Inside The Bills

Crossman confident he and Rex on same page

Posted by Chris Brown on July 10, 2015 – 3:00 pm

When Rex Ryan was hired the future of the former staff was up in the air. A few members of Buffalo’s coaching staff were retained including special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. While final roster decisions often lie with the head coach, Crossman is confident that he and Ryan are on the same page when it comes to the importance of special teams.

“I feel that way and playing against coach Ryan every year with the Jets, they were always a team that had a pretty good (special teams) nucleus until kind of the last couple of years when their whole roster started to change,” Crossman told Buffalobills.com. “That will take care of itself. I’m a firm believer that the players who earn the right to be on the team and earn the right to get a uniform on game day they’ll be here. Who, how, that’ll take care of itself and it always does. Coach (Ryan) has been the head coach of some teams that have had some very, very good special teams so I don’t think that’ll be an issue whatsoever.”

During the spring practices Crossman was afforded a good portion of the practice time with his special teams units and he believes some final roster decisions will be made with special teams in mind.


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Spec. teams area for improvement – punting

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2015 – 3:03 pm

Buffalo’s special teams had a renaissance year last season finishing second overall in the well respected Dallas Morning News comprehensive rankings put together by Rick Gosselin. But there’s always room to improve and there’s one area in particular that coordinator Danny Crossman believes can make a jump this coming season.

Crossman has some short list items as any coach does from one season to the next, but near the top of that list is the punt game. That’s not to indicate that Colton Schmidt struggled last season. As a rookie he performed rather well as he got adjusted to the NFL game. But Crossman wants to see an improvement when it comes to net punting, which means reducing return yardage, improving hang time, forcing fair catches and avoiding touchbacks.

Part of what worked against Schmidt and the punt coverage unit last season was the majority of his kicks were on the opponent’s side of midfield, which negatively impacted gross punting average. That affects net punting average and provides a greater risk for touchbacks off a bounced ball.

“When you talk about punting the football early in the year most of our punts was what we consider plus-50 so we weren’t going to have the big gross and we were going to have an okay net as long as we weren’t getting touchbacks,” Crossman said. “We knew based on where we were we were going to have a high number of inside the 20s and inside the 10s and that’s sort of how the year played out.”

On 86 punts Schmidt had just six touchbacks with 31 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, which was tied for fourth-best in the NFL last season.

“As a coach you want to be better on everything,” said Crossman. “We need to punt the ball better and we still need to be better in coverage even though we were pretty good at it.”

As a side note, kickoff specialist Jordan Gay also doubles as a punter and will try to give Schmidt some competition in training camp this summer.


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Crossman: Easley has shot at Pro Bowl

Posted by Chris Brown on July 8, 2015 – 11:10 am

He’s gone a long way in making a name for himself on special teams the past two seasons. Now with the special teams unit coming off a season in which they ranked second in the league overall and a squad poised to end Buffalo’s postseason drought, Marcus Easley could earn himself a Pro Bowl nod as a specialist.

When asked about the chances for Pro Bowl recognition for his ace coverage team player, special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, in a forthcoming one-on-one interview with Buffalobills.com, believes it can happen.

“In my opinion absolutely,” Crossman said. “He’s carved a name out around the league for himself the way he’s performed the last two years. A lot of those accolades are garnered by establishing yourself first. You’ve got to have that name recognition that shows you’ve done it at a high level before and then the expectations that people have and are aware of watching you to see if you’re still able to play at that high level. We think he can and we think he will.”

Typical of Easley, the specialist shrugs off thoughts of earning Pro Bowl recognition, choosing instead to focus on team goals first and foremost.

“We’ve got team goals as far as making the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl,” Easley said. “As far as individual success that will come with the team goals. As long as we do our part on offense, defense and special teams guys will get rewarded.”


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Crossman: Jordan Gay has proven himself

Posted by Chris Brown on July 7, 2015 – 11:46 am

A good number of NFL observers still think it’s a luxury position, but more and more teams are putting stock in having a kickoff specialist to ensure touchbacks. Buffalo was one of the teams that carried a kickoff specialist last season in Jordan Gay. With a coaching change this offseason some are wondering if Gay is still held in high standing.

All Gay did last season was help improve Buffalo’s kickoff coverage from 17th in 2013 to 3rd in 2014. His touchback percentage (60.5%) was good for ninth in the league, and that doesn’t take into account some of the return men Buffalo faced last season who had free license to bring it out no matter how deep the kick was in the end zone (e.g. Percy Harvin – twice, Cordarelle Patterson).

With Rex Ryan the new head coach, there had been speculation as to where Ryan stood on the importance of having a reliable kickoff specialist. Buffalo’s contract extension for Gay this offseason was one indication that nothing has changed, and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman provided even more clarity as to how much the Bills value Gay’s contributions.

In a forthcoming one-on-one interview with Buffalobills.com, Crossman stated unequivocally that Gay proved his worth last season as deserving of a spot on Buffalo’s deep and talented roster.

“Without question,” said Crossman. “The year that Jordan had… and we think he’s going to be even better. It’s not as much of a luxury if you’re getting a super highly-productive player. I don’t care what it is. You may have a guy on your roster that only plays 15 plays a game, but in those 15 plays a game he gets a sack. Well that value is there. Everyone looks at each position differently. I think Jordan’s value – he showed what he was worth in terms of the depth of the kicks and hang time of the kicks he put us in great position to make a lot of plays.”

 


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Carrington out to re-take role on spec. teams

Posted by Chris Brown on May 26, 2015 – 2:00 pm

Bills DL Alex Carrington is back in the fold after spending the 2014 season with the St. Louis Rams. Not only is Carrington working to make the roster as a defensive lineman, but to re-establish himself as an accomplished kick blocker on field goals and extra points.

Carrington blocked an unheard of four kicks (3 FGs, 1 PAT) back in 2012 with the Bills, earning the nickname ‘MegaHand’ from his teammates. The sixth-year pro hasn’t thought about how the next extra point might aid his efforts to block kicks, but knowing a fake is far less likely from the new line of scrimmage on extra points (15-yard line) it will give the extra point and field goal block unit the chance to be even more aggressive.

“I make a point to get after it every time,” Carrington told Buffalobills.com. “You don’t know when you somebody is going to get lazy over there or have a void in the protection or something. That might be an extra little advantage though.”

Joining a special teams unit that finished second overall in 2014 is something Carrington is looking forward to this fall.

“That puts a big smile on my face because true football fans and anybody who really knows the game knows that a good special teams unit will take you a very long way,” he said. “You put that on top of a good defense… I didn’t even know they were number two. That’s really good. Crossman is a good coach. I’ll see if I can get back out there to block some field goals and extra points.”

 


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Easley big on Rex Ryan

Posted by Chris Brown on March 12, 2015 – 4:45 pm

Marcus Easley, who just re-signed on Thursday, was glad to see that special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was still on the new coaching staff led by new head coach Rex Ryan. Of course he was also pretty excited to see Ryan named as the Bills new head coach.

“I’m a big fan of Rex Ryan,” said Easley. “I’ve talked to several people that have played with him while he was in New York and everyone had nothing but great things to say about him and the way he runs his team, so as you can see from day one it’s a whole new vibe. It’s a whole new atmosphere with him around. I’m very excited for everything he has to offer and bring to this organization.”


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Crossman on having a kickoff specialist

Posted by Chris Brown on January 29, 2015 – 11:10 am

Bills special teams coordinator Danny Crossman had to break in a rookie punter and a kickoff specialist in 2014. On the whole both Colton Schmidt and Jordan Gay performed well for Buffalo. Whether Buffalo’s new head coach Rex Ryan feels a kickoff specialist is necessary is something that will likely be decided in the coming months.

In an appearance on the John Murphy Show this week, Crossman sounded like he wants to continue developing both young kickers on Buffalo’s roster, but he knows he doesn’t have the final say.

“We haven’t gotten that far yet in the evaluation stage,” said Crossman of keeping a kickoff specialist. “I’m a firm believer if a guy is outstanding at what they do they’ll find work. We were happy with both of those guys and what they were able to do for us. Jordan was a big help in an area where we were lacking a little bit in terms of what he was able to do on kickoffs. Number one touchbacks, but even the returns that did come out against us the drive starts average on the returns was so much better than the touchbacks because of the distance and the hang time and the coverage guys that we added and made it a strength for our special teams.

“There’s a lot of upside with (punter) Colton Schmidt too after he came in right at the start of the season this past year and performed well.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

How Crossman was retained

Posted by Chris Brown on January 29, 2015 – 11:06 am

Not long after Rex Ryan was hired as head coach of the Bills he made a phone call to current special teams coordinator Danny Crossman to see if he could retain him for his staff. Crossman was a guest of the John Murphy Show this week and explained how the interaction with coach Ryan went down.

“He called me and discussed the opportunity for me to stay and with the things that we’ve done and the players that we’ve added and the upswing we were on with the kicking game, I felt very fortunate to continue what we started,” said Crossman. “We’ve had conversations every other day or so, but very upbeat and very positive and really look forward to settling in and spending more time with him.”

Crossman also got a new assistant special teams coach in Eric Smith, who last played safety for the Jets a few seasons ago, and is described by head coach Rex Ryan as one of the smarter young football minds he’s come across.


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Bills rank 2nd in overall special teams

Posted by Chris Brown on January 23, 2015 – 1:24 pm

Long time Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin was the first to put together a comprehensive analysis of the league’s special teams units more than two decades ago. He’s still putting that rankings list together annually and special teams coordinators value it. Buffalo may have made the biggest single-season jump ever from last year to this past season.

In 2013 the Bills finished 31st in Gosselin’s special teams rankings. This past season they ranked second behind only Philadelphia. It makes the decision to retain Danny Crossman as special teams coordinator all the more encouraging. Here’s the list.

SPORTSDAY’S SPECIAL TEAM RANKINGS

The NFL’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 kicking­-game categories and assigned points according to their standing 

Rank  Team  Points
1  Philadelphia  201.5
2  Buffalo  227.5
 3  New England  233.5
 4  Atlanta  239.5
 5  Baltimore  264
 6  Cincinnati  272.5
 7  Indianapolis  273.5
 8  Kansas City  293.5
 9  St. Louis  308.5
 10  Minnesota  320.5
 11  Arizona  327
 12  Miami  363.5
 13  Dallas  389.5
 14  New Orleans  392.5
 15  Detroit  393
 15  Houston  393
 17  Cleveland  393.5
 17  Seattle 393.5
 19  Denver  401
 20  NY Jets  404
 21  Pittsburgh  410
22  Oakland  411
23  San Francisco  414
24  Tampa Bay  419
 25  NY Giants  423
 26  Chicago  423.5
 27  Jacksonville  428
 28  Tennessee  430
 29  San Diego  433
 30  Washington  444
 31  Carolina  445.5
 32  Green Bay  450


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Bills retain spec. teams coordinator Crossman

Posted by Chris Brown on January 14, 2015 – 4:04 pm

The Bills made a change at offensive coordinator under new head coach Rex Ryan and terminated the contract of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, but Ryan is going to keep special teams coordinator Danny Crossman in the fold for 2015.

The team made the announcement late Wednesday afternoon. Crossman’s special teams units made widespread improvements from 2013 to 2014, with key additions like Boobie Dixon and Corey Graham filling valuable veteran roles. Crossman also capably blended in a rookie punter and kickoff specialist to help improve the coverage units. Here’s a look at some categories where Buffalo’s special teams improved the most from 2013 to 2014.

SPECIAL TEAMS                        2013                                                   2014
Field position                                    26.8 – 25th                                            30.2 – 5th
Avg. drive start KO                          20.7 – 27th                                            22.5 – 10th
Kick return avg.                                20.4 – 29th                                            23.3 – 17th
Kickoffs – TB pct.                            41.5% – 24th                                         60.5% – 9th
Opponent KO avg. start                 22.7 – 23rd                                           20.7 – 5th
Punt return avg.                              6.2 – 29th                                              9.6 – 12th
FG Pct.                                              91.7% – 10th                                         89.5% – 6th
Net punting avg.                             36.6 – 30th                                            38.7 – 23rd
Punt coverage (opp. avg.)             10.6 – 25th                                            6.5 – 4th
Kick coverage (opp. avg.)             23.4 – 17th                                            20 – 3rd
FG Pct. Against                               86.1% -17th                                          81.1% – 9th
Opp. field position                         31.2 – 31st                                            26.9 – 11th


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Crossman: Veteran additions grew the culture

Posted by Chris Brown on October 29, 2014 – 5:38 pm

He wanted veteran core special teams players as part of his four main special teams units (kick return, kick coverage, punt return, punt coverage) after a trying first year of running Buffalo’s special teams. Now halfway through his second season as Bills special teams coordinator, Danny Crossman is pretty pleased with the growth in team culture on his special teams squad.

Crossman credits players like Boobie Dixon, Corey Graham and Brandon Spikes for convincing younger players of the value of special teams to the outcome of games. It quickly emboldened incumbent special teamers like Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley, Ty Powell, Duke Williams and Ron Brooks to take on more of a lead by example approach for the new arrivals on the roster. Soon the importance and commitment to special teams play reached critical mass.

“The plan up to this point has worked. We’re excited,” Crossman said. “The guys we brought in for leadership as well as performance have done both at a high level. The biggest thing is that leadership. I think some of the other guys have stepped up who were here a year ago and some of the new younger guys that we added this year. Right from the get go they’ve been brought into that culture of what our expectations are and not only coach driven, but player driven. Anytime you get that you’re going to be successful.”

 


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Crossman on Jets attempted trick kick return

Posted by Chris Brown on October 28, 2014 – 2:32 pm

In the third quarter Sunday with the Jets desperate to get something going to improve their field position, they called a lateral pass on a kickoff return. Fortunately Buffalo’s coverage unit was ready for it.

Bills special teams coordinator Danny Crossman explained what happened.

“That’s a play… we talk and harp on so much stuff and talk about awareness and recognition and seeing certain things and when you looked at our guys in the huddle they were aware of what their formation was right from the get go,” said Crossman. “And what different things they do out of certain situations. So I thought they did a great job of recognizing the play and the front side guys playing the play. The back side guys playing the possibility of a reverse. But it’s like anything in this league when you’re hunting big game, sometimes the big game is hunting you. It’s a play by play thing.”

Crossman is generally happy with what his special teams units have accomplished so far, but truly believes that it just takes one big play against you to reverse the positive momentum you’ve built up all season. So he intends to remain vigilant with his players and hopes to have Marcus Easley and Ty Powell, two key special teams players back after the bye.


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Starters on special teams have set tone

Posted by Chris Brown on September 17, 2014 – 11:32 am

The Bills not only have back-to-back winners for AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Dan Carpenter and C.J. Spiller, they’ve got a host of starters playing important roles on their special teams units under coordinator Danny Crossman. Head coach Doug Marrone said the impact of their core special teamers and starters from offense and defense on those units has been critical.

“There are about 30-something positions on special teams. You have four or five, sometimes you can have six, core players that can play a majority of those four. Then, all of the sudden, due to injuries you start having to watch out about those snap counts with everyone. We do have starters on most teams, at least one phase of it,” said Marrone.

“For Robert Woods to go down there and make that play, which was a great play, we pointed that out to the team. Brandon Spikes blocked for CJ Spiller. We pointed that out. Leodis coming from 50-something yards downfield to be in the mix for the blocked punt. I think that just goes to show the type of effort that our starters are giving on special teams, which I think is important,” Marrone said. “Corey Graham is playing all over the place. You can sit there and preach that as a coach, but when those players go out there and the rest of the team can see it on the field then that will make you better. We’ve been playing well on special teams right now and we need to keep going.”

The Bills currently rank second in the league in kick return average and fifth in the league in punt coverage.


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Touchback percentage made returns difficult

Posted by Chris Brown on July 1, 2014 – 9:13 am

The Bills did not have a good season on kick returns last year. We profiled who the team’s kick returner might be for the 2014 season in today’s installment of our daily Camp Countdown series on the home page. No matter who it is it will be interesting to see if circumstance and return philosophy has the impact it did on their productivity last season.

Buffalo’s kick return unit was largely the victim of circumstance last season. In facing a lot of the league’s big legged kickoff specialists the Bills far and away had the highest touchback percentage in the NFL in 2013. A whopping 71.8% of their kickoffs received went for touchbacks, good for most in the league.

The only other teams that were close were Atlanta (70.7%) and New Orleans (68.1%), which wasn’t surprising with both being dome teams. The league average for touchbacks however, was less than 50 percent (49.9%).

The Bills also had the second-highest number of kickoffs received that reached the end zone (91.8%). Only Atlanta had a higher percentage.

Now not every kick that reaches the end zone means it should be at touchback, but it at least appeared more often than not that anything more than five yards deep in the end zone the Bills would take a knee. Other teams chose to be more aggressive and paid the price for it so it’s not an easy call as to where the line of demarcation should be to take a knee or bring it out.

Either way it’s going to be interesting to see the steps Buffalo’s kick return unit takes in year two under Crossman.


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Carpenter was perfect

Posted by Chris Brown on June 19, 2014 – 2:26 pm

One last note from Bills minicamp day 2. During a special teams segment coordinator Danny Crossman had the field goal unit running through a series of eight attempts with Dan Carpenter taking all of them. Here’s how Carpenter fared.

1 – 32 yards – right hash – good
2 – 34 yards – left hash – good
3 – 36 yards – left hash – good
4 – 38 yards – right hash – good
5 – 42 yards – right hash – good
6 – 45 yards – left hash – good
7 – 46 yards – left hash – good
8 – 48 yards – right hash – good

A perfect 8-for-8 for Carpenter. We’ll see if Dustin Hopkins gets an opportunity in today’s final minicamp practice.

 

 


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Expert advice for your fantasy team?

Posted by johnmurphyshow on April 2, 2014 – 6:19 pm

ranazziziHe’s may not be a fantasy football expert, but he plays one on TV.

Tonight on The John Murphy Show, actor/comedian Steve Rannazzisi joins us as he prepares for a three-day engagement at Buffalo’s Helium Comedy Club. He plays Kevin MacArthur in the hit FXX TV show “The League.” In the show, Kevin is the former League Commissioner who is the first one in his group of fantasy players to get married and have a kid. We’ll get some fantasy football tips from Rannazzisi at 830pm.

Also on the show, former Bills LB Shane Conlan joins us at 730pm to talk about his new job with the Arena Football League’s Pittsburgh Power. Conlan has lived in Pittsburgh since his playing days ended and he’s found a way to mesh his love of football into his extensive experience in the business world.

And Bills Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman stops by at 8pm to discuss the recent additions to the roster (Corey Graham, Anthony Dixon) and how they can help upgrade the Bills special teams.

As usual, phone calls from fans are encouraged. The John Murphy Show airs from 7pm-9pm tonight on the flagship station of the Buffalo Bills, WGR Sportsradio 550.


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Moorman believes in Crossman’s schemes

Posted by Chris Brown on January 8, 2014 – 9:18 am

As we profiled on Buffalobills.com this morning, Brian Moorman wants to keep kicking in Buffalo, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent. While the organization has expressed an intention to make the veteran punter an offer, Moorman knows there are no guarantees. At the same time Moorman called his return to Buffalo the most fun he’s had in the NFL in three years, and he’s a supporter of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman.

“I think he did a good job,” Moorman said of Crossman. “He’s coming to a new team and putting in a new scheme. I think just having one more year under his belt with another full offseason and training camp, he’s got good schemes and I think we’ve got good players. I don’t think you can base it off one or two returns. I think we’ve had a good year.”

Moorman was instrumental in helping Crossman’s punt unit to cut their average return against from 14.5 yards with Shawn Powell punting to 7.6 yards with Moorman punting.

The veteran punter believes they’ll be able to shave some other numbers down on coverage units while also improving their return game themselves.

“That’s one of the things that we’ll probably look at throughout the offseason and continue to get better and the schemes that coach Crossman has going in I think are very effective,” said Moorman. “Obviously we take a lot of pride in that and we’ll continue to improve on that as we go.”


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What happened on the kick returns

Posted by Chris Brown on December 29, 2013 – 10:57 pm

The Bills gave up a season-high 189 kick return yards on just four returns Sunday. Head coach Doug Marrone tried to explain what went wrong on the two returns by LeGarrette Blount that went for 83 and 62 yards right after Buffalo touchdown drives.

“The missed tackles are what happened,” said Marrone. “I think when you put the film on you’ll see going on there, one time we got collapsed and missed a tackle in a hole. A couple of problems of that one. Obviously if you get knocked out of your lane… on the second one there were three missed tackles by guys in position to make it. You have to make that play and we weren’t able to make it.”

“He bounced it, I want to say, on the back side,” said Arthur Moats. “We squeezed to flat. It was a good play by [LaGarrette Blount]. Initially they hadn’t shown any bounces all year with 29 back there. On the second one we had a guy in the hole he has to make the play.”

Marrone said it’s been difficult to get consistent core of special teams players assembled under special teams coordinator Danny Crossman.

“There are times we haven’t done things well enough, spotty play,” said Marrone. “I don’t disagree with that. I don’t think coach Crossman would disagree with you. But going forward one of the things we have to do is see the teams that have good special teams have good specialists back there returning. But you have to have a core and we really haven’t. That’s one of the things we need to improve on and one of the things we’ll address in the offseason.”


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Moorman in sync with Crossman’s approach

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 3:32 pm

Bills punter Brian Moorman had a sit down with special teams coordinator Danny Crossman after signing back with the club. After discussing the approach with the punt team in particular, the veteran punter is confident he can deliver what Crossman is looking for.

“His philosophies of the alley and things like that I really, really like,” said Moorman. “Obviously, as punters, we always want hang time, we always put a watch on the ball.  Being in the weather that we’re in here, sometimes it’s easier than others-the wind will knock it down or whatever.

“Talking to guys like Jim Leonhard and some of the other guys on the coverage, the one thing that we’ve always done throughout  the years we try to cover each other’s back—if I cant get the same hang time, they cover.  If the coverage gets blocked up, I got to get better hang time.  We just have to come together as a group—11-guys try to go out there and help the defense out with good field position.”


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Marrone not focused on his debut

Posted by Chris Brown on August 11, 2013 – 9:37 am

For Doug Marrone, Sunday will mark the first time he’s on an NFL sideline as a head coach. But if you ask Buffalo’s new head coach about what he might be feeling when he takes to the sideline this afternoon, he dismisses it.

“I really don’t think about that. I’m a little different type of guy,” said Marrone. “I’m more concerned about doing the best job I can, working the game management situations through my mind. Getting the players ready to play. Getting out there and really evaluating. Watching the coaches. We’ll be on the headphones doing all that stuff really for the first time. That’ll be my focus.”

For Marrone it’ll mark the first time he’s working as a head coach with assistants like Mike Pettine, Danny Crossman and others. Working the communication between the sidelines and the booth upstairs are just as important for coaches at times as the play on the field.


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