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Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 2-20

Posted by Chris Brown on February 20, 2015 – 1:12 pm

It’s day three of our Combine Coverage presented by NAPA. Let’s get to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

As good of a guy as CJ is..will he really fit Roman’s system?

LWOS_Brock

CB: As GM Doug Whaley has said Roman wants a mixed bag of backs that can do different things. Just because you didn’t see a C.J. Spiller type back in San Francisco’s offense when Roman was running things out there doesn’t mean he can’t use a talent like Spiller in his scheme.

Whaley characterized Bryce Brown and Spiller as the speed backs, Dixon as the power back and Fred Jackson as the pass catcher/pass protector. So it appears Roman would like to have three or four backs to work with, not to mention a fullback.

Additionally Rex Ryan has said that with their coaching staff it’s player over scheme every time, so if they can keep Spiller in the fold they’ll devise a way to make him a productive element in Roman’s system.

 

2 -  @ChrisBrownBills

Do you think OL Ali Marpet will be there in the 4th?

TheConnorCough

CB: I think Marpet opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl when he showed he could hang with the top senior talent in college despite playing at Division III Hobart. He’s off to a good start with his workout here at the NFL Combine as well, running the fastest 40 time among offensive lineman with a five flat.

Obviously the 40 time isn’t a major influencer on draft grade for offensive linemen, but Marpet is legitimizing his ability to play at the NFL level. The Bills did meet with him and though he played tackle in college, he projects to guard in the NFL.

Will he be there in the fourth round? It’s possible. He could also be gone in the third.

 

3 – Chris

Thanks for providing a forum for fans to express opinions and ask questions.
With all the QB’s available in Free Agency, College, Canadian League, other pro leagues, I can’t grasp the Bills unable to develop one over the last 20 years. We seem to have chosen one alone and spend all our resources in proving we were right to pick them, rather than looking for the one who pops out and distances himself from the others. Brady popped out, as did Wilson, Romo, Foles etc. I’d be interested if you think this process will change with the new regime ?

Also, if we have two QB’s, shouldn’t they be similar in style, either mobile or pocket passers, so if one is injured the offense doesn’t have to change to adapt to two different styles, like last year with Manuel and Orton ?

Thanks;
Jim in Florida

CB: I think the Bills are more apt than ever to add another young quarterback to the roster, especially with a thin free agent class of options at the position. Adding two veterans is probably unlikely so a vet and a young player is the most likely combination to fortify the position on Buffalo’s roster.

I found it interesting that Doug Whaley and his personnel department intend to meet personally with every quarterback prospect here at the Combine not named Mariota and Winston. After the Combine they also will dispatch QBs coach David Lee to go and work these quarterback prospects out at or around their pro days. Whaley described their planned search to be exhaustive.

He mentioned this on the John Murphy Show and in addition when asked about the philosophy of drafting a quarterback every year he said he was not opposed to it.

I would think similar style quarterbacks would make sense, but sometimes you’re willing to sacrifice similarity if it means getting a better player overall.

 

4 - Hi Chris

Could you please explain to me how David Lee, who couldn’t get Jets quarterbacks to play better, is going to help EJ Manuel and any other quarterback we have on the roster ?

Thanks, Dale

CB: Rex Ryan has answered this question. David Lee is an expert when it comes to teaching quarterback fundamentals, and really that’s his main job with the signal callers on the roster. To keep their mechanics sound. That’s easier with some quarterbacks than others obviously, but knowing the worker that EJ Manuel is I would anticipate seeing improvement in everything from Manuel’s footwork, to the consistency of his arm angle, release point, hip drive, etc.

While you may knock the results in New York with Geno Smith, David Lee successfully turned Tony Romo from a third string QB into a Pro Bowl starter. I’ve talked to David Lee about that transformation and he said the only reason Romo was successful was because he wanted to work at it.

Romo needed to make 10-thousand throws to improve his passing efficiency because his release point was too low as a younger player and too many of his passes were getting batted down at the line. But he worked with Lee every day. Knowing that Manuel has a similar work ethic, I think we’ll see a difference with him too.

 

 

5 - Chris,

I was very disappointed to see Jim Schwartz leave considering the outstanding work he did with the defense last year especially with stopping the run. Now with Rex Ryan in the fold, the defense will most likely look very similar to what we experienced during the 2013 season under Mike Pettine. With that said, our run defense was not very good under Pettine. Is there real reason to worry it might struggle again with Rex Ryan going back to more of the 3-4 hybrid system that Pettine used? I know we have an outstanding defensive line but they seemed to be in better position to stop the run under Schwartz’s system. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks.

-Mike from Syracuse

CB: I don’t think there should be a big worry about the run defense. Yes, Schwartz did simplify things, which made it easier to execute. By the same token Rex Ryan defenses have almost always finished in the top 10 in run defense. Buffalo finished 11th last season. So if anything it could improve under Ryan based on the track record of his defenses.

Buffalobills.com Combine coverage is presented by NAPA Auto Parts.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills retain spec. teams coordinator Crossman

Posted by Chris Brown on January 14, 2015 – 4:04 pm

The Bills made a change at offensive coordinator under new head coach Rex Ryan and terminated the contract of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, but Ryan is going to keep special teams coordinator Danny Crossman in the fold for 2015.

The team made the announcement late Wednesday afternoon. Crossman’s special teams units made widespread improvements from 2013 to 2014, with key additions like Boobie Dixon and Corey Graham filling valuable veteran roles. Crossman also capably blended in a rookie punter and kickoff specialist to help improve the coverage units. Here’s a look at some categories where Buffalo’s special teams improved the most from 2013 to 2014.

SPECIAL TEAMS                        2013                                                   2014
Field position                                    26.8 – 25th                                            30.2 – 5th
Avg. drive start KO                          20.7 – 27th                                            22.5 – 10th
Kick return avg.                                20.4 – 29th                                            23.3 – 17th
Kickoffs – TB pct.                            41.5% – 24th                                         60.5% – 9th
Opponent KO avg. start                 22.7 – 23rd                                           20.7 – 5th
Punt return avg.                              6.2 – 29th                                              9.6 – 12th
FG Pct.                                              91.7% – 10th                                         89.5% – 6th
Net punting avg.                             36.6 – 30th                                            38.7 – 23rd
Punt coverage (opp. avg.)             10.6 – 25th                                            6.5 – 4th
Kick coverage (opp. avg.)             23.4 – 17th                                            20 – 3rd
FG Pct. Against                               86.1% -17th                                          81.1% – 9th
Opp. field position                         31.2 – 31st                                            26.9 – 11th


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Dareus wishes former def. coordinator well

Posted by Chris Brown on January 13, 2015 – 6:16 pm

For Marcell Dareus his fifth year in the league will mean another scheme change on defense. While he’s excited about the future he did wish his now former defensive coordinator well.

With Jim Schwartz and the Bills reaching a mutual agreement to part ways, Dareus, in an appearance on the John Murphy Show, was sincere in his appreciation for what Schwartz did in his time with Buffalo.

“I appreciated what Schwartz did for us,” Dareus said. “He gave us some good schemes even though we got caught in a bad position sometimes. We stuck together with each other. We dug ourselves out of some bad situations and we still came out to be one of the top defenses in the league. That wasn’t him or just us, it was all of us going out there and putting it together and coming up with solutions. I’m just excited for him. Whatever road he takes I wish the best for him.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-19

Posted by Chris Brown on December 19, 2014 – 11:03 am

There’s a lot on the line this week for the Bills. Fun having games that mean something here in December. Try to keep from biting your nails down to the nub Bills fans! Merry Christmas! On to your questions now from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 -  @ChrisBrownBills

How’s the raiders run D stack up against a possible run game?

GmoDLo

CB: We’ll be addressing that in our weekly Scouting Report on Buffalobills.com late today (Friday), but Oakland has struggled to stop the run. They give up 125 rushing yards to their opponents per game. Now that number is a bit skewed, knowing that a good number of their opponents have been up on the scoreboard on the Raiders, and run the ball a lot in the second half to shorten the game and kill clock.

However, they’re a respectable 12th in yards per carry average allowed (4.0). Still it’s worth mentioning that there is no other team in the league whose opponents choose to run on them more than the Raiders (48% of plays overall), so I would expect Buffalo to lean on their run game in this matchup.

Furthermore I think the Bills run game will have a good measure of success against the Raiders, especially after seeing the offense commit to the run game last week with 33 carries against the Packers in a tight game last week. Their 33 carries was the most since the Week 2 win over Miami.

 

2 – @ChrisBrownBills

What is the plan moving forward for the QB situation? Sticking with Orton for multiple years or EJ or free agency?

ZachDrohweder

CB: I think the only thing that we can say at this point is that EJ will be part of the quarterback equation in 2015. Orton has a player option for next season, so that is his call to make, not the team’s. Beyond that I believe everything will be evaluated at season’s end by the personnel department and the coaches. Then a course of action will be laid out with their options prioritized. I know that’s probably not the answer you’re looking for, but I’m not going to pretend to know the plan when one has yet to be formulated.

 

3 – @ChrisBrownBills

Chances Jim Schwartz is back?

theadamritter

CB: I think it will be predicated on how many job openings there are for head coaching positions at season’s end. Typically there are about a half dozen every offseason. Buffalo’s defense with their fourth new coordinator and fourth new scheme under Schwartz is rivaling some of the best defensive units in team history. They’re currently in the top five in six major defensive categories (Total ‘D’, pass ‘D’, sacks, 3rd down ‘D’, points allowed, takeaways).

Long story short, if there are six NFL head coach openings, I’d expect Schwartz to be a candidate for about half of them due to his long resume of defensive success, and his five years of head coaching experience at the NFL level.


4 –
Hey Chris,

Was just wondering what it takes to get in touch with Goodell or someone in the NFL look at the refs actions ? Can & will Marrone step up & air these differences ? The Denver game & others this year have had some really questionable calls & actions in game.

CB: I don’t disagree with your disappointment on some of the calls this season, the Denver game in particular. I think in many ways it’s the judgment calls that create the most controversy, but as far as having questionable calls addressed, each NFL team can send in plays to the league’s officiating department to contest them or ask for further explanation or clarification.

Doug Marrone does this on a weekly basis. Unfortunately he and every other coach in the league is not permitted to publicize the results of those league reviews of questionable calls in the days following when the game was played. Really a team doesn’t get much more than an apology of, ‘We’re sorry, we got that one wrong.’

If the officiating department rules that the official who made the call was incorrect in his ruling on the field, they’re graded accordingly.

 

5 – @ChrisBrownBills

Rules? Why was the Manziel Fumble/Inc. not ruled Intentional Grounding? Seems as if it wasn’t a fumble, then it was IG.

TomPellvis

CB: It was my opinion that it was fumble. Manziel would’ve been protected under the old ‘Tuck Rule’ if it was still in existence, but since it’s not that was a fumble play as I saw it. He double clutched, but in no way was trying to throw the ball. The officials as you know ruled it an incomplete pass. I think the reason they could not rule intentional grounding was because first and foremost Manziel was outside the tackle box. When that happens an intentional grounding call is off the table.

Even if he was in the pocket the direction of the pass could not be ascertained since it essentially bounced off of Kyle Williams and into the end zone. Had the “pass” (ahem… fumble) traveled far enough to determined its direction/target then perhaps the official would’ve been able to make a judgment call on intentional grounding – again had he still been inside the tackle box. That however, was not the case on that play.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Where Schwartz has made ‘D’ better

Posted by Chris Brown on November 30, 2014 – 10:24 am

There weren’t many who thought that Buffalo’s defense, which was a top 10 unit under former coordinator Mike Pettine, could do better in a different scheme the following year under Jim Schwartz. So far Schwartz’s unit has proved the naysayers wrong.

Buffalo is currently on pace to shatter their own team record set last season in sacks (57). They currently lead the league with 46 and are on pace for 67, which would be among the five highest in NFL history.

They’re also fourth overall, fourth in points allowed, eighth against the run, fifth against the pass, third in takeaways and first in the NFL on third down.

“It’s a different mentality,” said Marcell Dareus of Schwartz’s approach. “He’s a totally different guy. He just comes with his own thing. He puts us in the best position and we do the best that we can.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Dareus on difference between Pettine & Schwartz

Posted by Chris Brown on November 29, 2014 – 3:10 pm

Bills DT Marcell Dareus in the midst of a 10-sack season was asked what the difference is between his last two defensive coordinators, Mike Pettine, now the head coach in Cleveland and Jim Schwartz.

“Pettine he likes to mess with the people, Schwartz is more stay with the game plan, mess with your head, but also, ‘I’m on you’ type of D-coordinator,” said Dareus. “He’s just a little different, but they’re both great D-coordinators with good game plans so it’s going to be exciting.”

The Bills and Browns have split their last six meetings together.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 10-31

Posted by Chris Brown on October 31, 2014 – 11:41 am

It’s the bye week so focus on your fantasy rosters this week Bills fans. Here are your questions this week from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Keep them coming.

1 – Hey Chris ,
Was wondering a couple of things when it comes to EJ & his history with the Bills & prior to . When EJ First came to the Bills the HC & OC led us to believe that they wanted him to have a veteran mentor (which was to be Kevin Kolb) to either sit behind & learn or play & have some one that has played the position to bounce things off of to learn from . So I am wondering why everyone is in such a uproar over this switch ? They are just going back to plan A correct ?

The second part to the question is every article or write-up on EJ prior to him being drafted by the Bills had pointed out a lot if not all of his short comings as a player, It seems from a fan stand point that when it comes to the most important position on a NFL team the Bills come up short when it has come to their decisions at that position both past & present. Were any of those articles or opinions taken into consideration while thinking of drafting him? It seems as though the only people high on EJ were those at one Bills Dr. Then to pass on available QB’s this past draft (if for nothing else to ramp up competition) they pass again on others that had as much if not more potential & better resume than EJ as a backup plan. Personal opinion it seems as though the coaches of this regime in A LOT of different ways show more rookie tendencies than the players !!

Thanks for your time & as always your insight on this & all our fan questions !!
Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville

CB: Yes, there was a plan to have a veteran quarterback on hand from the get go and that was Kevin Kolb. He began training camp as the first QB through in the rotation, but it was a competition for the starting job. I think most were expecting Kolb to be the starter at the outset and if EJ came on he’d succeed him. We all know that plan went off the rails early.

I would disagree that every time the Bills have tried to pick a quarterback it has been the wrong quarterback. I’m not absolving quarterbacks drafted in the past for the trajectory of their careers with the Bills, but you do need to look at the circumstances around them.

Constant coaching turnover particularly at the coordinator position with different schemes and systems coming through during a young quarterback’s developmental stages is extremely disruptive to a QB’s progress and growth.

Let’s take J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards’ time with the Bills as an example. Two young quarterbacks who saw a lot of change in their short time with the club.

Losman’s rookie season was 2004. Tom Clements was the offensive coordinator under Mike Mularkey. The next season Mularkey takes play calling responsibility from Clements. After Mularkey is moved out the system changes, Steve Fairchild comes in as the new coordinator with a new system in 2006. After 2007, Edwards’ rookie year, he leaves to coach in college and Turk Schonert is inserted and tweaks the system again. By the 2009 season Losman is gone and Dick Jauron a week before the opener fires Schonert and promotes Alex Van Pelt to run the offense.

A year later Chan Gailey is the head coach with a completely different offense. Edwards’ tenure last only a couple of games into 2010 when he’s benched and eventually released as the Ryan Fitzpatrick era begins.

Now would Losman or Edwards ever fully got it and been successful quarterbacks in this league? Maybe not. Some might even say probably not, but the circumstances that existed in terms of coaching changes and scheme certainly decreased the chances of either of those two developing properly at the NFL level.

There is a value in continuity in the NFL. Organizations like Green Bay, Pittsburgh and the NY Giants have proven it. They limit turnover in an effort to let their players develop and flourish. Does it always work? No, but it has a track record of far more success than failure.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills.

Any news on how EJ is getting on? Also really impressed by his attitude on the sidelines on game day from what I have seen.
rmstrong_1982

CB: By all accounts EJ has been a pro’s pro. We’ll have an in depth story on the work Manuel has been putting in over the past month since he assumed the backup role on Buffalobills.com Saturday. Some great insight from EJ and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing on Manuel’s trust in the system and the extra work he puts in early in the morning with Kyle Orton and long after practice is over on the field. Check it out tomorrow!

 

3 - @ChrisBrownBills

Just curious why Mario Williams snaps have decreased over the past few weeks?

TheRealSeanK

CB: This was a question that both defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and head coach Doug Marrone addressed. Here was Schwartz’s response to Mario Williams drop in snap count the past three weeks.

“I don’t count reps,” said Schwartz. “I’m just worried about performance and production. If our defense is being productive then that’s the only thing we care about. Everybody else can worry about stats and snap counts and everything else, it’s about trying to win the game and doing what we think is best to win the game.”

It’s likely that Schwartz believes in quality over quantity with Mario Williams. I believe him when he says he doesn’t count reps, but perhaps in reviewing game tape he’s found that Williams’ gives him more quality reps (pass rush chiefly) when he plays between 38-45 snaps than when he plays 48-55 snaps a game. The other possibility is Jarius Wynn when he goes in is providing very little drop off in play.

Last week’s game is a good example. Wynn played 44 snaps to Williams’ 40. Wynn had three tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit. Williams had three tackles, a half sack and a forced fumble. Schwartz says they care about performance.

If Wynn is performing leave him in there. In a tight game when the outcome is on the line I’m sure Mario will be in the game.

Coach Marrone earlier this season indicated that he wanted to keep Williams fresh for important third down pass rushes late in a couple of the recent games. This past week up 20 points it’s my belief they wanted to keep him out of harm’s way so as not to risk injury.

The direct beneficiary when Mario Williams doesn’t get his usual number of reps, which is usually around 75 percent of the snaps is Jarius Wynn. The rotational end has performed well this season, and just about every game the percentage of their two snap counts adds up to 100 percent because Wynn is often subbing in for Williams. It will be interesting to see where it goes in the second half of the season.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks for all the inside info, great reading your work all the time!  My question is regarding Marcell Dareus. He is having a phenomenal year but there still are the negative off the field events that took place in the offseason. Will he be facing any fines or suspensions for his incidents? It would be a shame to have him miss even one game.

Thanks again!
Chris

CB: Marcell is having a great season. Seven sacks in half a season for a defensive tackle, as Jim Schwartz said is pretty hard to do, and that’s coming from a guy who coached Ndamukong Suh.

It doesn’t appear that Dareus will be facing any league fines or suspensions this season for what happened this past offseason. It’s likely that he’ll face some kind of league discipline next year, much the way Nigel Bradham did when he was suspended for the season opener this year, for his off the field incident in the summer of 2013.

 

5 – Chris,

I think Hackett has completely failed on getting Mike Williams into the game plan.  I think Mike Williams could be a very effective WR.  The QB should be dropping back and the OC should have Watkins – Woods and Williams running patterns at the same time in a 3-WR set.  One of these 3 should be open every time.

Fred, Dixon and Brown should be pounding the ball. Seriously, I’m amazed some of these people get paid so much to be coordinators.  I think there are many individuals who could do a better job than Hackett.

Randy
South FL
CB: You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but I think we need to try and read between the lines here with respect to the lack of playing time for Mike Williams. I do agree that Williams is a rare talent. I’ve written many times that he is one of the five best receivers in the league when it comes to high-pointing the ball. You’d figure that would make him a weapon to use at least in the red zone. He did score 23 touchdowns in his first three seasons in the league.

At the same time Chris Hogan has emerged as a slot receiver and is producing. Now he and Williams do not line up in the same place in this offense for the most part, but one word I continually hear from both coach Marrone and Kyle Orton in praising Chris Hogan’s efforts is reliability. They comment often on how Hogan is in the right place at the right time on every play. That reliability is an enormous comfort to a head coach, a coordinator and a quarterback knowing how critical the timing is in Buffalo’s passing game.

A veteran offensive coordinator once told me the NFL is about first downs, not touchdowns. What he meant was in the NFL the talent is a lot more even than it is at the college level, so big play touchdowns aren’t nearly as prevalent. So you prefer to have players you can rely on to make the catches that get you first downs time and again to keep drives and possessions alive. It’s that consistency that wins more often in the NFL.

Do I completely agree with that premise? Not totally. Sammy Watkins has me thinking that three or four big plays look pretty good too. We’ll have to see if Williams play time changes in the second half of the season. To his credit he’s putting in a lot of extra time on special teams of late in an effort to get on the field more.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills ‘D’ top 10 in handful of key categories

Posted by Chris Brown on October 27, 2014 – 2:11 pm

The Bills defense has put together a heck of a first half of the season. Under new coordinator Jim Schwartz they lead the league in sacks with 28 and rank first in total takeaways and first in interceptions. They also rank in the top 10 in a few other key defensive categories. Just don’t expect the players on the defensive unit to pay it much thought.

“For our defense it really doesn’t mean anything because we’re still trying to build our identity up and we’re not where we want to be as a team, so as a defense we’re just steadily doing what we’re supposed to do,” said Marcell Dareus, who leads the team with seven sacks. “When it’s time for us to go out there and our number is called we’re going to go out there and do the best we can, go as hard as possible until we get off the field and do the same thing when we’re called on again. We’re just busting our butts and not even thinking about it.”

Schwartz’s unit also ranks eighth against the run, sixth in third down defense and seventh in points allowed.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Pats know that Bills ‘D’ funnels rushers inside

Posted by Chris Brown on October 11, 2014 – 12:05 pm

Buffalo’s run defense has been excellent thus far this season. Part of the reason is the ends line up wide, sometimes in a nine technique (outside shade of the tight end). While more is made out of the wide-9 formation defensively with respect to pass rush, it serves an important purpose against the run.

Essentially it funnels runners inside where the defense has more tacklers to bring the ball carrier down. Head coach Doug Marrone has commented that their ability to set the edge has been critical in the improvement in the run game. Lining up so wide helps set that edge in the run front, a trademark of Jim Schwartz defensive schemes.

“It’s the same thing that we saw [when Jim was the defensive coordinator] at Tennessee, same thing that we saw at Detroit with Jim [Schwartz], going back to [Kyle] Vanden Bosch,” said Bill Belichick. “Change the names, but it’s the same type of scheme and players. Yeah, they definitely do that. They like to play the ends out wide. Now, they’ll pinch them in to keep you honest. They don’t do it every play. But yeah, they get the ends out there wide and pinch them into those tackles and they have three guys inside, whether it’s three linebackers or when they’re in nickel sometimes it’s two linebackers and a safety. They definitely try to funnel that.

“They’re a really hard team to get outside on. They don’t give up many outside plays. Jim never has. It’s just hard to get outside those guys. They’re wide plus they’re big and they’re athletic. That’s definitely the foundation of that defense – set the edge with the ends and then like you said, force the ball inside. That’s definitely what they’re trying to do.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills number one in run ‘D’ for now

Posted by Chris Brown on October 6, 2014 – 10:21 am

After Sunday’s Week 5 action including Buffalo’s impressive stifling of the Lions run game, the Bills have the number one run defense in the NFL.

Jim Schwartz’s unit is allowing just 71 yards rushing per game. Their standing at the top of the league in run defense could be short lived. That’s because the number two run defense in the NFL is Seattle and they play tonight against the Washington Redskins. The Seahawks are giving up just 72.3 yards rushing per game.

So if Seattle can smother Washington’s run game in much the same way that Buffalo did with Detroit, the Seahawks might be able to reclaim the top spot.

Buffalo is also number one in third down defense, and they should be able to carry that distinction into Sunday’s game with New England. The Bills are allowing opponents to convert less than 32 percent of the time (31.8%).

Run ‘D’ and third down defense were the two areas that Schwartz was counted upon to improve walking in the door. So far, so good.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills ‘D’ wanted game for Schwartz

Posted by Chris Brown on October 5, 2014 – 11:18 pm

All week Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz downplayed the importance of his return to Detroit where he was the head coach of the Lions for five seasons. After the victory Sunday, in which Schwartz’s defense held the Lions scoreless in the second half, and gave up just seven points in the game, his players made it clear that this game meant an awful lot to their defensive play caller.

“This game really meant a lot to him especially when we lost to them during preseason,” said Marcell Dareus. “You could see the disappointment on his face. In the meetings last night he told us he still has family here. His son is still here. He would love for his son to go to school and be happy and not let people mess with him. So it really meant more to him than just a game. So I took it and we all took it to ourselves that we were going to go out here and do the best we can for Schwartz and the team and we pulled it out.”

After the game the defensive players carried Schwartz on their shoulders across the field. DE Jerry Hughes understood why winning meant what it did to Schwartz.

“Absolutely, any time you get a chance to come back to where you started from, and we wanted to show that we were the better team,” said Hughes. “By us going out there and getting a win, it was huge.  But any time you get a win in the NFL , they’re so hard to come by, so we’re just very thankful for that.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Lions getting it done on 3rd down

Posted by Chris Brown on October 5, 2014 – 10:30 am

The Lions are far from productive on first and second down, but it hasn’t seemed to matter when it comes to converting on third down. Detroit stands fourth in the league in third down conversion percentage at better than 52 percent (52.4). In third-and-short situations they rank fourth as well (75%) and third-and-medium they rank second in the league with a 73.3 percent conversion rate. So why have they been so successful?

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who coached Matthew Stafford, believes he’s scrambling more this season in comparison to past years, but doesn’t believe Stafford extending plays is the reason for the high conversion percentage.

“Their percentage on third down comes from 3rd-and-2 to 3rd-and-6,” Schwartz said. “They’re about 80 percent in those areas. They’re really efficient. The ball is coming out quick. He’s always been a quick trigger guy, but the ball is coming out fast and they’re keeping the chains alive.

“They’re over 50 percent on third downs. That number drops significantly when they get over seven yards. That’s the job of our run defense to put them in third down and long calls, to give time for Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus to get home to the quarterback in those situations.”

Bills LB Preston Brown agrees with Schwartz on Stafford’s ability to get the ball out quick.

“Their quarterback he just has a clock in his head to get the ball out,” said Brown. “They’ve got really good timing with the receivers with Calvin Johnson and those guys. They really get the ball out quick and they run the routes to the sticks and they get the first down.”

“We’ve faced some outstanding quarterbacks this year, starting with Cutler, Philip Rivers,” said Schwartz. “We’ve faced similar quarterbacks and we’re going to have to play our very best to come out with a win.”


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Schwartz downplays his return to Detroit

Posted by Chris Brown on October 3, 2014 – 2:45 pm

A natural story line for Sunday’s game in Detroit for the Bills is the return of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to the place where he was the head coach for five seasons. But if you ask Schwartz his return to Ford Field is of little importance to how he feels his unit has to perform if they’re going to beat the Lions.

When asked specifically about his emotions in making his return to Detroit for the first time since he was their head coach, Schwartz dismissed it.

“It’s about the same as any week,” said Schwartz Friday. “I’ve been a visitor there before so I know where the visitors’ locker room is in addition to the home locker room. It’s a road game and we’re coming off a two game skid and we need to be able to get it back whether it’s the Lions or any other team, everybody has connections in this league. Every coach has coached somewhere else. It doesn’t play into the game.”

When asked if he’s wondering about how Lions’ fans will receive him, again Schwartz dismissed it.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s about the game. That’s certainly not important.”

What is important is Schwartz has Buffalo’s defense off to a good start with the third-ranked run defense through the first month of the season, rare air for the Bills defensive unit over the past nine seasons.

 


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Kyle, Bradham doubtful

Posted by Chris Brown on October 3, 2014 – 1:16 pm

injury-report-header

WR Marcus Easley and G Chris Williams were both declared out for Sunday’s game in Detroit. That means that Cyril Richardson will make his second straight start at left guard. More important is the status of two of Buffalo’s defensive starters in Kyle Williams and Nigel Bradham.

Both players were listed as doubtful. Kyle Williams was only able to work on the side, while Bradham participated on a limited basis Friday.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz isn’t going to fret about who he has and doesn’t have for Sunday’s game.

“I really don’t comment on injuries,” said Schwartz. “We’ll play with the guys that are there when we make our active 46. We’ll have to come out with a win regardless of who is out there. It’s not unusual for us. We’ve done it since the opener. We didn’t have (Stephon) Gilmore in the opener and Corey Graham stepped up and had an interception in the game and had a pass breakup in overtime and on the last drive of the game. It set us up to get that win. If somebody isn’t able to play you expect the next guy to step up and execute our scheme.”

Here’s the rest of Buffalo’s injury report.

OUT
Marcus Easley – knee
Chris Williams – back

DOUBTFUL
Kyle Williams – knee
Nigel Bradham – knee

PROBABLE
Ron Brooks – shoulder
Randell Johnson – knee
Marquise Goodwin – concussion
Sammy Watkins – ribs

 


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Fan Friday 9-26

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2014 – 12:12 pm

It’s the start of a big two week road trip in Houston. The Bills are looking to finish the first quarter of the season at 3-1. We’ll have full postgame coverage on Buffalobills.com. Let’s get to your questions this week on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hi Chris,

My question is about the Bills offense. During training camp I noticed that EJ is throwing the ball a lot farther downfield; however during the preseason games, and early in the season all the routes seem to be less than 10 yards. Is this due to the play calling or EJ? I’ve heard EJ’s been better during practice, but it’s frustrating to watch him check down most of the time. It reminds me of when we had Chan Gailey and Fitz.

Michael

CB: So far this season EJ Manuel is averaging seven yards an attempt. For those that are unfamiliar with that statistic, even in the pass happy NFL that we know today any yards per attempt average that’s eight or above is outstanding. Only five NFL QBs are averaging eight yards or more per attempt right now. So seven is very respectable.

The other way one can look at it is average yards at the catch. This is where Manuel’s figure is below the league average. Manuel averages 3.6 passing yards at the catch, which ranks 31st in the league. The league average is about six.

Now there are two ways one can interpret that. One Buffalo’s offense doesn’t take a lot of deep shots down the field, which is your contention, and based on the latter statistic it’s understandable why that might be inferred.

The other way to look at it is Buffalo’s offensive staff knows the collection of speed they have out of the backfield and at receiver and believe it’s more important to make the completion and allow the ball handlers to make yards after the catch. Right now the Bills ranks 8th in the league in yards after the catch with 415 yards in three games. That’s a strong number.

It’s my belief that as long as those yards after the catch figures remain in the top 10 in the league, that the passing game approach won’t change all that much. That’s not to say they won’t take four to six deep shots per game, but on the whole they’ll rely on short to intermediate passes believing their playmakers can gain yards after the reception is made.

 

2 – Chris,

Do some NFL coaches have a policy of benching players for a play after they are called for a penalty?  I’ve noticed this fairly frequently just in watching game telecasts. For example, after Scott Chandler was called for a penalty vs Chicago this past Sunday, the cameras showed him standing on the sidelines. Then he was back in on the next play.  Obviously, if a starting QB gets called for a delay of game penalty, he’s not removed, but I’ve noticed both offensive and defensive players coming off the field after a penalty.

Gary Kozlowski

CB: Your observations are pretty astute. I also noticed last week that after Brandon Spikes was flagged for a personal foul last week against the Chargers that he was removed from the game too. Sometimes it’s just the personnel grouping that the coaches choose to put on the field for the next play, which may have been the case with Chandler. I will have to go back and look.

Sometimes it is in fact to get the player off the field and cool off. In an emotional game like football sometimes a player’s competitive emotions gets the best of them as seemed to be the case with Spikes last week. So coaches in an effort to bring a player’s emotions back in line take them out of the competitive environment on the field so they can collect themselves before playing another snap.

 

3 – Hey Chris,

What happened to Stephon Gilmore? He doesn’t even look like the same player we saw in his rookie season. He’s constantly getting beat in pass coverage, and he’s not making plays in run support. He’s becoming a real liability in our defense. I’m curious what the coaches are saying about his play.

CB: I think the coaches are trying to be patient with Gilmore. Coming off of offseason hip surgery and then a groin injury at the start of the season Gilmore is clearly not 100 percent healthy. He’s trying to fight through the nagging groin problem to be available for his team on Sundays. I don’t think there’s any question it has not allowed him to play at his very best.

The encouraging sign I saw this week was Gilmore was on the practice field for extra reps long after practice had concluded. This was a common practice of Gilmore’s, but taxing his body in that fashion was not an option for him while he was rehabilitating or as he worked his way back into the practice setting and lineup.

Seeing that is a major positive because Gilmore is a player whose game gets better when he can maximize his reps during the week. The most important thing to remember is it’s his collective health that’s holding his game back.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks for all you do to keep us fans on top of all news concerning the Bills!

My question is concerning the defensive pass rush ideology. This past week against the Chargers it seemed that there were very few blitzes dialed up. I understand that with veteran QBs you have to mix it up, but the defense pretty much rushed four and got no pass rush which lead to the Db’s getting lit up. I’m starting to see major differences between Petitine’s philosophy and Jim Schwartz’s philosophy. Do you feel that less blitzing is what we will see throughout the rest of the season from Schwartz? His philosophy seems to put a great deal of pressure on the secondary….

Thanks for your response.
Bruce

CB: I think most knew going in that Schwartz’s philosophy was not going to dial up nearly as many blitzes as Pettine did last year. Personally I was okay with that if it meant better third down defense and better run defense in exchange, knowing those were two consistent problem areas for Buffalo’s defense over the years.

To this point Buffalo’s defense is 6th against the run and 8th in third down defense. I’ll take less blitzing if this is the trade-off.

I think you also need to consider this. When facing veteran quarterbacks who get the ball out quick, like Cutler and Rivers, and this week with Fitz, Schwartz generally takes the approach that committing a seventh man to coverage is more valuable than committing a fifth man to the rush. If you’re not going to get to the QB with a blitz anyway, you’re better off rushing your front four and dropping a seventh man into coverage, hoping the coverage helps lead to the QB holding onto the ball long enough for pressure to affect his play.

To this point Schwartz’s third down defense more often than not has proven him correct. So until that changes I’m in favor of his approach.

 

5 – Hi Chris,

Great job as always keeping Bills fans updated.  My question really isn’t about on field football items.  Now that the Bills are headed on the road for a couple of weeks what is their travel routine getting ready for an away game?

Many thanks.
Bryon B.
Plattsburgh

CB: Typically the way things work in advance of a road game is they have meetings Saturday morning followed by a situational practice at One Bills Drive where they go over specific situations that might surface in the game. It usually runs less than an hour.

After that players go home to pack their personal items for the trip and head to the airport for their departure time on the team plane.

Once they arrive in the home team’s city they’re typically at the team hotel by 3:30 pm. They’re free to have dinner on their own and then there are meetings with coaches for a couple of hours in the evening before bed check at 11 pm.

Then players head to the stadium Sunday morning, with most of them in the locker room by 10 am or so for a 1 pm kickoff.

 

 


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Schwartz’s ‘D’ looks ready for real games

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2014 – 4:45 pm

They say that preseason statistics don’t hold a lot of water, but Buffalo’s defense under Jim Schwartz looks ready for the regular season.

Through four preseason games the Bills defense ranks 11th in red zone defense (50% TD rate), ninth in pass defense (192.5 yds/gm), fourth in total defense (273.5 yds/gm), third in run defense (81 yds/gm) and is first in yards per carry allowed (2.75).

Schwartz’s charges are also 14th in points allowed (20.3), which is the category Buffalo’s new defensive coordinator has at the top of his list. They’re also third in interception rate (4.31%).

Where Schwartz wants his unit focused is on tightening their third down defense. Their conversion percentage allowed of better than 46 percent is not where they want it heading into the regular season.

“That’s a big down for us. That’s something where we must get off the field so we need players smart enough and with good game situation skills and can manage situations like that,” Nickell Robey told Buffalobills.com. “That’s one part of the thing that we have to get in this tune-up game. I feel like tackling is another emphasis that we have to get, stopping the run is the first one because in order to stop the pass you’ve got to stop the run. But getting off on third downs has to happen.”

Buffalo’s defense made corrections in practice this week based largely on some of the failed efforts to stop the third and longs last week against Tampa.


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Schwartz glad to have Graham

Posted by Chris Brown on August 22, 2014 – 10:41 am

Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is pretty happy with a lot of the talent he has on his side of the ball this season. Having reliable players who execute consistently is something every coordinator covets. Schwartz believes he has that in a good number of his player, and confirmed recently that Corey Graham is one of them.

When asked what Graham has brought to the Bills defense Schwartz didn’t hold back.

“A lot. An awful lot. He’s a very good leader, he’s a student of the game,” Schwartz said. “He’s an excellent professional, meaning that he prepares every day. He’s competitive. He plays the ball down the field very well, he’s a good tackler. He’s very assignment sound. He gives coaches a lot of confidence in him. He’s been playing a lot of different positions for us. He’s been playing corner, he’s been playing nickel, he’s been playing dime. Even the last couple days he’s been playing some safety. I mean everything we’ve been giving him he’s done a good job with. I’m very happy to be working with him.”

After the injuries suffered by Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore last year Buffalo wanted to have another veteran corner that could play a lot and play well. McKelvin just suffered a groin injury earlier this week so Graham’s presence is comforting.

This Saturday however, Graham might be lining up at safety having been there in practice all week.


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Run ‘D’ has stymied opponents

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2014 – 1:31 am

It has been a perennial problem since 2005, Buffalo’s run defense. Enter defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who through three preseason games has his first team defense locking down consistently in the run game.

Through three preseason games Buffalo’s first team defense has allowed 30 rushing yards on 18 carries, not counting Landry Jones kneel down at the end of the half. That’s a yards per carry average of 1.66. On Saturday the Steelers power run game managed just 11 yards on seven carries against the Bills first unit.

“I credit a lot to the coaches and the players I really do. Jim (Schwartz) even when he came here and everyone was asking about that if you go back and look at the scheme they run they’ve always been very good against the run,” said Doug Marrone. “There’s another level where there’s three linebackers instead of two or sometimes one or whatever we’ve been in the past. People have been able to make some big plays on us, so we’ve done a good job of keeping that ball inside.

“The players have responded well to it and have done a nice job up front. I think that’s something that we need to continue to do and play well.”


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Run ‘D’ emphasis in practice pays off

Posted by Chris Brown on August 9, 2014 – 2:20 am

The men on Buffalo’s defense weren’t happy with the way the Giants were able to run the ball at times against them in the Hall of Fame game last week. With a short turnaround and just three total practices before Friday night’s game at Carolina defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz set out to make their run defense a top priority. Mission accomplished.

Carolina’s run game was stymied from the get go by Buffalo’s first, second and third defensive unit. The longest run of the game was a quarterback scramble that went for 11 yards. At halftime the Panthers were averaging 1.7 yards per carry and at game’s end they had just 2.9 per rush.

“There was a big emphasis on that,” said Manny Lawson. “We wanted to correct last week moving on to this week. Being consistent more than anything in the run game and it’s one thing we really focused on in practice.”


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Fan Friday 8-8

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

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

Here’s the latest edition of your questions.

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

Thanks for the good work.

Dan Malwitz
Orchard Park

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

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

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

 

2 – Dear Chris,

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

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

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

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

 

3 – Hi Chris,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4 – Chris,

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

-Joe

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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