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
The NFL draft is in the rearview mirror. Time to review it and other topics you’re wondering about courtesy of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills This weekend’s rookie camp, is it just rooks or are 2nd year guys encouraged to attend. i.e; Manuel, Gragg, Woods, etc.?
CB: In addition to the draft choices, undrafted rookie free agents and street free agents with less than a year of accrued NFL time there are some first-year players who are eligible to participate this weekend. Here’s a look at the first-year players (have a year accrued in the NFL) who will be on the field Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Players like EJ Manuel or Chris Gragg are not eligible.
DB – 47 – Michael Carter
OL – 76 – Randy Colling
OL – 72 – Edawn Coughman,
FS – 40 – JaJuan Harley
DE – 98 – Ikponmwosa, Igbinosun
WR – 16 – Cordell Roberson
LB – 54 – Jacquies Smith
WR – 87 – Chris Summers
LB – 58 – Nathan Williams
Michael Carter is technically a rookie even though he came out in the 2013 draft class. He went undrafted and did not stick on an NFL roster so he does not have an NFL accrued season from the last calendar year.
2 – Hey Chris,
After seeing Free Agency pan out and how many teams weren’t willing to pay their own Free Agent RBs (or other FA RBs) a lot of money or even commit to long-term contracts, it looks like CJ Spiller wouldn’t require that much to keep in Buffalo after his rookie contract expires. I know that it’s been pointed out as a concern for the Bills Fan Community after this year when Fred and CJ become free agents, but I’m less concerned. Knowshon Moreno had a career year (completely destroying Spiller’s stats) and ended up in Miami on a 1 year, $3 million deal. Although he had Peyton as his QB, I think this is the future of all RBs– just like no RBs were drafted in the First Round last year, and it may be the same again this year. Do you see the Spiller contract situation shaking out the way that I do? And also, do you think the Bills will draft an RB at some point in the draft now that they’ve signed Anthony Dixon?
Nate from Garbage Plate City
PS- Go Bills!
CB: I think it’s very hard to see how the future will play out with C.J. Spiller. He has a player option first and foremost on his current contract. It’s going to be very interesting to see if offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has tweaked his approach in how to make the best use of C.J. Spiller on a week to week basis. Naturally the high ankle sprain injury hindered a lot of their plans last year for him. Fully healthy Spiller can be a dynamic weapon in this offense that is expected to move at a fast tempo.
While I think there is merit to your argument about running backs being had for relatively affordable prices it’d be hard to part with one of the four or five most talented athletes on your roster. While Buffalo’s roster arguably has the most talent from top to bottom than it has had in a while, Spiller is still one of just a handful of elite players. Money will naturally have a lot to do with the final decision and how it impacts both sides.
3 – Hello Chris.
Thanks for all the great coverage of the Bills year round. My question has to do with the 2014 pre-draft visits the Bills conducted this off-season. In a review of the 29 players that visited One Bills Drive, I found it rather interesting that they didn’t bring in a single QB. We have heard how Coach Marrone likes to have a high level of competition for every spot on the roster, so why not bring in a QB or two that has a decent chance to still be drafted in Rounds 3-5? Clearly the Bills can’t be content with just having Manuel, Lewis and Tuel, considering how few career NFL starts the trio has amassed.
I just think they could have added at least 1 or 2 potential QB’s into the mix. It would have also created some kind of confusion around NFL circles as to that the Bills are up to, which I believe would be a good thing.
Dan Van Wie
CB: Even before the pre-draft visits began the Bills were pretty clear that they were content with their quarterback depth chart particularly with Thad Lewis as the backup. GM Doug Whaley reiterated as much right after the draft.
“We do not anticipate bringing in another arm,” said Whaley. “I’ll never say never, you never know what is going to happen. Someone could get hurt… But at this time we’re very confident with the guys we have on campus. Like I’ve said before, our philosophy should keep you .500 and Thad came in and got us close to the three, two and three. So we’re excited about that and then Jeff Tuel came in and played against Kansas City, did some good things but also had some mistakes. But we were conscious of the fact that he was an undrafted college free agent rookie so we expected him to make some mistakes.
“And Dennis Dixon has been in the league for a while and he brings a skillset that will compliment what we’re trying to do offensively. We have some competition. We do have some young guys, but they’re experienced in our system. And that was another thought process: if you bring someone else in, they’re just as young or younger and less experienced in the system so we’re very confident where we are right now.”
4 – Hi Chris,
The Bills front office said going into the draft that they really liked Sammy Watkins. However, Watkins’ agent is Eugene Parker. Given our past trouble with his clients, does the front office take that into consideration? They will never publicly say that they hate a certain agent. But wouldn’t you rather draft players that you can keep for long term?
I just feel it may be a waste if they spent all those draft picks to move up to get Watkins and can only keep him for 4-5 years.
CB: You make a great point and I understand your concern. Ultimately though the Bills are going to take the best player they can get for their team regardless of agent affiliation. Yes, they took a risk moving up the board, but they felt strongly that Watkins would put them over the top and into the postseason. It came at a cost and we won’t know if their calculated risk pays off until the 2014 season plays out.
With respect to Watkins long term future, I know the track record for second contracts to keep that guy’s clients in Buffalo isn’t strong, but let’s watch the kid play for a year or two before everyone starts to worry about those things.
5 – Chris
There is no question Watkins is a top talent..but what are your thoughts on the trade overall? My opinion is that if you want to trade a first round pick it better be for a franchise quarterback…
CB: What you have to remember is a general rule of thumb is if you’re trading a pick that is in the following year it typically requires an increase of one round (a two this year equals a one next year). So if you don’t want to trade a second-round pick this year the way for a GM to get around that is to offer a first in the following year.
We can debate how equitable the trade was all day long, but I think this team hasn’t had a true number one wideout since Eric Moulds was in his prime. It was an absolute must for EJ Manuel’s development. He will help the 28th passing offense from 2013 take a big step forward and potentially into playoff contention.
I think after 14 years of missing the playoffs a bold move was required. Something drastic to end the postseason drought. You couldn’t find a more talented option in this draft class.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Doug Whaley, draft trades, Fan Friday, quarterback, Rookie minicamp, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - Chris,
Great reporting and look to your articles before anything else in print, keep it coming. We were missing 40% of our O-line last year compared to previous year. It showed, difficulty running over the middle; and getting Spiller or Freddie out in space(screen passes etc.) seemed a rarity compared to the previous year. Much is made of acquiring that big receiver which would be great but to me strengthening the O-line is the first priority. A better offensive line allows EJ more time in the pocket to go through progressions, keeps him safer, allows receivers to get further downfield for long ball, a better running game, and frees up TE’s for the passing game instead of helping out with pass protection. Whether the top 3 tackles are off the board or if the Bills opt for a top TE or wideout, can they get a quality starting RT tackle in the second round?? Your thoughts?
CB: I think offensive line could certainly use some reinforcements. Whether there’s a starting caliber player might depend on where the Bills see a player like Nevada’s Joel Bitonio. He played tackle, but is he a guard in their eyes? Cyrus Kouandjio is a tackle, but still raw and has to learn on the job. The talent entering round two tonight would seem to favor tight end a bit more. I do like Bitonio and I think Jack Mewhort is an underrated lineman too. But again Mewhort is seen by some clubs as a guard and not a tackle. I like Antonio Richardson from Tennessee, but I don’t know that he’ll go in round two. Kouandjio might be the best option even though there are teams concerned about his knee.
2 – Chris,
I was wondering if the Bills made an attempt to resign Jim Leonard? Also I was wondering if Leonard got the majority of snaps while Byrd was out in the beginning of last season? In my opinion the defense actually played better without Byrd in the beginning of the season. They seamed more consistent against the run on early downs and better on third down. Did the Bills attempt to keep Leonard around for another season or do they have really seem to have faith in getting a quality starter out of Searcy, D.Williams, or Meeks? Also how much of a rotation is there at the safety positions? Are the two starters out there for most of the game or do they come out for subpackages and clear running situations? Thanks for your feedback.
CB: Jim Leonhard is still a free agent. He’s best suited for the Rex Ryan style defense, which he knows like the back of his hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs with Cleveland at some point. He did tell us at the end of the year that he wants to play one more season and then he’s going to retire. It’s time for Buffalo, which is changing defensive schemes to get some younger players on the field there.
3 -Hey Chris,
Thanks again for all your hard work. Do you know how much the NFL takes weather into consideration when making schedules? I’m frustrated as the cold is one of Buffalo’s advantages and the 2 hot weather teams we play at home (San Diego and Miami) are scheduled for our first 2 home games and not only do we only get 1 December home game but our last 2 home games are against the Browns and Packers, the 2 cities that play in colder weather than us! Just looking for your thoughts an if you think we’re getting a raw deal similar to the byes/long rests our opponents got last year (noticing the Jets got a long rest and their bye for our 2 games for 2nd year in a row also). Thanks again.
Sean from Staten Island
CB: Believe it or not the Bills actually request that they have as few December home games as possible because they often prove difficult to sell out. That request was honored by the league this year as Buffalo has just one December home game this season.
4 – Hi Chris…as a former season ticket holder for 20 years and now a resident on Naples Fl I enjoy keeping abreast of the Bills moves through your reports and the website. Thank you.
My question is why there is not more enthusiasm about Tony Moeaki and his potential contributions at tight end. Wasn’t he once considered a dynamic player when with Kansas City. If the bills believe he can deliver they could concentrate on other areas rather than go tight end in the draft. Your thoughts on Tony please…
BobbyG, Naples Florida
CB: I can tell you that GM Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone are excited about him. They feel he can recapture the production that made him a dangerous threat in the passing game. He’s battled injuries, but if he can stay on the field he can definitely be a contributor.
5 – Chris,
Does Jenkins fit what the Bills are looking for in an athletic tight end? Does he have the speed to be a juke type of tight end. I think he’s the second best tight end beside Ebron. Is he a viable candidate in round 2?
CB: I think Seferian-Jenkins could be a fit. He’s not the most athletic tight end, but he is athletic for his size. He has some run after catch ability, but he’s not going to be juking anybody out after the catch. He can be a productive weapon and I think in a thin tight end class he’ll be somebody’s second round pick.
Tags: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Cyrus Kouandjio, Fan Friday, Jim Leonhard, NFL schedule, Tony Moeaki
Posted in Inside the Bills
The draft is next Thursday (finally). Here are some of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net about the draft and other topics concerning the Bills. Be sure to follow our wall to wall draft coverage on Buffalobills.com and live on the @johnmurphyshow, which can be found on the Bills app or locally on WGR Sportsradio 550.
1 - Hey Chris,
In my opinion, Coach Marrone’s biggest mistake in year one was not having an experienced NFL quarterback on the roster to fill in for EJ. Boy, did the Bills ever pay for that oversight. How, then, is it possible that Doug Whaley has NO PLANS to sign a veteran QB for 2014? Can you shed some light on the thinking at One Bills Drive? Because it sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
Also, something I thought to be a no-brainer now looks as though it’s not going to happen……Why haven’t the Bills signed Jim Leonhard?!?
Thanks for everything,
Kenny in Indiana
CB: I would argue that it was not an oversight. They had Kevin Kolb on the roster. He was supposed to be EJ’s backup, but a preseason concussion landed him on injured reserve two weeks before the season started. The free agent market was a barren landscape of quarterback talent. Fortunately they swung a trade to land Thad Lewis, who is a player the front office and coaching staff is very high on as a backup.
He is the reason why they chose not to pursue a veteran free agent option. He’s had a year in the system and he and EJ now have a full time quarterback coach, who by the way worked previously with both of them (EJ at the Senior Bowl, Thad in Detroit).
As for Leonhard my only guess is he was seen as an ideal fit in a new defensive system last year that he was wholeheartedly familiar with and could teach to the younger players. Now with the scheme change he may not be seen as quite the same fit.
2 – Hi Chris,
The transition from Buddy Nix to Doug Whaley has seemed to go very smoothly.
My question is about Doug Whaley’s basic draft philosophy. Buddy Nix was on record saying he didn’t like to move in the draft, whether it was up or down.
I would love to see the Bills move down in the 1st round this year, pending a dance partner, to get more pick(s). There appears to be a lot of talent in the 2nd & 3rd rounds. Do you think Doug Whaley will be more proactive to move down in the draft than Buddy?
P.S. I hope 2014 is the year you get to report about more wins than losses!
Trade Down Tim
CB: I do think that Whaley is more aggressive by nature to make a deal. He was very honest about keeping all options open with their pick at nine. That includes trading up, which I think is a distinct possibility. We’ll see what happens, but at the pre-draft press conference I was encouraged by this comment from Buffalo’s GM.
“If you have a calculated system, and you use that approach, and the deal makes sense, and you see hey, we can move down to this point and still get a guy that we’re excited about, pick up another pick, then don’t be afraid to make the deal,” Whaley said.
3 – Chris,
I saw a rumor going around on nfl.com saying that Houston is “trying very hard to move down to acquire draft selections” and that Buffalo is a potential trade partner. I would like this move and I hope Buffalo goes for the #1 pick. I would love to see them pick up Greg Robinson or Sammy Watkins. Do you think this is a good possibility? Who do you think they would be chasing after to give up picks to make sure they land?
CB: I tend to doubt the Bills will move up to the top spot. Even the Bills at nine would have to give up an awful lot to make that happen. That being said I do think that moving up to a spot between 4 and 6 is a possibility if the right player is still on the board for them. There’s no way to gauge the likelihood of that happening because there’s no way to tell whether the compensation offered will be accepted for such a move to occur. I do think if the right talent is sitting there on the board Buffalo will at least make an attempt to make something happen.
4 – Hi Chris,
With the passing of Mr. Wilson how will this affect spending for the organization in the coming months? Certainly, the staff had a license to spend when he was alive but given that his estate needing to be settled, was a plan put into place so the day to day and free agent spending would not have cash limits. I just wonder when a player needs to be paid millions of dollars to sign who writes that check now?
CB: As team President and CEO Russ Brandon and GM Doug Whaley said at the pre-draft press conference their operations as a football club are unaffected moving forward. Here are their direct quotes.
Doug Whaley – “The ownership situation has no bearing on us trying to win football games.”
Russ Brandon – “In regards to the ownership transition, it’s business as usual in every facet of our operation.”
5 – Chris,
Does Austin Seferian-Jenkins fit what the Bills are looking for in an athletic tight end? Does he have the speed to be a juke type of tight end? I think he’s the second best tight end beside Ebron. Is he a viable candidate in round 2?
CB: He is a round two prospect so I suppose he is an option if Ebron isn’t the pick in round one, but I just don’t see him as a fit for Buffalo. He is a giant man, but he does not have the athleticism of Ebron. Apparently no one else does in the class at the position either. Seferian-Jenkins has above average athleticism for a tight end his size (6’5 ½” 262), but there are work ethic questions about him and some off the field issues. There’s not a lot of wiggle to him after the catch as he generally tries to run through defenders. He’s still a work in progress when it comes to blocking.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buddy Nix, Doug Whaley, Fan Friday, Ralph Wilson, Russ Brandon
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Chris,
Can you give some new insight on how defensive ends will work under Schwartz? Besides Mario it seems like Bills have other options. Hughes was better as an OLB and I don’t see him as every down because of his size. Lawson also has never played DE as well. Do you see this as a major draft need? I feel worried that the sacks/pass rush will fall off because of the scheme change.
CB: While you are right that Lawson has very limited experience as a full time defensive end having played mostly in 3-4 defensive schemes in his career, he is an expert leverage player. So although long and wiry I believe Lawson can make that transition, most likely on the right side. He’s been up on the line enough in his career to know how to handle such a role. Of course the proof is in the pudding.
As for Hughes it’s certainly possible he’s reduced to a pass rushing role, but I think that’s something that will play out in the spring camps and training camp.
I do agree that it is somewhat of a hidden need for Buffalo that isn’t talked about much. They do need to find another fit for Schwartz’s scheme knowing things are changing.
2 – Hey Chris,
Last year attending Bills training camp at St. John Fisher, it appeared to me that EJ Manuel had an extremely good long ball. His release was quick, the throws were accurate, and the offense was often successful completing those long throws. However during the season I did not often see EJ attempt long throws. I wonder did you see the same thing I did at camp? If so, have you any thoughts about why they didn’t make all that many long passing attempts during the season? Do you think we might see more of a long passing game this year?
CB: Last year the aim was to keep the offense on the field so deep throws, while potentially rewarding don’t provide a high success rate. With a young QB running things, the plan was to string together high percentage plays and not create too much risk. That’s why Buffalo ran the ball so much last season (most rushes in the NFL in 2013).
Provided EJ demonstrates more efficient decision making, particularly when under duress, through the offseason and preseason I do anticipate more long passes per game. Realistically though unless there is a flaw in an opponent’s secondary there are usually not much more than half a dozen of those kinds of plays attempted by one team in a game.
3 - Hi Chris.
Thanks for keeping everybody posted during free agency. It’s certainly appreciated.
With the new CBA, is it legal for teams to have something like a “behavior clause” in a players contract? For example “you lose X number of dollars if you get more then 3 personal fouls this season” or you lose X number of dollars if you get in a fight with the media” etc. I know Marrone is all about accountability and I think this would be a great way to increase accountability by hitting them where it hurts the most. If that isn’t legal, could it be part of an incentive clause? “No personal fouls equals a bonus at the end of the year, etc…
Thanks for your time. Can’t wait for football season.
CB: To my knowledge morals clauses are permitted, but that doesn’t mean a player’s agent is going to openly accept it. In a good number of cases, the penalties handed down by the league for violation of personal conduct and substance abuse policies are pushed as sufficient deterrents by agents to avoid such morals clauses. However, if the money is significant a player is typically more accepting of the morals clauses that can sometimes come with it.
4 – Dear Chris,
Can you help me understand what the Bills are doing at both guard positions? They just seem not to value that position very much on offense. Kraig Urbik is an average player at best, and they seem to have a bit of a revolving door going on the left side. Neither Colin Brown or Doug Legursky played very well last year.
Now they have signed Chris Williams, a move that attracted a lot of criticism from various sources, saying that he was the weakest link in a poor Rams line last season. Why would the Bills want to bring such a player into Buffalo?
I would have thought they would like to better protect the huge investment they have made in EJ Maunuel. Can you provide me with some insight about what the Bills brain trust is thinking here?
Thanks and Regards,
CB: I think we sometimes fall victim to media assessments of players and treat it as gospel. In the case of Chris Williams I think he’s a decided upgrade at left guard. As I’ve mentioned on my blog I watched three of his games last year against the #1, #5 and #6 ranked defenses last season, all of which he had to face twice since they were his division opponents in the NFC West in Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.
Williams was steady and reliable in all three games, all the first meetings against each of those teams. He didn’t have any busts and performed well in both run and pass. Was he super spectacular and making eye popping plays? No, but he was effective and truthfully that’s all you need at left guard.
Knowing he’ll be playing in between two of Buffalo’s best starters in Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood should stand to raise his game another peg. Much like Williams I think Urbik is a steady player at right guard.
4 – Hey Chris,
What are your thoughts on the Bills saying that they’re good with their current qb situation as well as having their free safety in the roster already?! It’s mind boggling to me considering the mess they got into when EJ got injured. They didn’t have the confidence in Searcy/Williams/Meeks when Byrd had his injury to start the season, but now they do? Is it just pre-draft strategy or do you think they honestly believe it?
CB: I do think they believe it. Doug Whaley and his personnel department as well as the coaching staff has an enormous amount of confidence in EJ Manuel. They are also very high on Thad Lewis as a backup prospect. Now with Lewis’ former quarterbacks coach in Detroit now here in Todd Downing, they’re even more confident that Lewis and Manuel for that matter can both take the next step in their respective development.
As for safety I think they do genuinely believe in the talent they have on the roster. Aaron Williams is likely to be the free safety with the strong safety spot filled by one of the candidates trying to land the job. I really was impressed with what I saw from Duke Williams last year in the practice setting. I didn’t see enough of Meeks who was hurt and Da’Norris Searcy had his best season last year as a hybrid subpackage linebacker.
You have to remember the Bills drafted in advance of losing Byrd in last year’s draft when they took Williams and Meeks back to back in rounds four and five. They prepped for that loss. Now the defense is changing so they’ll essentially be rookies again. Knowing that the Bills picked up veteran Corey Graham, who granted has been a cornerback most of his career, but will be in the mix at safety as well.
I think they’ve done a good job of covering their bases there.
5 – Chris,
I don’t see the Bills drafting a right tackle in the draft because historical they don’t draft lineman that high. The Bills have depth at WR and TE but need that one big play-maker. Even with Chandler back and lots of speed wideouts, what director do you think they might go in rounds 1-2. Mike Evans and Eric Ebron will probably be on the board with Watkins gone. Which player do you think the Bills will covet more? What are the chances they pick either of them at 9?
CB: It’s hard to know for sure what the Bills think since they lock up their draft board like every other team. I will say that both players are dynamic difference makers for a passing game and both would be a huge help to EJ Manuel.
As we’ve drawn closer to the draft I think it’s becoming less likely that Mike Evans is still on the board at nine. He’s most likely to go to Tampa at pick 7 as they are in dire need of receiver help. Ebron is more likely to be on the board at nine.
I believe if the top tackles are off the board and Evans is gone as well, Ebron might be the best option left.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, CBA, Chris Williams, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Eric Ebron, Fan Friday, Jim Schwartz, Kraig Urbik, Manny Lawson, Mike Evans
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills pre-draft visits were in full swing this week. Stay close to Buffalobills.com for more visit updates in the weeks to come. For now here are some of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - Chris,
Thank you for keeping me informed for the last decade. Before I only had the newspaper to go by and it was very slow and incomplete.
Three or more of these eleven players Jake Mathews, Taylor Lewan, Greg Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Eric Ebron, Mike Evans, Kahlil Mack, Anthony Barr, C.J. Mosley, Justin Gilbert and Jadeveon Clowney will be avilable to the Bills for sure. If any of the top three QB’s are added to the mix then Buffalo can even be more selective.
I think the top 9 will go like this 1) QB/DE, 2) WR/DE, 3)&4) QBs, 5)QB/LB ,6) OT, 7) OT/LB,8)QB and Buffalo will choose Mack, Lewan, Watkins or Evans in that order depending on their availability.
I actually think the Bills will take an OT because it affects the most players. Players such as the RBs, the QB and the WR/TEs directly. No other position does this. I hope they get Lewan but if Mack is available I would go with him first because the defense wins FB games and Mack would push our “D” past Seattle in my modest opinion.
How do you see it at this point in time?
CB: It’s hard to know exactly what will fall to the Bills at nine as the teams in front of them, for the most part, need a lot of different building blocks. That means they could go in a number of different directions with their top pick. Knowing the QB class is far from intriguing outside of Manziel the popular speculation now is that only two QBs will go in the top 8, with Teddy Bridgewater looked upon as the QB falling out of the top 10.
Jacksonville at three is one of those pivot type picks, where what they do could largely impact the teams right behind them. They’re now thought to be considering a QB in round two rather than round one and will look to add a difference maker at another position on offense (Sammy Watkins?) after loading up on defense in free agency. I still think they’re still considering a QB, especially if Bortles is still on the board.
Mack will not make it to nine, no way, no how. So cross him off your list. Cleveland is unpredictable as to what they might do as are the Raiders at five. Atlanta is expected to go OL or DL and it will depend on which player is ranked highest on their board among those two positions. Tampa Bay is a virtual lock to receiver and take Mike Evans. Minnesota is likely to take a QB knowing the mess they had at the position last year and it could be Manziel there.
So what should be there for Buffalo? Probably one of the top three OTs (presumably Lewan), Ebron and C.J. Mosley. I don’t see Justin Gilbert or Anthony Barr as part of the equation there. Whether the Bills have another player or two ranked as high is unclear.
The most talented of the three I mentioned (Lewan, Ebron, Mosley) is probably Ebron, who one could argue also has the most upside. Lewan and Mosley kind of are what they are. They’ll both be very solid pros and should be in an NFL starting lineup right away, but Ebron has a chance to be special and that could give him the edge there. We’re all guessing, but the most important factor is how things play out in front of Buffalo.
2 – Chris,
Pardon me, but my brain is working overtime on the Bills. With Carpenter in the fold where does this leave Hopkins? Thought he was supposed to be the new guy with the strong leg.
CB: It puts Hopkins in a tough spot. First of all he’s trying to come back from a bad groin injury on his kicking leg side. Second, he’s competing with a veteran kicker who put up the second most accurate FG kicking season in team history. With the money invested in Carpenter by the Bills, Hopkins is going to need to have the training camp of his life to unseat Carpenter.
Now head coach Doug Marrone is not opposed to carrying a second kicker as a kickoff specialist, which is a role that Hopkins could most definitely fill. However, the roster numbers have to work out right to keep a second kicker for such a luxury. We’ll see how it plays out this summer.
3 – Hey Chris,
Huge fan of yours and the Bills obviously. Just wondering about the Corey Graham signing. Will he be competing for second cornerback position with Leodis? And if not, how will that affect Nickel Robey’s playing time, if at all? Do you think it was a big contract for a potentially 3rd string corner or will his special teams play make up for it?
CB: As I’m sure you and most other fans have seen coach Marrone has said he intends to make Graham a part of the safety competition with Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks and Da’Norris Searcy to fill the spot left by Jairus Byrd. He’ll also be the first guy in on the boundary at corner if McKelvin or Gilmore are sidelined by injury. As for Robey he will hold onto the role if Graham lands the safety spot next to Aaron Williams.
4 – Hey Chris,
I was just curious, if team a wanted to trade a player for a pick in the draft, and the traded player ended up failing the physical for team b, what would happen? Would the player(s) selected with the traded pick pick(s) go to team b and the player that failed the physical would return to team a? Or would something else happen?
CB: Yes, if a player did not pass the physical for his new team the trade would be nullified and any and all assets exchanged in the deal would revert back to their original clubs. That’s what happened several years ago when the Bills tried to trade John McCargo to the Indianapolis Colts. He failed his physical with the Colts due to a back problem they cited and the trade was nullified.
5 – Hi Chris,
Just wondering what your thoughts are on the Bills seemingly not attempting to keep Carrington or Moats. There was so much talk last summer about how well Carrington was coming along and now they could seem to care less about keeping him. I wouldn’t imagine it’s because of competition from other teams as he hasn’t proven himself on the field for any stretch of time.
Also looking at Rivers career he hardly seems like an upgrade from Moats. They both seem to be in the same kind of position as fill in LB’s struggling to get more snaps. Also what is the deal with Chris Williams? NFL.com says he graded out terribly last season. To be honest I’m less than pleased with where the offensive line has gone under Marrone. In Gailey’s last season we had the fewest sacks and CJ’s yards per carry were through the roof. Marrone’s supposed to be a line guy and during his first year we were at the bottom of those stats and seem content to downgrade from Levitre to Williams at LG. Do you know anything we dont about where this might be going?
CB: I have it on very good authority that the Bills offered Carrington a contract extension before the 2013 season, but he and his agent (the same one as Jairus Byrd) turned it down. Three weeks later Carrington tore his quadriceps tendon and went on I-R in a contract year. Moats was presented with a contract offer this offseason and he chose not to take it thinking he could do better. Whether he did or not we may never know, but he signed a one-year veteran minimum deal with a $65K signing bonus.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Alex Carrington, Arthur Moats, Corey Graham, Dan Carpenter, Dustin Hopkins, Fan Friday, Nickell Robey
Posted in Inside the Bills
Free agency is still up and running, but the focus will steadily move toward the NFL draft. In the meantime we answer some of your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hi Chris,
In putting on your Draft Hat, who do you think the Bills will draft over the first three rounds? By position I would to see a LB, OL, TE. It would not surprise me if they trade down in the first round again in order to gain additional picks.
Thanks very much, as always I appreciate your input.
CB: I think based on what they’ve acquired in free agency to this point (2 LB, 1 G, 1 CB, 1 RB) it has not changed much. Here’s why. I see the three positions you mentioned along with WR as their top four needs. Though they have added a pair of linebackers who each figure to have starting roles and play a lot, the depth at linebacker is not where it needs to be. So I do expect them to take a linebacker. I’m just not sure it’s going to be early.
On the offensive line with Erik Pears entering the final year of his contract and Chris Hairston’s status still up in the air pending a medical re-check this spring, offensive tackle is a position I expect to be addressed in the first two rounds. The same goes for wide receiver preferably one that is 6’3” or taller.
Tight end could be a consideration if the right kind of game breaking talent is there, but absent that opportunity I don’t think we see one added to the roster.
2 – Chris,
With so many underclassmen declaring for the draft. Do you anticipate a richer pool of undrafted free agent?
CB: I think that is a very safe assumption. In fact talking to some NFL GMs at the NFL combine most of them seem to be more excited about the quality of talent they’ll be able to sign after the draft is over. With 100 underclassmen declaring for the draft this spring, it’s essentially three extra rounds of prospects that won’t get drafted. So the undrafted pool might be the deepest ever.
3 – Hey Chris,
Thanks for all of your combine coverage, its great. My question is about the draft. I think that the Bills need to surround EJ with more weapons before addressing the O-line in the later rounds. What do you think about getting Ebron or Watkins in the first and then someone like Gabe Jackson or Cyrus Kouandjio in the second? Or maybe a Martavus Bryant in the third? He is a big fast receiver that we are looking for. I think Ebron and Watkins would be a great explosive weapon for EJ. What are your thoughts?
CB: I think there is depth at offensive tackle where you could find a starting caliber player in round two.
If Sammy Watkins is there at nine the Bills will sprint up to the podium with the card. However, I’d be stunned if he’s still on the board past Oakland at five. I think ninth is too high for Ebron. I’d consider Texas A&M’s Mike Evans.
An offensive tackle I like for round two is Tennessee’s Tiny Richardson. If there’s a run on tackles late in round one however, I’m worried he won’t be there. We’ll see.
4 – Hello Chris,
I am struggling to figure out why the Bills are not on the QB needy teams list? What evidence was provided last year that EJ Manuel is at all capable of winning games yet alone a super bowl championship? His short passes were off target and thrown with way too much velocity. His deep ball was nonexistent. I’ve been a Bills fan for over twenty some odd years since I watched Ronnie Harmon drop the ball in the end zone in Cleveland. I have never felt compelled to ever write before but Myself and many, many others cannot sit by and watch another 3 years of this kid stink it up. Please tell Russ, Doug , Jim O, and Coach to move up and get the A&M kid. Everyone knows EJ is not the goods.
At the very least can someone at least acknowledge this and stop trying to convince themselves by trying to convince us, You don’t move back in the draft if you think the guy is the “guy” you take him at 8 or whatever they picked last year, Seriously I’m begging. I listen to Murphy and I realize how difficult it’s becoming to even be fan of this team any longer. We don’t need a receiver or tight end…We need a Quarterback!
Thank you and enjoy your work.
CB: I’m going to respectfully disagree with you here. Ten NFL starts does not a career make. If that was the case Troy Aikman would’ve been run out of Dallas on a rail when they went 1-15 in his first NFL season as a starter. Buffalo’s personnel execs are all in on EJ Manuel, so giving up on him after 10 games, which truth be told had some encouraging and discouraging performances, would be foolhardy after investing a first-round pick.
You have to trust in your coaches to develop him and his work ethic to lead to appreciable improvement. You’re entitled to your opinion just like everyone else. I just think no matter what side of the fence anyone is on concerning EJ, all of it is premature.
5 – Chris,
The Bills QB’s: EJ, Tuel and Thad Lewis
Do you envision the Bills adding depth at the position in the draft say an Aaron Murray or Zach Mettenberger who may fall due to knee injuries, and may be perfect for the Bills to groom behind EJ this year.
Or do you think they prefer someone with more experience? Along the lines of: Josh freeman, Chad Henne, Josh McCown
CB: I’m going to let Bills GM Doug Whaley handle this one with a recent comment he made on the radio last week.
This was his response when asked in a radio interview if they planned to add a quarterback in free agency or the draft.
“At this time no, but again we will keep all options open,” Whaley said.
Whaley then went on to indicate that they’d be fine going into camp with the three quarterbacks on their roster (Manuel, Lewis, Tuel) along with their practice squad QB who was on the roster last year.
“Comfortable, very comfortable and then you throw Dennis Dixon in,” he said. “All those guys are going to be another year in the system, so if you bring someone else in they’ll be new in the system. So we’re comfortable with where we are with the quarterback position.”
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, quarterback depth, underclassmen, undrafted free agents
Posted in Inside the Bills
Free agency is in full swing with the Bills nailing down three new players in the early going. Stay close to Buffalobills.com for updates throughout free agency. For now let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - Hi Chris,
Jim Schwartz is obviously a good good coach and the Bills Defense did some really good things last year under Mike Pettine. My question is how likely will Coach Schwartz try to “not fix what ain’t broke” and keep some/most of the good stuff from last year (even though they may not be his concepts) while adding his own flavor to improve thing that do need to be improved, like run defense for example?
Thanks in advance.
CB: In talking with coach Marrone about this during the offseason the way he’s explained it is Coach Schwartz is going to keep most of the terminology the same. The reason this isn’t a big burden for him is because he spent a couple of seasons as a defensive assistant under then Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. Mike Pettine also coached in Baltimore where the defensive system and terminology remained the same even after Marvin Lewis left to coach in Cincinnati. So a lot of the calls and checks will not only be the same, but sound the same.
As for the run defense Marrone is wholly confident that Schwartz, whose defenses have enjoyed tremendous success against the run, will dramatically improve the unit’s performance in this area as well as third down defense.
2 - Hey Chris, long time Bills fan.
Wondering if you could shed some light on a few things.
First with hiring a former head coach for D coordinator, what are the chances he stays longer than one season? Do you think this was something that was discussed in private between coach Marrone and Jim Schwartz? And if not how big of a problem would this be for Dough Marrone heading into his 3rd season.
Also with Todd Downing being a QBs coach, with out ever playing the position. Is this fair with all the pressure being put on EJ? I read that EJ really likes him but don’t we need experience there? Playing? To mentor EJ and the struggles that come along with being a QB..
CB: I don’t know that anyone can predict how long a coordinator is going to remain in his current post in the NFL. There are too many variables at work like the number of head coaching vacancies at the end of the year, how effective Schwartz is in his first year here, how successful the team is and coach Schwartz’s own personal aspirations.
Coach Marrone can’t have that kind of talk with Schwartz because no coach in the NFL is going to hold an assistant back from an opportunity at a head coaching job. That’s just not the way it works.
When you hire quality people that’s the risk you run, but I’d rather have the quality coach that’s in demand.
As for Todd Downing he has played the quarterback position. I cannot find his college background, but he did play semi-pro ball in the Mid-America League for the Minnesota Maulers and won a league title there in 2002 as their quarterback. So the position is not foreign to him at all.
I’d like to think coach Marrone’s track record of hiring assistants in the short time he’s been the Bills head coach should tell you he’s not going to hire someone who is not qualified to help the player at the most important position on the field.
3 - Chris,
I’ve seen several posts in which you referenced the “12th Man”. Does the team officially call its fans the 12th Man or is that just a personal reference? I’m having a huge argument with some Seahawk fan coworkers about whether anyone besides the Seahawks is officially allowed to use that term.
CB: The 12th Man was adopted by Bills fans long before the Seattle fans started using it. The first football outfit to coin the phrase however, was Texas A&M University. They’re credited with the first recorded use of the term in 1922 when coach Dana Bible was running out of players in the Dixie Classic against defending national champion Centre College. In the stands he noticed a student who tried out for the team, but did not make the varsity squad and promptly told him to suit up and be ready in case he was needed. The volunteer player, E. King Gill, ran to the locker room and suited up and got back out to the field. He never entered the game, but became known as the 12th man.
So the Aggies have got dibs on everybody, but concerning your argument the 12th Man was popularized in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In 1988 Bills fans set an all-time single-season NFL attendance record of 622,793. Fans were then honored as the ‘12th Man’ and inducted onto the Bills Wall of Fame in 1992.
4 – Hey Chris,
I ask you if Sammy Watkins, Jake Matthews, or Eric Ebron are there at nine which one helps EJ in his evolution more? Or do we go as we have in the past & pick up a O linemen later such as Z. Martin & go with a player like Mack if he is there seeing as the defense thing lingers.
Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville
CB: I think going by the best on the board approach that the Bills usually take it would be hard for me to think that Ebron or Matthews will be rated higher than Watkins. Most experts see him as a top five talent and I have not heard the same consensus for Matthews and certainly not for Ebron, though he is a special talent.
I think any one of those three would be of great help to Manuel in different ways, but GM Doug Whaley will take the player that helps the team the most. And that likely involves Manuel to some degree, but that’s the all-encompassing view a general manager has to take.
5 - Morning Chris, Happy Friday!
I was wondering how the Bills go about setting up their needs in free agency and the draft. I was wondering how much emphasis they put into the upcoming 2014 schedule? For instance, we will have to face guys like Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall, receiving corps from Green Bay and Denver. Do they look at the defensive fronts, the AFC East is getting better defensively, not to mention teams like Houston and Detroit. So basically how much does that affect their decision making when it comes to the importance of positions that are needed for the team? Thanks for your hard work, and I hope you enjoyed Indy at the combine!
Go Bills! Jillian
CB: We did enjoy Indy very much. Glad you watched our coverage of the NFL combine. Your question is a good one. Typically opponents in a given year do not impact their decision making all that much in free agency and the draft. Teams like Chicago and Green Bay, which the Bills see only once every four years is not what you usually base your personnel decisions on.
That being said I do know that some moves are made with a team’s division opponents in mind. You’re facing those teams every season, twice a season and you have to beat them to win your division and get to the postseason. So the personnel make-up and strengths of teams like New England, the Jets and Miami could play a role in some decision making.
Again it’s not an overwhelming factor, but those teams are taken into consideration knowing they stand in the way of a playoff berth.
Tags: 12th Man, 2014 NFL draft, Doug Marrone, Eric Ebron, Fan Friday, Jake Matthews, Jim Schwartz, Mike Pettine, Sammy Watkins, Todd Downing
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Chris,
Can you give Bills’ fan an update about Chris Hairston? Is he injured? I would like to see him compete for right tackle. What do the coaches think of him? Do you see RT as a position of need?
CB: The Bills have not provided a medical update on Hairston to this point, however, when asked by a Bills fan as to whether he’ll be ready for spring workouts in April, Hairston said he would be (see below).
— Bernie Lomax (@Welborn9) March 4, 2014
— Chris Hairston (@C_Hairston75) March 4, 2014
Hairston was on the non-football illness list last season, but he appeared to have a physical ailment in training camp. Whichever cost him his entire 2013 season is unclear. Even if he is cleared to resume his career in the spring I think the Bills will be a bit leery in counting on him and putting all their eggs in his basket as right tackle competition for Erik Pears.
So in the end I think they do look for offensive tackle help in free agency or the draft.
2 – Chris,
Why does it seem like everyone thinks we need a WR and a TE ? What`s wrong with the core we have now? All our WRs except Stevie have 2 yrs. or less experience with room to grow. And Scott Chandler may not have the speed, but he can block, catch and find ways to get open. He may not be high profile, but he`s a guy that comes to work every play. If anything we need some run stuffing LBs.
CB: A lot of fans naturally gravitate to the playmaking positions so it’s not surprising that many of the Bills faithful are focused on a big WR or game breaking TE. Of course GM Doug Whaley has said more than once that a receiving talent that plays big would be a huge help to the passing game and EJ Manuel.
I don’t think that focus means fans don’t think some reinforcements need to be added at linebacker. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bills add a linebacker in free agency and another in the draft.
3 – Chris,
With all the talent at the offensive tackle position this year in the draft, many draft analysts have the Bills selecting one with their first round pick. In my opinion, this would be a mistake. Offensive tackles are not nearly as valuable in the NFL as they were 20 years ago, and do not directly affect the outcome of a game like WRs, LBs or Safeties do. With that said, I think the Bills need more game-changing playmakers (like WR/LB) of which many of the best are found in the first round of the draft. So my question is do you think the Bills are better off with an offensive tackle round 1 or someone at a skill position like WR?
Eric from Hamburg
CB: I think both OT and WR are positions that need to be addressed by the Bills in the draft. Fortunately for Buffalo they are two of the deeper positions in the 2014 class.
In determining the better option at ninth overall, a lot will depend on what falls to them at nine. There’s only one, possibly two receivers worthy of the pick at nine. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and some are now making a case for Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. I’m not certain the value is there for Evans as a top 10 talent, but he’s close.
If one of the top three offensive tackles is there for Buffalo at nine it’d be hard to pass up as I see it. Those players being Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.
I wouldn’t rule out Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio provided his knee checks out. I think he’s underrated.
I respectfully disagree with your assertion that offensive tackles aren’t nearly as valuable now as they used to be. I think they’re more valuable because offenses are passing more than ever and with offenses going to more spread formations offensive tackles need to be able to pass protect one-on-one more effectively than ever.
So I think it is a worthy pick at nine for Buffalo if the value is there with who is available.
4 – Hi Chris,
When the Browns raided the Bills coaching staff I was afraid we lost valuable pieces of the puzzle. Coach Marrone not only found great replacements but quite possibly upgraded the staff not to diminish the wonderful job done by Mike Pettine. Does it show the respect Doug Marrone has garnered around the league that he’s able to bring in such quality coaches? It must send a signal that Buffalo not the worst landing spot for coaches. As a longtime fan I always remember the woeful staff Kay Stephenson put together back in the 80’s. Is it a telling story on how head coaches are able to put together his staffs? Thanks for the good work……..
Wally in Fredericksburg , Va
CB: I think Marrone is a respected coach and I think the talent that’s on this roster helps sell the job of defensive coordinator as well.
Your point about the Stephenson staff is duly noted. Unfortunately that’s been repeated by other head coaches who came after him, most notably Gregg Williams and Dick Jauron. Both did not hire strong staffs and it hurt player development, which is perhaps more important than ever in the league now.
Marrone is a refreshing step forward in that respect.
5 – Hi Chris
I follow the bills everyday on the mobile app, diehard fan who grew up in Buffalo, but reside outside of Indianapolis, and watches every game via the Sunday Ticket.
My Question- I know we have a lot of young receivers on the roster, and this past year was a year of developing and see who we got. I remember Chris Hogan catching my eye in the pre-season and the broadcasters talking about how they call him 7-11 because he was always open, in which he was, and he seemed to be catching majority of what was thrown to him. That was the first game against colts. Then I didn’t see him much out there til later on in the season, and again, when he finally got a chance, they referenced him as 7-11, always open, and he would get open and catch the ball. Very curious to why they wouldn’t play him more and mix it up more if he is “always open”. I don’t remember him not contributing much when he did get to line up. Seems like any time his number was called, he truly did get open and caught balls. But his number barely got called.
CB: Thanks very much for you insatiable interest in everything Bills. With respect to Hogan, the good news is he was just tendered by the Bills as an exclusive rights free agent, so once he signs his contract tender he’ll be back on the roster for 2014.
Hogan does have reliable hands and runs consistent routes. The fact of the matter is there are receivers ahead of him on the depth chart that have simply been blessed with more talent.
The 7-11 thing comes from a nickname he picked up while with the Dolphins in training camp when Miami was the featured team on the HBO series Hard Knocks.
A lot of times receivers get caught up in a numbers game at the position and often don’t make the 53-man roster. Then if they do finding consistent playing time is an even bigger hill to climb. This is where Hogan finds himself on Buffalo’s roster.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Chris Hairston, Chris Hogan, coaching staff, Doug Marrone, Erik Pears, Fan Friday, Scott Chandler, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - Chris,
Love all the great work you do in keeping those of us who root for the Bills but no longer live in WNY up to date on the pulse of the organization. I want to give a shout out to my fellow Bills Backers here in Portland OR.
My question is what do you think the chances are of the Bills making a real push to go after Jimmy Graham in FA? The talk is that the coaching staff wants to add a big target and a pass catching TE for EJ. With Graham you get both (and maybe the best receiver in the NFL outside of Megatron).
I know he won’t come cheap and they have many TE on the roster but wouldn’t adding him be a major coup for the offense just like Mario was for the defense? It sure looks like the new regime in buffalo is trying to change the culture and this move would be another big step in that direction. He won’t be cheap and we would have to overpay (see Mario again) to get him but WOW. Do the Bills have the cap space and upcoming FA room to swing such a deal?
CB: I don’t anticipate Graham being available on the open market. The Saints know their offense takes a crippling hit without him and will do whatever they have to in order to keep him in the fold.
2 – Chris,
Obviously there is not a Bills fan out there that can thank you enough for all the hard work you do. It shows you love what you do.
Question: I am hearing a lot of talk about drafting a WR come May. I am on board with this pick. With Bills brass bringing in tall WR’s this offseason, I can assume they might want to address this in the draft as well. What I do not get is all the talk about S. Watkins. He is a true top WR, but I already see the same skill set he has in Goodwin, Woods, and Graham. What would be the benefit of adding another receiver of his capability when we the Bills need a tall jump ball receiver?
CB: As outlined by Bills GM Doug Whaley their definition of a big receiver is not based solely on height. We covered this in our NFL combine feature story on Sammy Watkins, who is an example of a big receiver, even though he stands just 6’1”. Here was Whaley’s exact quote in explaining a phrase he likes to use, ‘big wins.’
“At the wide receiver position ‘big wins’ means a guy that plays big,” Whaley told Buffalobills.com. “He may be six foot, but if he continues to catch the ball away from his body and has long arms, then he’ll play like a 6-4 or 6-5 guy. Now you can also have a guy that’s 6-5, but catches the ball into his body. He doesn’t play big. So it’s not only just the physical measurements of being big, but being able to play big on the field.”
3 – Hey Chris ,
Here’s a quick one for you . Seeing as most all of the experts last year saw the QB class as not very good & the pick of EJ as a reach for the Bills (all but Marrone, Nix, Whaley, & Brandon) do you see us taking a QB if a good one falls in our lap in the later rounds ? Especially seeing as the supposed experts see this years QB class as being a very good one filled with candidates !
Thanks again for your time
Mr T from Fort Myers via Nashville
CB: I don’t think you can rule that out as a possibility knowing the Bills subscribe to the best player on the board philosophy. Of course we’ll have to see what Buffalo does in free agency beforehand.
I’ll also say we need to be mindful of the fact that three of the four quarterbacks on the roster are all young and inexperienced. I’m not sure adding another, unless he’s one of extraordinary value, is of interest to the Bills.
4 – Hi Chris, thank you for all the coverage you provide for the Buffalo Bills fans all across the country.
I have two questions for you:
As per the last question I sent you regarding Eric Decker going to the Bills, you said that he would not be a good fit. Ok, I buy that, but how about Kenny Britt or Darius Heyward-Bey? The Bills do need size at the receiving position, and either of these two would provide that.
Also, It has been publicized that the Buffalo Bills will need a veteran backup quarterback to back up E. J. Manuel, in case of another injury. particularly one that can win football games. Two names that come to mind are Chad Henne and Kellen Clemens.
What are your thoughts? As always, I am looking forward to reading your response.
Tony, Ormond Beach, Fl
CB: Kenny Britt is a talent no question and has size, but his injury history is undoubtedly a concern. The Bills and other NFL clubs will investigate that thoroughly. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a tall and fast receiver, but I’m not sure he’s the bona fide answer the Bills are looking for at the position. We’ll see.
As for the QB free agent market I wouldn’t mind Chad Henne as a backup option. Kellen Clemens is another story. Matt Cassel wouldn’t be a bad option either.
5 – Hi Chris,
Thanks for the coverage.
Q- After watching the Super Bowl seeing Kam Chancellor blow up Denver’s big wideouts and thinking that we might lose Byrd. Do you think if a big receiver is taken in the draft what would it take to get Marcus Easley a look at safety. He was great on special teams and if he’s not being used at receiver why not?
Thanks, Andy (Rochester)
CB: I really doubt that would ever be an option mainly because Buffalo has some young safeties on the depth chart already. I think Duke Williams is a very talented and underrated prospect and will be a good player in this league. I think Jonathan Meeks also has a lot of potential, so there really isn’t a need to move Easley to the other side of the ball.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Duke Williams, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jonathan Meeks, Marcus Easley, NFL free agency, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
Another week of your questions with the NFL Combine on the horizon next week. Be sure to follow Buffalobills.com for full coverage from Indianapolis beginning next Wednesday. For now here’s this week’s edition with questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hey Chris,
I was just wondering if the Bills will get any compensatory picks in the draft this year and if so what round? I’m thinking maybe one for the loss of Levitre and even maybe the loss of Rhinehart?
Tommy of Pittsford
CB: Unfortunately it looks like the Bills will not be getting anything by way of compensatory picks this year. As I blogged this week, the main criteria that a team needs to fill to even qualify for a compensatory pick is to have a net loss of free agents. Buffalo is even on free agents from last offseason in terms of the signings and losses that qualify under the league’s formula. They lost Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart and signed Alan Branch and Manny Lawson.
Now knowing the league has to hand out 32 total compensatory picks, the size of Levitre’s contract would’ve made Buffalo eligible for what’s called a ‘net value pick,’ but with a lot of free agent player movement last year it’s anticipated that all 32 compensatory picks awarded this March will be for free agent players lost.
2 – Dear Chris,
Thanks for all the work you and your staff does to keep Bills fans informed, My question is about the upcoming free agency, who do you think the bills might bring in on offense, defense and special teams to help the bills get back to the playoffs next year?
Also, just wondering about Brandon Coleman from Rutgers, is he eligible for the draft this year or is he a year or two away? Also do you think that when he enters the draft do you think that the bills might keep Stevie around and pair him with Coleman and Goodwin, because I watched tape on Coleman and to me he seems like a perennial deep threat and a lot of defenses might have trouble containing him especially if he gets open down field?
Thanks for all your work, Chris from Upstate NY
CB: I think Bills GM Doug Whaley has made it clear that they will not pursue the big ticket free agents. You want to look at free agents who can come in and be either a solid starter or role players much like what we saw last year with Alan Branch and Manny Lawson.
As for Brandon Coleman, while his size is appealing to what the Bills need to add to their receiving corps, I don’t know that he’s the full package Buffalo is looking for. He has some intriguing qualities, but one that he lacks is physical toughness, which hurts him in getting off press coverage.
Now that can be improved with good coaching, but with some elements of his game needing development I think he’s a mid-round pick.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Buffalo looked for a veteran free agent receiver first before looking for a size receiver in the draft.
3 – Hey Chris,
The Bills in my mind took nice steps to becoming a playoff team, but there are still areas on concern. The areas I have identified has needs are as follows, RG, OLB, RT, WR, CB. The Bills should definitely try their hardest to bring back Byrd and Chandler. If they do that then it sets them up perfectly in the draft to take playmakers. I have always felt that the draft is the best place to find playmakers. With that said do you feel like the Bills can fix most of their problems through free agency? I also know a lot of people that would love to see Sammy Watkins in a Bills uniform, any chance the Bills go with a playmaker in the 1st round?
Josh, Syracuse, NY
CB: I think some of your positional areas of concern are valid mostly notably LB, OL and WR. As I said above it would not surprise me if they look to try and land an affordable veteran receiver before turning to the draft.
I still do not believe Sammy Watkins will reach the Bills at ninth overall in round one. Even if he somehow slips out of the top five I would expect to see another team trade into the top 10 to get him. Now if the perfect storm unfolds and he is sitting there for Buffalo at nine it would be supremely difficult for the Bills to pass on him.
4 – Hi Chris,
There has been plenty of talk around OBD about getting a big wr. Do you think the Bills could target a wr that has character issues but great talent. Specifically Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt? Another name that would seem possible is Emmanuel Sanders with Whaley’s Pittsburgh ties. I know coach Marrone has said they have in house talent but I find that hard to believe that would be their top option going into the off-season.
CB: I think the injury concerns surrounding Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt compromise their attractiveness. Consistency with both players is also an issue. I don’t know that Sanders is much of an upgrade either.
Personally I’d prefer a proven veteran that can provide instant impact while the young players continue to develop and mature. I know he’s 33, but I wouldn’t mind Anquan Boldin on a two-year deal. He plays bigger than his height and would instantly be the most physical receiver on the roster and can still produce. Green Bay’s James Jones (29) is another player with a physical game, who can make plays and may prosper with a larger role.
5 – Dear Chris,
Nearly 100 underclassmen have declared for the draft this year. Players that might have been 6th or 7th round selections in previous years won’t be selected this year because of the larger than usual group of available ranked players. This is an opportunity for the Bills to scoop up good players if they can beat other GMs to them after the draft. My question is this; I’ve heard the team “priority free agent”. What does that mean? Is there a standard contract that all teams give to undrafted players that can be sweetened if a team has a special interest in one of the undrafteds? If so, are teams restricted in the number of sweetened contracts they can offer to these players? Finally, do you see the Bills being aggressive in this market?
CB: The term ‘priority free agent’ is just a classification by draftniks to indicate a prospect who probably won’t be drafted, but will be a highly sought after college free agent by NFL teams. Yes, teams have the ability to sweeten an undrafted free agent contract for a player they highly covet. That usually comes in the form of signing bonus money.
The Bills are usually very aggressive in this market. How persistent and how much they are willing to raise the signing bonus money to land one usually depends on how much they value the prospect. It’s a case by case basis.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Coleman, compensatory picks, Doug Whaley, Fan Friday, James Jones, NFL free agency, undrafted college free agents
Posted in Inside the Bills
Buffalo’s coaching staff is now complete with the hiring of Rob Moore as receivers coach. Now preparations for the NFL Combine will ensue. Let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 - @ChrisBrownBills
With some mock drafts saying TE Eric Ebron for us that would be a huge upgrade and the big addition the offense needs. Can Buffalo afford Byrd and LT Albert?
CB: I think Branden Albert is unlikely based on what Bills GM Doug Whaley said on the John Murphy Show last week. He indicated that they will continue to take a measured approach to free agency and not break the bank on high-priced free agents. Albert would certainly fit into the high-price category.
Here’s what Whaley said at the Senior Bowl a couple of weeks ago.
“We were extremely happy (with our free agents last year),” Whaley said. “I think we’re going to stay that course, value picks, guys that can come in and contribute and we get a real good return on our investment. They’re not going to be big splash guys.”
That being said I do believe they will make every effort to re-sign Jairus Byrd to a long term contract extension.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Thoughts on Rob Moore ? Cuse guy!
CB: I know Rob Moore’s coaching experience is not lengthy on paper, but having met him here at One Bills Drive and being very familiar with his playing career from the time he was in high school I believe he has a lot to offer Buffalo’s receiving corps. He has an interesting approach that I think will cater well to both the youth and the proven vet in Stevie Johnson in the receivers room.
For those that don’t know his playing career all that well he was a two-time Pro Bowl receiver in his 10-year career and was 1st Team All-Pro in 1997 when he led the league in receiving with 1,584 yards on 97 catches and eight touchdowns.
I anticipate his transition to this staff will be seamless having worked with Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett in the past.
3 – Hi Chris,
Thanks for your continued hard work into the offseason. My Question is in regards to this upcoming draft. Buddy Nix always had the take the “best player on the board” Mentality. Do you see anything changing now with Whaley, and maybe start drafting more with the mentality of positional need??
I think the Bills are a lot closer to being a legit playoff team and its only a few “holes” that need to be addressed, And not just take a player just because they are a good football player.
Thanks, Tim in St.Catharines Ont.
CB: I don’t think GM Doug Whaley would debate that they still have a few positions in need of a upgrade. The difference now compared to a few years ago is they don’t have a dire need to plug a hole at almost any position.
Could they use a top flight size WR, a game breaking TE or a young offensive tackle? Absolutely, but they won’t be in deep trouble if they don’t. And with that in mind I think now more than ever they can truly go for the best player on the board.
I think if they’re in a situation where player grades between the top two or three players on the board is negligible they’ll address what they feel is a position of need, but beyond that Whaley seems to believe now more than ever they can go best player on the board regardless of position.
4 – Hi Chris,
Thanks for all your info you translate to us fans! My question is, why did we not see what Moeaki or really what Gragg had to offer this season near the end? Why do teams sign players and never play them? It’s not as though Moeaki was a practice squad player. I really thought the Bills would have liked to see him get on the field and show what he can bring! Your thoughts??
Eileen in Niagara Ont.
CB: I think the offensive staff did want to make more game day use of the two tight ends, but game situations and circumstances compromised those plans. I can say that both players will be in the fold all offseason, which should afford the coaching staff more than enough time to gauge where both should appear on the depth chart as well as the roles they might play.
Also remember that even though the fans didn’t see much of them, the staff saw Gragg every day in practice for all of 2013 and got a month-long look at Moeaki in the practice setting to make some judgments on him. So while the book on those two for fans might be short, it’s not for the coaches. They’ll have a plan for both of them.
5 – Hey Chris,
A quick question about Stephon Gilmore. I’ve wondered why he has been so inconsistent and the game against the Steelers indicated to me some of his problems. In a game against a smaller receiver like Antonio Brown, Gilmore seemed overwhelmed and slow. I think his problem is that he plays like a smaller player when he should be using his size as an advantage over smaller receivers by jamming them at the line. Why doesn’t Gilmore play more like Revis? The talent, in my opinion is there, but I feel Gilmore is being used incorrectly.
Tommy in Pittsford
CB: I think you’re missing the obvious here. Gilmore’s broken wrist, which required surgery prevented him from using the greatest strength of his game. His ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and steer and muscle them around is 75-80 percent of his game. The guy played with one arm and one hand for essentially 10 games last season. He had pins in his wrist.
Essentially he had to play cornerback completely different than he had ever done before, which is why in your words he played like a smaller corner than he looked. When he finally was fully healed you began to see the Gilmore everyone expected. Unfortunately the injury made 2013 somewhat of a lost year for him.
Tags: Branden Albert, Buddy Nix, Chris Gragg, Doug Whaley, Fan Friday, Jairus Byrd, NFL free agency, Rob Moore, Stephon Gilmore, Tony Moeaki
Posted in Inside the Bills
We’ll all be waiting to see if the ninth time is the charm for Bills Wall of Famer Andre Reed for Hall of Fame enshrinement. Hopefully the path is cleared for Buffalo’s all-time leading receiver. On to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills Hey Chris. Stayin busy in the off-seasn? Lol. Is there a greater % for injury of same knee now that EJ’s had 2 surgeries on it?
CB: EJ said this week that he plans to wear a knee brace on his left knee permanently much like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning do with their front leg when they drop back to pass. I believe the idea is to protect him from injuring the knee again in a freak way, such as a penetrating defensive lineman falling on his front leg as he tries to step into a throw. He doesn’t believe it will inhibit his escapability if he needs to take off and run so the added protection would seem to make sense.
It’s clear to me that EJ has thought long and hard about how to keep that knee healthy without impeding his athletic skills. So if anything I think the percentage for a future injury happening are reduced, but as we all know in football injuries are never 100 percent preventable.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills do you think Hostler will be senior off asst/WR coach?
CB: Even though Jim Hostler has been a very accomplished receivers coach during his time in the NFL ranks I don’t get the sense that he’ll be assigned the receivers specifically. As I understand it Hostler will be another set of eyes for the offense. He’ll work closely with coach Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and likely have some self-scouting responsibilities to help the offensive staff to better accentuate their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. I’m sure he’ll have input when it comes to game planning as well. I see him as a valuable sounding board for Hackett and Marrone on the offensive side, but his job sounds more all-encompassing with the offense rather than position specific.
3 – Chris,
Thanks for the great coverage as always. My question regards our offseason needs as we have a few, OG,OT,LB and a big wide out. These holes will be filled with a mix of the draft and free agency most likely. Where do you believe we will choose to go with youth versus veteran experience?
We have a pretty young receiver group as well as a young potential star at middle linebacker in Kiko it’d be nice to see some solid veterans thrown into the mix. But I can’t argue trying to grab another young stud linebacker in the draft either along with an offensive lineman. Also who do you believe has the best shot to have an impact at one of these positions of need who may already be in house I know there’s a few candidates.(Elliot,Unga,Asper etc.) Looking forward to your thoughts thanks again.
Will, GO BILLS!
CB: I think your reasoning makes sense, but what you want to do is often affected by what’s available in terms of talent. When it comes to linebacker I get the sense that the team would prefer to move Kiko Alonso out to the weak side where they can take better advantage of his athleticism and coverage ability. That would mean a middle linebacker would need to be plugged in.
Buffalo was fortunate that they had a rookie in Alonso who was able to learn and call a new defense as a rookie at the mike spot. That doesn’t always happen, so I’m inclined to think that they would want to add a veteran in free agency at that position. However, the market is particularly thin, which means the price tag on what the Bills might see as an affordable option (as Doug Whaley calls them, ‘dust settle’ guys) may not be if there are other teams competing for experienced LBs.
I could see the Bills adding a linebacker both in free agency and in the draft. They need bodies at that position.
At receiver another rookie is probably not the way to improve the offense sooner rather than later. They need a player who has produced in the past and has adapted to different offensive systems before. Buffalo invested a pair of high picks at the receiver position last year (2nd and 3rd round) so I’d be surprised if they go that route again, especially early.
Offensive tackle is where I expect them to turn to the draft for help. There’s good talent at the top of the draft and with some QB hungry teams ahead of Buffalo in round one some great talent could fall to them at nine.
Guard is a position where I think they will plug in the best talent they can find. They have some players in house who they believe have starter potential, but they might add a stop gap free agent veteran to hold down the fort until they feel comfortable enough to plug in one of the prospects that you mentioned.
4 – Chris,
Thank you for all your coverage during the season. What’s more is your continuous coverage during the off-season. Being a fan in Virginia, I rely a lot on what I get from you. I have two questions for you.
My first is in a previous Fan Friday someone mentioned there was possible discussion about trading Stevie. I haven’t heard anything about that, yet you responded to it, so it sounds like there has been talk. Where has this been said, and did I miss it due to me being in another state?
My second and big question is about the draft for next year. Watching the playoffs this year I am noticing a theme. The teams that are winning are winning due to great running games and strong defense. What are the Bills going to do to boost up the offense and defense in the offseason? Our pass defense is much better, but we let too many runs get by us. I think we have a great running game, but it needs.some help with a better offensive line creating holes at times, especially in the red zone.
Thanks for keeping everyone informed.
Diehard fan in VA
CB: There are a lot of things that happen in the first year with a new coaching staff inheriting a roster of players. They have to learn how to work together, help one another and succeed. Doug Marrone did a solid job in establishing how things were going to function and earned the trust of the players. I think Stevie Johnson is a player who is wholeheartedly on board and wants to win.
At times I think the way the season unfolded frustrated him and I’m not sure he effectively communicated his frustrations to the people that matter most. I think it led to a lot of speculation about Stevie’s future with the team and whether he could effectively fall in line with the rest of the team and do things coach Marrone’s way.
As I said before Johnson wants to win in the worst way and he wants to win here. I think after the dust settled on the season coach Marrone and coach Hackett made the necessary changes to their offensive staff and I get the sense that they came to the conclusion that they need Johnson in this offense. In a year where they’re trying to improve the talent around EJ Manuel so he can raise the level of the passing game, taking Johnson out of that equation would be foolish.
He gains consistent separation on pass routes perhaps more than any other receiver on the roster. An open receiver is a valuable asset for a young quarterback. I’m not saying that the Bills don’t need to add more talent to the receiving corps, but to get Buffalo’s passing game to reach critical mass you need to hold onto weapons not remove them from the offense. That’s a long way of saying I don’t anticipate any trade talk regarding Johnson.
5 – Chris,
Thanks for all the great coverage throughout the season. My question is, since the bills can get a deal done with Byrd now, wouldn’t this be the best time to do it since he can’t talk to other teams until FA starts?
Jason from Missouri
CB: Bills GM Doug Whaley and President and CEO Russ Brandon in speaking with the Associated Press this week said they have hit the reset button on negotiations with Jairus Byrd and his representatives. Whaley said on the John Murphy Show last week that contract offers would be going out to the free agents they would like to retain and Byrd is one of them. So yes, they are making an effort to get something done now before free agency opens in mid-March.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jairus Byrd, Jim Hostler, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Well the Bills have begun their search to find the best successor to Mike Pettine now that he’ll be running the Browns. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – With Mike Pettine going to the Browns do you think the next coordinator Buffalo hires will employ the same scheme and same terminology as Pettine, or will it be totally different, or will it be a similar scheme with different terminology and maybe some different details. It’s a shame that we’re losing Pettine. I was looking forward to having the same d-coordinator and scheme going into the next season; that hasn’t happened in a long time. It would be nice to be able to get deeper into the current scheme in the off season rather than starting from scratch like we’re usually doing. I think this is a big step back for the defense, you can’t build a consistently dominate defense if you’re constantly changing schemes and coaches. The good teams in this league seem to have consistency.
CB: I think the future of the defensive scheme will depend largely on whether the replacement at defensive coordinator comes from outside the organization or is an internal hire. If it’s an internal hire then the chances are far greater that the scheme remains the same. If it’s a hire outside the organization there’s a chance that the scheme changes, which we all know will lead to a new learning curve. It’s my understanding that coach Marrone will not limit himself to promoting only from within.
I think hiring an open-minded defensive coordinator is the best way to go, one who isn’t married to a specific system. One who, much like Pettine, fits the scheme to the players, not the players to the scheme.
Continuity is a factor granted, but Marrone knows he has to get the best defensive play caller to help maintain the level of productivity and play on that side of the ball. Restricting his search to only the men already on his staff would be just that, restrictive.
2 – Hello Chris,
Goodbye Stevie Johnson and hello Sammy Watkins. We need a real game breaker now!!! After watching everyone pick Geno Smith #1 last year (lol), it won’t be Bridgewater either. Any team in their right mind is going for Clowney. QB is too risky at #1. What are your early thoughts on the Bills pick?
CB: First, I don’t get the sense that Stevie Johnson is going anywhere. I admit things appeared sketchy for his future here at the end of the season. Even I was wondering what the future might hold. But I think we need to remember that to help EJ Manuel progress you need to surround him with as much talent as possible. Johnson is the most accomplished receiver on the roster.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Bills need to make an addition to the team at receiver. I think they need to add a size wideout. In the words of Doug Whaley, “Big wins.” But I expect the Bills to at least explore veteran options in free agency because there already is so much youth in the receivers room.
Second, I don’t expect Sammy Watkins to be on the board at nine. He’ll be gone in the first three to five picks. If he slips I’ll be stunned.
I think at nine, and Bills fans might not like me for this, but based on the talent that should be there an offensive tackle would make a lot of sense. There’s a long time between now and the draft, which is in May this year, but I think knowing how QB needy some of the teams ahead of Buffalo are I believe that some of the top O-line talent could be sitting there for the Bills. We can’t forget that the Bills gave up the third-most sacks in the league last year (48), and with an emphasis on surrounding EJ Manuel with talent, and more important keeping him healthy, protection will be at a premium.
3 – Chris,
Any word from EJ as to his training regimen during the off-season? Will he be going back to Ken Mastrole or is he mostly just for getting ready for pro days and combine prep? Do you think there will be a QB coach added this year?
CB: In a recent interview EJ said he was actively rehabbing to get his knee back to 100 percent. He did say he planned to do more offseason work with his personal QBs coach. And hopefully you’ve seen our reporting on Doug Marrone’s plan to hire a quarterbacks coach to lighten the burden that was on offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett last year.
In fact by this time next week there might already be a QBs coach on staff.
4 – Hey Chris,
I was wondering, with reading about the Toronto series & seeing R. Brandon at the year end press conf. exactly how far does Brandon’s power reach into the actual football side of the team ? Meaning setting up the draft board, choosing players, who to keep /who to let go (as in the Fitz decision) & so on . I know the guy is supposed to be a great mind when it comes to the advertisement & selling of the team but there have been more than a one decision that has been made this & previous years when it comes to the team that I personally wonder who made these decisions .
I know Russ wasn’t promoted until this past year & I would hope that he would leave the player & direct football decisions to those that were hired to make those calls, but i do know like in the case of some teams the owner & or president of operations power is used sometimes far too much to influence the direction or decisions of those hired to do those jobs of which some recent decisions to me any way seem as though that may have been the case . I am in agreement with the way that the team is going & some of the players that have been brought in but as all fans I have my own ideas & opinions (which don’t amount to much) but try not to draw conclusions with out knowing more than I do & that is why once again i turn to you for some possible answers. Which again as always I thank you for the time & efforts that you put forth to keep us all in the know!!
Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville
CB: I think Russ Brandon said it best himself at the end of the season press conference. He was asked for his assessment of EJ Manuel and he gave the following response, which I believe explains a lot with respect to his role on the football side of the organization.
“My assessment really is empowered through Doug Whaley and coach Marrone. That’s what I empowered these guys to do last year and certainly we’re going to put every resource behind all 53 of our guys to improve. Obviously the bell cow is usually the quarterback and gets all the publicity and all the media attention as we mentioned earlier. But we’re going to put everything behind him and try to see some marked improvement moving forward.”
5 – Chris,
I’m not finding anywhere that has where the Bills overall on offence and and defence were among the rest of the league. (Just stuff like #2 in rushing…) maybe you could post something about it?
CB: Here are some of the more noteworthy statistical rankings that I believe you’re interested in.
Total yards per game – 19th
Rushing – 2nd
Passing – 28th
Sacks per play – 28th
Third down – 29th
Points per game – 22nd
Total yards per game – 10th
Run defense – 28th
Pass defense – 4th
Sacks per play – 3rd
Third down – 14th
Points allowed per game – 20th
Punt return avg. – 29th
Kick return avg. – 29th
Net punting – 30th
FG % – 10th
Punt coverage – 25th
Kick coverage – 17th
Net punting against – 27th
FG % against – 17th
Tags: EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Mike Pettine, NFL rankings, QBs coach, Russ Brandon, Sammy Watkins, Stevie Johnson, Toronto Series
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - Hello Chris,
Well, another year like all years. Just wait fans, we have something started here!!! Marrone’s first mistake will be not letting Hackett go. As I have said previously, loyalty is Marrone’s achilles heel. He won’t know how to “can” Hackett so we are stuck with him. What really stinks is that another year has slipped away and this team still has multiple problems to address. Where do we even start with the next draft? Please don’t draft another Alabama player! We let players like Levitre sign elsewhere and then we say we need to address our weakness at offensive line. Does this make any sense? It is just one wasted draft choice after another on positions we could have fixed with players already selected. When is this team going to address an age old problem at the tight end position? Successful teams have tight ends who stretch the field. When are the Bills joining the 21st century? Sad leadership to say the least. I won’t even get started on the QB position.
CB: Jim, I respect the frustration. You fans have waited a while for a winner, but regarding your question on losing Levitre in free agency, keeping a player at a non-priority position at what would’ve been an exorbitant price ($8M plus a season) was unrealistic. Tennessee chose to spend big money on their offensive line and where did it get them?
They ranked 22nd in offense, 14th in rushing and 21st in passing. They were 19th in scoring. As coach Marrone said recently guard is position where you can develop a player into a competent to strong contributor. Offensive tackle and center are where you need the bona fide stars.
As for the tight end position, I think the new staff with GM Doug Whaley is looking to address the need for more athleticism at that spot. Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg were the first steps in that direction. We’ll see where it goes this offseason.
Concerning your criticism of Hackett I think it’s misguided. Hackett had to curtail the variety and tempo of his offense to accommodate not one, but three “green” quarterbacks over the course of the year who were all spending their first year in his offensive system. Circumstances compromised his talent for calling plays. I’m confident the offense will expand and diversify considerably next season.
2 – Chris,
As always, thanks again for being a great source of Buffalo Bills information. We appreciate your feedback.
Can you explain the recent signings of 7 players to reserve/future contracts? The team moved quickly to sign these 7 right after the end of the regular season. What is this type of contract?
CB: Those contracts are typically reserved for players who were on a team’s practice squad during the regular season. If the team would like to keep those players on the roster through the offseason they must be signed to a reserve/future contract. If memory serves they have a week from when their season ends to sign their practice squad players otherwise they’re free to be signed away by other clubs.
Essentially players that the club believes can still be developed into something more are signed to these kinds of contracts, which are modest in nature.
3 – Chris,
With the release of WRs coach Ike Hilliard, would the Bills seriously consider bringing in Andre Reed to take over as WR coach ? I think Reed would be a great choice. Andre had great work ethic in Buffalo and was as tough as they come running routes over the middle.
CB: While I do not debate the qualities you described of Andre Reed’s game, it’s hard to say it’s a move that will be made. His coaching resume is very, very short though he is coaching in the NFLPA bowl on Saturday. I get the sense that coach Marrone wants someone with a more lengthy coaching background.
4 – Hi Chris,
I was looking at wide receiver free agents for this year, and I see that Eric Decker from the Broncos is a free agent after the playoffs. Would the Buffalo Bills pursue Decker and possibly make an offer?
Tony, Ormond Beach, Fl
CB: Yes, Decker is scheduled to become a free agent. I don’t think there’s any question that the Bills have already demonstrated a concerted effort to add size at the receiver position with the reserve/future signings of Ramses Barden (6’6”) and Chris Summers (6’4 ½”). But they need a proven answer with size at receiver. Decker is certainly a proven player, but I think they want the big receiver on their offense to also be a bona fide number one target. I don’t know that Decker can be that.
I feel that a lot of his production is a byproduct of the fact that opponents scheme to limit DeMaryius Thomas and Wes Welker and Decker becomes the beneficiary. Without a similar supporting cast, I’m not sure what you could count on with Decker in terms of production.
5 – Chris
When I see the names of Jason Peters and Karlos Dansby on the list for 2013, I think what if they were playing for the Bills now…… Two big problems solved…….Dansby is a run stopper as MLB, and Peters as T is one of the best. Why don’t we as fans make the Bills FO accountable for their errors of poor decisions re. personnel choices……….And throw in there, their choice of ST coach……..Last season the FO thought Dansby as washed up… Hello, over the hill………..The Bills FO is on the clock in order to get their act together for 2014……………………
Tim in TN, Bills Fan
CB: While I understand your frustration in seeing talent flourish elsewhere instead of on Buffalo’s roster, your Bills history is a bit cloudy. The team wanted to keep Jason Peters and were willing to renegotiate his contract, which had two years left on it, but after he held out and then threatened to hold out again the next season it was clear that keeping Peters in Buffalo was going to be monumentally difficult.
So he was traded to Philadelphia for a first, fourth and sixth-round pick. When you have a player that doesn’t want to play for your team it’s hard to even make them happy with more money.
As for Karlos Dansby the Bills brought him in on a free agent visit so to indicate the front office thought he was washed up is just wrong. He chose to look elsewhere to sign essentially using Buffalo to drive up the market price for his services.
Both have been accomplished players, but if they don’t want to be here you’re not going to win with them on your roster.
Tags: Andre Reed, Andy Levitre, Doug Marrone, Doug Whaley, Fan Friday, Ike Hilliard, Jason Peters, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills