Inside The Bills

Orton already has rapport with Wood

Posted by Chris Brown on September 30, 2014 – 8:42 am

The Bills new starting quarterback this week, Kyle Orton, has not even been in town a month, so getting to know teammates and developing a rapport with the other players on offense is a slow and steady process. Naturally that process will now need to be ramped up with him in the starting lineup. Fortunately for him there’s one player at a pretty important position who Orton is familiar with.

Bills C Eric Wood is familiar with Orton, as he explained in his weekly appearance on WGR Sportsradio 550.

“We are good friends,” said Wood of his relationship with Orton. “We have a lot in common. We have the same agent. So I’ve done what I can to make him feel comfortable. But on the field, with live reps, I’ll say we’ve have some (reps), but definitely not as many as we’re going to have this week that’s for sure.”

Wood also has a feel for Orton’s game.

“He’s gotten a lot of reps in practice,” said Wood. “He’s got a good arm. He’s smart, he’s confident. He looks like a quarterback. He looks like a guy who has been around the league. He knows how to run an offense, and I have a lot of confidence in him. Likewise with EJ. I think we have two quality quarterbacks and it is a shame that we had to make this move but I do have a lot of confidence in Kyle moving forward and I am excited to work with him moving forward. I have seen him play on film and stuff. He seems to be able to make plays. Hopefully, we’ll get it back on track on offense.”


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No time to let emotions deter preparation

Posted by Chris Brown on September 30, 2014 – 8:35 am

Bills C Eric Wood did admit that when a quarterback change is made this early in the season that it can lead to some mixed feelings, mainly due to the unexpected nature of such a decision. At the same time the veteran center made it clear that those things have to put aside.

In his weekly appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportradio 550, Wood explained that there’s no time for weighing in with an opinion on the quarterback change.

“There’s probably mixed emotions. … I know, me personally, and anyone I speak to on the team, we have to roll,” he said. “You have to put that behind you. This kind of stuff happens in this business. Our focus is we have 12 more games if we want to get to the playoffs. There’s no pity parties in this business. There’s no time for it. We have three days of practice and a walk-through Saturday and then we’re playing in Detroit.  And we have to get a victory. You really have to put your emotions aside on this, whatever they may be and really just get back to work and prepare to get a win.”

Wood is confident that the captains on the team like himself will be able to keep the mood of the locker room upbeat despite the unexpected change and the back-to-back losses.

“This is a long season. We’ve started hot before. We’ve started slow before,” said Wood. “These games, this middle stretch of the season, are so big. You have to put yourself in position where you’re getting yourself to the playoffs. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish the season.  … You can’t get down for dropping two in a row. We are 2-2. We are by no means out of it. We have a ton of talent on this team and I am not in the dumps by any means.

“We have 12 more games.  We have a lot of season ahead of us and we can’t waste all the work we put in to go down in the dumps for losing a game and not show up in Detroit. My big thing is if we go and get a win in Detroit then we have New England at home and that’s going to be rockin’ atmosphere and something to look forward too.  So I am really going to get on the guys and myself to push for a win this week.”


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Wood & offense set to adjust to Orton

Posted by Chris Brown on September 30, 2014 – 8:27 am

Bills C Eric Wood admitted the quarterback change made Monday was not something he expected, but for him and the rest of the offensive unit there’s no time to spare. It’s about getting in sync with Kyle Orton.

In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 Wood expressed disappointment that the offensive unit wasn’t better around EJ Manuel, but that their focus has to be getting ready for Detroit with Orton at the controls.

“It’s not a good feeling that as a unit up front, receivers that everyone didn’t protect him well enough, didn’t make plays for him well enough,” said Wood of Manuel. “It’s not a good feeling. A quarterback change at Week Five is not what we expected going into the season.  It’s not necessarily something we wanted by any means or have to go through.  If management thinks this is what we have to do to win right now, we’re on board.  I’ll do everything I can to make this transition as smooth as I can for Orton.”

At the same time Wood feels a sense of loyalty to Manuel and wasn’t shy in expressing that too.

“EJ knows that I’ll always have his back,” said Wood. “So I don’t feel weird saying that. We need to be better around him, for if and when he comes back. But this week I have to get on the same page as Kyle and I have to put in a lot of work with him.”


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OL determined to improve against stunts

Posted by Chris Brown on September 29, 2014 – 3:02 pm

The Bills offensive line had some trouble with stunts and twists by the Houston defensive line on Sunday. It was a practice that the San Diego defensive line also used with some success against Buffalo. Center Eric Wood knows they’ll keep seeing it each week until they prove they can block it up.

“It’s tough on the road, communication was tough and they got us on some stunts and we all know that,” said Wood. “They beat us in matchups up front and we’re all to blame. You just keep working and keep drilling it. We’ve got a lot of young offensive linemen new to positions and they’ll keep getting better.”

Buffalo’s offensive linemen were in pass protection twice as much as they run blocked on Sunday as the Bills threw the ball 44 times. Wood said whatever is called it’s their job to execute it.

“When you get behind and early on we weren’t running the ball as effectively you’ve got to be prepared to pass block,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and complain about that. That’s the nature of the business. A lot of teams in this league pass it 44 times every week. We’ve got to do a better job.”


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Team leaders stood tall

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2014 – 9:25 pm

The Bills just named their captains last Monday. Six days later just about all of them had a pretty big hand in Sunday’s overtime victory.

The six players named captains were Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, Fred Jackson, Corey Graham and Brandon Spikes.

On offense Wood helped lead an offensive line that was new in terms of playing together and surrendered just one sack all day. They also helped the run game roll up almost 200 yards on the ground averaging almost six yards a carry.

Fred Jackson had the biggest run of the day in overtime on his 38-yard rumble down the sideline to the one.

On defense Mario Williams had a sack, Kyle Williams had an interception, Brandon Spikes was instrumental in stuffing the run and Corey Graham had an interception and a couple of pass breakups late in regulation to force Chicago to settle for a game-tying field goal.

Add in EJ Manuel’s performance in his natural leadership role of quarterback and it’s a pretty good day for Buffalo’s captains when it comes to setting an example.


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Offensive players not concerned

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 12:09 am

The Bills offense knows they didn’t finish the preseason the way they wanted to, but it hasn’t dampened the unit’s confidence in their ability to move the ball and score points.

Bills C Eric Wood said preseason results shouldn’t be shaking anyone’s belief on the offensive side of the ball.

“You just have to put it behind you and not lose your confidence,” said Wood. “I have a lot of confidence in this offense. We’ve put in a ton of work and I’m not going to get down because of a couple of preseason games.”

RB Boobie Dixon admits there were some struggles at times this preseason, but he’s convinced they’ll be straightened out by the opener in Chicago.

“We’ve really just got to watch the film and then we’ll figure that out,” he said. “Right now it’s just that everybody’s got to stay positive and stay together. We can’t let all the outside noise throw us off track. It wasn’t pretty but it was the pre-season still. We’ve got the regular season coming up and we’ve got a chance to write it next week so that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”


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Wood: Glenn is a rare talent

Posted by Chris Brown on August 9, 2014 – 9:19 pm

It was a good sight for Buffalo’s offensive linemen to see Saturday night. Cordy Glenn in a helmet again. And though he was and will be limited in practice for a good while, just seeing him drop into his kick slide again had his teammates excited.

“Yeah he looked good out there in individual drills,” said Eric Wood. “We’re going to take it slow with him. He’s had some time off, but definitely excited to have him back.”

Wood was asked how long he thinks it’ll take Glenn to sharpen his game back up. The Bills center doesn’t see it taking all that long.

“It shouldn’t be. Cordy has pretty rare genes when it comes to offensive linemen,” said Wood. “He was born with a ton of strength and a ton of athleticism. The little nuances and techniques will take a little bit of time, but it shouldn’t take too long.”

For Wood and the other linemen they weren’t caught off guard by Glenn showing up on the practice field. In fact Wood knew what was coming.

“I expected it to come this week,” he said. “It is what I expected, but excited to have a caliber of player like Cordy Glenn, one of the best left tackles in the league in my opinion to add to our lineup.”


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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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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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Wood: Henderson is making progress

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2014 – 10:28 pm

As the first week of training camp wraps up Seantrel Henderson has taken every snap at the starting left tackle position except on day one when Chris Hairston had to be a last second replacement for practice. He’s replacing Cordy Glenn, who is on the non-football illness list, with no word as to when he might be removed from it. Henderson’s veteran teammates up on the line see a pretty talented physical specimen who will just need time on the job.

“Seantrel is doing a great job.  I’ve seen a lot to like out of him,” said Eric Wood. “He’s really taken this opportunity to run with it. He’s extremely talented.  He’s really working on his technique diligently, and I’m glad he’s on our team.”


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Wood, C.J. not worried

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2014 – 10:25 pm

Much has been made of the offensive execution in practice through the first week of training camp. The players themselves admit they’ve got to do better. At the same time they feel there’s enough time to get everything running like well-oiled machine come September.

“No it’s not a concern,” said C.J. Spiller. “We’re not even in August yet, but we have to get better. We understand that we have to be better as a unit.  We got the guys, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Third down, which has just undergone a good deal of installation on both sides of the ball, is where some of the execution problems lie according to Eric Wood. That’s when Buffalo’s vaunted pass rush, which set a franchise record with 57 sacks last season, can turn it loose.

“We understand that if we can block our front four then we’ll be able block about anybody,” said Eric Wood. “For my money, I think they’re about the best in the league, but that’s no excuse.  We got to be able to do our jobs and we got to do a better job.”


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Bills players confident in roster strength

Posted by Chris Brown on July 18, 2014 – 9:45 am

There aren’t many Bills players who have been on this roster much more than five or six seasons. For those that have they see this year’s roster as the strongest in quite some time.

Bills 2009 first round pick Eric Wood in an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio believes their 2014 roster is the strongest since he’s been a part of the squad.

“I feel like we’ve been getting better year in and year out and I feel like this is the best roster to date we’ve had since I’ve been with the Bills,” said Wood. “Physically the front sevens on both sides of the ball are really good, especially our defensive line. But our skill positions are really fast and getting really experienced too. I think it’s time for us to take off.”

 


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How Wood strengthened bond with EJ

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

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

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

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


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Wood not worried about EJ-Sammy chemistry

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Marrone won’t foist leadership on players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wood: Accountability is where it needs to be

Posted by Chris Brown on January 7, 2014 – 3:36 pm

Bills captain Eric Wood was one of the players who spoke after their most disappointing performance of the season at Tampa Bay in Week 14 in the postgame locker room. The performance and professionalism of the entire roster from that point forward has him convinced that the player to player accountability is where it needs to be heading into the offseason.

Wood felt that player accountability was brought back to the level of expectation they’ve had for each other for most of the 2013 season. He knows that needs to continue to grow and be passed on to the newcomers to Buffalo’s roster this offseason.

“This year we showed at times that when people are willing to do whatever it takes and put in the work, we can be a really good football team,” Wood said. “That’s with a lot of young guys, a lot of injuries at key positions.  But in the same sense, we showed how bad we can be when we take things for granted.  Moving forward, a lot of us learned lessons with that this year and hopefully we wont have to address it again.”


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Marrone thinks Pro Bowl not far off for Wood

Posted by Chris Brown on January 3, 2014 – 12:58 pm

Bills C Eric Wood was a captain and a stalwart on Buffalo’s offensive line this season. For the league’s number two rushing offense, Wood was a big contributor. In the eyes of his head coach his game also got better as the season went along, which has Doug Marrone believing his pivot man will be playing football a very warm locale come next January.

Appearing on the John Murphy Show earlier this week, Marrone when asked about his offensive line made a point to bring up Eric Wood’s play.

“Eric Wood, I really thought he improved his game throughout the year to a point where I think he’s a leader on that line for us and a captain on our team and I think it’s at a point where we can get him some postseason honors and that’ll come with us winning,” said Marrone.

Wood will be entering his sixth NFL season in 2014.


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Fan Friday 12-20

Posted by Chris Brown on December 20, 2013 – 12:00 pm

Sunday will be step one in trying to post a winning record in the division for the first time since the 2007 season. Let’s see if the Bills can make it a season sweep of the Dolphins. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris,

As a Bills’ fan for decades, I believe coach Marrone is a good coach. The question is whether he can turn around the losing culture. I have a few questions regarding accountability and talents.

What are the Bills going to do with the undependable players? This includes, but not limited to, Steve Johnson, Leodis McKelvin and T. J. Graham.

What is Jairus Byrd’s long term prospect with the Bills? The Bills like to get rid of established players to save a few bucks. In the end, this contributes to a longer wish list for the ever rebuilding process. A
recent example is the Offensive line. My suggestion is to get rid of Steve Johnson and save some money for Byrd’s contract. (Note, The Bills is in the business to make money. I suppose a better product would lead to increased revenue. In this case, a true contender in NFL).

What is the long term plan for the QB position? I mean both first string and backup in this case? While coach Marrone indicated EJ Manuel is the long term solution. I beg the difference. EJ is not playing any
better than JP Losman by comparing their rookie year. Lewis and Tuel are littering their path with interceptions and fumbles. How long do you think these two can keep their job in NFL?

Marcus Easley seems to be doing a very good job in special teams. What is the possibility of moving him to CB if the Bills cannot use him as WR? This may afford the team to get rid of Leodis McKelvin thereby saving more money.

The New England Patriots seem to be able to overcome huge deficit consistently. When playing with the Patriots (as well as other teams), what are the Bills doing to safeguard our calls/signals from being stolen?

Please keep up with the good work.
Regards,
C. J. Wong, Ph.D.

CB: I understand why you feel like the players you mentioned are not dependable. This is where the coaches and front office make their offseason evaluations, but being dependable goes beyond just game day. It’s about being a professional every day of the week in everything that you do. So if the players you mentioned struggle in those areas then they could be at risk with respect to their futures here.

Doug Marrone is only going to keep players on this roster that he feels he can win with the way he wants to win. He has stressed accountability time and again and has been clear in explaining to his players what accountability means. They’ve had all season to prove they’re on board. If they’re not, and only the coaches and their teammates would know for certain if that’s the case, then they won’t be here long term.

As for Jairus Byrd, the safety has said he’s open-minded to staying here long term, which is an improvement in terms of where that situation was this past summer. I think Byrd is smart enough to know that he can really flourish in this defense with the talent he has around him on that side of the ball. Talent that is tied up long term for the most part. Byrd has to be convinced that he can win here and as is usually the case the money has to be right as well.

At the quarterback position EJ is their long term answer at the position. You may not be convinced, but the people that make those decisions are. I believe this offseason will be dedicated to putting more talent around Manuel to help him succeed. We’ve certainly seen flashes of ability. What has me most encouraged is the way in which Manuel performs when the game is on the line. Buffalo has needed a clutch quarterback for the longest time and Manuel has shown he has that ability. With improved talent around him he’ll also be better for the other portions of the game too.

I believe the decision makers still see Jeff Tuel as a developmental type prospect. Thad Lewis is still being evaluated, which is why Sunday’s game is huge for him. He’s proven he’s tough and that he can deliver big plays. Now he has to prove he can learn from his mistakes and improve from some of his shortcomings in the first meeting with Miami. It’s really the perfect litmus test for him.

I completely disagree with your Marcus Easley idea. Easley doesn’t not have the foot quickness to play CB, and Leodis McKelvin is having his most consistent season in a Bills uniform at cornerback. Not to mention he’s playing at very affordable money for his position.

Finally, the reason the Patriots are able to overcome big deficits is primarily one reason and one reason only, they have one of the best quarterbacks in a generation in Tom Brady. End of story.

 

2 – Hi Chris, I live in Western Canada so it is always hard to get coverage on the Bills out here.  So I really appreciate all your updates.

My question is about Stevie Johnson.  It seems every year there is a play that he fails to make that costs us a game.  The game against Pittsburgh in OT where he dropped the wide open pass, the game against the Jets when he again dropped a game winning TD, and of course against the Falcons which just didn’t just cost us that game, but our season.

He is a great receiver, no doubt about that, but I question if he is ever going to be a clutch number 1 receiver.   We all agree that we need a big “go up and get it” receiver.  So if we get that receiver, someone has to go.

I think we should consider trading Stevie Johnson this off season.  Robert Woods is precise in route running and has good chemistry with EJ, and Goodwin and Graham are fast on the outside and can also move inside when needed.   I think Stevie is odd man out and gives us the most return for our buck, plus maybe he is to used to losing in Buffalo.  What do you think we could get for Johnson?  A 2nd rounder or maybe someone like Bowe in KC?

Paddy, Vancouver Canada

CB: I think Johnson is the type of receiver whose return in a trade would be limited. The reason why is he is a possession receiver. He’s a move-the-chains player not a stretch the field, deliver a game-changing play every week type wideout. Johnson is a very unique player with a unique skill set, but he is not going to blow the doors off a defense. All that being said I think at best he’d get you a fourth-round draft choice. Frankly, it might be even less because his contract may not fit the role another team might envision for him, so to take on that salary would likely lead to a team offering less in return like a fifth or sixth-round pick.

3 – Hey Chris,

My question is regarding the offensive line.  How do you see the Bills helping the line in the off season? I know they have to see how guys like JJ ‘Unga pan out over the last 3 games, but if they do go after a guy in the draft, do you see them going after a guy who can be versatile? Are there typically guys who can play guard and tackle?  I would imagine that’s what coaches look for in any player on the field.  Do you think free agency is possible?  Also, do you think Chris Hairston will be able to return to form?
Thanks, Jillian

CB: I would not be surprised if there are wholesale changes made on the offensive line. As I see it the only players who have job security are Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood. Kraig Urbik rebounded real well this past week after a down week in Tampa, but I think he will be pushed for his starting job this offseason and into training camp based on what we saw the past couple of weeks with J.J. ‘Unga. Beyond those three I expect to see change there. I think the organization will look to the draft and free agency to address the offensive line.

 

4 – Chris,
Thanks for the great reporting, week by week for the Bills. Yourself and John Murphy do a great job but My question is based of everything about this youth movement and getting these unknown guys more playing time. I been listening and reading about the guys y’all are naming but I keep seeing this guy left out…. Duke Williams? Why is he not getting involved in the discussions and not getting more reps? What part of his game is lacking that has him buried on the depth chart? Because before the season he was getting hyped up as a utility guy in the secondary, that could play multiple positions. What happened? Please explain that to me.

Brian in South Carolina

CB: Thanks for the kind words. I’ll be sure to pass them along to Murph. Duke Williams is a player that has been seeing time mainly on special teams. The reason he has not seen time at safety is because there is quality and experienced talent in front of him in Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy and Jim Leonhard. I do think heading into next season Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks could challenge for bigger roles and what happens with Byrd and Leonhard this offseason with both being free agents will have an impact on that as well.

 

5 – Chris,

I have been surprised at the lack of two back sets the Bills are utilizing this year. I would think this would confuse defenses as Fred is a highly capable pass-blocking back and we all know about CJ’s home run ability with every touch. Would these formations not mix things up and keep opposing defenses off balance… not knowing to expect run or pass?

Also, I am concerned (as are many fans) about the utilization of CJ Spiller. Not in terms of number of plays per game, or on the year, but the play calls he is being used in. They seem to heavily favor running him behind the left or right guards. Why not more screen plays? I think all of us get excited when CJ Spiller has the ball with 3-4 blockers in front of him with the ability to pick and choose which lanes he wants to take.

Thanks!
Jim from Massachusetts

CB: We saw some split backfield in training camp, but there has been very little of it during the season. I do think there is an element of predicitability there when they have only Fred or C.J. on the field in a single back set. Heading into last week’s Jacksonville game I know that Spiller had not been on the field for more than 40 percent of the snaps since Week 2.

However, when he is on the field he got the ball 60 percent of the time. While the usage is admirable I fear that it makes Buffalo’s offense predictable when Spiller is in the backfield.

Jackson is usually on the field in third down situations because they trust him with blitz pickup and blocking assignments.

I don’t know a one-thousandth of what Nathaniel Hackett knows about football, but I do think a split backfield with C.J. and Fred in the offensive backfield on third down could create a lot of headaches for opposing defenses. That’s where I think it could be most useful for Buffalo’s offense.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Faith in Lewis

Posted by Chris Brown on December 19, 2013 – 9:13 am

While there’s no doubt that Bills players to a man would prefer to have EJ Manuel running Buffalo’s offense on Sunday, there has been a level of faith developed between Thad Lewis and the rest of the team.

After making three starts for the club and taking numerous shots in the chops in the first meeting with Miami, and some kill shots to the ribs in the road game at New Orleans one week later, Lewis has earned his stripes in Buffalo’s locker room. So going into a game with Lewis at quarterback is not an issue for the rest of the offense at all.

“He’s a good ballplayer for us. Really talented,” said Eric Wood. “Plays within himself, he knows the throws he can and can’t make. And he does a good job. He’s been impressive in practice since taking over those three games. Obviously, we want EJ out there, but we’re looking forward to letting Thad go out there and see do his thing, too.”

Lewis will make his fourth start this season on Sunday.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Linemates have faith in ‘Unga

Posted by Chris Brown on December 14, 2013 – 5:55 pm

Rookie J.J. ‘Unga stands a good chance of getting his first NFL start at right guard today in place of an injured Kraig Urbik (foot), who will be a game time decision Sunday. He’s only been with the team for a few weeks, but he feels ready for the possibility of a full game’s worth of work.

“It came up pretty fast,” said ‘Unga. “Everything came all at once and I’ve only been here a little while, maybe like two weeks, three weeks. So yeah, everything just sort of jumped out.”

Being so new to the offense, ‘Unga has been working on just mastering the game plan week to week. He uses his spare time to absorb a few more pages of the team’s playbook.

“I’m comfortable enough,” said ‘Unga. “I feel like I still have a lot to learn and a lot more plays to lean, but I feel comfortable enough right now.”

More importantly his teammates have faith that ‘Unga can get the job done.

“I’m confident he can come in and do a good job,” said Eric Wood. “He’s extremely powerful, grasped the offense really well when he came in initially, which allowed him to get some reps, some meaningful reps at practice. That’s all maybe going to pay off if Urbik can’t go.”

“This is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had,” ‘Unga said. “I just want to take this opportunity and show them what I can do.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills