Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 5-23

Posted by Chris Brown on May 23, 2014 – 12:22 pm

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?

Thanks again,
Josh

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?

MarkSciubbaDoe

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!
Tim
NJ

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.

Thanks
Don Busching
Norwalk, VT

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.

Michael Mirras
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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-16

Posted by Chris Brown on May 16, 2014 – 2:36 pm

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.?

Grayson Tumult

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?

Thanks,

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.

Thanks Chris.
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.

Thanks,
Bruce
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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-9

Posted by Chris Brown on May 9, 2014 – 5:47 pm

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?

Freddie

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.

Dan
Western MA

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-2

Posted by Chris Brown on May 2, 2014 – 11:45 am

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?

Thanks,

Alec……..Adams, NY

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?

Thanks,
Chris Z.

 

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 4-25

Posted by Chris Brown on April 25, 2014 – 4:22 pm

The draft is less than two weeks away. Feels like we’ve been waiting forever. For now here are some of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

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?

Thanks,

Bernie


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.

Harold

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,
Cameron Morrison
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?

Thanks, Ryan

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 4-11

Posted by Chris Brown on April 11, 2014 – 12:53 pm

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?

Thanks
Ken

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.

Jim (Skaneateles)


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?

Thanks,
Brendan

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?

Thanks,
Tommy

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?

Dan

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-21

Posted by Chris Brown on March 21, 2014 – 11:39 am

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.

Bob Hammond
Rochester, NY

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? 

Harris W.

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?

Go Bills!
Mike 

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.
Paul

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

-Jim

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.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-14

Posted by Chris Brown on March 14, 2014 – 3:54 pm

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.
Grant Folkard

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..

Thanks Jacob

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.

Thanks.
Cliff Hogg

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.

Thanks !!
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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-7

Posted by Chris Brown on March 7, 2014 – 11:50 am

Free agency negotiating opens Saturday, Tuesday afternoon deals can be signed. Let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

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).

@C_Hairston75 Are you full go this spring? #Bills

— Bernie Lomax (@Welborn9) March 4, 2014

@Welborn9 yes

— 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.

Thank You!
Mike

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?

Thanks,
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.

Thanks, Dustin
Indianapolis

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 2-28

Posted by Chris Brown on February 28, 2014 – 11:56 am

Franchise tags and free agency is up next this offseason, but let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

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?

Norm

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?

Dan
Cottonwood, AZ

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 2-14

Posted by Chris Brown on February 14, 2014 – 12:14 pm

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?

Thanks,
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?

Thanks Chris,
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.
Thanks.
Nate

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?

Thank you,
Bob


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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 2-7

Posted by Chris Brown on February 7, 2014 – 2:06 pm

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?

JamesKnapp

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!

Mikefromplayers

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.

Thanks,
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.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-31

Posted by Chris Brown on January 31, 2014 – 12:00 pm

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?

billsguy34

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?

SJHNatFan

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-24

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 12:48 pm

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?

Jim (Skaneateles)


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?

thanks,
jeff zinger

CB: Here are some of the more noteworthy statistical rankings that I believe you’re interested in.

Offense
Total yards per game – 19th
Rushing – 2nd
Passing – 28th
Sacks per play – 28th
Third down – 29th
Points per game – 22nd

Defense
Total yards per game – 10th
Run defense – 28th
Pass defense – 4th
Sacks per play – 3rd
Third down – 14th
Points allowed per game – 20th

Special teams
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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-17

Posted by Chris Brown on January 17, 2014 – 1:26 pm

Don’t forget to check in on our Senior Bowl coverage all next week on Buffalobills.com. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

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.

Jim (Skaneateles)
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?

Bob Hammond

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.

Randy C
Coach

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-10

Posted by Chris Brown on January 10, 2014 – 12:07 pm

Well the offseason is underway and the Senior Bowl is the next big thing on the horizon. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for all of the insight on everything Bills and keep up the great work. First off I was just wondering if you think we have seen everything Hackett’s playbook has to offer? Or is he just keeping it simple because of the inexperience at quarterback? We were vanilla at best on offense this season, (despite a strong rushing attack) and when I watch most other teams it seems I see more intricate offense. We primarily run out of shotgun and our screen game pales in comparison to last season’s.  Just wanted your opinion.

And secondly, do you think we should draft another quarterback? Manuel seems to be injury prone and I don’t think we can rely on Lewis or Tuel to step in and guide us deep in the season. They are strong backups but I would still like to have a QB that can stand in the pocket and not get hurt. Thanks again Chris!

-Mark in Houston

CB: I think your suspicion is dead on. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had to keep things simple so the rookies on offense with sizable roles (chiefly EJ Manuel) could effectively execute them. They ran the ball so much because as coach Marrone said last week they wanted to keep third down manageable in terms of distance to convert. Plus they were good at it, so use what works to help keep drives alive.

When Manuel was injured during the season, it forced Hackett to be even more judicious with his game plans in terms of complexity. None of his three quarterbacks had one game of NFL experience combined heading into the season.

So to fault Hackett for his play calling being too predictable would be very, very misguided. One has to appreciate and understand the circumstances under which he had to operate.

Then to see that his offense, despite all of that, finished 19th in total yards, which by the way was better than San Francisco’s and Carolina’s and a yard less per game on average than Seattle, is a pretty good showing as far as I’m concerned.

As for drafting a quarterback I don’t think that’s the best route to take. The reason why is Buffalo already has a host of inexperienced quarterbacks on their roster even now. EJ Manuel (10 career starts), Thad Lewis (6 career starts) and Jeff Tuel (1 career start) are still lacking experience. To add a fourth to the mix doesn’t help.

I expect the Bills to pursue a veteran QB in free agency that has a wealth of game experience. The market is predictably thin, but I expect the Texans to cut ties with a QB like Matt Schaub, who could be a perfect backup candidate.

2 – Chris,

On the heels of the Miami game, I was disappointed in the selfishness and immaturity displayed by Robert Woods. With the receiving corps already down Stevie and Marquise (who’d just been injured), Woods simply had to be smarter than throwing a punch and getting ejected from a game.

This brings me to my concern: with all the rumblings about the Bills possibly parting ways with Stevie Johnson this offseason, do you think an occurrence like this might be enough for the team to keep Stevie around? Woods apparently isn’t mature enough to lead the team at the position, and Marquise, as talented as he is, may be the next Roscoe Parrish…..too slight of build to stay healthy and really contribute on offense. Personally, I think the Bills would be foolish to let Stevie go right now. The receiver room is just too young without him. What do you think?

Kenny in Indiana
CB: I believe the incident with Robert Woods in the Miami game in Week 16 was an isolated incident. Woods in general is a heady player. In this instance he lost his cool, but in talking to him afterwards it’s clear he understands now that those kinds of things cannot happen again. I consider it a lesson learned.

Concerning Stevie Johnson, I think he and coach Marrone have to iron things out with respect to the way things are going to be done to ensure future success. The bottom line is they’re going to be done Marrone’s way with very little if any deviation from his plan. And truthfully that’s the way it should be.

He’s the head coach and has a vision for how things are going to get done to promote consistent winning. And he needs everyone on his roster, especially impact players to adhere to that in everything they do as a player on the roster.

Johnson is a free spirit and while there are a lot of admirable qualities with that kind of approach to the game, football is a sport that demands attention to detail perhaps more than any other.

I don’t know this, but I sense that Marrone needs to be convinced by Stevie that he’s prepared to fall in line with every responsibility he has to the team as its top receiver and do things the way Marrone has laid it out for all of his players.

If that can happen then Johnson will remain a prominent part of Buffalo’s offense.

3 – Hi Chris
Thanks for taking my question. My question is, based on all of the huge pass interference penalties this year that have affected the outcome of the games (especially with under a few minutes to go), do you ever see the rules committee making the pass interference call a reviewable/challengeable call?

I’ve watched so many teams this year, and in recent years as well, that get the ball on the one yard line in the last seconds of the game.  And the unfortunate part is that a lot of them are really questionable calls…especially when they directly change the outcome of a game.  I know making a penalty reviewable could open a can of worms for the rules committee, but I don’t see another immediate solution to the growing problem of these (sometimes) 50 yd plus interference penalties on the last few plays of the game, especially when replay is in effect to ensure the right call is made.

Lastly, do you think teams practice for the last second goal line pass interference call?  Specifically, I’ve seen Brady win countless games by freely getting the ball on the 1 yd line with seconds to go when they all but had a nail in their coffin.  Its like they are just chucking in the end zone and the WR sells the penalty if he can’t catch it.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Pats practice it since it is a really huge penalty that can be easily exploited.
Thanks for your time,
Tim in NJ

CB: I don’t see pass interference every being a reviewable call via challenge or booth review with less than two minutes in the half or game. The reason why is it is a pure judgment call. There is enough already that is reviewable. I doubt the league wants to expand that list.

I think if the NFL’s Competition Committee should change anything perhaps it should be the yardage penalty for pass interference. Maybe something similar to college’s 15-yard pass interference rule. With the NFL’s proclivity to push offensive play and scoring I doubt this would even be entertained, but perhaps a 20-yard penalty cap on pass interference plays that happen more than 20 yards downfield. I think it would be difficult to alter the policing of pass interference in the red zone/end zone. Defenders are doing everything in their power to unsuspectingly mug receiving targets in the end zone to prevent touchdowns. To reduce the pass interference consequences (1st & goal at the one-yard line) may lead to more aggressive defending and the league rarely puts any part of the game in the favor of the defense.

4 – Chris,

Thanks for all of your coverage.

My question is regarding the future of Mike Pettine. I think at most we have one or two years left with him, and that it’s also possible he gets a shot as head coach sooner.

Is there an in house assistant or option that we are grooming to be his replacement? With all the great strides we have made on D this year I’m hoping there is someone that is learning and being taught all of his schemes. I’d hate to lose all of this progress once we lose Mike.

Thanks Chris
Patrick In Boston

CB: I respect and understand your concern with respect to Buffalo’s defensive coordinator. Mike Pettine is a sharp mind, who in time should be getting head coaching interview opportunities.

The good news is I do see two future defensive coordinator candidates on Buffalo’s defensive staff. I believe both defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and OLBs coach Jim O’Neil have the pedigree to eventually be defensive coordinators in the NFL.

The problem is Weaver and O’Neil have both worked with Pettine for some time now, and would likely be offered a position by Pettine if he was named a head coach elsewhere. My guess is whoever is not offered the defensive coordinator job by Pettine when he’s named a head coach somewhere else in the league down the road, should be the coach targeted to be promoted to defensive coordinator with Buffalo.

5 – Chris,

I had been looking forward to hearing Kiko Alonso’s name being announced as a Pro Bowler for 2 months now. How did his name NOT get called, given the season he had?????

Don (Bills/ Kiko fan),
Norwalk, CT
CB: I think we all know by now that it’s very difficult for rookies to get named to the Pro Bowl even with productive seasons. We often see them recognized the following year provided their production stays relatively the same. What also hurt Alonso’s chances was the team’s 6-10 record. The bottom line is in most cases more players are chosen from successful teams than those that finish under .500.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-3

Posted by Chris Brown on January 3, 2014 – 11:57 am

Happy New Year Bills fans! We can only hope that 2014 will hold much better fortunes for the team. In fact hopefully this Fan Friday edition next year will be talking about the postseason with the Bills in it. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills is dareus being traded for being late to meetings just smoke?

Guy Rosenbarker Jr.@rosenbarker

CB: I did not hear that rumor and would be stunned if that happened. Here’s where I believe coach Marrone and Doug Whaley stand on Dareus. He just had his most productive season in the NFL. He’s 23-years old. He’s done some irresponsible things as they pertain to the team (chronic lateness). Marrone has said they have addressed the issue. Dareus, to his credit, faced the music in the postgame locker room after his first half benching and sounded remorseful. He has to live with that feeling of letting his teammates down all offseason. I think the Bills see that as a motivator for Dareus moving forward and it should be.

Perhaps the most important thing to come out of Dareus’ postgame comments last week were his references to being a leader. Obviously coach Marrone told him he expects Dareus to be a future leader on the team, and that he can’t help lead a team when he can’t be a responsible professional himself. But it’s clear the path they see Dareus traveling with this team. Hopefully Dareus can see it too.

 

2 – @ChrisBrownBills With @jairusbyrd can they start negotiating now?

T‏@Scorpio_1st

CB: Yes, now that the regular season is over they can resume negotiations with Jairus Byrd on a long term contract extension provided the Byrd camp wants to negotiate. Byrd’s last public comments on the John Murphy Show were that he was open to returning to the Bills on a long term contract. Of course he’s open to anything that might come his way.

Bills GM Doug Whaley said this week they will make him an offer in an effort to keep him long term. Whether it’s enough to convince the free agent safety remains to be seen.

 

3 – Chris,
With the roster in evaluation mode, who are the 2014 Bills free agents? How high is Carrington on the Bills list? Will the Bills be awarded a high pick for Levitre?

CB: Hopefully you saw my blog earlier this week listing the free agents. With Alan Branch already re-signed it gives Buffalo some leverage with Carrington. I’m sure they would like to add Carrington back to the fold, but he’s got to prove he’s healthy coming off his torn quadriceps suffered back in Week 3. I talked briefly to Carrington a couple of weeks ago and he’s said his rehab has gone quite well.

The Bills tried to re-sign Carrington right before the season started, but were turned down by Carrington’s agent, who also happens to be the same agent for Jairus Byrd. The market will be considerably softer for Carrington due to the injury, so the Bills can probably afford to provide just a reasonable offer to get him back on the roster.

As for a compensatory pick it begins and ends with a net loss of free agents. I don’t believe they had a net loss of free agents knowing they signed Manny Lawson, Alan Branch, Kevin Kolb and Doug Legursky while losing Andy Levitre, Chad Rinehart and Kyle Moore (who did not make Chicago’s roster).

Levitre’s large salary could net a compensatory for Buffalo, but we’ll have to see which signings the league qualifies as free agent losses. Moore’s small salary upon signing with the Bears may be excluded.

 

4 – Hey Chris,
My question is in regards to the players during off season. Do the players with injuries going into the off season continue rehabbing with the Bills training staff, Drs., etc at the Bills facility? What about the players whose contracts are up after this year? Is it now their own responsibility to find ways of rehabbing injuries outside of the Bills organization?

Thanks Chris, Tim in Niagara Ontario

CB: To my knowledge it is usually at the player’s discretion as to where they would prefer to rehab. Some have chosen to rehab here in town in the offseason (e.g. Marcus Easley). Others have chosen to rehab back home and then come in for periodic check-ups with the Bills medical and training staff.

For players whose contracts are up after this season, they technically can still rehab with the Bills because their contracts do not expire until March 11th. But that is not usually what players in that situation choose to do.

 

5 – Chris:
Great job of coverage again this year, so thank you for all of your consistent hard work in keeping Bills fans on top of what is going on.

Looking ahead to the 2014 season, it looks like the Bills will be facing the AFC West and NFC North teams due to the rotating schedules. So, that means the Bills will be tested by the likes of Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Drew Stafford, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill, to name a few.

Do you think the upcoming schedule plays any role or factor in how the Bills will view the importance of bringing back Jairus Byrd for 2014, based on the level of quarterbacks that the team will face next year?

Besides Byrd, any news or updates on players that the Bills are trying to sign to contract extensions before they hit free agency? Thanks Chris.

Dan in Cheshire, CT

CB: Thanks for the compliments Dan. Much appreciated.

While the list of quarterbacks for Buffalo’s opponents in 2014 is impressive I don’t know that it’s a determining factor in how vigorously the Bills will pursue a new contract with Jairus Byrd. I think the decision on how determined they’ll be to re-sign him has already been made. Now they will simply try to execute that plan. Byrd’s value is already established in their eyes. Naturally Byrd has a value himself. That likely wasn’t impacted any more or any less by the quarterbacks they’ll be facing this coming season.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-27

Posted by Chris Brown on December 27, 2013 – 11:31 am

Sunday will be the final step in trying to post a winning record in the division for the first time since the 2007 season. Let’s see if the Bills can get their first win ever in Gillette Stadium. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,
Coming into this season knowing the Bills were going to draft a QB and most likely be our starter, I would of thought Coach Marrone was going to bring in a OC with NFL experience and a reputation with teaching young QB’s. I was really shock when he named Hackett his QB coach and OC. I was not thrilled with this move and I still do not think he is the right guy for this job. He does not use the players the way he should , like CJ Spiller who was unstoppable last year and this year he’s been shut down for the most part mainly in the receiving area. His play calling is horrible and his short passing is getting old real quick. Atlanta game Goodwin and Graham both should of had career games as bad as Atlanta’s pass defense was and correct me if I’m wrong but did either one have a catch over 10 yards. he is not the guy for the job and I hope Marrone sees this and fixes this problem after the season. I like EJ Manuel and I feel with an experienced guy working with him he can become the QB this team needed in a long time, I just don’t think Hackett can do this. Your thoughts and thanks for doing a great job.

RR21RaceFan

CB: I’m going to disagree with you on this one. I think there is a reason that the Bills were one of the most frequent rushing teams in the league. It’s because they had a rookie quarterback. I believe as the season wore on the hope was that EJ Manuel would progress in his play to the point where they could become a more balanced offense, but that went out the window with Manuel’s midseason knee injury. Now his third knee injury has cost him more time on the field.

So running the ball became the offense’s identity, and to their credit they’ve done a great job with it. They lead the AFC in rushing yards per game. This despite the fact, as you mention, that C.J. Spiller has not been the weekly game-breaking talent that he was last season.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that has been the case. Spiller by all accounts is pretty healthy now, but his effectiveness as a runner has not improved a whole lot from where he was at when he was dealing with the high ankle sprain.

I think in Hackett’s defense he had a lot more to deal with at the quarterback position than anyone anticipated. When Manuel was hurt, he didn’t have a veteran QB to lean on, which was the plan with Kevin Kolb. So he instead he had to invest extra time trying to get another inexperienced QB ready in Thad Lewis and in one case Jeff Tuel (vs. KC).

I’m confident that if coach Marrone knew he wasn’t going to have a veteran QB in the room healthy and ready to back up and provide counsel to EJ Manuel that he may have given greater consideration to hiring a quarterbacks coach. Not because Nathaniel Hackett isn’t capable, but because of how much time and instruction would be required to school up three inexperienced QBs.

As for Hackett’s qualifications as an offensive play caller, he is more than qualified and I’ll again remind you that with a rookie QB who is learning on the job you are inherently limited in how much of the playbook you can use week to week.

2 – Dear Chris,

Thanks for all of your great coverage!  My question was about Chris Gragg. Why aren’t the bills using him more? All he’s done is make plays and I think he’s going to be a great weapon for EJ
Mike

CB: Coach Marrone has said it has been their intention to get Gragg as well as Marquise Goodwin more playing time for several weeks now, but it’s been easier said than done. Here were some recent comments he made about Gragg.

“With Chris (Gragg) it’s been tough for us at times to get him up and more involved at times, but when he has been in there he’s shown that he’s able to play and he’s able to be a tough matchup as far as how he can run,” said Marrone. “His blocking from a standpoint of willingness and movement is probably better than what his height and weight show that he should be able to do at that position so that’s encouraging also.”
3 – Hi Chris,

My question is in regards to the Bills offense. It seems that EJ is becoming more comfortable in throwing the ball “between” the numbers and play action. He threw some nice strikes to Chandler and Gragg against the Jags. Why does it seem that it takes getting into late 2nd Quarter or in the second half to start calling more of those plays? Is it because the running game has to be established first for those plays to be successful? Or is it just the way that Coach Hackett likes to call the plays?

Thanks, Tim in Niagara Ontario

CB: Once again I’ll defer to coach Marrone on EJ Manuel’s slow starts in games this season. Here’s what coach said after his most recent slow start at Jacksonville.

“I think you can see it in spots at times. But there’s no doubt that he got off to… I wouldn’t say slow, and he knows it, we talked to him, he got off to a very poor start,” said Marrone. “But the one thing about the kid, which you’ve seen over the course of him playing is he can fight his way through that and learn. Now are there some things that caught us yesterday the second time around where we would’ve liked not to make the same mistake, absolutely. But again he’s a young kid, he’s in here today working hard already watching the film getting ready to go. That’s what you want from your quarterback and keep getting better and keep playing through that.”

 

4 – Thanks Chris for all your Coverage of our Buffalo Bills!

When Aaron Williams went down on Sunday, Jim Leonhard came in and once again made 2 huge plays. It shows how important depth is on an NFL football team. Every time he has played, he has made big plays. Do the Bills make a Valiant effort to resign some of these key backup players like Leonhard?

Thanks, Eileen in St.Catharines Ontario

CB: Leonhard has been known for the big play since his college days at Wisconsin. He had 16 interceptions in his college career. He’s a savvy player who makes plays despite not being the most physically gifted safety around. He is a free agent after the season.

His return to the Bills could be directly tied to what happens with Jairus Byrd another free agent safety for Buffalo. If Byrd is re-signed I think it lessens the likelihood that Leonhard is also back knowing there are two young safeties on the roster in Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks. If Byrd is not back, then Leonhard becomes a much more viable option to re-sign as I see it.

 

5 – Chris,

I’m wondering why the Bills are using Graham more than Goodwin? IMO, the Bills are not effectively using Goodwin, as they continue to throw him an occasional deep pass to him every game. In the last Jets game, where Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods were out due to injuries, Goodwin had his best receiving game of the year as Goodwin was catching passes all over the field, and IMO, the Bills had one of their best offensive outputs of the season. I feel Goodwin can be more effective catching passes in the slot, and other parts of the field, besides going for the deep routes a couple of times a game. So far, Graham has proven to be very inconsistent as he has dropped numerous passes, and does not get the same consistent separation as Goodwin does. At this point, it seems EJ Manuel has more chemistry with Woods and Goodwin, than he does with Johnson and Graham. I would rather see Woods and Goodwin as the Bills top 2 WR’s, with Johnson in the slot as this could help Manuel’s development.

Thanks for all the hard work that you do covering the Bills!

Steve
Fredericksburg, VA

CB: Goodwin has produced when given more time on the field. I think he has demonstrated dependable hands this season even in traffic. The slot might be an interesting spot for Goodwin to line up more often moving forward, though Woods could be effective inside too. The depth chart at receiver that you’re suggesting could shift in that direction going into next season. It’ll all come down to competition at training camp.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-20

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

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

1 - Hi Chris,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Paddy, Vancouver Canada

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

3 – Hey Chris,

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

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

 

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

Brian in South Carolina

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

 

5 – Chris,

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

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

Thanks!
Jim from Massachusetts

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

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

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

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-13

Posted by Chris Brown on December 13, 2013 – 2:31 pm

Down the stretch they come. Bills at Jags Sunday, but first your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,

Two quick questions-  Kyle Williams had surgery on each of his Achilles tendons, and both procedures were successful as reported.  Why is he still constantly on the injury report with this problem and needing to be rested during the practice week.  Is it a long recovery thing or a permanent condition?

Also, during the Atlanta game, I noticed when E. J. Manual came up to the line of scrimmage he had his mouth guard stuck in his face mask about half the time.  With the increased focus on him avoiding injuries, how is it that the coaches or other players weren’t on him about that?  Maybe he has trouble talking with it in, but forgets to replace it before calling the signals.

Thanks.
DR

CB: Kyle Williams Achilles’ surgeries were not to repair ruptures. They were to repair fraying and to remove bone spurs that were rubbing on his Achilles. To repair it they had to detach each Achilles, remove the bone spurs, repair the tendons, and then re-attach them.

Rehab for those procedures are typically 4-5 months. Those Achilles in the line of work that Williams does get very sore and stiff after games. So the coaching staff affords Williams an extra day of rest to recover on Wednesdays.

Just think for a second about having double Achilles surgery and then grappling with 300-plus pound guys 60 times a game and you’re holding your ground and driving up field relying on those two Achilles to power your body forward.

That’s a lot of stress and wear on those tendons each week.

As for EJ’s mouthpiece, he takes it out at times when he needs to communicate with the O-line pre-snap. Sometimes it’s because it’s an option play that he wants to change from a run to a pass. Sometimes it’s to change a protection. But talking with that thing in your mouth is almost impossible for a QB.

 

2 – Hi Chris,

I saw a press conference recently that Doug Marrone conducted in the aftermath of Buffalo’s 34-31 loss to Atlanta. Based on that, It seems like he is still changing the losing culture in the locker room. Earlier this week, the Bills had signed Tony Moeaki. Just wondering if this was because of the turnover suffered by Scott Chandler?

It appears to me that whoever the player is, no matter how talented they are, if they are not committed to winning (or at least if he sees it that way), he will get rid of them. Now, I have no problem with that approach, but will he over time overturn the whole roster? He had a private meeting with Stevie Johnson, ( is Stevie Johnson not committed to winning?) Is this a sign of things to come?

I do believe the Bills are better than last year in terms of competitiveness, but they still do need a running back, two linebackers, and a receiver. I guess time will tell. I do believe that Doug Marrone is superior to Chan Gailey in terms of attitude, and holding players accountable. He is also wonderful with the press. Your thoughts,

Tony, Ormond Beach, Fl

CB: As I said on the radio earlier this week, there are roster changes on every NFL team every year, but I foresee changes here in Buffalo that will surprise some people in the offseason. This first year, Marrone has been very thorough in making assessments of the players on this roster and whether he can win with them his way.

If he feels he cannot they will not be here long term. And let me be clear in saying what can earn a player a ticket out of here sooner rather than later goes far beyond athletic ability. Work ethic, commitment to team and professionalism are all qualities that are coveted by Marrone and his staff too.

In fact in some cases lacking in one of those three areas might lead to a player dismissal (cut or traded) even if said player has the ability to help them win.

Da’Rick Rogers should’ve served as a prime example at the beginning of the season. A ton of ability, but no professionalism or commitment to team.

If players on this roster didn’t get that message then, they may end up learning the hard way.

 

3 – Chris

Thank you for your coverage for us Bills fans!!

I have very good thoughts about Wingo and his abilities and really see him as a possible replacement for Fred Jackson in time.  Hes got the talent to be a great offsetting tandum with Spiller…Now that we will get the chance to see how he performs I have a question about the future of the franchise.  The Bills are almost rebuilt, missing a few pieces to having a very competitive team.  If Wingo performs well the rest of the season can you see maybe the Bills trading away Fred Jackson and running with Wingo.  I love Freds leadership and still believe he has a few great seasons left in him.  But his age and injuries catching up faster and faster each year so why not get something for him to bring more youth and promise to the team?

CB: I believe you’re getting ahead of yourself here. Wingo’s playing time will not be sufficient enough to make that kind of assessment, unless Spiller or Jackson sustain a season-ending injury.

I think Wingo is a player of interest to the Bills, but this is a guy they need to develop through this coming offseason to help him improve. Unseating other players is just too premature right now.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks for your hard work to keep us fans up to date with the Bills. After watching this past game against the Bucs, I noticed that not 1 deep ball was attempted, and it seems like the bills offense has had success with it in the past. Coach Marrone said they may have to “scale” things back a bit for E.J Manuel. Could that be an indication that he just may not be ready yet to play in this league? This is a very young Football team and I was wondering if its just as simple as these Rookies and second year players having to “learn” how to win in the NFL?

Thanks Again, Eileen in Ontario

CB: I think the worst thing that happened to rookie QBs in the NFL was the rapid success of Andrew Luck, RG III and Russell Wilson. Due to the fact that three rookies succeeded in their first year as starters, it created the false premise that rookies QBs on the whole can succeed right away.

There are instances where that can happen, but more often than not it doesn’t. EJ Manuel has started just 10 games. In the words of Coach Marrone he has a lot to learn.

When he talked about scaling things back it was because since the second Jets game they have been increasing the amount of things on his plate to see how he would handle it. He didn’t handle it well in Tampa, so now they will cut back and simplify.

It’s the typical approach with a rookie QB. See how much they can handle and if it’s too much cut back.

 

5 – Chris,

I realize you want to create a winning culture with a young team with a new coaching staff but it’s clear this is not the team that can produce winning football. So I’m curious on what your outlook for the last three games is, I’ve been ready to settle for draft picks since the Pittsburgh game but many people may oppose tanking the rest of the year for picks.

Also I was wondering how you’d grade EJs performance this year, I personally like his attitude and demeanor  but he looks like a new born baby when he plays within the pocket it’s just painfully awkward to watch. He also just looks odd when he throws, consistently putting it over the heads of targets or in the dirt, I’m not sure why but do you think this is correctable through footwork?

Last question is about the draft we obviously need  a linebacker, guard and maybe another tackle but a big wideout seems to be a popular pick but where do they fit into our receiver room, seems that Stevie, TJ, and Robert are fixtures as the top three while we struggle to work in Goodwin. So who gets bumped out probably Marcus Easley but do we really draft a “big wideout” to be our fifth or sixth wideout? Or do you anticipate more fluctuation at this position in the offseason? As always keep up the great work covering our Buffalo Bills, and I look forward to your responses.

Will

CB: You have to win the remaining games as I see it. You’re never going to change the losing culture unless you win. If you can win these last three it helps in that effort.

EJ has had his ups and downs this season like any rookie quarterback. I think he has what it takes, but it’s going to take some time for him to put it all together. We all need to remember he’s made 10 starts.

As for team needs I agree with your linebacker and offensive line adds as well as a big receiver. I also think a big back would be prudent to groom as an eventual replacement for Fred Jackson.


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Posted in Inside the Bills