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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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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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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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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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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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.”

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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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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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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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Unwavering faith in EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on September 29, 2013 – 9:25 am

Bills fans were understandably concerned about the progress of EJ Manuel following last week’s game when he took eight sacks in a 27-20 loss. His teammates and coaches however, have not wavered one bit.

To a man they have faith that EJ will improve off of last week’s setback.

“I think he’ll rebound well,” said Eric Wood. “Just working with him for the past few months, I think every time a challenge has presented itself he’s kind of stepped up and things that he had done wrong, whether it had been an assignment or whatever, he’s not generally repeating mistakes and that’s one of my favorite things about working with him. He’s working hard daily to improve, kind of like we all are. We’re all fairly new to this offense and there’s some different things for all of us to do
individually. The key is to improve as the year goes on.”

Veteran Fred Jackson believes that everyone on the offense learned a hard lesson last Sunday.

“That’s one thing we can take away from that game—we got a lot thrown at us and we didn’t handle it
well,” said Jackson. “I think that will be something we all face as a challenge this week, knowing that we could see a lot of stuff like that from this team this weekend.  We get to look at it on film, see some of the things they do, be able to
come out and handle that, and stay on the field, pick up blitzes and throw hots and things like that.”

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Sacks happened for a reason

Posted by Chris Brown on September 23, 2013 – 1:01 pm

Through the first two games the Bills were able to keep EJ Manuel pretty clean, surrendering just one sack. On Sunday against the Jets they gave up eight. Eric Wood knows the reasons why.

“Miscommunications, guys getting beat. Just them getting a chance to tee off on us,” said Wood. “You just have to stay ahead of the chains on them. It’s a lot like our defense. When we get up on teams or when we’ll get up on teams our defense will tear people apart and you saw when Carolina got in obvious passing situations last week how easy we were able to get sacks and pressure on cam Newton. That’s kind of the name of the game in the NFL and we set ourselves up for it terribly yesterday.”

Wood says they have to run the ball more effectively because it’s an effective way to protect your quarterback, but that there is more to it than just that.

“We’ve got to complete some more balls and that’s going to happen,” said Wood. “We have to have better protection, but we’ve got some young guys and we’re going to get better as the season goes on, but yesterday was unacceptable.”

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Wood: Red zone execution was terrible

Posted by Chris Brown on September 23, 2013 – 12:29 pm

The Bills went 0-for-3 in the red zone on Sunday when it came to punching the ball in for a touchdown. Buffalo had to settle for three field goals as gaining yards inside the Jets 20 proved hard to come by. Eric Wood didn’t think much of their efforts.

“Just a lot of mistakes on offense, and red zone execution was terrible,” said the Bills co-captain. “If we score on a couple of those when we were down there it’s a totally different ball game. We don’t give up six sacks because they’re not able to tee off on us.”

On Buffalo’s three red zone opportunities they ran a total of 10 plays. All together those 10 plays gained a total of 13 yards. The three third down situations Sunday went as follows.

3rd-and-8 – incomplete pass

3rd-and-6 – one-yard gain

3rd-and-5 – incomplete pass


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Bills admit Jets ‘D’ had some wrinkles

Posted by Chris Brown on September 23, 2013 – 1:17 am

For the most part they were well prepared for what the Jets have in their arsenal of blitz calls, but Eric Wood and Fred Jackson both admitted that the Jets threw some defensive looks at Buffalo that were tough to identify.

“You have to give them credit. They did things that are different (and) that’s their defense—create some confusion,” said Fred Jackson. “It worked for them on a couple of plays there. We have to get better at seeing those things and make the plays when we have the opportunity.”

“They did a pretty good job of stacking the box early and throwing a few different looks that gave us trouble identifying, but we didn’t execute well enough against it,” said Wood.

EJ Manuel was sacked eight times in the game, the most sacks surrendered by Buffalo in a game since giving up nine to Indianapolis on Dec. 11, 2000.

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Wood: Our ‘D’ readied us for Jets ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on September 21, 2013 – 10:44 am

As we profiled on the home page of this morning, both EJ Manuel and Geno Smith might be seeing more familiar defensive looks pre-snap on Sunday than they have seen to this point from an opponent in their young careers because of the similarities between their own team’s defense and that of their opponent this week in the Bills-Jets matchup. Bills center Eric Wood also found it helpful when it came to putting together the line call assignments.

“Yeah absolutely,” Wood said. “We feel it’s an advantage that we’ve seen this all summer. There are some differences, but some of the looks are the same and some of them are tough to prepare for so having seen these all summer has made some of the assignment installation easier.”

We’ll see on Sunday if that leads to more effective execution and faster tempo for the Bills with what is anticipated to be improved pre-snap recognition.

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Offense must get in sync sooner

Posted by Chris Brown on September 17, 2013 – 1:20 pm

Buffalo’s offense is right in the middle of the pack in terms of points per game through the first two weeks of the season, but the players on that side of the ball all believe they have to start games off much better than they have in the first two games.

Through the first two games, the Bills have not put any points on the board in the first quarter. In fact, 35 of the team’s 45 points on the season have been scored in quarters two and three.

“We obviously have to get better earlier in games,” said captain Eric Wood. “We’ve shown we get better as games wear on. I don’t know if that’s our tempo wearing on the defense, us getting more comfortable or what, but we’ve got to start the game better and we know that. That’ll be a premium coming up.”

“Just being more consistent I would say,” said Robert Woods. “We seem to have some slow starts. I feel if we start off early and play well we could go a long way.”

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