Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 5-9

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

1 - Chris,

Great reporting and look to your articles before anything else in print, keep it coming. We were missing 40% of our O-line last year compared to previous year.  It showed, difficulty running over the middle; and getting Spiller or Freddie out in space(screen passes etc.) seemed a rarity compared to the previous year.  Much is made of acquiring that big receiver which would be great but to me strengthening the O-line is the first priority. A better offensive line allows EJ more time in the pocket to go through progressions, keeps him safer, allows receivers to get further downfield for long ball, a better running game, and frees up TE’s for the passing game instead of helping out with pass protection. Whether the top 3 tackles are off the board or if the Bills opt for a top TE or wideout, can they get a quality starting RT tackle in the second round??   Your thoughts?

Freddie

CB: I think offensive line could certainly use some reinforcements. Whether there’s a starting caliber player might depend on where the Bills see a player like Nevada’s Joel Bitonio. He played tackle, but is he a guard in their eyes? Cyrus Kouandjio is a tackle, but still raw and has to learn on the job. The talent entering round two tonight would seem to favor tight end a bit more. I do like Bitonio and I think Jack Mewhort is an underrated lineman too. But again Mewhort is seen by some clubs as a guard and not a tackle. I like Antonio Richardson from Tennessee, but I don’t know that he’ll go in round two. Kouandjio might be the best option even though there are teams concerned about his knee.

 

 2 – Chris,

I was wondering if the Bills made an attempt to resign Jim Leonard? Also I was wondering if Leonard got the majority of snaps while Byrd was out in the beginning of last season? In my opinion the defense actually played better without Byrd in the beginning of the season. They seamed more consistent against the run on early downs and better on third down. Did the Bills attempt to keep Leonard around for another season or do they have really seem to have faith in getting a quality starter out of Searcy, D.Williams, or Meeks? Also how much of a rotation is there at the safety positions? Are the two starters out there for most of the game or do they come out for subpackages and clear running situations? Thanks for your feedback.

Dan
Western MA

CB: Jim Leonhard is still a free agent. He’s best suited for the Rex Ryan style defense, which he knows like the back of his hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs with Cleveland at some point. He did tell us at the end of the year that he wants to play one more season and then he’s going to retire. It’s time for Buffalo, which is changing defensive schemes to get some younger players on the field there.

 

3 -Hey Chris,

Thanks again for all your hard work. Do you know how much the NFL takes weather into consideration when making schedules? I’m frustrated as the cold is one of Buffalo’s advantages and the 2 hot weather teams we play at home (San Diego and Miami) are scheduled for our first 2 home games and not only do we only get 1 December home game but our last 2 home games are against the Browns and Packers, the 2 cities that play in colder weather than us! Just looking for your thoughts an if you think we’re getting a raw deal similar to the byes/long rests our opponents got last year (noticing the Jets got a long rest and their bye for our 2 games for 2nd year in a row also). Thanks again.

Sean from Staten Island

CB: Believe it or not the Bills actually request that they have as few December home games as possible because they often prove difficult to sell out. That request was honored by the league this year as Buffalo has just one December home game this season.

 

4 – Hi Chris…as a former season ticket holder for 20 years and now a resident on Naples Fl I enjoy keeping abreast of the Bills moves through your reports and the website.  Thank you.

My question is why there is not more enthusiasm about Tony Moeaki and his potential contributions at tight end. Wasn’t he once considered a dynamic player when with Kansas City.  If the bills believe he can deliver they could concentrate on other areas rather than go tight end in the draft.  Your thoughts on Tony please…

BobbyG, Naples Florida

CB: I can tell you that GM Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone are excited about him. They feel he can recapture the production that made him a dangerous threat in the passing game. He’s battled injuries, but if he can stay on the field he can definitely be a contributor.

 

5 – Chris,

Does Jenkins fit what the Bills are looking for in an athletic tight end? Does he have the speed to be a juke type of tight end. I think he’s the second best tight end beside Ebron. Is he a viable candidate in round 2?
CB: I think Seferian-Jenkins could be a fit. He’s not the most athletic tight end, but he is athletic for his size. He has some run after catch ability, but he’s not going to be juking anybody out after the catch. He can be a productive weapon and I think in a thin tight end class he’ll be somebody’s second round pick.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Leonhard only looking to play 1 more year

Posted by Chris Brown on December 30, 2013 – 12:28 pm

Bills veteran safety Jim Leonhard is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason after playing on a one-year deal for Buffalo this past season. After nine years in the NFL, Leonhard isn’t looking to break the bank in free agency. All he wants to do is play one more season before he retires.

“I want to play one more and that’s it,” Leonhard said Monday. “I know that. I’ve known that for a couple of years. I want to get 10 (years). Whether that’s here or somewhere else is yet to be determined, but I’m definitely open to the possibility of coming back.”

Knowing Leonhard’s close relationship with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Leonhard re-sign with the club for what he says will be his final NFL season as a player.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-27

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

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

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

RR21RaceFan

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – Dear Chris,

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Tim in Niagara Ontario

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

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

 

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

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

Thanks, Eileen in St.Catharines Ontario

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

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

 

5 – Chris,

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

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

Steve
Fredericksburg, VA

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

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 12-6

Posted by Chris Brown on December 6, 2013 – 11:49 am

It’s the final quarter of the 2013 regular season. Buffalo will try to post a winning record in these last four games, three of which are on the road. Here’s your latest edition of queries on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Thank you for all your coverage of the Bills for us fans! I have two questions for you. First of all, it seems as though as of late the Bills offense has been pretty successful on the deep Go routes from TJ Graham and Marquise Goodwin. Do you think that Coach Marrone and Hackett would consider getting Spiller more involved in some deep plays in the passing game?

Last year it seemed to work pretty well and it would give another added dimension to the offense given his speed and talent in the open field. My second question is, so far we have not seen many “trick” plays like fake field goals, fake Punts, flea flickers etc. Do you feel that this coaching staff just doesn’t feel comfortable running those plays, or is it just the fact that the situation to use a trick play just hasn’t come up yet?

Thanks, Eileen in Ontario

CB: I think the Bills will continue to work on pushing the ball down the field to take advantage of the speed that T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin bring to the offense. Those plays have been successful at times, but we all need to realize that those are not high percentage plays. Any coach will tell you the NFL is more about getting first downs than touchdowns, because the better an offense is at getting first downs, the more successful they are at scoring touchdowns.

The offensive staff has made a concerted effort to go with high percentage plays in an effort to keep the offense on the field.

As for trick plays, I think we will see a few before the season is over, but again the coaching staff is trying to build a foundation on consistent plays that are productive. There is a time and place for trick plays, but they are not something that any coach wants to hang his hat on.

2 – Chris,
First off, thanks for doing an awesome job covering all the Bills News. My question for you is in regards to the Bills Defense. I feel that Jim Leonhard really played well, especially with his takeaways while he was filling in during injuries. Why don’t the Bills sub him in on obvious passing downs? I think he could be a strong player in the backfield and result in more turnovers for the Bills D.

Secondly, do you feel that Nickell Robey has the intangibles to eventually be considered to play a boundary corner as well as nickel? He seems to be excelling and really playing good football and seems to just keep getting better every week.

Thanks, Tim in Niagara

CB: There’s no question that Leonard’s playing time on defense has suffered since Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore returned to the lineup. Gilmore’s return allowed Aaron Williams to return to safety with Byrd manning the other safety spot.

I like Leonhard as a player, and he is a heady player when it comes to anticipating and making big plays (INTs). That being said, Byrd and Williams offer better coverage ability by virtue of both of them being former cornerbacks. Byrd was a corner in college and Williams was a corner in college and his first two season in the NFL.

That provides DC Mike Pettine with a lot of versatility in coverage assignments in his defensive scheme and as Pettine himself has said the strength of his defense is its versatility.

That’s not to say that Leonhard, if needed, could not be a productive player in this defense. He’s proven that already this season. But Byrd and Williams offer more versatility and that helps to keep opposing offenses off guard.

As for Nickell Robey, he has done very well as the team’s nickel corner. At 5’8” and 165 pounds that’s his position. He would be hard pressed to be as successful on the boundary as a cornerback. The receivers on the outside in this league are just too big and too physical. Robey based on his body type alone, would be a target out there for fade passes and jump balls.

His best fit is as a slot defender and he can play for a long time in this league in that role.

 

3 – Chris:
EJ’s decision making, release time and downfield accuracy appears to have room for improvement.  This may be explained by his lack of NFL experience.  Since there is no QB coach in the organization and Offensive coordinator Hackett’s collegiate playing experience is defensive orientated, how is EJ be coached up in a professional manner?
Conrad in Elma
CB: I understand your point about Hackett’s playing experience, but he has been working at the elbow of a host of offensive coaches at the position since he was a kid. He knows how to school quarterbacks on footwork and throwing technique. Decision making is something that should improve the more he plays and gets accustomed to defensive looks.

I’ve wondered about how challenging it has been for Hackett to balance the responsibility of getting an offensive scheme implemented and executed effectively in year one while also helping a rookie quarterback make strides in his first year in the league. That’s a big ask.

Add in the fact that he had to get a second rookie QB and another young signal caller ready to play at different points in the season and you see the demands that were placed on Hackett this season.

 

4 – Chris,

What is the status of Carrington? He was playing great before he got hurt. Hope he is doing well.

Michael J. McCarthy
Pittsfield, MA

CB: Alex Carrington had successful surgery on his torn quadriceps tendon that landed him on injured reserve. I talked to him a couple of weeks ago and he told me he’s progressing well in his rehab. He’s working here at One Bills Drive on a daily basis with the trainers on his rehab regimen. The rehab timetable is typically 7-9 months and he’s just 11 weeks removed from suffering the injury, so he’s got a long road in front of him, but he’s walking under his own power.

5 – Chris,
Something that I noticed during the Falcons game about EJ. Do you remember back in the day when Dan Marino would get behind center? He would always lick his hands and you knew was going to be a pass.

During Falcons game I noticed that EJ would leave his mouthpiece in his helmet during running plays, and put it in during passing plays…. I’m wondering if anybody else is noticing this?? like the opposing defense….. if you could pass it along :-)

Thanks,
Mike bills fan
Longwood Florida

CB: To clear this up for everyone. I saw that it was a popular topic on Twitter during the game last week, but there was no merit to it. There were run plays executed during the game when his mouthpiece was tucked into his helmet facemask instead of his mouth.

There is no absolute situation in terms of play calls when it comes to the location of EJ Manuel’s mouthpiece.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

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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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 10-11

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

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

1 - Chris,

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

Thanks!

Matthew Kerr
Dayton, OH
SEASON TICKET HOLDER SINCE 2005

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

 

2 - Hi Chris,

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

Matthew from Los Angeles

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

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

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

Thanks,
Dan

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

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

 

4 - Chris,

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

Dave Hardy

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

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

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

 

5 - Chris

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

what do you think ?

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

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

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

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills DBs on high alert with Browns throwing

Posted by Chris Brown on October 2, 2013 – 8:51 am

With the Browns leading the league in pass attempts and averaging almost 46 pass attempts a game, Buffalo’s secondary is going to be on high alert.

The main concerns are TE Jordan Cameron, who leads the team with 30 receptions and five touchdowns, four of which have come in the last two games. WR Josh Gordon is another go-to guy with 28 targets in the last two games.

Bills safety Da’Norris Searcy, fresh off a four pass breakup performance against Baltimore is well aware that passes figure to be flying everywhere when they’re on the field.

“You’ve got to be alert regardless especially now that the NFL is becoming a passing league,” he said. “A lot of teams don’t necessarily have one specific guy they go to especially with this team. They love to spread it around so pretty much everybody is live so we have to cover everybody.”

“Any time you get big physical receivers, quarterback s like to throw it up and give them a chance, figuring that the worst thing that’s going to happen is an incomplete pass,” said Jim Leonhard. “We get challenged every week.  We realize that being a young secondary, we’re going to get tested every week.  This Thursday is not going to be any different.”

The added challenge for the Bills is the likelihood that they’ll have more moving parts in the defensive backfield this week with Aaron Williams (low back) and Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) still on the mend.

“We’ve got to make sure our communication is down pat, which is going to be tough with the short week and all, but with the extra meeting time we have, we just are making sure we’re on one accord and get these guys covered,” said Searcy.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Depth chart changes

Posted by Chris Brown on September 24, 2013 – 2:00 pm

In the wake of the loss of Alex Carrington there have been a couple of shifts on the Bills depth chart. Here’s a look.

First, Alan Branch is now listed as the starting left defensive end, with Corbin Bryant as his backup. Truthfully I see Branch rotating in to spell Dareus and Kyle Williams more than playing the end position. As coach Marrone indicated Corbin Bryant figures to see the most work in what is now Carrington’s vacant role.

On kick return Marcus Easley is now listed as the official backup to Marquise Goodwin, who is still recovering from a broken hand in Week 1. Easley hasn’t had much of an opportunity to return with all the booming kickoffs the Bills have seen the first three games. In fact Easley has made more of an impact in kickoff coverage turning in big tackles each of the last two weeks.

Finally Jim Leonhard is now listed as the backup punt returner to Leodis McKelvin, a role in which he served last week after McKelvin left with a hamstring injury. Leonhard was a pretty accomplished punt returner in college.

Even if McKelvin is able to play this week, it’s likely that Leonhard gets punt return work as the Bills will probably try not to overextend McKelvin with added special teams duties.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Vets not interested in moral victories

Posted by Chris Brown on September 8, 2013 – 11:26 pm

The ‘close but no cigar’ expression wasn’t one that veteran players on the Bills roster were ready to stomach after a close two-point loss at the hands of their nemesis New England. After losing 23-21 while they understood their head coach was right that the little things matter in close games, the talk about them playing a decent game wasn’t accepted.

“This season started in March, and you go through a lot to get ready to play and just because all of you said we were going to get beat by 50 and we get beat by three doesn’t make me feel any better,” said Kyle Williams. “I’m here to win. I’ve been around a long time. I just want to win and we have to find a way to make the plays at the end of the game.”

“We just have to get better. We have to win,” said Mario Williams, who had a pair of tackles. “We have to come together as a defense. Regardless of what’s going on, we have to be able to get turnovers, score on defense and make it happen.”

“There are no moral victories in this game,” Leonhard told Buffalobills.com. “No one five weeks from now is going to say, ‘Hey remember when the Buffalo Bills played the New England Patriots really close?’ It doesn’t matter. It’s a wins and losses business, and we let one slip (Sunday). We have to do whatever it takes to not let this happen again.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Leonhard hoping for a lot of snaps

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2013 – 3:22 pm

Bills newly signed S Jim Leonhard is very familiar with Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme having been one of the primary play callers in the system for the better part of four of his eight NFL seasons. Jumping back into it after being two years removed hasn’t been an issue in practice this week, which is why he’s hoping to have a sizable role in Sunday’s game plan.

“I know the majority of the defense,” said Leonhard. “Obviously going from it being Rex Ryan’s defense now to Mike Pettine’s defense, he put his own twist on things, changed terminology and things like that. Just kind of re-learning everything. I feel comfortable with it. I’m excited. I don’t know what my role will be, what the opportunity is going to be, but I’m excited for whatever it is.”

Leonhard, who is known as one of the sharper players in the league, doesn’t believe he’ll have any issues reacting at the speed he’ll need to against a high-octane offense like New England.

“Yeah, I don’t think it will be a problem mentally,” he said. “I’m excited just for the opportunity to get ready for whatever role they throw me in. Hopefully it’s a lot of snaps. As a competitor you obviously want to play a lot. I know there are some talented guys in this secondary so by no means do I think I’m just going to come in here and get a job. You’ve got to go out there and earn every snap.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 9-6

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

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

1 - Chris–

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

Abe
Annville, PA

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

 

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

Thanks,

Mike in San Diego

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

4 - @ChrisBrownBills

What does any injury settlement mean?

frankpro via Twitter

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Dan in Cheshire, CT

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Leonhard could have role on Sunday

Posted by Chris Brown on September 6, 2013 – 12:51 pm

On Wednesday head coach Doug Marrone said it was a ‘wait and see’ situation with newly signed S Jim Leonhard in terms of whether he would have a role on defense in the season opener. On Friday the situation had not changed much, but Marrone sounded comfortable with the idea of putting Leonhard on the field against the Patriots.

“I think we’ll just wait and see,” said Marrone. “I think Jimmy has been a veteran in this system for quite a long time so for us to plug him in there would not be a problem.”

Leonhard, who is immediately the most experienced NFL player in Buffalo’s secondary as well as the most experienced defensive back in Mike Pettine’s system it stands to reason that Leonhard will see some time against the Patriots Sunday, presumably in a subpackage role.

Rookies Jonathan Meeks and Duke Williams are the only other safeties on the roster besides the two starters and Leonhard, who are healthy. Jairus Byrd is doubtful with a foot ailment.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone taking wait and see on Leonhard

Posted by Chris Brown on September 2, 2013 – 4:26 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone doesn’t deny that Jim Leonhard knows Buffalo’s defensive scheme, having called the plays for three seasons in Mike Pettine’s defense in New York from 2009-2011, but when it comes to expectations for Week 1, Buffalo’s sideline boss is taking a wait and see approach.

“I’ve heard a lot of things,” said coach Marrone. “He’s been in the system before, but I’ll wait to see him out here and see how he reacts to it because the system has changed.”

Leonhard was seen at One Bills Drive being greeted by Fred Jackson and Kyle Williams, both of whom were with the team when Leonhard was last playing for Buffalo.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Free agent S Leonhard in building

Posted by Chris Brown on September 2, 2013 – 1:37 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone said that free agent S Jim Leonhard is in the building taking a physical and pending passing it he’s expected to sign with the club.

Leonhard began his NFL career with buffalo as an undrafted rookie in 2005. He spent his first three seasons with the Bills.

He also familiar with Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme having run it with the Jets for three seasons.


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Denver signs Leonhard

Posted by Chris Brown on August 4, 2012 – 4:55 pm

After paying the Bills a free agent visit Thursday into Friday, free agent safety Jim Leonhard traveled to Denver for another free agent visit and was signed Saturday.

It’s reportedly a one-year deal for the veteran safety.

Leonhard tweeted the news saying, ‘It’s never a bad day to sign an NFL contract. I’m proud to be a Denver Bronco. Time for work.”

Leonhard is coming off a torn patellar tendon that required surgery last December. The Bills worked him out Friday and seemed to be of the opinion that he was not ready to be on the practice field.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Leonhard update

Posted by Chris Brown on August 3, 2012 – 6:42 pm

The Jim Leonhard free agent visit ended Friday without any movement by way of a contract. Here are some other details.

He worked out for the Bills this morning and indications are Leonhard’s surgically repaired knee is not yet ready for a return to the field in a training camp practice setting. As mentioned in our report on Leonhard’s visit Thursday, he had the same knee surgery as Terrence McGee with McGee’s procedure a month earlier than Leonhard’s.

McGee has labored through practices and has been limited throughout camp.

Bills GM Buddy Nix also told Buffalobills.com that Leonhard wants to explore all his options and has another visit scheduled with another NFL club. 

In all likelihood this was an exploratory venture by both the Bills and Leonhard with the Bills now fully aware of his physical status and rehab progress.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-3

Posted by Chris Brown on August 3, 2012 – 2:00 pm

One week in the books for training camp. Two weeks to go, but first preseason game is six days away! We’re almost there Bills fans! Keep sending your questions in to AskChris@bills.nfl.net or on twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Today we’ve got an update on Jim Leonhard in here along with how things might shake out at receiver in terms of alignment and formation assignments.

1 - Chris,
I was wondering if you could help me with a question I’ve had regarding the 3 or 4 WR sets that Bills have run a lot in the past.  Previously, we’ve had a lot of guys that worked primarily out of the slot, with Stevie and Donald Jones as the outside receivers.  However, this year it appears that Donald Jones has started to win the 2nd receiver spot, but also works out of the slot a lot.  I’ve assumed that David Nelson would be the 3rd receiver.  However, if Donald Jones moves into the slot, the 3rd receiver would then be an outside WR, instead of the primary slot receiver you normally see on other teams.  David Nelson has done a great job out of the slot, but he and Donald can’t both work out of the slot.  Do one of those two get pushed to the outside spot?  Do you see someone else winning that outside spot and relegating David to the 4th WR or lower, and only comes on for 4 and 5 WR formations?
-Chris, Penn State

CB: This is what I envision happening. I believe if Donald Jones wins the #2 WR job he will line up outside and David Nelson will fill the primary slot role in 3-wide sets. When the team goes 4-wide however, I believe Nelson and Jones will both line up inside with a fourth receiver coming on in the form of Derek Hagan, Marcus Easley, T.J. Graham or someone else to line up outside opposite Stevie.

If Donald Jones doesn’t win the #2 WR job then he’ll in essence be the team’s 4th wideout. So when the team again goes to 4-wide, he’ll come on the field and work out of the slot as well.

 

2 - If Stephon Gilmore locks in a one the two spots at corner is it safe to believe that either McGee or McKelvin are going to be released. I would say with the drafting of Brooks and the improvement of 2nd year player Rogers that it is kind of pointless wasting another year on either one. This could be a roster spot used on another MLB or one of the developmental TE’s we have. Thanks for all your great reporting on BuffaloBills.com!

PS. Have Buddy thought of adding another Pass rushing DT if Troup can’t get healthy?
CB: With respect to the secondary I think with the proliferation of spread formations across the league you need at least five corners on your active roster and one or two on your practice squad or six on the roster and one on the practice squad.

You may as well mark Gilmore down in pen at the right cornerback spot unless he struggles in the preseason games, but I don’t see it happening. Terrence McGee is a player that is not 100 percent back yet. It’s going to take some time, but barring a major setback I think he’ll remain on the roster. McKelvin has been worked as the primary slot corner so he’ll be on board.

The truth is you only have Gilmore, A. Williams, McGee, McKelvin, Rogers and Brooks and that’s six right there. Prince Miller, who was on the practice squad last year and still has eligibility, has had a nice camp too.

I don’t see McGee or McKelvin getting clipped unless McGee can’t recover from patellar tendon surgery.

Concerning the DT position, the Bills have plenty of depth there with the depth chart shaking out like this right now – Dareus, Williams – Sp. Johnson, Edwards – Carrington, Heard (recovering from injuries) – Gilbert, Ross. There already is respectable depth there so even if Troup can’t recover they have enough capable players.

 

3 - SutterDrew Aug 2,  via Twitter

@ChrisBrownBills hey Chris how long before Leonhard can go full out if he was to sign.

CB: The feedback I was able to get concerning his workout with the Bills Friday morning is that he’s not all the way back yet from his surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon. The situation is much the same with Terrence McGee, who if you’ve been out to practice have seen him laboring through drills at times.

Leonhard is about three to four weeks behind McGee in recovery. So signing him really isn’t an option right now.

I myself was wondering if the Bills doctors felt his knee would be ready in a month, could the Bills sign him now and place him on Active/PUP. That unfortunately is not allowed under league rules. Only a player that was already on the roster, but did not report to camp on time could be placed on Active/PUP once training camp has already begun.

 

4 – DennisBoyev Aug 2, via Twitter

@ChrisBrownBills – How is Kevin Brock doing so far?

CB: Unfortunately the young tight end is not getting many reps in the team portions of the practice setting. There’s no debating he’s athletic, but there’s another prospect that the coaching staff might be more interested in. Fendi Onobun, who much like Brock came in late last season, is every bit as athletic. He has seen more reps than Brock thus far and has made some plays.

It’s early and they haven’t played a preseason game, so I believe there are still many turns in the road at that position behind the top two TEs on the roster in Scott Chandler and Lee Smith.

 

5 - Chris,

We don’t hear much about him in the cornerback role? Has he slipped that far down the depth chart?

CB: Leodis has been the primary slot cornerback in camp. They’ve put him there in part because it reduces the risk of him getting beat deep, which was a problem in his game last season. He had a decent day Thursday registering a couple of pass breakups. He’s a fantastic athlete, but there are more things one has to be ready for covering the slot where receivers have two-ways gos, so it’ll bear watching in the preseason to see how he fares.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

George spoke with Leonhard

Posted by Chris Brown on August 3, 2012 – 12:41 pm

Bills safety George Wilson took the time to speak with free agent visitor Jim Leonhard at Bills camp. Wilson and Leonhard are old friends as Wilson and Leonhard played three years together in Buffalo. Wilson also might not be a safety today had it not been for Leonhard’s tutelage.

“I spoke with Jimmy,” Wilson told Buffalobills.com. “He mentioned to me that they’d be working him out this morning. I have a deep debt to Jimmy. When I first made the transition to safety Jimmy was that one guy who took time out of his own schedule to help me grasp the defense, to learn the playbook from a defensive standpoint. He helped to smooth that transition out for me. It’s always good to run into Jimmy. I’m not sure how the workout went this morning, but I hope he’s doing better recovering from the knee injury.”

Leonhard is coming off surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon last December, the same injury from which Terrence McGee is trying to recover. Leonhard is about three to four weeks behind McGee in his recovery and might not be ready to get out on the field and compete just yet.

Wilson and Leonhard kept in touch as both were player union reps for their respective teams in Buffalo and New York the past few years.

“We had that special time together during those rep meetings and we would always talk about the old times when we played together and I would always express the gratitude that I have for him for what he did for me,” said Wilson. “At the end of the day I just try to go out there and make my coaches proud and make my teammates proud and show Jimmy that I’m doing the best that I can to apply the lessons and the knowledge that he helped me to acquire back in 2007.”

In his conversation with Leonhard, Wilson asked him if he ever thought he’d be back in Buffalo.

“Jimmy said, ‘Not until last week,’” said Wilson. “But Jimmy is a great guy off the field and a ball hawk on the field and over his career he’s proven that he’s a playmaker.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Leonhard visit to stretch to Friday

Posted by Chris Brown on August 2, 2012 – 9:00 pm

Free agent safety Jim Leonhard began a free agent visit with the Bills on Thursday. That visit won’t be an in and out stop.

Buffalobills.com has learned that Leonhard’s free agent visit will stretch into Friday. It’s hard to know just what the Bills plans are at this point, knowing Buddy Nix made specific mention of the waiver wire as well with regard to other possible safety talent that could be out there.

Whether this is exploratory to see just how far along Leonhard is in his rehabilitation or something more remains to be seen.


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Posted in Inside the Bills