Inside The Bills

Gragg to start against Lions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Palmer confident EJ will succeed

Posted by Chris Brown on August 26, 2014 – 5:50 pm

Bills newest QB Jordan Palmer is very familiar with EJ Manuel having traveled in some of the same quarterback circles over the last three years. They were even counselors together at former NFL QB Trent Dilfer’s ‘Elite 11′ camp. Palmer has seen enough of Manuel and his game that he’s confident he’ll be a successful NFL starting quarterback.

“I’m very confident,” said Palmer of Manuel being a success. “The first thing you have to be, if you’re going to be young, talented and given the reins of an organization, is you have to be all-in. This has to be your life, this has to be your job,  this has to be everything to you. I know EJ well enough to know that this is. So right there, you’re ahead of a good number of guys.

“Talent wise—the guy can make every throw, he’s a great athlete. He’s a smart, really conscientious quarterback.  Really thinking through things, and then the talent around him. I can go on and on why I’m confident in EJ.  I’m excited to come here and build on that confidence and get to see it in person now.”


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Palmer someone EJ has worked with before

Posted by Chris Brown on August 26, 2014 – 5:38 pm

Bills newest QB Jordan Palmer is someone that EJ Manuel not only knows, but has worked with before in the past. It has Manuel looking forward to spending more time with him as a teammate.

“Yes, I worked with JP,” said Manuel after Tuesday’s practice. “One year I was a counselor and he was, obviously, a counselor training some of the younger quarterbacks. That was probably the main time I’ve had an extensive period of time to workout with him and talk with him. I saw him in the offseason during the Super Bowl time up in New York and just catching up with him and seeing how things are going.”

Manuel is referring to former NFL QB Trent Dilfer’s ‘Elite 11′ camp where some of the top high school quarterback prospects perform. Palmer, who has been referred to as a coach on the field, is someone Manuel feels can only help him knowing this is going to be Palmer’s seventh NFL season.

“It’s going to be great,” Manuel said. “Even today after practice he brought up a couple drills that we could do. Some stuff that I’ve never done, some stuff that I’ve never seen before, but I thought it was pretty cool ways to throw the ball, while you’re still conditioning at the same time. I think the more experience he can bring to our room the better.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Offense holding stuff until regular season

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

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

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

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone: Starters may need to play Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Fan Friday 8-22

Posted by Chris Brown on August 22, 2014 – 12:53 pm

The preseason is winding down. Almost time for the real stuff. Let’s get to your latest round of questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – When are the Bills going to address Spiller’s contract?  Is he going to be another Bills 1st rounder they don’t sign and let them leave?

Thanks,
Steve Lehmann
Life-long Bills fan in Charlotte, NC

CB: The current issue concerning Spiller and opening discussions on a new contract is he is currently without representation. The Bills’ back does not have an agent right now and GM Doug Whaley stated recently that the club will wait until Spiller has secured proper representation before approaching him to negotiate a possible extension.

 

2 – Hey Chris,
Of course us Bills fans are constantly hearing a lot about EJ Manuel in training camp and his “ups and downs”.  The one term I hear used a lot is that he is patting the ball before he throws it.  I read that this can give the defender an extra step because when they see that they know he’s about to throw and it’s likely going to be in their lane. But I also read that it doesn’t always have a negative effect and in fact Drew Bledsoe was known to have a very quick release even though he pat the ball. I’ve also read that this is so the QB can make sure that the ball is secured in their hand before they throw it. Do you think this is something that EJ has to work on and do you think it is affecting his game in a negative way?

Also, a lot has been said about him not being able to read the field and get through his progressions.  Depending on who you listen to some say that’s something you have or you don’t.  But I think that he just needs more time and game time experience and maybe the experience will allow him to get used to the speed of the NFL.  I am interested in your thoughts.

Thanks always, Jillian

CB: There’s no denying that there have been times that EJ has patted the ball or hesitated to pull the trigger. I think all young quarterbacks go through that as part of their learning curve. I will say that Manuel is doing less of it now than he was at the start of training camp.

The patting of the ball is not the concern as much as does EJ trust what he’s seeing unfold around him? Over the past week or so the answer has been unequivocally yes. Now that doesn’t mean that EJ is going to start lighting it up every week on the field, but there is noticeable progress.

We’ll just have to wait and see how more time on the field in games brings his personal game along.

3 – Hello Chris,

Great coverage. I enjoy your analytical approach to our Buffalo Bills. Speaking of just that, I noticed that the Bills were #1 on fumbles last season at 32 according to NFL.com. The data that I saw had:

Combined Fumbles:
Spiller/Jackson at 10
E.J./Lewis/Tuel at 8
Goodwin/Graham/Johnson/Chandler at 6

I couldn’t account for the remainder so I am not terribly confident about the 32 fumbles. I don’t hear much conversation around that stat by reporters (if it’s correct). I would think that with the loss of Byrd and his take away ability that the coaches and media would make that a point of extreme emphasis in achieving a better giveaway/takeaway ratio, which is one of the keys in winning in the NFL.

Color me confused,
Alan from Northeastern NY

CB: To provide a clear picture of the fumble numbers from last season here are all the statistics. First, yes the Bills did have 32 fumbles in 2013 and that did lead the league. However, only 12 of those fumbles resulted in turnovers. That ranked sixth-most in the league.

Part of the reason there were so many fumbles was because the Bills had the most total rushes in the NFL (546). The more plays you have, in general the more fumbles you’re going to have.

Now all that being said the Bills still ranked first in the percentage of fumbles per touch (1.97%). There were only five other teams in the league with a percentage over 1.7 percent (Was., Oak., Sea., Ten., NYG).

So you’re right it is a legitimate concern. Really what it comes down to is ball security, having the proper points of pressure on the ball with your forearm, ribs and fingers and carrying it high and tight. When I get a chance I’ll see if coach Wheatley has any extra insight on it based on last season’s numbers.

 
4 – Chris,

As usual, thank you for the outstanding coverage from you and your staff, especially for those of us outside of NY State.

My question: The first 2 preseason games, I’ve noticed the offense has predominantly used the standard “huddle” before running plays. Gone is the no huddle or hurry up Offense that we’ve heard was going to be the norm. The Bills ran 64 total plays against the Giants 61 and 63 against Carolinas 69. A difference of -3 for both games. Will the Bills be scrapping the hurry up offense this year?  Thank you.

Steve
Pismo Beach, CA

CB: I have faith that the Bills will run their no huddle on offense this season. I don’t think you should expect it to be deployed on ever series of every game. Yes, they do want to go fast and I think there’s a good chance we see some of it on Saturday night against Tampa Bay, but Doug Marrone has said it will be slowed down or sped up based on game situations and on game plans for the particular opponent they’re facing that week.

Quite frankly that makes the most sense. For example, if you’re facing a club with a top five scoring offense, going fast for the whole game might not be the way to go knowing you run the risk of giving their top flight offense more possessions and the potential to score more points too.
5 – Hey Chris,

After the performance by Ron Brooks in the Carolina game, I’m wondering if the Bills are thinking of possibly moving Leodis. Brooks seems to have turned the corner, but he’d be corner #6 on the roster. Do you see him making the roster or getting unfortunately cut?

Thanks,
Tommy in the Pittsford branch of #Billsmafia!

CB: Brooks has had his best camp to date in his career with Buffalo. He was very consistent and got a lot of quality reps with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin slow to return to the team portions of practice in camp coming off of hip surgeries.

Brooks is essentially running as the fourth cornerback behind Gilmore, McKelvin and Graham if you consider Nickell Robey strictly a slot corner. So right now he’s in the top five at cornerback with rookie Ross Cockrell the likely number 6. So I think Brooks is in great shape to make the roster at this point.


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EJ: Only steps forward

Posted by Chris Brown on August 21, 2014 – 4:00 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel was happy with a lot of things that were accomplished in training camp by the offense. For him personally he was just pleased he got through it healthy after having his rookie training camp interrupted by a knee injury sustained in the Minnesota preseason game last summer. He felt being on the field every day made it easier for him to take positive steps toward the kind of quarterback he wants to be this fall.

“I think it’s gone well. Each day we’ve made progress. I don’t think there were any days where we took a step backwards. That was a big thing for myself. I didn’t want to have any days where I had a step or two back,” said Manuel. “Every day I worked on something whether it was the smallest thing that may not have been big to those watching our progress. But I’ve seen growth and development in myself. So I’m very happy about it.”


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Chandler linking up with Manuel

Posted by Chris Brown on August 20, 2014 – 1:41 pm

He missed a week of training camp action with a groin injury, but now back in the fold for almost two weeks TE Scott Chandler feels he and EJ Manuel are in sync and as ready for the regular season as they could be.

“I feel like these last two weeks have really been good for us just to be consistently out there together,” said Chandler. “We alternated knee injuries throughout our time together, but these last two weeks we’ve been able to get on the same page, look at a lot of film together and get some work in after practice.”

Chandler led the team in receptions and receiving yards last season and had four catches for 40 yards last Saturday at Pittsburgh.


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Fan Friday 8-15

Posted by Chris Brown on August 15, 2014 – 5:07 pm

Ok fans an important week for the Bills is in the books. The passing game really took a step forward this week in Latrobe. Let’s hope it carries into the game Saturday night against the Steelers. In the meantime let’s get to your latest round of questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills

1 – Hi Chris,

Long time reader of your articles – including your Fan Friday.

I’ve noticed EJ and Woods are playing with visors in camp. Is this new and can we expect them to wear them in the regular season? To me, it makes a lot of sense for EJ – as it shadows the ability for the defence to see where he’s going to throw too or what he’s looking at. Is that the intention here? What scope do you have on this? Overall, I think they look fierce. But I highly doubt that’s the reasoning behind wearing them…

Thanks,
Mike Barwick

CB: Yes, they and a handful of other players wear visors. Some are shaded and some are clear. The shaded ones are designed to act like sunglasses in most cases. For receivers that’s important when they’re looking up for a ball, not unlike an outfielder in baseball. It helps keep them from losing a ball in the sun. Whether EJ’s primary purpose is the same I don’t know, but I’ll ask him. The other reason for the visors is to keep from getting poked in the eye, which is something that could happen to Manuel if a pass rusher is reaching out to block a pass, misses and connects with the helmet.
2 – Hey Chris,

I am very excited for the 2014 season, looking at the roster it seems a lot of the decisions made on the draft and free agency the last three years we’re really good ones. The depth is so good this year I haven’t heard too much about Ron Brooks.  I really like watching Ron Brooks I know he has had some injuries but where do you think he stands with the team? Do you think we will see him playing corner this season or just as a special teams player? Always appreciate your time.

Alexander Albanese
Toronto

CB: Brooks has had a pretty solid camp. He’s been afforded the opportunity of getting a ton of reps due to the limited participation of starting corners Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore who are both coming off offseason surgeries. He’s been running opposite Corey Graham in training camp at cornerback with the first team defense.

Brooks has performed well, but at times still has trouble with the bigger wideouts due mainly to his stature. He’s got great catch up speed and is sudden in his breaks on the ball. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes him so I anticipate him being one of the top five corners on the roster. How many they keep is the bigger question.
3 – Chris,

I couldn’t help notice the pass rush has been extremely productive in the spring and training camp. My question is do you feel that’s due to the talent of the DE’s or is it a product of inconsistency on the offensive line with Glenn being out and other shuffling that’s been going on. Appreciate the training camp coverage and can’t wait for the season. Also one more thing, is there a schedule that lists which practices are full contact?

Dan T.
Western MA

CB: It’s a bit of both. Jerry Hughes might be the most impressive of the front four when it comes to pass rush consistency. Of course that’s been helped by the fact that rookie Seantrel Henderson has been manning the starting left tackle role in Cordy Glenn’s absence. But make no mistake that group is pretty special.

Unfortunately no we don’t have a schedule for the public that lists full pads, shells or shorts and helmets. Typically once the preseason games start however, full pads practices are earlier in the week.

 

4 – Hey Chris,

Jerry Hughes had a tremendous season last year rushing the passer and it’s clear that Doug Whaley pioneered an amazing trade to get him when the Indianapolis Colts were looking to go in a different direction. And if Training Camp is any indication, it sounds like we can expect a similar season this year. Through listening to a lot of people on the radio and around town locally, it seems that Jerry Hughes will not be able to be re-signed if he has another great year– almost as if it’s a foregone conclusion that they cannot keep a stout DE since he’ll be too pricey.

In my opinion, if you run a base 4-3, having a Mario Williams AND Jerry Hughes-caliber player would be extremely important (SEE Freeney and Mathis, Strahan and Umenyiora). I think they should find a way to pay him if he’s anything like last year’s player. An annoying thing of being a Bills fan is seeing the Bills actually draft great talent, develop it, and watch it walk away. And in this case, the Bills didn’t even have to draft him to get it. What are your thoughts?

Also, have you tried a garbage plate since being in Rochester? It probably goes outside the exercise regimen, but you gotta treat yourself to the finer local delicacies.

-Nate in Rochester
PS- Go Bills!
CB: In a perfect world yes they would be able to keep Jerry Hughes long term, but it’s a question of balance. Obviously the Bills would love to keep Hughes, but you have to look at the money invested on the rest of the defensive line.

The three highest cap figures on the entire team are the other three defensive linemen that Hughes lines up with. Mario Williams ($18.8M), Marcell Dareus ($6.49M) and Kyle Williams ($6.25M).

In 2015 those cap numbers go to $19M (Mario), $8.06M (Dareus) and $5.85M (Kyle). That’s a total of $32M for three members of the defensive line. If Hughes has another 10-sack season or more he’s likely to be asking for top 15 perhaps top 10 defensive end money.

Top 15 would put him somewhere between $6.5-$8M per season while top 10 would have him north of $8.5M per season.

I’m not saying the Bills won’t try to do it. It’s not my decision as to how the Bills choose to spend their money. I just know that investing that much of your cap dollars in one facet of your team is not a common practice.

All that being said there have been reports citing sources close to the process of setting the salary cap for the NFL that the cap, which went up a surprising $10M this past year to $133M could move as high as $145M in 2015. Would that extra cap space be enough to make the fourth major investment in the team’s defensive line? I’m not sure it is.

With respect to your garbage plate suggestion, I’m familiar with it having gone to college at SUNY Geneseo. In fact I won a bet by eating two in one sitting. Almost didn’t hold them down, but got through it.
5 – Do you see a scenario where Spiller is traded this year?  I’ve heard rumors, and with the Jackson extension, Brown trade, Dixon signing, and no first round pick it seems like an possible and unfortunate rumor…am I crazy for thinking this or can they keep all four running backs?

Sean from So Cal
P.S. See you in Chicago week 1!

CB: I’m sure you saw GM Doug Whaley dispel those rumors this week. First, Whaley said that he has not been contacted by any team expressing interest in C.J. Spiller. He later followed that up with Channel 7’s Jeff Russo in an interview later in the week where he said he has not reached out to any other team himself about C.J. Spiller.

As Whaley said himself he understands with all the talent in the Bills backfield why people are trying to connect the dots. I just think with the team in ‘win now’ mode it would be highly unlikely that they would trade one of their best playmaking assets on offense in Spiller.


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Bills seeking out tips from Steelers vets

Posted by Chris Brown on August 14, 2014 – 2:34 pm

There are some pretty big names on Pittsburgh’s roster. Players who have been very successful for a long time on both a personal level and as a team with many of them the owners of a pair of Super Bowl rings. So for a young up and comer like Aaron Williams talking to a player the stature of Troy Polamalu is pretty valuable.

“Absolutely anytime you have guys like Troy Polamalu out there, just to see how he looks at the game differently,” said Williams. “Everybody looks at the game differently and you try to be around someone like that who has been successful in this league. That’s kind of a lesson for me where I can ask questions and get what he thinks of the game and how he’s become the player that he is.”

EJ Manuel has said he plans to do the same with Ben Roethlisberger and there are a handful of others.


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EJ hoping to soak up QB knowledge from Big Ben

Posted by Chris Brown on August 14, 2014 – 10:01 am

EJ Manuel spent part of his offseason working and training with San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick. He also spent time watching film of some other upper echelon quarterbacks in the league. Over these two days practicing with the Steelers Manuel is hoping some of Ben Roethlisberger’s way of doing things rubs off on him.

“For me personally, to see Big Ben in action and watch him and see how he prepares for every practice and how he goes in and out of each day is a huge opportunity for me,” said Manuel. “I’m just trying to take advantage of it.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Big Ben. Growing up in Virginia, it’s not too far from Pittsburgh and obviously early in his career he took those guys to a Super Bowl, so  to get an opportunity to come out and practice with him is awesome. I’m very excited about coming back out (Thursday) and having another good day.”

The second joint practice between the Bills and Steelers starts at 5:30 pm.


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Manuel assesses his play from Wednesday

Posted by Chris Brown on August 13, 2014 – 10:50 pm

EJ Manuel was asked to rate his play from Wednesday’s first practice session with the Steelers. Buffalo’s quarterback wouldn’t call it perfect, but was pretty pleased with how things turned out in the team portions of practice.

“I thought it went well. There were a few balls that I wish I could have back, but besides that I thought we were very good on third down,” said Manuel. “We executed early in practice and we were rolling. I got a chance to go with the first and the second group, so that was very good. The more at-bats I get, the happier I’ll be. Just getting the chance to be better each play.”

In a live interview on the John Murphy Show tonight, WR Mike Williams, who caught a tipped pass for a touchdown Wednesday, said Manuel looked “very confident” on the field Wednesday.


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Tomlin’s promise to EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on August 13, 2014 – 10:40 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel was scheduled to talk to the media prior to hopping on a bus back to the team’s Pittsburgh hotel after practice. He was making his way over to the media across the field when he spotted Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin by himself and made a detour to share a few words.

The two football men are both from the coastal Virginia area where a bounty of NFL talent has been cultivated over the last 40 years. Tomlin was born in Hampton, Virginia about a 45 minute drive from Virginia Beach where EJ Manuel grew up.

“I’m very good friends with Coach Tomlin,” said Manuel. “He’s from the same area I’m from and I saw him a few weeks ago before I reported to training camp.”

Knowing the two would be meeting up with their teams together at St. Vincent college later this summer Tomlin promised Manuel that he would have his defense show him and the Bills offense whatever defensive look he wanted. True to his word Tomlin reiterated his promise to Manuel when they met on the field again Wednesday.

“Any look you want you just tell me and we’ll give it to you,” Tomlin said to Manuel.

EJ and Tomlin


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Mike Williams: “Throw it to the clouds”

Posted by johnmurphyshow on August 10, 2014 – 8:00 pm

After two preseason games, and three weeks of training camp, the chemistry between QB EJ Manuel and veteran WR Mike Williams is starting to develop.

In Friday’s preseason win in Carolina, the pair connected for a 28-yard pass play down the middle when Manuel threw it high and Williams went over DB Josh Norman to bring it in.

In Sunday’s after practice at training camp, Manuel and Williams were at it again. EJ found Williams in the end zone during red zone work in one of the early 11-on-11 sessions. And Williams was targeted several times in later red zone work as well.

Williams says he wants to be the quarterback’s go-to guy in the red zone, and he practically guarantees success when he’s thrown the ball.

“I always tell them there’s a 96-percent chance–the other 4-percent is their fault,” he laughed.  “I always tell them, throw it to the clouds, I’m going to find a way to bring it down.”

“It’s true,” Manuel says.  “He’s done it day and day out and he’s been very consistent as far as tracking the ball, whether it’s a fade or a deep ball or a post. I think a great example of that was how we did it in the game. The corner played off him a little bit and I just stuck it on him, he went up and made a great catch. Having that as a security blanked with a wide receiver is awesome for us. “

Williams says he focuses on making big impact catches, for touchdowns and first downs, instead of worrying about how many passes he catches in a game.

” My mom always said, ‘make them see you when they’re supposed to see you.’ That’s what she always said to me,” Williams said. “That’s like big first downs, touchdowns, those are the ones they see. They don’t see the first play of the game, slants or the second play of the game, curl route. As soon as you catch that third and 15 or game-tieing touchdowns, those are the ones they remember. It kinda seems like that’s how my career is going.”

 


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EJ has good day

Posted by Chris Brown on August 9, 2014 – 2:21 am

In preseason start number two Bills QB EJ Manuel looked to be in sync with his receiving corps from the very beginning. It led to a high completion percentage for the second-year quarterback and helped the offense consistently move the football.

“He had command of the offense and command of the huddle. He had some passes that he probably wishes he could get back, but he was very composed back there, but he had a lot of energy and that’s what we need,” said C.J. Spiller.

“Yeah he had great poise,” said Sammy Watkins. “Our whole offense came out and we proved the point that we can drive the ball. That just comes with running different plays. We kind of opened up the playbook a little bit and had more plays and scouted their defense a little bit and EJ did a great job of driving us down the field.”

Manuel finished the day 9-13 passing for 96 yards and a passer rating of 90.7. He also completed passes to six different receivers on his nine completions, effectively spreading the ball around.

“First three series were pretty good,” said Manuel. “I thought we moved the ball up and down the field. I would have loved to cap it off with a touchdown. I think that’s the next phase of us finishing, especially in these preseason games, leading up to the first game in Chicago. I thought the O-line did a great job protecting, receivers obviously got open and ran great routes and getting open against their man coverage and things like that. C.J. Spiller obviously had a great game with his limited carries so I was very pleased with how well we came out and played.”


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Fan Friday 8-8

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2014 – 12:02 pm

Hey Bills fans. My apologies for the brief hiatus that Fan Friday took the past two weeks, but we’re back. So keep firing off your questions on email to AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills

Here’s the latest edition of your questions.

1 - Chris,
Thanks for the piece on Jeff.  I was wondering how he was progressing.
He impressed me at the SJF scrimmage last year.  Seemed to get the ball out quickly and made good decisions.
He reminds of Alex Van Pelt but a better athlete.  He impressed again against KC until the pick 6.  He appears to be the fastest and most elusive QB on his feet.  Finally, the Bills protected him all last year with a roster spot so they saw something they liked.
What if he outplays EJ in the preseason again?

Thanks for the good work.

Dan Malwitz
Orchard Park

CB: Tuel has looked good in training camp, picking up where he left off in the spring minicamp. His first preseason game performance was also encouraging. This past week in practice leading up to tonight’s game Tuel gave way to Thad Lewis for second team offense reps. I expect Lewis to be in the backup quarterback role tonight against the Carolina Panthers.

As good as Tuel has looked this competition is a marathon not a sprint. We’ll need to see how Lewis fares tonight with the second unit. Through the first three weeks of training camp practices, Tuel has been the more consistent performer and the better decision maker. But there are still almost three weeks of camp left so there is a lot of time for things to change.

As for Tuel’s chances of unseating EJ Manuel, it simply won’t happen. This organization has put all their eggs in the Manuel basket to lift the offense to new heights. Tuel, or Lewis for that matter, will only take the field in the regular season if Manuel is injured and cannot play. Priority number one is getting Manuel ready to lead the offense this fall.

 

2 – Dear Chris,

I do believe our receivers are some of the most diverse in the NFL. We have Sammy who is very versatile and I think is worth what we gave up in the future for him. We have Mike Williams who we traded for from the Bucs for a late round pick who can be very reliable in the end zone. We also have the help from Robert Woods in the slot who can be a reliable replacement for Steve Johnson. Then we have Marquise Goodwin who is somebody who can break the top off the roof with his lighting fast speed. To top it off we have Marques Easley who helps big time on special teams. The question I have is how do you think Coach Marrone is going to incorporate all these wide receivers to make a winning group who can help Manuel exceed to be the franchise QB I believe he can be?
Thanks,
Bill

CB: I think your description of diverse is very accurate. I believe it’s what GM Doug Whaley had in mind in changing some of the pieces. He got two boundary receivers in Mike Williams and Sammy Watkins, who have large catch radiuses to pull in passes that may not be right on the money. Watkins and Williams are also experts at winning jump balls. Robert Woods and Chris Hogan are both good separation receivers, who can get yards after the catch. Goodwin and Graham offer deep speed to stretch a defense and you’ve already mentioned Marcus Easley’s strengths.

All of that talent is on the roster to provide Manuel with the confidence to let it fly and trust his playmakers. Williams and Watkins are capable of making plays even when they’re covered. Woods and Hogan have a high percentage of route wins meaning they’re usually open for Manuel to make use of and Goodwin and Graham are always threats to get behind a defense.

The bottom line however, is it’s on Manuel to make them successful because no matter how effective any of the receivers are at winning their matchups, those wins do not add up to anything if Manuel doesn’t target them and make the right decisions. The success of the receiving corps is ultimately dependent on Manuel’s on field decision making and accuracy.

 

3 – Hi Chris,

Thanks continuing to answer questions concerning the Bills. Many fans including myself really enjoy seeing your answers to what sometimes are very difficult questions. This question may qualify as a difficult one.

With 4 running backs on the team, what’s chances someone gets traded?

Thanks,
Bob Hammond
CB: Appreciate the kind words. As for the running backs on Buffalo’s roster, the natural speculation is that the staff will not keep all four on the squad when the roster is reduced to 53. I think what most casual observers are not considering are two important factors.

First, this team ran the football more than any other NFL club in the league last season. That heavy workload was part of the reason both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller succumbed to lingering injuries that compromised their effectiveness in 2013.

The front office and coaching staff made a conscious decision to fortify their running back stable in the offseason so in the event that injuries crop up again this season there will be little to no drop off in their rushing attack. Bryce Brown and ‘Boobie’ Dixon provide such depth.

Barring a catastrophic injury situation at another position that could require them to move one of their running back assets to fill a void via trade, I believe all four will be on the roster come September because at its core this offense will be defined by their run game.

And teams that are run heavy are quickly realizing that if one of your top two backs goes down to injury the identity of your offense will be dramatically impacted. Having these four backs protects against such a setback.

 

4 – Chris,

A – With the signing of Anthony Dixon and his power and size as RB, does that pose a threat to the FB position and the job of Frank Summers?
B – At this point who is considered the 1st Backup Center to Eric Wood?
C – Has it been disclosed by the team as to the health issue Chris Hairston had?  Can he play both guard and tackle positions which would drastically improve his chances of making the roster?

-Joe

CB: I think Dixon is a lock to make the roster, and if the numbers do not allow for a true fullback in Frank Summers, then yes it’s likely that Dixon would serve in the fullback role when such play calls on offense require one.

Backup center to Eric Wood is Doug Legursky at this point.

Chris Hairston medical situation from last season has not been revealed due to HIPAA laws. It is only up to Hairston as to whether or not he wants to make his condition, which is he over now, to be disclosed. As has been seen in training camp, he’s been lined up at both guard and tackle, with tackle being his most recent position. That is where he feels most comfortable since guard is new to him. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares tonight with the expectation that he’ll line up as the second team left tackle.

 

5 – Hi Chris,
As always, thank you so much for all of your excellent work. The opportunity for Bills fans to stay informed from afar is just excellent. I want to begin by saying I have all the faith in Jim Schwartz and the Bills defensive personnel, but I would like your insight on something. I understand that the exotic blitz packages of the Pettine era will not continue and that there needs to be a balance. We clearly weren’t where we needed to be against the run nor on third down efficiency. In the July 4th Fan Friday you mentioned that you would trade 10 sacks for the top 3rd down defense and top 10 run defense. I completely agree, but what I haven’t heard mentioned by anyone is how that would affect our secondary.

I was very impressed with the play of our secondary, even without Jairus Byrd, and especially by the number of turnovers they generated. My question is, by reducing the QB pressure, don’t we sacrifice more than just the sacks? I worry that we open ourselves up for more deep plays from the opponents passing game. I believe there is a perfect balance in there somewhere and I truly believe Jim Schwartz is deserving of the respect he is given around the league, I am just curious to hear your thoughts on the issue.
Thank you,
Cory in VA

CB: The only point I was trying to make was I would rather have more balanced production defensively across the board. I didn’t mean to infer that 10 fewer sacks would need to happen to have a better run defense or better third down defense. What encourages me is Jim Schwartz strives to have across the board production with his defense. And I don’t believe that you have to sacrifice sacks to be better in those other areas.

Schwartz has been a successful DC because he has found that perfect balance in his career as a defensive play caller. It’s my belief that he’ll be able to do that here perhaps more than anywhere else he has coached in his career. The main reason why is because this is the most talented secondary he has ever had in his career as a defensive coordinator.

When you have a secondary capable of man coverage it helps the pass rush and when you have a front four that can generate effective pressure it allows you to drop seven into coverage. Schwartz will take those two advantages and creatively use play calling to keep opposing offenses guessing.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Reps and more reps in red zone

Posted by Chris Brown on August 7, 2014 – 8:56 am

The Bills offense ranked 29th in the league in red zone touchdown efficiency in 2013. To no one’s surprise it’s been a major focus in training camp this summer. In fact the team ends practice every day with a 7-on-7 red zone period. EJ Manuel believes the extra work will pay dividends.

At the same time he knows what’s most important down inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

“Extreme communication. That’s big,” he said. “You have to be on the same page down there because it happens really fast. That’s why I’m very happy that we’ve been doing it at the end of every practice. Whether we’re getting it done or there are some things we need to work on the more reps we get in the red zone the better. It just happens so fast down there. You can’t be late. The receiver can’t wait getting off the ball and the line may have to protect a little longer if they can. If we can be good in the red zone it’ll give us a lot more points during the season.”

Buffalo was 22nd in the league in points per game.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Wood on progress of offense

Posted by Chris Brown on August 5, 2014 – 10:29 pm

Bills center Eric Wood was asked by the media if he feels the offense should be a little further along than they are at this point in terms of efficiency and execution. Wood in examining the game tape of the Hall of Fame game against the Giants believes there are some easy fixes to the things that slowed them down Sunday night.

“I’m not necessarily worried about where we’re at as an offense,” said Wood. “I have a lot of confidence with where we’re going. A lot of the mistakes were easily correctable. There were some mental errors and such, that moving forward will get corrected. It’s not necessarily guys getting beat as much physically as it is some mental stuff.”

Wood also warned not to pin any shortcomings of the offense on EJ Manuel.

“I think EJ [Manuel] has had a great camp so far,” he said. “It’s tough to get into a rhythm for two series and there were a couple batted balls that were on us. So, it’s kind of a group effort.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ ready to review

Posted by Chris Brown on August 4, 2014 – 1:34 am

EJ Manuel didn’t get a whole lot of playing time on Sunday night. It was just a pair of series. With a touchdown pass attempt that just missed with Mike Williams and a couple of other passes batted down at the line the Bills starting QB is eager to review the game tape.

“We’re still going to look at the film. I’m still going to critique what I need to critique,” he said. “I felt I did a pretty good job when I was in. I think if it was a situation where coach wanted us to continue to play and show what we needed to show he would’ve done that. I think he knows that being it’s our first game and we have another one coming up soon I’m sure we’ll get some more run next week.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ on 98-yard hookup with Watkins

Posted by Chris Brown on July 31, 2014 – 5:58 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel has really settled in at practice the last two days. His internal clock is more aware of the rush, he’s making his way through progressions and he’s delivering the football with more decisiveness. On Thursday he uncorked a 40-yard pass on the money to Sammy Watkins, who was streaking down the left sideline. Watkins pulled in the over the shoulder pass and kept on running  another 58 yards to the end zone. Here was Manuel’s take on the play.

“I just dropped back and threw it and he ran a great route and he ran that against Gilmore and that says a lot,” said Manuel. “Being backed up that’s kind of your dream as a QB to have a chance at a 99-yard touchdown reception. Sammy did a good job of stacking him and it was a huge play for us.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills