Inside The Bills

Stevie focused on making plays, not QB decision

Posted by Chris Brown on October 31, 2013 – 10:55 am

Buffalo’s quarterback situation is again in flux this week with Thad Lewis nursing some sore ribs. It could mean that the Bills have to start Jeff Tuel or Matt Flynn on Sunday. Despite the frequent changes at quarterback Stevie Johnson isn’t focused on who might be throwing to him this weekend.

“I don’t even think about that,” said Johnson. “I’ve got to think about who I’m going to catch passes from this week and that’s pretty much it. I can’t think of if I had this quarterback, and this guy was healthy, I can’t think about that, I just got to roll with what we have.”


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Flynn focused only on his preparation

Posted by Chris Brown on October 30, 2013 – 5:27 pm

Whether it’s viewed as a competition to be the starter this week should Thad Lewis be unable to play due to sore ribs, Matt Flynn isn’t worried about how he looks in practice in comparison to Jeff Tuel. His only concern is knowing the game plan backwards and forwards.

“I’m in a competition with myself to learn the playbook and get myself as ready as I can,” said Flynn. “That’s the nature of the beast in the NFL, especially at the quarterback position, if you’re not that starting guy, you’ve got to be ready no matter what.  I’ve been in that situation plenty of times before in the past.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re the first guy or the fourth guy or whatever it is, you’ve got to prepare yourself like you’re going to be up there playing.  You owe it to yourself, you owe it to your teammates, just in case you get that call, no matter what happens.  You can’t control it, anybody else does, all I can do is control how prepared I am.”

Flynn has three starts in his NFL career.


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More QB shuffling, Lewis not working

Posted by Chris Brown on October 30, 2013 – 11:42 am

Thad Lewis finished Sunday’s game after taking a licking in the loss to the Saints. All those body shots however, have had a cumulative effect as he’s not practicing here on Wednesday.

Rookie QB Jeff Tuel is working with the starters on offense here in practice Wednesday.

In other developments EJ Manuel is dressed for practice, but not expected to be an option Sunday against the Chiefs. That would make Matt Flynn the backup to Tuel if Lewis is not healthy enough to be available.

We’ll get the full lowdown from Coach Marrone post practice.


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Tuel the backup QB again

Posted by Chris Brown on October 25, 2013 – 12:36 pm

Buffalo’s backup quarterback this Sunday will be the same player as last week.

Head coach Doug Marrone confirmed it would be Jeff Tuel who will handle backup QB responsibilities this week.

Marrone said Matt Flynn is still getting a handle in Buffalo’s offense.


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QB Tuel the backup

Posted by Chris Brown on October 20, 2013 – 11:42 am

Bills head coach Doug Marrone said late this week that his backup QB would be decided right before game time. That decision has been made.

Jeff Tuel will serve as the b kip to starter Thad Lewis against the Dolphins today.

Matt Flynn is inactive as he’s probably too new to the Bills play book to make the offensive staff comfortable that he could step in and execute the game plan.

With Lewis coming off a sprained foot it may only take one good shot to re-aggravate it.


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Tuel met with Marrone Monday

Posted by Chris Brown on October 14, 2013 – 5:35 pm

No doubt aware that the Bills were bringing in Matt Flynn for a workout Monday morning, rookie QB Jeff Tuel took it upon himself to go talk with head coach Doug Marrone to find out if his status on the Bills quarterback depth chart was in for a change.

“His status hasn’t changed and Jeff came in to see me,” said Marrone. “I told him (his situation) hasn’t really changed. Here was our plan in the beginning, this is what we wanted to do. This is how we see you, a young quarterback that’s developing. I really just reaffirmed all the things that I’ve said here. I said, ‘We like you, you’re a young developing quarterback. In a perfect world we were probably thinking practice squad, you played extremely well we were nervous about someone taking him and I told him the same thing.’

“Nothing has changed from that point. If Thad (Lewis) is not ready to go (Sunday) and we can’t get Matt (Flynn) ready then we’ll put Jeff in there and play with him.”

“There’s a chance there will be (more snaps for me) and I’m ready for it and I’m prepared for whatever the coaches need me to do,” Tuel told Buffalobills.com.

As we covered on Buffalobills.com, if the newly signed Flynn can demonstrate a sufficient ability to run the team’s game plan this week, he’ll likely be tabbed as the backup, otherwise it will be Tuel this week as the number two QB.


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Prepping from the practice squad

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 1:08 pm

Some might not see the practice squad as a great launching pad to a starting role, but Thad Lewis will have the chance to prove it can be. Here’s what he did to stay prepared for just the opportunity that sits in his lap for this Sunday.

“I have a great sense of the game plan, a great grasp of it,” said Lewis. “Every week you don’t just sit on the practice squad and don’t prepare as if you’re the starter. That’s your job. This is what you’re supposed to do. You have to learn and know the things you need to do. I’ve been doing that every week so it’ll be a regular week. I just get a chance to start this Sunday.”

As Eric Wood pointed out running the scout team every week in practice, Lewis, even though he wasn’t running Buffalo’s offensive plays still had more of a chance to impress the coaching staff and progress by getting more snaps during the week than backup Jeff Tuel.

“Thad has looked really good in practice. Your practice squad quarterbacks are generally going to get more reps throughout the year than your backup because he’s running the other team’s offense,” Wood said. “I think they liked a lot of what they saw in Thad throughout the season in the show team reps.”


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Where Tuel’s head is at

Posted by Chris Brown on October 7, 2013 – 5:44 pm

For Bills QB Jeff Tuel the past five days have been anything but easy. Despite the injury to EJ Manuel, Tuel is going to remain the backup quarterback with Thad Lewis starting and he surrendered his jersey number to Brian Moorman, who re-signed with the club over the weekend. But captain Eric Wood said Tuel’s head is on straight and he’s in a healthy frame of mind.

“I talked to Jeff and I don’t know if disappointed is the word,” said Wood. “As a competitor he probably wanted to get the start, but he understands the coaches thinking. A mature kid and a guy that’s going to do all he can to help Thad this week and that’s a good mindset to have.”

Tuel is now wearing jersey number 7.


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Marrone talked to Tuel

Posted by Chris Brown on October 7, 2013 – 10:06 am

Just a few days after stepping in as the relief quarterback for an injured EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel again finds himself as the backup quarterback this week to Thad Lewis. The turn of events naturally led to head coach Doug Marrone having a one-on-one conversation with Tuel.

“I talked to him this morning,” said Marrone in an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550. “We had a situation where he played very well in the preseason and we didn’t want to put him on the practice squad and lose a good, young developing quarterback. Jeff (Tuel) we’re excited about. He’s still developing.

“This is what I told Jeff. What happened to him was tough. On a short week he didn’t get any reps during that week because we had to get EJ all the reps possible with the defense being different from the one we faced the week before. We really put Jeff out there in the toughest situation we can. A rookie free agent quarterback, who’s had some success in the preseason and taken some snaps, but mentally for me I think that was a tough situation to put him in. Jeff told me he was ready to go, which is what you want from a player.”

In the way Marrone went back and described how things unfolded in the preseason leading up to final cuts, Tuel’s performance in the preseason games forced the club to carry him on their active roster for fear of losing him to another club if he was put on their practice squad. It sounds as if prior to the preseason the Bills thought they’d be able to carry Tuel on their practice squad with minimal risk of losing him, but once he performed well it removed that as an option.

So when Thad Lewis was brought in and appeared in just the preseason finale with no measure of familiarity with the offense that even came close to that of Tuel, the club decided it would be Lewis that went on the practice squad at the start of the season and Tuel would be Manuel’s backup.

 


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Confidence in QB Tuel

Posted by Chris Brown on October 4, 2013 – 3:30 pm

He may not have looked great on Thursday night when he was thrust into a difficult situation, but the players on the offensive side of the ball for Buffalo remember the rookie QB not named EJ Manuel, who was one of the league leaders in passer rating this past preseason.

Jeff Tuel had a strong preseason, so strong that if EJ Manuel were not ready to start the opener in a return from his first knee injury Tuel would’ve started. Now six weeks later, Tuel is in the same type of scenario, only head coach Doug Marrone hasn’t made Tuel a lock to start.

Still, there is confidence in Tuel in Buffalo’s locker room.

“He’s a strong quarterback,” said fellow rookie Robert Woods. “He understands our offense and our system. We’ve got to be confident. We’re still a good offense, have good running backs, good receivers and a confident quarterback. He can make plays for this offense now.

Woods thinks with Tuel getting first team reps for the better part of two weeks in the preseason would serve as a benefit to him and the receiving corps if he’s taking first team reps again this coming week.

“He did play in some preseason games for us and he does have a little bit of game experience and that’s a plus for us,” said Woods. “This week right here is just pushing to get better. More reps with him would be better for us.”

“Yeah I’ll be ready to go,” Tuel said. “If they called on me in Week 1 if EJ wasn’t going to be ready to go I took all the reps and felt very comfortable with it. I felt like I had a great week of practice as the guy so I know what that role is like.”

 


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The last two guys on the practice field

Posted by Chris Brown on September 27, 2013 – 12:44 pm

You always here players described as the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. Buffalo’s two rookie quarterbacks personified the latter half of that statement on Friday.

After Friday’s practice had concluded for the Bills in the stadium, EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel took extra time to work on long throws to the outside with Manuel doing most of the throwing and Tuel doing most of the catching. Here’s a look at the pair right as they were wrapping up.

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Manuel and Tuel also came in on their off day Tuesday to work on deep sideline throws after Manuel put five such passes out of bounds over the sideline last Sunday.


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EJ uses off day to work on deep throws

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2013 – 9:06 am

Last week five of EJ Manuel’s deep sideline passes sailed out of bounds. The following Tuesday, typically an off day for players, Manuel was working at One Bills Drive to improve his accuracy on those throws.

Manuel was working with backup quarterback Jeff Tuel out on the field Tuesday in an effort to improve the consistency of his ball location.

“We worked on throwing the deep ball,” said Manuel. “Not only the deep ball, but just, if you’re getting blitzed like crazy and
just throwing the ball up, not necessarily throwing it out of bounds. Just give the guy an opportunity to catch it.”

“He was in here, and we both just kind of helped each other out,” Tuel told Buffalobills.com. “He said, ‘Hey, I see this when you throw,’ and I said, ‘I’m seeing this when you throw.’  Just try to help each other out and do a little extra work.”

The rookie quarterbacks were not throwing to any receivers, but rather a net as the two aimed for the small targets sewn into the netting. Both of them know repetition is the only way to improve their long ball accuracy.

“Just by doing it, that’s all you can do,” said Tuel. “You throw it. You see what the result of the throw is and then tweak some things, whatever. You’ve just got to do it, and that’s exactly what we did. We did a ton of vertical reps just to try to improve.”


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WRs unaffected by EJ, Tuel split reps

Posted by Chris Brown on September 3, 2013 – 10:32 am

With EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel splitting reps on Monday it led to some frequent substituting at quarterbacks from one series to the next. The receivers however, claimed they were unaffected by the rotation.

“As long as we run our right depth and run the right route and as long as the quarterback puts the ball where it’s supposed to be it doesn’t matter who is throwing it,” said T.J. Graham. “As long as Jeff is ready if EJ is not ready, or if EJ is ready, whoever is throwing the ball we all have to make sure that we’re ready and be prepared to adjust to it whenever the time comes.”


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Why EJ & Tuel splitting reps won’t hurt

Posted by Chris Brown on September 3, 2013 – 8:27 am

With two rookie signal callers still with a chance to start on Sunday head coach Doug Marrone and the offensive staff in Monday’s practice split the first team reps between EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel to protect themselves. Both have to be as prepared as possible in the event that they’re the one who plays against New England Sunday. That might be a concern knowing a rookie is going to need all the snaps they can get to prepare for the Patriots defense, but coach Marrone has worked a way around that problem.

“We’re not worried because we’re kind of doubling the reps so we’re not getting shortchanged anywhere as we go,” said Marrone. “And we’ve had extra reps. So we’ll probably have more reps than the first team would ever have during the season.”

Essentially both quarterbacks are each getting enough prep work with the first team offense to be ready for the season opener should they in fact be the starter. Marrone said he intends to make a call on whether Manuel will start on Wednesday.


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Tuel time dependent on EJ’s health

Posted by Chris Brown on September 2, 2013 – 12:19 pm

EJ Manuel was out on the practice field for a second straight day Monday, certainly a good sign concerning his availability for the season opener against New England. Head coach Doug Marrone said he’ll make a decision on Wednesday. So until then undrafted rookie and backup Jeff Tuel will have to wait to see if in fact he’ll be the guy starting Sunday.

Appearing on NFL Network’s NFL AM show, Tuel explained how he’s handling the unknown.

“It’s tough because it’s the coach’s decision, and a lot of it is on EJ [Manuel] and how he’s feeling as well,” said Tuel. “It’s not so much in my hands; I’m just doing what I can control and doing the best to my abilities. I’ll just leave it at that, leave it in coach’s hands.”


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Marrone not concerned about youth at QB

Posted by johnmurphyshow on September 1, 2013 – 9:57 pm

“It’s either going to be EJ, or it’s going to be Jeff.”

That’s what Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone said Sunday, about his starting QB situation for the season opener next week.

Week EJ Manuel taking part in practice on a limited basis Sunday, Marrone is hopeful that the first round draft pick will be ready to play against the Patriots. If not, he’s ready to go with undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. Marrone says he’ll have his decision by Wednesday.

Either way, the Bills Head Coach says he’s not concerned about having only two rookie quarterbacks on the 53-man roster right now.

“In our situation, we feel that we’re going to go into it with the players that we feel give us the best chance to win,” he said. “I don’t have a problem, whether someone’s a rookie, a veteran, whatever it may be.”

“Our job as coaches is to make sure we put people on the field that we can rely on, and we feel that we can win with,” Marrone continued. “That’s our responsibility and accountability to the rest of the team. To answer your question, no, I don’t worry about that.”

The entire Doug Marrone Sunday news conference is available here


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Bills roster leans on youth

Posted by johnmurphyshow on September 1, 2013 – 5:50 pm

Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com documented in an earlier post today that the Bills roster (as presently constituted) is the third youngest roster in the NFL.

The roster is at 51 right now, so the Bills can still add two more players. But as it stands Sunday afternoon, close to half of the Bills roster is made up of players in their first or second years in the league.

All eight 2013 Bills draft picks are on the roster. Two other rookies, CB Nickel Robey and QB Jeff Tuel, are also part of the active roster. The Bills have four other players in their first year in the league, and nine others in their second year.

When you add it up, it’s 23 Bills players on the current 51-man roster who are in their first or second years. That’s 45-percent of the roster makeup.


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Undrafted makes roster again

Posted by Chris Brown on August 31, 2013 – 4:48 pm

It was somewhat of a forgone conclusion knowing that Jeff Tuel was going to make the 53-man roster, but for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons an undrafted rookie has made Buffalo’s final roster for the regular season.

Tuel along with CB Nickell Robey made the 2013 roster with both surviving the final cutdown to 53. Here’s a look back at the undrafted rookies that made the roster over the past 12 seasons.

2002 – RB Joe Burns, DE Grant Irons, OL Mike Houghton
2003 – LS Jon Dorenbos, WR/KR Antonio Brown
2004 – S Rashad Baker, CB Jabari Greer, DE Constantin Ritzmann, RB Shaud Williams
2005 – S Jim Leonhard
2006 – LB John DiGiorgio
2009 – LB Ashlee Palmer, LB Garrison Sanborn
2010 – LB Antonio Coleman, OL Cordaro Howard, WR David Nelson, WR Donald Jones
2011 – LB Robert Eddins
2012 – S Delano Howell
2013 – QB Jeff Tuel, CB Nickell Robey


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Bills roster is shy of 53

Posted by Chris Brown on August 31, 2013 – 4:48 pm

The Bills made a lot of player moves over the past two days and they’re nowhere near from done. Here’s why.

Buffalo with all of their player releases are actually under the 53-man roster limit. The team currently has just 51 players. Head coach Doug Marrone wasn’t shy in stating that they intended to scour the waiver wire as well as explore other avenues to acquire players.

Buffalo figures to add a quarterback where it’s currently just EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel on the active roster. At the much-needed cornerback position where they entered the day with just four healthy CBs (five total counting injured Gilmore), they added CB Brandon Burton, claimed off of waivers this afternoon. Buffalo also has just three inside linebackers on the current roster. They would presumably want to add a fourth.


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Fan Friday 8-30

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

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

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

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

Thanks.
J. Plessbaut

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

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

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

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

Chris

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

3 – Hi Chris

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

Larry in Tucson

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

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

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

I say 7

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

Thanks and Go Bills
Mike in Dallas, TX

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

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

5 – Chris:

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

I have 3 things I would like your input on:

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

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

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

Joe
Blasdell

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

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

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


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