Inside The Bills

Team leaders stood tall

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2014 – 9:25 pm

The Bills just named their captains last Monday. Six days later just about all of them had a pretty big hand in Sunday’s overtime victory.

The six players named captains were Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, Fred Jackson, Corey Graham and Brandon Spikes.

On offense Wood helped lead an offensive line that was new in terms of playing together and surrendered just one sack all day. They also helped the run game roll up almost 200 yards on the ground averaging almost six yards a carry.

Fred Jackson had the biggest run of the day in overtime on his 38-yard rumble down the sideline to the one.

On defense Mario Williams had a sack, Kyle Williams had an interception, Brandon Spikes was instrumental in stuffing the run and Corey Graham had an interception and a couple of pass breakups late in regulation to force Chicago to settle for a game-tying field goal.

Add in EJ Manuel’s performance in his natural leadership role of quarterback and it’s a pretty good day for Buffalo’s captains when it comes to setting an example.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Before game locker room was different

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2014 – 9:23 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone said he could see it before he left to go out on the field Sunday. The mood in his locker room was different. His players sensed it too. How big a role their collective attitude had in the win we may never know, but they believe it was a factor.

“It was an excited team that was looking forward to this opportunity to go out and play a game and make a statement,” said Fred Jackson. “We were able to do so. We played against a good team and they did some great things and we were able to come away with the win. Now it’s on us to continue to work and do the same things we did this week to prepare for Chicago. As long as we continue to do that we’ll be in a lot of football games.”


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Fan Friday 9-5

Posted by Chris Brown on September 5, 2014 – 11:45 am

Well Bills fans the regular season is here. Let’s hope Buffalo can get off to a good start in Chicago, even though the Bears do very well when they open the season at home (18-3) since 1984. On to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net or on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Chris,

How is Chris Williams doing at left guard?  Is he getting any competition from any of the other guys?  Having signed him as a free agent, is it still possible that the Bills will look to one of their other offensive linemen to take the spot?

Paul Blachowicz
Lancaster NY

CB: This is a hard one to answer because he’s been in and out of the lineup so much this preseason. He missed the last three preseason games with a back injury so it’s been difficult to judge any kind of progress in terms of chemistry with his new line mates in games. His teammates have taken well to him and head coach Doug Marrone said he is the unequivocal starter at left guard, even though rookie Cyril Richardson spelled him in the lineup when he was out. Richardson looks like the only realistic threat to Williams’ position in the starting lineup and Williams play would really have to falter for that to happen the way it looks right now.

 
2 – Hi Chris,

My question is why does everybody from analysts to announcers call EJ a mobile, read option type QB? From what I can tell running is not the strongest part of his game at all. Sure he’s had a few good runs when the defense is in man coverage and it’s wide open but just about every QB in the league can do that. Maybe he’s not being decisive enough and isn’t running full speed, but his acceleration doesn’t seem to be all that which is what I would think is a QB’s best friend when scrambling. When he’s throwing the ball well I have no problem with him being our QB, but it seems to me he’s getting this stereotype which doesn’t fit him.

Dan

CB: I’m going to assume that you’re referring mainly to TV broadcasters. Unfortunately I don’t hear the television broadcast because I’m working the game too in the press box. If there are a lot of references to EJ being a mobile QB I haven’t heard it. Yes, he has the mobility to make yards with his legs when things break down or to escape a collapsing pocket, but he has even said himself he wants to be a passing QB that can run when absolutely necessary.

 

 

3 – @ChrisBrownBills Has Cyrus gotten any looks at guard in practice, or solely at tackle?

RDotDeuce

CB: Cyrus Kouandjio has been working strictly at offensive tackle. I have not seen any reps for him at the guard position. First of all Kouandjio is a very long-limbed player and knowing a guard needs to really win on leverage inside, it may prove more difficult for him than other taller tackles that a coach might want to shift in to guard. Second, it’s clear that the coaches want to get him as many reps as possible at tackle. He just turned 21-years old, he’s still growing into his frame and simply needs time on the job. The more reps he gets every day in practice at tackle the shorter the learning curve gets for him to be ready to contribute.

 

4 – @ChrisBrownBills will we see vanilla Defense scheme allowing Cutler 6 seconds to pick secondary apart?

Kenjones1999

CB: I think here are two things you need to keep in mind regarding Sunday’s opponent and Buffalo’s defense. First, Cutler never needs six seconds to get the ball out. The Bears offense is largely based on three step drops. It’s very difficult to sack Cutler, which is why Chicago gave up the third-fewest sacks in the league last season (30).

All that being said the Bills defense will not be vanilla. I’m assuming you’re referring to how Jim Schwartz often relied on his front four to rush the quarterback in Detroit and routinely dropped seven into coverage. That won’t happen a whole lot this season. The reason why is for the first time in a long time Schwartz has quality cover corners in Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, which gives him the liberty of sending extra rushers on passing downs.

I’m not certain we’ll see a lot of extra blitzers this week because of how quickly Cutler gets it out, but through the course of the season we’ll see a variety of looks from coach Schwartz.

 

5 – @ChrisBrownBills Great work Chris! Does #1 on depth chart chart for kickoff returns (Spiller) mean more 1st down touches for Freddy?

superdoops74

CB: I would not assume that Fred Jackson will see more first down work following a kickoff return by C.J. Spiller. Spiller addressed that very question this week, so I’ll let him explain why that might only be in the case in a few situations this season.

“If Fred sees me break a 50 or 60 yarder (on a kickoff) he’ll start the offense off,” said Spiller. “If not I’ll just stay out there and start the series, but the good thing is he’s always watching making sure that I’m good. That’s what it takes, another set of eyes because you want to make sure you’re full speed and you can give your team the best of your ability. I do a great job of judging when I need to start on the offensive series and when I need to come out. I have no worries at all about that.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills on offense are confident

Posted by Chris Brown on September 3, 2014 – 5:26 pm

Even though a good number of fans are concerned about Buffalo’s offense coming out of the preseason the men in Buffalo’s locker room are awfully confident that things will be noticeably different in the regular season. Chief among them Fred Jackson.

“Everybody in this offense we’re confident in what their abilities are,” Jackson said. “We didn’t game plan anybody (in the preseason). We went in there with very vanilla playbooks, nothing game-planned, we didn’t break down defenses, certain situations and things like that. It’s game week, we’re going to do that now. We’re going to try to attack tendencies and things like that.  Knowing the guys we have and what plays they are capable of making, we feel like we can score against anybody in this league.”

A lot of the focus will naturally be on EJ Manuel, but he too is looking forward to the regular season getting underway.

“I have to go out there and do what I need to do and continue to prepare this week,” said Manuel. “That’s why I say I want to keep my focus on Chicago because that’s the most important thing. I can’t control what’s happened in the past. You have to move and look forward. Chicago is our first opportunity, my first opportunity, for this regular season and I want to come out there and start it off how we want to.”


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Fred’s message to team

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:49 pm

With a first half not going particularly well for the offense, Fred Jackson felt it was necessary to huddle up the offensive unit. Here was the gist of his message to the team.

“I was just telling everybody to calm down,” said Jackson. “We’ve got a lot of people that just weren’t on the same page. We’ve got turnovers, we’ve got penalties, things like that, it’s not going to allow you to win a lot of football games. Everybody just has to calm down, go out there and work and let things take care of themselves.  Don’t do everybody else’s job, just do your job and we’ll get back in this thing.”

His teammates echoed the message.

“Basically to stay together,” said Mike Williams. “This is a lesson for us and somebody is testing us. To show that we’re a better team we can go out there and adjust. The second half is about adjustments no matter if you’re up or you’re down. You’ve got to go and make the adjustments and that’s basically what his message was to us and that’s kind of what we did.”


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Bills ‘O’ not happy, but ready to move on

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:22 pm

Buffalo’s players on offense were obviously disappointed with their first half showing on Saturday, but they’re also not going to let the shortcomings of their performance negatively impact them moving forward.

“I wouldn’t say discouraged, but disappointment,” said C.J. Spiller. “Everybody saw what we did, with me having that fumble and turnovers and penalties that killed us. If you want to be considered one of the best you can’t have those type of things and Saturday that took place.”

“This is a preseason game that we can’t allow to linger,” said Fred Jackson. “What we’ve got to do is go in, look at film, make corrections and move on. That’s what we’ll do. We’ve got a team full of a lot of resilient guys. We can’t let this define us as a team. We have to continue to go in and focus, don’t pay attention to the outside noise and do our job.”

“The  biggest thing is we cant let this game define our season. If we let this linger on into the season we’re in trouble. Obviously, it’s disappointing and it wasn’t our best effort.  But at the end of the day, we’ve got to watch the tape and we got to be able to move on. That’s what great teams do.  They’re able to put good games and bad games behind them and move forward.  If we want to get to that level we have to do that.”


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Marrone: Starters may need to play Thursday

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 9:39 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone had no intention of playing his starters in the preseason finale on Thursday against the Lions, but in the wake of Saturday’s performance against Tampa Bay he’s giving strong consideration to putting them on the field against Detroit.

“We’ll be looking at what we’re going to do on Thursday,” said Marrone. “Last year we didn’t play our starters at all. This I think we’re going to have to take a good look and play.”

Buffalo’s starters have no problem with going out there and playing against Detroit if the head coach deems it necessary.

“If coach Marrone wants us to go play, we’ll go play,” said EJ Manuel. “We want to definitely come out and have a good showing before we go into the regular season so if he wants us to play we’ll be ready to go.”

“If our coach wants us out there we’ll be out there,” said Fred Jackson. “That’s just how a lot of guys are going to be. We need work just like anybody else. We can’t say we’re excused from anything, especially after the performance we had in the first half.  We came out and made some plays in the second half but it’s not enough. We have to continue to keep working, if we’re playing we have to continue to put in the work.”


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Jackson: Extra rest day can’t mean complacency

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2014 – 8:45 pm

The rains came this morning at St. John Fisher in Rochester, canceling Buffalo’s scheduled 8 am practice. The team conducted walk through sessions indoors instead. Already having Monday off, Tuesday’s lack of activity was relished by the players who were quick to rest their bodies now in week four of training camp. At the same time the extra day off can’t lead to complacency.

That was the message of Bills veteran back Fred Jackson.

“It’s huge when you’re out here banging and going through as much as we are,” said Jackson of the extra day without contact. “When you’re at training camp and you get these unexpected days off, you like it. But it’s on us now to take advantage of it when we come back on the field. We’ve had a couple of days off and then we get right back to work.”

And the work figures to be intense with two days of practice with the Steelers in Latrobe, PA.

“Yeah, it couldn’t come at a better time knowing that we’re about to go out there and it’s going to be pretty physical,” said Jackson. “They’re a team that prides themselves on being physical and we’re going to go out there and match that. We get a good break going into that is going to make it that much better.”


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Jackson: Panthers ‘D’ a firm test

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2014 – 3:30 pm

Even though Carolina’s defense is expected to be without DE Charles Johnson (hamstring) and free agent safety pickup Roman Harper (toe) tonight, Fred Jackson knows when it comes to total defense there aren’t too many teams with a better unit than the Panthers.

Carolina ranked second in total defense in 2013, second in run defense, second in points allowed and first in sacks. For a Bills offensive unit trying to get a handle on exactly where they stand and how much more work is in front of them, Fred Jackson sees Carolina as a supreme test.

“It’s a great measuring stick,” Jackson told Buffalobills.com. “When you get to go up against a team as good as they are defensively you want to see how your offense stacks up. I know they want to do whatever they can to keep us from scoring points. It’ll be a great game and one that I’m excited about. Going against those guys is just going to bring out the best in both units.”


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Fan Friday 8-8

Posted by Chris Brown on August 8, 2014 – 12:02 pm

Hey Bills fans. My apologies for the brief hiatus that Fan Friday took the past two weeks, but we’re back. So keep firing off your questions on email to AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills

Here’s the latest edition of your questions.

1 - Chris,
Thanks for the piece on Jeff.  I was wondering how he was progressing.
He impressed me at the SJF scrimmage last year.  Seemed to get the ball out quickly and made good decisions.
He reminds of Alex Van Pelt but a better athlete.  He impressed again against KC until the pick 6.  He appears to be the fastest and most elusive QB on his feet.  Finally, the Bills protected him all last year with a roster spot so they saw something they liked.
What if he outplays EJ in the preseason again?

Thanks for the good work.

Dan Malwitz
Orchard Park

CB: Tuel has looked good in training camp, picking up where he left off in the spring minicamp. His first preseason game performance was also encouraging. This past week in practice leading up to tonight’s game Tuel gave way to Thad Lewis for second team offense reps. I expect Lewis to be in the backup quarterback role tonight against the Carolina Panthers.

As good as Tuel has looked this competition is a marathon not a sprint. We’ll need to see how Lewis fares tonight with the second unit. Through the first three weeks of training camp practices, Tuel has been the more consistent performer and the better decision maker. But there are still almost three weeks of camp left so there is a lot of time for things to change.

As for Tuel’s chances of unseating EJ Manuel, it simply won’t happen. This organization has put all their eggs in the Manuel basket to lift the offense to new heights. Tuel, or Lewis for that matter, will only take the field in the regular season if Manuel is injured and cannot play. Priority number one is getting Manuel ready to lead the offense this fall.

 

2 – Dear Chris,

I do believe our receivers are some of the most diverse in the NFL. We have Sammy who is very versatile and I think is worth what we gave up in the future for him. We have Mike Williams who we traded for from the Bucs for a late round pick who can be very reliable in the end zone. We also have the help from Robert Woods in the slot who can be a reliable replacement for Steve Johnson. Then we have Marquise Goodwin who is somebody who can break the top off the roof with his lighting fast speed. To top it off we have Marques Easley who helps big time on special teams. The question I have is how do you think Coach Marrone is going to incorporate all these wide receivers to make a winning group who can help Manuel exceed to be the franchise QB I believe he can be?
Thanks,
Bill

CB: I think your description of diverse is very accurate. I believe it’s what GM Doug Whaley had in mind in changing some of the pieces. He got two boundary receivers in Mike Williams and Sammy Watkins, who have large catch radiuses to pull in passes that may not be right on the money. Watkins and Williams are also experts at winning jump balls. Robert Woods and Chris Hogan are both good separation receivers, who can get yards after the catch. Goodwin and Graham offer deep speed to stretch a defense and you’ve already mentioned Marcus Easley’s strengths.

All of that talent is on the roster to provide Manuel with the confidence to let it fly and trust his playmakers. Williams and Watkins are capable of making plays even when they’re covered. Woods and Hogan have a high percentage of route wins meaning they’re usually open for Manuel to make use of and Goodwin and Graham are always threats to get behind a defense.

The bottom line however, is it’s on Manuel to make them successful because no matter how effective any of the receivers are at winning their matchups, those wins do not add up to anything if Manuel doesn’t target them and make the right decisions. The success of the receiving corps is ultimately dependent on Manuel’s on field decision making and accuracy.

 

3 – Hi Chris,

Thanks continuing to answer questions concerning the Bills. Many fans including myself really enjoy seeing your answers to what sometimes are very difficult questions. This question may qualify as a difficult one.

With 4 running backs on the team, what’s chances someone gets traded?

Thanks,
Bob Hammond
CB: Appreciate the kind words. As for the running backs on Buffalo’s roster, the natural speculation is that the staff will not keep all four on the squad when the roster is reduced to 53. I think what most casual observers are not considering are two important factors.

First, this team ran the football more than any other NFL club in the league last season. That heavy workload was part of the reason both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller succumbed to lingering injuries that compromised their effectiveness in 2013.

The front office and coaching staff made a conscious decision to fortify their running back stable in the offseason so in the event that injuries crop up again this season there will be little to no drop off in their rushing attack. Bryce Brown and ‘Boobie’ Dixon provide such depth.

Barring a catastrophic injury situation at another position that could require them to move one of their running back assets to fill a void via trade, I believe all four will be on the roster come September because at its core this offense will be defined by their run game.

And teams that are run heavy are quickly realizing that if one of your top two backs goes down to injury the identity of your offense will be dramatically impacted. Having these four backs protects against such a setback.

 

4 – Chris,

A – With the signing of Anthony Dixon and his power and size as RB, does that pose a threat to the FB position and the job of Frank Summers?
B – At this point who is considered the 1st Backup Center to Eric Wood?
C – Has it been disclosed by the team as to the health issue Chris Hairston had?  Can he play both guard and tackle positions which would drastically improve his chances of making the roster?

-Joe

CB: I think Dixon is a lock to make the roster, and if the numbers do not allow for a true fullback in Frank Summers, then yes it’s likely that Dixon would serve in the fullback role when such play calls on offense require one.

Backup center to Eric Wood is Doug Legursky at this point.

Chris Hairston medical situation from last season has not been revealed due to HIPAA laws. It is only up to Hairston as to whether or not he wants to make his condition, which is he over now, to be disclosed. As has been seen in training camp, he’s been lined up at both guard and tackle, with tackle being his most recent position. That is where he feels most comfortable since guard is new to him. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares tonight with the expectation that he’ll line up as the second team left tackle.

 

5 – Hi Chris,
As always, thank you so much for all of your excellent work. The opportunity for Bills fans to stay informed from afar is just excellent. I want to begin by saying I have all the faith in Jim Schwartz and the Bills defensive personnel, but I would like your insight on something. I understand that the exotic blitz packages of the Pettine era will not continue and that there needs to be a balance. We clearly weren’t where we needed to be against the run nor on third down efficiency. In the July 4th Fan Friday you mentioned that you would trade 10 sacks for the top 3rd down defense and top 10 run defense. I completely agree, but what I haven’t heard mentioned by anyone is how that would affect our secondary.

I was very impressed with the play of our secondary, even without Jairus Byrd, and especially by the number of turnovers they generated. My question is, by reducing the QB pressure, don’t we sacrifice more than just the sacks? I worry that we open ourselves up for more deep plays from the opponents passing game. I believe there is a perfect balance in there somewhere and I truly believe Jim Schwartz is deserving of the respect he is given around the league, I am just curious to hear your thoughts on the issue.
Thank you,
Cory in VA

CB: The only point I was trying to make was I would rather have more balanced production defensively across the board. I didn’t mean to infer that 10 fewer sacks would need to happen to have a better run defense or better third down defense. What encourages me is Jim Schwartz strives to have across the board production with his defense. And I don’t believe that you have to sacrifice sacks to be better in those other areas.

Schwartz has been a successful DC because he has found that perfect balance in his career as a defensive play caller. It’s my belief that he’ll be able to do that here perhaps more than anywhere else he has coached in his career. The main reason why is because this is the most talented secondary he has ever had in his career as a defensive coordinator.

When you have a secondary capable of man coverage it helps the pass rush and when you have a front four that can generate effective pressure it allows you to drop seven into coverage. Schwartz will take those two advantages and creatively use play calling to keep opposing offenses guessing.


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Dixon eager to build trust with new teammates

Posted by Chris Brown on August 3, 2014 – 10:52 am

RB “Boobie” Dixon will be playing in his first game tonight as a Bill and though he’s done a lot in the offseason to show teammates how hard he’s willing to work to help the team succeed, he knows tonight’s preseason opener is where he can most effectively get his new teammates to trust him.

“That’s very important and I feel like it’s very important that I’m willing to fight for them and the organization no matter who we go up against because I’m new,” Dixon told Buffalobills.com. “We’re all working on building that trust with each other for when things gets hard so it’s step one.”

Dixon hopes their run game can set a tone tonight against the Giants, and for the hard hitting Dixon it’s more than just a preseason game.

“You’ve got to go out there and set the tempo and take it to them,” he said. “It’s not just a game to me, it’s a fight and that’s what I’m planning to do and turn it into a brawl.”

Dixon is expected to get a lot of work tonight after abbreviated appearances by Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.


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How Jackson has defied age

Posted by Chris Brown on July 30, 2014 – 7:50 pm

Fred Jackson just turned 33 in February, but the Bills veteran back, who just signed a contract extension Wednesday, doesn’t move and cut like a 33-year old. Jackson has a couple of theories as to why.

Jackson said he feels as good as he ever has coming into this season, which might be surprising to some knowing he played on a sprained MCL for more than half the season. But Jackson’s injury healed on its own and he had no residual effects.

“Nothing at all, I didn’t have to focus on that,” said Jackson. “Our training staff did a tremendous job getting me ready to play week in and week out. There were no surgeries needed. I’ve been blessed enough in this league that I’ve yet to need to have surgery. Hopefully we can keep it that way and I can continue to stay healthy.”

 As for his longevity at what is known as a very punishing position Jackson believes he feels as good as he does because he didn’t have any rehab work in the offseason.

“Well one of the main reasons is that I’m not coming off of any major prolonged injuries. I had a tremendous offseason with our strength and conditioning coaches, I think they did a great job getting me to where I am today, so I’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit,” he said. “I’m hungry and motivated. I think a renewed sense of getting this thing turned around, with some of the moves we made in the offseason putting the pieces around us I think that’s got to have a lot of guys excited, and I’m one of them.”


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Marrone’s affinity for Fred goes beyond his play

Posted by Chris Brown on July 30, 2014 – 6:26 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone was naturally pleased to hear that Fred Jackson had signed a contract extension with the club. Jackson’s production, especially playing on a sprained MCL for most of the last season made his yardage and scoring output all the more impressive. But Marrone respects Jackson for much more than his play on the field. He values the quality leader Jackson is as a team captain as well.

“I love Fred,” said Marrone. “I think Fred’s been a great pro. In my time here with him he’s been a very good leader and very productive. I’m excited about him. I heard the news coming here. I just heard that now and I’m happy for Fred and I’m happy for his family.”


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Fred shows up with family in tow

Posted by Chris Brown on July 18, 2014 – 3:25 pm

fred

Bills veteran RB Fred Jackson decided to make move in day at training camp a family affair at St. John Fisher. Instead of rolling up in one of his muscle cars as he has in years past, Jackson arrived in a large extra long van similar to the vehicles hotels use as shuttles for guests. With him was his wife Danielle, son and three daughters.

“It’s our family travel (vehicle). We put the kids in the back put a movie on and I don’t hear from them again,” said Jackson. “It makes it easier for everybody and they’re entertained and the trip is quick and easy that way.”

For Jackson this will be his ninth training camp with the Bills and he’s also entering the last year of his contract. He’s at a point in his career where he’s appreciating the moments that make up a season. That’s why Jackson wanted to have the memory of his kids helping him move in at camp.

“The number one thing is I want them to be as much a part of this as possible, especially my two oldest daughters,” said Jackson. “My oldest daughter was saying, ‘You’ve got to leave for camp soon.’ That’s the type of stuff you’re going to remember and stuff that you want them to remember. You want them to know where you were going and helping me move in when they get older that we can talk about that. And when I’m a grandpa I can tell their children. That’s the kind of things you start to see when you’ve been around as long as I have.”

 


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Spiller senses big jump for run game in year 2

Posted by Chris Brown on July 14, 2014 – 9:38 am

In our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we profiled how offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will take advantage of the team’s running back depth with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon now lined up behind Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the depth chart. Spiller senses that after a year of experience in the system for most of the offensive unit that season two under Hackett will lead to even more production in the run game.

“For us to be second in the league in rushing with a new system and us trying to get comfortable with what was going on –  Now we have that year up under us and you can see the difference,” said Spiller. “Everybody is confident in what we’re doing and hopefully that will bring better things. But there’s a ton of work to be done before September 7th against the Bears. We’ve got to be willing to put in all the hard work necessary to put ourselves in the best situation to win.”

Buffalo averaged over 144 yards on the ground a game last season and that was without a lot of passing success as the offense was 28th in that category. So even when opposing defenses largely knew what was coming the Bills were still pretty productive running the ball.

What is most encouraging from the standpoint of Spiller is how he’ll fare in the offense in his second season running it. Some might recall that in his first season under Chan Gailey as a starter (2011) Spiller struggled at times to be productive. Then in his second season he had a breakout season. The dynamic Pro Bowl back is now in a similar situation going into his second year in Nathaniel Hackett’s system. One wonders if similar production to that of 2012 is on the horizon this fall.


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Fan Friday 6-27

Posted by Chris Brown on June 27, 2014 – 11:42 am

We’re in the quiet period of the offseason, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues about the team to discuss. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hey Chris,
My question is about the defense and new DC Jim Schwartz.  I know Marrone has said that they will keep the terminology the same for the players, but what does that exactly mean?  I know Schwartz and Pettine have different philosophies but do you foresee Schwartz maybe trying to become more innovative with his D?  In my opinion I think that Rex Ryan and Mike Pettines defense is spreading into the league and can be a new look for NFL defenses.  I know the Chiefs acquired Bob Sutton who has a Jets backround and the Saints have Rob Ryan.   I really like the way Pettine disguised plays and also the way he looked for players that can be versatile.  It just seems like it’s a defense that is spreading into the league and it is very aggressive style, something that needs to match the explosive offenses that are continuing to evolve.  So I guess my question is do you think that Schwartz watched film and talked with Marrone about keeping some of the same looks and ideas that Pettine installed last year and maybe just putting his flavor on it?  What are your thoughts about it?

Thanks, Jillian

CB: I think coaches inherently trust the elements of their schemes that made them successful coordinators or coaches in this league. Jim Schwartz was a coveted head coaching candidates a half dozen years ago because of the way he ran his defense. It’s a scheme that has a long running track of success on third down and against the run, two of the chief problem areas for Buffalo’s defense.

In speaking with Schwartz on a couple of occasions it’s my belief that he’s been in the league long enough to know that you have to adapt to changing trends in the NFL or you’ll be left behind. I do believe some of his defensive scheme has adopted some of the language from Pettine’s scheme for the sake of continuity, but Schwartz believes in his system and he should. The Lions finished sixth against the run and first in third down defense last season.

So while I think there is a healthy respect for the schemes run by Pettine and the Ryans, there are other ways to be successful on the defensive side of the ball. Knowing Schwartz’s scheme is likely to address the two most glaring problems of Buffalo’s defense leaves me feeling encouraged that the team’s new defensive coordinator will have the right answers, they may just be different from what you witnessed here last season.

 

2 -  Hey Chris,

I love your work.  Everyday I look forward to the latest Bills news.  Thanks for keeping us updated.  Living in Dallas, all I get is Dallas Cowboys news.

Here is my question for you, “Can you give any insight on exactly what and how players are graded during the OTA practices?”

Thanks
Shawn Sieracki
Dallas, Texas
CB: Happy to help Shawn and thanks for the compliments. I’m going to turn this one over to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who I believe effectively explained what’s evaluated in the spring practices when there are no pads.

“The only thing we’re really evaluating with players now is their ability to grasp scheme and things like that,” said Schwartz. “The stuff that you’re seeing on the practice field, we’re not judging players on how they finish plays.  It’s a non competitive situation.  We want to learn, we want to learn their role in the defense.  We want to learn how everything fits together, and they are being judged on that and their work ethic.  But the on field stuff, it’s all about technique right now.  When we get to training camp, we’ll start judging them more on wins and losses.  Wins-whether it comes to a coverage or a pass rush or things like that—you have to be careful about judging too much on that stuff out there.  It’s non-contact; it’s not really football.”
3 - Chris

Thanks for your coverage of the Bills.  Is Buddy Nix still affiliated with the Bills? What is his role and did he have any input in the recent draft?

Regards,
Ron Jacobs

CB: Yes, Buddy is still affiliated with the Bills. He no longer works in the office, but is a special assistant to the personnel department. I know that GM Doug Whaley called on him a few times in the pre-draft process to scout a few prospects near his region where he lives in Tennessee.

He was also present in the draft room for all three days of the 2014 draft, sitting in the first row. Having been in the draft room for the whole weekend, Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon went to speak to him on about a dozen occasions.

Many of them appeared to deal with the conversations that Whaley and Brandon had with other NFL clubs concerning trade talks, and as you know Whaley made a handful on draft weekend. It’s clear to me that Nix is still a respected veteran voice in Buffalo’s personnel department.

 

4 – Chris,
Given the new additions on offense do you see the Bills being run heavy or pass heavy? With Dixon and Brown there won’t be enough carries to go around. Getting 4 RB’s the ball seems like a tough task. Given the league is pass heavy and Watkins is in the fold how is the ball going to go around. It’s a pass heavy league and EJ will need to throw 300 yards often. How do you see this shaking out?

CB: Here are the things you need to consider when weighing this question. Will the Bills simply have EJ Manuel carry the offense and throw it all over the field? It’s unlikely. Doug Marrone is a head coach who believes in a run game. Unless he’s got an all-world quarterback that will be his approach. The only difference is Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett will run it at a pace that no one can keep up with.

The pace of the offense last season was compromised by inexperience when injuries struck at quarterback and a new signal caller was starting seemingly every week. All three quarterbacks are a year invested in the system so that is no longer an issue.

So provided they gain the yardage they believe they on the ground consistently, it’ll translate into more first downs, more plays, more yardage and ultimately more points. With more plays there are more carries to go around.

Running as much as Buffalo did last season (they had more total rushes than any team in the NFL in 2013) they’d like to run more this year, as they only ran the ball 48 percent of the time. Keeping the injury factor in mind (See: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson in 2013), Buffalo now has the depth at running back to carry on should one or two of their backs suffer injuries.

The offensive line has also been beefed up with size and strength not only among the starting unit (Chris Williams), but among the reserves (Seantrel Henderson, Cyril Richardson, Chris Hairston, Cyrus Kouandjio). Pass protection is part of it knowing the Bills gave up the fourth-most (48) in the league last year, but it’s about being able to run the ball even when the opponent knows it’s coming.

C.J. and Fred will be the principal players in the run game, but Spiller and Jackson are both versatile talents and will be utilized in the passing game as well. With the depth at running back as well it wouldn’t surprise me if there are multiple backs on the field at the same time.

Hackett always talks about putting the five best skill position players on the field with the five linemen and the QB. One would think that Spiller and Jackson more often than not would be among that group with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon not far behind.

 

5 - @ChrisBrownBills

What is the competition for RT looking like right now between Pears and Cyrus?#bills

Z_bass10

CB: It’s hard to really make a call on it before the pads are on in training camp. I will say that early in the OTAs, the coaches rotated Kouandjio in with the first unit for a bit less than half the snaps. By the close of OTAs, Kouandjio spent most of his time with the second unit outside of a day when he spent a practice at left tackle due to a lack of numbers on hand.

Kouandjio has to adjust to the speed of NFL pass rushers. He found going against the likes of Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes challenging as you might understand. Pears held his own in the spring practice setting.

For me it’s a competition that’s going to have to wait until St. John Fisher when the pads are on and perhaps well into the preseason.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-20

Posted by Chris Brown on June 20, 2014 – 2:39 pm

Spring practices are over and there’s just a month to go before training camp opens. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

What do you think about Buffalo going after Jason Babin possibly? They did show interest in 2012 #LetsGoBuffalo

TheGoodfella28

CB: While their depth at defensive end is not ideal I don’t know that they could make that kind of a veteran investment in the position. Buffalo has a lot of money tied up in their defensive line and adding another player who would not come cheap might be a bit unrealistic.

 

2 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for the great coverage this off-season. I always look forward to Fan Friday. My question is in regards to the #3 QB spot. What have Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon been up to this off-season? Tuel showed a lot of promise last preseason but, clearly wasn’t ready when thrust into the spotlight. I still hold out hope for him. Living in Western Pa. I got to see Dixon play some as a Steeler. The guy has a motor for sure. Do you think Tuel’s spot is safe or does Dixon have a legit chance to overtake him? Maybe try to stash Tuel on the PS?
Thanks again, I look forward to your insight on this.

Scott

CB: I’ll have a story up on Buffalobills.com Saturday morning on Jeff Tuel. In my opinion he’s raised his game a peg or two. It’s clear to me he worked on his body in the offseason. He’s leaner and looks quicker on read option play keepers. Where he’s raised his game the most is his decisiveness in the pocket. He senses pressure and knows when to step up and he has shown a willingness to stick the ball into tight windows to make plays. There were times during the OTAs where he had the most impressive looking throws of the day.

I think he’s not only got a lock on the number three job going into camp, I believe he will provide healthy competition to Thad Lewis for the backup job.

 

3 – Hi Chris,

The recent comparison you made between Moeaki and Gragg today was interesting.

Gragg ran a 4.35 shuttle at pro day. Athletically Gragg seems superior in just about every test if you now include the pro day shuttle in his draft class and with Moeaki. Sub 4.5 40 at 244, 37.5 vertical, 4.35 shuttle…. great results.

However, Moeaki comments are encouraging. From a test comparison, the statement that Moeaki is the most athletic is surprising. Would be interesting to see a square out drill with both of them to see how they do. Shuttle or 3 cone is about closest to that.

Thanks
Mike

CB: I’m not sure there’s a question here, but I can tell you while Gragg is better on the stopwatch when it comes to football Moeaki is the smoother route runner. He transitions better from catch to turning up field. He also adjusts to the ball more effectively when it’s not on target.

That’s not a knock on Gragg, who is an athlete, but Moeaki’s body type, which isn’t as long-limbed as Gragg lends itself to being a more fluid athlete.

 
4 – Chris,

Thanks for all of the great reporting for “Bills Nation” out here in southern Nevada. Observations from OTA’s have indicated that E.J. is experiencing the same footwork and inaccuracy issues that have plagued him throughout his career. I believe he has had his own personal quarterbacks coach for a number of years. Why would he hire an offseason coach/mentor that has not been able to correct these problems?

Hank K.

CB: Thanks for the kind words. During OTAs EJ and the receivers were still working on getting their footwork lined up. With the precision needed in this passing game under coach Hackett, the quarterback’s footwork has to be in lockstep with that of the receivers. I intend to ask coach Hackett how much margin for error there is with that approach, but watching it on the field there doesn’t appear to be much. Unfortunately that’s how fine you have to cut things to be consistently successful in the NFL Sunday after Sunday.

In spring practices with new receiving targets on the field (Watkins, M. Williams, Moeaki) there’s going to be an adjustment period and I think we witnessed that in the OTAs. In minicamp the precision was improving. Hopefully that continues going into camp.

And to be clear it’s not a technique thing with EJ as much as it is a timing thing concerning the footwork. Yes, occasionally Manuel’s footwork will suffer in a pressure situation as it would for any QB, but on the whole the disconnect comes when the footwork of the QB and receivers are not timed up from the snap as it’s been explained to me.

 
5 – Hey Chris,

Love your insight and love for the Bills keep up the great work. I’ve a proposal I think the Bills should really consider about trading Fred Jackson or releasing him. They need to go with CJ Spiller and Bryce Brown. With the addition of Bryce Brown and also Anthony Dixon they have two power backs that are younger and faster than Fred Jackson. I’m a big fan of Fred Jackson as a football talent and as a leader, but why get Brown and Dixon and still keep Jackson.

Virginia’s biggest Bills fan.
CB: I’m going to disagree with your proposal. First, Jackson is still a more than capable back in this league. Some might not see him as a bell cow type back anymore, but his value is undeniable. He’s still the best pass blocking back on the roster, he’s an offensive spark for the team and he’s more than a respected leader. He’s the pulse of the locker room.

The additions of Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are to improve their short yardage success and to have a viable back in reserve should C.J. Spiller or Jackson get hurt, as was the case last year when both had to gut out games on one bad wheel last season. With as much running as this team intends to do they’ll need all four of them.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills on the radio

Posted by Chris Brown on June 17, 2014 – 9:45 am

A couple of Bills players will be appearing on the national radio airwaves today (Tuesday). Here’s where you can find them.

12:10 pm – C.J. Spiller on PFT Live with Mike Florio

1:05 pm – Fred Jackson on The Jim Rome Show


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Posted in Inside the Bills

RBs draft value sliding in pass happy NFL

Posted by Chris Brown on February 19, 2014 – 10:03 am

The NFL is showing a propensity to lean toward the pass more and more every season. The beneficiaries have been wide receivers, offensive tackles and quarterbacks (the productive ones). The have nots are the running backs and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock sees their value as a commodity in the draft sliding.

“It has become a pass first league. If you look back the draft 40 years ago, running backs were the most valuable commodity there was,” Mayock said. “Today with all the spread offenses and teams throwing the football 60 to 70 percent of the time there has been a completely different emphasis in how you draft offensively. It starts at quarterback, it goes to wide receiver, a left tackle and even lately it’s even gone to what kind of tight end you can draft that can beat teams vertically on defense.

“So I do think it’s going to devalue running backs. I do think the good news is you can get in the second, third and fourth round and find different flavors of running backs. You’ll see some teams that will draft two or three running backs in one or two drafts just so they have a big back, a third down change of pace guy. I think that’s where the league has gone and will continue to go.”

The good news is a team like the Bills, who could be in the market to add some youth at the position behind C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson could wait until the middle rounds and still land a quality player.

For more Combine coverage presented by NAPA Auto Parts, click here.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fred pranks Aaron Williams with hot wing

Posted by buffalobills.com on February 18, 2014 – 2:29 pm

During the Visa #MyFootballFantasy chicken wing eating contest Fred Jackson and Aaron Williams decided to compete one-on-one to see who could finish a plate piled high with chicken wings first.

Without Aaron knowing, Fred asked the Duff’s staff, who provided the wings for the competition, to bring over two different types of wings. Fred had them bring a ‘medium’ wing for him, and a wing doused in Duff’s fiery ‘Death Sauce’ for Aaron.

Watch what happens:

As every Buffalonian knows, you don’t mess with Duff’s ‘Death Sauce’ wings. There was no shortage of them in the Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse on the day of the competition. Duff’s supplied over 3,000 wings for this event!

VISA-Mike-0289


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Posted in Inside the Bills, Off the Field