Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 1-31

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

We’ll all be waiting to see if the ninth time is the charm for Bills Wall of Famer Andre Reed for Hall of Fame enshrinement. Hopefully the path is cleared for Buffalo’s all-time leading receiver. On to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills Hey Chris. Stayin busy in the off-seasn? Lol. Is there a greater % for injury of same knee now that EJ’s had 2 surgeries on it?

billsguy34

CB: EJ said this week that he plans to wear a knee brace on his left knee permanently much like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning do with their front leg when they drop back to pass. I believe the idea is to protect him from injuring the knee again in a freak way, such as a penetrating defensive lineman falling on his front leg as he tries to step into a throw. He doesn’t believe it will inhibit his escapability if he needs to take off and run so the added protection would seem to make sense.

It’s clear to me that EJ has thought long and hard about how to keep that knee healthy without impeding his athletic skills. So if anything I think the percentage for a future injury happening are reduced, but as we all know in football injuries are never 100 percent preventable.

 

2 – @ChrisBrownBills do you think Hostler will be senior off asst/WR coach?

SJHNatFan

CB: Even though Jim Hostler has been a very accomplished receivers coach during his time in the NFL ranks I don’t get the sense that he’ll be assigned the receivers specifically. As I understand it Hostler will be another set of eyes for the offense. He’ll work closely with coach Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and likely have some self-scouting responsibilities to help the offensive staff to better accentuate their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. I’m sure he’ll have input when it comes to game planning as well. I see him as a valuable sounding board for Hackett and Marrone on the offensive side, but his job sounds more all-encompassing with the offense rather than position specific.

 

3 – Chris,

Thanks for the great coverage as always. My question regards our offseason needs as we have a few, OG,OT,LB and a big wide out. These holes will be filled with a mix of the draft and free agency most likely. Where do you believe we will choose to go with youth versus veteran experience?

We have a pretty young receiver group as well as a young potential star at middle linebacker in Kiko it’d be nice to see some solid veterans thrown into the mix. But I can’t argue trying to grab another young stud linebacker in the draft either along with an offensive lineman. Also who do you believe has the best shot to have an impact at one of these positions of need who may already be in house I know there’s a few candidates.(Elliot,Unga,Asper etc.) Looking forward to your thoughts thanks again.

Will, GO BILLS!

CB: I think your reasoning makes sense, but what you want to do is often affected by what’s available in terms of talent. When it comes to linebacker I get the sense that the team would prefer to move Kiko Alonso out to the weak side where they can take better advantage of his athleticism and coverage ability. That would mean a middle linebacker would need to be plugged in.

Buffalo was fortunate that they had a rookie in Alonso who was able to learn and call a new defense as a rookie at the mike spot. That doesn’t always happen, so I’m inclined to think that they would want to add a veteran in free agency at that position. However, the market is particularly thin, which means the price tag on what the Bills might see as an affordable option (as Doug Whaley calls them, ‘dust settle’ guys) may not be if there are other teams competing for experienced LBs.

I could see the Bills adding a linebacker both in free agency and in the draft. They need bodies at that position.

At receiver another rookie is probably not the way to improve the offense sooner rather than later. They need a player who has produced in the past and has adapted to different offensive systems before. Buffalo invested a pair of high picks at the receiver position last year (2nd and 3rd round) so I’d be surprised if they go that route again, especially early.

Offensive tackle is where I expect them to turn to the draft for help. There’s good talent at the top of the draft and with some QB hungry teams ahead of Buffalo in round one some great talent could fall to them at nine.

Guard is a position where I think they will plug in the best talent they can find. They have some players in house who they believe have starter potential, but they might add a stop gap free agent veteran to hold down the fort until they feel comfortable enough to plug in one of the prospects that you mentioned.

 

4 – Chris,
Thank you for all your coverage during the season.  What’s more is your continuous coverage during the off-season.  Being a fan in Virginia, I rely a lot on what I get from you.  I have two questions for you.

My first is in a previous Fan Friday someone mentioned there was possible discussion about trading Stevie.   I haven’t heard anything about that, yet you responded to it, so it sounds like there has been talk.  Where has this been said, and did I miss it due to me being in another state?

My second and big question is about the draft for next year.  Watching the playoffs this year I am noticing a theme.  The teams that are winning are winning due to great running games and strong defense.  What are the Bills going to do to boost up the offense and defense in the offseason?  Our pass defense is much better, but we let too many runs get by us.  I think we have a great running game, but it needs.some help with a better offensive line creating holes at times, especially in the red zone.

Thanks for keeping everyone informed.

Diehard fan in VA

CB: There are a lot of things that happen in the first year with a new coaching staff inheriting a roster of players. They have to learn how to work together, help one another and succeed. Doug Marrone did a solid job in establishing how things were going to function and earned the trust of the players. I think Stevie Johnson is a player who is wholeheartedly on board and wants to win.

At times I think the way the season unfolded frustrated him and I’m not sure he effectively communicated his frustrations to the people that matter most. I think it led to a lot of speculation about Stevie’s future with the team and whether he could effectively fall in line with the rest of the team and do things coach Marrone’s way.

As I said before Johnson wants to win in the worst way and he wants to win here. I think after the dust settled on the season coach Marrone and coach Hackett made the necessary changes to their offensive staff and I get the sense that they came to the conclusion that they need Johnson in this offense. In a year where they’re trying to improve the talent around EJ Manuel so he can raise the level of the passing game, taking Johnson out of that equation would be foolish.

He gains consistent separation on pass routes perhaps more than any other receiver on the roster. An open receiver is a valuable asset for a young quarterback. I’m not saying that the Bills don’t need to add more talent to the receiving corps, but to get Buffalo’s passing game to reach critical mass you need to hold onto weapons not remove them from the offense. That’s a long way of saying I don’t anticipate any trade talk regarding Johnson.

 

5 – Chris,

Thanks for all the great coverage throughout the season.  My question is, since the bills can get a deal done with Byrd now, wouldn’t this be the best time to do it since he can’t talk to other teams until FA starts?

Jason from Missouri

CB: Bills GM Doug Whaley and President and CEO Russ Brandon in speaking with the Associated Press this week said they have hit the reset button on negotiations with Jairus Byrd and his representatives. Whaley said on the John Murphy Show last week that contract offers would be going out to the free agents they would like to retain and Byrd is one of them. So yes, they are making an effort to get something done now before free agency opens in mid-March.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz excited about DBs as much as DL

Posted by Chris Brown on January 27, 2014 – 6:41 pm

While Bills new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz took notice of the talent on Buffalo’s defensive line just by watching last weekend’s Pro Bowl, he’s also excited about the talent that sits in the Bills defensive backfield.

“In order to win in the NFL you need your front office and organization to all be on the same page and that impressed me right away,” Schwartz told Buffalobills.com. “After that it’s about players. Obviously the Bills have some good defensive players. They have some pieces in place that can fit very well in what we want to do. Not just up front. A lot of attention is paid to those guys up front, but I’ve been very impressed with the secondary also.

“You talk about guys like Jairus Byrd, Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin. Those are some top notch players and I really look forward to working with those guys.”

One thing Schwartz’s defenses lacked in Detroit was continuity in the secondary with a lot of player turnover each and every season. With Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin and Nickell Robey locked up for the next couple of years one can understand why Schwartz is encouraged by that talent he’s walking into his first season with in Buffalo.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Byrd’s safety partner hoping he re-signs

Posted by Chris Brown on January 27, 2014 – 12:05 pm

He was an invited guest to Hawaii by his Pro Bowl safety teammate Jairus Byrd along with other members of Buffalo’s secondary. Byrd had them all out in Honolulu with him this past week. Aaron Williams is hoping all of the men in the Bills defensive backfield will continue to enjoy Byrd’s company in Buffalo next season and beyond.

In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 Monday morning, Williams reiterated his desire to have Byrd continue to line up alongside him in Buffalo’s secondary.

“A lot of people have been hassling me about calling Jairus,” said Williams. “I’m going to be totally honest with you. I would love for my boy to come back. We’re the best safety duo in the league in my opinion. I don’t think any other safeties who had the numbers that we did this year. Unfortunately it’s above my pay scale to handle all that. All I can do is trust the guys upstairs in the front office… I know they want Jairus back. At the same time the business side of it gets a little ugly. I put my opinion on it and let it go and hopefully it goes in my favor and the team’s favor.”

Byrd (4) and Williams (4) combined for eight interceptions in 2013, which was tied with Seattle’s safety tandem of Earl Thomas (5) and Kam Chancellor (3) for the league lead.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Aaron would love to have Byrd back

Posted by Chris Brown on January 9, 2014 – 10:41 am

It’s a decision that ultimately not up to him, but Bills S Aaron Williams would love to have fellow safety Jairus Byrd back for next season and beyond in Buffalo’s secondary.

Williams and Byrd appeared to hit it off after Williams transitioned to safety and Byrd re-entered the lineup in Week 6 after dealing with a foot injury early in the year. Byrd even credited Williams with keying him into a play that was coming from the Jets in Week 11 against the Jets pre-snap that led to one of his two interceptions in that game.

Williams believes their combination in the defensive backfield is already one of the best in football, which is why he’d like to see that partnership continue.

“That decision is above my pay scale, but I would love to have Jairus Byrd back,” said Williams. “We have a great chemistry. He’s been with me since I got here, and he’s taught me a lot, especially at the safety position. He’s helped me excel at my game in that area.

“We’re honestly the best safety duo in the NFL. Say what you want, I don’t know any other safety duos that put up the same numbers as Byrd and I. With that kind of expectation, with that kind of chemistry and duo, I don’t see why they wouldn’t bring him back. We do a great job together, we make plays and we put leadership in our defense.”

Buffalo GM Doug Whaley said they are in the business of keeping good players and acknowledged Byrd is one of them, but Byrd is the one who has the power to choose where he’ll play in 2014 and beyond.

Williams even left a signed number 23 jersey of his in Byrd’s locker on locker clean out day thanking him for what he did to help him progress at safety this past season.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Byrd, Mario make 2nd Team All-Pro

Posted by Chris Brown on January 3, 2014 – 12:19 pm

The Associated Press has released it’s All-Pro team for the 2013 season. Bills DE Mario Williams and S Jairus Byrd did not earn 1st team honors, but were named to the second team.

The AP had Houston’s J.J. Watt and St. Louis’ Robert Quinn as their 1st Team All-Pro defensive ends ahead of Buffalo’s Williams.

Meanwhile at safety the AP gave 1st team All-Pro honors to Seattle’s Earl Thomas and Kansas City’s Eric Berry.

Both Williams and Byrd were each named to their third career Pro Bowls last week.

Here are the full AP All-Pro rosters for 2013.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-3

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

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

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

Guy Rosenbarker Jr.@rosenbarker

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

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

 

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

T‏@Scorpio_1st

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Thanks Chris, Tim in Niagara Ontario

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Dan in Cheshire, CT

CB: Thanks for the compliments Dan. Much appreciated.

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Offer to be made to Byrd, Carpenter

Posted by Chris Brown on December 30, 2013 – 5:58 pm

Bills GM Doug Whaley said they intend to pursue some of their own free agents vigorously between now and the start of free agency. Chief among them Jairus Byrd and kicker Dan Carpenter.

“We’re going to leave all options on the table. We had a conversation myself and Russ (Brandon) sat and talked to Jairus and we’re going to make an offer to the guy,” said Whaley. “We’re going to try to keep him to the best of our ability. We’re in the business of collecting good players and he’s a good player.”

When asked if making use of the franchise tag could happen again, Whaley did not rule it out.

“That’s always an option,” said Whaley. “We’re not going to back ourselves into a corner and eliminate any possibility of trying to retain a good player.”

Dan Carpenter, who tied a team record with 33 field goals made (Steve Christie, 1998), said he’s keeping his options open, but Whaley made it clear he too will try to be re-signed.

“Absolutely,” Whaley said. “Russ (Brandon) and I talked to him and we’re going to reach out to his agents pretty soon and see if we can try and get something done.”

Whaley also said they intend to present Brian Moorman with an offer too.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills 3 Pro Bowlers all 3-timers

Posted by Chris Brown on December 28, 2013 – 12:35 am

The Bills have three players from their roster who will be headed to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, and all three are returning players.

Mario Williams, Jairus Byrd and Kyle Williams were all named to their third career Pro Bowls. It’s the first for Mario Williams with the Bills.

This is also the first time three Bills defenders were named to the initial Pro Bowl roster since 1997 when Bryce Paup, Ted Washington and Bruce Smith were named starters.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

4 Bills with 4 picks apiece?

Posted by Chris Brown on December 22, 2013 – 11:00 am

Right now the Bills have three players with four interceptions each on the season. With Aaron Williams out for Sunday’s game with a rib injury, it could raise the chances of Buffalo having four players with four INTs apiece on the season.

Williams is one of the three players who has logged four interceptions thus far this season. Kiko Alonso and Jairus Byrd are the other two.

The defensive back expected to see the most time in Williams’ absence today is Jim Leonhard, who has three interceptions on the season. If he’s able to land an INT against Ryan Tannehill today, he too would have four on the season.

That would make the quartet on the 2013 squad just the fourth group in team history to each have at least four INTs. Here are the others.

4 players with 4+ INTs in team history:
1960 (5) – Archie Matsos-8, Jim Wagstaff-6, Bill Atkins-5, Bill Kinard-4, Richie McCabe-4
1962 (4) – Carl Charon-7, Booker Edgerson-6, Mike Stratton-6, Marv Matuszak-6
1965 (5) – Hagood Clarke-7, Butch Byrd-5, Charley Warner-5, Booker Edgerson-5, George Saimes-4


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-20

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

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

1 - Hi Chris,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Paddy, Vancouver Canada

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

3 – Hey Chris,

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

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

 

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

Brian in South Carolina

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

 

5 – Chris,

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

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

Thanks!
Jim from Massachusetts

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

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

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

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hard not to think hangover

Posted by Chris Brown on December 8, 2013 – 11:33 pm

The Bills appeared to have a hangover type performance in their Week 10 loss at Pittsburgh, when the emotional loss to Kansas City from the week before looked like it lingered in the minds of players. Fast forward to Sunday’s game against the Bucs, again off an emotional overtime loss to the Falcons, and the performance made it hard not to think hangover again.

It’s clear that the thought had cross head coach Doug Marrone’s mind postgame.

“I said this earlier in the week, we played a Kansas City team which was a tough game and came back in Pittsburgh and did not play well in a lot of areas,” said Marrone. “We played a game last week, which was a very difficult game for our players. We talked about it during the week coming back and we played even worse than we did in the Pittsburgh game. That’s very disappointing when you want to grow and you want to go forward.

“We didn’t bounce back like I thought they should. Nor did they bounce back like they thought they should. That’s why I don’t think it’s the coach saying it, we feel like that as a team collectively. Does that bother me that one phase of what you need to do to become a winning football team that we didn’t take that challenge and overcome that? Absolutely that bothers me.”

Buffalo’s players weren’t ready to call it a hangover.

“I don’t think so,” said EJ Manuel of a hangover effect. “For me I don’t think being that it was an emotional loss or whatever, it was a loss last week, I don’t think that was the reason I came in and played flat this week. I know there were some errant passes I had, some forced passes that I don’t normally do. That’s where the interceptions come from. You just have to continue to stick to your reads and do a much, much better job at that. That’s where I felt I struggled today and I’ve just got to get better from it.”

“I can’t say we lack mental toughness. I think they just came out and beat us,” said Stevie Johnson.

Jairus Byrd wouldn’t call the performance a result of a hangover effect, but he did admit that the loss to Atlanta was a difficult one.

“That’s a question for each man, but the last week did hurt,” Byrd said. “It did hurt, knowing all that was out there for us. When we weren’t able to do that, each person is different and you’ve got to move forward, but that one hurt.”

C.J. Spiller however, wasn’t sugar coating anything as he referenced how the week of practice didn’t get off on the right foot and that a lack of focus was the reason for all of their miscues Sunday.

“First day of practice didn’t come off well,” he said. “We picked it up and I thought from them on we had a good week of preparation, had a good game-plan going into it. We knew exactly what they were doing. They didn’t come out there and do anything that surprised us.

“They played good on defense. They played with more passion, more energy, and they just beat us. We “were just not focused, is what it comes down to. When you’re not focused, those things happen.

“I hope that [the loss] didn’t linger on, because if that’s the case then this loss will linger on [and] it would show next week. Your profession in this league, win or lose, you have to move on from the game. I said it earlier in the week that’s what you got to do. That’s what being a pro is all about. Win or lose, you have to put that game behind you and focus on the next opponent because if you don’t then stuff like this happens.”


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Bills trying to push past disappointment

Posted by Chris Brown on December 2, 2013 – 9:25 am

The Bills have had more than their share of painful losses over the years, but this one is right up there for the players. Monday could be a long day for them.

“It’s tough,” said Branch. “Any game where you work this hard and try to stay in the game, to finish
a team off and you don’t come out with a ‘W’ it definitely hurts.”

Jairus Byrd, who is in his fifth season with Buffalo, put it at the top of his list of disappointing losses.

“This is probably at the top,” said Byrd. “It is at the top because of all that was in front of it this one is at the top.  This is definitely at the top.”

 

 


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Byrd at peace on the field

Posted by Chris Brown on November 25, 2013 – 10:27 pm

Bills safety Jairus Byrd has three interceptions in his last two games, as he is getting into a comfort zone in Buffalo’s defense. Appearing on the John Murphy Show Monday night, Byrd also said he’s open-minded about returning to play for the Bills after the 2013 season. He also mentioned that the unsuccessful negotiations of the past offseason are not a distraction.

“Once I’m actually out there playing it makes everything a lot easier,” Byrd told the John Murphy Show. “The more time you’re away from the game the more time you get caught up into things, but when I’m out there playing I’m at peace so I’m thankful for that.”

 


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Mario & Bills rookie Pro Bowl history

Posted by Chris Brown on November 20, 2013 – 3:30 pm

mario-kiko-probowl-story

With the news that Mario Williams and Kiko Alonso are the leading vote getters at their respective positions for the fan balloting for the 2014 Pro Bowl, we thought we’d look at the last time the Bills sent a rookie to Hawaii and the last time Mario played in the league’s All-Star game.

Williams has gone to a pair of Pro Bowls in his career while playing for the Houston Texans. The last time he was named to the AFC squad was 2009. He also went in 2008.

As far as rookies go, if Kiko Alonso were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster, he’d be the first rookie to do so since Jairus Byrd went as a first-year player in 2009.


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Byrd back to having fun

Posted by Chris Brown on November 19, 2013 – 8:41 am

He certainly wasn’t happy when every mention of his name was invariably linked with the franchise tag and the inability to reach a long term contract extension with the Bills. A holdout ensued, he missed all of training camp and reported to the team right before the season, but plantar fasciitis kept him out of the first five games. Now with six games under his belt Byrd is hitting his stride, but perhaps more importantly is enjoying his role in Buffalo’s new defense.

“Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun,” Byrd said. “Anytime I can play this game, especially with these guys. Kyle (Williams), guys like that who have been here. There’s a lot of new faces but I’ve kind of gotten comfortable and a feel for everyone in the locker room. These are just great guys in here and anytime you can go out there, and a lot of people use that saying of family but it really is. You can go out there and just play with your brothers out there and just have fun, there’s nothing like it.”

At the conclusion of the regular season the Bills intend to re-open talks in the hopes of reaching a long term contract extension with Byrd. The Bills safety sounds like he’s enjoying the way Mike Pettine runs his defense and he might be encouraged to remain a part of it knowing when a team leads the league in sacks, interceptions usually follow.

No one can predict where the future relationship goes between Byrd and the Bills, but what is clear is the safety has put the trying offseason behind him.

“You can’t change it now. We’ve got to win. I’ve been here for four years; I want to win games here,” he said. “I just thank God that we got a win (Sunday), that’s the biggest thing.”

 

 


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Bills to face Jets with full DB deck

Posted by Chris Brown on November 16, 2013 – 10:25 am

While much is being made of the Bills being down their top two receivers in Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods for today’s game with the Jets, what’s been forgotten is how much different Buffalo’s defensive backfield looks with the unit much healthier than the first time they faced New York back in Week 3.

In that first meeting, top corner Stephon Gilmore was out due to wrist surgery, number two corner Leodis McKelvin suffered a hamstring injury in the first half forcing Aaron Williams to move from safety to corner. And Jairus Byrd was out of the lineup with plantar fasciitis. Now all three are back in the lineup for the divisional rematch today.

“They beat us on some plays down the field obviously and we didn’t have our two starting corners and Jairus Byrd wasn’t back there so we have three players back there now that we feel comfortable with,” Marrone told Buffalobills.com. “So going into this situation we feel a whole lot better in what we have back there than we did the first time played them, even though the first time we played them our guys did the best job they could back there.”

Buffalo’s defensive backs did have one interception off Geno Smith in the first meeting with Jim Leonhard snaring a pass over the middle. Kiko Alonso had an INT as well.

Having all three of those playmakers back in the lineup on the back end will allow defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to be more varied with his looks and more aggressive.

“You can do some different things now when you have those type of players out there that can potentially just lock somebody down,” said Marrone. “We’ve got Aaron Williams back at safety position again and he has man-to-man coverage ability, which he showed at corner. I think it gives us more options and opens up the playbook a bit more.”

Jairus Byrd has four career interceptions against the Jets, the most against any opponent.


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Byrd focused on games not trade deadline

Posted by Chris Brown on October 28, 2013 – 10:46 am

Bills S Jairus Byrd has been the subject of trade rumors since the regular season began. Now with the NFL’s trade deadline coming up at 4 pm on Tuesday, Byrd was asked if he had any expectations with the deadline looming.

“No, not really. I haven’t really given it too much thought,” Byrd said Monday. “I’m really focused on winning games here and if something happens it happens. But right now my focus is with my teammates here and just trying to win games.”

The organization has maintained that trading Byrd has not been a topic of conversation in their building. That has been qualified by the statement that they will always listen to what other teams are willing to offer regarding any of their personnel.


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Byrd’s feet feeling good

Posted by Chris Brown on October 20, 2013 – 11:06 pm

It sounds as if Jairus Byrd’s ailing feet are finally at a point where he’s pain free.

Byrd has been dealing with plantar fasciitis since last season, but on Sunday he said there was no pain in his feet postgame.

“It feels pretty good… no pain,” he said. “It is feeling okay right now. No pain during the game. Thank God for that.”

Of course how he feels Monday could prove to be a different story, but it is positive that he’s getting through a whole game without significant discomfort.


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Byrd & Aaron talked pre-snap on Aaron’s INT

Posted by Chris Brown on October 20, 2013 – 9:40 pm

Aaron Williams made his third interception of the season to take points off the board in the win over Miami as he swiped a Ryan Tannehill pass at the goal line. Williams said he and Byrd had devised a plan to try and get a takeaway prior to the snap.

“It was pretty much a (cover) two man situation and me and Jairus we discussed what we wanted to do beforehand,” said Williams. “The (receiver) went underneath and I just let Byrd handle it and I tried to play hide and go seek with Tannehill. I didn’t want him to see me so I stayed low and then at the last minute I saw the back side receiver come back (to my side) and Tannehill had eyes all over him and I was able to get it.

“Tannehill wasn’t even looking my side at the moment. He was play faking to the right and wanted to go left. It was a great call by coach Pettine and we executed it. It was great communication between me and Byrd.”


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Byrd glad to see action again

Posted by Chris Brown on October 13, 2013 – 11:18 pm

Bills FS Jairus Byrd was back on the game field for the first time in nine months Sunday, but was not a full-time starter against the Bengals. Still the safety was happy just to be lining up with his defensive teammates again.

“It felt good,” said Byrd. “It felt really good. You take this game for granted sometimes, and it was really good just to get back out there and be with my teammates and get in the swing of things and play again.”

Byrd was used as a third safety in some of the defense’s subpackages, while Jim Leonhard and Da’Norris Searcy served as the base defense safeties.

“We had a lot of packages going in they just kind of rotated us around and just kind of disguised a little bit,’ he said. “It was good to get back out there.”

Whether Byrd’s role increases or changes moving forward remains to be seen.


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