 14, 2014 – 9:20 am

On more than one occasion Bills head coach Doug Marrone has praised the improved play of Nigel Bradham, who has recommitted himself to the game and performed admirably all preseason. In his weekly Coffee with the Coach interview presented by Tim Horton’s, Marrone gave an idea as to the areas of Bradham’s game where fans will see the most improvement.

“One, he has the ability because of his speed to be a three-down linebacker, which is important because he can be on the field the whole time,” said Marrone. “He’s always been a good tackler for us and that helps us against good rushing clubs. But he’s been very consistent and he’s played extremely well and has really stepped up his game. So you’re going to see someone who can play three downs, cover backs, that can make tackles and a take on linemen. He’s really become a complete linebacker.”

Bradham is expected to be on the field for nickel packages as one of the two linebackers.


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A new approach on 4th down?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2014 – 10:20 am

Last season the Bills had all of 14 fourth down situations in which they chose to go for it. They converted just four of them. In the preseason the Bills were pretty aggressive in choosing to try and convert on fourth down. Might we be witnessing a more aggressive approach on the part of head coach Doug Marrone when it comes to an offense’s last chance to move the sticks?

In the preseason the Bills went for it on fourth down nine times in just five games. That pace would more than double their total from the 2013 season. Sometimes coaches experiment a bit more in the preseason, which may account for one or two of their fourth down attempts. But in our exclusive ‘Coffee with the Coach’ interview presented by Tim Horton’s, we asked coach Marrone if fans should expect a more aggressive approach on fourth downs this season.

“I think it depends on the situation that we’re in, who we’re playing, what our philosophy is going into it, but yes there’s a good possibility that that can happen,” Marrone said. “A lot of it depends on where you are in the game and where you are on the field, so there’s a lot of things that go into it prior to going into the game.”

So in situations where time, score and field position all cater to a ‘go for it’ approach it sounds like Marrone will leave his offense on the field on fourth down.


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