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Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 11-1

Posted by Chris Brown on November 1, 2013 – 2:21 pm

The Bills face a Chiefs team that has not won in Buffalo at the Ralph since 1986. Here is your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

 

1 - Chris,

The Bills are playing much more aggressive defense, and yes the sacks and interceptions are up.  However, the Bills run defense is still vulnerable. In addition, even though the Bills offense is putting 20+ points up per game, the defense is giving up more.

Is the Bills D-Line overrated and in need of an upgrade to shutdown the run ?

Let’s GO Buffalo
Randy C
South Florida

CB: The run defense has not been up to snuff. Coaches and players have cited sound fundamental tackling as the main culprit for this. Arthur Moats had a good explanation for me this week. Here’s what he said.

“When we’re making that initial contact we have to continue to drive our feet,” said Moats. “That’s the technique part of it I was talking about and not letting those guys fall forward for extra yards, not letting them leak out after getting hit initially. I feel like once we start doing that more consistently we’ll definitely see better results.”

 

2 – Chris,

Thank you so much for the information that you provide, especially to us fans who aren’t in the Buffalo area.  In regards to the Buffalo-Miami game.  There were 4 sacks and a lot of qb hits.  I can’t remember how many.  I believe I read where you reported that during the week Coach Marrone spent extra time working with the Offensive Line.  It seems to me that there were more sacks and hits in this game than in previous games.  What more can be done to increase the protection?

Buffalo fan in Virginia

CB: I think the Bills will need to turn to a quick passing game more often as they face defensive units that can successfully rush the passer. They’re going to need to turn to three and five-step drops and deliver the football on timing patterns. Seven-step drops against teams like the Chiefs for example are a death wish.

I think short drop timing throws would be good go-to plays, especially for the inexperienced quarterbacks Buffalo has had to put in the lineup. Then when DBs start squatting on routes, work the middle of the field like they did last week and take a few deep shots.

 

3 – Hi Chris,

After looking at the statistics, it appears that among the linebackers, Kiko Alonso and Manny Lawson are making many tackles and that Nigel Bradham is not experiencing the production that Lawson and Alonso are. Is it because Bradham is not strong against the run? The Buffalo Bills defense is decidedly better than last year’s version in terms of making plays, but would they go after another linebacker in April’s draft? It seems that the defensive line is strong, and the secondary is strong, but maybe they need one more playmaking linebacker. Your thoughts?

Tony, Ormond Beach, FL

CB: Bradham’s lack of production is directly tied to his lack of playing time. Through the first eight games of the season Bradham has 104 snaps logged on defense. Lawson has 344 and Alonso 626. You can’t expect the same production from a guy playing one third or one sixth of the time.

As for drafting another linebacker I think that there’s a good chance they look to add another LB next April.

 

4 – Chris:

The Bills did not seem to be using Fred Jackson and CJ spiller in the game at the same time very much when they were both healthy this season.  Do you think we will ever see them utilized in a pro set or veer formation?  I just could see that as a great asset to utilize in a fast paced offence.

Thanks,
Chris

CB: Both haven’t been 100 percent healthy almost all season so the opportunity to run a split backfield has been limited. They did do it a bit earlier this season and it is contained in the Bills playbook. I just don’t think we’ll see much of it until both backs are fully recovered from their injuries.

Making use of that formation also depends on the caliber of opponent and what they do well.

 

5 - @ChrisBrownBills
Thanks for the updates this week on EJ. Can you tell me how EJ looked or did?

bucketscheung

CB: EJ threw the ball very well, but his injured knee is not all the way back yet. His right knee is on his back leg on drop backs. Planting that leg firmly in the ground at the top of his drop cannot be enjoyable if he’s still experiencing pain in that knee where he had the LCL injury.

He hasn’t been cleared medically to play in a game and until that happens he’ll just be throwing in practice. EJ hasn’t really done any team work. Head coach Doug Marrone said that there’s an outside chance he plays in the Jets game in two weeks.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 10-25

Posted by Chris Brown on October 25, 2013 – 1:18 pm

Here’s the latest edition of questions from you the fans on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

I would like to know how many special teams tackles Easley has inside the 20.

jkempfbills12

CB: We actually did a feature story today on Buffalobills.com on Marcus Easley. Our contributing correspondent Mark Belcher crunched the numbers and found that Buffalo leads the league with 10 kickoff coverage tackles inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Easley has six of them. The Bills gunner currently leads the league with 13 special teams tackles this season.

2 - @ChrisBrownBills

Hey Chris,
Do you see Bills Blitzing a lot on Sunday or playing more conservative with Brees pulling the trigger?

TVanderklok

CB: I think you have to careful with how you handle Drew Brees in terms of being aggressive. Brees is third in the NFL in passer rating against the blitz with a mark of 118.4, so blitzing is not a simple answer. Here’s head coach Doug Marrone on how to handle a quarterback he knows quite well having coached him for three seasons in New Orleans.

In his weekly appearance on Bills flagships station WGR Sportsradio 550, Marrone said the following when it comes to defending Brees.

“One thing you can’t do is you can’t be the same, show him the same type of look and play zone or man too much,” said Marrone. “If you give him a dose of the same stuff they’ll get after you. That’s the same with all those elite quarterbacks. You have to keep them thinking throughout the play. Before the play start if they have a good bead on what you’re doing they have an advantage. So if they’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing and people are moving around and they’re trying to figure it out as they go you have a better opportunity.”

3 – Chris,

Thanks for all the work you do! Regarding EJ, is he still in attendance at practice? Will he be at the game Sunday either on the sideline or in the box with Hackett?

Go bills!
Max

CB: EJ is not typically in attendance at practice, but he is in all the team meetings and reviewing film on a weekly basis. He is also traveling with the team and yes he is sitting in the coach’s booth with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to get a different perspective on the game from above.

This is what they did with Thad Lewis when he was on the practice squad.

4 – Chris,

I notice that the Bills don’t have an individual QB coach for your young QBs. Normally this wouldn’t be as much a concern if there was vet there to help mentor the young guys, but this isn’t the case.

I know Hackett is listed as QB coach, but he’s also OC, and has never played the position or coached it at a professional level. Are there plans to get the young QBs coaching on mechanics, game-time discussions, and work on mechanics that will help bring them along? After watching EJ struggle with mechanics, I’m worried the Bills have made a mistake in not providing a QB coach who has done it before as a resource.

Thanks Chris!
Todd, Rochester NY

CB: You’re right Hackett is both the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach. Head coach Doug Marrone did say when Kevin Kolb is fully recovered from his concussion that they’d like him to come around more and help the younger quarterbacks. We’ll see if that comes to pass.

 

5 – Chris,
Good pre-game coverage. Question:  How is it possible that Hogan is ahead of Easley on the WR depth chart.  I think Easley is a bigger, stronger WR than Hogan and has better hands and speed than Hogan. Makes no sense.  Very frustrating, reminds me back when Stevie was on the bench rather than starting when he was clearly the best WR option at that time years ago.

I think if Bills moved Easley ahead of Hogan they would be pleasantly surprised. I think once Easley demonstrates he can make plays they’ll have a hard time getting him out of the line up.

CB: I think you’re referring to the Cincinnati game in which Hogan saw his most playing time on offense. The main reason why he played more than Easley is he’s a backup slot receiver and Stevie Johnson missed that game with his back injury. Easley is strictly an outside receiver.

I think Hogan is also a quicker receiver in and out of his cuts than Easley, who is more of a long strider. Easley has build-up speed. Hogan is more sudden, which helps him gain quicker separation inside. That’s why he was a better fit.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 10-18

Posted by Chris Brown on October 18, 2013 – 12:59 pm

The Bills will look for their first road and first division win of the season Sunday against the rival Dolphins. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

I had strong hopes our run defense would finally be much improved this with the hiring of Mike Pettine. Apparently that isn’t the case. I don’t think the high tempo offense is helping much at least not until we can string together a few first downs. The play calling on offense is extremely frustrating to watch. Hackett runs CJ into a wall of bodies 1st and 2nd down in the first quarter of every game leading to many 3 and outs. By the time we throw a pass the defense knows it’s a pass and it’s hard for him to get confidence early.

Anyways, on defense you can see them stopping the run in the beginning then it really looks like they get lazy at times. I can’t stand seeing Mario being single blocked just standing there content to be taken out of the play. Is there any emphasis on playing all out on EVERY second of every play on defense?

That’s what the good ones do. Their standard is to not be satisfied ever. Our guys seem to lose steam after they make a few plays and then they seem to get comfortable as if their job is already done. They too often put a shoulder into the ball carrier and just stop because someone else came to help. Then the help wouldn’t finish the tackle because another player got in on the play. Very poor tackling at times!  Do you see them being coached hard or is it just business as usual after letting up 500+ yards?

Dan

CB: I have to admit I am puzzled myself as to why the run defense is not better. The defense is solid when it comes to pass pressure and takeaways, but Buffalo ranks 28th against the run. That shouldn’t be the case with the talent they have up front.

The coaches insist that fundamentals are the main problem and they do harp on it every week in practice. They spend time during individual position drills every week doing tackling drills, more so than any other coaching staff I’ve seen here in the recent past.

So it’s on the players to do better there. Mario Williams even admitted it himself.

As for the offense I think Nathaniel Hackett has adjusted the pace somewhat. Now on their fourth QB it behooves them to slow the pace a bit to maintain possession. Buffalo’s offense did pretty well on third downs with Lewis at QB last week going 8-17 on conversions (47%). What helped was most of the time they stayed in manageable down and distance situations.

Part of the reason coach Hackett is so committed to the run game is it helps overcome the changes at quarterback. The run game makes life easier for Lewis to work play action and negate the opponent’s pass rush. Oh by the way it’s also been effective. The Bills lead the AFC in rushing.

And you should get used to some of the one and two yard gains you’re going to see in the run game in the first and second quarters. Those eventually develop into bigger gain plays later on in the game.

I remember a lot of fans used to lament how we scrapped the run too early the past few seasons. Now we’re sticking with it and some still aren’t happy. I’ve got no problem putting the ball in the hands of Jackson and Spiller.

 

2 – Chris,

I was hoping you could explain the captain designation on the uniforms. I have noticed that some captains have one or more of the stars under the “C” colored in in gold and others have none and some have all the stars as well as the “C” in gold. What does this all mean?

Thanks! – Kevin

CB: The captain’s patch on NFL jerseys has a large letter ‘C’ with four stars beneath it. The number of stars that are gold indicate how many seasons that player has been a captain. If the player has been a captain for more than four years, the ‘C’ is also gold. Here’s an example of Brian Urlacher’s old captain’s patch as he was a captain for more than four years.

NflBearsCaptainsPatch

 

 

 

3 – Chris,

It seems that year-after-year, the Bills have had a never-ending string of injuries to key players – and seemingly more than other NFL teams.  I’m curious how the Strength & Conditioning coaches deal with preparing players to avoid injuries (and other coaches – i.e., not taking an unnecessary big hit).  Looking at the last three years alone, here are players that seemingly would be on the field…but have missed time because of injury.

It’s just hard not to think that this simply cannot be simply “luck” – as it is becoming horribly routine.

Keep up the good work.
Mike

2013
Chris Hairston
Kevin Kolb
Brad Smith
Alex Carrington
Ron Brooks
Marquise Goodwin
Stephon Gilmore
Dustin Hopkins
Fred Jackson
CJ Spiller
Jairus Byrd
Leodis McKelvin
TJ Graham
Stevie Johnson
EJ Manuel
Doug Legursky

CB: So the rest of the fans reading this know, Mike provided a listing of injured players going back to 2011. I can tell you that the majority of the injured players listed above either sustained broken bones or ligament injuries. That has nothing to do with strength and conditioning. Football is a violent game. To be clear I’ll go through the injuries from this season one at a time.

Chris Hairston – had an undisclosed illness and was listed as a non-football injury
Kevin Kolb – suffered a concussion while sliding to avoid a hit and took a knee to the back of the head from a player trying to jump over him to avoid hitting him.
Brad Smith – suffered a fractured rib on a tackle.
Alex Carrington – torn his quadriceps tendon – non-contact injury, just engaged with an offensive lineman
Ron Brooks – broken foot
Marquise Goodwin – broken hand
Stephon Gilmore – broken wrist
Dustin Hopkins – groin injury (muscular)
Fred Jackson – sprained MCL
CJ Spiller – ankle injury
Jairus Byrd – plantar fasciitis
Leodis McKelvin – hamstring (muscular) – missed 3 games
TJ Graham – hamstring (muscular) – missed one game
Stevie Johnson – lower back (muscular) – missed one game
EJ Manuel – sprained LCL
Doug Legursky – sprained MCL

So out of 16 injured players only four have muscular injuries that could be related to strength and conditioning and I stress could. Three of those four players are at positions where there is the most running and players are most susceptible to muscle fatigue. Buffalo’s strength and conditioning staff monitors player load with their GPS tracking devices in practice to make sure players, especially at those positions (RB, WR, LB, DB) are not being overworked in terms of reps in practice.

Here’s a closer look at some of the efforts taken by Eric Ciano, Hal Luther, Dan Liburd and their staff. You’ll also find if you look around the league that other clubs incur similar losses to injury.

 

4 – Chris,

Greetings from the biggest fan in Arizona and thanks for keeping us informed.

Do you have  any statistical data on Run After the Catch (RAC) of our opponents so far this year. On third down it seems to me that the short crossing routes and the RAC are killing us as far as getting off the field on third down. Kiko does such a good job getting pressure on the line or the opposing QB that the other LBs are frequently one on one on the underneath routes. With the defense beginning to get healthy, what can the Bills do to limit the underneath stuff on 3rd and four or seven and get the defense off the field.

See you in December at the Dolphins game!

Warmest regards
Larry Kordosky

CB: The Bills defense right now after six games has allowed the eighth-most yards after the catch in the league (792). Here are the teams that have allowed even more, some of whom have played only five games (see: Miami, Minnesota, Washington).

The crossing routes are some of the hardest to cover, not that it’s an excuse. I do expect Buffalo to improve in this area though with their defensive backs getting healthier as a group.

RK           Team                     Gms     Yards After Catch

1 Denver   Broncos 6 1094
2 Dallas   Cowboys 6 1000
3 Philadelphia   Eagles 6 958
4 Minnesota   Vikings 5 927
5 Arizona   Cardinals 7 880
6 Washington   Redskins 5 843
7 Miami   Dolphins 5 822

 

5 – Hi, Chris.

Your coverage is off to another great year.  Keep up the excellent work.

My questions relate to the uniforms the Bills wear each game.  How far in advance are the decisions made about what will be worn?  In particular, when they are wearing their white jerseys, do they have to commit to the white or blue pants in advance?  Also do the players have any real preferences over what uniforms they wear, or are they largely indifferent?  Do they have any superstitions about the uniforms?  Lastly, do the players have any say in the uniform selection?  I have to say that I am NOT a big fan of the blue pants and wish the team would stick with the all-white look on the road.  It is classic look and I think it is far superior to the uniform with the blue pants.  I am curious about your opinion as well.

Thanks,
Walter

CB: Thanks for the compliments. Here’s the deal on the uniform decisions straight from our Equipment Manager Jeff Mazurek.

The home team decides jersey color selection. Those decisions have to be turned into league office on July 1st.

As far as pants there’s no designation required it’s whatever the team prefers. Uniform combos are decided between Equipment Staff and management.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 10-11

Posted by Chris Brown on October 11, 2013 – 12:07 pm

Another edition of Fan Friday with your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,

Great job keeping Bills Nation up to speed as usual.  I think Jim Leonhard has been instrumental is providing some “glue” to the secondary so far this year.  When we signed him in late in camp, did we sign him to a multi-year deal, and if not, do you think we should lock him up for next year now?  At 30, he can clearly still play well.

Thanks!

Matthew Kerr
Dayton, OH
SEASON TICKET HOLDER SINCE 2005

CB: Leonhard was an astute signing. He knew Pettine’s defense coming in and has helped direct the defensive backfield in the absence of Jairus Byrd and others. He’s currently here on a one-year contract. I think a lot of what Buffalo does at safety hinges on the situation with Byrd, so I wouldn’t anticipate anything elsewhere at the position until that is resolved.

 

2 - Hi Chris,

I notice that many injured players getting closer to becoming activated practice on the “scout team.”  Why is that?  Does the scout team (I presume an attempt to mirror the week’s opponent) practice less and is less physical?  I am not sure why, for instance, if Jairus Byrd, still recovering, is a “full participant,” he is practicing on the scout team — it seems to make sense for him to be practicing with the 1st or 2nd team to practice the week’s game plan.  Does practicing on the scout team, even if a “full participant,” indicate that that player is unlikely to play that week?

Matthew from Los Angeles

CB: When a player is typically working on the scout team coming off an injury, it’s an indication that they’re unlikely to play Sunday because they’re not getting the reps on defense or offense for that week’s game plan. If they’re not repping the assignments in the game plan during the week, it’s unlikely that they’re going to be trying to execute them on Sunday.

Very often a player coming off injury is used on the scout team as a way of getting them back into the flow of the practice setting. It’s not any less physically demanding, but they’re just not at the point in their recovery where they’re fit to play on Sunday. They’re medically cleared to practice, but not all the way back to play effectively in a game.
3 - Hi Chris,

Why do you think the Bills haven’t used Chris Gragg more often? He showed some good skills coming out of Arkansas, and in the preseason. I would think he could help open up our offense, in two tight end sets.

Thanks,
Dan

CB: The Bills coaching staff watches young players and their progress in the practice setting constantly. If they see a jump in a player’s performance in practice they’ll often be given an opportunity on a game day. Brandon Smith, who was called up from the practice squad is a prime example.

Gragg is a player the team clearly values, but with Scott Chandler the primary receiving weapon at the position and Lee Smith a solid in line blocker (something Gragg is still working on) it’s hard to know when Gragg sees the field.

 

4 - Chris,

Can you help us understand the philosophy of Bills playing calling on first down?  There seems to be no imagination and nothing to keep defense’s guessing.  I predicted every first down offensive play last night.  Except for CJ’s run they all were awful.  I am really concerned about Hackett’s ability.

Dave Hardy

CB: You are right the Bills do have a high propensity of running the football on first down. They are second in the league in percentage of run plays on 1st-and-10 at 62.5%. Only Seattle is higher (64.2%). It is admittedly a high figure, but Buffalo is also first in the AFC in rushing and third in the league.

You might see it as predictable, but predictability matters less when there’s consistent production. Buffalo’s run game has been productive and they’ve done it against a pair of top five run defenses in each of their last two games.

Last year there were a lot of fans that were complaining that the run game was scrapped too quickly. Hackett sticks with it and to this point the Bills have been rewarded with C.J. Spiller’s long touchdown run against Cleveland the most recent example.

 

5 - Chris

I still think the Bills receiving game would Open up much more with an alignment of Woods and Easley on the outside and then rotating Stevie, TJ and Hogan in the slot.

what do you think ?

Randy C
Florida
CB: I think the Bills coaches feel they have more effective options for their passing attack ahead of him. Buffalo’s passing game is primarily based on timing and receivers getting early separation. Easley is fast, but he has build-up speed, so quick separation is not his specialty.

Easley can serve as an effective deep threat, but the coaching staff obviously feels that Graham and Goodwin more effective deep threats.

That being said he’s been fantastic on kick coverage this season. He’ll have to wait his turn on offense.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 10-4

Posted by Chris Brown on October 4, 2013 – 1:13 pm

Fresh off the Thursday night game here are your latest questions. Keep them coming on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hey Chris,

I really like what I’ve been seeing from the Bills lately. It’s starting to look like a great team. Can we expect Mario to play like he did against Carolina more often and when Byrd and Gilmore return how much better do you expect them to be? Lastly, I want to ask what is your biggest concern with this team going forward?

PS – I love what EJ has done but do you think he’s getting a bit overhyped it’s only been a few games, but man does it seem like this kid can keep his cool under pressure.

CB: I think Mario’s success is going to depend on the players around him up front. Provided they make plays when he draws the most attention from the opposing offensive line, it will force future opponents to pick their poison so to speak. Baltimore chose to double Kyle Williams and Mario most often in the game. As a result, Marcell Dareus saw a lot of one-on-one matchups and won more than his fair share with six tackles and a pair of sacks. As long as the guy that’s getting the one-on-one matchups is winning, the attention paid to the defensive linemen will vacillate back and forth sometimes week to week. We saw Mario get some opportunities last night even though he saw his fair share of double teams.

When Gilmore and Byrd are back in the lineup it’ll no doubt be a boost. The extent of Byrd’s role when he does return however, is up for debate. I expect him to be eased in playing in subpackages at first. Eventually he may be worked back in as a starter. Remember he hasn’t played an NFL regular season game in nine months, had no training camp and no preseason, and has only practiced Mike Pettine’s defense for a month.

As for a concern with the team, it’s the evolution of the offense. It’s going to be a process, but I think it has to be one that makes progress each week. Among the hurdles to be cleared are third down and red zone, two of the most important requirements to be a top offense in the league.

EJ has had his ups and downs, but overall he is making good progress. I think most people agree it’s a matter of when not if with Manuel.

 

2 – Chris,

Thank you for covering all the great news coming out of Buffalo. My question is in regards to the LG position. Colin Brown is certainly looking like he has had his share of problems in the first two games going against some pretty good and big DT’s in Star Lotulelei and Vince Wilfork. He also had trouble with Mizzou sensation and Rookie DT Sheldon Richardson. I have been wondering what his status is on the team? I have heard Coach say he is happy with who he has on the o-line so I doubt a change will be made. From watching the games and being there at One Bills Drive can you tell anything about Colin Brown and why he is having a hard time? Is it the competition he is going against or rooted in fundamentals and overall talent? For a man his size (6’7 325lbs) he has been a problem so far this year. Running to the left side for some nice gains would be welcoming.

Thanks
Taylor – Greater St. Louis Area

CB: I think without question the Baltimore game was his best performance. In a more traditional offensive approach when they ask the offensive line to line up and smack and defensive front in the mouth, that’s what he does best. I think we do have to take into account the caliber of talent he’s been going against early this season. Wilfork – a perennial Pro Bowl player, Lotulelei – a top 10 pick, Richardson – another 1st round pick, Ngata – a perennial Pro Bowl player.

We have to remember he’s the new addition to the offensive line, so I thought before passing judgment it would be fair to give him the first month of the season to settle in. Let’s see where he takes his game from here.

 

3 – Hi Chris,

One of the few plays the Bills have run consistently the past couple years has been screens.  It seems getting Mr. Spiller, Mr. Jackson and a few others some breathing space was highly effective.  Unless I missed something grabbing a snack, I don’t recall the Bills running any screens these first two games.  For an offensive staff that insists it adjusts to the player’s strengths, why does it appear they have abandoned screens?

Thanks,
Matt from Saratoga

CB: I think part of the reason screens haven’t been used as much is because they are trying to play to the players’ strengths, meaning the offensive line. The loss of Andy Levitre limited their athleticism on the offensive line. Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik are capable of getting out on screens, but I don’t know if that’s enough to convince the offensive staff that it could be a frequent weapon for them.

Now we did see a couple of screens last night that provided some measure of success so perhaps we’ll see more moving forward.

We have to remember that Nathaniel Hackett and Doug Marrone are still feeling out the roster and finding what plays work best with their personnel in their system. The coaches have to learn what works best as much as the players have to learn what they’re being asked to execute.

Next year at this time there won’t be those questions.

 

4 – Hey Chris
Wondering if you could give us a projected return date (or game) for the list of inured players? I think we’re getting close to when Gilmore might return, right? How about Goodwin? Brooks? Byrd has no timetable, right?

Stephon Gilmore
Ron Brooks
Marquise Goodwin
Dustin Hopkins

We sure would be a lot better off with all of those guys on the field!
Thanks
Greg

CB: Here’s an idea as to where they’re at.

Stephon Gilmore – Cincinnati is the earliest possible return, but I think it might be a week after that.
Ron Brooks – He’s closer. He’s doing straight line running now, but not cutting yet.
Marquise Goodwin – Think he has a chance this coming week. Began catching passes this past week
Dustin Hopkins – Real close, good chance to be ready for Cincy game.

5 – Chris,

We should really look at getting him, if possible, to have another good QB on our roster no?

Scott Young

CB: Doug Marrone has maintained that promoting through the practice squad is the course they usually take. Thad Lewis knows the offense and is on the practice squad. Of course Doug Whaley has said if they ever have a chance to upgrade the roster they will look to do it.

That being said Josh Freeman is a player that has some off the field concerns that need to be investigated. If those check out and he’s not looking for giant money, which is possible, then I’ve got no problem with the Bills kicking the tires on him.

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 9-27

Posted by Chris Brown on September 27, 2013 – 1:59 pm

A big AFC conference game Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champs. Bills are really going to need their reserves to play big. Here are some of the more popular questions from you the fans this week. Keep the questions coming on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,
I’ve noticed so far that most of the Bills running plays appear to have the HB running into a brick wall of defenders out of passing formations with no lead blocking. Is this how it’s going to be all season with Hackett at the helm? I know CJ can’t go outside every play but he doesn’t seem suited for that. Seems like they rush to the line to hand off and have the HB just run into the D line on first and second down then pass on 3rd and 6. Seems too predictable to me and not playing to the strengths of CJ at all. They seem too quick to put the ball in CJs hands. The key is to get it in his hands in space. What are your thoughts on the running game in our new offense? Do you think things will open up more as EJ comes along?

Dan

CB: I think we honestly need a bigger sample size before we pass judgment on the Bills running game. Heading into the Baltimore game it’s still fifth in the league so they’re doing something right. They’re averaging 4.4 per carry, which is eighth best in the NFL.

In Week 2 we saw more effective control of the line of scrimmage by Buffalo’s offensive line and that was critical to the inside zone plays they run. If you don’t reset the line of scrimmage off the snap up front it doesn’t give much for the back to work with.

I don’t disagree with your argument to get C.J. the ball in space. The offense threw a lot of swing passes to C.J. and Fred in training camp, but we haven’t see a lot of those in the regular season to this point. Again it’s only been three games.

I think Coach Hackett’s running game for this offense will evolve as the season wears on.

 

2 – Chris,

What are the implications if the Bills could / would decide to put Jarius Byrd on IR?  Not saying they want to but if he is unable to play because the pain in his feet is to great, then can they do it and if so, does that change his free agent status / obligations to the Bills.  This might free up a position for a developing player or allow for more depth to be added in a position of need.

Thanks
Jim Harding
Macungie, Pa.

CB: The Bills are within their rights to place him on injured reserve if they deem it a condition that is not going to improve. For those that remember him, former Bills TE Ryan Neufeld had a very bad case of plantar fasciitis in both feet. I don’t know how he played with it because it looked like he was walking on nails with every step.

Eventually one of muscles, which run along the underside of the foot, in one of his feet tore. That ended his season. What the doctors did with his other affected foot, was they went in and snipped that muscle as well. From what Neufeld told me the doctors said the healing would be quicker that way.

I’m not suggesting that’s what Byrd should do. Neufeld was at the point of no return and Byrd appears to be making progress, albeit incremental. At some point however, with the secondary still short-handed due to injury this may need to be a stronger consideration.
3 – Chris,
I really like that locker room footage after Sunday’s win over Carolina. Do they only let camera crews in there so many times a year? I saw you did it last year but only for one game if I remember correctly. Keep up the good work! I live for Bills football and am constantly checking for updates on buffalobills.com.

Dan
Chicopee, MA

CB: Thanks for your readership and viewership. Yes, we’re only allowed in the postgame locker room to shoot after victories, but it is exclusive coverage you can only get at Buffalobills.com.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks for all of your hard work!

It seems the Bills have incredible talent on the defensive line and Kiko Alonso has a ton of upside potential at LB. Why are the Bills continuing to have a tough time stopping the run? While it’s obvious the defense has made strides since last year, they are still ranked near the bottom of the league in run defense.

Preston, writing you from Medellin, Colombia

CB: Coach Marrone has liked the red zone defense, but not the run defense between the 20s. He simply said their tackling has to be better. He’s felt that too many rushers are getting second effort yards. There’s no debating that there’s capable talent on the defensive line and at linebacker, and the coaches drill tackling technique constantly at practice. It’s on the players to make it happen.

 

5 – Hey Chris,

I really like what I’ve been seeing from the Bills lately it’s starting to look like a good team. Can we expect Mario to play like he did in Week 2 more often and when Byrd and Gilmore return how much better do you expect them to be? Lastly, I want to ask what is your biggest concern with this team going forward?

CB: I don’t think there’s any question that when your defensive backfield is stronger it helps your pass rush, so when Gilmore returns and if Byrd returns to the lineup (there’s no predicting where Byrd’s plantar fasciitis is headed) it’s logical to think that their coverage abilities and anticipation skills could force quarterbacks to hold onto the ball longer at times.

As for concerns with the team they’re the same as they were in May. I’m worried about the depth at cornerback. There’s a lot of young talent there, but with McKelvin and Brooks injury history I’d like to have an extra corner in the stable if possible.

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 9-20

Posted by Chris Brown on September 20, 2013 – 11:44 am

The second big division game in three weeks coming up on Sunday. Don’t forget the 4:25 pm start this week. Here are some of the more popular questions from you the fans this week. Keep the questions coming on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 -  Hi Chris,

I noticed that Jamaal Westerman made the roster, however I know very little about this athlete. Can you you provide a bit of information as to how he made the team.

thanks & regards
from Richard in Los Angeles

CB: Westerman was a late free agent signee during training camp. The advantage he had was he spent three seasons in Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme with the Jets as a reserve OLB from 2009-2011 after New York signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers.

He split last season between Indianapolis and Arizona, and through his first two weeks here it’s clear he’s got an important role on special teams (39 snaps in 2 games) with a rotational role on defense where to this point he’s been used sparingly.


2 –
Hi Chris.

I’m curious about how our offense is called and I’m hoping you can shed some light. Does the Marrone/Hackett offense use simplified terms as part of the fast-paced attack? I would assume so, given the emphasis on fast execution and the fact that it’s an established trend made clearly successful by the likes of Peyton manning, New England and others…but I’ve read that our offense is based on the west coast system, which of course uses long, complex terminology…I’ve always believed that this simplicity is key to why manning and Brady-led offenses make fewer self-defeating mistakes than most other teams. Thanks…

CB: I know there was a detailed piece in the Boston Globe last year by Greg Bedard on the short-worded plays in New England’s offense. Sometimes just one word said it all. The Bills do similarly keep their play calls short for the purpose of moving faster as well. Oftentimes the plays are just three to five words. So your suspicions are correct.


3 –
Chris,

I read in two different articles that the new CBA says that if Carpenter is on our active roster on opening day and then we cut him after the Pats game we have to pay him the entire season veteran minimum of $630,000.00. Is that the way the CBA works now?

Thanks.
Long time Buffalo Fan

CB: Yes, that’s right, but that’s always been the case even prior to the new CBA in 2011. When a vested veteran player (4 accrued season in the league) is signed prior to the first regular season game so long as he is still on the roster the Saturday before the opener his salary for that season is guaranteed.

The Bills were really in a difficult spot due to Hopkins injury. They needed someone to kick and have to bite the bullet on Carpenter’s salary even though he’s unlikely to be here for the whole season.

This is why you often see NFL clubs wait until the Tuesday after the season opener to sign veteran free agents they might need to fill a hole on the roster. By signing a veteran player in Week 2 a  team is free to release said player without owing him his full season salary.

The Bills in this case didn’t have that option.

4 – Chris,

Don’t you think the Bills may get more from the WR position going with Easley and Hogan over Graham and Goodwin ?

I think Easley is ready to take the next step and Hogan has a knack for getting open.  Goodwin is now injured and Graham has yet to show he can gain separation and make plays.  Easley has good speed as well to try and stretch the field.

Randy C

CB: While I don’t disagree with your assessments of Easley and Hogan, I do disagree with your assessment of T.J. Graham.

Graham has been open, he just hasn’t been targeted much by E.J. Manuel. In fact on the final drive in the Carolina game alone he was wide open on three plays. What you have to understand is if Graham is not the primary or secondary read, it’s less likely that he’ll be targeted in the passing game.

Through two games he’s been targeted a total of four times.

We also need to consider the possibility that in an effort to not put too much on Manuel’s plate the offensive staff might only be having him read half the field on certain pass plays so he has only two reads instead of three or four in an effort to avoid sacks by getting the ball out faster.

But in watching the game film I can tell you Graham is getting separation and is getting open a good amount of the time.


5 –
Hi Chris,

Thank you for the great Bills coverage you provide day in and day out.

Question,  is tight end Mike Caussin on the Bills Injured Reserve list?  I know he was initially waived injured.  I don’t see his name listed in the injured reserve section of the Bills Roster on buffalobills.com.  I read he had season ending hip surgery on August 21.  Any word on how he is doing?

Thanks!
Richard

CB: Yes, Mike Caussin is on the Bills injured reserve list. He was waived-injured on Aug. 14th and when he was not claimed by another NFL club, he reverts back to Buffalo’s injured reserve list. And that’s where he is at this time.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 9-13

Posted by Chris Brown on September 13, 2013 – 11:31 am

Week 2 on tap and a win is pretty much a must. Here are some of the more popular questions from you the fans this week. Keep the questions coming on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

What are the chances Gilmore is back by the Thursday night game in Cleveland?

BarrieWinegard

CB: Gilmore has made good progress since his surgery on Aug. 26th for his fractured wrist. The cast is off and he’s just wearing an immobilizer brace at this point. But the pins are still in his wrist and there is a lot of rehabilitation in front of him. Head coach Doug Marrone said he felt Gilmore was on the short end of the six to eight week timetable provided from the outset. If he is then, six weeks would put him at Oct. 7th, with a return to practice probably taking place in Week 6 in advance of the Oct. 13th game against Cincinnati.

2 – @ChrisBrownBills

You can only use the IR-Return once, on one player. Correct?

AaronTheH

CB: Yes, that is correct. The I-R designated to return can only be used once a season. At this point in the season if a player goes on injured reserve and the club wants to make him their designated to return player, it has to be declared as soon as he’s placed on I-R.

I thought the Bills might make use of the DTR tag on Ron Brooks this week, knowing he was the DTR player last season when he broke the same foot. But head coach Doug Marrone said they don’t believe his situation or that of Marquise Goodwin necessitates the use of the I-R DTR.

3 – Hi Chris,

Always like reading your material & watching your short videos. Keep ‘em coming. As a transplanted Buffalo guy living in Reno, I can’t help but be curious about Duke Williams. He’s either been below the radar, or not showing much in preseason. Any observations/thoughts? I watched him play a bunch at Nevada, and was hoping he’d be able to make a go of it at the next level…

Hope the weather in WNY is treating you well. The only time I get nostalgic about it is the fall–leaves changing, and football.

Thanks,
Dan Matteson

CB: Duke has done well throughout the course of the offseason and typically ran with the second unit defense through the preseason. He got four snaps on defense in Week 1, but is going to be spending most of his time on special teams. He played 15 snaps there last week.

Moving forward he’s likely to see more time on defense in certain subpackages as the season wears on.

Say hi to the folks at Black Bear Diner in Reno. Best milkshake I’ve ever had! Thanks for the compliments.

4 – Chris

Thanks for all of the fine coverage of the Bills. From the outside looking in, the whole attitude of the team seemed the change when J. Byrd showed up, is he a poison in the locker room?

Going with the assumption that the quarterback is the most valuable piece on the chess board, do you believe it was a critical error for our former GM to not draft a quarterback somewhere in the first three rounds every year. If you hit on a few, more value at the most important position.

Lastly, even if Manuel plays well, should the Bills draft a quarterback in the 1st round in the upcoming draft.

Thanks for everything from Bills fans in Nevada.

Hank
Las Vegas

CB: I think your characterization of the locker room is a bit off the mark concerning Jairus Byrd’s arrival.

With respect to the philosophy of drafting a quarterback every year, I’m not opposed to it if you are a team with good quality depth at most positions where you can afford to spend a draft choice on a QB prospect every year. The Eagles have traditionally made a habit of this and have shrewdly traded some of those QBs for future draft choices in return (See: A.J. Feeley trade).

If Manuel pans out as most in the organization expect him to, I don’t believe drafting a quarterback in round one will happen. Not only because the team will already have their franchise signal caller, but also because they’re very pleased with who they have behind him in Jeff Tuel.

I don’t think you could completely rule it out, but I would say highly unlikely if Manuel’s career track shows good progress through the course of this season.

5 – Hi Chris,

It was noted that Jamal Westermann made the roster, however i know very little about this athlete. Can you provide a bit of information as to how he made the team.
Thanks & regards
from
Richard in Los Angeles
CB: He’s a fourth-year player that is wholly familiar with coach Pettine’s defensive scheme having played for him with the Jets in New York from 2009-2011. He’s an OLB by trade. Here’s a bit more on him when he initially signed in mid-August.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 9-6

Posted by Chris Brown on September 6, 2013 – 1:37 pm

The regular season is upon us… finally! Here are some of your more pressing questions this week. Keep the questions coming on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris–

Have you heard or seen any indication that we may use Goodwin in a similar fashion as Percy Harvin/Randal Cobb may be used with slot and carries out of the backfield?  I couldn’t help but imagine this after the two kickoff returns and he just seems to be smaller but also solidly built, sturdy and durable.  I thought he might fit well in that sort of role either now or the future.  Thanks.

Abe
Annville, PA

CB: I think the best thing that the offensive coaches have done is put the rookies in the best position to succeed. Part of that is accomplished by not putting too much on their plate. That’s not to say Goodwin couldn’t handle executing end arounds or operate out of the slot, but initially it’s clear that he’s going to be lined up to stretch the field. He’s a threat to burn a CB every snaps he’s out there and that can change the approach of a defense. Goodwin has had a solid preseason. If it continues I anticipate more being added to his list of responsibilities on Sundays.

 

2 – Chris
With all this talk and hype surrounding Spiller’s role in 2013, where does that leave Fred Jackson?  How much action will he get this season, and when (3rd downs, goal line carries, carries to give Spiller a rest, or will he have a bigger role than we think)?

Thanks,

Mike in San Diego

CB: I think Fred’s role won’t be as prominent as it was last season or the year before, but if this offense operates at peak efficiency they’ll be running 75-80 plays a game. If that happens there will be enough plays for C.J. to get his 25-30 touches and still enough left over for Fred to see 12-18 touches. Where they’re used on the field and in what situations is a game by game type situation.

 

3 – Hi Chris,
What a great at Training Camp this year! Thanks for keeping us up to date on all the action. I try not to get too excited during the preseason after all the letdowns of the past 13 years. But this year, it’s really hard not to. I went to Camp quite a few times, and you can really feel a difference in attitude and enthusiasm coming from the players and the new coaching staff!

So my question is this: Will this new attitude translate into wins during the regular season? Is the player talent at a high enough level for this Hybrid Defense and the Hi-Speed “HACK” Attack to finally get us to the playoffs?

The Defense looks pretty good. I think my biggest concern is the O-line. We’re obviously good at running back, but do you think this group of offensive linemen is up to the task of playoff caliber football?
Thanks,
Dave “Flash”

CB: I think the Bills have had a lot of talent on this roster, it’s just that it wasn’t maximized under previous coaching regimes. I get the sense that Nathaniel Hackett and Mike Pettine will be able to make the most of the collective talent they have at their disposal.

There is absolutely a new attitude and culture change, but it will have to be backed up by wins to truly take hold. Attitude helps, but wins are gold when it comes to change a team’s losing culture.

 

4 - @ChrisBrownBills

What does any injury settlement mean?

frankpro via Twitter

CB: An injury settlement is when an NFL club and an injured player on one of their reserve lists reach an agreement to move the player off said injured list. Very often this is the case when a player doesn’t have a season-long injury, but the team chooses to list them there because they don’t want to occupy a roster spot with said player.

For example, undrafted rookie FB Drew Smith after clearing waivers went on the team’s reserve-injured list. Once that happens he is no longer eligible to play for the Bills in 2013. However, if he doesn’t have a season long injury it would behoove him to make himself available to the other 31 teams in the league to try to land a job on a practice squad or active roster.

So the player and the team reach a financial agreement where the player usually takes less money than he would make on injured reserve in exchange for his release from the team once healthy, thereby making him a free agent.

 

5 – Chris:
In light of the injury to Stephon Gilmore, I am wondering if the Bills are considering reworking the secondary for the first six games, or for however long Gilmore is out. Is there any thought of moving Aaron Williams back to his old CB position, now that Jairus Byrd is back in the fold?

You could bump up Searcy (or Duke Williams) to start with Byrd at safety and have Williams start with McKelvin at corner.

I suppose another way to look at it is which of these options would make the Bills secondary stronger. Starting Brooks or Rogers at corner, or starting Searcy or Williams at safety? Looking forward to your thoughts.

Dan in Cheshire, CT

CB: I think too much time has been invested in Aaron Williams at safety to move him back at this point. With the strides that he’s made it would be hard for the coaches to interrupt that progress. I could only see it in a dire situation. Add in the fact that Byrd is dealing with two sore feet and it leaves them a bit more limited although Jim Leonhard could help similarly.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-30

Posted by Chris Brown on August 30, 2013 – 10:20 am

Well final cuts will be coming down in the next 24-36 hours as Buffalo’s 53-man roster will be set… at least for the time being. Below we get to some of your more pressing questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,
Pro scouts generally agree that E. J. Manuel has excellent athletic ability but concern about his judgement as a QB. Both Rob Johnson and J.P. Losman were good athletically but lacked judgment as a QB. While judgment is difficult to coach, how is the coaching staff doing it differently this time to ensure success?

With rookie coaching staff and the departure of some top players, what is the realistic expectation of the Bills record for this coming season? Recent statistics seems to indicate 3 to 5 wins for the season.
What is the target set forth by the Bills front office?

Thanks.
J. Plessbaut

CB: Manuel is not going to be Rob Johnson or J.P. Losman. He already has demonstrated more poise and good decision making than both of them in two preseason games. What helps Manuel is his dedication to the game and to improve. Johnson and Losman did not possess the same work ethic. They both wanted to excel, but didn’t put the work in to make it happen.

Decision making is something that can be coached and improved and there are lessons that Manuel certainly still has to learn. But he’s way ahead of where those two quarterbacks were at this stage of their career.

As for the target set forth by the Bills front office it’s the playoffs and you typically need 10 wins to qualify.

2 – Chris,
If the other outside corners struggle that are stepping in for Gilmore, do you think it is at all likely the Bills will try Duke Williams as the other starting outside corner?

Chris

CB: While I wouldn’t rule it out as an option down the line, I don’t know if it’s the first option they would turn to. The coverage assignments I expect to see out there for Duke is on slot receivers and tight ends.

3 – Hi Chris

Thanks for all your hard work keeping all Bills fans updated on Bills news and information. I have a question about Kendall Gaskins. He looked real good from what I was able to see about his performance. My question is in regards to his position. He is listed as a RB, but he did pick up some blitzes pretty well. If he continues to distance himself and becomes a player that the coaches will want to keep, with a crowded RB position, do you see him being moved to a more blocking/power position like FB? Or do you see him in a returner/RB backup role? His height is in range of a prototypical FB, and at 238 can be a big obstacle in the way of the defense. Thanks

Larry in Tucson

CB: I think Gaskins has put together a nice camp and preseason, but the backfield is crowded as you said. Coach Marrone does want a back that offers a different style to that of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and Gaskins is more of a power back.

I think the roster decision comes down to Gaskins, Brown and Choice for the third RB role. If Gaskins doesn’t get it I see the Bills trying to get him or Brown on their practice squad.

4 – The receiver position is deep and we can’t keep them all.  What is your best guess on how many receivers will be kept on both the 53 man roster and the practice squad?  And who are those players?

I say 7

Stevie Johnson
TJ Graham
Robert Woods
Marquise Goodwin
Marcus Easley
Chris Hogan
Brad Smith

Thanks and Go Bills
Mike in Dallas, TX

CB: Unfortunately I think seven is not going to happen. Six is probably the number.

10, 11, 13 and 88 are locks. I think after that it’s down to 15, 16 and 81 for the remaining spot or two. My thinking is 15 and 81, especially after the injury to Brad Smith last night (ribs).

5 – Chris:

Please thank the crew for all the hard work they put in getting updates and stories for the fans.

I have 3 things I would like your input on:

1.  Why are teams going to the trend of dressing only 7 Offensive Linemen for games?  This is a dangerous practice, especially considering 5 play the entire game Offensively and some on Special Teams (if they stay healthy).  The linemen make contact every play of every snap, the other players can’t say the same on Offense.  Now with the Bills planning to snap the ball 75-80 times per game this increases the potential for injury.  Isn’t that a concern and something to consider in the day of analytics?

2.  How does coach Marrone feel about scrimmaging and practicing against other teams?  Wouldn’t the coaches get a better evaluation on their own players in this situation?

3.  With you being at practice every day watching and asking interview questions to Coach Hackett, doesn’t it seem as though he has many of the mannerisms of John Gruden?  Is he as hands on and enthusiastic as Coach Gruden was on the field?

Joe
Blasdell

CB: The practice of dressing 7 linemen has been around for years. With the ability to only dress 46 players total and with there being far more rotation on the defensive side of the ball, they have to make seven work. More plays are solved by better conditioning the linemen though I don’t disagree every added play adds risk for injury.

I’ll have to ask coach Marrone about preseason scrimmaging. In year one however, his staff has so much to get in order and figure out that a scrimmage would complicate that process.

In terms of enthusiasm and being hands on, Hackett mirrors Gruden. But Hackett is always happy. Gruden is always ornery on the practice field.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-23

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2013 – 11:48 am

Camp is over and the third preseason game, the most important for the starters is the next on the docket. Now to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris –

Thanks for keeping us updated daily with what we hope is a little bit of inside information.  I have a question about the management structure in the front office.  Over the past three years Buddy Nix made no bones about the fact he did not negotiate contracts — that was the exclusive bailiwick of Jim Overdorf, who presumably got his marching orders from Mr. Wilson.

With Russ Brandon taking over as President and Doug Whaley assuming GM duties, is this still the mode of operation?  Does Doug as GM have any authority to say “I want this guy” to get a deal done, or is he beholden to the number Overdorf (who reports to Brandon) says is the Bills’ top dollar?  Does Overdorf have any obligation to take the sides’ respective “final positions” to (preferably) Whaley or (probably) Brandon for a final decision?

Personally, I like the stance Buffalo took with respect to the Byrd situation, but I’m curious as to who has the final say in contract negotiations.

Appreciate any insight you can provide.
Thanks again and Go Bills!

Eric Haase
Season Ticket Holder since 1990

CB: As Doug Whaley outlined the other day in a radio interview Jim Overdorf, the Senior VP of Football Administration takes the lead on contract negotiations. He keeps Whaley and Russ Brandon in the loop on developments and consults with them on the state or direction of negotiations.

I don’t know this for sure and Whaley did not spell it out, but I think going into the negotiation all parties involved in the Bills front office know where the line is on a specific contract, so I don’t believe the checking back with decision makers needs to happen. I think the line is drawn in the sand with respect to their budget beforehand.

2 – What’s up Chris

I have a question about the usage of E.J Manuel in year 1. If he doesn’t win the job out right do you think that Nate Hackett will install a package for him so he can get some game experience and slowly work him into the starting role. Or do you see him doing more of the holding the clip board work.

Brian in South Carolina

CB: I think this QB competition is an all or nothing thing. You’re either the starter or you’re not. So if Kolb moves forward as the starter whether by earning it or due to Manuel’s injury, I’m not sure they switch things for a series or two just to get EJ some exposure.

 

3 – Chris, camp is coming up, very quick. I am very excited!

I noticed a parallel between the way Zimmer in Cincinnati uses hybrid linebackers (Maualuga), the way Pettine is starting to with us. I believe the two systems will have a lot of similarities in disguising looks, etc. Do you see the same and also, think that is becoming a trend in 3-4 schemes? What is your opinion of hybrids or twiners, in general?

Thank you for your excellent coverage over the years. The fans appreciate it.
Nick

CB: The similiarities are not by accident. Marvin Lewis and Pettine were both schooled under aggressive 3-4 defensive principles. Lewis in Pittsburgh under Bill Cowher and Pettine in Baltimore under Rex Ryan. Zimmer first learned the 3-4 defense under Bill Parcells. Both have morphed into hybrid-front schemes. Disguising looks is more effective when you have hybrid players because the opposing offense cannot identify whether a certain player is a linebacker or a safety (e.g. Bryan Scott), or a DE or an OLB (e.g. Jerry Hughes). As Pettine has said himself, versatility is the strength of his defense. I would imagine Mike Zimmer feels the same.

 

4 – Hi Chris. Thanks for all the information you provide for Bills fans that live outside Western NY. I have always enjoyed reading all your posts. My question is:

With the Bills analytics dept using GPS to better monitor performances during practice, how will they measure these same variables when it comes to full contact games? Are the players allowed to wear these devices during games, or will they only be used during practice? As the season progresses I would imagine that analyzing data from each game from each player might help training staff find potential for injuries and keep them out a couple days of Practice that next week to give them time to recover before they go out and hurt themselves in a practice or other setting.  Thanks again for all the info you provide.

Larry in Tucson

CB: Unfortunately as it’s been explained to me the NFL prohibits GPS tracking devices to monitor performance in games. You’re right they would certainly help in matching the data to the results, or determine based on player load whether resting them is warranted. We already saw an example of that in training camp when Kiko Alonso was held out of the Minnesota game and a couple of practices because his player load was through the roof.

5 – Hey Chris,
Appreciate all the work you do and insight you provide. I remember Stevie saying at one point that under Chan Gailey the receivers were able to have some freedom with running their routes just as long as they got to their spot at the right time. I was curious if Doug Marrone will still allow Stevie to run his routes as he has been.  I feel like Stevie has a unique skill set with the way he gets open and shakes defenders. I see the other receivers gearing towards running more quick crisp routes which matches their skills. I’m hoping the staff does recognize Stevie’s abilities and can get creative with him. I was curious of your thoughts or if you had any insight regarding Stevie and how he fits in their offensive plans. I’m really looking forward to his season. It’s about time he gains some respect around the league. One last thing do you know if the Bills are sticking with the blue away pants this year?

Thanks for your time, Jillian CT

CB: Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett shed a little light on this subject. He and receivers coach Ike Hilliard have reined Johnson in a bit in some areas with his improvisational route running. Hackett emphasized the timing of the quarterback’s footwork with the precision of the route as the reason why.

Johnson will still have opportunities to go with the ‘herky jerk’ as he calls it, he just won’t make use of it as often.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-16

Posted by Chris Brown on August 16, 2013 – 12:30 pm

Preseason game number two tonight against the Vikings and a big night for Kevin Kolb. Here are some of your latest questions for this last edition of Fan Friday before the end of training camp. Keep the questions coming on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

I’m sure your sick of comments and questions about Jairus Byrd but my question I didn’t hear many talk about is this: did the Bills (or Byrd for that matter) consider that Byrd may have a tremendous year and increase his value even more next year leading to an even high price tag? If the Bills do what they are hoping he will do during his franchise year did they not cost themselves more money by not coming up a little higher to sign him this year? Or, if that was a consideration, does that not tell us there will be no attempt to sign Byrd long term after this season and this season is nothing more than a bridge to get one of the Williams’ ready?

Thanks,
Ron

CB: Bills GM Doug Whaley has gone on record saying they will still pursue a long term contract agreement with Jairus Byrd after the regular season concludes. At this point you have to take Whaley at his word as the team’s new GM. In my experience Whaley usually means what he says.

Now all that being said there is some merit to the argument of signing a player to an extension a year prior to their contract being up. If for example, the Bills are convinced that Alex Carrington is going to have a monster season in this the last year of his contract, they might opt to try to sign him before this season starts.

Is there a risk? Absolutely. He could have a down year or sustain a career-threatening injury. But there’s a risk in every decision an NFL GM makes. That’s why their salaries are where they are. When there’s a significant call to be made, they’re paid to make significantly more right decisions than wrong ones.
2 – Hi Chris,

I am a former season ticket holder (tunnel endzone) from the glory days of the late 80s and early 90s now living in SC.  Thanks for all you do to keep out of town Bills fans up to date.  I’m intrigued by the Bills corps of receivers.  I have heard about the speed of Graham and Goodwin.  Do you think either has the route running ability to be the next Victor Cruz inside?  I have heard about the route running ability of Woods.  Does he have the potential to be a Wes Welker inside bracketed between Stevie, Graham, and Chandler?  Da’ Rick is also interesting.  Where do you see him in this mix?

As far as team analysis I see our biggest areas of need as the O Line (need a tackle and two guards), an outside linebacker that can rush and compliment Mario, and a second corner to pair with Gilmore as I feel McKelvin is too small and better suited to slot defender. Your thoughts?

Thanks,
John in SC

CB: Woods is a polished route runner, but he’s not a Wes Welker. Welker’s quickness in and out of cuts is rare. Woods is a sharp route runner, but he wins more on hesitation, change of speed and shoulder fakes than pure quickness. Stevie Johnson is the primary slot receiver. Woods would be the number two.

To say one would have similar production to Victor Cruz has more to do with the quarterback throwing him the ball than their own exploits.

Da’Rick Rogers is strictly an outside receiver. Big and physical with soft hands, he needs more discipline with his route running, but when he gets it he could explode.

McKelvin right now is the best option to line up opposite Stephon Gilmore when healthy. At 5’10” 185 his size is adequate and his arms are long, which helps in coverage. Ron Brooks, Justin Rogers and Nickell Robey are considerably smaller in stature and better suited inside. McKelvin is probably best as a boundary corner.

 

3 - @ChrisBrownBills

What is up with Mario? How come he doesn’t interview after practice? Did they ever say what it was with his foot?
Thanks
jvsafy

CB: He does usually once a week during the regular season and occasionally during training camp. Last night he did not stop for an interview because he had to get treatment with the athletic trainers. Head coach Doug Marrone did not say it was his foot that needed treatment. During camp there is typically an assortment of bumps and bruises that players experience that needs attention, especially linemen who endure more physical contact than other players.

I’m not trying to be a Mario apologist here, but even if it was his foot that necessitated the treatment I’d at least take comfort in the fact that he’s trying to take care of what’s nagging at him.
4 – Chris,

I appreciate the work you do on the Bills site, nice job.

A few points – when it comes to Byrd I think the Bills want to let this season play out and let some of their young safeties get some game reps (I.e. Searcy, A Williams, D Williams, Meeks) and see where they stand at the end of the year. While I think Byrd is a very good all-around player, the one thing I think he lacks, is that he is not a particularly big hitter, and I think that can change a defense when their safeties will hit.

The O line position that I think is more important than left guard is right tackle. Who do you think the right tackle will be, and how good of play do you think the Bills will get from that position?

We hear so much about the Bills up tempo offense but to me, that is not really an offense. Conceptually, in terms of routes, blocking schemes and personnel groupings, what do you think the Bills offense will look like?

Do you think the Bills need a legitimate big back? Certainly, CJ is a supreme talent, but to me, he is a space player, and to me 20 touches a game would be ideal. To me, Fred is a good all-around player, a good pass protector, a good screen game back, and a runner who makes his yards on a combination of vision, balance and using his blocks. But I think the Bills would benefit from a legitimate big running back. I think such a player could help on the goal line, third and short, and be a good complement to CJ and Fred. What do you think?

Chris

CB: Okay a lot to cover here. First, I disagree with your assessment that Jairus Byrd is not a hitter. He absolutely is a hitter. Evidence of that comes from the fact that since the 2009 season, no other safety in the league has more forced fumbles than him. He’s got 10. That being said the bigger hitters of the current contingent are Da’Norris Searcy and Duke Williams.

Right now I think the right tackle will be Erik Pears, who finally appears recovered from groin and hip problems the past two seasons. He’s moving as well as I’ve seen him and he’s as tough as they come. Chris Hairston, who is still on PUP, may very well miss all of training camp as he has not been moved onto the active roster yet.

Couple that with the fact that Sam Young and Thomas Welch have been unable to unseat him and it looks like Pears’ job to lose.

Concerning the Bills offense yes it will be up tempo, but it is a unique system that no one else is running. So I’ll give you the details that won’t give up the brilliance behind it. The easy identification is that it’s fast, but it’s also multiple personnel, slightly more run than pass (probably 52% to 48%) with stretch the field components. It has West Coast system roots with a physical edge to it.

It won’t be complicated, just fast and multiple in terms of looks.

If Fred Jackson is not the kind of goal line back you want because you don’t think he’s big enough Kendall Gaskins is the only back in camp (who isn’t a fullback) that is bigger. He’s 6’1” 238 and he can lay the lumber. He’s had a nice camp, but whether he can unseat Tashard Choice remains to be seen.

5 - @ChrisBrownBills

how’s Carrington doing? Was projected as breakout player but haven’t heard much about him?

TerryBdattd

CB: If you haven’t heard or seen much you might be living under a rock. He’s been a routine component of our highlight reels on Bills Roundup every evening we cover the day that was in training camp. I’ll let defensive coordinator Mike Pettine give you the assessment of the kind of camp he’s had (high praise).

“He’s a guy that we have a saying where we talk about playing like Bill, tough, competitive, productive, relentless, all the traits that we’re looking for in our guys,” said Pettine. “You go right down the list and he’s every one of them. He’s a guy that loves football, wants to get better, wants to get coached hard, asks the tough questions and it just shows up in his play.

“He’s probably our most technically sound guy up front. We emphasize to our guys that we want to get knock back on the offensive line and he’s probably our most consistent guy doing that, but the position he’s in I don’t think he’s going to show up on the stat sheet as much from a scheme standpoint. But to me he’s going to be one of the more important pieces of our defense.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-9

Posted by Chris Brown on August 9, 2013 – 4:01 pm

Time for another camp edition of Fan Friday with your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Check Buffalobills.com for game previews on the written and video side of the Bills-Colts preseason opener Saturday.

1 - Hi Chris,

I’m starting to get excited about the upcoming season, and that excitement has generated some questions regarding Stephon Gilmore.  Will Mike Pettine try to use Stephon in the same way he used Revis?  Is Stephon capable of being a shutdown corner in the same category as Revis?  If he isn’t quite there yet, would Mike put Stephon on the #2 receiver, then shift coverage to the other side?  I’m just curious what is going though Mike’s mind regarding Stephon and how that would influence his play calling and scheme.

Thanks,
Kevin B.
Ashburn, VA

CB: I believe Pettine feels very comfortable using Gilmore in some of the same ways he utilized Revis. What we have to remember is Gilmore is a bigger, stronger corner than Revis and runs just as fast as him. There will be a lot more man coverage in Pettine’s defense than we saw last season. Here’s a taste of what Pettine thinks of Gilmore as a player.

“Here’s a guy that is really good and wants to be great,” said Pettine. “And to me the thing that’s been the most impressive is his preparation, how hard he practices every day, how competitive he is. He doesn’t want a ball caught on him in walk-throughs, let alone practice. And he’s a guy that prides himself in being on-point with his technique and Donnie Henderson has done a great job with him, with some of his technique things getting it cleaned up. Super coachable, he rarely makes the same mistake twice. Usually when he does make a mistake, he knows right away what it was.”

2 - @ChrisBrownBills any update on sj13?

Naitik1978

CB: He’s not going to play in the preseason opener and likely won’t play in the second preseason game next week against Minnesota. Hamstring pulls can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, so depending on the severity he might not be ready until the final preseason game or right before the regular season.

3 – Chris:

Living far away (Alberta, Canada) the access to information wasn’t always as easy as you make it now.

I’d like to hear a comparison of enthusiasm from the previous coaching staff to the new Marrone staff. This off season seems to have a very optimistic tone to it not just from the people at OBD, but the media and fan thoughts as well. When the previous regime took over was the excitement and anticipation as apparent as it is now? After 13+ years of suffering, we have all learned not to get too far ahead of ourselves but I can’t remember an off season to feel as potential-filled as this one.

Thanks,
Rob in Edmonton

CB: I would confidently say that Marrone and his staff have invigorated this roster like no one that has come before them in this non-playoff era (2000-2012). I think Mike Mularkey came the closest in energizing the team in the same way in his first year. But Marrone and his staff have taken a different approach, be it through positive messaging posted throughout the building, a symbiotic accountability between the players and the coaches or the cutting edge approach schematically to the game.

All of it has this roster believing that they can change the fortunes of this team for the better this year.

4 – Hey Chris, appreciate all the work you do and insight you provide.

I remember Stevie saying at one point that under Chan Gailey the receivers were able to have some freedom with running their routes just as long as they got to their spot at the right time. I was curious if Doug Marrone will still allow Stevie to run his routes as he has been.  I feel like Stevie has a unique skill set with the way he gets open and shakes defenders. I see the other receivers gearing towards running more quick crisp routes which matches their skills. I’m hoping the staff does recognize Stevie’s abilities and can get creative with him.

I was curious of your thoughts or if you had any insight regarding Stevie and how he fits in their offensive plans. I’m really looking forward to his season. It’s about time he gains some respect around the league. One last thing do you know if the Bills are sticking with the blue away pants this year?

Thanks for your time,
Jillian CT

CB: Your question is very similar to one that was asked of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who said the following when asked if Stevie would be permitted to run routes in his unorthodox, never the same way twice style.

“We’ve kind of narrowed (his improvising) down some,” said Hackett. “I think that’s what it was originally and I think that Stevie has understood what we’re trying to accomplish and I think having Stevie and the quarterback feel the timing so he understands which routes he can be a freelancer on. And what are the routes where the quarterback is going to give him some time?

I think that’s about all of us getting together, not just wide receivers over here and quarterbacks over here. Coach Hilliard and coach Hackett all coming together with the guys and saying, ‘This is what we’re trying to accomplish. This is when you can go to work. This is when we need you right there.’

As long as he sees where all that fits in it’s just going to get better and better.”

5 – Hi Chris, love Fan Friday.

An annual question is whether the team should keep 3 or 2 QBs.  Obviously, the final 53rd spot is at stake.  This year, more than ever, I would think the Bills should keep 2 QBs, since there is no way Jeff Tuel would ever be picked up to an active 53 roster on another team and, thus, could be saved away in the practice squad.  In addition, if we are down to Tuel at QB, then we probably will need a miracle for that game.  What are your thoughts?

Given all the youth in this team, I would hate to lose or risk losing a young, promising DB, WR or LB (or release a vet DE when the Bills have plenty of money to spare) in order to keep a 3rd QB.  As an emergency QB, we have Brad Smith, anyway (and we can bring up Tuel if one of the QBs is injured).

A Bill in LA

CB: I think the points you make are valid, and those are the decisions that Coach Marrone and his staff face. They’ll be asking that very question, ‘What do we sacrifice if we keep a third quarterback on the active roster?’

Most coaching staffs take the approach of keeping the 53 best players, within reason knowing they need a certain number of players at particular positions.

Coach Marrone said the other day that he’s liked Tuel ever since he was in college at Washington State and he has an uncanny knack for connecting on the deep ball with his receivers. We’ll see if that continues in the preseason games, but I believe Tuel is a player that Marrone covets, so I think he’ll get strong consideration for the 53-man roster.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-2

Posted by Chris Brown on August 2, 2013 – 4:55 pm

We’re about a week into training camp and there are a lot of developments to this point. The QBs are both looking good, the offense is coming around. The defense looks aggressive. But there are a lot of roles that have to figured out. Here are some of your more popular questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on  Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

I think the one player I’ve heard less of than Marcus Easley is Torell Troup. First of all, has he recovered successfully from his back surgery? Secondly, how has he been playing up till now? Finally, how does he fit in the new defensive scheme?

Edson Schaus
Delta Township, MI

CB: Troup is fully recovered and has come on in the early stages of camp after looking just okay in the spring practices. I attribute that to what equates to almost a two-year layoff from football. Now that’s he’s got a month of work on the field under his belt from the spring and is now in pads his game will only steadily improve.

He’s been running primarily with the second unit alongside Alan Branch on the defensive interior.

Coach Marrone had this to say about Troup just the other day.

“I see him better now than he was in OTAs and minicamp and doing a better job now and again when the physicality comes up that’s when more things go inside in terms of what they do up front with the line,” said Marrone. “I think he’s coming along well. There will be a point, there’s a process right now, but at a point you’ll see where there’s a window where the players says he feels good and then we as coaches will look for where the jump (in play) comes, and then we’ll look at that jump.”

 

2 – Chris,
Given Smith’s versatility, could you see him being kept on the roster as an option at running back, maybe in lieu of Tashard Choice, as a way to open up another spot for a different position.  Smith has run from the wildcat, been solid on special teams, and looks competent at receiver.  Adding running back capabilities does not seem like a stretch to me.

Appreciate your thoughts. Thanks as always for the great job reporting the goings on with the Bills

Jim from Allentown

CB: Thanks for the kind words. I think Smith is strictly a receiver. He recently took a significant pay cut, presumably to stay on the roster and try to earn a job. I think Smith has to truly shine in camp and the preseason games, though he does have special teams ability working for him in addition to his receiving talents.

I just don’t see this coaching staff interested in him operating out of the offensive backfield with the exception of an end around.

 

3 – @ChrisBrownBills

How is Aaron doing with the switch to safety? Your thoughts?

NickLWilkinson

CB: Williams has fared well in his transition to safety. In the spring he was turning in plays on a daily basis. That hasn’t happened quite as much through the first five practices in camp. The true test will be the preseason games, but I think what is encouraging is Williams is playing with confidence and sounds eager to be a leader on that side of the ball knowing he has to help the ‘mike’ LB get the defense lined up pre-snap.

 

4 – Hi Chris,
Thank you for all your hard work all year round you do a tremendous job! A lot of the media around the NFL suggest that the Bills are in “Rebuilding Mode” and I have to disagree.

My thought is that the past 3 years have been very beneficial to this team as far as revamping the roster and that before the draft we had solid talent on both sides of the ball.

People also question the Bills abilities due to the fact that we don’t know who the QB is just yet.  My question is do you feel that the coaching staff may think the same way about this team?

Do you think they expect this season to be full of growing pains or like me that this team should progress through-out the season and build to be a different team in December than in September?

And what are your thoughts as well?  Last question do you know if the Bills away pants are going to be blue this season and beyond?  I happen to love them! Go Bills! #BillsMafia

Jillian Nelson

CB: The roster that Doug Marrone and his staff inherits is not a thin one. There is plenty of talent on hand. Doug Whaley has told me point blank that they’re not rebuilding. He said they’re reloading.

With all that being said history in this league has shown that when you undergo as much change as the Bills have this offseason (new GM, new head coach, new staff, new offense, new defense, new QB) it takes time to pull all of that newness together and have it work seamlessly to post victories.

I think with the amount of youth on this roster that there will be some hard lessons learned. I also think there will be some of the most exciting football we’ve seen in a while from this team.

I do believe this team will make progress as the season wears on, but I wonder if their won-loss record will accurately reflect that progress.

As for the blue pants I don’t think there’s any reason why they’d be going away. It wasn’t my understanding that they were a one year and done type thing, but I’ll try to confirm.

 

5 – Chris,

I’ve been a Bills fan all my life and in the Army the last 10 and have been everywhere from California to Afghanistan and I know I can always count on BuffaloBills.com to keep me up to date with all the Bills news so thank you and your team for that. I was wondering when the coaches were going to release a depth chart so we could know who will be running with the 1′s during training camp.  Also barring any injuries are the bills content with their current roster? or are there any Free Agents that might be coming to OBD.  Thank you.

Thank you,
Derek at Fort Riley, KS

CB: Glad we can keep you connected to the team here at Buffalobills.com and thanks very much for your service.

As for the official depth chart, I think there’s a good chance we’ll see one in advance of the first preseason game sometime next week. Keep your eye out for it on Buffalobills.com.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-26

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2013 – 11:50 am

Training camp is here as the players will be voluntarily reporting to camp today. The official report date is Saturday with the first practice Sunday night. We’ll have full coverage on Buffalobills.com with daily video reports (Bills Roundup), daily written practice reports and feature stories both written and video. As always this Inside the Bills blog will be updated constantly each day with extra news and tidbits of Bills information that you’re always looking for.

Continue to send any question you might have during the course of training camp and leading up to the season at my email AskChris@bills.nfl.net or on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

For now let’s get to your latest edition of questions from those two places.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

Who do you think will make the bills at 5th/6th receiver?

BmoreBillsfan

CB: I think the best candidates for those roles entering training camp are Da’Rick Rogers, Chris Hogan and Kevin Elliott. Those three turned in the most plays in the spring practices. Obviously that can change because when the pads go on the game gets considerably more physical and it can change how effective a receiver is depending on his character makeup and mettle.

 

2 - @ChrisBrownBills

With the Patriots turmoil do you see us closing the gap significantly this season? Will it be a competitive game week 1?

JackJablonski

CB: Greg Bedard on the new Monday Morning Quarterback Column site did a great piece on how Bill Belichick has successfully navigated the Patriots through crises before from the QB change from Bledsoe to Brady, to the predicted revolt after Lawyer Milloy was released days before the season started and signed with the Bills, to Brady’s season-ending ACL injury back in 2008.

I think their depth of talent is thinner than it was during those setbacks, so the Patriots might slip a bit, but I don’t foresee a collapse. New England is a very consistent organization and Belichick is a master adjuster. He will only be more motivated to succeed with outsiders doubting his club.

 

3 – Chris,
Straight to the point: Of the 5 teams we play on extra rest how many of those games are played at home and by home I mean in Buffalo not Toronto? Clearly playing the Jets twice one of them will be away just curious about the rest of ‘em.

Thanks for digging into the schedule you found some pretty compelling info that truly should be addressed. I may with my spare time look at schedules past for this discrepancy. I agree this is an issue worth citing. Keep up the great work!

Dominic Spaccio
Montour Falls NY

CB: Two of the five games in which their opponent coming off extra rest is at home. Those two are the Jets and Cincinnati. The Bills also face Atlanta at home after the advantage of their own bye week is neutralized by the fact that the Falcons are coming off a Thursday night game and will have 10 days rest between games while the Bills have 14. The Dolphins, Jaguars and Jets will come off extra rest to face Buffalo in their own home stadiums. Here’s the full story for those that missed it.

 

4 – Chris,
I understand that the GM has final say on draft day, free agent signings and undrafted signings. The GM assembles the talent pool.  What about the other end of the process – cutting from 90 players to 54 (or whatever the number is)?  It seems to me that whereas the GM is in the best position to draft (having scouted all year), the coach might be in the best position to make final cut decisions having worked closely with the players.  How do the Bills handle this?

Patrick in Indianapolis

CB: Roster decisions concerning player cuts are typically handled by the coaching staff with the head coach making the final call. General managers and personnel directors assemble the talent, but the coaching staff decides who he wants to keep.

That’s not to say that a general manager doesn’t have input, he does, especially on close calls for final roster decisions. That’s when a GM might be asked to offer an opinion.

 

5 - @ChrisBrownBills

Can the Bills use Gragg, in a similar way the Patriots used Hernandez? Using his speed to play a TE/WR hybrid?

MBBedard

CB: I think Gragg, who ran a 4.5 40-time at the Combine, best of all tight ends, is capable of lining up in a detached role almost like a tight receiver. So yes, I think he could be a hybrid type option in the Bills passing game for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. It just depends how he fares when the pads go on at camp. He certainly flashed as a receiving threat in the spring practices.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-19

Posted by Chris Brown on July 19, 2013 – 11:55 am

Alright Bills fans we’re down to the final week before training camp. Players are expected to report next Friday afternoon. Your wait is almost over. Remember during training camp to keep those questions coming at AskChris@bills.nfl.net on email and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

I like the idea of an “up tempo” offense. It will be exciting to see more plays by the Bills in less time. Hopefully, it will keep opponents guessing and on their heels and wear down the defense. Just wondering……besides having the players to run this, won’t the Bills need to have better stamina than their opponent on both sides of the ball? Better Strength and Conditioning than opponent?

Brian Butch Williamson · Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania

CB: You’re right their conditioning will have to be superior and that’s why the offseason program changed noticeably in terms of the training. Practice tempo is also significantly accelerated to what it used to be under the previous regime. The coaching staff knows to run an offense that way they need to have players properly conditioned for it. They’ll be ready.

2 – Chris,

I’m concerned that the up tempo offense planned this season could also backfire.  Too many 3 and outs, puts a lot of pressure on our D.

Mark Francese · Canandaigua

CB: I actually had the same concern until I looked at what Hackett did at Syracuse. No huddle or up tempo offenses that fall victim to going three and out too often are typically going pass, pass, pass and then they’re off the field. Hackett doesn’t take that approach. He tries to strike a 50-50 run-pass balance.

As an example, last season at Syracuse in their up tempo offense, the Orange averaged 41.5 run plays per game and 37.5 pass plays per game. Hackett ran the ball 52.5% of the time. Syracuse converted almost 50% of their third downs (49.3%). Granted the college game isn’t as competitive, but that conversion percentage would’ve led the NFL last season. New England was the best third down conversion team in the league in 2012 with a success rate of 48.7%.

 

3 – Chris,

Thanks for the continued great work.  As a west coast Bills fan, your work helps us stay connected to the team and community.

I had a comment on the QB situation, and the Tarvaris Jackson move.  I think you addressed a related question last week about Jeff Tuel last week.  A fan said, “He hasn’t been mentioned in press conferences…

I beg to differ.  In almost all the national interviews I’ve seen or heard with Doug Whaley or Doug Marrone, it almost seems like they go out of their way to mention Tuel.  Interviewers mentioned the competition at QB, and would reference Kolb, Manuel and Jackson (before he was cut), and BOTH Marrone and Whaley would actually go out of their way to throw Tuel in the QB competition mix.  This happened repeatedly in national interviews.  Locally, perhaps it’s not something anyone wishes to discuss, with the focus being so much on Manuel.  But I noticed this effort to reference Tuel a few weeks ago, and commented on it among fellow Bills fans.  I even speculated that Tuel was a potential dark horse.  So when Jackson was cut, my “take” was that it had less to do with Manuel, and perhaps more to do with Tuel.  And his performance, however limited, was sufficient to make them comfortable enough to go with just one veteran into training camp.

I’m not suggesting Tuel will necessarily win the job.  Given the investment in Manuel, the Bills’ brass will obviously do all it can to allow E.J. to win the job.  But I think the job is probably Kolb’s to lose, and my opinion is that cutting Jackson wasn’t so much about Manuel, but more about Tuel.  His physical skills, while not freakish like Manuel, are certainly sufficient and even elite in some areas.  Do you see any scenario, however remote, that Tuel could actually win the starting job?  Or maybe even win the backup job over Manuel (or perhaps if Manuel wins the starting job, the Bills cut Kolb).  I know it seems ludicrous on the surface, but the extra effort made by Whaley and Marrone in the interviews I’ve seen with those two makes me think they’re much higher on Tuel than perhaps most people realize.  What do you think?

Jeffrey Suchocki

CB: While I do believe the Bills offensive staff feels Tuel is a quarterback they can develop, the decision to release Jackson was made purely with the aim of making sure the remaining candidates for the starting job (Kolb, Manuel) get enough snaps so the staff can make an accurate evaluation. Splitting QB reps three ways makes it too hard for any of the candidates to separate themselves from the competition because they’re not getting enough time on the field.

The second part of that is as important as it is for Coach Marrone and his offensive staff to make an accurate call on the starter, whoever it is, they also need to get both candidates ready to play. That also could not happen with a three-way battle. Whether it’s Kolb or Manuel starting come September, both have to have enough work on the practice field executing plays so they’re ready to run the offense efficiently and effectively to help the team win games. In fact that’s probably the most important goal.

In this new offense the staff needs to have one of them ready to play come September 8th.

4 - @ChrisBrownBills

What schemes are taking shape of Defense? How often are they blitzing?

purdye86

CB: The best way to explain the defense under Mike Pettine is it’s a multiple scheme with varied fronts and versatile personnel. There is no true identity to the defense, which is what makes it so effective. They might have base sets in their scheme, but the personnel and varied looks keeps them unpredictable.

As for blitzing they were doing it a ton in the practice setting this spring. I think you can plan on Buffalo’s defense to be aggressive without being reckless. How often they blitz however, will only be determined by the opponent each week as well as time and score.

 

5 – @ChrisBrownBills

Do you expect a No1 Quarterback to be decided before the start of the season? #bills

CJAugarde

CB: I’m expecting that decision to be made somewhere after the second preseason game. At the latest after the third preseason game. That’s kind of the tipping point to give the majority of the first team reps to someone so they’re fully prepared to run the offense at the start of the regular season.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-12

Posted by Chris Brown on July 12, 2013 – 11:57 am

Training camp is closing in. Be sure to stay close to Buffalobills.com as we address the most pressing questions facing the team as they get set for the 2013 season under new head coach Doug Marrone. Here is the latest edition of questions from you the Bills fan from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris:

There were several players still rehabbing during the minicamp. What is their prognosis for the start of training camp? Kyle Williams, Leodis, Chris Hairston come to mind. What was Chris Hairston’s injury? Also, how is Zebrie Sanders doing with his rehab and where is he being slotted along the line? Finally, are Erik Pears, Mark Anderson and Torell Troup 100% yet?

Thanks,
Gerald in Rochester

CB: The following players are expected to be full go that were not 100 percent recovered from offseason rehabs and surgeries.

Kyle Williams, Leodis McKelvin, Chris Hairston, Lee Smith, Erik Pears, Scott Chandler and Marcus Easley.

Obviously, a setback in preparations for training camp could change things. To our knowledge Hairston had a lower body injury.

Mark Anderson participated on a limited basis in the spring. It’s expected that his workload at training camp will be incrementally increased as camp wears on.

Zebrie Sanders and Erik Pears did participate on a limited basis in the spring practices. All signs point to them being full go for training camp as well. They’ve both lined up exclusively at offensive tackle.

Torell Troup was full go in the spring and worked mainly with the second team at defensive tackle.

2 – Hey Chris,

Looking at the situation with J. Byrd this year & going back as far as Jabari Greer, & even as recent as Andy Levitre situation , the Bills have seemed to almost drag their feet when it comes to re-signing their future star players. Sometimes waiting till their contracts are up (like Greer & Levitre) to try & re-sign them we wind up losing said players that would be corner stones of the team for years to come.Yet others they sign way to prematurely (?)  Also if signed before, we may be able to get them at a better price rather than wait & let them test the market.

With all that being said, C.J. being the dynamic back that he is, also given the fact that everyone is thinking he will be even a bigger presence in the new offense, do you see the Bills possibly trying to extend him next year ? I think if we follow the same path taken in the past with other good players mentioned earlier, if he gets the chance to get anywhere near the FA market he’s gone for the big bucks !!

Thanks as always for your insight & keep up the great work we all appreciate you !

Mr. T from Ft. Myers via Nashville

CB: I think your point is an astute one. Of course said player has to be willing to negotiate a new deal and some players have agents that want to wait for the price tag to rise. Now while you’re right in mentioning the players that did get away, Buffalo has also taken a proactive approach in retaining some players long term by signing them to extensions sooner rather than later. Kyle Williams is one example. Kraig Urbik is another.

Your point with C.J. is well taken. I think another player that should merit this kind of ‘sign them early’ consideration is Alex Carrington. It’s clear that the defensive staff believes he could do big things in this defense, and he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal before he becomes unrestricted. Why not lock him up long term now before he performs like the Bills defensive coaches believe he will?

3 – Chris:

I was surprised that EJs contract was for 4 yrs instead of a 5-year contract that is permissable under the CBA terms. This means that his contract and Gilmores will expire the same year.  Do you have a reason why the team did not sign EJ for 5 years, considering the confidence they appear to have in him?   Conrad in Elma

CB: First of all, Gilmore signed a four-year rookie contract with the Bills and will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Manuel under his four-year deal will be a free agent after 2016.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, all NFL first-round draft picks can have four-year contracts with a non-negotiable fifth-year option, although not all will receive it. Since the new CBA went into effect four-year contracts for first-round picks have been the rule, not the exception.

Proof of that comes in the fact that of the first-round picks signed to this point, only Ziggy Ansah, the fourth overall pick to the Lions has a five-year deal among them.

In the grand scheme of things if Manuel pans out as expected, he’ll be re-signed at least a year before his rookie contract expires.

4 – Hey Chris –

Very simple question…Who would win in a foot race between CJ, TJ and Marquise Goodwin?

Thanks!
– James

CB: I think Goodwin has both of them beat.

5 – @ChrisBrownBills @buffalobills Do you expect a No1 Quarterback to be decided before the start of the season? #bills

CJAugarde

CB: I’ll first let coach Marrone take a shot at answering this question since he addressed in a one-on-one interview with Buffalobills.com.

“As a coach the earlier it can get done the better,” Marrone said. “I’d be a fool to sit here and say otherwise. The earlier the better, but again if you make decisions early and no one can see those decisions with the team then you wind up hurting your football team. So I’m hoping the decision and the timeline really relies on the players that are in competition and they have to separate themselves. And when you give people enough reps they will separate. At what point? I don’t know.”

Personally first-year coaches know that’s a position where a starter needs to be entrenched at least a couple of weeks before the regular season. I believe by the close of the second preseason game, the third preseason game at the latest we’ll have an answer from Marrone and his staff.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-5

Posted by Chris Brown on July 5, 2013 – 12:05 pm

Hope everyone had a great 4th with their families and working the grill. Now to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills as Bills training camp is just three weeks away.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills will the Bills keep 2 kickers again if Hopkins loses out to Lindell in the accuracy battle? #BillsCamp

gumpcd0315

CB: Coach Marrone said he’s “open to the idea” of carrying two kickers on his roster. I think the scenario you propose is what could to lead to the Bills carrying a pair of kickers. Lindell has unquestionably been the more accurate kicker through the spring practices. Hopkins had an approach problem on his field goal attempts during team segments and appeared to be over rotating his hips, which leads a kicker to hook a field goal wide left if he’s right-footed or wide right if he’s left-footed. All but one of Hopkins’ misses were hooked left (he’s right-footed).

Hopkins intends to correct that in the weeks leading up to camp. If he does that successfully it could quickly make him a major threat to Lindell because Hopkins clearly has more leg than the veteran kicker on kickoffs.


2 –
Chris,
Do you expect the Bills to add a 4th QB to the roster just as an additional training camp arm?

Joe in Blasdell

CB: I would be surprised if the Bills added another arm in training camp at quarterback. Here’s why. First and foremost Buffalo’s coaching staff has to decide on a starter at the position. The more reps they can give Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel the better position they’re in to make an accurate evaluation and decision.

Second, within that competition the most important thing that must happen is someone has to be ready to play come Week 1. Knowing it’s a brand new offense for all three quarterbacks, robbing reps no matter how few, from Manuel and Kolb with a fourth quarterback would be counterproductive.

If Kolb and Manuel need to rest their arms a bit more on certain practice days, Jeff Tuel can step in. They don’t need a fourth as I see it.


3 –
Chris,
Looks like the Byrd contract could get messy the longer he holds out. It might be crazy, but any chance he gets traded for another quality player? The Bills did draft two safeties in the draft as well as having Aaron Williams switch to the position. And say they did… what position do you think they would trade for?

Thanks!
Dan in SoCal

CB: I don’t think we can rule out the potential of a sign and trade, but it should be noted that such an option does not exist as long as he has not signed his franchise tender. The Bills have traded a franchise-designated player before. They did it with Peerless Price when they shipped him to Atlanta in exchange for a first-round draft choice back in 2003.

I believe the Bills would prefer to keep Jairus Byrd on the roster long term. Keep in mind there are other options for both sides (e.g. sign one-year tender, wait until end of season to negotiate long term contract, etc.).

I don’t want to get too far into the hypotheticals, but in reference to your ‘what would they trade for’ scenario, a proven starting guard couldn’t hurt.

4 – Hi Chris Brown!!

Diehard fan in Spokane, WA. Thx for everything you do, without your reporting I would be lost out here! I was wondering how you think Manuel faired overall? Mainly from what I’ve seen is a deep ball here and there mixed in with a couple picks but do you see him as possibly the starting QB this year? How were all the throws we didn’t hear about? More bad or good? Is he picking it up quickly?

Tony

CB: First off Tony, thanks for the kind words. With respect to Manuel I think there was progress made with his game in the spring practices. I believe that while the myriad of defensive looks he experienced in practice from Mike Pettine’s defense lengthened the learning curve in terms of execution, he’ll benefit in the long run from it because it is a defense that accurately replicates game speed.

Where he had trouble was when he had to hurry and get off throws underneath. Sometimes his delivery did not have the proper touch because the throw was rushed. There were instances where the decision he made wasn’t necessarily the best one, but for the most part those were few and far between.

Manuel has a lot of good stuff between the ears and did not appear to make repeat mistakes. Again I think the speed and aggressiveness of the defensive scheme he faces every day in practice will be a help not a hindrance in the long run. His physical ability is unquestionable and his deep ball accuracy is impressive.

He also has an offensive coordinator that knows how to maximize Manuel’s strengths while minimizing some of his weaknesses due to inexperience. I believe he has a chance to be the starter, but it will largely come down to how much progress he can make in training camp and the preseason games.


5 –
Chris –

Just a quick question…I thought new NFL coaches get an extra mini-camp in their first year??  Did I miss the extra camp or is that no longer a rule?

Thanks!
Michael
North Tonawanda, NY

CB: You are correct new head coaches do get an additional spring camp with their players. Coach Marrone held a voluntary veteran minicamp the week before the draft (April 15-18).


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-28

Posted by Chris Brown on June 28, 2013 – 12:25 pm

Let’s get to the latest edition of your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,

Thanks for the uploading of the video of EJ Manuel’s pregame speech on BB.com. I, for one, needed to see that. I was questioning whether EJ had the fire for the job, and now I know. It was great to see.

One question about the release of Tarvaris: could one of the reasons for it be that the Bills are impressed with Jeff Tuel, and want to develop him as a future no. 2?

Thanks,

Kenny in Indiana

CB: I think the main reason for Jackson’s release was to thin the competition for the starting quarterback job from three to two. The coaching staff quickly came to realize that conducting a three-man QB competition while also installing a new offensive system was not going to work. The reason why is as much as you want to make the competition a fair one, you also have to make sure that you have a candidate that’s ready to play come the start of the regular season.

With the reps split three ways and the system new to all of the QB candidates, there was a risk that wouldn’t be the case. So they pared the pool down from three to two. This way either Kolb or Manuel will have enough time executing the offense in a practice setting to effectively run it in game situations come the fall.

Now that doesn’t mean they don’t like what they have in Jeff Tuel. I think they do believe his talents can be further developed. Long range he very well could be a backup to Manuel.

 

2 - Hey Chris ,

I was wondering, with the youth movement at one Bills drive from top to bottom there are a couple of players that were brought in by the previous regime, one of those players IMHO has never really lived up to his contract although he did give us a boost in the WR corps when injuries came calling. This player that I am referring to is Brad Smith. Given the fact that we have increased the talent level at the WR position 2 fold & the potential of that group with Stevie, TJ, Woods, Da’Rick, Goodwin, & the possibility of Easley or another player, do you see the current coaching staff keeping Smith around ?

Given the upside of this group & the apparent future movement & then you throw in his contract I can’t see why they would want to keep him around. I read from time to time fans talking about Brad’s athletic talents but even though he may be just that I don’t think that we can afford to keep him when we have others with much more upside & at a much cheaper price. At the very least we could trade him back to Rex for a future draft pick .

Thanks you are greatly appreciated !!

Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville

CB: I think teams with new regimes always have these kinds of decisions to make. Weighing the value of a veteran player at a position where there’s a lot of promising youth, but inexperience as well. Brad Smith in the spring practices certainly showed he can bring a veteran presence to the receiving corps. Playing there full time now, he may also be able to deliver more than he has in the past under the previous staff when he had a more varied role.

What the Bills have to weigh is whether his value as a veteran receiver is needed for this roster and the passing game to flourish. The long term upside of several of the young wideouts might be superior to that of Smith, but right now Smith might be deemed an option they cannot do without, especially with the potential of a young quarterback running the offense at some point this season.

Smith has proven to be pretty reliable in the spring practices.

The other side of that coin is this. Young receivers like Woods and Goodwin are players you want to get reps so they can develop quicker. If Smith is out there getting reps, those are reps that the two draft choices are not getting.

So I believe if Woods and Goodwin flash early and often in training camp it could vault them up the depth chart and possibly convince the staff that they can be relied upon to play significant roles. If that proves to be the case then what you suggested is possible.

 

3 - Chris:

If Jairus Byrd refuses to sign with the Bills, could the Bills allow his agent to contact other teams in an attempt to workout a sign and trade deal for agreeable consideration?  What impact (if any) would that have on the Franchise Tag?

 

CB: The Bills issued the non-exclusive franchise tender to Jairus Byrd. What that means is all this time his agent can talk to other NFL clubs to gauge his market value and see if there is a club willing to talk long term contract for Byrd.

Obviously the compensation under league rules would be a pair of first round picks. Of course a team interested in signing Byrd long term could come to the Bills and ask if they’d be willing to accept less than that.

If a sign and trade deal were to occur it would have no impact on the franchise tag for Buffalo. They could use it the following year.

 

4 – Chris,

Once again, hats off to you, Murph and Hannah for the great work you do for all of us Bills fans.

I recently started a thread for this topic and wanted to add your input. Who do you think were the best offensive linemen to wear a Bills uniform? What would be your “dream line”?

CB: I’m not going to pretend that I saw every Bills offensive lineman play, but based on history and what I have seen with my own eyes, my “dream line” for the Bills would be as follows.

LT – Will Wolford
LG – Joe DeLamielleure
C – Kent Hull
RG – Billy Shaw
RT – Howard Ballard

 

5 – Chris,

Assuming that the Patriots win the AFC East division again, as usual, and that the NY Jets, who seem to be a team in disarray, finish last, a battle between the Bills and Dolphins will be shaping up for 2nd place in the division. Miami seems to have really improved this off season, and the Bills also. Since the 2nd place team might have a shot at the playoffs, how do you think that the Bills and Dolphins compare?

LeeD

CB: In light of the offseason setbacks the Patriots have faced this offseason I don’t know that you can hand them anything. Still, as defending division champs we’ll go along with your prognostication.

In comparing the Dolphins and Bills, the one edge Miami does have is they are in the second season of their respective offensive and defensive schemes. So there’s a familiarity with execution there, particularly at quarterback.

Their defense was seventh in points allowed last year and their special teams were very good particularly in the return game. Their offensive line is a question mark, and that will impact the skill position talent they’ve added, especially at receiver.

So while I believe Miami will have a decided edge just based on the fact that they’re in year two under their coaching staff, I think the potential exists for the Bills to pull even and perhaps even pass Miami as the season moves along.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-14

Posted by Chris Brown on June 14, 2013 – 11:46 am

The players are done with minicamp and get a six-week break from field practices before training camp. But questions abound! Let’s get to the latest edition of your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Thanks for all you do Chris!
Two questions: One, why haven’t we heard much about Jeff Tuel? He hasn’t been mentioned in press conferences or included in any stats. Two, out of all the QB’s, which to you has been most impressive? Thanks Chris!

CB: Tuel had not been mentioned much prior to this week because he wasn’t getting much work in practice. Typically it was fewer than five snaps a practice, so outside of individual drills it was tough to get a feel for what he can do.

He got some more work in the minicamp this week and has what look to be good physical skills. Clearly the Bills believe he can be developed since he was kept over Tarvaris Jackson.

With respect to the quarterbacks as a whole it’s hard not to be impressed by EJ Manuel’s physical ability. The ease with which he throws a pass and the charisma he carries is noticeable and we haven’t seen that around here in some time.

2 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for all of your great coverage every year of our Buffalo Bills.  I really enjoy reading all of your updates and breaking news.

So my question is around Jarius Byrd. I know he hasn’t signed his franchise tender yet, so what happens if he decides to not sign it at all?  What are the Bills options at that point?

Thanks,
Jason

CB: After July 15th if Byrd still has not signed his one-year franchise tender, the Bills would not be eligible to negotiate a long-term contract with Byrd until after the 2013 regular season is over. So really they’d have no options other than trading his rights.

At that point the ball would be in Jairus Byrd’s court as to whether he wants to sign the one-year tender and play this season with Buffalo. In order to get credit for an accrued season in 2013, the latest that Byrd could wait to sign the tender would be November 12th. If he doesn’t sign by then he’s ineligible to play in 2013.

If that happens the Bills would be within their rights to place the franchise tag on Byrd again for 2014. The only difference for Buffalo is the compensation in that case would be a first and third-round pick. The current compensation this year is a pair of first-round selections.

3 – Hi Chris,

I loved the draft this year, I think the Bills addressed the needs. I feel we got 2 WR that will be big contributors from day one. The UDFA ,out of all the UDFA we picked up , who do you believe will make this team and becomes a big factor Now?

Also do you think guys like Brad Smith and T.Jackson might be gone now that we have filled the holes at QB,and WR. Will we see Byrd this year or is his days in Buffalo numbered?

One final question, is Manuel the future of this team? Do you think he can bring this team back to life? He has the size and the arm, but can put it all together to be that guy, does he have what it takes to become a Very good QB in this league, or does it come down to Hope and Prayers?

Thanks Doug

CB: I think among the undrafteds, Da’Rick Rogers and Nickell Robey have both put themselves in good position to land a roster spot, but it’s early and it’s still not real football. The two of them have not looked out of place in practice and have made plays regularly. Again things will be different when the pads are on and I’m admittedly concerned about Robey holding up in the run game at 165 pounds, but we’ll wait and see at camp.

Well you were correct about Tarvaris Jackson, but I think he was more a victim of logistics than anything else. Head coach Doug Marrone indicated releasing Jackson was due to the fact that they would not be able to have a proper evaluation of a real competition with three QBs rotating through.

As for Brad Smith, he’s performed well in the spring practices and could be a coveted veteran presence among this corps of young receivers. I’m interested to see what he can do now that his offensive focus is solely on receiver.

Concerning EJ Manuel, much like I said after the draft, he was the quarterback prospect in this year’s class that has the best chance to be great. Not someone you can win with, or above average, but great. It’s just a matter of how long before that greatness emerges, but it can never hurt to pray.

4 – Chris;

Most Defenses use two D Lines and substitute freely throughout the game, while the O Line usually stays the same except for injury! Why is that?

It would seem a rest in the game would also benefit an O Lineman? It would also further develop our backups.

Thanks;

Jim from Florida

CB: While I think some of your points certainly have merit, the offensive line is a different animal from defensive line. On offense those five guys need to work in sync on every play where on the defensive front there’s less of that. Sure there are stunts and twists where ends and D-tackles work together, but it’s limited in comparison to the blocking schemes of the offensive line.

So I would attribute the lack of substitution on the O-line to that, the need for continuity and consistency with the personnel in the blocking schemes.

5 – Hi Chris,

What’s your early feeling/assessment on E.J. Manuel from watching him in the spring?

I think we are way overdue for a Franchise QB and hope is he the guy.

 

Thanks for all the news!

Big Bills Fan in Denver, CO

CB: As I stated above his physical ability is impressive. In terms of his physical talent he’s probably comparable to Cam Newton in terms of mobility and throwing arm talent. Manuel needs time on the field in the practice setting and he’ll get that now with one less quarterback in the rotation.

I think this offense caters well to a young signal caller, so if he wins the competition I think he’ll be able to make progress each week as a rookie. I just haven’t seen enough of him to know if it’s fair to expect the wild success that the rookies last year like Luck, Griffin and Wilson had out of him in 2013.


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