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Inside The Bills

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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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone won’t foist leadership on players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Inside the Bills

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.”

Posted in Inside the Bills

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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Posted in Inside the Bills

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 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.
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.

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

Jackson: We can shift tempo whenever

Posted by Chris Brown on November 25, 2013 – 9:31 am

With EJ Manuel feeling a lot more comfortable in Buffalo’s offense after seven starts it’s afforded the Bills the opportunity to shift the tempo of their attack whenever they deem a change of pace to be to their advantage.

That according to RB Fred Jackson.

“I think it kind of depends on how the flow of the game is going,” Jackson said. “There are times when we come to the sideline and we get together with the coaches and say we want to pick the tempo up. So if we sense that during the game that’s when we really try to pick it up if we feel it gives us any kind of advantage we want to definitely make use of that.”

That’s what the Buffalo offense did against the Jets last Sunday.

“We saw early that they didn’t like our tempo and it gave us the opportunity to complete passes on third down that we had guys step up and make some plays,” said Jackson. “I think (Eric) Wood was the first one who noticed what we wanted to do on the offense and we kind of echoed that to everybody and began to pick the tempo up.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills planning changes for red zone offense

Posted by Chris Brown on November 7, 2013 – 10:17 am

Buffalo hasn’t been a bad red zone offense all season, it’s just been the last three games where they’ve slipped down the league rankings to their current spot of 31st. Goal line execution is part of the problem along with quarterback decision making.

The Bills over their past three games have converted just two of their eight red zone opportunities into touchdowns (25%). That’s what has dragged down their red zone touchdown percentage to its current mark of 42.3%. Here are some of the trouble spots.

Buffalo’s collective passer rating inside the opponent’s 30-yard line ranks 27th in the league (77.7) almost 15 points below the league average. Plugging Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel into the lineup over the past month has affected the continuity of the pass game. The Bills third down percentage in the red zone has also been subpar as Buffalo ranks 26th with a conversion rate of just under 29 percent (28.6%).

“We’ve left a lot of yardage out there,” said Marrone. “There are some things we’re doing well. There are some situations like the red zone touchdowns—we’ve obviously went back and did some more studying on how other teams have been successful in the red zone.  How we’re going to do something different, how we’re going to get over that hump.  Because obviously if we’re doing the same things we’re not going to get any different results.”

Still, the Bills yardage gained in the red zone ranks in the middle of the pack. They’re tied for 16th in the league at 2.83 yards per play, which isn’t bad down in the tight quarters of the red zone. Eric Wood is all for making some changes.

“I think we’re going to address our plan down there,” said Wood. “I think guys are going to look at themselves to see who they’ve executed individually down there and just try to fix what we’ve been doing. Whether that’s different schemes, you personally improving. I think it’ll all contribute.”

The Steelers rank 15th in the league in red zone defense allowing touchdowns more than 55 percent of the time (55.6%).

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills determined to improve on goal line

Posted by Chris Brown on November 5, 2013 – 1:10 pm

Buffalo’s offense has been down on the goal line twice in the last two home games and were unable to punch it in the end zone. It’s got the team’s co-captains on offense determined to change things in short yardage situations.

“That’s an opportunity that we relish,” said Fred Jackson. “Myself, I pride myself in goal line situations and for whatever reason, we didn’t get the job done. In the end, that could be what cost us the seven points.  When you’re number’s called, you want to get in the end zone. The first two carries (Sunday), I didn’t get in there. We threw the ball and we didn’t
get any points, and we gave them points at the same time.”

“It’s a group effort,” said Eric Wood. “That’s an off tackle run that we started with, we threw a pass down there, but we have to get things fixed because that’s twice that we’ve struggled on the goal line this year. As physical as we generally play on the
offensive line and as a team in general in the run game, we’d like to be more successful.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hackett has offense working thru QB changes

Posted by Chris Brown on November 5, 2013 – 10:50 am

Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been the one saddled with the responsibility of keeping the Buffalo offense productive through an almost unprecedented run of quarterback changes the past five weeks along with his top two running backs hobbled with injuries. To this point Buffalo’s offense ranks 15th in the league.

“I think coach Hackett is doing a great job,” said co-captain Eric Wood. “Doing a great job of bringing enthusiasm each day to practice. Being creative at times, at times being simple, but putting us in position to succeed offensively and we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball and we’ll make him look a lot better.”

“One of the things that gets missed in all this is Nathaniel Hackett, it’s been very difficult for what he’s been going through along with the rest of the players with the different quarterbacks having to play and what’s going on and who’s playing,” said Doug Marrone. “He’s really done a nice job of getting those guys ready to play.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Wood on Incognito incident

Posted by Chris Brown on November 4, 2013 – 5:09 pm

Making his weekly appearance on Bills flagship station, WGR Sportsradio 550, Eric Wood was asked for his take on the Miami Dolphins investigation involving offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.

With Incognito suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins Monday for conduct detrimental to the team, Wood was asked when it’s time for veteran players to step in and control the locker room atmosphere.

“The veteran players definitely have to get a feel for it, especially if that’s within your position group or your side of the ball,” said Wood. “Richie definitely did cross the line. People say there’s no place for rookie nights or hazing in the game today, but I think there is some.

“But man (Incognito) crossed the line with some of the language that he used. I know Richie well; we have the same agent and he was here in 2009 when I broke my leg. I know Richie, he’s kind of a cross-the-line humor type of guy. I think he probably had a misjudgment here, especially with the voicemail he left, and that’s the only evidence really that you can go by.

“It kind of seems like Jonathan Martin wasn’t taking it that well, and at a time like that you’ve got to pull the reins on it. It’s a sad situation, especially with the kid needing to go and get treatment now.”

Wood said he hasn’t really experienced anything like what’s being described in Miami here in Buffalo.

“We’ve always been good about it … we’ve had pretty mature team leaders here,” said Wood. “We’ve had nothing bad here. We have a lot of fun here with the Bills. On your birthday you might get the ice bucket like you just won a game or something like that. It’s always good-natured and we have fun. I think it can build team unity.”

Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills turnovers too often in their territory

Posted by Chris Brown on October 28, 2013 – 1:56 pm

Buffalo on the whole had been doing well in the takeaway-giveaway margin on the season. They entered last Sunday’s game at a plus-5. Now they stand at a plus-2 on the year after their three giveaways against the Saints. While no giveaway comes at a good time, the Bills have developed a bad habit of coughing up the ball on their own side of the field.

The Bills have 13 giveaways on the season. All but one of them have come on their own half of the field. More than half of them (7) have come at or inside their own 25-yard line. There were two such occurrences yesterday in the first quarter.

“That was bad,” said Eric Wood. “We just made too many mistakes offensively early on.  We really put our defense in some tough spots. They rose to the occasion early, but eventually we put them in enough bad spots so that we had to make some plays.”

Buffalo’s defense has done remarkably well in defending those short fields off turnovers inside their own 25. On those seven occasions, counting yesterday, the Bills defense has given up just two touchdowns and two field goals. The other three resulted in two missed field goals and an interception.

The first turnover that took place on the opponent’s half of the field was Lewis’ interception at the Saints 37-yard line.



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Bills feeding off Fred’s resilience

Posted by Chris Brown on October 21, 2013 – 1:47 pm

We already had it covered for you this morning on, but Fred Jackson’s teammates were still talking about his freakish ability to come back from twice tweaking his sprained MCL and play an instrumental role in the victory.

Here’s what some of his teammates said Jackson gutting it out meant to them.

Thad Lewis - “A level of toughness that a lot of us can’t describe or know how tough this guy is. He’s so relentless in his pursuit of excellence that it’s ridiculous. So it kind of feeds all of us on the offense. We feed off of him. We saw the things he did yesterday. He kind of brings and extra energy to the offense.”

“It’s crazy. It shows me that nothing is impossible. He told me that he sprained his MCL and then said, ‘Don’t worry about it I’ll be out for the next series.’ When you’ve got a guy like that behind you you’re about as comfortable as you can be.”

Stevie Johnson – “Fred’s a beast. I told him he’s a legend. I don’t care what happens in the next nine games. If he doesn’t get another yard, the dude is a legend. Coming back from these injuries, the knee injury with his leg and just seeing him come back in there and score the touchdown and continuously play, I think he got injured again in the game and still stayed in. It’s the love that he has for the game. I told him I looked up to him and I’m happy to be on his team.”

Aaron Williams – “It lets me know that I have guys next to me who are willing to fight, willing to put their body on the line, and just go out there and get a ‘W’ for the team.  A guy with courage and a lot of heart, that’s one thing I know about Fred, he has a lot of heart. He’s come a long way, he’s worked hard to get where he’s at.  To see something like that happen, and for him to go back out there and score a touchdown. It’s huge.”

Eric Wood – “That pretty much just solidified what I think of Fred as a player and a person.  Just a great guy, great teammate, willing to put his body on the line for the good of the team. That’s how you stick around a franchise for a
long time.  We’re not giving up Fred for anybody, for anything.  He’s a guy that we want around and he shows that week in and week out.”

And finally Fred’s stance on why he feels compelled to come back time and time again.

“What better way to (lead),” said Jackson. “If you want guys to step up and make plays for you, you have to make them yourself. That’s just what I try and do. I love this team and love to be part of this team, and the way to show that is to be out there with those guys competing with them. That’s what I tried to get done yesterday and I’ll continue to try and do so.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Welcome change: Bills convert 3rd & longs

Posted by Chris Brown on October 21, 2013 – 9:07 am

It wasn’t a perfect game on offense by any means. Yards were hard to come by on first and second down, but Buffalo was a respectable 9-for-19 on third downs for a conversion rate of 47 percent. That’s almost 15 percent above their season average (33.3%). Here’s why there success rate was higher Sunday.

Part of the reason was Buffalo’s ability to convert on some third and longs in the game. In fact four of Buffalo’s nine third down conversions were third and longs. Bills center Eric Wood gave a ton of credit to QB Thad Lewis.

“He did a great job again,” said Wood. “Composed, poised, made some plays in key situations. We were so bad on third and long coming into this game and he really made some plays on third and long, which was great.”

Lewis hit Fred Jackson early and he converted a 3rd-and-15 with a 21-yard catch and run on the team’s first series.

T.J. Graham converted a 3rd-and-17 with a 30-yard catch in the second quarter from Lewis.

Stevie Johnson converted a 3rd-and-7 with a seven-yard catch, then followed up with a conversion  of a 3rd-and-11 with an impressive spin move to elude a would be tackler to gain the extra necessary yards to move the sticks.

Scott Chandler converted a 3rd-and-9 with a 12-yard catch.

“It’s just a situation where we need to make plays,” said Johnson. “We’ve been pretty average on third downs. I don’t know if that play was on third down, but I feel like we’ve been pretty average.  We should be way better on third downs and I feel like I should be way better on third downs for the team.  Basically, we have to get back to the basics and working.”

Though it was only a 3rd-and-medium situation, Fred Jackson had the biggest third down conversion of the game when he ripped a run off right tackle on 3rd-and-4 for 10 yards with 2:37 left in the game.

Nevertheless seeing the Bills overcome long down and distance instead of the opposition was a welcome change.

“We had a lot of passes in the game plan this week, that’s a stout front,” said Wood. “We want to be an offense that’s not predictable. We’re trying to break some of our tendencies that we’ve built. We kind of threw out a bunch of different personnel groups. We gave them a bunch of different looks and we thought we had a lot of good matchups in the passing game. Obviously, when we got the runs called, we would have liked to have been more effective.  But we did throw the ball well at times and that was part of our game plan.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Prepping from the practice squad

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 1:08 pm

Some might not see the practice squad as a great launching pad to a starting role, but Thad Lewis will have the chance to prove it can be. Here’s what he did to stay prepared for just the opportunity that sits in his lap for this Sunday.

“I have a great sense of the game plan, a great grasp of it,” said Lewis. “Every week you don’t just sit on the practice squad and don’t prepare as if you’re the starter. That’s your job. This is what you’re supposed to do. You have to learn and know the things you need to do. I’ve been doing that every week so it’ll be a regular week. I just get a chance to start this Sunday.”

As Eric Wood pointed out running the scout team every week in practice, Lewis, even though he wasn’t running Buffalo’s offensive plays still had more of a chance to impress the coaching staff and progress by getting more snaps during the week than backup Jeff Tuel.

“Thad has looked really good in practice. Your practice squad quarterbacks are generally going to get more reps throughout the year than your backup because he’s running the other team’s offense,” Wood said. “I think they liked a lot of what they saw in Thad throughout the season in the show team reps.”

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How Lewis intends to lead

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 11:35 am

He hasn’t called a play in the huddle or thrown a pass in a regular season game with his Bills teammates. So how will he be an effective leader without any play to back up his words?

“It’s not difficult,” said Lewis. “You go out here on the practice field and you show everybody you know what to do. The mike points, the plays, you know the protection and guys feel comfortable with that. As long as I have three days to practice and
jell together and get timing with the wide receivers, but as long as you know what you’re doing guys will rally behind you.”

“He’s stepping into a pretty stable offense,” said Eric Wood. “We’ve had some injuries and stuff, but for the most part everyone has played. There are not a lot of moving parts around him, which will be good and he’s got reps within this offense before. I don’t think there’s as much chaos as people think. We just conducted a pretty extensive walk through and no mental errors and putting the ball in the right places.”

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8 man fronts expected by Bills offense

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 10:35 am

With Thad Lewis now starting at quarterback for the Bills, Buffalo’s offense is fully expecting opposing defenses to put eight men in the box in an all out effort to stop the run. Their intent is to put the game on Lewis to win for Buffalo, but Eric Wood says the Bills won’t be dissuaded from running the ball by eight-man fronts.

“You’ve got to throw them out of it or you have to be effective running the ball,” Wood said. “Our backs have done a great job of making people miss and C.J. (Spiller) showed last week if you put that safety down there and he misfits on a hole that’s a big time play.

“I like Adrian Peterson’s theory on eight and nine man fronts from last year. I thought his theory was great. If he sees an eight or nine-man front he’s thinking home-run because all he has to do is get past the second level and he’s out the gate as opposed to maybe the third level. He credited them loading the box to a lot of his big runs last year. I think that’s the mindset you have to have as a running back. See it as a challenge, almost a compliment that they have to put an extra guy in there and then you try to smoke that safety.”

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Where Tuel’s head is at

Posted by Chris Brown on October 7, 2013 – 5:44 pm

For Bills QB Jeff Tuel the past five days have been anything but easy. Despite the injury to EJ Manuel, Tuel is going to remain the backup quarterback with Thad Lewis starting and he surrendered his jersey number to Brian Moorman, who re-signed with the club over the weekend. But captain Eric Wood said Tuel’s head is on straight and he’s in a healthy frame of mind.

“I talked to Jeff and I don’t know if disappointed is the word,” said Wood. “As a competitor he probably wanted to get the start, but he understands the coaches thinking. A mature kid and a guy that’s going to do all he can to help Thad this week and that’s a good mindset to have.”

Tuel is now wearing jersey number 7.

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Wood: Browns actions post EJ hit “classless”

Posted by Chris Brown on October 4, 2013 – 12:20 pm

A lot of Bills players along the sideline were incensed after EJ Manuel was injured on a hit by Browns safety Tashaun Gipson near the sideline. Players weren’t outraged by the hit at the end of the play. They were ticked that Browns players were celebrating the hit that injured Buffalo’s QB.

“The hit was fine, what ticked me off was the way they acted afterwards,” said Bills co-captain Eric Wood. “I hope our defense never acts like that when they injure an opposing quarterback. You’ve got to show some class in that situation. There’s a few guys over there that obviously didn’t.”

Wood said it wasn’t only Gipson that was celebrating the fact that Manuel was down injured after the play.

“You’ve got (Browns safety) T.J. Ward yelling at Kiko (Alonso), a former college teammate, ‘I told you to warn him that we were going to get him.’ That’s classless,” Wood said. “Every team has probably got them. I’m not going to say that nobody on our team has ever done that, but it ticks you off when someone on the other team does it for sure.”

Wood however, doesn’t believe the hit was in retaliation for Alonso’s hit on Browns QB Brian Hoyer that knocked him out of the game in the first half.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think most plays in football come down to such split second decisions that I don’t think necessarily that it was a hit in retaliation.”

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