Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 8-29

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 8:36 am

The preseason is now in the books and rosters will all be down to 53 by Saturday at 4 pm. For now let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills do you have an early projection for which wideouts will make the team?

NunnBetta

CB: I honestly believe the wide receiver position is pretty cut and dry in terms of personnel. Most of them have solidified their roles either on offense or their contributions on special teams. I think the bigger question is how many do they keep?

In Doug Marrone’s first season as head coach the Bills kept six receivers. I think this time around there is a realistic chance they keep seven. Now that obviously means they would have to trim from another position, presumably on offense. Do they only keep two quarterbacks? Do they keep one less tight end?

The Bills will also have an extra roster spot to play with knowing that Nigel Bradham will presumably go on the reserve suspended list and not count toward the 53-man roster.

 

2 – @ChrisBrownBills Will Coach Hackett be on sideline or in booth this season?

MDermody88

CB: The Bills offensive coordinator made a move down to the sidelines last season and intends to stay there. He’s been on the sideline all preseason so I’ve got no reason to think that will change this coming week.

 

3 – Chris:

Thanks for your coverage on the team!
I have a question on the Bills Offensive philosophy in short yardage and Red Zone.  It appears (at least in the preseason) that the Bills are going the stay with the tight formations on short yardage and goal line situations (basically power on power) why don’t they use the spread more?  Not to bring up previous situations but the Bills seemed more consistent and successful (under Chan Gailey) spreading the defense which opened more running lanes and the middle of the field. Do you see the Bills incorporating some of that offensive thinking?

Thanks
Joe
Blasdell

CB: I think what you saw in the preseason is only some of what you should expect in the regular season. The Bills have spent the better part of the last two offseasons trying to increase their size and girth on the offensive line. That was done with winning those short yardage battles by plowing straight ahead in mind. In all likelihood that will be the approach a good amount of the time this season, but I wouldn’t rule out some spread looks as well.

 

4 – Chris,

So far through the preseason games, the Bills run defense looks a lot better than it has in years. I feel a big reason for that has been the addition of Brandon Spikes at MLB (and of course, Jim Schwartz as DC). I know Spikes signed a one-year deal with the Bills in the offseason, do you see the Bills offering him a long-term contract extension sometime during the season? I would love to see Spikes re-signed as I feel he’s been a great mentor to the younger players on the team, as well as being a great MLB.

Thanks for the great coverage on the Bills!

Steve B.
Fredericksburg, VA
CB: There’s no question that Spikes is a guy that younger players follow. They respect his instincts for the game. To further illustrate that I’ll let LB Ty Powell explain it himself.

“Me and Preston Brown are usually side by side, following Spikes and stuff,” said Powell. “Spikes has a lot of knowledge of the game, he has great instincts, so we just follow him around.”

The young linebackers on the roster are just trying to soak up whatever they can about playing linebacker in the NFL from Spikes.

As for an extension I would expect that to be a wait and see situation, but the run defense is probably the most encouraging thing about this team to come out of the preseason.

 

5 – Hello Chris,

Love the work you do for the Bills and Fan Friday. I am wondering if the I-formation seen in preseason, is what we will be mainly seeing by the Bills. With all the talent they have a wideout, Williams, Woods, Goodwin, seems crazy they wouldn’t stick to more of a spread offense? Plus this would create space for Spiller. Maybe they are just not showing much of their packages at this point but still. Thanks for the Bills Coverage.

David
Rochester

CB: My suspicion is that while that is a part of their offensive playbook we won’t see nearly as much of it in the preseason. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has always been about putting his five best playmakers on the field for the offense. That should mean more wideouts on the field more often come the regular season.


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Why Marrone still looking for kickoff guy

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 12:18 am

With the preseason coming to a close head coach Doug Marrone is still trying to nail down a kickoff specialist for his squad. They claimed P/K Jordan Gay off waivers this week and he had a kickoff to start the second half. It went to the goal line and he had a punt. Marrone sees a big advantage in having a kickoff specialist.

“Last year we led the league in kickoff returns against us,” said Marrone. “I just think you’re playing with fire with that. I think you can have a big advantage for a couple of reasons. One, you can take that phase out of the game meaning that your 30-something spots that you use for special teams two coverage teams and kickoff return and punt. If you’re a team that can kick it out of the end zone 90 percent of the time you’re taking out a lot of shots (on your guys) and you’re saving a lot of reps and you’re taking a lot of opportunities away from the other team.”


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Gragg to start against Lions

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 5:56 pm

With Lee Smith injured and Tony Moeaki still not 100 percent fellow TE Chris Gragg figures to see a lot of playing time against the Lions. Gragg hasn’t seen a lot of time with the starters, but that’s going to happen in the preseason finale.

Gragg is going to start with Scott Chandler also inactive tonight. In this final preseason game, Gragg just wants to tighten up some of the nuances of his personal game.

“Really just my details,” Gragg told Buffalobills.com. “I want to be focused on every play, not to have little mistakes. I haven’t had any big outrageous mistakes, but little things. Stepping this way or making sure I catch the ball with my hands and tuck it under my outside arm. It’s some of those little things that we’ve been harping on, those are the things that are going to help us get to that next step.

“I’ll get some time out there with EJ and I want to make sure our timing is going great so we can go out there and make plays this season.”

Gragg has heard coach Marrone’s call for the other players on offense to be better around QB EJ Manuel. The second-year tight end knows what his head coach means.

“That means that we want to make it easier for him,” said Gragg. “We want the line to protect, the receivers to run the right routes and then EJ just has to deliver the ball. We want as little as possible on EJ because I know he has to do a lot. He’s a quarterback in the NFL. So we want our professionals at the other spots as great as they can be so they can make EJ’s job easier.”


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Cutler not thrilled with Palmer joining Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on August 27, 2014 – 9:23 am

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler wasn’t jumping for joy that his former teammate and fellow quarterback Jordan Palmer found another job in the league after he was released on Sunday. That’s because Palmer signed with the Bears Week 1 opponent, the Buffalo Bills. Cutler believes there will be some intelligence gathering on Chicago’s offense by Buffalo’s defensive staff with Palmer.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Cutler told the Chicago Tribune Tuesday. “It’s not exactly what you’d want. He can give them a few things I’m sure. He’ll be meeting with (Bills defensive coordinator Jim) Schwartz pretty much immediately.”

When asked about what Palmer would be able to share with Buffalo’s defensive staff Cutler said there are some important elements and indicated that some changes might be necessary.

“He knows snap counts, some of the stuff we do with some of our checks, what plays we like,” Cutler said. “But they still have to defend it. So I don’t think we’ll change much if anything. Maybe a few tweaks here and there. But we’ll just have to go play football.”

Bills head coach Doug Marrone downplayed the intelligence gathering angle on Tuesday indicating that it wouldn’t be pursued by him with Palmer.

“No (I won’t),” said Marrone. “But I do have a lot of respect for Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer. They’re good coaches and they do a good job so I know he was coached well. I’m not part of that hey let’s bring the guy in and get information. I think that would be very disrespectful to Jordan if I did that honestly. My conversation with Jordan was, ‘I’m happy to see you and happy to meet you. I’m going to give you an opportunity to get a position. We’re going to do whatever we can to get you ready for this game and play you.'”


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Richardson benefiting from Williams’ injury

Posted by Chris Brown on August 26, 2014 – 5:46 pm

Head coach Doug Marrone still sees free agent signee Chris Williams as his starter at left guard, but what rookie fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson has been able to do while Williams has been out with a back injury is convince his head coach that he’s going to be a solid player in the NFL.

“Am I concerned (about Williams absence)? Yes,” said Marrone. “I’m not going to say I’m not concerned. At the same point I get a little excited too. Here we are and Cyril Richardson… did he make some mistakes in the last game? He did, but there were some things that he showed (in Saturday’s game).

“I have no doubt having coached that position before that he’s a future starter. So I’m happy about that, but I’m not happy about the way I feel with Chris and the availability, but when you get injured you can’t help that. If we didn’t have somebody behind him I’d be a little more nervous about that situation.”

Essentially Marrone has seen enough of Richardson to believe he can be a starting caliber guard in this league in time. Marrone did confirm that when Williams is healthy he will be plugged back in as the starting guard so it’s not a job he’ll lose due to injury, but the time that Richardson has had on the field in Williams’ absence has cemented him as the team’s swing guard.


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Marrone still open to kickoff specialist

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 5:04 pm

Even though Bills K Dustin Hopkins was one of the 11 cuts made by the team on Monday, head coach Doug Marrone said they’d still consider adding a kickoff specialist.

Citing performance as the main reason for Hopkins’ departure, Marrone was asked if he’d still explore the idea of having a kickoff specialist on his team.

“We’re trying to make sure we have a guy who’s a kickoff guy,” said Marrone. “That hasn’t changed.”


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Backup QBs need to step forward

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 5:02 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone has made no secret that the quarterbacks behind EJ Manuel on the depth chart need to perform better and time is running out with one preseason game remaining. Buffalo released Dennis Dixon on Monday leaving Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis on the roster. Both will need to put up solid performances to convince their head coach that he doesn’t need to look outside the organization for better options.

“I think it’s what you see,” Marrone said. “Either they have to play better or we have to look to see if there’s someone who can better that position, like we would any other position.  If we feel at the end of the day that it’s not good enough to win with, which we haven’t seen yet, there’s only two ways to go.  Either you put a lot of work into those guys in getting them better,  until you get to where you feel comfortable with it. Or you have to upgrade that position some other way.”

Tuel has completed 64 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 73.9.

Lewis has completed just over 51 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 41.


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McKelvin comes thru Tampa game well

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 4:58 pm

Leodis McKelvin say his first game action in the preseason last Saturday coming off of offseason hip surgery and a groin injury earlier in the week. All indications are he came through the game alright as he was practicing with his teammates on Monday.

“I think when a player is out for a while and you come back, we saw that with Stephon earlier in the preseason, we see that now with Leodis,” said head coach Doug Marrone. “We expect him to get better and better and progress from there. I think it’s a progression. I don’t think you can put him right back out on the field and expect him to be at the same level when they were playing at their best.”

Marrone didn’t rule out the possibility of McKelvin playing a bit in the preseason finale, knowing his reps have been limited thus far in the preseason. McKelvin had four tackles in last Saturday’s game.


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Starters likely to see action vs. Detroit

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 4:52 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone and his offensive staff were obviously less than pleased with the performance of the offense on Saturday against Tampa Bay. That’s why there are plans to have a good number of offensive starters play against the Lions in the preseason finale on Thursday.

“I’m looking for them to play some,” said Marrone. “I’m looking to play those guys. How much will depend upon as the week goes and what I want to see and what I want to accomplish, but I do plan on playing them.

“It’s probably more on the offensive side with our thought process than the defensive side. When I say that I may not play every single starter, but on offense I want to play guys who haven’t played together for a while.”

That could include Sammy Watkins, who left the Pittsburgh preseason game on the first drive with bruised ribs and missed the Tampa preseason game last Saturday.

 


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Offense holding stuff until regular season

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:30 pm

Facing a Tampa defense Saturday night that is a lot like the one they’ll face in Week 1 at Chicago in terms of scheme there was a good chance that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and head coach Doug Marrone were going to play things close to the vest and not make use of plays they feel might work best against that system. EJ Manuel and Mike Williams essentially confirmed that they are holding onto some key parts of their playbook for the regular season.

“There are a few things that I asked him for and of course he said, ‘Hey we’re saving this and that for the regular season,’” said Manuel. “Which I understand, but at the same time we still want to go out there and win and move the ball and score touchdowns. But there are some things that we’re going to continue to save for Chicago.”

“I don’t want to give away a secret, but I think we’ve been doing what we can,” said Mike Williams. “I’ll just say it like that. I think we’ve been doing what he’s been giving us and we’re trying to get better at that. Our play calling has been simple really. We’ve been trying to get better at the simple things and take away the penalties.”


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Brown, Powell vying to be Wk 1 starter at LB

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:10 pm

The Bills know they will be without Nigel Bradham in Week 1 of the regular season at Chicago as he serves a one game league-imposed suspension. Over the past week or so they’ve begun to narrow down who their best option might be to replace him in the lineup. Right now it’s down to two candidates according to head coach Doug Marrone.

“For the first game? Yes. Both [Preston Brown] and Ty [Powell] will play in there,” said Marrone.

Brown got first crack at playing in Bradham’s weak side linebacker position and did it alongside the other starters on defense Saturday night. Powell came in with the reserves and saw reps there as well. The defensive staff is expected to make a final decision in the next week.

“The more things I can do to help the team I’m just trying to do that,” Brown told Buffalobills.com. “Going out as SAM, WILL, mike, whatever it is I’m willing to do it.”


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Watkins update

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:05 pm

Bills WR Sammy Watkins was unable to play on Saturday due to his bruised ribs suffered the week before at Pittsburgh. Head coach Doug Marrone provided an update on his status and why he was made inactive for the Bucs game.

“At the end of the day they told me he couldn’t play,” said Marrone of Watkins. “I know there were mixed reports out there. I think Sammy spokes to someone and said, ‘If coach wants me to play then I can play.’ And then the doctors said he couldn’t play. I told Sammy that you can’t talk about injuries. That’s what gets you in a bind and it doesn’t make us look good when you start saying those things. The doctor, at the end of the day, said he couldn’t play.”

No word on whether or not Watkins will be able to practice fully when the team resumes work on Monday.


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Marrone on Dixon and backup QBs

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:00 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone made Dennis Dixon the second quarterback in the game on Saturday night after EJ Manuel’s time on the field was over. The move came as a surprise, but Dixon’s two snaps in the preseason prior to the Bucs game and his lack of satisfaction with the backup quarterback play to this point led to the move.

“I wanted to bring Dennis in because I haven’t seen him in a game. I wanted to actually play him longer than that, but then I got a little concerned about the ball security,” said Marrone after Dixon fumbled twice.  “Then we went in with the players who have been playing the best in practice and the games. Jeff [Tuel] had been playing well on that and we put him in. I’m not going to say I’m satisfied because I’m not.”

When asked if Dixon is still in the mix for a backup spot, Marrone confirmed that every quarterback on the roster is in the mix.

With Marrone saying more than once that he needs to see more from the backup QBs, he was asked if he would look outside the organization for another backup QB option. This was his response.

“I’ll be very honest. I think in talking with Doug [Whaley] and not talking for Doug, our conversations are always, ‘Hey, if we can better our football team, whatever we have to do we will do,’” said Marrone. “We wouldn’t be doing right to ourselves, the team or the fans if we felt we could upgrade ourselves by going outside and not do that because, maybe, we were too comfortable.”

 


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Marrone: Starters may need to play Thursday

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 9:39 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone had no intention of playing his starters in the preseason finale on Thursday against the Lions, but in the wake of Saturday’s performance against Tampa Bay he’s giving strong consideration to putting them on the field against Detroit.

“We’ll be looking at what we’re going to do on Thursday,” said Marrone. “Last year we didn’t play our starters at all. This I think we’re going to have to take a good look and play.”

Buffalo’s starters have no problem with going out there and playing against Detroit if the head coach deems it necessary.

“If coach Marrone wants us to go play, we’ll go play,” said EJ Manuel. “We want to definitely come out and have a good showing before we go into the regular season so if he wants us to play we’ll be ready to go.”

“If our coach wants us out there we’ll be out there,” said Fred Jackson. “That’s just how a lot of guys are going to be. We need work just like anybody else. We can’t say we’re excused from anything, especially after the performance we had in the first half.  We came out and made some plays in the second half but it’s not enough. We have to continue to keep working, if we’re playing we have to continue to put in the work.”


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Marrone: We’re close

Posted by Chris Brown on August 21, 2014 – 4:05 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone comes out of the team’s 2014 training camp believing that his team isn’t far off from contending for the postseason in 2014. He went so far as to say as much right after the final camp practice concluded.

“Here’s what I sense. We’re close. We are close,” he said. “What is it going to be to get over the top? It’s a matter of either you get over the top or you don’t and we’ve got to find a way to push ourselves over the top. There’s a lot less things I’m focused on from the year before. There’s a lot less this year. Now, this year is critical to get us over the top. I’m doing everything I possibly can to get us over the top and, if intensity is the answer, yeah I’m intense.”

Marrone has pushed the players hard through as he continues to help forge the team’s identity as a tough, physical team that is better conditioned than the other 31 in the league.


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Bills coaches have special teamers identified

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 1:09 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone was asked about the importance of the last two preseason games as it pertains to jobs on special teams. Marrone gave strong indication that the core special teamers for their squad have largely been selected.

“I think we have that group,” Marrone said. “We’ll just wait. Obviously we’re still in a process, but I feel very comfortable about the guys that we have identified right now. I think when the roster is set, and we get down to the final cuts, we’ll talk about that role for those players.”

Buffalo signed free agents like Boobie Dixon and Corey Graham to provide some veteran leadership on special teams this offseason.

 


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Safety gives Corey Graham new perspective

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 9:29 am

Bills head coach Doug Marrone hinted at it as early as the spring, not long after Corey Graham was signed by the club as a free agent. He and the defensive staff wanted to get a look at the seven-year cornerback at safety. That didn’t happen however, until the final week of training camp, and Graham had put the thought out of his mind.

“I was a little surprised just like you guys of the opportunity to play safety, but it’s fun,” said Graham. “It definitely is a different look. It would be a fun transition. I don’t know how much or how serious we’re going to be about it, but it’s good to start to learn it. I kind of learned it already in the past, but it’s good to finally get out there and play a little bit.”

When asked about Graham’s prospects at the safety position head coach Doug Marrone downplayed the significant of the move. He indicated it was done to make sure Graham could handle the role in an emergency situation if there were a rash of injuries at the position on game day.

“We’re just making sure that we’re training people for game day stuff,” said Marrone. “You know, how we want to do it. If we have four safeties out there then he can play safety, he can play corner, he can do a lot of different things for us. We had to cross train. We cross trained the backers too with Preston Brown and Ty Powell (in practice).”

In his two days lining up at safety Graham has found directing the traffic defensively pre-snap to be the most challenging aspect of the job.

“That’s probably the biggest thing, telling everybody what to do and get everybody lined up,” said Graham. “The mental part of it is probably the biggest thing. Playing it is a lot easier than corner.”


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Marrone: Glenn, Henderson could be special duo

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 6:58 am

On Monday the Bills made a big time switch on their offensive line when Cordy Glenn was fully cleared for practice. Seantrel Henderson, who had been filling in at left tackle was flipped to right tackle where he played in college. Though head coach Doug Marrone has maintained all along that he’s still trying to find his best five linemen, he has no doubt that Glenn and Henderson are two of them.

Appearing on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 this morning on the Howard Simon show Marrone was asked about the two tackles who are currently lining up in starting roles on the left and right side. By the sound of Marrone’s responses the two tackles are likely to be fixtures at their positions.

Marrone was first asked about Cordy Glenn and how he’s looked in his return from a medical condition that kept him off the practice field for much of camp.

“He looks good, really good. I mean really good,” said Marrone. “He looks better than he did last year. He’s moving well, the term fresh legs is what people say out on the field. But he worked hard through that medical issue to make sure that his weight was down and that he was stronger. That takes a lot of discipline from his end not to blow up weight-wise and he looks good.”

When asked if he feels rookie seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson is starting caliber in this league right now the Bills head coach didn’t hesitate.

“No doubt. No doubt. I think (I feel that way) because I’ve been around that position my whole entire life,” said Marrone. “He’s a heck of a football player. A heck of a football player. You have seen it on TV. What’s there not to like? He’s probably one of the biggest guys, he has the most muscle mass. He probably has the quickest feet along with Cordy Glenn.

“He’s a bright kid. He’s smart. His work ethic is outstanding. He’s been everything that people obviously didn’t say about him when he was coming out which is why we were able to get him in the seventh round. I think he understands that and there are periods in time when people can change and one of them is when you go from college into this league. He understands that. We have to do everything we can to not only keep him progressing on the field, but off the field. He is a very talented football player and there’s no telling how good he can be.”

The thought of Glenn and Henderson together as bookend tackles is something Marrone believes could be special for a long time.

“We have an opportunity now that if (Henderson) keeps coming the way he keeps coming to have maybe the best (tackle) tandem in the league.”


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Branch knows it’s up to the coaches

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2014 – 1:30 am

Initially it was characterized by head coach Doug Marrone as getting veteran Alan Branch back into the swing of things after being on the non-football injury list. But after only seeing action late in each of the three preseason games, veteran Alan Branch doesn’t know what to make of his standing on Buffalo’s roster.

When asked to assess his performance thus far in training camp he decided to put it in the hands of the men who will ultimately make the call on his role on the team.

“You are going to have to ask coaches that,” he said.

Head coach Doug Marrone was asked by the media point blank if Branch is going to be cut from the roster. His response?

“I can’t stand up here and say that,” Marrone said. “I tell the players that we’re competing for the roster. You never know. You want the player going for it. He’s working for a spot. He’s played well before and I’ll be excited to see the tape. I saw him get a lot of push tonight at times. We’ll look at it and we’ve got some time left.”

Branch, who was re-signed by the club this past offseason, didn’t deny that he’s surprised by his lack of playing time.

“I was pretty surprised, but it was coach’s decision. It has nothing to do with me,” said Branch. “I just have to keep going out there and practicing, doing what I can to try to make the team.”

When asked if he’s worried about making the 53-man roster Branch was professional.

“I mean the concern would be the same if I was on the first squad,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league is. It’s all on the coaches.”

Branch has not logged a defensive statistic this preseason in his limited time on the field.


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Marrone remembers Steelers camp as player

Posted by Chris Brown on August 13, 2014 – 11:19 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone worked to scrape and claw his way onto an NFL roster several times before he got into coaching full time. The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the rosters where he tried to earn a role. That’s why pulling up the road in Latrobe to St. Vincent college Wednesday for the Bills-Steelers joint practices brought back a few memories.

“I remember walking out we used to run down the hill before practice to get ready to go with Coach Noll,” said Marrone. “I remember – I don’t know if they still do – do they still wear the black jerseys without the numbers on them? Most of the guys in the room didn’t even realize that. I must be getting old. We had these black uniforms and it was hot. We used to call them burlap sacks on top. They were tough. I just remember we used to run with our pads on with Coach Noll. I just real quickly went through that in my mind when I saw the fields.”

Marrone also had one personal interaction with Coach Noll on the field during his time on the Steelers’ preseason roster.

“I was always intrigued about how intelligent he was about everything, not just the sport of football,” said Marrone of Noll. “Not being a very good football player and being on the look team, I’ll never forget Coach Noll used to jump in. I remember one practice he played the defensive end and I was playing the defensive tackle giving our offense a look during a walkthrough. I remember him explaining to me about a TE twist and an ET twist and how it came about and how the names were Exit and Texas. I just remember him explaining that to me.

“I thought it was pretty cool for him to talk to a guy that probably wasn’t going to make the roster and give me a bit of a history lesson. I just remember that when we used to leave here and go play in Pittsburgh they’d say, ‘Better get up before Coach Noll because if you pass him on the highway, he’s going take down your plate and he’s going to get after you for speeding.’ Those are just some things I remember.”


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