Inside The Bills

Gailey’s faith in Wannstedt rewarded

Posted by Chris Brown on December 8, 2012 – 12:36 pm

About seven weeks ago Bills fans were understandably in an uproar over the shortcomings of a Buffalo defense that was having trouble stopping the run and the pass and keeping opponents out of their end zone. After becoming the first NFL defense to allow 300 yards rushing and 300 yards passing in one game in the loss at San Francisco, Chan Gailey stood by his defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Now two months later Gailey’s faith is being rewarded.

Buffalo’s run defense has allowed fewer than 90 yards rushing to each of their last three opponents, the first time a Bills defense has done that in nine seasons. Their yards per carry average allowed since Week 9 is tops in the league. They’ve given up an average of 17.3 points per game in their last three outings, a touchdown better than their season average (23.1). But for Gailey to see Wannstedt’s defense rebound in the fashion it has does not serve as validation for the Bills head coach.

“I’ve been through this for many years and when you believe in somebody and you know what they can do and you know what they’re capable of, when it gets questioned you don’t feel validated when they do well and you don’t feel rattled when they don’t do well because you know what they are and who they are,” said Gailey in his weekly conversation with Buffalobills.com. “And you know that it’ll eventually get worked out. I never had a question. I don’t feel validated, but I trust Dave (Wannstedt) and know Dave is a great defensive coach and we’ve got a lot of good defensive coaches. We’re fortunate in that respect.”


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Fan Friday 11-23

Posted by Chris Brown on November 23, 2012 – 12:51 pm

Happy Thanksgiving Bills fans. Here’s the latest edition of questions from you the fans at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris, 
Short passes are good if the QB makes good throws but that is not the case with Fitz.  He is having trouble on possession throws and deep throws as well, perhaps playing tight with all changes made to how he throws?  Which begs the question how does the coaching staff change their coaching and change alignments to get optimal results from their players so fans do not have to read every week that the loss is on us from the players? The results when repeated over and over are on the coaching staff and how they drill, align, condition, and make things as easy as possible for players to understand and use on the field.  We are in last place, do you see this changing?  Do we now have to win the division to get to the playoffs?

CB: Actually Ryan Fitzpatrick’s accuracy is up considerably. Over the last four games he’s completed more than 68% of his passes (96-140 – 68.6%) with five touchdowns against two interceptions, which translates  to a passer rating of 94. He’s raised his completion percentage on the season over those past four games from 58.9% to 62.5%.

As for alignments, Chan Gailey is a master at altering alignments to get defensive players to cheat ever so slightly to enhance the potential gains on plays that often catch that defensive player paying for cheating to one half of the field or the other.

Both the offensive and defensive staffs drill proper alignment and assignment, but they can’t go out on the field and execute too. That’s why the players have put the blame on themselves primarily. They insist that their game plans that they get from the coaching staff are sound, but the execution is not.

Last week against the Dolphins, the run defense was as sound as it’s looked all season. The players chalked it up to fitting up gaps and holding them effectively along with sound, fundamental tackling. All of those elements have not been consistently present for the defense, though it looks like it’s on an upswing looking at the last few outings. 

As for the AFC playoff race, catching the Patriots looks to be a difficult task. They’re three games back and New England has the series sweep head-to-head. The Wild Card is what should be targeted first, knowing there is still a cluster of teams between 4-6 and 6-4, which right now is good enough to hold a Wild Card spot in the AFC.

 

2 - Hey Chris,

Big fan of the Bills down in Staten Island. We are rare down here but we are strong. My question is about Tarvaris Jackson. Why did we trade for him if he never dresses for games? My thought was that if he doesn’t play at all it impacts the draft choice that we have to give Seattle. I know Fitz is Chan’s guy, but I feel his confidence isn’t there and a shake-up might help him. Any thoughts?

CB: As I mentioned above, Fitzpatrick has been much more consistent in the last four games, but Jackson’s status as an inactive player each week to this point has frustrated more than just you. I get several emails each week about fans wanting to know why Jackson doesn’t even dress. I’m still working to confirm this, but we believe that if Jackson is dressed for six games or more this season, Buffalo’s conditional seventh-round pick which was sent to Seattle to acquire Jackson, becomes a sixth-round pick. With six games left in the season, we’ll see if Jackson is suddenly active in a couple of weeks.

 

3 - Hi Chris,
Regarding the Bills offense, when they go against teams, why don’t they open up with the no huddle, score a couple of touchdowns, then go to the two tight end formation and control the football? Obviously, in terms of opponents, they cannot open up the same way with every team, but why not incorporate a portion of that for most of their games? Success with either approach would be a key, but I just think that if they approached their game planning a little smarter, they may in better shape than they are in right now. Obviously, the spread offense is the main objective, but a wrinkle here or there could mean the difference between a win or a loss. They have two very good running backs, which are being underutilized. Even if a team shuts down their running game, a short pass attack all the way down the field mixed in with runs would work too.  

Regarding the defense, I think Dave Wannstedt needs to blitz more. I know his reasons for not doing so, but teams are never going to be afraid of our defense unless we show more aggression. We have good talent all the way around, I think our coaching on both sides of the ball is the problem.

Your thoughts,
Tony, Ormond Beach, Fl
CB: I would not be surprised if we so a no huddle approach used in the coming weeks as a surprise element, whether it’s to start a game or to start a second half. I think the struggles of the defense in the first half of the season forced Chan Gailey and the offensive staff to move away from it. But with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing better football and the defense more consistent of late I think there’s a greater likelihood that it’s utilized at some point in the near future.

Your call for the defense to blitz more is a common one among fans. We saw some run blitzes against the Patriots a couple of weeks ago, but if the front four continue to improve blitzing might not be as necessary a change-up as it may have been just a few weeks ago.

 

4 – Chris,
Since the Bills offense is predicated on quick passing and short routes.   It seems a few of their WR’s are ill suited for this offense (Graham and Easley) who are more speed guys and less polished on short routes.    It seems to me a Naaman Roosevelt, although not a huge special teams contributor, would do well in this offense with good routes and great hands.   David Nelson also thrived in our offense and he won’t be confused with a speedy WR.   It seems as though if Roosevelt was running that post route rather than Graham, the Bills may have beaten the Pats.   Your thoughts whether our we’ve been drafting truly fit our schemes
Thanks
-Jim

CB: I think your question is a valid one. Roosevelt is a good fit for the quick underneath stuff that the Bills employ, but they already have those kinds of wideouts on the roster in the form of Nelson (though he’s on I-R) and Donald Jones. Even Stevie is that kind of wideout. The idea of drafting Graham is to further diversify the offense. They just have to wait on Graham to develop before that happens.

So that’s really the approach there with Graham on the roster. Easley is another example of that, deep speed to stretch the field and diversify the offensive approach.
5 – Chris,

I wanted to address the “Fitzpatrick Situation”. A few weeks ago, Buddy Nix acknowledged the need to upgrade the quarterback position, which was in stark contrast to his and Chan’s position on the issue 11 weeks ago. My fear is this seems to be set in motion more by public opinion than cognitive thought and, given the incoming crop of potential rookie quarterbacks, a draft pick may be sacrificed to appease the fan base rather than invested on more pressing needs in the secondary and linebacking corp.

Thanks for all you do.
Rob

CB: To be clear Buddy said they’re in a position now where if there’s a quarterback prospect they like that can be a franchise type quarterback that can play for the next 10 years, they’re in a position now where they can afford to sacrifice draft choices to get that guy.

Nix has also said that even if they draft one early it doesn’t mean he’s going to be thrust into the starting lineup right away. He’ll compete and play when he’s ready. The Bills GM gave no indication that the team would be turning away from Fitzpatrick as the starter next year. I believe everyone incorrectly assumed that if the team drafts a QB high that it automatically means Fitz is out when I think the opposite might be true.


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Fan Friday 11-9

Posted by Chris Brown on November 9, 2012 – 4:05 pm

Sorry for the delayed posting of Fan Friday. Got bogged down with some extra work this week and some Friday roster moves. Here is the latest edition of questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and @ChrisBrownBills on Twitter.

1 – Hey Chris,

I have three things that I am very curious about and am interested to see what you have to say.

First off I wonder every week why when the defense is struggling so badly why Chan has not approached Dave Wannstedt about being on the sidelines during games. It may seem like a small matter,but when you look around the league the top defenses seem to have their coaches very invested in the games as well. I mean isn’t it beneficial for the players to be able to come off the field, and sit there with Dave and say look this is what they’re doing?

Secondly, I don’t understand why Chan seems to not believe in the idea of putting Hairston on the right side when Cordy comes back. Hairston has done a fine job on the left side, and Pears play has been fairly poor. It just seems like it would really benefit the team to have five young guys in there playing together for the long term.

Thirdly, the offense seems to have trouble on third downs largely in part to the absence of Nelson. His big body was always a safe play for Fitz. So I wonder where is Marcus Easley at? He has the size and hands to be very helpful in the middle of the field. Donald Jones has done a nice job in the slot, but his small stature seems to make it a less viable option, and the team has struggled to convert those 3rd and 7,8 that Nelson would often convert.

Thanks for your time,
Colt in Sacramento

CB: A lot of stuff there. I don’t know that moving Wannstedt’s location is going to make him call a game any differently.

With respect to Hairston he’s at right tackle right now. In Erik Pears’ defense he had been playing at less than 100 percent from the beginning of the season and only got worse physically as the season wore on. I feel it affected the consistency of his play this year. Hairston is a great option at right tackle moving forward.

There’s no question that the offense needed an adjustment period without Nelson. The guy was the second leading receiver on the team last year. Easley got called up to the active roster this week so you’ve got your wish.

2 – Hey Chris,

Have you talked to Chan about more opportunities for Dorin Dickerson & T.J. Graham? Dorin could be utilized in two tight end and would be a match up nightmare for a linebacker or safety. T.J. could be employed on end arounds & quick slants, as well as the deep ball to strech defenses. Even if not completed, at least it could back the safeties up for the run game as well as for Stevie & the boys. What are your thoughts on this. Thanks,

Tommy P. Buffalo Bills fan 4 life

CB: As a matter of fact I have asked Coach Gailey about both players. So here are his answers for you.

First on Dickerson and why he hasn’t been a bigger part of the game plans.

“It’s been a matter of the teams we’ve played and the defenses that we’ve played and what we’re trying to get done offensively,” Gailey said. “He’s not done anything wrong and he’s not done anything bad. It just hasn’t fit to this point. We’re hoping as the season goes on it does fit.”

On Graham
“The one thing you can’t do is force things. I go back to the analogy I used earlier in the season. C.J. was in the same spot, lots of talent, just hadn’t quite learned all the nuances of the game yet,” said Gailey. “You try to put him in there too much then you’re putting him in a bad situation. With the passing game it’s even more so because now not only are you putting him in a bad situation, but if the understanding isn’t there you’re putting Fitz in a bad situation. You’re trying to get the ball here and T.J. doesn’t understand what you’re trying to get done with a route or a concept and it doesn’t come out right. You want to involve him and we want to keep trying to work with him, but we’ve got a ways to go.”

“He’s very talented, he’s going to be a very good player, but he’s not there yet. We’ll continue to work with him.”

3 - Hi Chris,

As a long time Bills fan, I knew (just like most Bills fans) that the Titans were going to score. WHY didn’t Gailey call time out and save 40 seconds of clock?  That would have made a big difference and given Fitz a chance to methodically move down the field.  Has anyone asked him about that decision?  We also need to start blitzing more, and Chan need to say that Wannstedt.

Go Bills,

Kevin

CB: Chan was in a tough spot, calling timeout saves time for the opponent that’s trying to score. As a coach you’re hoping your defense gets a stop, knowing they need a touchdown to win and can’t settle for a field goal. In that spot you’re up six and you’re using the clock almost as an added means of pressure.

4 – Chris,

A lot of Bills fans have been excited about Marcus Easley since he was drafted.  Now that he’s on the 53 man roster will he dress for games, let alone have a role on offense?  If they found a way to get him involved he would be a tough player to defend with his measurables.  We need a player like him that can go up and get it. 

Thank you,
Ryan from Colorado

CB: I think the thing with Marcus Easley was he has build up speed and is very fast and can get behind defenders deep, but with this offense predicated on short timing routes they need receivers to get open and create separation quickly. That’s not the greatest asset in Easley’s skill set. I think that’s ultimately why he didn’t make the 53-man roster at the start of the season.

Obviously he’s improved in that area to the point where the Bills want to give him a shot in games now that he’s on the roster, but I would expect his role to be rather limited down the stretch.

5 – Hey Chris,
Any chance that Matt Flynn will be available this season or next? And if he is would the Bills be interested?

CB: I don’t really see that as a match for the Bills. He certainly could be available with the way Russell Wilson has been playing. There’s a chance they may not want a backup that’s pulling down over $5M in base salary with a cap hit of $7.25M. The problem here is unless someone wants Flynn as a starter, and I’m not sure anyone does in light of how lukewarm the free agent market was when he was a free agent last offseason, moving that contract off their books to another team won’t be easy.

I think Seattle may see if they can renegotiate his deal first. If he won’t take a pay cut they’re probably going to have to release him outright. If he were to become a free agent I still don’t see the Bills being interested. GM Buddy Nix has said the plan is to add a future franchise quarterback in the draft.


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Wannstedt: Blitzing is not the answer

Posted by johnmurphyshow on November 1, 2012 – 7:45 pm

They’ve spent the last week and a half looking for answers in the Buffalo Bills meeting rooms, in the film rooms, and on the practice field.

The Bills are determined to fix what’s wrong with the 31st ranked defense in the NFL, and determined to get it right before Sunday’s game in  Houston.

Defensive Coordinator Dave Wannstedt was a guest on The John Murphy Show Thursday night, and he talked about the Bills defensive struggle through the first seven games.   Wannstedt says his biggest hurdle is to get his players to be more consistent.

“The biggest thing we gotta do is we gotta be consistent at what we do,” Wannstedt said on the radio show.  “Whether it be third downs, or stopping the run   or rushing the passer—we have no consistency right now.  It’s one game up, one down.”

Some have wondered whether the Bills should be blitzing more to generate more pressure on opponent passers.  But Wannstedt says that’s not  always a great idea.

“Everybody talks about blitzing more. Well, you can blitz more.  In our thinking, you’ve got two rookie corners and every time you blitz, you’re leaving those corners alone. “

“You can blitz the bad ones, you cover the good ones—that’s the way it is on defense,” Wannstedt continued.  “

” At the end of the day, our bread and butter is our front four, and we’re gonna live and die with those guys.  And when they’re clicking and they’re cranking and they’re making plays, it makes up for a lot of problems, coverage wise, run-wise, everything.”

The John Murphy Show airs weeknights from 7-9pm on the flagship station of the Buffalo Bills, WGR Sports Radio 550.


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Thursday night-John Murphy Show

Posted by johnmurphyshow on November 1, 2012 – 6:18 pm

We’re jammed up with football entertainment tonight on The John Murphy Show.  And we’re leading right up to Thursday Night Football at 8:20pm, with the Chiefs and Chargers kicking off in San Diego.

At 7:10pm, Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts is scheduled to join us live.  He’s become one of the best football analysts on TV since his playing days, and he’ll do the color on the Bills-Texans matchup on CBS this Sunday.

Bills Defensive Coordinator Dave Wannstedt joins us in studio at 7:20pm.  We’ll ask about the big plays the Bills have given up on defense, and the defensive plan going forward.

At 8pm, we’ll talk with sportswriter Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal.  He’s covers the NFL for the WSJ, and he’s written some interesting pieces lately on touchdown celebrations and the demise of the tight end in the league this season.

At 815pm, we’ll join the Westwood One Radio Network for the Chiefs and the Chargers.

The John Murphy Show airs weeknights from 7pm-9pm on the flagship station of the Bills, WGR Sports Radio 550.


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Sheppard on Bills struggles against the run

Posted by johnmurphyshow on October 31, 2012 – 8:30 pm

He’s had enough.  Bills LB Kelvin Sheppard said he was embarrassed and sickened by the team’s performance in the loss to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday night on the The John Murphy Show, Sheppard talked at length about the Bills struggles to stop the run.  They’re currently ranked 32nd in the league in rushing defense.   And the problem, Sheppard said on the radio show, is that the Bills give up one huge play on the ground to their opponents, after shutting down their run on earlier plays.

“We go out and we look on film, and Coach Wannstedt does a great job, his scheme is a great scheme,” Sheppard told John Murphy.   “He shows we go out for ten straight plays, in the same defense and Tennessee’s running the same offensive plays—and we nail it—for a loss or a one or two yard gain.  And then you see on that 11th play, the same scheme is called, the same blocking scheme, the same running play, and one guy gets out of their gap.”

Sheppard was referring specifically to Chris Johnson’s 83-yard touchdown run against the Bills.

“The thing is trying to instill in everybody to be gap sound and attacking on a consistent basis,” he said,   “It makes no sense to go out and do it for ten straight plays, and then on the 11th play, you give up an 80-yarder.   I think that’s the biggest thing that’s hurting us right now.”

Sheppard is looking for a different mindset for the Bills this week as they prepare for their first game after the bye.  He wants the Bills defense to be determined to shut down the Houston Texans running attack and come home with a victory.

“I feel like there’s no better way than to go down to the number one team in your conference, and probably one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now, to go down to their stadium, to a hostile environment, and not accept losing. We’re going to Houston, and nobody’s boarding the plane unless we win.  To go down there with that mindset would be tremendous.”


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Searching for defensive answers

Posted by Chris Brown on October 22, 2012 – 11:52 am

Bills head coach Chan Gailey in his weekly appearance on WGR Sportsradio 550 was asked for an explanation as to why the defense continues to have big problems. Buffalo’s sideline boss doesn’t have those answers now, but intends to find them during the bye week.

“I can’t give you that answer today,” Gailey told WGR morning host Howard Simon. “I’m going to spend some time this week looking at it. Maybe I’ll have a better answer next week, but I don’t have that answer today. We’ve been week to week trying to keep ahead of the curve so to speak trying to win games. I haven’t sat down and visited at length with Dave about where things are. The thing about it is it’s like a Jekyll and Hyde situation where we either play really good or don’t play well at all. We’ve got to sit down and evaluate.”

Buffalo is last in the league in run defense, last in third down defense and 31st in points allowed.


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Wannstedt on his defense

Posted by Chris Brown on October 12, 2012 – 8:20 pm

The defense has left a lot to be desired the past two weeks and fans have wanted to hear from Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt for answers as to what is going on with that side of the ball. Wannstedt spoke after Friday’s practice.

“The inconsistency has been the most frustrating thing for all of us,” he said. “We came out of preseason feeling good. There was a transition with new players and a new system and got into the season and felt good even into halftime of the New England game. We’ve had a game and a half of disappointment to put it bluntly.

“Now the good news is it’s basically the same guys we played with earlier in the year. We had a good week of practice, we’re re-focused. We have to come out here and play as good as we can play this week. And I expect us to. I think we’ll play good. I really believe that.”

When asked about the unit’s confidence and whether it can be refortified, Wannstedt believes it can.

“It doesn’t take much to lose confidence in this league as an individual, as a group as a team,” Wannstedt said. “You can get your confidence back just as fast. And you don’t get your confidence back on Sunday. To me you get your confidence back on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. You’re going in to take the exam on Sunday and the more prepared we are, the more confident we are, the better we will play on Sunday.”

So when asked how he anticipates his defensive unit will play against the Cardinals, Wannstedt was concise.

“I expect us to bounce back this week and play good,” he said. “We have proven we are capable of that, both run and pass and we’ve just got to get back to doing that.”


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Fan Friday 10-12

Posted by Chris Brown on October 12, 2012 – 1:16 pm

After almost a week in Arizona I want to believe the Bills are a lot more focused after spending it in isolation in a training camp type atmosphere. We’ll see on Sunday. Now to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and @ChrisBrownBills on Twitter.

1 - Chris,

I think Chan does a good job on offense of giving a lot of different looks, motion and changing things up.  This keeps the defense on their toes and constantly adjusting.  I know a lot of fans are frustrated with the Defense and the lack of imagination in play calling.  I can’t recall one blitz in the game… it just seemed like we got a little bland in our pass rush schemes against Brady.. the Cardinals beat them with confusing defenses and Brady even admitted to Jay Feely that.  Then we go out and rush four linemen every play.  Is there any chance we swallow our pride and liven up the pass rush or do we just stay the course?

-Eric (Buffalo, NY)
CB: I think in the wake of the last two losses Dave Wannstedt has no choice, but to “liven it up” as you say. There were a few more blitzes against San Francisco, but they were ill-timed as the 49ers had a run play that went for big yardage on one overload blitz the Bills had in that game. With Mark Anderson out I think it’s on Wannstedt to develop ways to create more consistent pressure especially against a team in the Cardinals that has had major pass protection issues.

 

2 - Chris
First and foremost thanks for keeping the diehard fans up to speed on the team.

My main question is why isn’t the team blitzing to create some added pressure. Does coach Wannstedt not think we need too? It would seem to benefit us especially in certain situations, and with the coverage were getting out of our defensive backs , should translate to more sacks. I understand our d- line is talented but the blitzes could/ will make us better.

Please advise, thank you
Chris Schouman

CB: Unfortunately the coverage of the young cornerbacks has not been consistent, so it hasn’t really translated to coverage sacks. There are two approaches a defensive coordinator can take when the corners are inconsistent in coverage. They can either bring everybody and play cover zero (no help for corners) or rush four and drop seven. Obviously the success in dropping seven has been limited at best, in part because the four down linemen haven’t developed consistent pressure.

I think it will really be interesting to see Wannstedt’s approach against Arizona without one of the primary pass rushers in the lineup in Mark Anderson. There could be a noticeable shift in his approach with respect to blitz calls.

 

3 - Chris,

Since you’re around the team a lot more than the average fan what is your take on team leadership? A number of fan who were at the Patriots game indicated, in their message board posts, that after the Pats tied it up at 21  it looked like the whole team was hanging their head. Do you see any leadership issues? The team does not seem to have a player or coach who will fire the team up or get their heads back in the game. Is there anyone who is a Ray Lewis type who can fire the team up and back up his words with his play?  

CB: I don’t believe it is a leadership issue. I believe it is a mental toughness issue. A dozen years of non-playoff football has cultivated a losing culture. Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix have worked very hard to change that culture and have made strides in improving it.

Unfortunately I believe it resurfaced in that loss to New England and was perpetuated even further in the defeat at San Francisco. Both Gailey and Nix said it had to be addressed. Gailey has challenged his team, but as Nix has said it has got to come from the players. There are some emotional leaders on this team like Fred Jackson and George Wilson, but the advantage Ray Lewis has is not only is he the quintessential emotional leader, he has also won… a lot. That carries even more weight.

Re-establishing mental toughness in the throes of a season is a difficult thing to recapture. Personally I think a hard fought victory in a nip and tuck type game is the only remedy for bringing something like that all the way back. Let’s hope it happens.
4 - Chris, 

Thanks for all the information and insights. While there is plenty of blame to go around for last weekend’s humiliating loss, perhaps the biggest question on most fans’ minds is what is up with Mario Williams? If ever there was a game when our investment in him needed to pay dividends it was this one. Everyone knows the way to beat the Pats is to get to Brady (nevermind Mario’s lack of run defense along with the rest of our pathetic 8 man front). If Mario was double teamed all day, I might forgive him, but that was rarely the case. Frankly, he looked lethargic on many plays. Can you please offer any insight into why he is not producing as expected. And why is nobody in the media challenging Chan Gailey or Buddy Nix on Williams’ poor performance? Also, why during the post-game press conferences were no defensive players interviewed? I would love Mario to be held accountable and answer to the fans. After all, we’re helping to pay his huge salary.  

Thanks,
Rich 

CB: It’s very hard for me to provide an explanation for Williams’ lack of production. Offensive tackles are capable of handling him one-on-one in a lot of situations thus far this season. Knowing he is a power player more than a speed pass rusher the use of his hands are extremely important to his game. He has even said as much. My suspicion is the wrist ailment he is dealing with is keeping him from effectively using power with his left arm. I’m no expert, but I wonder if he’s essentially playing with one arm out there. Buddy Nix has been asked about Mario’s play and he’s said that four or five games is not enough to pass judgment on a player that has been productive for six years.

I think it’s safe to say that everybody expected more from him. At the same time I don’t know that anybody can live up to that contract. Even if he had all the sack numbers people expected I still wonder if he’d measure up to the deal in people’s eyes. That being said he knows just as well as anyone he’s got to pick up his level of play. He has to be a difference maker.

 
5 - Chris,

After the New England and San Francisco games do you get a sense that this team psychs themselves out whenever they have a big game? It seems maybe they should try treating every opponent the same instead of putting extra pressure on themselves for the good teams. They seem nervous and at the first sign of trouble it all seems to fall apart. They start the game with a McKelvin punt return TD called back and they never recovered. It’s really disappointing to see this defense play just like it has for the past five years after all the additions and change made at defensive coordinator. I wasn’t able to watch the San Fran game but from what I saw in the highlights everyone looked really worn down maybe even dehydrated. Do you think they didn’t know how to handle the long trip?

Dan

CB: I don’t believe it’s a matter of psyching themselves out. I think when adversity strikes the team tightens up and plays tense. It leads to players trying to do too much in an effort to make a play instead of sticking to their assignments and their scheme is compromised. It leads to inefficient or inconsistent execution and there’s a snowball effect. Once things start rolling downhill players only get further discouraged and the rout is on. Trusting in the system and playing loose and confident despite the circumstances is the only way to stem the tide in a game that starts to go the wrong way. The players have to have confidence in the system and in one another and deliver on making plays down in and down out for that to happen.

As for handling the trip, the isolation in Arizona might’ve been just what this football team needed. No distractions and all football. We’ll see if it helps on Sunday.


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Gailey to talk to Wannstedt

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2012 – 2:09 pm

After one very poor performance, Bills head coach Chan Gailey was not going to run into the defensive meeting room and start ringing alarm bells. He has too much trust in Dave Wannstedt as a defensive coordinator. But after two such performances Gailey said it’s time to get some explanations.

“After last week (New England game) I’m not going to go in there and hit a panic button and demand what’s going on after one game,” said Gailey in his weekly appearance on WGR Sportsradio 550. “But after two games and two issues we’re going to go in there and have a discussion about it. What is our biggest problem and how are we going to fix this. I think you have to understand that people have a job to do and they’re trying to do the best they can. I’m just going to talk to them about the different processes of what it might take to get it fixed.”

Gailey said the only thing he wants to offer is his assistance in terms of practice structure during the week, amount of practice time devoted to defense in an effort to help Wannstedt. The Bills head coach has too much faith in Wannstedt as a defensive coordinator to take a more hands on approach.

“There’s more knowledge in that defensive room about the defensive side of the ball than I could ever have,” said Gailey. “I coached defense the first seven years of my career, but that was back in 1981. Dave has amassed more knowledge than I’ll ever be able to have. I have to trust them to be able to get the job done. I make sure that we talk about the personnel and about what the biggest issues seem to be. I ask him what we can do to help. Is there a way we can tweak the practice schedule or things we can do that might be helpful. There are enough problems in every area to go around. We need to start scoring more points on offense too, and not turn it over.”


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Spence sees new vets jelling

Posted by Chris Brown on August 13, 2012 – 8:32 am

Bills DL Spencer Johnson new there would need to be some adjustments made by the defensive players this year moving to Dave Wannstedt’s 4-3 scheme. There would also be the adjustment of blending in free agent adds Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. To this point however, Johnson sees things coming together quite well.

Johnson believes the chemistry between the new additions on the defensive line has been so smooth and developed so quickly because Williams and Anderson are veteran additions with long resumes in the league.

“With Mario and Mark they’ve been in the league for a long time,” Johnson told Buffalobills.com. “They know football, they’re smart guys and they’re playmakers. Playing defensive line here you have to be a smart guy. You have to recognize formations and know what’s going on around you. So they fit in just right.”

After a season of playing out of position a lot at OLB in the team’s previous 3-4, Johnson is pumped to be in a 4-3 system that attacks upfield.

“It’s great,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been playing my whole career through college and when I was in Minnesota we ran the same type of 4-3 style of defense. So it really suits us. It suits us better as a defense as a whole, not just a defensive line. So everybody is excited about where this thing can go and penetrate and make plays and get after the passer.”


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Spencer’s shoulder good

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2012 – 12:21 pm

Spencer Johnson stepped out of practice early with a shoulder injury Saturday night, but Johnson insists it’s not a big deal.

“It was just a little freak accident,” Johnson told Buffalobills.com. “A bruise, but I’ll be fine. It’s getting better every day.”

Johnson has put together a solid camp despite lining up at both end and tackle on the defensive line. Ideally the coaches would like the versatile defensive lineman to spend most of his time at DT, but he’s also learning DE in Dave Wannstedt’s system in case he’s called upon there due to injury.


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Fiedler: Fitz-Chan combo a good one

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2012 – 9:25 am

We’ve already seen how Ryan Fitzpatrick has benefited from working under Chan Gailey as a quarterback. The Bills head coach has a knack for utilizing talent around his signal caller to create an offense that consistently gains yards and puts up points. Former Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler knows all too well having worked under Gailey in Miami for two seasons.

“Working with Chan it was clear that he had a way of putting guys in the best places on the field to succeed,” Fiedler told Buffalobills.com. “In most cases he kept it simple, but he always gave you one great matchup on just about every play.”

Fiedler took in the Bills practice Saturday night as he was in town playing golf with some friends and called Wannstedt to see if he could stop by. The Long Island native, much like Fitz, is also an Ivy League grad after playing his college ball at Dartmouth.

Gailey served as Fiedler’s offensive coordinator in Miami when Dave Wannstedt was the head coach. With Fiedler as the starter the Dolphins went 21-10 from 2000-2001. We asked Fiedler about how much freedom Gailey gave him to call plays after seeing Fitz run the offense and call plays in last Thursday’s preseason opener.

“There were times where he would give me some leeway and I’d call plays,” said Fiedler. “Most of the time he was sending them in though.”

Fiedler says he does share a bit of Ivy League kinship with Fitzpatrick, a Harvard grad. Much like Fitzpatrick, Fiedler had to wait his turn for a shot at a starting role too.

“It’s been great watching his progress,” said Fielder. “I know what he had to go through because I was there myself. So to see him carve out a career for himself similar to the way I did is something I can relate to and appreciate.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Wannstedt to be upstairs on game day

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2012 – 10:45 am

Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt already knows where he’ll be stationed on game day and it won’t be on the sidelines.

“I will be in the coach’s box,” said Wannstedt. “That’s where I was all of the years at the University of Miami, Oklahoma State, Dallas and some of the other places. There is not a call happening that you are not on top of or involved with. I am kind of excited about it; We have great assistant coaches and a nice formula set on how we will communicate and get the information back and forth, which will work smooth.”

Wannstedt will presumably make use of both defensive line coach Giff Smith and linebackers coach Bob Sanders to deliver plays from the sideline. Sanders is a former defensive coordinator from his days in Green Bay.


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The Bills hybrid weapon

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2012 – 9:52 am

His responsibilities vacillated back and forth from safety to linebacker for the better part of the last three seasons, but after the 2011 season was over, the Bills defensive staff under the direction of then newly appointed Dave Wannstedt knew what the role would be for Bryan Scott moving forward.

Scott is a full-time linebacker, operating in the team’s first nickel package with Nick Barnett, making for a very athletic linebacking two-some on what is usually a passing down. As excited as some fans are that Arthur Moats is currently holding the starting job at SLB in the team’s base defense, Wannstedt reminds fans how valuable Scott is going to be for Buffalo’s pass defense this season knowing how much teams throw the ball around these days in the NFL.

“The real bonus guy in this thing is Bryan Scott, in our minds he is a starter,” said Wannstedt. “If we play it out this year he will have more reps at the nickel linebacker than Moats or Morrison will have at the Sam linebacker.”

With the proliferation of the passing game in the NFL, most defenses are in some form of a nickel or other subpackage 60-65 percent of the time.


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Wannstedt: Mario has complete game

Posted by Chris Brown on August 7, 2012 – 4:22 pm

Certainly sacks are the first thing most fans think of when someone mentions the name Mario Williams. And while sacks are valuable, Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt believes fans are going to be surprised by how well-rounded a player Williams is at defensive end.

“The great thing about him is I believe he will be just as big an asset when we look back on this versus the run as he is versus the pass,” Wannstedt said. “Everyone likes to think, defensive ends, pass rushers, and sacks. Well the other side of the coin is that you have to stop the run first. With his physical play, using his hands well with great size and physical strength and his technique is good. He will bring just as much to the run (game) as he will rushing the passer.”

That’s why it’s going to be just as interesting to see how much Buffalo’s defense can improve their run defense ranking this season as their sack total.


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Anderson to mimic Jason Taylor?

Posted by Chris Brown on July 29, 2012 – 8:13 am

In Dave Wannstedt’s defensive scheme many Bills fans figure with Mario Williams being the most gifted pass rusher might has some duties that were similar to those of Jason Taylor when he was in Wannstedt’s defense in Miami. Former Bills guard and nine-time Pro Bowler thinks there’s another guy that might be a better fit for the things that Taylor used to do for the Dolphins.

Brown played with Anderson for two years in Chicago (2006-2007), and indicated that Lovie Smith tried to make use of Anderson in a similar fashion to the way Wannstedt used Taylor in Miami.

“I think the Bears when I was there my last year they were looking to have him do some of that Jason Taylor walk around stuff, even though Lovie had a different defense,” Brown told Buffalobills.com. “But Mark, I sing his praises because he put in hard work when I played with him. I’m happy that he’s here because I’m going to come by a little more often because I like him.”

Of course there’s no indication from the Bills coaching staff that those are their plans for Anderson. At this point they’re still trying to determine who will win the starting right defensive end job between Anderson, Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman.


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Fan Friday 7-27

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2012 – 11:05 am

Alright Bills fans, training camp is underway! Time to get to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net, and keep them coming. You can also fire off questions to @chrisbrownbills on twitter if that’s easier. Let’s get going.

1 - Chris,

I understand that Mario Williams is going to do fine in the new 4-3 scheme being installed in Buffalo, but can any comparison be made to how Jason Taylor was used in Miami under Wannstedt?  If so, can you break down how you see him being used and what type of scheme Miami used with Taylor.  Were they just turning Taylor loose to use his ability?  How did the other players on that Miami front 7 compare to the ones in Buffalo?
 
Tim
Rochester, NY

CB: The only real similarity between Jason Taylor and Mario Williams is their height. Both are 6’6”, but as far as body type, style of game and fit in a defense they’re vastly different. Williams at 292 pounds is an Adonis that has uncharacteristic athletic ability for his size. Though he has good speed around the edge, he has a great power game as well. Add in his solid run stopping ability and he really is the total package.

Taylor was a pass rusher first and foremost and did what he could to help against the run, but he played about 50 pounds lighter than Williams.

If anyone on Buffalo’s roster has a role similar to that of Jason Taylor I would expect it to be Mark Anderson. Wannstedt feels Anderson’s quick feet are comparable to those of Taylor, and he’s lining up on the same side of the formation at right defensive end.

So if you’re looking for a pass rusher that’s going to do similar things I’d tell you to watch Anderson.

 

2 - Chris,
 
 Once again, thanks for the work you do.  Simple question, I always hear the team talk about how different Stevie runs his routes. Can you explain what makes him different? How hard is it for a receiver with a “different” style of running to make it in the NFL, is Fitz just that kind of QB who can handle what other QB’s cant? I guess just over all what makes Stevie special at his position?
 
Eric,
displaced fan in AZ 

CB: What makes Stevie unique is his route running. For decades most receivers focus on the precision of their routes to make their cuts as sharp as possible to gain the necessary separation. The thought being if my routes are as sharp as they can be every single time, I give myself a better chance to gain separation and make a play.

Of course that precision in some ways can also become predictable, making a receiver easier to read and scout and prepare for in a given game.

Stevie is the exact opposite of precision. The way he runs routes is very unconventional. When he runs a comeback or a dig it’s very rarely the same route twice. Johnson uses stutter steps, hesitation, shoulder fakes, side steps and just about every other trick in his bag to gain separation and make a play.

Fortunately for him he has a head coach that’s only concerned that he get to the spot where he’s supposed to be on time. He doesn’t care how he gets there, just as long as he does when the ball is arriving in his timing-oriented offense.

So Stevie has the freedom to improvise his routes so long as they stay within the framework of the offensive system.

This is confounding to defensive backs, even some of the best (See: Revis) because there is no effective way to prepare for Johnson. Rarely does he run a route the same way twice over the course of several weeks let alone a single game. So it’s almost impossible for cornerbacks to anticipate what is coming putting them at a distinct disadvantage.

 

3 - Chris,
How does Mario Williams compare to Bruce Smith?

LeeD

CB: That is not as easy a question as it sounds. I think the two were both physical freaks. Uncommonly athletic for men their size while also possessing an unnatural amount of strength. As talented as Mario Williams is he’s got an awful lot more to do in this league to measure up to the all-time sack leader, but there aren’t many other defensive ends over the last 25 years that can match the rare physical abilities of both men.

Lawrence Taylor is one of the few that come to mind.

 

4 - Chris,

How do you see the cornerback position shaking out? Will they start Gilmore and McGee (if healthy) or might they go with Williams regardless of McGee’s health? Do you believe McKelvin is expendable with Rogers and Brooks pushing hard from behind? Would they keep just 5? Is there anybody on the roster right now who might crack into the top 6 (Gilmore, Williams, McGee, Rogers, McKelvin, Brooks) and push another out? Thanks for your time!

Chris in Binghamton
CB: I think Terrence McGee has some ground to cover in his return from a torn patellar tendon. He’s got some time, but not a lot. The problem with his situation is they can’t wait on McGee very long because if he can’t play effectively they have to make sure they have Aaron Williams ready to start.

As I see it McGee is the only guy that can overtake Williams at left cornerback with Gilmore a virtual lock to start from day one at right cornerback. Leodis McKelvin looks like a guy they want to move inside to the slot for the nickel package.

I like Justin Rogers’ skill set and believe he could be a bigger contributor this year, but covering slot receivers might be the best fit for him. So against four wide sets he could cover the other slot receiver assuming McKelvin is the primary slot defender.

I think Brooks also makes the roster. He’s a top flight physical talent and in my mind has the fastest feet of all the corners. I want to see how he holds up though when the pads go on because he is not the biggest guy. Those are your top 6 and yes, I think keeping six is a distinct possibility with another likely on the practice squad.

 

5 - Chris,

If Shawne Merriman returns to form (or even gets close to it) and has a productive season for the Bills this season, will Buddy Nix try offering him a contract extension? Thanks! 

Steve
Fredericksburg, VA

CB: I think the Bills have a lot of decisions to make on a bunch of players heading into contract years. Most notably Andy Levitre, Jairus Byrd and Kraig Urbik. David Nelson is also a restricted free agent. Those players, who all have a longer career in front of them than Merriman, are likely to get priority when it comes to extensions.

If Merriman is productive I would anticipate the Bills trying to keep him, but it’s not a one player decision.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why predicting sacks can be tricky

Posted by Chris Brown on July 2, 2012 – 9:43 am

Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt is just as optimistic as any Bills fan about the kind of pass rush his front four is going to be able to generate this coming season, especially knowing he’s got a second wave of defensive linemen that would start on some other NFL clubs. All that being said, Wannstedt cautions that predicting just how many sacks the Bills can log can be tough.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Buffalobills.com Wannstedt touched on a number of topics concerning his defense including just how effective the unit could be in taking down opposing quarterbacks.

“A lot goes into getting sacks,” he said. “I’ve been involved with college teams and pro teams that have led the nation and led the league in sacks. A lot has to do with the situation that you’re in. Are you playing from behind? Are you playing from ahead? A lot of it has to with the guys rushing the passer. A lot has to do with quarterbacks you might face or offensive linemen during the year. We’re going to get our share.”

The league average last season was just over 40 sacks (40.25). Buffalo should easily exceed that total as a team in 2012.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

No escape for Shep

Posted by Chris Brown on June 8, 2012 – 9:16 am

Kelvin Sheppard has been hard at work mastering Dave Wannstedt’s 4-3 defense during Bills OTAs. And if he’s ever got a question, even when he’s at home, he won’t have to go far to get an answer from his defensive coordinator.

“Coach Wannstedt is great. He’s a great guy and a great players coach,” said Sheppard. “I’m a lot more familiar to a lot of the guys in the defense because I was actually in the linebacker room because he was the linebacker coach last year so he’s a great guy. We actually live across the street from each other so he’s my neighbor. He’s already reminding me of that (I can’t get away from him).”

Sheppard as a rookie would also frequent Nick Barnett’s house to go over film during the season.


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