Inside The Bills

Watkins latest ‘wow’ play

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2014 – 8:04 pm

Sammy Watkins has been routinely turning in dynamic and high degree of difficulty receptions in the passing game since training camp started. On Sunday he turned in another.

Watkins took off down the sideline on an outside release. CB Ron Brooks was stride for stride with him. Despite the tight coverage EJ Manuel put the ball up anyway. The pass drifted inside a little bit to where Brooks had positioned himself, but Watkins jumped as the ball was arriving and reached his hands up, out and over Brooks to pull the ball in and kept running. The fans in attendance went nuts.

“My confidence is huge in him,” said Manuel. “I’ve said it before, I was a Sammy fan before we even went and picked him up. When he got here and he showed what he could do to all of us the confidence is only going to go higher.

“When the ball is going to Sammy, he looks at it like it’s his ball, and nine times out of 10 he’s going to come down with it. That was just a prime example of it.”


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How EJ changed his throws to ‘Big Mike’

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2014 – 7:56 pm

Mike Williams put on a show in the red zone in Sunday’s practice showing his expert ability to high point the football and out jump defenders. He told EJ Manuel at the outset of training camp to put the ball “in the clouds” and he’ll go get it. On Sunday he was true to his word, but Manuel shared how he’s changed the way he throws to Williams based on a conversation they had.

“Well, at first when I started throwing to him, I used to just lead him,” said Manuel. “Mike just wants the ball up there so he can go up and get it. Instead of having to throw it 60 yards down the field and having him have to track it. That’s just an example of us getting a better rapport with one another.”

“I can see him progressing as it goes,” said Williams of Manuel. “He’s feeling his way right now. There are new guys on our team that he’s going to be throwing to. It’s kind of a different offense when you put it all together like that, but as I saw it he got better and better with that.”


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Watkins playmaking will open things up

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2014 – 11:03 pm

With all the plays being turned in by Sammy Watkins in the training camp practices, it’s bound to lead to greater attention from opposing defenses and that will lead to more opportunities for the other receivers.

That doesn’t always reveal itself in the structured nature of practice, but in a game when opposing defenses are reacting Watkins is going to draw added attention. That will benefit the likes of Robert Woods, Mike Williams, Marquise Goodwin and the rest of the receiving corps.

“I don’t think it’s ever been just Sammy and Sammy knows that too,” said EJ Manuel. “He’s obviously getting an opportunity to make plays just like the rest of those guys. Obviously, all I want to do is just give those guys an opportunity to make a catch and they do the rest.”

“We’ve just got so many guys that can go out and make plays, we’ve always got a lot of speed on the field,” said Watkins. “We’ve got guys that can go over you, we’ve got guys that can run great routes, so when one guys making plays, that’s when other guys start to open up because they start to double or run a certain coverage. With everybody making plays, it’s been hard for the coaches and the offense because they want everyone on the field at the same time.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Mike Williams sees EJ’s improvement

Posted by Chris Brown on July 20, 2014 – 9:31 am

He doesn’t think it’ll take long for his on field chemistry to develop with EJ Manuel, and one of the reasons why is he saw Manuel’s progress through the course of the spring practices.

WR Mike Williams, who we profiled on Buffalobills.com this morning (Sunday), believes it won’t take much more than a day of practice for the tandem to get on the same page. It seems ambitious, but Williams has confidence in the second-year quarterback.

“I can see him progressing as it goes. He’s feeling his way right now,” said Williams. “There are new guys on our team that he’s going to be throwing to. It’s kind of a different offense when you put it all together like that, but as I saw it he got better and better with that.”

Williams will get his first crack at chemistry with Manuel in tonight’s evening practice at 6:10 at St. John Fisher.


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Fan Friday 7-18

Posted by Chris Brown on July 18, 2014 – 11:59 am

Well Bills fans it’s here. The 2014 Bills training camp presented by Connors and Ferris gets underway with player report day today. I will do my best to keep up to date on Fan Fridays during camp knowing that’s when questions will be flying in from you folks. It just gets a bit nutty sometimes at camp so bear with me. Send your questions as always to me on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris.

I Love all the work that you do. As far as the current Bills go I had a question about the plays EJ was requesting to be removed from the offence.  I remember that he wanted ‘clean reads’.  I don’t know much about professional play structure, but I wanted to ask if, by eliminating those, does that make it easier for the defense to adjust to the play, or, more generally, how does doing that affect the defense.  Are they clean reads versus the Tampa 2, but maybe not 3-deep, etc.?

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, Sal Prezioso
CB: I appreciate the compliment. I’ll let EJ explain what he was getting at with respect to the give and take with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on choosing plays to keep or remove from the game plan week to week.

“I think Coach Hackett is going to put everything on my plate that we need to win. I don’t think he’s going to be limited at all as far as his play calling,” said Manuel. “It’s just having the rapport with your coach. Sometimes there may be plays I don’t like and I’ll tell him. I know there were a few plays we came into at minicamp I just wanted to be clean, I wanted to have sharp reads. I told him hey I don’t like that play and we took it out. I think that’s having that good rapport between Coach Hackett and I.”

Having “clean reads” could mean a number of different things so we’d only be speculating as to what EJ meant exactly.

In reality taking plays out doesn’t make it easier for the defense. They still will likely not know what’s coming next. And as Manuel said very shortly after making this comment, you could have just 20 plays in a game plan and if you execute them effectively it doesn’t matter what the defense does. That was the M.O. of the K-gun offense. Fast, simple, effective.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the current Bills try to adopt a bit of that philosophy this season. Not the same offense, but the same approach.

 

2 – Hi Chris,

My question is about the general experiences that a fan from Charleston, South Carolina needs to experience (born and raised in Damascus, VA- a very small town but now, I live and have worked in SC for 7 yrs). I have been a fan since I was a kid and one of my dreams is now coming true.  My wonderful wife bought me tickets for the Minnesota game and being so far away from Western New York of course this will be my first game.

I was wondering if there are places to possibly get autographs from the team? I do have many questions but I will keep it brief; could you tell me the name of the wing place that they take the first round draft pics at? Any information would be greatly appreciated you do a great job at keeping us non-local fans informed.

Thanks,
Adam
CB: Autographs are easiest to obtain at training camp with the next best option being by good old fashioned mail. If you’ve got an item you want signed that can be mailed I’d recommend it. Just send it to the player’s attention at One Bills Drive, Orchard Park, NY 14127 with a self-addressed envelope so he can send whatever he signs back to you.

As for experiences here on game weekend Duff’s is the place to go for wings, but you’ll be able to get them right at the stadium this season at most of the concession stands. They’re the official wing of the Buffalo Bills.

The brand new Bills store will be up and running so that will be a stop you have to make. We also have the Bills Experience inside the team’s Fieldhouse on game day that is open to fans from 9:30 to 12:30 for 1 pm home games. A lot of interactive stuff is there for fans to do along with a host of vendors and you can watch the pre-game radio show on our flagship station live for the whole three hours. I’ll be there for the final hour myself so be sure to come say hello. Safe travels and we’ll see you up here on Oct. 19th!

 

3 – Hi Chris,

Looking forward to training camp and we always have a group which goes to a night practice.  Is there any information available on where and when we can get tickets?  This is the toughest part of the process as sometimes they are only in Rochester locations.  Trying to make plans, so this would be a great help.  Thanks so much.

Regards,

Cliff Miller
CB: Here is the link to all the information you’ll need on night practice tickets.

http://www.buffalobills.com/news/article-1/2014-Training-Camp-night-practice-ticket-information/22e4ada3-d208-4c65-ab50-78ab08d31747

4 – Chris,

Thanks for all of the great coverage of the Bills throughout the year. I was disappointed when I heard the news regarding Kiko;  he was all over the field last year and the heart of the defense.  However,  I feel that Bradham and/or Rivers are capable of quality play at linebacker.  Returning from a torn ACL is never easy, but do you think it is easier for defensive player to return to their pre-injury form after recovery compared to offensive players?  I just hope Kiko will be able to go sideline to sideline in the 2015 season like he did during the 2013 campaign.

Thanks,
R.J.  Westmoreland, NY
CB: I don’t know if it’s any easier for a defensive player to return to pre-injury form than an offensive player. The reason a blanket statement like that can’t be used is because every ACL recovery case is different. Every person heals and recovers differently from the next. That’s largely why physicians put a 7-9 month recovery window on ACL reconstruction patients. Some heal faster and some heal slower, so a two month window on the recovery is given. Let’s hope Kiko is a quick and effective healer.

 

5 – Dear Chris
First and foremost you’re the man. Your work ethic on providing up to date info on our squad is second to none.

My first question is why is Aaron Williams being moved to FS? I would’ve loved to see him stay at SS with Corey Graham taking FS. I thought that’s why Graham was signed. Poor Williams has had 4 new DC. And 3 position changes now.

Second has there been talk about slowing down the offense towards the end of games if we’re leading??
Last years week 1 NE game is still stuck in my head. WE HAD IT!!  But in all honesty our line should be a lot better this year so I might eat my words. Thanks again

-#1BillieverAlive
Saratoga Springs

CB: Williams is being moved to free safety to replace Jairus Byrd. Coming from a coverage background at corner, he has the athleticism and experience to cover the deep half and roll over the top of his corners in double coverage situations. The way Jim Schwartz uses safeties makes the position designations of strong and free somewhat moot. They’re largely interchangeable in his scheme.

Corey Graham will probably get a look at safety. How lengthy that look will be and how seriously he’s considered for a role at safety be it as a starter or reserve remains to be seen. Da’Norris Searcy enters training camp as the top guy at strong safety at this point. He’ll get healthy competition from Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks.

As for slowing down the offense. If the Bills have the lead late I do expect them to go into a four-minute mode more often especially with a pound out yards rusher like Anthony Dixon now on the roster. Whether they’ll slow down the tempo is likely going to be decided on a case by case basis.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

What comes after reps to build rapport with WRs

Posted by Chris Brown on July 17, 2014 – 1:19 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel is about to begin his most important training camp. Big things are expected from him after a rookie season that included three different knee injuries that cost him six starts. And he’ll need to do it while getting used to a pair of new wideouts in Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams. Obviously reps on the practice field will be the most important way to build the chemistry between himself and the two receivers in the passing game. As for the next most important way to build the rapport, Manuel has a thought on how to most effectively get on the same page.

“I think the biggest thing for us is to watch the film together,” Manuel told Buffalobills.com. “I think that’s one thing that we’re excited to do. Obviously with coach Hackett being the OC he kind of goes over everything, but I think it helps me to watch film together because everybody can be on the same page. Instead of receivers saying, ‘Hey what was EJ thinking here?’ Or, ‘What was C.J. thinking here on this run?’ We can all just talk about it right then and there and it goes back to our rapport getting stronger as a team being together for year now and it’s easier to hold everybody accountable.”

Today in our Camp Countdown we took a look at the three ways EJ Manuel can become a difference maker for Buffalo’s offense.


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How Wood strengthened bond with EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on July 15, 2014 – 2:40 pm

The still very popular Bills of the 90’s fought so hard for each other because of the bonds they developed off the field as much as in the heat of battle. Bills center Eric Wood took a page out of their book this offseason with a rather important offensive teammate.

Making every effort to strengthen the bond with QB EJ Manuel, Wood in an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio explained how he brought his quarterback along on an annual pilgrimage of his.

“I brought him back to the Kentucky Derby this year with me and we really have become close, which I feel needs to happen in that center-quarterback relationship. He’s my guy moving forward and I’m super excited for him. I know he’s excited to go back out and really play well this year,” said Wood. “EJ struggled a little bit last year, but a lot of that was when he was coming off of injuries and didn’t have a lot of practice time. Given all this time in camp and the way he’s grown this offseason mentally and physically I expect big things out of him. He’s my guy.


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Wood not worried about EJ-Sammy chemistry

Posted by Chris Brown on July 15, 2014 – 2:30 pm

Sammy Watkins made news when he said the on field chemistry isn’t all the way there yet between himself and EJ Manuel. Of course not many realize the pair only had about a dozen practices together on the field this spring. Regardless veteran center Eric Wood isn’t concerned about the passing game connection of Manuel and Watkins. He believes it will develop quickly.

In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio Wood expressed his confidence in the abilities of Manuel and Watkins coming together.

“Chemistry is extremely important and I think EJ and Sammy will definitely get there,” Wood said. “They made some plays in the spring that were really eye-opening. I think EJ is really getting better as a player and Sammy is going to be an NFL probably very quickly. He’s got a tremendous work ethic and his skill set is pretty obvious to those of us who have watched him.”

While most veteran players might be disappointed by the extended training camp the Bills have in light of the additional preseason game, Wood sees it as a benefit for young players like Manuel and Watkins.

“This extended training camp with us having the Hall of Fame game, that extra time it seems pretty daunting as a player, but it’s work that we definitely need if we want to get where we want to get on offense so any extra work before we open up against Chicago would be great.”


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An interesting look at NFL QB progression

Posted by Chris Brown on July 15, 2014 – 11:05 am

The folks at Pro Football Focus are doing a position by position progression examination as we all wait for training camp to open. Their most recent installment takes a look at quarterback and there are some tell tale benchmarks that we may be able to apply to EJ Manuel’s second NFL season.

In crunching the play value numbers of first round quarterbacks since 2007 Pro Football Focus they found less than half had positive play value figures in their film grading in their rookie seasons. That’s not really surprising knowing the league’s history at that position. They also found the improvement in season two moved the average into the positive territory in terms of performance value, though not dramatically. Here was the crux of their assessment.

First round quarterbacks generally tend to struggle in their rookie seasons, with just seven of the 18 players taken in the first round since 2007 finishing their first year with a positive grade. The best year for rookie quarterbacks since we began grading was 2012, with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill all playing well but, even with that banner year, first round rookies have averaged a minus-6.2 grade in their opening seasons in the league.

By the end of their second year we have seen an improvement by the first-round signal-callers, averaging a grade of +1.1. That improvement is largely down to the performances of the few, though, with just eight of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the first round from 2006 onward who we’ve seen a second season from, finishing that year with a positive grade.

So Manuel, who like most in this study had a minus grade as a rookie stands a reasonable chance of moving into positive territory as a second-year player.

 


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Depth of talent has EJ excited

Posted by Chris Brown on July 12, 2014 – 10:31 am

There are a lot of reasons why EJ Manuel is expecting Buffalo’s fortunes to be much more fruitful this season. There’s familiarity with the offensive system and little change in personnel on offense. What has him most excited however, is the depth of talent on his side of the ball, something that didn’t exist across the board last season.

“Running back, I think we have some great backs. All four of those guys I feel like could be starters on any team in the league, so I’m very excited to have them in the backfield with me,” he said. “But at receiver we have so much firepower out there I really just can’t wait to get into live action to see what we do out in a real game.”

We listed depth as one of the main reasons the Bills will be able to run their offense at a breakneck pace throughout the season in our latest Camp Countdown installment.


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EJ not shy about getting on a teammate

Posted by Chris Brown on July 12, 2014 – 9:28 am

For the most part he’s squarely focused on raising his game, but entering year two EJ Manuel has made it clear that he won’t hesitate to hold teammates accountable on offense.

As we profiled in our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com today (Saturday), there are reasons why Buffalo’s offense should be able to return to the up tempo pace it enjoyed early last season with Manuel at the controls. Manuel also sounds more willing to call out a teammate if they’re not living up to expectations and vice versa.

“It’s about holding each other accountable,” Manuel said. “If you have a rough day, it’s not like we’re going to come down on you.  We’re going to critique what we need to critique. Just like if I had a rough day, my receivers or a running back will say, ‘Hey, you should have done this.’ I think it’s just holding each other accountable and that just comes with having a relationship with each another.”


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Fan Friday 7-11

Posted by Chris Brown on July 11, 2014 – 11:23 am

Alright Bills fans one week and counting until players report. Nine days until the first practice. Get ready. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris,

I was wondering, with Sammy having youth football camps and Adidas commercials and endorsements and having all the pressure of becoming better than Stevie Johnson, do you think he’s living up to that???

Also, I was wondering how EJ really looks. Some people on Rant sports and Buffalo down say he looks great in mini camp and training camp, but then someone wrote how EJ looked bad and made bad choices. How do you feel about what EJ has shown you???

Thanks,
Dan Reinagel

CB: Sammy Watkins is not going to be concerned with being better than anyone. He’s focused on being the best receiver he can be and with his well documented work ethic I think he’ll make steady progress with his game as the season moves along.

As for EJ I think he knows the offense like the back of his hand. Pre-snap he’s very good at diagnosing the alignment of the defense and making a change at the line if necessary. Where he’s had some fits and starts is after the snap. If his first read isn’t there on occasion he’ll hesitate and the timing of the play is disrupted. That’s the hurdle he still needs to clear so more often than not he’s not only making the right reads, but still delivering the ball on time as well.

 

2 – Chris,
I saw a recent write up that said Sammy Watkins was struggling mentally in OTA’s.  This is starkly different that what we’ve been hearing from BuffaloBills.com.  What’s going on?

Thanks
Len

CB: From what I saw the number of plays made by Watkins in the practice setting decreased as the volume of plays being installed increased. This is a normal occurrence for a rookie at a skill position like receiver. He admitted himself even during the first week of OTAs that he’s still thinking about what to do as he’s running a route instead of just playing.

It’s the typical learning curve that a rookie receiver must travel. Again knowing how badly Watkins wants to make an impact at the NFL level I trust in time the thinking will dissipate allowing his natural playing ability to take over.

 

3 – Chris-

First off, the coverage your group does on buffalobills.com is exceptional and should serve as a model website to the rest of the league in terms of operations, promotions, etc.

Now, my question involves more of an input in regards to your observations of how the team has been built over the past several offseasons. I’ll start by pointing out that the current Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks, held one of the most dominant offenses in league history to eight points by simply dominating on the line of scrimmage and playing exceptionally well in the secondary. In comparison to the Bills, it looks as if we are beginning to move towards the Seahawks mold on how to be a champion. Seattle prided itself on its Defensive Line and Secondary, much like us with three Pro Bowlers and a sack artist in Jerry Hughes as well as an underrated secondary with Gilmore, McKelvin, Williams and Searcy. Secondly, we brought in a coordinator that prides himself on mixing up coverages so as to allow his dominant line to impose its will on opposing offenses. Given all of this on defense, Seattle also prides itself on a dominant run game with Russell Wilson playing the “game manager” role at QB. This reliance on the offensive line and running game in general, proved to be their “bread and butter” throughout the past several seasons, ultimately ending in a Super Bowl Championship. According to these observations, I firmly believe that we are on the path to adapting how the Seahawks play football simply by our focus on the development of the running game, the emphasis on the defensive line and the talent in the secondary.

Although we haven’t proven to be at the level of the “Legion of Boom” or have the same depth on defense as Seattle has, is it fair to assume that in this copycat league, the Bills are doing their best, both schematically and personnel-wise, to adopt the methods of the Super Bowl Champions?

I look forward to your insight.

Michael

CB: First and foremost thanks for your compliments. We work hard here at the website to keep you all informed on the latest happenings with the team.

As for the way this team is being built I think your observations are rather astute. Yes, I think Doug Whaley has made a concerted effort to build the defense in similar fashion to that of the Seahawks. The only area where perhaps the Bills are different is they do not have as much speed off the edge as Seattle does. The Seahawks have about three or four speed rushers who don’t go much more than 245 pounds. They’re deployed in the team’s ‘NASCAR’ package, which is called that because all their pass rushers are fast guys in that package. They kick their run down defensive ends inside and bring out their ‘race car’ pass rushers to line up on the edge.

Outside of that I think the Bills and a good number of other teams are trying to mimic the model. Seeing Buffalo add depth at running back for a ball control ground game is another example.

 

4 – Hi Chris, thanks for keeping us with something to read during the month between minicamp and training camp. I was glad to read Jeff Tuel is progressing this year. I actually thought they should’ve given him the backup job last year while EJ was out. I read so many comments about him where people say he obviously wasn’t ready because of his two interceptions in the KC game last year. He was playing a team that was undefeated mostly because of their defense and if all it takes is two interceptions to say a QB isn’t good enough EJ wouldn’t be around either. The thing I really liked about him is he was able to get the WRs involved hitting them on intermediate routes throughout the whole game which is what EJ was lacking outside of the two minute drills. My question is about Tuel’s arm strength. Would you say he can throw the ball farther and harder than Fitz or are they pretty close? If he does have a stronger arm I hope he gets a real shot if EJ doesn’t improve this year. I could really care less that he wasn’t drafted. Nobody knew who Tom Brady was until Drew Bledsoe went down either. From what I’ve seen Tuel makes fast decisions and has the courage to throw the passes that need to be thrown. Watching him last year was a lot like watching Fitz come in after Trent Edwards got shell shocked and wouldn’t throw the ball to a WR because truthfully EJ and Thad Lewis looked the same way. Obviously EJ’s arm strength and ability in the clutch are going to buy him some more time to show he can run the offense, but if he doesn’t come around I think Tuel can surprise some people.

 

Dan

Western, MA
CB: Tuel has better arm strength than Ryan Fitzpatrick. He can fit the ball into tight windows pretty effectively, or at least he’s demonstrated that this past spring. His decision making has been encouraging and I believe he’ll be pushing Thad Lewis for the number two role in training camp. Backup quarterback will have a bona fide competition this summer.

 

5 – Hey Chris,

I appreciate all the coverage you guys do, but I’m curious why there hasn’t been any highlight reels lately( For example mini camp?)

And another question maybe for FanFriday.

How will the Bills use all four of their RB’s?

Thanks!
God Bless,
Braeden

CB: The highlights were missing from Bills Roundup in minicamp per coach Marrone’s instructions. If coach is concerned about other teams seeing anything they want kept under wraps we have to respect it. We know the fan loses in the process, but competitive advantage has to come first.

That being said full highlights will return to Bills Roundup presented by ECMC at training camp so get ready for action.

The newfound depth at running back and how everyone is utilized will be interesting. On Monday in our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we will be addressing that very question. I encourage you to check it out for some answers. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had some interesting comments on what will be a good dilemma.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Who is face of Bills franchise?

Posted by Chris Brown on July 5, 2014 – 11:47 am

The Bills have had some larger than life players on their roster who have put their stamp on the era in which they played for the Bills. But who right now is the face of the franchise?

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, a former Bill himself, weighs in on who he thinks the face of the team is on a national scale.

Brooks picked Mario Williams based on his talent, production and notoriety. Here’s what he wrote.

Buffalo Bills: Mario Williams
When the Bills lavished Williams with a six-year, $100 million contract as the marquee free agent of the 2012 class, the skeptics wondered if the three-time Pro Bowl selection would be able to take the team to another level. Although the Bills’ disappointing win total hasn’t matched Williams’ disruptive impact, his production (23.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries) and performance since joining Buffalo two seasons ago certainly makes him the team’s biggest difference-maker on either side of the ball. With the Bills poised to make a major move in 2014, the rest of the NFL world might soon remember how dominant Williams can be off the edge.

Brooks also listed EJ Manuel as next in line provided he takes a big step forward in 2014.


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Fan Friday 7-4

Posted by Chris Brown on July 4, 2014 – 11:42 am

Happy Independence Day everyone! A proud day to fly the flag. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Given the new additions on offense do you see the Bills being run heavy or pass heavy? With Dixon and Brown there won’t be enough carries to go around. Getting 4 RB’s the ball seems like a tough task. Given the league is pass heavy and Watkins is in the fold how is the ball going to go around. Its a pass heavy league and EJ will need to throw 300 yards often. How do you see this shaking out?
Thanks,

Sean

CB: It’s my contention that the Bills want to be a run heavy team, but not to the point where they’re grossly imbalanced. Last year is a perfect example. With a rookie quarterback in 2013 the Bills ran the ball more than any other team in the league, but they still only ran the ball 49 percent of the time (546 times on 1,116 plays).

Every team in the league strives for balance as much as possible, but I believe Doug Marrone wants to be able to run the ball whenever he wants regardless of whether the defense knows it or not.

And as much as you want to call it a pass heavy league here’s a look at the 12 teams that ran the ball the most last season. Eight of them were playoff teams including the last two NFC teams standing last year. Yes, some of them also threw it ton (New England, Denver), but it wouldn’t surprise me if Marrone wanted his offense to be similar to that of San Francisco. The 49ers ran 52.5 percent of the time last year, and knowing the pace at which the Bills want to run their offense if they’re successful they’ll be more plays and thus more opportunities for more backs to carry the football.

Don’t kid yourself there will be a pecking order and some backs will see less of the field than others, but if their offense operates as they anticipate there will be more than enough carries to go around.

2013 Total rush leaders
1 – Buffalo – 546 rushes
2 – Seattle – 509
3 – San Francisco – 505
4 – Philadelphia – 500
5 – NY Jets – 493
6 – San Diego – 486
7 – Carolina – 483
8 – Cincinnati – 481
9 – New England – 470
10 – Tennessee – 462
11 – Denver – 461
12 – Green Bay – 459

2 – Hi Chris,
With all the talk around EJ Manuel and his progression, I have a question. I’ve listened to Coach Marrone and Coach Hackett say how good he is coming along, then I hear Marrone talk about the playoff drought. If EJ Manuel doesn’t pan out by the 3rd or 4th game, is he willing to pull EJ and replace him with either Lewis or Dixon? I am also curious as to why he has not been asked this by the reporters, because as fans we want a winning team as well. I’m curious as to why Marrone hasn’t been asked this and what his response would be. Just bought my season tickets this morning for the first time!! GO BILLS.

Thanks,

Lee
CB: First, thanks for supporting the team. We look forward to seeing you out there this fall. The reason coach Marrone hasn’t been asked this question is because coaches don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, especially those that deal with replacing players in the lineup. So if the question was asked it wouldn’t be answered.

Now to speculate on the situation you present is difficult. The organization has said from the day they drafted him that they’re all in on EJ Manuel. That plan is not going to be scrapped if he gets off to a slow start. That being said every plan has a breaking point. What that breaking point is for this coaching staff however, is hard to pin down now.

I think the staff is under more pressure to win in light of the ownership void. They know victories validates them as coaches, but only coach Marrone has to what lengths they’ll go to get wins and he’s not going to cross that bridge until he comes to it.
3 – Hey Chris,

I’m still trying to form a conclusion of whether or not the Sammy Watkins trade was a good one.

Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the people jumping off of my couch yelling “Sammy or Mack!” when the trade first scanned across the screen.  But after the dust has settled, and now that we are in OTAs and such, we tend to come back to reality and realize that afterall….Sammy is just one guy.  Yes Sammy is a playmaker, but statistics show that most rookie WRs do not produce heavily.  Plus you factor into the equation that Manuel was very inconsistent (to say the least) with his accuracy…along with a bunch of other variables working against Sammy.  So with all that being said, I guess I have 2 questions for ya.

1)  Would YOU have done the trade or would you have stood pat and taken say…Ebron or Beckham for much cheaper of a price in the 1st round?

2)  Since you were in the war-room, what was Buddy Nix’s reaction to the trade?  In the video and pictures of the warm room, everyone was clapping, cheering and celebrating the pick.  Buddy, however, was the ONLY one NOT celebrating.  I know it’s just Buddy, but he is still an advisor that has a wealth of knowledge and a history of not making trades on draft day.  So I’m just curious if you got the sense that he wasn’t thrilled about the value that was given up.

As always, Thanks for all you do.

And GREAT work on your draft coverage.

Sincerely,

Tim in NJ
CB: I think if I believed that Sammy Watkins was the best player in the draft and I had an opportunity to get him I would certainly take a swing at it. Doug Whaley said himself he wasn’t their top receiver, he was their top player in the entire class.

Yes, there’s no doubt there are variables that can impact Watkins’ production. He is dependent on quarterback play and such, but I think A.J. Green is a good indicator as to what Sammy can be in his rookie season. Green was also the fourth pick in the draft and he played with a young quarterback at the time in Andy Dalton. Green had 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns as the number one receiver in the Cincinnati offense. I don’t think those are unrealistic numbers for Watkins.

As for Buddy’s reaction in the room, you have to remember the dynamics at work there. It was the first draft Buddy was attending since stepping down as GM. It was Doug Whaley’s first draft and he just completed a huge deal. I think Nix was being respectful of Whaley’s role now. It was Doug’s room, Doug’s draft and Nix was letting Whaley and the personnel staff enjoy the moment.

And so you know Whaley and Russ Brandon consulted Nix on about a dozen occasions through the course of the draft, most often when they were done having conversations with other clubs on the phone. So Nix is still a highly respected man in that personnel department.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks again for all you great coverage.  Makes it easy for us not living in Buffalo to get our daily fix of the Bills.

Two questions about the defense:  Is Marcell Dareus facing a suspension from either the team or the NFL for his drug charge and driving incident?  And are you concerned about Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme looking a lot like Dave Wannstedt’s scheme from two years ago.  Both Jim and Dave said they rely on the front 4 to get pressure on the QB and our D from two years ago was not exciting, never blitzed, and seemed to never be aggressive or in control.  Mike Pettine’s D was exciting, aggressive, and confusing for offenses.  Which Defense do you expect to see more of this year?

Pat

CB: Thanks for the kind words. With Dareus the cases are just going to have to play out and based on their results the NFL will decide if disciplinary action is warranted. So they’ll have to reach their conclusions before the league steps in if at all.

As for Schwartz’s defense I’m not concerned about the Wannstedt comparison. Schwartz is a cutting edge coordinator in this league. He’ll blitz a whole lot more than Wannstedt ever did. And if I have to trade in 10 sacks in exchange for the best third down defense in football (Detroit was #1 last year) and a top 10 run defense (Detroit was 6th last year) then I’ll do it.

 

5 – Chris,

I’m interested in you thoughts on how Mike Caussin has been a Bill since 2010. He has almost no NFL production to his name and has an injury history, but continues to keep getting camp invites year after year. Does he have immense potential? Has he shown something in camp in previous years that keeps him around? I’m just used to seeing guys with his history off the roster after a max of 2-3 years. Thanks for all your work.

Nick in Baltimore
CB: I think what’s most appealing about Caussin’s game is his athleticism. He’s a pass catching tight end that has uncommon agility for a man his size. He’s also trying to develop as a backup long snapper to Garrison Sanborn. Yes, injuries have largely derailed his career. That’s why this is likely a make or break camp for him with tight end as deep as it’s been in a while in Buffalo.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-20

Posted by Chris Brown on June 20, 2014 – 2:39 pm

Spring practices are over and there’s just a month to go before training camp opens. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

What do you think about Buffalo going after Jason Babin possibly? They did show interest in 2012 #LetsGoBuffalo

TheGoodfella28

CB: While their depth at defensive end is not ideal I don’t know that they could make that kind of a veteran investment in the position. Buffalo has a lot of money tied up in their defensive line and adding another player who would not come cheap might be a bit unrealistic.

 

2 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for the great coverage this off-season. I always look forward to Fan Friday. My question is in regards to the #3 QB spot. What have Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon been up to this off-season? Tuel showed a lot of promise last preseason but, clearly wasn’t ready when thrust into the spotlight. I still hold out hope for him. Living in Western Pa. I got to see Dixon play some as a Steeler. The guy has a motor for sure. Do you think Tuel’s spot is safe or does Dixon have a legit chance to overtake him? Maybe try to stash Tuel on the PS?
Thanks again, I look forward to your insight on this.

Scott

CB: I’ll have a story up on Buffalobills.com Saturday morning on Jeff Tuel. In my opinion he’s raised his game a peg or two. It’s clear to me he worked on his body in the offseason. He’s leaner and looks quicker on read option play keepers. Where he’s raised his game the most is his decisiveness in the pocket. He senses pressure and knows when to step up and he has shown a willingness to stick the ball into tight windows to make plays. There were times during the OTAs where he had the most impressive looking throws of the day.

I think he’s not only got a lock on the number three job going into camp, I believe he will provide healthy competition to Thad Lewis for the backup job.

 

3 – Hi Chris,

The recent comparison you made between Moeaki and Gragg today was interesting.

Gragg ran a 4.35 shuttle at pro day. Athletically Gragg seems superior in just about every test if you now include the pro day shuttle in his draft class and with Moeaki. Sub 4.5 40 at 244, 37.5 vertical, 4.35 shuttle…. great results.

However, Moeaki comments are encouraging. From a test comparison, the statement that Moeaki is the most athletic is surprising. Would be interesting to see a square out drill with both of them to see how they do. Shuttle or 3 cone is about closest to that.

Thanks
Mike

CB: I’m not sure there’s a question here, but I can tell you while Gragg is better on the stopwatch when it comes to football Moeaki is the smoother route runner. He transitions better from catch to turning up field. He also adjusts to the ball more effectively when it’s not on target.

That’s not a knock on Gragg, who is an athlete, but Moeaki’s body type, which isn’t as long-limbed as Gragg lends itself to being a more fluid athlete.

 
4 – Chris,

Thanks for all of the great reporting for “Bills Nation” out here in southern Nevada. Observations from OTA’s have indicated that E.J. is experiencing the same footwork and inaccuracy issues that have plagued him throughout his career. I believe he has had his own personal quarterbacks coach for a number of years. Why would he hire an offseason coach/mentor that has not been able to correct these problems?

Hank K.

CB: Thanks for the kind words. During OTAs EJ and the receivers were still working on getting their footwork lined up. With the precision needed in this passing game under coach Hackett, the quarterback’s footwork has to be in lockstep with that of the receivers. I intend to ask coach Hackett how much margin for error there is with that approach, but watching it on the field there doesn’t appear to be much. Unfortunately that’s how fine you have to cut things to be consistently successful in the NFL Sunday after Sunday.

In spring practices with new receiving targets on the field (Watkins, M. Williams, Moeaki) there’s going to be an adjustment period and I think we witnessed that in the OTAs. In minicamp the precision was improving. Hopefully that continues going into camp.

And to be clear it’s not a technique thing with EJ as much as it is a timing thing concerning the footwork. Yes, occasionally Manuel’s footwork will suffer in a pressure situation as it would for any QB, but on the whole the disconnect comes when the footwork of the QB and receivers are not timed up from the snap as it’s been explained to me.

 
5 – Hey Chris,

Love your insight and love for the Bills keep up the great work. I’ve a proposal I think the Bills should really consider about trading Fred Jackson or releasing him. They need to go with CJ Spiller and Bryce Brown. With the addition of Bryce Brown and also Anthony Dixon they have two power backs that are younger and faster than Fred Jackson. I’m a big fan of Fred Jackson as a football talent and as a leader, but why get Brown and Dixon and still keep Jackson.

Virginia’s biggest Bills fan.
CB: I’m going to disagree with your proposal. First, Jackson is still a more than capable back in this league. Some might not see him as a bell cow type back anymore, but his value is undeniable. He’s still the best pass blocking back on the roster, he’s an offensive spark for the team and he’s more than a respected leader. He’s the pulse of the locker room.

The additions of Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are to improve their short yardage success and to have a viable back in reserve should C.J. Spiller or Jackson get hurt, as was the case last year when both had to gut out games on one bad wheel last season. With as much running as this team intends to do they’ll need all four of them.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ finishes on good note

Posted by Chris Brown on June 19, 2014 – 7:23 pm

Even EJ Manuel will tell you that some days were better than others with his passing game exploits and reading of coverages in the spring practices, but his last two days were probably among his most effective. Head coach Doug Marrone felt the same way.

“I think in these last couple of days, we’ve had some good results with yesterday probably being the best day that he’s had on third down when he was here,” said Marrone. “There are a lot of things that are going on that you get excited about and we have to carry that on and do that when the preseason comes.”

When asked how much further Manuel is ahead of where he was at this time last year, Buffalo’s head coach felt the difference was significant.

“Quite a bit further, especially with the amount that we have in and the amount that was given to him,” said Marrone. “I think it’s always this stage in a young quarterback’s career, especially one that hasn’t practiced as much as him because of the injuries. Out of everyone on the football team, make no mistake about it, that position has the most.

“He’s put in a lot of work. He has a much, much better understanding and it’s exciting. What you hope to see as training camp and the installation goes in, you hope to see it better the next time around. What happens after that is that is starts getting better because now the playbook starts reducing to what you’re going to do. So, it’s a natural reaction. The thing that we were concentrating on, like I said before, was to make sure that he had the fundamentals that a lot of people might not be able to see because we’re always looking for the end result.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Manuel expecting better play thru minicamp

Posted by Chris Brown on June 18, 2014 – 10:09 am

EJ Manuel would be the first to admit that at times they had their struggles with consistent execution in OTA practices the previous three weeks. Part of that was due to the large volume of plays being thrown at the offense at that time. Now, according to Manuel, the volume for minicamp isn’t nearly as large, leading him to believe their collective performance will be better this week.

“We were a little frustrated, I know I was, throughout the OTAs, but I like the fact that (offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett) put more on us,” said Manuel. “We have young guys at skill positions, and that just puts the onus on us to put the time in and really study. This week, it’s easier because we know all the plays, we’ve done it a bunch of times, so there’s not going to be any surprises as far as play calling goes.”

Manuel also believes their execution on offense will be helped with most everyone together on his side of the ball again this season.

“We’re all used to each other now.  The O-line is used to hearing my voice, they’re used to how I make a call, how I call cadence,” he said. “How I get in and out of plays as far as checking into different plays. I think our rapport overall as an offense has gotten a lot better. We’re a year older together. It’s good to have the same OC, the same Head Coach, all that stuff, to not have a bunch of new changes.

“With everybody having that rapport, it’s easier to hold each other accountable.  If somebody’s not doing the right thing, they’re not going to take it the wrong way if you point them out and let them know.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone won’t foist leadership on players

Posted by Chris Brown on June 12, 2014 – 4:09 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone had some pointed comments on his stance concerning player leadership on his roster. Naturally Marrone had captains on his team in 2013 (Fred Jackson, Kyle Williams, Eric Wood). When asked about leadership Thursday however, he made it plain that he’s not going to try and manufacture leadership in a player.

“If it develops, it develops,” he said. “I learned a long time ago not to push it, not to try to point out that stuff, not to identify or put people in those types of roles. If you don’t have that or you don’t see that or it’s not occurring on your team then you have to take more of a role. That means myself and then it passes on to the coaches. I do see a team that’s coming together and is getting to know each other better, which at least gives you the ability to step up from the leadership standpoint amongst the team.”

When Marrone was asked if he needs to make the leadership on the team better he again indicated that it can’t be created.

“I learned a long time ago not to try to do that. If you try to force that I think you’re always going to be disappointed,” he said. “You go full steam ahead and lead by example, starting with myself and the coaches. The number one skill you need to be a good leader and you first have to be a good follower. I learned that a long time ago. If you don’t want to stand up there and lead then stay in line and follow.”

Finally Marrone was asked if EJ Manuel has to be a leader. Here was his response.

“I think it’s a natural thing by position,” he said. “I don’t know if you’re sitting here thinking does he need to be this or that? What we need him to do is just play well. He’s in a natural leadership position, just like Eric Wood at center is in a natural leadership position. No different than the middle linebacker who calls the plays who is in a leadership position.  So a lot of times on a team you have people in leadership positions. You just have make sure you have the right ones.”

What do you think of Marrone’s take on team leadership?


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ confirms has authority to change plays

Posted by Chris Brown on June 10, 2014 – 9:56 pm

As a rookie he was on a short leash, but EJ Manuel now with a year invested in  the Bills offensive system sounds like he’s got full clearance to make a decision on getting the offense into a better play if the first one called looks like a dubious one against the defensive look he’s seeing.

There have been a fair number of audibles at the line of scrimmage this week in OTAs by all the quarterbacks. Manuel confirmed his firm grasp of Nathaniel Hackett’s system has given him the green light to change the play at the line.

“I would say from the last game last season to now I’m way further ahead,” said Manuel. “We’ve learned our responsibility of having the ability to change plays. Coach Hackett is not second guessing what we’re doing. I think he trusts me a lot more to get us in the right play.

“Obviously in the game it’s easier because you have a game plan with specific things that you check into. In practice it’s kind of all the place, but I definitely feel a lot better with my grasp of the offense. Sometimes I get frustrated because I know it’s there and if we have one misstep (in practice) and it’s not complete that’s frustrating. I try to pride myself on knowing it so well, but we’ve just got to keep rolling with the punches.”


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Hughes a pass rushing force Wednesday

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

Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes was living up to his billing in practice Wednesday. Though it’s far from real football at this point in time in OTAs, Hughes had his best practice thus far.

After a would-be sack midway through Wednesday’s practice during a 9-v-9 segment the Bills run, Hughes followed it up with three more sacks in a span of five plays. In practice pass rushers can only tap out a QB on a pass play. Hughes tapped out Jeff Tuel and EJ Manuel on his four sacks.

On his last play Hughes swooped around the right side and tapped out Manuel before he could launch a deep ball for Sammy Watkins down the right sideline. Hughes began shouting down the field, “Bring that ball back! That was a sack!”

While much has been made about the adjustment Hughes may need to make going from Mike Pettine’s defense to Jim Schwartz’s as Hughes sees it not much has changed for him.

“He’s brought in his 4-3 scheme, but as far as what I’m doing it’s pretty much the same thing I did last year,” said Hughes. “My hand is in the ground and I’m coming off the edge trying to create pressure to get to the quarterback.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills