Inside The Bills

Schwartz tempering enthusiasm for pass rush

Posted by Chris Brown on July 28, 2014 – 12:33 pm

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is as eager to see what kind of success Buffalo’s pass rush can have in his scheme as anyone else, but he’s not going to get giddy about successful plays in the practice setting of training camp.

On Saturday night there was a third and long team segment where the defense logged eight “sacks” in 17 plays. Schwartz is all too aware of the talent on his defensive line, but he’s not going to make any false assumptions knowing practice only replicates a real game so much.

“You don’t want to read too much into it,” he said. “We’re going to have a good rush group. We can rush with four. We can bring blitzes. They’re hard to handle. There are three Pro Bowlers up there and right now the fourth guy was a double-digit sacker from last year so that gives us a lot of optimism with where we can be with that pass rush. It’s hard to really judge too much in practice here because we’re not hitting the quarterback so it’s hard to finish pass rush moves. You don’t want to hit him or hit his hand when he’s trying to throw. But then again offensive linemen are doing the same thing. Also quarterbacks really are not trying to make you miss so let’s not read too much into it right now.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Kyle likes Schwartz’s approach

Posted by Chris Brown on July 19, 2014 – 4:09 pm

Bills Pro Bowl DT Kyle Williams spent most of the spring around his new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Heading into training camp he’s already developed an affinity for the defensive play caller’s coaching style.

“During minicamp and OTAs, it was intense,” said Williams of Schwartz’s approach. “Getting after guys and expecting a lot out of guys, which is great. It’s what we need. You have to push guys and challenge guys. It’s what you need as a leader and as a coordinator of the defense. I think we have some really good players and a guy that can do that and push guys and get them going is going to be an asset to us.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz: Defense will have different identity

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2014 – 10:49 am

Jim Schwartz has worked hard to maintain a measure of continuity wherever possible when it comes to the scheme he’s bringing with him to Buffalo’s defensive side of the ball. He admits there’s a degree of carry over that should help the players, but where he does want and expects change is with the unit’s identity this season.

As profiled in Bills Focus presented by Atwall Eyecare Buffalo’s defensive coordinator has a lot of faith in the group he inherits after spending just a couple of months on the field with them in the spring. Forging their own identity however, under Schwartz is what the veteran coach sees as a key factor in their success this fall.

“This team will have a completely different identity and it will be developed through the blood, sweat and tears of the men that are in that locker room,” Schwartz told Buffalobills.com. “It’s going to be a different one this year. Whether you have a coaching change or not every year is a little bit different. We’re going to have to be good in all those third down situations. It’s extremely important, red zone, third down, turnovers, things that stop drives. To get off the field defensively we put a lot of emphasis in those areas and if we can succeed in those areas it’ll go a long way into helping our team win.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz feels corners will be key to run ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2014 – 9:44 am

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a long track record of success defending the run with his defensive units. What’s interesting is what he feels is a key to a strong run defense. It’s not a mammoth nose tackle or a top flight middle linebacker. It’s top end cornerbacks. That’s why he’s excited about what he can do with this Bills defense. Here’s his explanation.

“I think what gives me confidence there is the fact that we have corners who can cover,” said Schwartz in his belief that the run defense can be much improved this season. “It’s hard to stop the run unless you have some corners that can win on the outside. It’s hard to get an extra safety in the box if you’re trying to protect your corners. With Gilmore and Leodis and also Corey Graham and Brooks has had an outstanding run in OTAs. We have some real talent at corner, guys that can win one-on-one on the outside part of the field. I think if you look across any run defense that’s a common ingredient and I’m excited for those guys.”

With corners who can cover in one-on-one situations the defense can commit a safety to the run front more often than not. Add in some of the other factors we covered in our Camp Countdown on how much the run defense will improve and Buffalo’s defense stands a good chance of being in the top half of the league in that all important category.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Analytics point to LB Bradham as star in waiting

Posted by Chris Brown on July 2, 2014 – 12:29 pm

Even before the devastating ACL injury suffered by Kiko Alonso Tuesday in an offseason workout, which will likely cost him the 2014 season, there was some buzz about Bills third-year LB Nigel Bradham. ProFootballFocus had Bradham listed as their Secret Superstar for Buffalo in 2014. Now Bills fans are hoping that becomes the case now more than ever.

In an appearance on the John Murphy Show this spring, PFF writer Peter Damilatis explained why they expect Bradham to have a breakout season in 2014.

“The one thing I like about Bradham is I feel he can sit in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense, but I think he can be a solid 4-3 strong side linebacker,” Damilatis said. “He has a fearlessness in attacking the run at the point of attack. We would see a lead blocker like a fullback coming in to clear the way and Bradham would stick in there and stonewall him and blow up the entire play.

“Despite playing a quarter of the snaps of a lot of other guys like Kiko Alonso and Mario Williams he actually had the best run defense grade of any linebacker on the Bills roster and the eighth best run defense grade of any inside linebacker in the NFL, which is pretty remarkable for someone who played just 26 percent of the team snaps.”

Bradham lined up mainly as a strong side linebacker in Buffalo’s defense under DC Jim Schwartz in the spring practices, and that job could be his to lose with Keith Rivers expected to replace Alonso on the weak side.

Damilatis said that Bradham’s numbers for tackling efficiency and yards allowed in coverage also indicate the third-year linebacker is in for a big season in 2014 if he gets on the field more.

“When you add it up his tackle rate is among the top 10 linebackers as well. He’s a very sure tackler,” Damilatis said. “One thing I also saw from him is he have some pretty good coverage skills too. He was in the top 10 for yards allowed on coverage snaps. Buddy Nix talked about Bradham being a capable three down linebacker and our metrics indicate that.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-27

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

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

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

Thanks, Jillian

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

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

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

 

2 -  Hey Chris,

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

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

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

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

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

Regards,
Ron Jacobs

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 - @ChrisBrownBills

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

Z_bass10

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

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

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-6

Posted by Chris Brown on June 6, 2014 – 12:02 pm

Two weeks of OTAs are in the books with a week to go beginning this coming Monday. As always we’ll have full coverage here on Buffalobills.com. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

I liked what Bills did in rounds 1,2,3 however they did not address DE. Manny Lawson has never played end and Wynn is a bubble player at most. Hughes is more of a situational pass rusher. I’m a bit concerned what they are doing. Since they won’t blitz as much the DE’s are more important under Schwartz. This puts more pressure on young DB’s as well. What do you think the future is at DE for 2014?

CB: I don’t know that you can assume that this defense under Schwartz won’t blitz as much. From what I’ve witnessed in OTAs with the blitz packages going in there are an array of packages that Schwartz has in his playbook. How often he uses them remains to be seen.

Lawson and Hughes will likely split the right defensive end role with Lawson in on more obvious run downs and Hughes on passing downs.

What you might need to consider is how often Schwartz’s defenses in the past have put an opponent in a situation where blitzing is not necessary.

Knowing that Schwartz’s Detroit defense last season finished first in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed (30.3%) and were second in the league in red zone defense (Bills were 14th and 6th) I’m going to give Buffalo’s defensive coordinator the benefit of the doubt that he’ll know when to blitz and how often to do so.


2 –
Hi Chris
I’m a long time Clemson fan and enjoyed watching C.J. Spiller returning kicks. He is one of the best I have ever seen at it and I billeve he could challenge Devin Hesters records. With the need at special teams, Do you think the Bills should try C.J. returning kickoffs? He does hold the FBS record for kickoff return touchdowns with 7.

Thanks, Chris Gerland

CB: It’s funny that you bring this up. As I wrote in our OTA practice notes column earlier this week C.J. Spiller was one of the kick returners in practice along with T.J. Graham and Leodis McKelvin. Spiller hasn’t returned a kick for the Bills since 2011, but it looks as though he’s at least being considered for the 2014 season. That being said I wouldn’t get excited about this possibly happening until we see it in a preseason game.


3 –
Hi Chris,

With the new additions at cornerback, and a new defensive coordinator, it almost seems like Nickell Robey has been getting lost in the mix, after a productive rookie campaign.

I’ve been wondering, has their been any talk about trying him out at safety as a possible replacement for Byrd?

Between his solid tackling and his playmaking ability, I think he could transition well into the role, which would also serve to reduce his height concerns. Jim Leonhard has had a decent career at FS for a shorter defensive back.

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Thank you,
John
CB: I don’t think you have anything to worry about with Nickell Robey. First, Robey has looked solid in his nickel corner role. Yes, he will have competition, chiefly in the form of Corey Graham, but knowing how much New England goes four wide as well as other opponents on Buffalo’s roster like Denver, Detroit, Kansas City and Green Bay chances are Buffalo will need to make use of both of those slot defenders.

To help you breathe easier about Robey’s role on this team I’ll refer you to a recent quote by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Robey.

“If you measure heart, if you measure things like that, he’s six-foot ten,” said Schwartz of Robey. “He’s been a guy that’s been impressive and it hasn’t just been from watching practice here.  Watching last year’s tape.  He’s very unique in some of the quickness he has.  He’s got great anticipation, sees the game very well and he’s certainly going to have a role. He’s been one of best players through our OTAs so far.” 


4 –
Hi Chris,

Thank you for all you do. Let me start by saying I’m extremely happy with our draft this year! My question is regarding our depth at the receiver position. I think it may be difficult for a guy like TJ Graham to make it on the field. Another guy I like is Marcus Easley. I know Easley helped out, and excelled on special teams last year. Do you think that they might keep a guy like TJ, and utilize his speed on special teams? If not I’m afraid I don’t think he’ll make the roster. I look forward to hearing your opinion!
Thanks,
Dan Edel
Buffalo native, teaching English in Thailand

CB: I do think T.J. is in for an uphill battle due mainly to the fact that additions like Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams are automatically ahead of him on the depth chart. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were draft choices deemed as fits by this coaching staff. Graham was inherited.

Add in the fact that the staff likes Kevin Elliott, who could carve out a role on special teams as well and both Graham and Easley will be battling for one of the final spots on Buffalo’s roster with players like Elliott and Chris Hogan, both of whom have shown well thus far in OTAs.


5 -
Chris;
With the trade of Stevie Johnson to the 49ers do they Bills have any financial obligations remaining from his contract?
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Howard
Rochester Hills, MI

CB: The figure I have is $10.225M in dead money, which the Bills can spread over the next three seasons, which is the length that Johnson’s contract ran.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-30

Posted by Chris Brown on May 30, 2014 – 1:01 pm

Week 1 of OTAs is in the books and here are some of your latest questions about the team from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills

what role does Hairston have? He played well until his injury but is a holdover. I hope he gets a fair shot

homeslice5484

CB: Hairston right now is running mainly with the second team at left tackle. He hasn’t received a ton of reps in the team setting. We’re guessing it’s due in part to the fact that he hasn’t played any form of football on a field in almost a year after landing on the non-football illness list in 2013. He’s looked a bit rusty this week, which is understandable, but if he can regain the form that made him a very capable swing tackle two years ago, Buffalo’s line depth becomes that much better.

 

2 – @ChrisBrownBills

With the resigning of Dan Carpenter, what does this mean for Dustin Hopkins, he was injured, but he is the real deal…..

Jay C@SWFLChiver

CB: Carpenter is coming off a career year and the second-most accurate season in Bills team history. Unless he has a complete meltdown in training camp or the preseason Carpenter will be the place kicker. The key for Hopkins will be to demonstrate he can be a dynamic weapon on kickoffs by booting everything through the back of the end zone for touchbacks. Coach Marrone has said he’s not opposed to keeping two kickers if they can both prove they would be of great value to the team.

The trouble for Hopkins is his groin injury was severe and took a long time to heal. As a result he’s rusty entering OTAs having been unable to kick. He has to get his swing back and he has to do it in short order to convince the coaches that he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster.

 

3 – Chris,
With the Bills not making a move during draft for a tight end, how do you think the position will shake out behind Chandler? Do you see the Bills keeping Lee Smith? I like Chris Gragg as development tight end with good speed. What do you think he chances are to make the final roster? Tony Moeaki still is a question mark to me, since he has hardly played in 2 years. Can Gragg stick and lineup as be juke type of TE? Or is too small to beat LB/DB?

CB: Right now Scott Chandler is not participating in team work after coming off of offseason knee surgery. So that has opened up more opportunities for the likes of Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg when it comes to the passing game. Lee Smith is primarily a blocker though he can work the short areas. In the first week of OTAs Moeaki and Gragg have seen the most action.

Moeaki is the most athletic in the group. His transition from catch to turning up field is very, very smooth. Gragg has very good straight line speed for a man his size (6-3 244), but like some of the other tight ends is not sudden in his movements when it comes to route running. He’s long-limbed which always helps in the passing game, but I would put Moeaki ahead of him.

We’ll know more about both players once the pads go on at training camp, but from a pure playmaking perspective Moeaki is going to be pushing Chandler.

 

4 – Chris,

With Watkins and Williams in, Graham would seem to go down to 5th on depth chart. Given they need special teamers like Easley/Hogan. How do you think this will play out? Goodwin and Graham are just too similar. I liked Hogan more as slot/special teamer. Could they trade Graham? Or will he have to fight for a spot in camp?

CB: I think Graham will have to fight for a spot on this roster. There is suddenly a lot of depth at receiver and Marquise Goodwin has the added advantage of being a pick made by the current regime, not one that was inherited like T.J.. The problem is Graham is not participating in any team work due to an offseason procedure. He can offer return ability to special teams, but Leodis McKelvin handles punts and Goodwin handles kickoffs.

Making things tougher Chris Hogan has had a solid first week of OTA practices. So when Graham is again full go in the practice setting he’ll have to really turn it up.

 

5 – Chris,

There has been much talk about the defensive formation Jim Schwartz is going to deploy this year.  He has been successful with the Wide 9 approach but with the personnel moves we have made, it appears to me that we may see as much of the 4-3 Under deployed by Mike Pettine as we will of a pure Wide 9.  Bringing in Spikes and moving Alonso upgrade the two linebacker spots and Rivers provide competition for Lawson.  That and the lack of another “pure” defensive end leads me to believe our defense is going to as varied as we saw last year.  Just hope it stays as agressive.

Appreciate your thoughts on this and as always, very much appreciate your insights and reporting on the comings and going at OBD.

Regards,
Jim
Macungie, Pa.

CB: I don’t think you have to worry about the defense staying aggressive. Talking to some of the men up front this week (Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus) the defense is all about being aggressive and getting up field. They feel it will cater well to what their strengths are across the defensive line.

Now that being said Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes have some big adjustments to make as they will be full-time defensive ends in Jim Schwartz’s system. Mario will presumably man the left side and Lawson and Hughes will split the job on the right side.

We’ll be able to ascertain how it’s all coming together when the pads go on in July.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone on working with new coaches

Posted by Chris Brown on May 19, 2014 – 3:46 pm

The Bills not only had a host of new players on hand at rookie minicamp. It was also the first time that Doug Marrone got on the field to work with some of his new assistants. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, linebackers coach Fred Pagac, defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and receivers coach Rob Moore were all new additions to the Buffalo staff.

Marrone felt the communication between the members of the staff was smooth.

“It’s been great. Even though it might be our first time together it’s still a lot of information and a lot of crossover and people who have worked together with each other,” he said. “I’m excited. This atmosphere is quite different than any other atmosphere in what we were trying to get accomplished. I think you’ll see an increase in OTAs of how we are on the field. Then you’ll see an increase when we get to training camp.”

Marrone did work previously with Moore, who was his receivers coach at Syracuse.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hughes rated tops in pass rush productivity

Posted by Chris Brown on April 30, 2014 – 10:58 pm

Bills DE Jerry Hughes earned the number one rating from ProFootballFocus for pass rush productivity by a 3-4 outside linebacker in 2013. Now moving to a 4-3 system under new defensive coordinator is likely to present different challenges. In any event here’s a look at the productivity of Hughes and Mario Williams, who finished 10th.

From The Left Side From The Right Side All Positions
# Name Team Pass Rush Snaps % Left Sk Ht Hu Total Pressure PRP Pass Rush Snaps % Right Sk Ht Hu Total Pressure PRP
1  Jerry Hughes BUF 116 28.6 4 2 16 22 15.1 187 46.2 7 7 23 37 15.8
2  Elvis Dumervil BLT 263 69.6 7 9 29 45 13.5 55 14.6 3 2 11 16 23.2
3  Justin Houston KC 295 68.6 9 6 37 52 14.0 36 8.4 1 1 4 6 13.2
3  Tamba Hali KC 73 12.7 5 1 6 12 14.0 425 74.2 7 6 51 64 11.7
5  John Abraham ARZ 165 30.7 5 3 13 21 10.3 305 56.7 7 5 34 46 11.9
6  Brian Orakpo WAS 12 2.6 1 0 0 1 8.3 349 75.1 10 11 29 50 11.5
7  Robert Mathis IND 189 38.3 5 3 18 26 11.0 263 53.2 13 2 21 36 11.5
8  Jason Worilds PIT 254 55.5 4 20 13 37 11.3 105 22.9 3 1 7 11 8.6
9  Junior Galette NO 98 19.7 1 4 8 13 10.2 359 72.2 11 8 26 45 10.2
10  Mario Williams BUF 340 60.5 10 3 29 42 10.0 199 35.4 4 4 17 25 9.9

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 4-25

Posted by Chris Brown on April 25, 2014 – 4:22 pm

The draft is less than two weeks away. Feels like we’ve been waiting forever. For now here are some of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,
Can you give some new insight  on how defensive ends will work under Schwartz? Besides Mario it seems like Bills have other options. Hughes was better as an OLB and I don’t see him as every down because of his size. Lawson also has never played DE as well. Do you see this as a major draft need? I feel worried that the sacks/pass rush will fall off because of the scheme change.

CB: While you are right that Lawson has very limited experience as a full time defensive end having played mostly in 3-4 defensive schemes in his career, he is an expert leverage player. So although long and wiry I believe Lawson can make that transition, most likely on the right side. He’s been up on the line enough in his career to know how to handle such a role. Of course the proof is in the pudding.

As for Hughes it’s certainly possible he’s reduced to a pass rushing role, but I think that’s something that will play out in the spring camps and training camp.

I do agree that it is somewhat of a hidden need for Buffalo that isn’t talked about much. They do need to find another fit for Schwartz’s scheme knowing things are changing.

 

2 – Hey Chris,

Last year attending Bills training camp at St. John Fisher, it appeared to me that EJ Manuel had an extremely good long ball. His release was quick, the throws were accurate, and the offense was often successful completing those long throws. However during the season I did not often see EJ attempt long throws. I wonder did you see the same thing I did at camp? If so, have you any thoughts about why they didn’t make all that many long passing attempts during the season?  Do you think we might see more of a long passing game this year?

Thanks,

Bernie


CB:
Last year the aim was to keep the offense on the field so deep throws, while potentially rewarding don’t provide a high success rate. With a young QB running things, the plan was to string together high percentage plays and not create too much risk. That’s why Buffalo ran the ball so much last season (most rushes in the NFL in 2013).

Provided EJ demonstrates more efficient decision making, particularly when under duress, through the offseason and preseason I do anticipate more long passes per game. Realistically though unless there is a flaw in an opponent’s secondary there are usually not much more than half a dozen of those kinds of plays attempted by one team in a game.

 

3 - Hi Chris.

Thanks for keeping everybody posted during free agency.  It’s certainly appreciated.

With the new CBA, is it legal for teams to have something like a “behavior clause” in a players contract?  For example “you lose  X number of dollars if you get more then 3 personal fouls this season” or you lose X number of dollars if you get in a fight with the media” etc.  I know Marrone is all about accountability and I think this would be a great way to increase accountability by hitting them where it hurts the most.  If that isn’t legal, could it be part of an incentive clause?  “No personal fouls equals a bonus at the end of the year, etc…

 

Thanks for your time.  Can’t wait for football season.

Harold

CB: To my knowledge morals clauses are permitted, but that doesn’t mean a player’s agent is going to openly accept it. In a good number of cases, the penalties handed down by the league for violation of personal conduct and substance abuse policies are pushed as sufficient deterrents by agents to avoid such morals clauses. However, if the money is significant a player is typically more accepting of the morals clauses that can sometimes come with it.

 

 

4 – Dear Chris,

Can you help me understand what the Bills are doing at both guard positions?  They just seem not to value that position very much on offense.  Kraig Urbik is an average player at best, and they seem to have a bit of a revolving door going on the left side.  Neither Colin Brown or Doug Legursky played very well last year.

Now they have signed Chris Williams, a move that attracted a lot of criticism from various sources, saying that he was the weakest link in a poor Rams line last season.  Why would the Bills want to bring such a player into Buffalo?

I would have thought they would like to better protect the huge investment they have made in EJ  Maunuel.  Can you provide me with some insight about what the Bills brain trust is thinking here?

Thanks and Regards,
Cameron Morrison
CB: I think we sometimes fall victim to media assessments of players and treat it as gospel. In the case of Chris Williams I think he’s a decided upgrade at left guard. As I’ve mentioned on my blog I watched three of his games last year against the #1, #5 and #6 ranked defenses last season, all of which he had to face twice since they were his division opponents in the NFC West in Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.

Williams was steady and reliable in all three games, all the first meetings against each of those teams. He didn’t have any busts and performed well in both run and pass. Was he super spectacular and making eye popping plays? No, but he was effective and truthfully that’s all you need at left guard.

Knowing he’ll be playing in between two of Buffalo’s best starters in Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood should stand to raise his game another peg. Much like Williams I think Urbik is a steady player at right guard.
4 – Hey Chris,
What are your thoughts on the Bills saying that they’re good with their current qb situation as well as having their free safety in the roster already?! It’s mind boggling to me considering the mess they got into when EJ got injured. They didn’t have the confidence in Searcy/Williams/Meeks when Byrd had his injury to start the season, but now they do? Is it just pre-draft strategy or do you think they honestly believe it?

Thanks, Ryan

CB: I do think they believe it. Doug Whaley and his personnel department as well as the coaching staff has an enormous amount of confidence in EJ Manuel. They are also very high on Thad Lewis as a backup prospect. Now with Lewis’ former quarterbacks coach in Detroit now here in Todd Downing, they’re even more confident that Lewis and Manuel for that matter can both take the next step in their respective development.

As for safety I think they do genuinely believe in the talent they have on the roster. Aaron Williams is likely to be the free safety with the strong safety spot filled by one of the candidates trying to land the job. I really was impressed with what I saw from Duke Williams last year in the practice setting. I didn’t see enough of Meeks who was hurt and Da’Norris Searcy had his best season last year as a hybrid subpackage linebacker.

You have to remember the Bills drafted in advance of losing Byrd in last year’s draft when they took Williams and Meeks back to back in rounds four and five. They prepped for that loss. Now the defense is changing so they’ll essentially be rookies again. Knowing that the Bills picked up veteran Corey Graham, who granted has been a cornerback most of his career, but will be in the mix at safety as well.

I think they’ve done a good job of covering their bases there.

 

5 – Chris,

I don’t see the Bills drafting a right tackle in the draft because historical they don’t draft lineman that high. The Bills have depth at WR and TE but need that one big play-maker. Even with Chandler back and lots of speed wideouts, what director do you think they might go in rounds 1-2. Mike Evans and Eric Ebron will probably be on the board with Watkins gone. Which player do you think the Bills will covet more? What are the chances they pick either of them at 9?

CB: It’s hard to know for sure what the Bills think since they lock up their draft board like every other team. I will say that both players are dynamic difference makers for a passing game and both would be a huge help to EJ Manuel.

As we’ve drawn closer to the draft I think it’s becoming less likely that Mike Evans is still on the board at nine. He’s most likely to go to Tampa at pick 7 as they are in dire need of receiver help. Ebron is more likely to be on the board at nine.

I believe if the top tackles are off the board and Evans is gone as well, Ebron might be the best option left.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-14

Posted by Chris Brown on March 14, 2014 – 3:54 pm

Free agency is in full swing with the Bills nailing down three new players in the early going. Stay close to Buffalobills.com for updates throughout free agency. For now let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris,

Jim Schwartz is obviously a good good coach and the Bills Defense did some really good things last year under Mike Pettine. My question is how likely will Coach Schwartz try to “not fix what ain’t broke” and keep some/most of the good stuff from last year (even though they may not be his concepts) while adding his own flavor to improve thing that do need to be improved, like run defense for example?

Thanks in advance.
Grant Folkard

CB: In talking with coach Marrone about this during the offseason the way he’s explained it is Coach Schwartz is going to keep most of the terminology the same. The reason this isn’t a big burden for him is because he spent a couple of seasons as a defensive assistant under then Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. Mike Pettine also coached in Baltimore where the defensive system and terminology remained the same even after Marvin Lewis left to coach in Cincinnati. So a lot of the calls and checks will not only be the same, but sound the same.

As for the run defense Marrone is wholly confident that Schwartz, whose defenses have enjoyed tremendous success against the run, will dramatically improve the unit’s performance in this area as well as third down defense.

 

2 - Hey Chris, long time Bills fan.
Wondering if you could shed some light on a few things.

First with hiring a former head coach for D coordinator, what are the chances he stays longer than one season? Do you think this was something that was discussed in private between coach Marrone and Jim Schwartz? And if not how big of a problem would this be for Dough Marrone heading into his 3rd season.

Also with Todd Downing being a QBs coach, with out ever playing the position. Is this fair with all the pressure being put on EJ? I read that EJ really likes him but don’t we need experience there? Playing? To mentor EJ and the struggles that come along with being a QB..

Thanks Jacob

CB: I don’t know that anyone can predict how long a coordinator is going to remain in his current post in the NFL. There are too many variables at work like the number of head coaching vacancies at the end of the year, how effective Schwartz is in his first year here, how successful the team is and coach Schwartz’s own personal aspirations.

Coach Marrone can’t have that kind of talk with Schwartz because no coach in the NFL is going to hold an assistant back from an opportunity at a head coaching job. That’s just not the way it works.

When you hire quality people that’s the risk you run, but I’d rather have the quality coach that’s in demand.

As for Todd Downing he has played the quarterback position. I cannot find his college background, but he did play semi-pro ball in the Mid-America League for the Minnesota Maulers and won a league title there in 2002 as their quarterback. So the position is not foreign to him at all.

I’d like to think coach Marrone’s track record of hiring assistants in the short time he’s been the Bills head coach should tell you he’s not going to hire someone who is not qualified to help the player at the most important position on the field.

 

3 - Chris,

I’ve seen several posts in which you referenced the “12th Man”.  Does the team officially call its fans the 12th Man or is that just a personal reference?  I’m having a huge argument with some Seahawk fan coworkers about whether anyone besides the Seahawks is officially allowed to use that term.

Thanks.
Cliff Hogg

CB: The 12th Man was adopted by Bills fans long before the Seattle fans started using it. The first football outfit to coin the phrase however, was Texas A&M University. They’re credited with the first recorded use of the term in 1922 when coach Dana Bible was running out of players in the Dixie Classic against defending national champion Centre College. In the stands he noticed a student who tried out for the team, but did not make the varsity squad and promptly told him to suit up and be ready in case he was needed. The volunteer player, E. King Gill, ran to the locker room and suited up and got back out to the field. He never entered the game, but became known as the 12th man.

So the Aggies have got dibs on everybody, but concerning your argument the 12th Man was popularized in the late 80’s and early 90’s. In 1988 Bills fans set an all-time single-season NFL attendance record of 622,793. Fans were then honored as the ‘12th Man’ and inducted onto the Bills Wall of Fame in 1992.

 

4 – Hey Chris,

I ask you if Sammy Watkins, Jake Matthews, or Eric Ebron are there at nine which one helps EJ in his evolution more? Or do we go as we have in the past & pick up a O linemen later such as Z. Martin & go with a player like Mack if he is there seeing as the defense thing lingers.

Thanks !!
Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville

CB: I think going by the best on the board approach that the Bills usually take it would be hard for me to think that Ebron or Matthews will be rated higher than Watkins. Most experts see him as a top five talent and I have not heard the same consensus for Matthews and certainly not for Ebron, though he is a special talent.

I think any one of those three would be of great help to Manuel in different ways, but GM Doug Whaley will take the player that helps the team the most. And that likely involves Manuel to some degree, but that’s the all-encompassing view a general manager has to take.

 

5 - Morning Chris, Happy Friday!

I was wondering how the Bills go about setting up their needs in free agency and the draft.  I was wondering how much emphasis they put into the upcoming 2014 schedule? For instance, we will have to face guys like Calvin Johnson, Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall, receiving corps from Green Bay and Denver.  Do they look at the defensive fronts, the AFC East is getting better defensively, not to mention teams like Houston and Detroit.  So basically how much does that affect their decision making when it comes to the importance of positions that are needed for the team?  Thanks for your hard work, and I hope you enjoyed Indy at the combine!

Go Bills! Jillian

CB: We did enjoy Indy very much. Glad you watched our coverage of the NFL combine. Your question is a good one. Typically opponents in a given year do not impact their decision making all that much in free agency and the draft. Teams like Chicago and Green Bay, which the Bills see only once every four years is not what you usually base your personnel decisions on.

That being said I do know that some moves are made with a team’s division opponents in mind. You’re facing those teams every season, twice a season and you have to beat them to win your division and get to the postseason. So the personnel make-up and strengths of teams like New England, the Jets and Miami could play a role in some decision making.

Again it’s not an overwhelming factor, but those teams are taken into consideration knowing they stand in the way of a playoff berth.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Williams confident ‘D’ won’t change much

Posted by Chris Brown on March 5, 2014 – 1:40 pm

He has yet to meet with new Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and under NFL rules he’s not allowed to talk scheme with coaches in the offseason, but Aaron Williams isn’t worried about their defensive system undergoing wholesale changes.

“I haven’t met with Coach Schwartz yet, but speaking with Donnie (Henderson) in the offseason and just checking up on him and seeing how he is doing, we haven’t talked any football yet, but I feel real confident that nothing major is going to change,” said Williams. “There might be a few things here and there, but I think team wise once we get all the pieces together we will be fine.”

Williams signed a multi-year contract extension Wednesday with Buffalo.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Gil Brandt: “Schwartz first choice in the draft”

Posted by johnmurphyshow on February 22, 2014 – 12:30 pm

Gil Brandt has been around the NFL for more than fifty years and he’s a familiar figure again this year at the NFL Scouting Combine.

And Brandt absolutely loves the Bills hiring of former Lions Coach Jim Schwartz as their new Defensive Coordinator.

“I think they got the first choice in the draft, really,” Brandt says. He was a guest Friday night on The John Murphy Show at the combine.

“I think Schwartz is really, really good,” he said. “I don’t know what happened (to him) in Detroit. But in Jim Schwartz they got not only a wonderful person but a really good football coach.”

There’s been some speculation that the Bills might overhaul their defensive scheme next season as they transition from Mike Pettine’s defense to Schwartz”s. Not a problem, according to Brandt.

“I would think that Jim is going to try to do things that are best for players,” he told host John Murphy. “I don’t think he’s stuck on a system, I think he’s stuck on what can my players do best. I talked to him the other day and he’s really excited about it. A lot of times when guys get fired they go into a funk for awhile. He was just the opposite.”

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


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz & Henderson combo solid for ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on February 21, 2014 – 12:41 pm

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore and had Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as a defensive assistant and Bills secondary coach Donnie Henderson as his secondary coach as well. He believes the combination of the two on Buffalo’s defense will do a lot to raise their overall performance to an even greater level than where it was in 2013.

“Schwartzy is a tremendous mind with ideas and energy and obviously I think the world of him,” said Lewis. “He’s done a great job as a coordinator and a head coach and now he’s taking a step back to be a coordinator again.

“Donnie is a guy who I owe a lot to. He’s a tremendous secondary coach who does a great job with the players. He’ll be a great extension and great resource for Jimmy on how to attack and how to defend. And that’s what you want. When you’re in that coordinator’s chair you want a guy that can come in and help you with the plan and if you ask him a question he’s going to give you a creditable answer that you can rely on.”

Henderson has also been a defensive coordinator in the NFL, as well as Bills LBs coach Fred Pagac.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Johnson has done his coaching homework

Posted by Chris Brown on February 13, 2014 – 1:47 pm

It’s often an overused phrase with players when it’s said, ‘He’s a student of the game.’ Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson however, exemplified that during his 13 years as a player in the NFL and has done for the past decade and a half as a coach.

Johnson, whose dream was to be a legendary high school coach at his alma mater in Detroit (the school unfortunately closed), spent time as a player pulling advice and pointers about the game from some of the best who played in the modern era.

“I would take information that I got from professionals that I respected and I tried to pick the brains of a Ronnie Lott, the late Reggie White, Richard Dent, Everson Walls,” said Johnson. “I tried to pick the brains of those guys and I wanted to present it to high school kids as much as possible. It stemmed from a football camp I used to do back in Detroit.”

But with just a three-day football camp it allowed him to take that NFL wisdom only so far. Equipped with a lot of football lessons both experienced and learned, Johnson is not concerned in the least in learning the terminology of Buffalo’s defensive scheme under Jim Schwartz.

“I’m a very big fan of football and the history of football,” Johnson said. “So I have watched and studied and I’ve learned from a lot of older guys who played in the 60’s and 70’s to the present day. And how the game changed because some things you can’t change like, tackle the man with the football. To me it’s just a matter of semantics with different terminology and just applying it to myself. It’s not a totally different concept where I’m learning the game. I’m willing to match my wits with anybody as far as football.”

Johnson has also crossed paths with Schwartz before in the NFL. They were both with the Cleveland Browns for three seasons (1993-95). Johnson was playing for Bill Belichick and Schwartz was a scout with the club.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Pagac: Schwartz’s system won’t be hard to teach

Posted by Chris Brown on February 11, 2014 – 4:06 pm

The Bills introduced five new assistant coaches who were added to Doug Marrone’s staff on Tuesday including veteran linebackers coach Fred Pagac. Exposed to a lot of defensive systems in his 37-year coaching career, Pagac doesn’t foresee it being a long and drawn out effort to school up on the players on defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defensive system.

“Obviously we want to keep it where our players can learn it,” said Pagac. “I think that’s a key in any coaching situation whether you’re in it for a while or not. I think coach Schwartz will do a great job of setting up the defense. I can see the communication as we’re going through right now being similar to what they were last year so there should not be a lot of new teaching. The schemes are a little different to what they played a year ago. Really it’s not a bad situation to be in. I think the players will pick it up very easily.”

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Another thing Bulluck liked about Schwartz

Posted by Chris Brown on January 29, 2014 – 4:25 pm

As we profiled on Buffalobills.com today former All-Pro LB Keith Bulluck, who played 10 of his 11 NFL seasons under Jim Schwartz, likes a lot of things about Buffalo’s new defensive coordinator. There’s an additional part of the defensive play caller’s makeup that appeals to Bulluck and he believes will appeal to his new players as well.

“What I really liked about Schwartz was he was someone who took the blame,” said Bulluck. “There would be many times we would come to the sideline and he would tell us that he put us in a bad call. You don’t hear that from coaches a lot so as a player you have no choice but to respect that because you know he understands the game.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Schwartz back as a defensive coordinator. I’m only seen him as a head coach since he left Tennessee. Once he left Tennessee as our defensive coordinator, they haven’t played defense the same since he left.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Schwartz: What Bills fans can expect

Posted by Chris Brown on January 28, 2014 – 3:34 pm

In a one on one interview with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz he outlined what Bills fans can expect from him in terms of his approach, his priorities and his focus as the team’s new defensive play caller.

“I think that the number one thing is points (allowed) and I think that we’ll work real hard to keep points off the board,” Schwartz told Buffalobills.com. “It’ll go to fundamentals. Good defenses are about good tacklers. We’ll work very hard on the fundamentals.

“Anybody that comes out to a training camp practice might see some drills they haven’t seen for a long time. We recognize that this is a fundamental game and we’re going to be an aggressive defense and we’re going to attack. There’s not a whole lot of reading that goes on. We’re going to try to dictate to the offense that by game plan they’re going to have a very difficult time doing. We’re going to work very hard to take an opponent’s best player or best attribute out of the game.”

You can watch the full one-on-one interview with coach Schwartz right here.


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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