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Inside The Bills

Mike Williams fired up to play with EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on April 7, 2014 – 5:15 pm

Any receiver with Mike Williams’ skill set is going to be pretty happy to play with a strong-armed quarterback. So when asked about the prospect of playing with EJ Manuel this fall, Buffalo’s newest receiver was understandably excited.

“It’s great. It’s going to be a pleasure,” said Williams. “Looking at his college career and seeing that he never lost a bowl game. He’s a winner so to be around a guy like that and his arm strength is tremendous. I can’t wait to start working with him. Just tell him to get (the ball) out there.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 4-4

Posted by Chris Brown on April 4, 2014 – 12:24 pm

The 2014 draft is just over a month away and the pro days are winding down. Among the big ones left are Penn State (April 8), LSU (April 9) and Georgia (April 16).

For now here are some of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,

If a scenario happens where say the big 3, Clowney, Mack and Watkins were gone and either/or Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel fell to the Bills at #9. Do you see any chance the Bills would have interest? I’m of the mind that we need to give EJ Manuel a healthy and fully educated season to see if he’s the man. That being said if a team sees a potential franchise QB drop into their lap I guess you do have to consider it.

Enjoy your work Chris,
Thanks Wally James
Fredericksburg ,VA

CB: That’s an interesting scenario you’ve painted. I think the Bills have been clear that they are all in on EJ Manuel as their franchise quarterback. As tempting as it may be to draft Johnny Manziel if he is there at nine, you have to look at this the way the Bills or any other NFL franchise would.

They invested more than a year of research, scouting, testing and projecting to make their determination that EJ Manuel is fully capable of being their franchise quarterback and excelling for them on the field. That kind of commitment mandates that you do everything you can as an organization to help him succeed. Drafting a quarterback ninth overall this year, no matter who it is, does not achieve that mandate.

If the value at nine is right for a player who can more effectively help EJ Manuel on the field this year on offense then another player will be the pick. Not Johnny Manziel. If the value is not right then I see the Bills moving back to allow another club to trade in to take Johnny Manziel and gain valuable picks in the process, not unlike they did last year (See: Kiko Alonso).

 

2 – Chris,
Thanks for all you do. With all of the cuts of high priced veterans (Revis, Peppers, etc) do you anticipate Mario Williams to survive the length of his contract in Buffalo?   Or do you anticipate the Bills parting ways to free up $16+ million in cap space.

-Jim

CB: High-priced players sometimes do not see the end of lucrative contracts, and you’ve provided more than one example above. When contracts aren’t guaranteed, as is the case in the NFL, there are no guarantees a player will see the end of it with the club that signed him.

That being said the Bills are among the most fiscally responsible teams in the league and rarely put themselves in a position of having to fire sale the roster. The last time it happened was in 2000 when late GM John Butler, being so tied to Hall of Famers Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed compromised the team’s salary cap health until he unfortunately had to cut all three on the same day.

It served as a lesson to this organization to not fall into such a situation again.

So while I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a day coming when the Bills do decide to part ways with Mario Williams prematurely, I think they also try to maintain a measure of responsible spending to allow for a couple of lavish contracts on the roster.

 

3 – Chris,
As always thank you and everyone who help to inform Bills nation. My question is on the defensive side,  now that Byrd is gone for sure who do you see stepping up next to Williams? I know Searcy saw a good deal of time last season in spot duty for Byrd early on(along with Leonhard), but do you see him as a full time starter? I really like him as a third safety you can put in the box and play on special teams personally.

Do you think Duke Williams could be the next guy or Meeks maybe? Or maybe a replacement could be found in the draft. Also what do you make of the defensive end position as a sleeper positional need? Do you see any of the “tweeners” (Hughes or Lawson among others) possible switching to or back to the d-end position? Or do they stay at linebacker? Look forward to hearing what you think thanks again!
Will

CB: Doug Marrone has given indication that Corey Graham will be given an opportunity to play safety alongside Aaron Williams, so he’ll be part of the competition and I like the open-minded thinking there. He’ll be in direct competition with Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks. I really liked what I saw from Williams in both the practice setting and the preseason last year. I think his athleticism caters well to the versatility you need nowadays at the safety position. He played corner at Nevada so coverage assignments down on the line aren’t an issue for him.

We just didn’t see enough of Meeks last year with the injury to know what he can offer. Searcy while capable of playing safety really carved out a niche for himself as a nickel LB. He had a very productive season there so I’m not sure the coaches will want to mess with that.

As for defensive end, I think the priority is getting Jerry Hughes signed to a long term deal as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. Provided they can get a deal done they should be okay there.

With coach Marrone saying at the league meetings last week that they’ll primarily be a 4-3 front defensively I do see Hughes and Lawson joining Mario Williams as the primary defensive ends in Jim Schwartz’s defense. Whether they decide to add through the draft remains to be seen, but that’s a pretty darn good trio.

 

4 – HI CHRIS,
I am absolutely delighted that the Bills have re-signed K Dan Carpenter,but I am perplexed as to why the Dolphins released him. Was he a problem in Miami or was it a money situation??
Regards from
Richard
Los Angeles

CB:
The Dolphins found him expendable because they drafted a kicker in the middle of the fifth round last year in Caleb Sturgis. Miami was apparently disappointed in Carpenter, who had struggled a bit early in the 2012 season and was hurt for the last two games that year. The investment in Sturgis practically predetermined how the “competition” was going to turn out in Miami last summer.

What I enjoyed was watching Carpenter succeed on almost 92 percent of his attempts, almost half of which came from 40-yards plus. He finished tied for 10th in the NFL in field goal accuracy and only two kickers ahead of him (Gostkowski, Tucker) had more attempts from 40-yard plus than him.

Meanwhile Sturgis finished 29th in field goal accuracy at 74.6%.

From 40-yards plus last season Carpenter was an impressive 14-for-17 (82.3%) including 4-for-6 from 50-yards plus. Sturgis was 11-for-17 (64.7%) and he played half his games in Miami. Carpenter had seven games in Buffalo.

 

5 – Hi Chris,

I have a hypothetical question for you. If Sammy Watkins was still available when the Bills are picking do you think they may pass on him because he is reportedly to be represented by Eugene Parker? I think it would be a fair observation to say that Eugene Parker is developing a reputation for causing the Bills front office grief when it comes to contract negotiations with Jairus Byrd and Jason Peters being prime examples.

From an outsiders prospective if the Bills were to select Watkins and he performs as expected, then we would only have him for the length of his rookie contract before he ventures off to “greener pastures”. Do you think teams are impacted by who the players selects as their agent when deciding who to draft particularly in the first round?

Regards
Matt
CB: I don’t believe that NFL clubs factor in the agent for the player when assessing their grade for the player on their draft board. Knowing that I tend to believe the Bills and every other NFL team chooses a player based on his ability on the field, potential, character makeup, passion for the game and fit for their team. So if Sammy Watkins is on the board at nine, which I don’t think will happen, then I see the Bills running the card up to the podium with his name on it.

Your point is a valid one, but the opportunity to get one of the best prospects in the entire class at a position of need trumps any concern you might have about him staying with the team for his second contract.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Spiller catching passes from EJ in Cali

Posted by Chris Brown on March 26, 2014 – 1:56 pm


In the offseason C.J. Spiller often heads to California for training in preparation for the next NFL season. This offseason is no different, but he had a workout partner this week from Buffalo’s roster.

Quarterback EJ Manuel joined Spiller out in California to work on more football related material than just pure training. Appearing on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Spiller outlined the work he and Manuel are doing.

“I feel good. I’m actually out here in California getting some throws in with EJ just trying to get some timing down,” said Spiller.

Spiller is also optimistic about how his ankle has come around since the end of the 2013 season.

“The ankle has been responding pretty well since the offseason started being able to plant and cut so I definitely feel that explosion coming back to how I was in 2012,” he said.

Spiller dealt with a high ankle sprain for most of last season and lacked his trademark burst and elusiveness.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-21

Posted by Chris Brown on March 21, 2014 – 11:39 am

Free agency is still up and running, but the focus will steadily move toward the NFL draft. In the meantime we answer some of your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hi Chris,
In putting on your Draft Hat, who do you think the Bills will draft over the first three rounds? By position I would to see a LB, OL, TE.  It would not surprise me if they trade down in the first round again in order to gain additional picks.

Thanks very much, as always I appreciate your input.

Bob Hammond
Rochester, NY

CB: I think based on what they’ve acquired in free agency to this point (2 LB, 1 G, 1 CB, 1 RB) it has not changed much. Here’s why. I see the three positions you mentioned along with WR as their top four needs. Though they have added a pair of linebackers who each figure to have starting roles and play a lot, the depth at linebacker is not where it needs to be. So I do expect them to take a linebacker. I’m just not sure it’s going to be early.

On the offensive line with Erik Pears entering the final year of his contract and Chris Hairston’s status still up in the air pending a medical re-check this spring, offensive tackle is a position I expect to be addressed in the first two rounds. The same goes for wide receiver preferably one that is 6’3” or taller.

Tight end could be a consideration if the right kind of game breaking talent is there, but absent that opportunity I don’t think we see one added to the roster.

 

2 – Chris,

With so many underclassmen declaring for the draft. Do you anticipate a richer pool of undrafted free agent? 

Harris W.

CB: I think that is a very safe assumption. In fact talking to some NFL GMs at the NFL combine most of them seem to be more excited about the quality of talent they’ll be able to sign after the draft is over. With 100 underclassmen declaring for the draft this spring, it’s essentially three extra rounds of prospects that won’t get drafted. So the undrafted pool might be the deepest ever.

 

3 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for all of your combine coverage, its great. My question is about the draft. I think that the Bills need to surround EJ with more weapons before addressing the O-line in the later rounds. What do you think about getting Ebron or Watkins in the first and then someone like Gabe Jackson or Cyrus Kouandjio in the second? Or maybe a Martavus Bryant in the third? He is a big fast receiver that we are looking for. I think Ebron and Watkins would be a great explosive weapon for EJ. What are your thoughts?

Go Bills!
Mike 

CB: I think there is depth at offensive tackle where you could find a starting caliber player in round two.

If Sammy Watkins is there at nine the Bills will sprint up to the podium with the card. However, I’d be stunned if he’s still on the board past Oakland at five. I think ninth is too high for Ebron. I’d consider Texas A&M’s Mike Evans.

An offensive tackle I like for round two is Tennessee’s Tiny Richardson. If there’s a run on tackles late in round one however, I’m worried he won’t be there. We’ll see.

 

4 – Hello Chris,

I am struggling to figure out why the Bills are not on the QB needy teams list? What evidence was provided last year that EJ Manuel is at all capable of winning games yet alone a super bowl championship? His short passes were off target and thrown with way too much velocity. His deep ball was nonexistent. I’ve been a Bills fan for over twenty some odd years since I watched Ronnie Harmon drop the ball in the end zone in Cleveland. I have never felt compelled to ever write before but Myself and many, many others cannot sit by and watch another 3 years of this kid stink it up. Please tell Russ, Doug , Jim O, and Coach to move up and get the A&M kid. Everyone knows EJ is not the goods.

At the very least can someone at least acknowledge this and stop trying to convince themselves by trying to convince us, You don’t move back in the draft if you think the guy is the “guy” you take him at 8 or whatever they picked last year, Seriously I’m begging. I listen to Murphy and I realize how difficult it’s becoming to even be fan of this team any longer. We don’t need a receiver or tight end…We need a Quarterback! 

Thank you and enjoy your work.
Paul

CB: I’m going to respectfully disagree with you here. Ten NFL starts does not a career make. If that was the case Troy Aikman would’ve been run out of Dallas on a rail when they went 1-15 in his first NFL season as a starter. Buffalo’s personnel execs are all in on EJ Manuel, so giving up on him after 10 games, which truth be told had some encouraging and discouraging performances, would be foolhardy after investing a first-round pick.

You have to trust in your coaches to develop him and his work ethic to lead to appreciable improvement. You’re entitled to your opinion just like everyone else. I just think no matter what side of the fence anyone is on concerning EJ, all of it is premature.

 

5 – Chris,

The Bills QB’s: EJ, Tuel and Thad Lewis
Do you envision the Bills adding depth at the position in the draft say an Aaron Murray or Zach Mettenberger who may fall due to knee injuries, and may be perfect for the Bills to groom behind EJ this year.
Or do you think they prefer someone with more experience?   Along the lines of: Josh freeman, Chad Henne, Josh McCown

-Jim

CB: I’m going to let Bills GM Doug Whaley handle this one with a recent comment he made on the radio last week.

This was his response when asked in a radio interview if they planned to add a quarterback in free agency or the draft.

“At this time no, but again we will keep all options open,” Whaley said.

Whaley then went on to indicate that they’d be fine going into camp with the three quarterbacks on their roster (Manuel, Lewis, Tuel) along with their practice squad QB who was on the roster last year.

“Comfortable, very comfortable and then you throw Dennis Dixon in,” he said. “All those guys are going to be another year in the system, so if you bring someone else in they’ll be new in the system. So we’re comfortable with where we are with the quarterback position.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Whaley: Adding another QB not likely

Posted by Chris Brown on March 14, 2014 – 10:34 am

This week the Bills parted ways with veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb. With three “green” quarterbacks on the roster, there is some thought outside the organization that they might consider adding a free agent with more experience to compete for a backup role. Bills GM Doug Whaley put that thought to rest Friday.

In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Whaley confirmed that right now there are no plans to add another quarterback though he would not completely rule it out.

“At this time no, but again we will keep all options open,” said Whaley.

When asked if the team would feel comfortable going into training camp with the three quarterbacks currently on the roster, EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel, Whaley said they would be.

“Comfortable, very comfortable and then you throw Dennis Dixon in,” he said. “All those guys are going to be another year in the system, so if you bring someone else in they’ll be new in the system. So we’re comfortable with where we are with the quarterback position.”

Dixon was on Buffalo’s practice squad as a quarterback last season.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Thurs. pro days of note

Posted by Chris Brown on March 5, 2014 – 4:43 pm

Here’s a rundown of the college pro days of note for Thursday March 6th.

Clemson and Missouri are the big draws Thursday as Tahj Boyd has been trying to improve his throwing motion with the help from QB passing trainer Ken Mastrole, who tutored EJ Manuel last year at this time. In fact Manuel recommended Mastrole to Boyd. Boyd is going to have Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant to throw at Clemson Thursday according to reports.

Arizona
RB Ka’Deem Carey – 5’9 1/2″ 207
CB Shaquille Richardson – 6’0″ 194
OLB Marquis Flowers – 6’3″ 235

Clemson
WR Sammy Watkins – 6’1″ 211
CB Bashaud Breeland – 5’11 1/2″ 197
OT Brandon Thomas – 6’3″ 317
QB Tahj Boyd – 6’0 1/2″ 222
WR Martavis Bryant – 6’3 3/4″ 211
K Chandler Catanzaro – 6’0″ 194

Missouri
DE Kony Ealy – 6’4″ 273
CB E.J. Gaines – 5’9 1/2″ 190
WR L’Damian Washington – 6’4″ 195
DE Michael Sam – 6’2″ 261
OT Justin Britt – 6’6″ 325
RB Henry Josey – 5’8″ 194
QB James Franklin – 6’1 1/2″ 228
OLB Andrew Wilson – 6’2″ 241

Nebraska
CB Stan Jean-Baptiste – 6’2 1/2″ 218
G Spencer Long – 6’4 1/2″ 320
WR Quincy Enunwa – 6’2″ 225

TCU
CB Jason Verrett – 5′ 9 1/2″ 189
QB Casey Pachall – 6’3 1/2″ 225


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 2-28

Posted by Chris Brown on February 28, 2014 – 11:56 am

Franchise tags and free agency is up next this offseason, but let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,
Love all the great work you do in keeping those of us who root for the Bills but no longer live in WNY up to date on the pulse of the organization.  I want to give a shout out to my fellow Bills Backers here in Portland OR.

My question is what do you think the chances are of the Bills making a real push to go after Jimmy Graham in FA? The talk is that the coaching staff wants to add a big target and a pass catching TE for EJ.  With Graham you get both (and maybe the best receiver in the NFL outside of Megatron).

I know he won’t come cheap and they have many TE on the roster but wouldn’t adding him be a major coup for the offense just like Mario was for the defense?  It sure looks like the new regime in buffalo is trying to change the culture and this move would be another big step in that direction. He won’t be cheap and we would have to overpay (see Mario again) to get him but WOW.  Do the Bills have the cap space and upcoming FA room to swing such a deal?

Norm

CB: I don’t anticipate Graham being available on the open market. The Saints know their offense takes a crippling hit without him and will do whatever they have to in order to keep him in the fold.
2 – Chris,

Obviously there is not a Bills fan out there that can thank you enough for all the hard work you do. It shows you love what you do.
Question: I am hearing a lot of talk about drafting a WR come May. I am on board with this pick. With Bills brass bringing in tall WR’s this offseason, I can assume they might want to address this in the draft as well. What I do not get is all the talk about S. Watkins. He is a true top WR, but I already see the same skill set he has in Goodwin, Woods, and Graham. What would be the benefit of adding another receiver of his capability when we the Bills need a tall jump ball receiver?

Dan
Cottonwood, AZ

CB: As outlined by Bills GM Doug Whaley their definition of a big receiver is not based solely on height. We covered this in our NFL combine feature story on Sammy Watkins, who is an example of a big receiver, even though he stands just 6’1”. Here was Whaley’s exact quote in explaining a phrase he likes to use, ‘big wins.’

“At the wide receiver position ‘big wins’ means a guy that plays big,” Whaley told Buffalobills.com. “He may be six foot, but if he continues to catch the ball away from his body and has long arms, then he’ll play like a 6-4 or 6-5 guy. Now you can also have a guy that’s 6-5, but catches the ball into his body. He doesn’t play big. So it’s not only just the physical measurements of being big, but being able to play big on the field.”
3 – Hey Chris ,

Here’s a quick one for you . Seeing as most all of the experts last year saw the QB class as not very good & the pick of EJ as a reach for the Bills (all but Marrone, Nix, Whaley, & Brandon) do you see us taking a QB if a good one falls in our lap in the later rounds ? Especially seeing as the supposed experts see this years QB class as being a very good one filled with candidates !

Thanks again for your time

Mr T from Fort Myers via Nashville

CB: I don’t think you can rule that out as a possibility knowing the Bills subscribe to the best player on the board philosophy. Of course we’ll have to see what Buffalo does in free agency beforehand.

I’ll also say we need to be mindful of the fact that three of the four quarterbacks on the roster are all young and inexperienced. I’m not sure adding another, unless he’s one of extraordinary value, is of interest to the Bills.

 

4 – Hi Chris, thank you for all the coverage you provide for the Buffalo Bills fans all across the country.

I have two questions for you:

As per the last question I sent you regarding Eric Decker going to the Bills, you said that he would not be a good fit. Ok, I buy that, but how about Kenny Britt or Darius Heyward-Bey? The Bills do need size at the receiving position, and either of these two would provide that.

Also, It has been publicized that the Buffalo Bills will need a veteran backup quarterback to back up E. J. Manuel, in case of another injury. particularly one that can win football games. Two names that come to mind are Chad Henne and Kellen Clemens.

What are your thoughts? As always, I am looking forward to reading your response.

Tony, Ormond Beach, Fl

CB: Kenny Britt is a talent no question and has size, but his injury history is undoubtedly a concern. The Bills and other NFL clubs will investigate that thoroughly. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a tall and fast receiver, but I’m not sure he’s the bona fide answer the Bills are looking for at the position. We’ll see.

As for the QB free agent market I wouldn’t mind Chad Henne as a backup option. Kellen Clemens is another story. Matt Cassel wouldn’t be a bad option either.

 

5 –  Hi Chris,

Thanks for the coverage.
Q- After watching the Super Bowl seeing Kam Chancellor blow up Denver’s big wideouts and thinking that we might lose Byrd. Do you think if a big receiver is taken in the draft what would it take to get Marcus Easley a look at safety. He was great on special teams and if he’s not being used at receiver why not?
Thanks, Andy (Rochester)

CB: I really doubt that would ever be an option mainly because Buffalo has some young safeties on the depth chart already. I think Duke Williams is a very talented and underrated prospect and will be a good player in this league. I think Jonathan Meeks also has a lot of potential, so there really isn’t a need to move Easley to the other side of the ball.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Draft guru has confidence in EJ Manuel

Posted by johnmurphyshow on February 22, 2014 – 1:30 pm

After fifty years dealing with NFL personnel, former Cowboys exec Gil Brandt knows how to evaluate players. And he believes Bills QB EJ Manuel is going to make it.

“Manuel is a guy that’s going to get it done,” Brandt said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was a guest on The John Murphy Show from the combine in Indianapolis.

Brandt says he made the decision to invite Manuel to New York for the first night of the draft last year, when others thought the QB would not be chosen in the first round.

Now a Senior Analyst for NFL.com, Brandt had this assessment of Manuel after his rookie season with the Bills:

“He probably doesn’t have as much ability as some people in this league. But he’s going to get it done because he works at it and he has a great relationship with players, which for a quarterback is important.”

Host John Murphy asked Brant where Manuel would stack up among the quarterbacks available in this year’s draft, a class that includes stars like Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.

“I haven’t stacked this one up yet,” he answered. “But I still think he’d be a first round pick.”

For more Combine coverage presented by NAPA Auto Parts, click here


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Assts work with young QBs appealed to Marrone

Posted by Chris Brown on February 13, 2014 – 9:24 am

As we profiled in Bills Focus on the video side of Buffalobills.com today, Buffalo’s new quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and Senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler both have experience tutoring rookie quarterbacks, who were first round picks and seen as the future franchise quarterback. Both also had to guide those QBs through injury affected rookie seasons. It was part of what made Downing and Hostler appealing to head coach Doug Marrone.

“It was part of the process,” Marrone told Buffalobills.com. “It was part of thinking about what do the Buffalo Bills need? I think that was the main thing. For us we want people that have that type of experience because they’ll foresee maybe some of the challenges that they have working with younger quarterbacks. If something seems like a challenge and someone is in the room saying they went through this with Stafford or Alex Smith and you’re like, ‘Okay it’s normal.’ And you’re not in a panic mode.”

Marrone was most impressed by how he saw Downing interact with the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl in 2013, one of whom was EJ Manuel. And once Manuel spoke highly of Downing he was convinced.

“When I thought about Todd Downing I remember watching him at the Senior Bowl and watching him interact with EJ and I remember talking EJ about his experience at the Senior Bowl and who coached him,” said Marrone. “He mentioned Todd’s name and what their relationship was like and that was important for me because we were going to hire a quarterback coach and I wanted EJ as well as our other quarterbacks to feel comfortable in that type of setting where they didn’t have any barriers of communication. It was already set so that put us ahead of the game.”

Downing has worked with both Manuel and Thad Lewis having had him on his roster in Detroit last year before the Bills acquired him via trade.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ Manuel coaches Panini clinic

Posted by buffalobills.com on February 12, 2014 – 10:39 am

panini-america-2014-pop-warner-skills-clinic-11

EJ Manuel along with other NFL Players helped coach 150 young athletes at the 7th Annual Panini Pop Warner Skills Clinic in New York City.  Other NFL players included NY Giants Jason Pierre-Paul, Jaguars Denard Robinson, and Falcons Harry Douglas.

panini-america-2014-pop-warner-skills-clinic-10

The Pop Warner football players participated in drills, learned proper hitting techniques and caught passes from EJ Manuel himself.

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For more details and photos on the event, click here.

Photo credit: Panini America


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Posted in Corporate, Inside the Bills, Off the Field

Downing confident EJ will progress in year 2

Posted by Chris Brown on February 12, 2014 – 9:24 am

Bills new quarterbacks coach Todd Downing has already worked with EJ Manuel before, so he’s confident the two can hit the ground running when the young QB returns for offseason workouts. In reviewing Manuel’s rookie game tape from the 2013 season, Downing made the follow observations.

“Certainly EJ had a couple of things to battle—playing right away as a rookie and playing with some injuries that were tough for him,” Downing said. “We saw him a couple of times in crossover games, when we were in Detroit and watching Buffalo play Cleveland and things like that. I think you see EJ on that natural progression or curve for a young quarterback. There are some things he has to learn to see, he’ll do that. I think he’s on that natural upswing and I’m excited to work with him.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone consulted NFL QBs about Downing

Posted by Chris Brown on February 11, 2014 – 4:26 pm

There are a number of different people that coaches in the NFL talk to when they have an assistant coaching candidate they’re interested in, but have never worked with before. While head coach Doug Marrone had some fellow coaches he could talk to about quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, Marrone went the extra step and talked to a couple of quarterbacks about him as well.

Marrone first talked to his own quarterback EJ Manuel about Downing after he had spent a week with him at the Senior Bowl last year. There was one other NFL signal caller Marrone consulted too.

“I had a lot of information about Todd when we talked to EJ,” said Marrone. “Watching Todd out there on the field… (I also) talked to Matthew Stafford about Todd and he had great things to say. I’m really looking forward to him coming in and mentoring all of our quarterbacks mostly because they’re all young.”

EJ Manuel mentioned that coach Marrone had talked to him prior to hiring coach Downing as well.

“They mentioned to me who they were talking to, and they told they were thinking about hiring coach Downing and I said I thought he was a great coach,” said Manuel.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-31

Posted by Chris Brown on January 31, 2014 – 12:00 pm

We’ll all be waiting to see if the ninth time is the charm for Bills Wall of Famer Andre Reed for Hall of Fame enshrinement. Hopefully the path is cleared for Buffalo’s all-time leading receiver. On to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills Hey Chris. Stayin busy in the off-seasn? Lol. Is there a greater % for injury of same knee now that EJ’s had 2 surgeries on it?

billsguy34

CB: EJ said this week that he plans to wear a knee brace on his left knee permanently much like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning do with their front leg when they drop back to pass. I believe the idea is to protect him from injuring the knee again in a freak way, such as a penetrating defensive lineman falling on his front leg as he tries to step into a throw. He doesn’t believe it will inhibit his escapability if he needs to take off and run so the added protection would seem to make sense.

It’s clear to me that EJ has thought long and hard about how to keep that knee healthy without impeding his athletic skills. So if anything I think the percentage for a future injury happening are reduced, but as we all know in football injuries are never 100 percent preventable.

 

2 – @ChrisBrownBills do you think Hostler will be senior off asst/WR coach?

SJHNatFan

CB: Even though Jim Hostler has been a very accomplished receivers coach during his time in the NFL ranks I don’t get the sense that he’ll be assigned the receivers specifically. As I understand it Hostler will be another set of eyes for the offense. He’ll work closely with coach Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and likely have some self-scouting responsibilities to help the offensive staff to better accentuate their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. I’m sure he’ll have input when it comes to game planning as well. I see him as a valuable sounding board for Hackett and Marrone on the offensive side, but his job sounds more all-encompassing with the offense rather than position specific.

 

3 – Chris,

Thanks for the great coverage as always. My question regards our offseason needs as we have a few, OG,OT,LB and a big wide out. These holes will be filled with a mix of the draft and free agency most likely. Where do you believe we will choose to go with youth versus veteran experience?

We have a pretty young receiver group as well as a young potential star at middle linebacker in Kiko it’d be nice to see some solid veterans thrown into the mix. But I can’t argue trying to grab another young stud linebacker in the draft either along with an offensive lineman. Also who do you believe has the best shot to have an impact at one of these positions of need who may already be in house I know there’s a few candidates.(Elliot,Unga,Asper etc.) Looking forward to your thoughts thanks again.

Will, GO BILLS!

CB: I think your reasoning makes sense, but what you want to do is often affected by what’s available in terms of talent. When it comes to linebacker I get the sense that the team would prefer to move Kiko Alonso out to the weak side where they can take better advantage of his athleticism and coverage ability. That would mean a middle linebacker would need to be plugged in.

Buffalo was fortunate that they had a rookie in Alonso who was able to learn and call a new defense as a rookie at the mike spot. That doesn’t always happen, so I’m inclined to think that they would want to add a veteran in free agency at that position. However, the market is particularly thin, which means the price tag on what the Bills might see as an affordable option (as Doug Whaley calls them, ‘dust settle’ guys) may not be if there are other teams competing for experienced LBs.

I could see the Bills adding a linebacker both in free agency and in the draft. They need bodies at that position.

At receiver another rookie is probably not the way to improve the offense sooner rather than later. They need a player who has produced in the past and has adapted to different offensive systems before. Buffalo invested a pair of high picks at the receiver position last year (2nd and 3rd round) so I’d be surprised if they go that route again, especially early.

Offensive tackle is where I expect them to turn to the draft for help. There’s good talent at the top of the draft and with some QB hungry teams ahead of Buffalo in round one some great talent could fall to them at nine.

Guard is a position where I think they will plug in the best talent they can find. They have some players in house who they believe have starter potential, but they might add a stop gap free agent veteran to hold down the fort until they feel comfortable enough to plug in one of the prospects that you mentioned.

 

4 – Chris,
Thank you for all your coverage during the season.  What’s more is your continuous coverage during the off-season.  Being a fan in Virginia, I rely a lot on what I get from you.  I have two questions for you.

My first is in a previous Fan Friday someone mentioned there was possible discussion about trading Stevie.   I haven’t heard anything about that, yet you responded to it, so it sounds like there has been talk.  Where has this been said, and did I miss it due to me being in another state?

My second and big question is about the draft for next year.  Watching the playoffs this year I am noticing a theme.  The teams that are winning are winning due to great running games and strong defense.  What are the Bills going to do to boost up the offense and defense in the offseason?  Our pass defense is much better, but we let too many runs get by us.  I think we have a great running game, but it needs.some help with a better offensive line creating holes at times, especially in the red zone.

Thanks for keeping everyone informed.

Diehard fan in VA

CB: There are a lot of things that happen in the first year with a new coaching staff inheriting a roster of players. They have to learn how to work together, help one another and succeed. Doug Marrone did a solid job in establishing how things were going to function and earned the trust of the players. I think Stevie Johnson is a player who is wholeheartedly on board and wants to win.

At times I think the way the season unfolded frustrated him and I’m not sure he effectively communicated his frustrations to the people that matter most. I think it led to a lot of speculation about Stevie’s future with the team and whether he could effectively fall in line with the rest of the team and do things coach Marrone’s way.

As I said before Johnson wants to win in the worst way and he wants to win here. I think after the dust settled on the season coach Marrone and coach Hackett made the necessary changes to their offensive staff and I get the sense that they came to the conclusion that they need Johnson in this offense. In a year where they’re trying to improve the talent around EJ Manuel so he can raise the level of the passing game, taking Johnson out of that equation would be foolish.

He gains consistent separation on pass routes perhaps more than any other receiver on the roster. An open receiver is a valuable asset for a young quarterback. I’m not saying that the Bills don’t need to add more talent to the receiving corps, but to get Buffalo’s passing game to reach critical mass you need to hold onto weapons not remove them from the offense. That’s a long way of saying I don’t anticipate any trade talk regarding Johnson.

 

5 – Chris,

Thanks for all the great coverage throughout the season.  My question is, since the bills can get a deal done with Byrd now, wouldn’t this be the best time to do it since he can’t talk to other teams until FA starts?

Jason from Missouri

CB: Bills GM Doug Whaley and President and CEO Russ Brandon in speaking with the Associated Press this week said they have hit the reset button on negotiations with Jairus Byrd and his representatives. Whaley said on the John Murphy Show last week that contract offers would be going out to the free agents they would like to retain and Byrd is one of them. So yes, they are making an effort to get something done now before free agency opens in mid-March.


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Manuel working with kids at Super Bowl

Posted by Chris Brown on January 31, 2014 – 9:10 am

Bills QB EJ Manuel will be part of a Pop Warner football clinic for youth football players in the New York metropolitan area this evening.

More than 150 New York-area Pop Warner athletes will work with New York Giants Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul, Manuel, Denard Robinson and Atlanta Falcons WR Harry Douglas to offer insight and instruction at the 7thAnnual Panini Pop Warner Skills Clinic.

“I’m here with Panini. I have a memorabilia deal with those guys,” Manuel told Buffalobills.com. “I’ll get a chance to coach up some kids tomorrow at a clinic. Panini is hosting so I’ll have a chance to give back to kids.”

The special event will take place Friday evening at Chelsea Piersand. During the two-hour clinic, Pierre-Paul, Manuel, Robinson and Douglas will lead athletes through a series of informative football drills and talk to them about their own experiences. After the clinic, the players will sign autographs for all participants.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ planning passing camp w/teammates

Posted by Chris Brown on January 30, 2014 – 4:02 pm

EJ Manuel and his teammates won’t be back for OTAs until mid-May, but the quarterback and some of his passing game weapons intend to get on the field independently long before then.

Manuel, who was making the rounds on radio row at the Super Bowl said he’ll be getting together with teammates sometime in March and April. The problem is both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin are finishing up classes to get their college degree. But Manuel intends to come to them with a possible passing camp in Texas and California.

“My receivers told me once I have it set up just let them know,” Manuel told Buffalobills.com. “We’re trying to build it around the guys who are still in school to accommodate them. They’ve got to handle that first. We’re not in classes or in school so why not just go to them?”

Manuel said he intends to invite the backs to participate as well.


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EJ discusses knee rehab

Posted by Chris Brown on January 30, 2014 – 2:35 pm

Making his way through radio row at the Super Bowl Thursday, EJ Manuel confirmed to SiriusXM NFL Radio this afternoon and local reporters that he had a minor knee procedure shortly after the season ended. He’s still rehabbing, but feels he’s effectively put the knee problems of 2013 behind him.

“The knee injury feels a lot better now,” Manuel said. “I’ve got everything resolved and behind me. It was a minor procedure. I’m glad I got it done and kind of put it past me. With the rehab and things like that I’ll be back to full strength and I don’t think it’ll bother me.”

Manuel said the injury that required the procedure was the one he suffered in Week 15 at Jacksonville. It was the second one he had coming off his rookie season with the first needed after the knee injury during the preseason game against Minnesota back in August.

“It was a meniscus tear,” he said. “That’s everything I got taken care of so now I have a clean slate. I don’t have to worry about it.”

Moving forward Manuel intends to wear a knee brace every week next season.

“I’ll probably have to wear a brace from here on out,” he said. “Around the league guys wear one. (Andrew) Luck wears one, Peyton (Manning) wears one on that front leg. When you have some defenders come down on you, you don’t want to have to risk getting whatever type of knee injury. I’ll have a brace, but it won’t inhibit me still being able to take off and run.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Lewis not only QB on roster Downing coached

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 11:32 pm

With Todd Downing having agreed to terms to become the new quarterbacks coach of the Buffalo Bills, it’s obvious that he has worked with Thad Lewis before as the two worked together all offseason in 2013 before Lewis was traded to Buffalo at the end of the preseason. But Downing has also coached EJ Manuel.

Downing and the Detroit Lions staff coached Manuel at the Senior Bowl last year. Downing worked with Manuel all week and got a good feel for his abilities as a signal caller. So there is at least some small measure of working together before that the two can work with as Downing joins the staff.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-24

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 12:48 pm

Well the Bills have begun their search to find the best successor to Mike Pettine now that he’ll be running the Browns. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – With Mike Pettine going to the Browns do you think the next coordinator Buffalo hires will employ the same scheme and same terminology as Pettine, or will it be totally different, or will it be a similar scheme with different terminology and maybe some different details. It’s a shame that we’re losing Pettine. I was looking forward to having the same d-coordinator and scheme going into the next season; that hasn’t happened in a long time. It would be nice to be able to get deeper into the current scheme in the off season rather than starting from scratch like we’re usually doing.  I think this is a big step back for the defense, you can’t build a consistently dominate defense if you’re constantly changing schemes and coaches.  The good teams in this league seem to have consistency.

CB: I think the future of the defensive scheme will depend largely on whether the replacement at defensive coordinator comes from outside the organization or is an internal hire. If it’s an internal hire then the chances are far greater that the scheme remains the same. If it’s a hire outside the organization there’s a chance that the scheme changes, which we all know will lead to a new learning curve. It’s my understanding that coach Marrone will not limit himself to promoting only from within.

I think hiring an open-minded defensive coordinator is the best way to go, one who isn’t married to a specific system. One who, much like Pettine, fits the scheme to the players, not the players to the scheme.

Continuity is a factor granted, but Marrone knows he has to get the best defensive play caller to help maintain the level of productivity and play on that side of the ball. Restricting his search to only the men already on his staff would be just that, restrictive.

 

2 – Hello Chris,

Goodbye Stevie Johnson and hello Sammy Watkins.  We need a real game breaker now!!!  After watching everyone pick Geno Smith #1 last year (lol), it won’t be Bridgewater either.  Any team in their right mind is going for Clowney.  QB is too risky at #1.  What are your early thoughts on the Bills pick?

Jim (Skaneateles)


CB:
First, I don’t get the sense that Stevie Johnson is going anywhere. I admit things appeared sketchy for his future here at the end of the season. Even I was wondering what the future might hold. But I think we need to remember that to help EJ Manuel progress you need to surround him with as much talent as possible. Johnson is the most accomplished receiver on the roster.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Bills need to make an addition to the team at receiver. I think they need to add a size wideout. In the words of Doug Whaley, “Big wins.” But I expect the Bills to at least explore veteran options in free agency because there already is so much youth in the receivers room.

Second, I don’t expect Sammy Watkins to be on the board at nine. He’ll be gone in the first three to five picks. If he slips I’ll be stunned.

I think at nine, and Bills fans might not like me for this, but based on the talent that should be there an offensive tackle would make a lot of sense. There’s a long time between now and the draft, which is in May this year, but I think knowing how QB needy some of the teams ahead of Buffalo are I believe that some of the top O-line talent could be sitting there for the Bills. We can’t forget that the Bills gave up the third-most sacks in the league last year (48), and with an emphasis on surrounding EJ Manuel with talent, and more important keeping him healthy, protection will be at a premium.

 

3 – Chris,
Any word from EJ as to his training regimen during the off-season? Will he be going back to Ken Mastrole or is he mostly just for getting ready for pro days and combine prep? Do you think there will be a QB coach added this year?

CB: In a recent interview EJ said he was actively rehabbing to get his knee back to 100 percent. He did say he planned to do more offseason work with his personal QBs coach. And hopefully you’ve seen our reporting on Doug Marrone’s plan to hire a quarterbacks coach to lighten the burden that was on offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett last year.

In fact by this time next week there might already be a QBs coach on staff.

 

4 – Hey Chris,

I was wondering, with reading about the Toronto series & seeing R. Brandon at the year end press conf. exactly how far does Brandon’s power reach into the actual football side of the team ? Meaning setting up the draft board, choosing players, who to keep /who to let go (as in the Fitz decision) & so on . I know the guy is supposed to be a great mind when it comes to the advertisement & selling of the team but there have been more than a one decision that has been made this & previous years when it comes to the team that I personally wonder who made these decisions .

I know Russ wasn’t promoted until this past year & I would hope that he would leave the player & direct football decisions to those that were hired to make those calls, but i do know like in the case of some teams the owner & or president of operations power is used sometimes far too much to influence the direction or decisions of those hired to do those jobs of which some recent decisions to me any way seem as though that may have been the case . I am in agreement with the way that the team is going & some of the players that have been brought in but as all fans I have my own ideas & opinions (which don’t amount to much) but try not to draw conclusions with out knowing more than I do & that is why once again i turn to you for some possible answers. Which again as always I thank you for the time & efforts that you put forth to keep us all in the know!!

Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville

CB: I think Russ Brandon said it best himself at the end of the season press conference. He was asked for his assessment of EJ Manuel and he gave the following response, which I believe explains a lot with respect to his role on the football side of the organization.

“My assessment really is empowered through Doug Whaley and coach Marrone. That’s what I empowered these guys to do last year and certainly we’re going to put every resource behind all 53 of our guys to improve. Obviously the bell cow is usually the quarterback and gets all the publicity and all the media attention as we mentioned earlier. But we’re going to put everything behind him and try to see some marked improvement moving forward.”

 

5 – Chris,

I’m not finding anywhere that has where the Bills overall on offence and and defence were among the rest of the league. (Just stuff like #2 in rushing…) maybe you could post something about it?

thanks,
jeff zinger

CB: Here are some of the more noteworthy statistical rankings that I believe you’re interested in.

Offense
Total yards per game – 19th
Rushing – 2nd
Passing – 28th
Sacks per play – 28th
Third down – 29th
Points per game – 22nd

Defense
Total yards per game – 10th
Run defense – 28th
Pass defense – 4th
Sacks per play – 3rd
Third down – 14th
Points allowed per game – 20th

Special teams
Punt return avg. – 29th
Kick return avg. – 29th
Net punting – 30th
FG % – 10th

Punt coverage – 25th
Kick coverage – 17th
Net punting against – 27th
FG % against – 17th


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bruce sees playoffs for Bills in 2014

Posted by Chris Brown on January 22, 2014 – 3:02 pm

Bills Hall of Fame DE Bruce Smith has been making the rounds at ESPN today (Wednesday) and participated in an online chat with fans. The NFL’s all-time sack leader believes Buffalo’s playoff drought will reach its conclusion this fall.

Here’s the question and answer Smith submitted this afternoon on the ESPN chat.

Kurt (Buff)
Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuce. What is your quick assessment on the state of the Bills?

Bruce Smith
I think the state of the Bills right now is that they’re heading in a positive direction. As this team grows together. As EJ gets more experience, I think they will be able to make a strong run to the playoffs, as early as next year. One of the things that I found was very similar to back in ’87, we were losing a lot of games by 3 points or less. That’s what happened to the Bills this year. The next year we started winning those games by 3 points. Then the next year we started blowing teams out. If they can keep growing and keep adding players to the puzzle, good things will happen.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Carr expected to be Senior Bowl QB standout

Posted by johnmurphyshow on January 20, 2014 – 1:30 pm

Last year at the Senior Bowl, it was an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback spot. EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib, and Tyler Wilson brought some star power to the position.
This year, the QB ranks lack a big name passer.
Fresno State QB Derek Carr appears to be the quarterback drawing the most interest, as the Senior Bowl teams get ready to take the field for practice Monday afternoon.
The younger brother of former QB David Carr, the number one overall pick in the 2002 draft, Derek Carr is viewed as a potential firsts rounder in his own right. He threw 50-touchdown passes last year for Fresno State.
Carr will get plenty of snaps for the South team in practice at the Senior Bowl this week. The other quarterbacks on the South roster are Jimmy Garoppolo, the star of the East-West Shrine game last weekend, and David Fales of San Jose State.


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Posted in Inside the Bills