Big bounce back week for the Bills as they host Minnesota. Just have a feeling the run game will be rediscovered. On to your questions this week from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Keep them coming.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why isn’t Kraig Urbik starting? Is it stubbornness or the right call or something else in your opinion?
CB: Coach Marrone has been asked about this quite a bit this season. Based on what he’s said it sounds like he and the offensive staff would like to give rookie Cyril Richardson the opportunity to grow into the position. He said as long as Richardson, and Seantrel Henderson for that matter, are still showing signs of improvement in their play they’ll remain in the lineup.
As for Urbik specifically, here is his most recent answer as to why he hasn’t considered re-inserting Urbik into the starting lineup at either one of the guard positions.
“We feel comfortable what his role is for the team right now,” said Marrone of Urbik’s role as backup center. “If someone’s not playing well or not improving, I think (a change is) a possibility. We talk about that too. I think those (rookies) are getting better in there. And collectively, we’ve got to keep them coming along. It’s an option with him. We’ve got Kraig backing up a lot of positions inside.
“I think his versatility is his strength. I think he has good versatility. If we want to put him in there he has the ability to be a starter and go in there and play. He gives us experience. He’s our best option if something were to happen with Eric Wood, and to be ready in case we ever do anything.”
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
Will the bills be as predictable as last week? First down, run. Second down, run. Third down, pass.
CB: Contrary to what you might think the Bills threw a good deal on first down last week. In fact on first down they had 12 runs and 15 pass attempts. Granted in the second half they were behind and had to throw more, but even in the first half they had eight runs and six pass attempts. Here were the results.
1st half rush figures – 8 carries, 29 yds, fumble lost
1st half pass figures – 6 pass attempts, 7 yards, INT, sack – fumble lost, 2 incompletions
2nd half rush figures – 4 carries, 6 yds
2nd half pass figures – 9 pass attempts, 24 yards, touchdown, 5 incompletions
Against Detroit the week before the Bills ran on first down 11 times and threw 21 times. So until the propensity to run on first down becomes predictable we’ll take a closer look at the play calling by the offense.
3 - @ChrisBrownBills
How much do the Bills spend on real scouting and that’s both Collegiate & Pro CFL/NFL?
CB: There’s no way for me to get you the budget line for the Bills scouting operations, but I can tell you that the personnel department has upwards of 20 scouts, counting GM Doug Whaley. There are pro scouts, who do the advance scouting of future opponents and put together reports on every prospective free agent in the league. They will also take a look at CFL talent.
The college scouting department makes up the bulk of the group and they are scattered across the country. Each scout is assigned to region of the country and they are assigned to all the schools in their territory, with some overlap between scouts so they can get more than one opinion on a prospect.
The Bills as an organization have long believed in the value of scouting when it comes to building a roster and that has not changed one iota under Doug Whaley.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why do u think they haven’t used Sammy in the screen game? It was what he did the most in college and excelled at it.
CB: I’m not sure why he hasn’t been used more in the screen game. They have run a handful of receiver screens this season, and Mike Williams is an excellent blocking receiver as is Robert Woods. What I like most about your idea is it is an easy way to get the ball in Watkins’ hands regardless of what the opposing defense is doing coverage-wise.
You’re right he did excel at it. Whether it is something the offensive staff turns to more moving forward however, remains to be seen.
5 – Hi Chris,
My question has to do with the offensive line. If Orton can improve the play at the QB position even just a little this team can make a run at the playoffs. However all the QB attention has hid some issues on the offensive line. This offensive line is massive in size but for some reason seems to get very little push and obviously lacks in mobility compared to smaller, quicker lines. What is most disconcerting is that when they run between the tackles there is little space for Freddy or CJ. Most of their run yardage comes when they bounce it outside and get around the edge with their speed. I guess my biggest problem has to do with their philosophy of getting BIG linemen as opposed to smaller more athletic guys that you tend to see on successful teams like the Patriots. Do you think outside of QB, the offensive line is the biggest area of needed improvement and should Marrone be held responsible for this since that is his area of expertise?
CB: Coach Marrone himself admitted that the line play up front needs to be better. Against some of the better defensive fronts this season Buffalo’s offensive line has had trouble winning at the line of scrimmage. It’s a bit surprising in light of their size as you mentioned. All that size has left them a bit less mobile for screens and pulls.
I agree with coach that the line play has to be more consistent and not just in the run game, but in pass protection as well. They’ve got to raise the level of play quickly, and that won’t be easy with a couple of rookies learning on the job.
Tags: Doug Marrone, Doug Whaley, Fan Friday, Kraig Urbik, Kyle Orton, Offensive line, play calling, Sammy Watkins, scouting department
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Hi Chris,
Brandon Spikes only signed a one year deal in the off season, do you think the Bills will try and wrap him up long term?
Paddy, Vancouver Canada
CB: Spikes was brought in for a reason, to improve the team’s run defense. I think the one-year contract is very indicative of the club’s approach. It appears to be a let’s see how it goes approach. So it’s my belief that the powers that be will see how Spikes’ season plays out, and come the offseason they’ll assess his value and potential contributions for the team’s future.
I can say that in talking to Spikes he likes his teammates, coaches and the atmosphere here in Buffalo. He brings additional value with his veteran leadership, but I think it’s only fair for both sides to allow his full body of work to be reviewed before making any future decisions.
2 – Chris,
The #1 weakness for Bills is the Offensive Line. Same story for the past 14 years. Right now, I have no faith in either Right Guard or Left Guard. Our O-line has been a disaster. I hope Richardson can play better than Chris Williams (who the Bills front office paid way too much for a below average guard). I think the Bills front office should have done a better job in free agency at the guard position.
Not sure the Erik Pears experiment is going to work out. With Pears at guard he has not been effective pulling for screen plays, sweeps or trap plays.
Question: I love Wood at center, but if the Bills guard troubles continue, perhaps the Bills could play Urbik at center and play Woods at guard again.
Next year Bills need to Upgrade – O-Line, Tight End position and perhaps Quarterback if progress is not made this season.
South Florida,…………. Thank you Terry and Kim Pegula!!!!
CB: Concerning your question about Eric Wood, I think he is at his most valuable position at center. That’s not to say he couldn’t play guard, which he did early in his career with the Bills. It seems as though they’re interested in letting Cyril Richardson learn the ropes when Chris Williams’ back doesn’t allow him to play.
That being said your idea isn’t a bad one. Kraig Urbik is the team’s backup center, so it is an option if the offensive staff feels it’s necessary to make a different kind of change at guard. I just think Wood is so valuable making the calls and performing in the pivot that I’d be hesitant to move him.
3 – Hey Chris,
My question is regarding the switch from Manuel to Orton. My understanding is that the Bills are under pressure to win now, EJ just isn’t where he needs to be and so Marrone needed to make the decision before the losses got out of hand. My question is, do you think that the plan they had going into the season regarding EJ and the offense is not working? I mean the O-line is really struggling which is making the run game struggle which forced EJ the past 2 games to throw over 40 times. I wonder if part of this move is not only about winning but it could also be about protecting EJ and his psyche. So now Orton will come in and fans seem to think that he can do a better job, but he also needs the same formula as EJ, a good O-line a strong run game and defense and I’m worried that the Bills have a bigger issue than just QB. I was just wondering your thoughts about that.
Thanks for all your time, Jillian
CB: I think based on everything we’ve heard from coach Marrone on this subject that it was purely a performance decision. As coach Marrone said when he initially made the change at quarterback, he needs more production from that position. He was not getting enough positive plays from the quarterback position in the passing game and it was compromising their effectiveness on offense.
We’ll see where things go with Kyle Orton now in the lineup, but this is a performance-based business and I believe that was the crux of coach Marrone’s decision.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills How do you think the the Bills stop the short/quick passing game of the Pats this week
CB: Flooding the short passing lanes with defenders can help to disrupt some of the rhythm that Tom Brady relies upon in the Patriots’ passing game. How the Bills choose to do that remains to be seen. The general consensus by those outside the organization is to pressure Tom Brady, but that’s easier said than done even with a Buffalo defense that leads the league in sacks.
Kansas City had an awful lot of success rushing four and dropping seven into coverage. They dropped linebackers and their box safety into zones and defended the middle of the field pretty well, which is where Brady likes to work with his tight ends and Julian Edelman. Buffalo could take a similar approach if they so choose. They have comparable personnel to the Chiefs up front and at the second level.
5 – Hello, Chris,
In addition to your written work and videos on BB.com, I really enjoy your regular updates on the JMS. You are very frank and insightful on those calls and I look forward to them each week.
My question relates to a subject I have not heard one person in the Buffalo print media nor BB.com family address since the announced QB switch – Kyle Orton’s motivation/determination. I have always thought Orton has all the necessary QB skills. Most importantly, he has the ability to read a defense and deliver the ball to the open receiver. I felt EJ was sadly lacking in both case aspects. However, I do not question EJ’s heart. He took a beating the last two weeks and seemed to courageously get back on his feet and put the last hit behind him every time. Do you think we can expect that with Orton? My biggest concern regarding his signing apparently “out of retirement” was the possibility he was just looking for a paycheck to hold a clipboard and mentor EJ. After nine years of bouncing around the league, does he have the personal motivation to lay it on the line for one more chance at football glory?
I have not heard nor seen anything, other than the circumstances around his signing, to create that doubt, but I have not seen nor heard anything to suppress it, either. We will know soon enough, I suppose, once he gets under center. However, it would be great to hear from inside the Bills family that Orton is the committed to going into combat with his teammates. I truly believe the Bills have the skill players to make big plays on a consistent basis with a bunch of hungry young players surrounding a decent QB, and I hope the QB can mirror their intensity.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
CB: I appreciate the kind words. I think there is a measure of motivation for Kyle Orton with this current opportunity. In talking to him he admitted to me that this team is constructed in much the same way as the 2005 Chicago team he had to quarterback as a rookie after Rex Grossman was injured.
Their defense was outstanding, they had good special teams and a strong rushing attack with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. Orton didn’t have to go out and win games there, and he may not have to do much of that here.
The benefit for the Bills is he’s a much wiser quarterback and a much more seasoned leader now than he was then.
I do believe the motivation could be at its highest this week, knowing his former head coach in Denver Josh McDaniels, is on the other sideline. McDaniels buckled to the pressure in Denver to start Tim Tebow, despite the fact that Orton led the Broncos to a 6-0 start.
I don’t know this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that coaching/organizational decision sticks in Orton’s craw perhaps more than any other. I don’t know that it does, and I’d never expect him to ever say that, but looking at all the decisions that went against him in his playing career, if I put myself in his shoes that one would sting the most for me.
Tags: Bills-Patriots, Brandon Spikes, EJ Manuel, Eric Wood, Fan Friday, Kyle Orton, Offensive line
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - @ChrisBrownBills is there any chance Kouandjio begins to take some snaps at Guard. Tackles appear locked in. Pears hasn’t played well.
CB: Head coach Doug Marrone made it clear a little over a week ago that there are no plans right now to give Kouandjio snaps at guard. I think at this point in time the preference is to have him master offensive tackle, particularly on the right side. He played primarily left tackle in college and flipping to the right side has been an adjustment. Marrone said he is encouraged by Kouandjio’s progress, so I don’t think they want to put too much on his plate and compromise his development at tackle with the responsibility of learning another position.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Do the players get brand new jerseys every game?
CB: The general answer here is no. According to @billsequipment most players wear the same jersey each week, unless there is irreparable tearing or other damage to a jersey. This most often happens with offensive and defensive linemen just from all the grabbing and pulling. In that case players are issued replacements.
There are of course exceptions. Players like Mario Williams have memorabilia deals where each game worn jersey is turned in, and sometimes players exchange jerseys with friends on other teams. Fred Jackson was the latest example when he swapped game worn jerseys at the end of last week’s game at Houston with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills I wanted to know why Urbik is a backup this year. Do you know?
CB: It’s hard to know exactly why Kraig Urbik fell out of favor with the offensive staff and has been moved to a backup role. There is no question that based on Buffalo’s moves this offseason that they were looking to make changes there with the signing of Chris Williams and the drafting of Cyril Richardson. I feel Urbik is more than capable of manning one of the starting guard spots, but that’s just my opinion. Head coach Doug Marrone has him serving primarily as the backup center behind Eric Wood, but I believe he can certainly step in at guard.
4 – Hi Chris,
My question concerns the buzz about the jet sweep since Percy Harvin and Cordarelle Patterson are taking the league by storm. We have Marquise Goodwin, why isn’t he on the field more to do stuff like this? I would think he would play more if nothing else than because of his speed. Is he injured or just not performing well in practice? I think he should be on the field more.
Thanks for all your coverage, GO BILLS!
CB: You’re right that Goodwin has not been on the field very much. He’s played a total of 30 snaps in four games. He does have one end around that went for four yards. He’s at a position where the Bills are deep and spread formations are not all that prevalent in Buffalo’s offense anymore. Under former head coach Chan Gailey the four-wide set was their most popular. If that were still the case now I think he would get more work on offense.
I think ideally the offensive coaches want to have a package of plays in each week for Goodwin, but the inability of the offense to stay on the field has compromised those plans to a degree. There’s no question that Goodwin’s presence on the field forces defenses to respect the deep ball, and it creates room underneath for Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods to operate.
5 – Chris,
No one, including reporters is really talking about EJ’s strength in throwing the ball. I’m not referring to skill, but the velocity of his throws.
Jim Kelly mentioned it on air mid-game last Sunday – and to me, it was far more obvious prior to his statement. Seems he lobs the ball versus throwing in there quickly and tight.
Are the coaches on EJ about this? I feel he’d be a better QB if he can aster throwing a tight, fast spiral. His balls seem to be all over the place mid-air. Or is this just what EJ mechanisms are about?
CB: I have noticed that myself, even in the practice setting. EJ never really winds up and fires it to get it in a tight window. I think sometimes his long delivery gives the illusion that the ball isn’t moving fast, but he is certainly capable of throwing a fastball. I’ve seen it at times, but with the physical ability to throw it on a rope I wouldn’t mind seeing it more when he gets another chance to play.
Tags: Cyrus Kouandjio, EJ Manuel, Erik Pears, Fan Friday, Kraig Urbik, Marquise Goodwin, player jerseys
Posted in Inside the Bills
It’s the start of a big two week road trip in Houston. The Bills are looking to finish the first quarter of the season at 3-1. We’ll have full postgame coverage on Buffalobills.com. Let’s get to your questions this week on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - Hi Chris,
My question is about the Bills offense. During training camp I noticed that EJ is throwing the ball a lot farther downfield; however during the preseason games, and early in the season all the routes seem to be less than 10 yards. Is this due to the play calling or EJ? I’ve heard EJ’s been better during practice, but it’s frustrating to watch him check down most of the time. It reminds me of when we had Chan Gailey and Fitz.
CB: So far this season EJ Manuel is averaging seven yards an attempt. For those that are unfamiliar with that statistic, even in the pass happy NFL that we know today any yards per attempt average that’s eight or above is outstanding. Only five NFL QBs are averaging eight yards or more per attempt right now. So seven is very respectable.
The other way one can look at it is average yards at the catch. This is where Manuel’s figure is below the league average. Manuel averages 3.6 passing yards at the catch, which ranks 31st in the league. The league average is about six.
Now there are two ways one can interpret that. One Buffalo’s offense doesn’t take a lot of deep shots down the field, which is your contention, and based on the latter statistic it’s understandable why that might be inferred.
The other way to look at it is Buffalo’s offensive staff knows the collection of speed they have out of the backfield and at receiver and believe it’s more important to make the completion and allow the ball handlers to make yards after the catch. Right now the Bills ranks 8th in the league in yards after the catch with 415 yards in three games. That’s a strong number.
It’s my belief that as long as those yards after the catch figures remain in the top 10 in the league, that the passing game approach won’t change all that much. That’s not to say they won’t take four to six deep shots per game, but on the whole they’ll rely on short to intermediate passes believing their playmakers can gain yards after the reception is made.
2 – Chris,
Do some NFL coaches have a policy of benching players for a play after they are called for a penalty? I’ve noticed this fairly frequently just in watching game telecasts. For example, after Scott Chandler was called for a penalty vs Chicago this past Sunday, the cameras showed him standing on the sidelines. Then he was back in on the next play. Obviously, if a starting QB gets called for a delay of game penalty, he’s not removed, but I’ve noticed both offensive and defensive players coming off the field after a penalty.
CB: Your observations are pretty astute. I also noticed last week that after Brandon Spikes was flagged for a personal foul last week against the Chargers that he was removed from the game too. Sometimes it’s just the personnel grouping that the coaches choose to put on the field for the next play, which may have been the case with Chandler. I will have to go back and look.
Sometimes it is in fact to get the player off the field and cool off. In an emotional game like football sometimes a player’s competitive emotions gets the best of them as seemed to be the case with Spikes last week. So coaches in an effort to bring a player’s emotions back in line take them out of the competitive environment on the field so they can collect themselves before playing another snap.
3 – Hey Chris,
What happened to Stephon Gilmore? He doesn’t even look like the same player we saw in his rookie season. He’s constantly getting beat in pass coverage, and he’s not making plays in run support. He’s becoming a real liability in our defense. I’m curious what the coaches are saying about his play.
CB: I think the coaches are trying to be patient with Gilmore. Coming off of offseason hip surgery and then a groin injury at the start of the season Gilmore is clearly not 100 percent healthy. He’s trying to fight through the nagging groin problem to be available for his team on Sundays. I don’t think there’s any question it has not allowed him to play at his very best.
The encouraging sign I saw this week was Gilmore was on the practice field for extra reps long after practice had concluded. This was a common practice of Gilmore’s, but taxing his body in that fashion was not an option for him while he was rehabilitating or as he worked his way back into the practice setting and lineup.
Seeing that is a major positive because Gilmore is a player whose game gets better when he can maximize his reps during the week. The most important thing to remember is it’s his collective health that’s holding his game back.
4 – Hi Chris,
Thanks for all you do to keep us fans on top of all news concerning the Bills!
My question is concerning the defensive pass rush ideology. This past week against the Chargers it seemed that there were very few blitzes dialed up. I understand that with veteran QBs you have to mix it up, but the defense pretty much rushed four and got no pass rush which lead to the Db’s getting lit up. I’m starting to see major differences between Petitine’s philosophy and Jim Schwartz’s philosophy. Do you feel that less blitzing is what we will see throughout the rest of the season from Schwartz? His philosophy seems to put a great deal of pressure on the secondary….
Thanks for your response.
CB: I think most knew going in that Schwartz’s philosophy was not going to dial up nearly as many blitzes as Pettine did last year. Personally I was okay with that if it meant better third down defense and better run defense in exchange, knowing those were two consistent problem areas for Buffalo’s defense over the years.
To this point Buffalo’s defense is 6th against the run and 8th in third down defense. I’ll take less blitzing if this is the trade-off.
I think you also need to consider this. When facing veteran quarterbacks who get the ball out quick, like Cutler and Rivers, and this week with Fitz, Schwartz generally takes the approach that committing a seventh man to coverage is more valuable than committing a fifth man to the rush. If you’re not going to get to the QB with a blitz anyway, you’re better off rushing your front four and dropping a seventh man into coverage, hoping the coverage helps lead to the QB holding onto the ball long enough for pressure to affect his play.
To this point Schwartz’s third down defense more often than not has proven him correct. So until that changes I’m in favor of his approach.
5 – Hi Chris,
Great job as always keeping Bills fans updated. My question really isn’t about on field football items. Now that the Bills are headed on the road for a couple of weeks what is their travel routine getting ready for an away game?
CB: Typically the way things work in advance of a road game is they have meetings Saturday morning followed by a situational practice at One Bills Drive where they go over specific situations that might surface in the game. It usually runs less than an hour.
After that players go home to pack their personal items for the trip and head to the airport for their departure time on the team plane.
Once they arrive in the home team’s city they’re typically at the team hotel by 3:30 pm. They’re free to have dinner on their own and then there are meetings with coaches for a couple of hours in the evening before bed check at 11 pm.
Then players head to the stadium Sunday morning, with most of them in the locker room by 10 am or so for a 1 pm kickoff.
Tags: EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jim Schwartz, road trip, Scott Chandler, Stephon Gilmore
Posted in Inside the Bills
Week 3 and the Chargers are coming in. Should be a tight game. Let’s get to your questions this week on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - @ChrisBrownBills Does potentially bad weather this weekend favor the Bills?
CB: I would tend to think so. Buffalo’s run game is vastly superior to that of San Diego’s. The Chargers have found it difficult to get their run game on track, though in their defense they’ve faced to pretty strong defenses in Arizona and Seattle. But without starter Ryan Mathews (sprained MCL), who is not expected to play a rainy day would favor Buffalo’s ground game.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Will we see Bryce Brown at all this year ?
CB: That’s difficult to determine at this point. It seems clear that the coaching staff wants a fullback active (Frank Summers) with three tailbacks on game day (Dixon, Jackson, Spiller). If one of the top three backs sustains an injury then it’s likely we see Brown, but if not, based on the first two weeks he’ll be the inactive player from that position group.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills Who is more primed for a ‘letdown’ both after big emotional wins. SD, does have the cross country trip.
CB: You are correct the Chargers do have to come east, which is never easy. They’re leaving a day early (today) to get their body clocks adjust to the time change. Last year San Diego was 3-2 playing in the Eastern time zone including their AFC Wild Card playoff win at Cincinnati.
Against the Bills they’ve dropped three of their last four played at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
I don’t know that either team is more susceptible to a letdown than the other. Both are coming off big wins. I think the Bills strengths match up more favorably than the Chargers strengths, but that advantage is not a big one.
4 – Chris,
What is Marquise Goodwin’s role on this team? He played sparingly in Chicago, and overall has not produced much at all since the Jets game at Home last season. Are the coaches going to use him?
He is a 3rd Round pick that seemingly is not on the radar screen with the offensive coaches.
In limited playing time last year, he had 3 TDs on only 17 receptions.
How does a man with 4.27 wheels not get the call to test deep once or twice a game? Or get a bubble screen once a game?
I would hate to see a similar fate for Goodwin, as our other speedster TJ Graham, who was a 3rd Round pick as well.
CB: Through the first two weeks Goodwin has gotten 21 plays out of a total of 116, which is about 18 percent of the snaps. The fact of the matter is the Bills took steps to upgrade their receiving corps with Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams the primary additions. Both sit at the top of the depth chart with Robert Woods.
That leaves Goodwin in the fourth spot, but through the first two weeks the Bills have largely used 11 (1 back, 1 TE, 3 WR) or 12 (1 back, 2 TEs) personnel. There have been few four-wide sets.
I don’t know this, but it appears as though the Bills have a specific package of plays in the game plan for Goodwin each week, and that package only spans 10-15 plays. Could it increase based on the opponent? Yes. Could it stay the same the whole season? Yes again.
Obviously injuries at the receiver position will also impact how much Goodwin sees the field on offense as the season wears on. Ultimately it’s up to the coaches how much or how little they choose to use him on offense.
5 – Hey Chris,
After watching the Bills lately, it seems like Hackett and Marrone have the offense operating very well. My one question is, why don’t they use Dixon and Jackson earlier, to wear down the defense, and then later in the game use CJ to really explode?
CB: I don’t want to speak for coach Marrone, but Spiller’s home run ability is the difference maker here. Knowing that any carry or reception by Spiller could go the distance almost mandates that he be on the field throughout the course of the game. I also think that Spiller and Jackson offer good differing changes of pace, where Dixon and Jackson might be too similar and allow the opposing defense to get a better read on run plays.
Tags: Bills-Chargers, Boobie Dixon, Bryce Brown, C.J. Spiller, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, Marquise Goodwin
Posted in Inside the Bills
Perhaps the most anticipated home opener in a long time and it’s Miami on top of it. It’s been a heck of a week for Bills fans with all the positive news. Let’s get to the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
My question to you:
Could you see the Bills putting Cordy Glenn at LG because it seems like they are deeper at tackle than they are at guard? I know they have experimented with him there a few times but it just seems like they don’t have an answer at LG at all even with the Williams signing. I would go from left to right: Henderson, Glenn, Wood, Urbik (or Richardson or Williams) and Pears. With an injury to a T you could then slide Glenn back to LT and put Henderson at RT. I think this gives you the best 5 up front.
CB: I think the way things looked in Week 1 the front five that coach Marrone has put together looks pretty good and should only get more and more comfortable together as the weeks wear on. I think the key thing to remember here is to have your two most athletic linemen on the edges now that most NFL clubs have speed rushers on both sides, which the Bills will see this week with Miami’s Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon.
I did an in depth piece on this regarding how important the right tackle has become in the league now knowing NFL defenses are putting speed on both sides.
Buffalo’s two most athletic linemen by far are Cordy Glenn and Seantrel Henderson. So putting them at the two tackle positions is the best way to go as I see it.
2 – Hi Chris,
My question regards the slot position- both how we plan to defend it and attack other defenses with it.
I’ve read recently about the “big nickel” package- subbing out the nickel corner for a third safety to better match up against the monsters that are being put into the slot now-( see Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski).
Do you see Nickell Robey’s stature as a liability against these bigger slot receivers and is there a plan in place to get a better matchup if we need to? Would this involve Corey Graham coming on potentially or having Searcy Williams and Williams all out as safeties at once? As much as I love Robey- he’s incredible- I just forsee a long day for him trying to cover Gronk in the slot.
Conversely- do you think there is a plan in place to attack smaller nickel corners with our offense? I notice that neither Hogan nor Woods are exactly giants- I wonder if we will see Mike Williams or one of our bigger guys slide inside to slot to take advantage of some potential mismatches.
Thanks for everything you do for the Bills and us fans!
CB: I think what you saw last week was in Buffalo’s nickel at times they’ll make use of Duke Williams as a hybrid linebacker. Similar to the way Bryan Scott and Da’Norris Searcy have been used in years past, Williams has the physical game to help in the run game, if there’s a draw play or something on third down, but also possesses the cover skills and physicality to handle coverage assignments.
Aaron Williams has the size and physical style to match up with a bigger player in the slot too as does Nigel Bradham, who is back this week. So I think Robey can still serve in his role and should a size mismatch present itself Buffalo has enough options to deploy against a larger slot receiver/tight end.
3 – Hi Chris!!
First of all, thank you for your great work keeping us Bills fans always well informed. Quick question. Are the Bills planning to wear their white alternate jersey this season? If so, which game?
Thanks Chris & take care!
CB: The only other jersey being worn is the white throwback jersey this Sunday for the home opener along with the standing red Buffalo helmets.
4 – Chris,
Love the coverage year round. Helps for a non-local Bills fan. Can you explain the reasoning behind Pears playing RG? He only practiced a few times there and has zero game experience at guard. In the preseason game, he look lost there. Why don’t they keep him at tackle. You had Robert Woods as your camp MVP, so why has he slid down the pecking order at WR? I see him more as outside threat instead of slot. I would like to see him on the field every play.
CB: Pears did have some limited experience at guard from his days with the Raiders, though it was only a few games about five years ago. Still I think aside from his first snaps there against Tampa’s Gerald McCoy in the preseason he’s fared well. Pears is also great snap by snap counsel for rookie Seantrel Henderson. Henderson has told me having Pears there is invaluable for him.
Head coach Doug Marrone knows offensive line play, so if he believes this is his best five then I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and see how it plays out.
As for Robert Woods, he was my camp MVP because he brought it every day and outperformed the other receivers on a more consistent basis. Yes, Sammy Watkins turned in the highlight reel plays, but Woods is a guy who is going to get you first downs more consistently. In the NFL it’s about keeping the offense on the field with first downs. That’s where Woods helps you most.
And don’t worry Woods will be moved around a lot this season because he’s the most versatile receiver on the roster in my opinion.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills
First day of practice every week is Wednesday. So what does the team/players do Monday Tuesday? Chill or group watch film or ??
CB: Usually on Mondays injured players come in early for treatments. At 9 in the morning there’s a designated weight lifting group. At 10 am there’s a stretch and run conditioning period. Then there’s a second weight lifting group later in the morning. That’s followed by a team meeting at noon. Then they have a special teams meeting followed by offense, defense meetings. That’s where they review game film from Sunday and make corrections.
On Tuesday most players get a jump on the upcoming opponent by studying film while the coaches spend the day putting together the game plan for Sunday. Generally though Tuesday is the players’ day off.
Tags: Cordy Glenn, Duke Williams, Erik Pears, Fan Friday, nickel package, Nickell Robey, Robert Woods, Seantrel Henderson, throwback jerseys
Posted in Inside the Bills
Well Bills fans the regular season is here. Let’s hope Buffalo can get off to a good start in Chicago, even though the Bears do very well when they open the season at home (18-3) since 1984. On to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net or on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - Chris,
How is Chris Williams doing at left guard? Is he getting any competition from any of the other guys? Having signed him as a free agent, is it still possible that the Bills will look to one of their other offensive linemen to take the spot?
CB: This is a hard one to answer because he’s been in and out of the lineup so much this preseason. He missed the last three preseason games with a back injury so it’s been difficult to judge any kind of progress in terms of chemistry with his new line mates in games. His teammates have taken well to him and head coach Doug Marrone said he is the unequivocal starter at left guard, even though rookie Cyril Richardson spelled him in the lineup when he was out. Richardson looks like the only realistic threat to Williams’ position in the starting lineup and Williams play would really have to falter for that to happen the way it looks right now.
2 – Hi Chris,
My question is why does everybody from analysts to announcers call EJ a mobile, read option type QB? From what I can tell running is not the strongest part of his game at all. Sure he’s had a few good runs when the defense is in man coverage and it’s wide open but just about every QB in the league can do that. Maybe he’s not being decisive enough and isn’t running full speed, but his acceleration doesn’t seem to be all that which is what I would think is a QB’s best friend when scrambling. When he’s throwing the ball well I have no problem with him being our QB, but it seems to me he’s getting this stereotype which doesn’t fit him.
CB: I’m going to assume that you’re referring mainly to TV broadcasters. Unfortunately I don’t hear the television broadcast because I’m working the game too in the press box. If there are a lot of references to EJ being a mobile QB I haven’t heard it. Yes, he has the mobility to make yards with his legs when things break down or to escape a collapsing pocket, but he has even said himself he wants to be a passing QB that can run when absolutely necessary.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills Has Cyrus gotten any looks at guard in practice, or solely at tackle?
CB: Cyrus Kouandjio has been working strictly at offensive tackle. I have not seen any reps for him at the guard position. First of all Kouandjio is a very long-limbed player and knowing a guard needs to really win on leverage inside, it may prove more difficult for him than other taller tackles that a coach might want to shift in to guard. Second, it’s clear that the coaches want to get him as many reps as possible at tackle. He just turned 21-years old, he’s still growing into his frame and simply needs time on the job. The more reps he gets every day in practice at tackle the shorter the learning curve gets for him to be ready to contribute.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills will we see vanilla Defense scheme allowing Cutler 6 seconds to pick secondary apart?
CB: I think here are two things you need to keep in mind regarding Sunday’s opponent and Buffalo’s defense. First, Cutler never needs six seconds to get the ball out. The Bears offense is largely based on three step drops. It’s very difficult to sack Cutler, which is why Chicago gave up the third-fewest sacks in the league last season (30).
All that being said the Bills defense will not be vanilla. I’m assuming you’re referring to how Jim Schwartz often relied on his front four to rush the quarterback in Detroit and routinely dropped seven into coverage. That won’t happen a whole lot this season. The reason why is for the first time in a long time Schwartz has quality cover corners in Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, which gives him the liberty of sending extra rushers on passing downs.
I’m not certain we’ll see a lot of extra blitzers this week because of how quickly Cutler gets it out, but through the course of the season we’ll see a variety of looks from coach Schwartz.
5 – @ChrisBrownBills Great work Chris! Does #1 on depth chart chart for kickoff returns (Spiller) mean more 1st down touches for Freddy?
CB: I would not assume that Fred Jackson will see more first down work following a kickoff return by C.J. Spiller. Spiller addressed that very question this week, so I’ll let him explain why that might only be in the case in a few situations this season.
“If Fred sees me break a 50 or 60 yarder (on a kickoff) he’ll start the offense off,” said Spiller. “If not I’ll just stay out there and start the series, but the good thing is he’s always watching making sure that I’m good. That’s what it takes, another set of eyes because you want to make sure you’re full speed and you can give your team the best of your ability. I do a great job of judging when I need to start on the offensive series and when I need to come out. I have no worries at all about that.”
Tags: Bills-Bears, C.J. Spiller, Chris Williams, Cyrus Kouandjio, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills do you have an early projection for which wideouts will make the team?
CB: I honestly believe the wide receiver position is pretty cut and dry in terms of personnel. Most of them have solidified their roles either on offense or their contributions on special teams. I think the bigger question is how many do they keep?
In Doug Marrone’s first season as head coach the Bills kept six receivers. I think this time around there is a realistic chance they keep seven. Now that obviously means they would have to trim from another position, presumably on offense. Do they only keep two quarterbacks? Do they keep one less tight end?
The Bills will also have an extra roster spot to play with knowing that Nigel Bradham will presumably go on the reserve suspended list and not count toward the 53-man roster.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Will Coach Hackett be on sideline or in booth this season?
CB: The Bills offensive coordinator made a move down to the sidelines last season and intends to stay there. He’s been on the sideline all preseason so I’ve got no reason to think that will change this coming week.
3 – Chris:
Thanks for your coverage on the team!
I have a question on the Bills Offensive philosophy in short yardage and Red Zone. It appears (at least in the preseason) that the Bills are going the stay with the tight formations on short yardage and goal line situations (basically power on power) why don’t they use the spread more? Not to bring up previous situations but the Bills seemed more consistent and successful (under Chan Gailey) spreading the defense which opened more running lanes and the middle of the field. Do you see the Bills incorporating some of that offensive thinking?
CB: I think what you saw in the preseason is only some of what you should expect in the regular season. The Bills have spent the better part of the last two offseasons trying to increase their size and girth on the offensive line. That was done with winning those short yardage battles by plowing straight ahead in mind. In all likelihood that will be the approach a good amount of the time this season, but I wouldn’t rule out some spread looks as well.
4 – Chris,
So far through the preseason games, the Bills run defense looks a lot better than it has in years. I feel a big reason for that has been the addition of Brandon Spikes at MLB (and of course, Jim Schwartz as DC). I know Spikes signed a one-year deal with the Bills in the offseason, do you see the Bills offering him a long-term contract extension sometime during the season? I would love to see Spikes re-signed as I feel he’s been a great mentor to the younger players on the team, as well as being a great MLB.
Thanks for the great coverage on the Bills!
CB: There’s no question that Spikes is a guy that younger players follow. They respect his instincts for the game. To further illustrate that I’ll let LB Ty Powell explain it himself.
“Me and Preston Brown are usually side by side, following Spikes and stuff,” said Powell. “Spikes has a lot of knowledge of the game, he has great instincts, so we just follow him around.”
The young linebackers on the roster are just trying to soak up whatever they can about playing linebacker in the NFL from Spikes.
As for an extension I would expect that to be a wait and see situation, but the run defense is probably the most encouraging thing about this team to come out of the preseason.
5 – Hello Chris,
Love the work you do for the Bills and Fan Friday. I am wondering if the I-formation seen in preseason, is what we will be mainly seeing by the Bills. With all the talent they have a wideout, Williams, Woods, Goodwin, seems crazy they wouldn’t stick to more of a spread offense? Plus this would create space for Spiller. Maybe they are just not showing much of their packages at this point but still. Thanks for the Bills Coverage.
CB: My suspicion is that while that is a part of their offensive playbook we won’t see nearly as much of it in the preseason. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has always been about putting his five best playmakers on the field for the offense. That should mean more wideouts on the field more often come the regular season.
Tags: Brandon Spikes, Doug Marrone, Fan Friday, I-formation, Nathaniel Hackett, red zone, run defense
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – When are the Bills going to address Spiller’s contract? Is he going to be another Bills 1st rounder they don’t sign and let them leave?
Life-long Bills fan in Charlotte, NC
CB: The current issue concerning Spiller and opening discussions on a new contract is he is currently without representation. The Bills’ back does not have an agent right now and GM Doug Whaley stated recently that the club will wait until Spiller has secured proper representation before approaching him to negotiate a possible extension.
2 – Hey Chris,
Of course us Bills fans are constantly hearing a lot about EJ Manuel in training camp and his “ups and downs”. The one term I hear used a lot is that he is patting the ball before he throws it. I read that this can give the defender an extra step because when they see that they know he’s about to throw and it’s likely going to be in their lane. But I also read that it doesn’t always have a negative effect and in fact Drew Bledsoe was known to have a very quick release even though he pat the ball. I’ve also read that this is so the QB can make sure that the ball is secured in their hand before they throw it. Do you think this is something that EJ has to work on and do you think it is affecting his game in a negative way?
Also, a lot has been said about him not being able to read the field and get through his progressions. Depending on who you listen to some say that’s something you have or you don’t. But I think that he just needs more time and game time experience and maybe the experience will allow him to get used to the speed of the NFL. I am interested in your thoughts.
Thanks always, Jillian
CB: There’s no denying that there have been times that EJ has patted the ball or hesitated to pull the trigger. I think all young quarterbacks go through that as part of their learning curve. I will say that Manuel is doing less of it now than he was at the start of training camp.
The patting of the ball is not the concern as much as does EJ trust what he’s seeing unfold around him? Over the past week or so the answer has been unequivocally yes. Now that doesn’t mean that EJ is going to start lighting it up every week on the field, but there is noticeable progress.
We’ll just have to wait and see how more time on the field in games brings his personal game along.
3 – Hello Chris,
Great coverage. I enjoy your analytical approach to our Buffalo Bills. Speaking of just that, I noticed that the Bills were #1 on fumbles last season at 32 according to NFL.com. The data that I saw had:
Spiller/Jackson at 10
E.J./Lewis/Tuel at 8
Goodwin/Graham/Johnson/Chandler at 6
I couldn’t account for the remainder so I am not terribly confident about the 32 fumbles. I don’t hear much conversation around that stat by reporters (if it’s correct). I would think that with the loss of Byrd and his take away ability that the coaches and media would make that a point of extreme emphasis in achieving a better giveaway/takeaway ratio, which is one of the keys in winning in the NFL.
Color me confused,
Alan from Northeastern NY
CB: To provide a clear picture of the fumble numbers from last season here are all the statistics. First, yes the Bills did have 32 fumbles in 2013 and that did lead the league. However, only 12 of those fumbles resulted in turnovers. That ranked sixth-most in the league.
Part of the reason there were so many fumbles was because the Bills had the most total rushes in the NFL (546). The more plays you have, in general the more fumbles you’re going to have.
Now all that being said the Bills still ranked first in the percentage of fumbles per touch (1.97%). There were only five other teams in the league with a percentage over 1.7 percent (Was., Oak., Sea., Ten., NYG).
So you’re right it is a legitimate concern. Really what it comes down to is ball security, having the proper points of pressure on the ball with your forearm, ribs and fingers and carrying it high and tight. When I get a chance I’ll see if coach Wheatley has any extra insight on it based on last season’s numbers.
4 – Chris,
As usual, thank you for the outstanding coverage from you and your staff, especially for those of us outside of NY State.
My question: The first 2 preseason games, I’ve noticed the offense has predominantly used the standard “huddle” before running plays. Gone is the no huddle or hurry up Offense that we’ve heard was going to be the norm. The Bills ran 64 total plays against the Giants 61 and 63 against Carolinas 69. A difference of -3 for both games. Will the Bills be scrapping the hurry up offense this year? Thank you.
Pismo Beach, CA
CB: I have faith that the Bills will run their no huddle on offense this season. I don’t think you should expect it to be deployed on ever series of every game. Yes, they do want to go fast and I think there’s a good chance we see some of it on Saturday night against Tampa Bay, but Doug Marrone has said it will be slowed down or sped up based on game situations and on game plans for the particular opponent they’re facing that week.
Quite frankly that makes the most sense. For example, if you’re facing a club with a top five scoring offense, going fast for the whole game might not be the way to go knowing you run the risk of giving their top flight offense more possessions and the potential to score more points too.
5 – Hey Chris,
After the performance by Ron Brooks in the Carolina game, I’m wondering if the Bills are thinking of possibly moving Leodis. Brooks seems to have turned the corner, but he’d be corner #6 on the roster. Do you see him making the roster or getting unfortunately cut?
Tommy in the Pittsford branch of #Billsmafia!
CB: Brooks has had his best camp to date in his career with Buffalo. He was very consistent and got a lot of quality reps with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin slow to return to the team portions of practice in camp coming off of hip surgeries.
Brooks is essentially running as the fourth cornerback behind Gilmore, McKelvin and Graham if you consider Nickell Robey strictly a slot corner. So right now he’s in the top five at cornerback with rookie Ross Cockrell the likely number 6. So I think Brooks is in great shape to make the roster at this point.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Leodis McKelvin, No huddle offense, Ron Brooks
Posted in Inside the Bills
Ok fans an important week for the Bills is in the books. The passing game really took a step forward this week in Latrobe. Let’s hope it carries into the game Saturday night against the Steelers. In the meantime let’s get to your latest round of questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills
1 – Hi Chris,
Long time reader of your articles – including your Fan Friday.
I’ve noticed EJ and Woods are playing with visors in camp. Is this new and can we expect them to wear them in the regular season? To me, it makes a lot of sense for EJ – as it shadows the ability for the defence to see where he’s going to throw too or what he’s looking at. Is that the intention here? What scope do you have on this? Overall, I think they look fierce. But I highly doubt that’s the reasoning behind wearing them…
CB: Yes, they and a handful of other players wear visors. Some are shaded and some are clear. The shaded ones are designed to act like sunglasses in most cases. For receivers that’s important when they’re looking up for a ball, not unlike an outfielder in baseball. It helps keep them from losing a ball in the sun. Whether EJ’s primary purpose is the same I don’t know, but I’ll ask him. The other reason for the visors is to keep from getting poked in the eye, which is something that could happen to Manuel if a pass rusher is reaching out to block a pass, misses and connects with the helmet.
2 – Hey Chris,
I am very excited for the 2014 season, looking at the roster it seems a lot of the decisions made on the draft and free agency the last three years we’re really good ones. The depth is so good this year I haven’t heard too much about Ron Brooks. I really like watching Ron Brooks I know he has had some injuries but where do you think he stands with the team? Do you think we will see him playing corner this season or just as a special teams player? Always appreciate your time.
CB: Brooks has had a pretty solid camp. He’s been afforded the opportunity of getting a ton of reps due to the limited participation of starting corners Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore who are both coming off offseason surgeries. He’s been running opposite Corey Graham in training camp at cornerback with the first team defense.
Brooks has performed well, but at times still has trouble with the bigger wideouts due mainly to his stature. He’s got great catch up speed and is sudden in his breaks on the ball. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes him so I anticipate him being one of the top five corners on the roster. How many they keep is the bigger question.
3 – Chris,
I couldn’t help notice the pass rush has been extremely productive in the spring and training camp. My question is do you feel that’s due to the talent of the DE’s or is it a product of inconsistency on the offensive line with Glenn being out and other shuffling that’s been going on. Appreciate the training camp coverage and can’t wait for the season. Also one more thing, is there a schedule that lists which practices are full contact?
CB: It’s a bit of both. Jerry Hughes might be the most impressive of the front four when it comes to pass rush consistency. Of course that’s been helped by the fact that rookie Seantrel Henderson has been manning the starting left tackle role in Cordy Glenn’s absence. But make no mistake that group is pretty special.
Unfortunately no we don’t have a schedule for the public that lists full pads, shells or shorts and helmets. Typically once the preseason games start however, full pads practices are earlier in the week.
4 – Hey Chris,
Jerry Hughes had a tremendous season last year rushing the passer and it’s clear that Doug Whaley pioneered an amazing trade to get him when the Indianapolis Colts were looking to go in a different direction. And if Training Camp is any indication, it sounds like we can expect a similar season this year. Through listening to a lot of people on the radio and around town locally, it seems that Jerry Hughes will not be able to be re-signed if he has another great year– almost as if it’s a foregone conclusion that they cannot keep a stout DE since he’ll be too pricey.
In my opinion, if you run a base 4-3, having a Mario Williams AND Jerry Hughes-caliber player would be extremely important (SEE Freeney and Mathis, Strahan and Umenyiora). I think they should find a way to pay him if he’s anything like last year’s player. An annoying thing of being a Bills fan is seeing the Bills actually draft great talent, develop it, and watch it walk away. And in this case, the Bills didn’t even have to draft him to get it. What are your thoughts?
Also, have you tried a garbage plate since being in Rochester? It probably goes outside the exercise regimen, but you gotta treat yourself to the finer local delicacies.
-Nate in Rochester
PS- Go Bills!
CB: In a perfect world yes they would be able to keep Jerry Hughes long term, but it’s a question of balance. Obviously the Bills would love to keep Hughes, but you have to look at the money invested on the rest of the defensive line.
The three highest cap figures on the entire team are the other three defensive linemen that Hughes lines up with. Mario Williams ($18.8M), Marcell Dareus ($6.49M) and Kyle Williams ($6.25M).
In 2015 those cap numbers go to $19M (Mario), $8.06M (Dareus) and $5.85M (Kyle). That’s a total of $32M for three members of the defensive line. If Hughes has another 10-sack season or more he’s likely to be asking for top 15 perhaps top 10 defensive end money.
Top 15 would put him somewhere between $6.5-$8M per season while top 10 would have him north of $8.5M per season.
I’m not saying the Bills won’t try to do it. It’s not my decision as to how the Bills choose to spend their money. I just know that investing that much of your cap dollars in one facet of your team is not a common practice.
All that being said there have been reports citing sources close to the process of setting the salary cap for the NFL that the cap, which went up a surprising $10M this past year to $133M could move as high as $145M in 2015. Would that extra cap space be enough to make the fourth major investment in the team’s defensive line? I’m not sure it is.
With respect to your garbage plate suggestion, I’m familiar with it having gone to college at SUNY Geneseo. In fact I won a bet by eating two in one sitting. Almost didn’t hold them down, but got through it.
5 – Do you see a scenario where Spiller is traded this year? I’ve heard rumors, and with the Jackson extension, Brown trade, Dixon signing, and no first round pick it seems like an possible and unfortunate rumor…am I crazy for thinking this or can they keep all four running backs?
Sean from So Cal
P.S. See you in Chicago week 1!
CB: I’m sure you saw GM Doug Whaley dispel those rumors this week. First, Whaley said that he has not been contacted by any team expressing interest in C.J. Spiller. He later followed that up with Channel 7’s Jeff Russo in an interview later in the week where he said he has not reached out to any other team himself about C.J. Spiller.
As Whaley said himself he understands with all the talent in the Bills backfield why people are trying to connect the dots. I just think with the team in ‘win now’ mode it would be highly unlikely that they would trade one of their best playmaking assets on offense in Spiller.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jerry Hughes, Robert Woods, Ron Brooks
Posted in Inside the Bills
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
Tags: Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, C.J. Spiller, Chris Hairston, Doug Legursky, EJ Manuel, Eric Wood, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, Jeff Tuel, Jim Schwartz, Mike Williams, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
Well Bills fans it’s here. The 2014 Bills training camp presented by Connors and Ferris gets underway with player report day today. I will do my best to keep up to date on Fan Fridays during camp knowing that’s when questions will be flying in from you folks. It just gets a bit nutty sometimes at camp so bear with me. Send your questions as always to me on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hey Chris.
I Love all the work that you do. As far as the current Bills go I had a question about the plays EJ was requesting to be removed from the offence. I remember that he wanted ‘clean reads’. I don’t know much about professional play structure, but I wanted to ask if, by eliminating those, does that make it easier for the defense to adjust to the play, or, more generally, how does doing that affect the defense. Are they clean reads versus the Tampa 2, but maybe not 3-deep, etc.?
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Sal Prezioso
CB: I appreciate the compliment. I’ll let EJ explain what he was getting at with respect to the give and take with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on choosing plays to keep or remove from the game plan week to week.
“I think Coach Hackett is going to put everything on my plate that we need to win. I don’t think he’s going to be limited at all as far as his play calling,” said Manuel. “It’s just having the rapport with your coach. Sometimes there may be plays I don’t like and I’ll tell him. I know there were a few plays we came into at minicamp I just wanted to be clean, I wanted to have sharp reads. I told him hey I don’t like that play and we took it out. I think that’s having that good rapport between Coach Hackett and I.”
Having “clean reads” could mean a number of different things so we’d only be speculating as to what EJ meant exactly.
In reality taking plays out doesn’t make it easier for the defense. They still will likely not know what’s coming next. And as Manuel said very shortly after making this comment, you could have just 20 plays in a game plan and if you execute them effectively it doesn’t matter what the defense does. That was the M.O. of the K-gun offense. Fast, simple, effective.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the current Bills try to adopt a bit of that philosophy this season. Not the same offense, but the same approach.
2 – Hi Chris,
My question is about the general experiences that a fan from Charleston, South Carolina needs to experience (born and raised in Damascus, VA- a very small town but now, I live and have worked in SC for 7 yrs). I have been a fan since I was a kid and one of my dreams is now coming true. My wonderful wife bought me tickets for the Minnesota game and being so far away from Western New York of course this will be my first game.
I was wondering if there are places to possibly get autographs from the team? I do have many questions but I will keep it brief; could you tell me the name of the wing place that they take the first round draft pics at? Any information would be greatly appreciated you do a great job at keeping us non-local fans informed.
CB: Autographs are easiest to obtain at training camp with the next best option being by good old fashioned mail. If you’ve got an item you want signed that can be mailed I’d recommend it. Just send it to the player’s attention at One Bills Drive, Orchard Park, NY 14127 with a self-addressed envelope so he can send whatever he signs back to you.
As for experiences here on game weekend Duff’s is the place to go for wings, but you’ll be able to get them right at the stadium this season at most of the concession stands. They’re the official wing of the Buffalo Bills.
The brand new Bills store will be up and running so that will be a stop you have to make. We also have the Bills Experience inside the team’s Fieldhouse on game day that is open to fans from 9:30 to 12:30 for 1 pm home games. A lot of interactive stuff is there for fans to do along with a host of vendors and you can watch the pre-game radio show on our flagship station live for the whole three hours. I’ll be there for the final hour myself so be sure to come say hello. Safe travels and we’ll see you up here on Oct. 19th!
3 – Hi Chris,
Looking forward to training camp and we always have a group which goes to a night practice. Is there any information available on where and when we can get tickets? This is the toughest part of the process as sometimes they are only in Rochester locations. Trying to make plans, so this would be a great help. Thanks so much.
CB: Here is the link to all the information you’ll need on night practice tickets.
4 – Chris,
Thanks for all of the great coverage of the Bills throughout the year. I was disappointed when I heard the news regarding Kiko; he was all over the field last year and the heart of the defense. However, I feel that Bradham and/or Rivers are capable of quality play at linebacker. Returning from a torn ACL is never easy, but do you think it is easier for defensive player to return to their pre-injury form after recovery compared to offensive players? I just hope Kiko will be able to go sideline to sideline in the 2015 season like he did during the 2013 campaign.
R.J. Westmoreland, NY
CB: I don’t know if it’s any easier for a defensive player to return to pre-injury form than an offensive player. The reason a blanket statement like that can’t be used is because every ACL recovery case is different. Every person heals and recovers differently from the next. That’s largely why physicians put a 7-9 month recovery window on ACL reconstruction patients. Some heal faster and some heal slower, so a two month window on the recovery is given. Let’s hope Kiko is a quick and effective healer.
5 – Dear Chris
First and foremost you’re the man. Your work ethic on providing up to date info on our squad is second to none.
My first question is why is Aaron Williams being moved to FS? I would’ve loved to see him stay at SS with Corey Graham taking FS. I thought that’s why Graham was signed. Poor Williams has had 4 new DC. And 3 position changes now.
Second has there been talk about slowing down the offense towards the end of games if we’re leading??
Last years week 1 NE game is still stuck in my head. WE HAD IT!! But in all honesty our line should be a lot better this year so I might eat my words. Thanks again
CB: Williams is being moved to free safety to replace Jairus Byrd. Coming from a coverage background at corner, he has the athleticism and experience to cover the deep half and roll over the top of his corners in double coverage situations. The way Jim Schwartz uses safeties makes the position designations of strong and free somewhat moot. They’re largely interchangeable in his scheme.
Corey Graham will probably get a look at safety. How lengthy that look will be and how seriously he’s considered for a role at safety be it as a starter or reserve remains to be seen. Da’Norris Searcy enters training camp as the top guy at strong safety at this point. He’ll get healthy competition from Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks.
As for slowing down the offense. If the Bills have the lead late I do expect them to go into a four-minute mode more often especially with a pound out yards rusher like Anthony Dixon now on the roster. Whether they’ll slow down the tempo is likely going to be decided on a case by case basis.
Tags: Aaron Williams, Bills 2014 training camp, Corey Graham, Da'Norris Searcy, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Kiko Alonso, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
Alright Bills fans one week and counting until players report. Nine days until the first practice. Get ready. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hey Chris,
I was wondering, with Sammy having youth football camps and Adidas commercials and endorsements and having all the pressure of becoming better than Stevie Johnson, do you think he’s living up to that???
Also, I was wondering how EJ really looks. Some people on Rant sports and Buffalo down say he looks great in mini camp and training camp, but then someone wrote how EJ looked bad and made bad choices. How do you feel about what EJ has shown you???
CB: Sammy Watkins is not going to be concerned with being better than anyone. He’s focused on being the best receiver he can be and with his well documented work ethic I think he’ll make steady progress with his game as the season moves along.
As for EJ I think he knows the offense like the back of his hand. Pre-snap he’s very good at diagnosing the alignment of the defense and making a change at the line if necessary. Where he’s had some fits and starts is after the snap. If his first read isn’t there on occasion he’ll hesitate and the timing of the play is disrupted. That’s the hurdle he still needs to clear so more often than not he’s not only making the right reads, but still delivering the ball on time as well.
2 – Chris,
I saw a recent write up that said Sammy Watkins was struggling mentally in OTA’s. This is starkly different that what we’ve been hearing from BuffaloBills.com. What’s going on?
CB: From what I saw the number of plays made by Watkins in the practice setting decreased as the volume of plays being installed increased. This is a normal occurrence for a rookie at a skill position like receiver. He admitted himself even during the first week of OTAs that he’s still thinking about what to do as he’s running a route instead of just playing.
It’s the typical learning curve that a rookie receiver must travel. Again knowing how badly Watkins wants to make an impact at the NFL level I trust in time the thinking will dissipate allowing his natural playing ability to take over.
3 – Chris-
First off, the coverage your group does on buffalobills.com is exceptional and should serve as a model website to the rest of the league in terms of operations, promotions, etc.
Now, my question involves more of an input in regards to your observations of how the team has been built over the past several offseasons. I’ll start by pointing out that the current Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks, held one of the most dominant offenses in league history to eight points by simply dominating on the line of scrimmage and playing exceptionally well in the secondary. In comparison to the Bills, it looks as if we are beginning to move towards the Seahawks mold on how to be a champion. Seattle prided itself on its Defensive Line and Secondary, much like us with three Pro Bowlers and a sack artist in Jerry Hughes as well as an underrated secondary with Gilmore, McKelvin, Williams and Searcy. Secondly, we brought in a coordinator that prides himself on mixing up coverages so as to allow his dominant line to impose its will on opposing offenses. Given all of this on defense, Seattle also prides itself on a dominant run game with Russell Wilson playing the “game manager” role at QB. This reliance on the offensive line and running game in general, proved to be their “bread and butter” throughout the past several seasons, ultimately ending in a Super Bowl Championship. According to these observations, I firmly believe that we are on the path to adapting how the Seahawks play football simply by our focus on the development of the running game, the emphasis on the defensive line and the talent in the secondary.
Although we haven’t proven to be at the level of the “Legion of Boom” or have the same depth on defense as Seattle has, is it fair to assume that in this copycat league, the Bills are doing their best, both schematically and personnel-wise, to adopt the methods of the Super Bowl Champions?
I look forward to your insight.
CB: First and foremost thanks for your compliments. We work hard here at the website to keep you all informed on the latest happenings with the team.
As for the way this team is being built I think your observations are rather astute. Yes, I think Doug Whaley has made a concerted effort to build the defense in similar fashion to that of the Seahawks. The only area where perhaps the Bills are different is they do not have as much speed off the edge as Seattle does. The Seahawks have about three or four speed rushers who don’t go much more than 245 pounds. They’re deployed in the team’s ‘NASCAR’ package, which is called that because all their pass rushers are fast guys in that package. They kick their run down defensive ends inside and bring out their ‘race car’ pass rushers to line up on the edge.
Outside of that I think the Bills and a good number of other teams are trying to mimic the model. Seeing Buffalo add depth at running back for a ball control ground game is another example.
4 – Hi Chris, thanks for keeping us with something to read during the month between minicamp and training camp. I was glad to read Jeff Tuel is progressing this year. I actually thought they should’ve given him the backup job last year while EJ was out. I read so many comments about him where people say he obviously wasn’t ready because of his two interceptions in the KC game last year. He was playing a team that was undefeated mostly because of their defense and if all it takes is two interceptions to say a QB isn’t good enough EJ wouldn’t be around either. The thing I really liked about him is he was able to get the WRs involved hitting them on intermediate routes throughout the whole game which is what EJ was lacking outside of the two minute drills. My question is about Tuel’s arm strength. Would you say he can throw the ball farther and harder than Fitz or are they pretty close? If he does have a stronger arm I hope he gets a real shot if EJ doesn’t improve this year. I could really care less that he wasn’t drafted. Nobody knew who Tom Brady was until Drew Bledsoe went down either. From what I’ve seen Tuel makes fast decisions and has the courage to throw the passes that need to be thrown. Watching him last year was a lot like watching Fitz come in after Trent Edwards got shell shocked and wouldn’t throw the ball to a WR because truthfully EJ and Thad Lewis looked the same way. Obviously EJ’s arm strength and ability in the clutch are going to buy him some more time to show he can run the offense, but if he doesn’t come around I think Tuel can surprise some people.
CB: Tuel has better arm strength than Ryan Fitzpatrick. He can fit the ball into tight windows pretty effectively, or at least he’s demonstrated that this past spring. His decision making has been encouraging and I believe he’ll be pushing Thad Lewis for the number two role in training camp. Backup quarterback will have a bona fide competition this summer.
5 – Hey Chris,
I appreciate all the coverage you guys do, but I’m curious why there hasn’t been any highlight reels lately( For example mini camp?)
And another question maybe for FanFriday.
How will the Bills use all four of their RB’s?
CB: The highlights were missing from Bills Roundup in minicamp per coach Marrone’s instructions. If coach is concerned about other teams seeing anything they want kept under wraps we have to respect it. We know the fan loses in the process, but competitive advantage has to come first.
That being said full highlights will return to Bills Roundup presented by ECMC at training camp so get ready for action.
The newfound depth at running back and how everyone is utilized will be interesting. On Monday in our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we will be addressing that very question. I encourage you to check it out for some answers. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had some interesting comments on what will be a good dilemma.
Tags: Bills Roundup, Bills training camp, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jeff Tuel, Nathaniel Hackett, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Chris,
Given the new additions on offense do you see the Bills being run heavy or pass heavy? With Dixon and Brown there won’t be enough carries to go around. Getting 4 RB’s the ball seems like a tough task. Given the league is pass heavy and Watkins is in the fold how is the ball going to go around. Its a pass heavy league and EJ will need to throw 300 yards often. How do you see this shaking out?
CB: It’s my contention that the Bills want to be a run heavy team, but not to the point where they’re grossly imbalanced. Last year is a perfect example. With a rookie quarterback in 2013 the Bills ran the ball more than any other team in the league, but they still only ran the ball 49 percent of the time (546 times on 1,116 plays).
Every team in the league strives for balance as much as possible, but I believe Doug Marrone wants to be able to run the ball whenever he wants regardless of whether the defense knows it or not.
And as much as you want to call it a pass heavy league here’s a look at the 12 teams that ran the ball the most last season. Eight of them were playoff teams including the last two NFC teams standing last year. Yes, some of them also threw it ton (New England, Denver), but it wouldn’t surprise me if Marrone wanted his offense to be similar to that of San Francisco. The 49ers ran 52.5 percent of the time last year, and knowing the pace at which the Bills want to run their offense if they’re successful they’ll be more plays and thus more opportunities for more backs to carry the football.
Don’t kid yourself there will be a pecking order and some backs will see less of the field than others, but if their offense operates as they anticipate there will be more than enough carries to go around.
2013 Total rush leaders
1 – Buffalo – 546 rushes
2 – Seattle – 509
3 – San Francisco – 505
4 – Philadelphia – 500
5 – NY Jets – 493
6 – San Diego – 486
7 – Carolina – 483
8 – Cincinnati – 481
9 – New England – 470
10 – Tennessee – 462
11 – Denver – 461
12 – Green Bay – 459
2 – Hi Chris,
With all the talk around EJ Manuel and his progression, I have a question. I’ve listened to Coach Marrone and Coach Hackett say how good he is coming along, then I hear Marrone talk about the playoff drought. If EJ Manuel doesn’t pan out by the 3rd or 4th game, is he willing to pull EJ and replace him with either Lewis or Dixon? I am also curious as to why he has not been asked this by the reporters, because as fans we want a winning team as well. I’m curious as to why Marrone hasn’t been asked this and what his response would be. Just bought my season tickets this morning for the first time!! GO BILLS.
CB: First, thanks for supporting the team. We look forward to seeing you out there this fall. The reason coach Marrone hasn’t been asked this question is because coaches don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, especially those that deal with replacing players in the lineup. So if the question was asked it wouldn’t be answered.
Now to speculate on the situation you present is difficult. The organization has said from the day they drafted him that they’re all in on EJ Manuel. That plan is not going to be scrapped if he gets off to a slow start. That being said every plan has a breaking point. What that breaking point is for this coaching staff however, is hard to pin down now.
I think the staff is under more pressure to win in light of the ownership void. They know victories validates them as coaches, but only coach Marrone has to what lengths they’ll go to get wins and he’s not going to cross that bridge until he comes to it.
3 – Hey Chris,
I’m still trying to form a conclusion of whether or not the Sammy Watkins trade was a good one.
Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the people jumping off of my couch yelling “Sammy or Mack!” when the trade first scanned across the screen. But after the dust has settled, and now that we are in OTAs and such, we tend to come back to reality and realize that afterall….Sammy is just one guy. Yes Sammy is a playmaker, but statistics show that most rookie WRs do not produce heavily. Plus you factor into the equation that Manuel was very inconsistent (to say the least) with his accuracy…along with a bunch of other variables working against Sammy. So with all that being said, I guess I have 2 questions for ya.
1) Would YOU have done the trade or would you have stood pat and taken say…Ebron or Beckham for much cheaper of a price in the 1st round?
2) Since you were in the war-room, what was Buddy Nix’s reaction to the trade? In the video and pictures of the warm room, everyone was clapping, cheering and celebrating the pick. Buddy, however, was the ONLY one NOT celebrating. I know it’s just Buddy, but he is still an advisor that has a wealth of knowledge and a history of not making trades on draft day. So I’m just curious if you got the sense that he wasn’t thrilled about the value that was given up.
As always, Thanks for all you do.
And GREAT work on your draft coverage.
Tim in NJ
CB: I think if I believed that Sammy Watkins was the best player in the draft and I had an opportunity to get him I would certainly take a swing at it. Doug Whaley said himself he wasn’t their top receiver, he was their top player in the entire class.
Yes, there’s no doubt there are variables that can impact Watkins’ production. He is dependent on quarterback play and such, but I think A.J. Green is a good indicator as to what Sammy can be in his rookie season. Green was also the fourth pick in the draft and he played with a young quarterback at the time in Andy Dalton. Green had 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns as the number one receiver in the Cincinnati offense. I don’t think those are unrealistic numbers for Watkins.
As for Buddy’s reaction in the room, you have to remember the dynamics at work there. It was the first draft Buddy was attending since stepping down as GM. It was Doug Whaley’s first draft and he just completed a huge deal. I think Nix was being respectful of Whaley’s role now. It was Doug’s room, Doug’s draft and Nix was letting Whaley and the personnel staff enjoy the moment.
And so you know Whaley and Russ Brandon consulted Nix on about a dozen occasions through the course of the draft, most often when they were done having conversations with other clubs on the phone. So Nix is still a highly respected man in that personnel department.
4 – Hi Chris,
Thanks again for all you great coverage. Makes it easy for us not living in Buffalo to get our daily fix of the Bills.
Two questions about the defense: Is Marcell Dareus facing a suspension from either the team or the NFL for his drug charge and driving incident? And are you concerned about Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme looking a lot like Dave Wannstedt’s scheme from two years ago. Both Jim and Dave said they rely on the front 4 to get pressure on the QB and our D from two years ago was not exciting, never blitzed, and seemed to never be aggressive or in control. Mike Pettine’s D was exciting, aggressive, and confusing for offenses. Which Defense do you expect to see more of this year?
CB: Thanks for the kind words. With Dareus the cases are just going to have to play out and based on their results the NFL will decide if disciplinary action is warranted. So they’ll have to reach their conclusions before the league steps in if at all.
As for Schwartz’s defense I’m not concerned about the Wannstedt comparison. Schwartz is a cutting edge coordinator in this league. He’ll blitz a whole lot more than Wannstedt ever did. And if I have to trade in 10 sacks in exchange for the best third down defense in football (Detroit was #1 last year) and a top 10 run defense (Detroit was 6th last year) then I’ll do it.
5 – Chris,
I’m interested in you thoughts on how Mike Caussin has been a Bill since 2010. He has almost no NFL production to his name and has an injury history, but continues to keep getting camp invites year after year. Does he have immense potential? Has he shown something in camp in previous years that keeps him around? I’m just used to seeing guys with his history off the roster after a max of 2-3 years. Thanks for all your work.
Nick in Baltimore
CB: I think what’s most appealing about Caussin’s game is his athleticism. He’s a pass catching tight end that has uncommon agility for a man his size. He’s also trying to develop as a backup long snapper to Garrison Sanborn. Yes, injuries have largely derailed his career. That’s why this is likely a make or break camp for him with tight end as deep as it’s been in a while in Buffalo.
Tags: Buddy Nix, Doug Marrone, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Mike Caussin, Run game, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
We’re in the quiet period of the offseason, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues about the team to discuss. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - Hey Chris,
My question is about the defense and new DC Jim Schwartz. I know Marrone has said that they will keep the terminology the same for the players, but what does that exactly mean? I know Schwartz and Pettine have different philosophies but do you foresee Schwartz maybe trying to become more innovative with his D? In my opinion I think that Rex Ryan and Mike Pettines defense is spreading into the league and can be a new look for NFL defenses. I know the Chiefs acquired Bob Sutton who has a Jets backround and the Saints have Rob Ryan. I really like the way Pettine disguised plays and also the way he looked for players that can be versatile. It just seems like it’s a defense that is spreading into the league and it is very aggressive style, something that needs to match the explosive offenses that are continuing to evolve. So I guess my question is do you think that Schwartz watched film and talked with Marrone about keeping some of the same looks and ideas that Pettine installed last year and maybe just putting his flavor on it? What are your thoughts about it?
CB: I think coaches inherently trust the elements of their schemes that made them successful coordinators or coaches in this league. Jim Schwartz was a coveted head coaching candidates a half dozen years ago because of the way he ran his defense. It’s a scheme that has a long running track of success on third down and against the run, two of the chief problem areas for Buffalo’s defense.
In speaking with Schwartz on a couple of occasions it’s my belief that he’s been in the league long enough to know that you have to adapt to changing trends in the NFL or you’ll be left behind. I do believe some of his defensive scheme has adopted some of the language from Pettine’s scheme for the sake of continuity, but Schwartz believes in his system and he should. The Lions finished sixth against the run and first in third down defense last season.
So while I think there is a healthy respect for the schemes run by Pettine and the Ryans, there are other ways to be successful on the defensive side of the ball. Knowing Schwartz’s scheme is likely to address the two most glaring problems of Buffalo’s defense leaves me feeling encouraged that the team’s new defensive coordinator will have the right answers, they may just be different from what you witnessed here last season.
2 - Hey Chris,
I love your work. Everyday I look forward to the latest Bills news. Thanks for keeping us updated. Living in Dallas, all I get is Dallas Cowboys news.
Here is my question for you, “Can you give any insight on exactly what and how players are graded during the OTA practices?”
CB: Happy to help Shawn and thanks for the compliments. I’m going to turn this one over to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who I believe effectively explained what’s evaluated in the spring practices when there are no pads.
“The only thing we’re really evaluating with players now is their ability to grasp scheme and things like that,” said Schwartz. “The stuff that you’re seeing on the practice field, we’re not judging players on how they finish plays. It’s a non competitive situation. We want to learn, we want to learn their role in the defense. We want to learn how everything fits together, and they are being judged on that and their work ethic. But the on field stuff, it’s all about technique right now. When we get to training camp, we’ll start judging them more on wins and losses. Wins-whether it comes to a coverage or a pass rush or things like that—you have to be careful about judging too much on that stuff out there. It’s non-contact; it’s not really football.”
3 - Chris
Thanks for your coverage of the Bills. Is Buddy Nix still affiliated with the Bills? What is his role and did he have any input in the recent draft?
CB: Yes, Buddy is still affiliated with the Bills. He no longer works in the office, but is a special assistant to the personnel department. I know that GM Doug Whaley called on him a few times in the pre-draft process to scout a few prospects near his region where he lives in Tennessee.
He was also present in the draft room for all three days of the 2014 draft, sitting in the first row. Having been in the draft room for the whole weekend, Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon went to speak to him on about a dozen occasions.
Many of them appeared to deal with the conversations that Whaley and Brandon had with other NFL clubs concerning trade talks, and as you know Whaley made a handful on draft weekend. It’s clear to me that Nix is still a respected veteran voice in Buffalo’s personnel department.
4 – Chris,
Given the new additions on offense do you see the Bills being run heavy or pass heavy? With Dixon and Brown there won’t be enough carries to go around. Getting 4 RB’s the ball seems like a tough task. Given the league is pass heavy and Watkins is in the fold how is the ball going to go around. It’s a pass heavy league and EJ will need to throw 300 yards often. How do you see this shaking out?
CB: Here are the things you need to consider when weighing this question. Will the Bills simply have EJ Manuel carry the offense and throw it all over the field? It’s unlikely. Doug Marrone is a head coach who believes in a run game. Unless he’s got an all-world quarterback that will be his approach. The only difference is Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett will run it at a pace that no one can keep up with.
The pace of the offense last season was compromised by inexperience when injuries struck at quarterback and a new signal caller was starting seemingly every week. All three quarterbacks are a year invested in the system so that is no longer an issue.
So provided they gain the yardage they believe they on the ground consistently, it’ll translate into more first downs, more plays, more yardage and ultimately more points. With more plays there are more carries to go around.
Running as much as Buffalo did last season (they had more total rushes than any team in the NFL in 2013) they’d like to run more this year, as they only ran the ball 48 percent of the time. Keeping the injury factor in mind (See: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson in 2013), Buffalo now has the depth at running back to carry on should one or two of their backs suffer injuries.
The offensive line has also been beefed up with size and strength not only among the starting unit (Chris Williams), but among the reserves (Seantrel Henderson, Cyril Richardson, Chris Hairston, Cyrus Kouandjio). Pass protection is part of it knowing the Bills gave up the fourth-most (48) in the league last year, but it’s about being able to run the ball even when the opponent knows it’s coming.
C.J. and Fred will be the principal players in the run game, but Spiller and Jackson are both versatile talents and will be utilized in the passing game as well. With the depth at running back as well it wouldn’t surprise me if there are multiple backs on the field at the same time.
Hackett always talks about putting the five best skill position players on the field with the five linemen and the QB. One would think that Spiller and Jackson more often than not would be among that group with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon not far behind.
5 - @ChrisBrownBills
What is the competition for RT looking like right now between Pears and Cyrus?#bills
CB: It’s hard to really make a call on it before the pads are on in training camp. I will say that early in the OTAs, the coaches rotated Kouandjio in with the first unit for a bit less than half the snaps. By the close of OTAs, Kouandjio spent most of his time with the second unit outside of a day when he spent a practice at left tackle due to a lack of numbers on hand.
Kouandjio has to adjust to the speed of NFL pass rushers. He found going against the likes of Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes challenging as you might understand. Pears held his own in the spring practice setting.
For me it’s a competition that’s going to have to wait until St. John Fisher when the pads are on and perhaps well into the preseason.
Tags: Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, Buddy Nix, C.J. Spiller, Cyrus Kouandjio, Erik Pears, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, Jim Schwartz
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - @ChrisBrownBills
What do you think about Buffalo going after Jason Babin possibly? They did show interest in 2012 #LetsGoBuffalo
CB: While their depth at defensive end is not ideal I don’t know that they could make that kind of a veteran investment in the position. Buffalo has a lot of money tied up in their defensive line and adding another player who would not come cheap might be a bit unrealistic.
2 – Hey Chris,
Thanks for the great coverage this off-season. I always look forward to Fan Friday. My question is in regards to the #3 QB spot. What have Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon been up to this off-season? Tuel showed a lot of promise last preseason but, clearly wasn’t ready when thrust into the spotlight. I still hold out hope for him. Living in Western Pa. I got to see Dixon play some as a Steeler. The guy has a motor for sure. Do you think Tuel’s spot is safe or does Dixon have a legit chance to overtake him? Maybe try to stash Tuel on the PS?
Thanks again, I look forward to your insight on this.
CB: I’ll have a story up on Buffalobills.com Saturday morning on Jeff Tuel. In my opinion he’s raised his game a peg or two. It’s clear to me he worked on his body in the offseason. He’s leaner and looks quicker on read option play keepers. Where he’s raised his game the most is his decisiveness in the pocket. He senses pressure and knows when to step up and he has shown a willingness to stick the ball into tight windows to make plays. There were times during the OTAs where he had the most impressive looking throws of the day.
I think he’s not only got a lock on the number three job going into camp, I believe he will provide healthy competition to Thad Lewis for the backup job.
3 – Hi Chris,
The recent comparison you made between Moeaki and Gragg today was interesting.
Gragg ran a 4.35 shuttle at pro day. Athletically Gragg seems superior in just about every test if you now include the pro day shuttle in his draft class and with Moeaki. Sub 4.5 40 at 244, 37.5 vertical, 4.35 shuttle…. great results.
However, Moeaki comments are encouraging. From a test comparison, the statement that Moeaki is the most athletic is surprising. Would be interesting to see a square out drill with both of them to see how they do. Shuttle or 3 cone is about closest to that.
CB: I’m not sure there’s a question here, but I can tell you while Gragg is better on the stopwatch when it comes to football Moeaki is the smoother route runner. He transitions better from catch to turning up field. He also adjusts to the ball more effectively when it’s not on target.
That’s not a knock on Gragg, who is an athlete, but Moeaki’s body type, which isn’t as long-limbed as Gragg lends itself to being a more fluid athlete.
4 – Chris,
Thanks for all of the great reporting for “Bills Nation” out here in southern Nevada. Observations from OTA’s have indicated that E.J. is experiencing the same footwork and inaccuracy issues that have plagued him throughout his career. I believe he has had his own personal quarterbacks coach for a number of years. Why would he hire an offseason coach/mentor that has not been able to correct these problems?
CB: Thanks for the kind words. During OTAs EJ and the receivers were still working on getting their footwork lined up. With the precision needed in this passing game under coach Hackett, the quarterback’s footwork has to be in lockstep with that of the receivers. I intend to ask coach Hackett how much margin for error there is with that approach, but watching it on the field there doesn’t appear to be much. Unfortunately that’s how fine you have to cut things to be consistently successful in the NFL Sunday after Sunday.
In spring practices with new receiving targets on the field (Watkins, M. Williams, Moeaki) there’s going to be an adjustment period and I think we witnessed that in the OTAs. In minicamp the precision was improving. Hopefully that continues going into camp.
And to be clear it’s not a technique thing with EJ as much as it is a timing thing concerning the footwork. Yes, occasionally Manuel’s footwork will suffer in a pressure situation as it would for any QB, but on the whole the disconnect comes when the footwork of the QB and receivers are not timed up from the snap as it’s been explained to me.
5 – Hey Chris,
Love your insight and love for the Bills keep up the great work. I’ve a proposal I think the Bills should really consider about trading Fred Jackson or releasing him. They need to go with CJ Spiller and Bryce Brown. With the addition of Bryce Brown and also Anthony Dixon they have two power backs that are younger and faster than Fred Jackson. I’m a big fan of Fred Jackson as a football talent and as a leader, but why get Brown and Dixon and still keep Jackson.
Virginia’s biggest Bills fan.
CB: I’m going to disagree with your proposal. First, Jackson is still a more than capable back in this league. Some might not see him as a bell cow type back anymore, but his value is undeniable. He’s still the best pass blocking back on the roster, he’s an offensive spark for the team and he’s more than a respected leader. He’s the pulse of the locker room.
The additions of Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are to improve their short yardage success and to have a viable back in reserve should C.J. Spiller or Jackson get hurt, as was the case last year when both had to gut out games on one bad wheel last season. With as much running as this team intends to do they’ll need all four of them.
Tags: Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, C.J. Spiller, Chris Gragg, Dennis Dixon, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, Jason Babin, Jeff Tuel, Tony Moeaki
Posted in Inside the Bills
Three weeks of OTAs are over. Only the mandatory minicamp remains next week before the countdown to training camp. As always we’ll have full coverage here on Buffalobills.com. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hey Chris,
I am hearing a lot of fans chatter about the Bills running back situation. It’s come to be pretty crowded at the RB position at this point and since the Bryce Brown trade fans seem to think CJ is on the trading block? I don’t buy it myself. I know that CJ and Fred are FA’s in 2015 and while it makes me very sad I tend to think that will be it for Fred Jackson. As for CJ I don’t really know if they would like to lock him up long term.
I wanted to get your thoughts and see if you have a feel for what they might want to do. My take is they brought in Bryce Brown because they liked him but also as insurance for the season and to see what he’s got. I would also imagine that if they do like him after the year that he would most likely be Fred Jackson’s replacement. To me CJ Spiller is more than just a running back and I do not believe that he has even scratched the surface of what he can be. He’s a threat every time he touches the ball and I’m very optimistic that he is going to shine this season. As long as he stays healthy and the coaches put him in the right situation he should be able to really show what he can be.
Like Sammy said I hope that I see CJ and Sammy play together for a long time to come. And also what do you think of CJ’s contract situation and the RB market? Do you think that could be beneficial for the Bills or could CJ still demand a hefty contract maybe pending his season?
Thanks a lot, Jillian
CB: I think with the pressure on everybody at One Bills Drive to win this year and make the playoffs the thought of C.J. Spiller being on the trading block is absurd. Yes, C.J. is entering the last year of his contract. It’s my understanding though that Spiller wants to stay in Buffalo long term. For him to sign a long term extension now however, would not be in his best interest. He’s coming off an injury-plagued 2013 and the new offense took some getting used to.
Spotrac.com recently did a great job projecting a long term contract extension for Spiller based on what he’s done in his career to this point and presented a lot of good comp numbers from other backs in the league. Spiller presumably would want more than the $4-plus million they project, and to do that C.J. has to approach, or more likely, exceed his numbers of 2012 (1,244 yards rushing, 459 receiving, 8 TDs) to be able to negotiate more.
At this point Spiller is without an agent though he’s looking to hire one in the not too distant future. It’s my belief that both the Bills and Spiller will let the season play out and regardless of his production they secure a long term agreement that’s beneficial to both sides.
I will add that I am encouraged that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will diversify the ways in which he uses Spiller in the scope of the offense.
2 – Hi Chris,
I personally love the trade to go up and get Watkins, and right now after rookie camp, it looks like he is the real deal. This year is also the year that Stephon Gilmore is supposed to make the jump to an elite cornerback. With minicamp coming up and I’m expecting them to match up against each other, what would the coaches rather see? Watkins showing he is the real deal, but also Gilmore might not be the cornerback they hoped. Or would they rather have Gilmore shut him down, but also raise doubt about whether Watkins was worth what they gave up for him?
Thanks for all your coverage and GO BILLS!
CB: In an ideal world for the coaches their head to head play raises the level of both players. That’s the competition that coaches and GM Doug Whaley have talked about all offseason. When the competition level is raised it inherently raises the game of the players involved and that makes the team better.
Gilmore however, is not expected to get a full workload in the team portions of practice next week. Coming off of his surgery he’s expected to be eased back into the practice setting and got a handful of snaps the last week of OTAs.
3 – Chris,
Thanks for the great Bills coverage for all of Bills Nation here in the desert southwest. Given the imminent change of ownership and the potential uncertainty that can bring, what is the mood of the Bills employees at OBD. Are people apprehensive regarding salary and benefit restructuring or can everyone, (including yourself) focus and keep it in the background. Thanks and the best of luck.
Hank from Nevada
CB: Our President and CEO Russ Brandon has stated more than once publicly and to us directly that it’s business as usual and we take him at his word. There is no sense in worrying about things we can’t control. So as far as I see it it’s in our best interest to do the best job we can do in the roles that we have until we know more about the future leadership of the organization. Thanks for your concern and well wishes.
4 – Chris,
How do you think the coaching staff views Chris Gragg? We keep hearing the Bills don’t have that “new-age” athletic TE on their roster, and if they do it’s Tony Moeaki, but Gragg has an intriguing skill set in my opinion. Is he a guy that they are planning on trying to get more use out of in his second year, or do you think he has an uphill climb to make the final 53?
CB: I don’t think there’s any debate about Gragg’s athletic skill set. He’s done all the right things this offseason including making it to each of the Bills player passing camps run by EJ Manuel in California and Florida this offseason.
With Scott Chandler limited he had the benefit of getting some first team reps in a rotation with Tony Moeaki and Lee Smith in OTAs.
I spoke to him this past week and he told they’ve expanded his responsibilities in the scope of the offense where he’ll be playing both the ‘Y’ (in line TE position) and the ‘F’ (detached). So there appear to be plans to broaden his role, but he’ll need to outperform both Chandler and Moeaki in camp if he’s going to get any significant playing time this season.
5 – Hey Chris,
Thanks for the great coverage this off-season. I always look forward to Fan Friday. My Question is in regards to the #3 QB spot. What have Jeff Tuel and, Dennis Dixon been up to this off-season? Tuel showed a lot of promise last pe-season but, clearly wasn’t ready when thrust into the spotlight. I still hold out hope for him. Living in Western Pa. I got to see Dixon play some as a Steeler. The guy has a motor for sure. Do you think Tuel’s spot is safe or does Dixon have a legit chance to overtake him? Maybe try to stash Tuel on the PS?
Thanks again, I look forward to your insight on this.
CB: At this point it appears that Tuel has the edge on Dixon for the third QB job on the roster. This offseason Tuel has definitely strengthened his body. He’s leaner, but stronger and it’s showing in his escapes from the pocket when a play breaks down and in his arm strength. Dixon is clearly the best athlete when it comes to taking off and running. He would win the footrace of all four QBs easy.
Tuel does have practice squad eligibility, but I’m going to have to check on Dixon. This will be a very hard battle to gauge because their reps on so limited. It’ll likely go all the way to the preseason games before a definitive call can be made.
I will say through the OTA practices I thought Tuel flashed more with the plays that he made.
Tags: Bills ownership, C.J. Spiller, Chris Gragg, Dennis Dixon, Fan Friday, Jeff Tuel, Sammy Watkins, Stephon Gilmore
Posted in Inside the Bills
Two weeks of OTAs are in the books with a week to go beginning this coming Monday. As always we’ll have full coverage here on Buffalobills.com. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
I liked what Bills did in rounds 1,2,3 however they did not address DE. Manny Lawson has never played end and Wynn is a bubble player at most. Hughes is more of a situational pass rusher. I’m a bit concerned what they are doing. Since they won’t blitz as much the DE’s are more important under Schwartz. This puts more pressure on young DB’s as well. What do you think the future is at DE for 2014?
CB: I don’t know that you can assume that this defense under Schwartz won’t blitz as much. From what I’ve witnessed in OTAs with the blitz packages going in there are an array of packages that Schwartz has in his playbook. How often he uses them remains to be seen.
Lawson and Hughes will likely split the right defensive end role with Lawson in on more obvious run downs and Hughes on passing downs.
What you might need to consider is how often Schwartz’s defenses in the past have put an opponent in a situation where blitzing is not necessary.
Knowing that Schwartz’s Detroit defense last season finished first in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed (30.3%) and were second in the league in red zone defense (Bills were 14th and 6th) I’m going to give Buffalo’s defensive coordinator the benefit of the doubt that he’ll know when to blitz and how often to do so.
2 – Hi Chris
I’m a long time Clemson fan and enjoyed watching C.J. Spiller returning kicks. He is one of the best I have ever seen at it and I billeve he could challenge Devin Hesters records. With the need at special teams, Do you think the Bills should try C.J. returning kickoffs? He does hold the FBS record for kickoff return touchdowns with 7.
Thanks, Chris Gerland
CB: It’s funny that you bring this up. As I wrote in our OTA practice notes column earlier this week C.J. Spiller was one of the kick returners in practice along with T.J. Graham and Leodis McKelvin. Spiller hasn’t returned a kick for the Bills since 2011, but it looks as though he’s at least being considered for the 2014 season. That being said I wouldn’t get excited about this possibly happening until we see it in a preseason game.
3 – Hi Chris,
With the new additions at cornerback, and a new defensive coordinator, it almost seems like Nickell Robey has been getting lost in the mix, after a productive rookie campaign.
I’ve been wondering, has their been any talk about trying him out at safety as a possible replacement for Byrd?
Between his solid tackling and his playmaking ability, I think he could transition well into the role, which would also serve to reduce his height concerns. Jim Leonhard has had a decent career at FS for a shorter defensive back.
I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.
CB: I don’t think you have anything to worry about with Nickell Robey. First, Robey has looked solid in his nickel corner role. Yes, he will have competition, chiefly in the form of Corey Graham, but knowing how much New England goes four wide as well as other opponents on Buffalo’s roster like Denver, Detroit, Kansas City and Green Bay chances are Buffalo will need to make use of both of those slot defenders.
To help you breathe easier about Robey’s role on this team I’ll refer you to a recent quote by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Robey.
“If you measure heart, if you measure things like that, he’s six-foot ten,” said Schwartz of Robey. “He’s been a guy that’s been impressive and it hasn’t just been from watching practice here. Watching last year’s tape. He’s very unique in some of the quickness he has. He’s got great anticipation, sees the game very well and he’s certainly going to have a role. He’s been one of best players through our OTAs so far.”
4 – Hi Chris,
Thank you for all you do. Let me start by saying I’m extremely happy with our draft this year! My question is regarding our depth at the receiver position. I think it may be difficult for a guy like TJ Graham to make it on the field. Another guy I like is Marcus Easley. I know Easley helped out, and excelled on special teams last year. Do you think that they might keep a guy like TJ, and utilize his speed on special teams? If not I’m afraid I don’t think he’ll make the roster. I look forward to hearing your opinion!
Buffalo native, teaching English in Thailand
CB: I do think T.J. is in for an uphill battle due mainly to the fact that additions like Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams are automatically ahead of him on the depth chart. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were draft choices deemed as fits by this coaching staff. Graham was inherited.
Add in the fact that the staff likes Kevin Elliott, who could carve out a role on special teams as well and both Graham and Easley will be battling for one of the final spots on Buffalo’s roster with players like Elliott and Chris Hogan, both of whom have shown well thus far in OTAs.
5 - Chris;
With the trade of Stevie Johnson to the 49ers do they Bills have any financial obligations remaining from his contract?
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Rochester Hills, MI
CB: The figure I have is $10.225M in dead money, which the Bills can spread over the next three seasons, which is the length that Johnson’s contract ran.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Fan Friday, Jerry Hughes, Jim Schwartz, Manny Lawson, Marcus Easley, Nickell Robey, Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills
what role does Hairston have? He played well until his injury but is a holdover. I hope he gets a fair shot
CB: Hairston right now is running mainly with the second team at left tackle. He hasn’t received a ton of reps in the team setting. We’re guessing it’s due in part to the fact that he hasn’t played any form of football on a field in almost a year after landing on the non-football illness list in 2013. He’s looked a bit rusty this week, which is understandable, but if he can regain the form that made him a very capable swing tackle two years ago, Buffalo’s line depth becomes that much better.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
With the resigning of Dan Carpenter, what does this mean for Dustin Hopkins, he was injured, but he is the real deal…..
CB: Carpenter is coming off a career year and the second-most accurate season in Bills team history. Unless he has a complete meltdown in training camp or the preseason Carpenter will be the place kicker. The key for Hopkins will be to demonstrate he can be a dynamic weapon on kickoffs by booting everything through the back of the end zone for touchbacks. Coach Marrone has said he’s not opposed to keeping two kickers if they can both prove they would be of great value to the team.
The trouble for Hopkins is his groin injury was severe and took a long time to heal. As a result he’s rusty entering OTAs having been unable to kick. He has to get his swing back and he has to do it in short order to convince the coaches that he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster.
3 – Chris,
With the Bills not making a move during draft for a tight end, how do you think the position will shake out behind Chandler? Do you see the Bills keeping Lee Smith? I like Chris Gragg as development tight end with good speed. What do you think he chances are to make the final roster? Tony Moeaki still is a question mark to me, since he has hardly played in 2 years. Can Gragg stick and lineup as be juke type of TE? Or is too small to beat LB/DB?
CB: Right now Scott Chandler is not participating in team work after coming off of offseason knee surgery. So that has opened up more opportunities for the likes of Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg when it comes to the passing game. Lee Smith is primarily a blocker though he can work the short areas. In the first week of OTAs Moeaki and Gragg have seen the most action.
Moeaki is the most athletic in the group. His transition from catch to turning up field is very, very smooth. Gragg has very good straight line speed for a man his size (6-3 244), but like some of the other tight ends is not sudden in his movements when it comes to route running. He’s long-limbed which always helps in the passing game, but I would put Moeaki ahead of him.
We’ll know more about both players once the pads go on at training camp, but from a pure playmaking perspective Moeaki is going to be pushing Chandler.
4 – Chris,
With Watkins and Williams in, Graham would seem to go down to 5th on depth chart. Given they need special teamers like Easley/Hogan. How do you think this will play out? Goodwin and Graham are just too similar. I liked Hogan more as slot/special teamer. Could they trade Graham? Or will he have to fight for a spot in camp?
CB: I think Graham will have to fight for a spot on this roster. There is suddenly a lot of depth at receiver and Marquise Goodwin has the added advantage of being a pick made by the current regime, not one that was inherited like T.J.. The problem is Graham is not participating in any team work due to an offseason procedure. He can offer return ability to special teams, but Leodis McKelvin handles punts and Goodwin handles kickoffs.
Making things tougher Chris Hogan has had a solid first week of OTA practices. So when Graham is again full go in the practice setting he’ll have to really turn it up.
5 – Chris,
There has been much talk about the defensive formation Jim Schwartz is going to deploy this year. He has been successful with the Wide 9 approach but with the personnel moves we have made, it appears to me that we may see as much of the 4-3 Under deployed by Mike Pettine as we will of a pure Wide 9. Bringing in Spikes and moving Alonso upgrade the two linebacker spots and Rivers provide competition for Lawson. That and the lack of another “pure” defensive end leads me to believe our defense is going to as varied as we saw last year. Just hope it stays as agressive.
Appreciate your thoughts on this and as always, very much appreciate your insights and reporting on the comings and going at OBD.
CB: I don’t think you have to worry about the defense staying aggressive. Talking to some of the men up front this week (Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus) the defense is all about being aggressive and getting up field. They feel it will cater well to what their strengths are across the defensive line.
Now that being said Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes have some big adjustments to make as they will be full-time defensive ends in Jim Schwartz’s system. Mario will presumably man the left side and Lawson and Hughes will split the job on the right side.
We’ll be able to ascertain how it’s all coming together when the pads go on in July.
Tags: Bills OTAs, Chris Gragg, Chris Hairston, Dan Carpenter, Dustin Hopkins, Fan Friday, Jim Schwartz, Scott Chandler, T.J. Graham, Tony Moeaki
Posted in Inside the Bills
OTAs are coming up next week. In the meantime enjoy the holiday weekend and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
Thanks for all the great draft coverage! I personally loved the way the Bills really focused on beefing up the offensive line this year, in addition to the Watkins pick of course! It seems like some great picks at truly great value. I was wondering, if Seantrel Henderson pans out – and he has 1st round talent at LT, could he eventually start there, with Glenn moving to LG? Don’t get me wrong, Glenn is a really good LT, but I imagine a starting line of Henderson, Glenn, Wood, Richardson/Urbik, Kouandjio being among the most dominant lines in the entire league. Thoughts on this?
CB: While you certainly have every reason to be optimistic I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. I think all of the linemen drafted this year have talent, but it’s hard to project their immediate future until the pads go on in training camp. There are some proud veterans on this roster so the influx of young talent will ramp up the competition. Henderson most definitely has the skill set to play in the NFL. What he needs to demonstrate is consistency not only in his play, but in his commitment as a pro. Kouandjio might need a little time on the job before he’s challenging Erik Pears for a starting role and we’ll see what Richardson can do.
The picture you’re painting might be more realistic for 2015, and with the way Cordy Glenn played last year, I’m not sure he’ll be on the move even then if that level of play continues.
2 - @ChrisBrownBills
Why would @buffalobills ever pick Bon Jovi’s Lawyer to help sell the team?
CB: I think you need to understand that the Bills organization was seeking one of the most renowned firms when it came to managing estates and trusts. Proskauer was named “Law Firm of the Year” for Litigation–Trusts & Estates in U.S. News-Best Lawyers 2014 “Best Law Firms,” the only firm to receive this prestigious designation in that category. So this is more of what led to the decision to retain them.
It just so happens that Proskauer Rose, which has a gigantic client base in their entertainment department, also has represented Bon Jovi. It’s not clear if they still do at this time. I would think that relationship no longer exists otherwise it could be construed as a conflict of interest.
3 – Hey Chris,
There has been a lot of varying reports trying to explain the compensation the Eagles will be receiving for the Bryce Brown trade. Most of those reports are very confusing to read and have people scratching their heads. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t we basically trade Stevie Johnson for Bryce Brown straight up?
Whatever we get for Stevie is what we give to Eagles?…right? Only exception to this line of thinking or simplification is if we end up getting a 3rd for Stevie because he performs and Bryce underperforms we only are on hook for a 4th….right??
BTW…loved our draft. Loved the aggressiveness of Whaley. It was very refreshing and sent a jolt of excitement in the fan base. Even if it doesn’t pan out I’m still glad he was aggressive. When u r 6-10 forever and u keep the same draft approach its by definition insane. Everyone is saying playoffs or bust. Honestly if we go 9-7 and EJ looks like he takes steps fwd…I will see this season as a success. Looking fwd to getting out of this 6-10 rut!
Thanks for your time and go Bills!
CB: Here’s the easiest way to look at it. If the compensation from the 49ers remains a fourth in 2015, it goes to the Eagles. If Stevie Johnson hits undisclosed performance benchmarks and improves Buffalo’s conditional pick from San Francisco to a third, then the fourth-round pick the Bills owe the Eagles would push forward to the 2016 draft, since they would not have a fourth-round pick to give Philadelphia in 2015.
Bills fans should root for Stevie to do well in San Francisco this season. If he excels Buffalo will have seven picks in 2015 (a 2nd, two 3rds, two 5ths, a 6th and a 7th).
4 – Chris,
Thanks for all your news that you provide to Bills fans outside of the Buffalo area.
My question is regarding the off-season training of EJ, while not at the Bills facility. Knowing that OC Hackett, scaled back the offense last year; is there anything that EJ is doing during the off-season to get a much better understanding of the playbook?? or is EJ just working on his mechanic’s ?? Seems like a little waste of time, if EJ is not in some way learning a bit more of the playbook during this down time.
CB: EJ has been diligently working on every aspect of his game. That includes mechanics (footwork, deep throws), playbook and working with teammates having worked with some out in California this offseason on their own. I’m confident people are going to see a different EJ on the field this year.
5 – Hi Chris,
Russ Brandon and Doug Whaley are always quoted as saying that they will “do whatever it takes to make the Buffalo Bills a better football team.”
With that understanding, how does trading away Stevie Johnson (1,000 yard/season, 26 TDs, veteran WR, one more weapon for EJ Manuel) make the Buffalo Bills a better football team?
At the very least, Stevie would draw coverage away from Sammy Watkins!
This is such a typical move for the Bills–make progress with the drafting of Sammy Watkins, trade away good talent in Stevie. It’s similar to the Marshawn Lynch trade. Draft CJ Spiller, trade away pro-bowler Marshawn. I just don’t understand. What are the Bills not telling us? On paper these moves make no sense.
Please help me, and many Bills fans, have a better understanding. PLEASE no “company line” answer.
Discouraged Season Ticket Holder
CB: On the field here’s is why the move was made. Buffalo acquired Mike Williams by trade, a true outside receiving threat with proven touchdown production. They traded up to get the best receiver in the draft in Sammy Watkins, another true outside threat. Williams will draw attention from Watkins.
Perhaps even more important Robert Woods is a receiver this coaching staff believes in a lot. There was more than one assistant who believed by the end of last season that he would be the best receiver on the roster. That dynamic changed with Williams and Watkins added to the roster. In order to help Woods flourish in the current corps of receivers Stevie had to be moved from the slot receiver role so Woods could fill it.
It’s believed that Woods can be an even more productive receiver in the slot. Right now he has the most chemistry with EJ Manuel as OTAs are set to begin. What’s more his precise route running provides more consistency for a quarterback looking to take the next step in his on field performance than the unconventional route running of Johnson.
As Doug Whaley has said the aim this year is to help EJ Manuel take the next step in his development as a franchise quarterback. Providing him with the most dynamic receiver in the draft and a proven scorer in Mike Williams, both of whom can high point the ball as well as anyone, and then a reliable receiver in the slot in Woods they believe will enhance Manuel’s chances of succeeding.
In essence it was a bit of musical chairs and when all the moves were completed at the receiver position Johnson did not have an available seat. He would’ve been the team’s fourth receiver at a hefty price tag moving forward.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Bryce Brown, Cordy Glenn, Cyril Richardson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jon Bon Jovi, Nathaniel Hackett, Proskauer Rose, Russ Brandon, Seantrel Henderson, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills