Just one draft choice left to sign for the Bills in WR T.J. Graham. Let’s get to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net for the latest installment.
1 - Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled about the Mario Williams signing. I think if he can stay healthy, we get the Fitzpatrick from the first half of the season, and the rest of the team stays reasonably healthy (which, however, has unfortunately been a problem in recent years), this team can win 9-11 games next year and challenge for a Wild Card spot (I still think they’ve got a ways to go to catch the Patriots for the division crown). Especially since their schedule doesn’t appear to be especially challenging. However, I am worried about Williams’ health. He of course missed almost all of last year after landing on injured reserve in Week 5 after he tore his pec on a play where I’ve watched it a million times and I’m still not quite sure how he hurt himself, and he also missed the last few games of the previous season. Although I don’t believe he missed any time before that in his career, from what I’ve heard it sounds like he was still often playing through injuries, and sometimes it would effect his play negatively. Is he starting to wear down? How concerned should we be about the injury risk of our prized free agent signing?
CB: For those that don’t know Williams tore his pec while sacking Jason Campbell. The injury required surgery to repair the damage and as a defensive lineman playing with a torn pectoral muscle is pretty much impossible. Aside from missing 11 games in 2011, Williams has missed a grand total of three others in his six-year career. So he’s been available on game day for 82 out of 96 games.
Perhaps what’s most important to note is the guy is more than willing to play hurt. That was made obvious in 2010. He had a hernia injury that he played with from the start of the season and didn’t shut it down until Week 15, missing the final three games of the season. Oh and by the way he still had 8.5 sacks playing with a hernia.
At age 27 Williams is entering his prime. His body is not breaking down.
2 - CB,
What is the outlook for Mike Jasper? Will the big man see the field or remain on practice squad? He is certainly an interesting/intriguing player.
CB: For Jasper there is more competition on hand. Already behind vets like Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart and Andy Levitre on the depth chart, Buffalo also draft C/G prospect Mark Asper and have Colin Brown, Jake Vermiglio and Keith Williams, who are on par with Jasper at the guard spot.
In addition Jasper has to work harder than most to keep his weight in check, so he’s battling competition and his own weight. We’ll see how he looks in OTAs coming up, but it’s going to be an uphill battle considering who is in front of him on the depth chart.
3 - Chris,
How does Aaron Williams figure into the competition? Can he be a starter? Is Gilmore going to play opposite of him eventually? Thanks!
Chris in Binghamton
CB: Yes, Aaron Williams can be a starter. In fact I envision him taking over the starting left cornerback role. I talked to him about it just this week, which I touched on in my Friday story on Buffalobills.com. That partly due to the fact that Terrence McGee coming off a patella tendon injury is still working his way back.
As for Gilmore he’s the odds on favorite to land the right cornerback job. Top 10 picks are expected to be on the field early and play a lot.
4 - Hi Chris,
With a complete off-season this year what type of impact does the team expect from Brad Smith? I believe Coach had stated it would take him some time to integrate Brad Smith into the offense. Will the Wildcat still have an impact in the NFL or has it’s time passed?
CB: You’re right Coach Gailey did feel with a full offseason that he would be able to incorporate more plays into the offense to take advantage of Smith’s talent. I think the Wildcat package will represent a good part of that, especially with QBs coach David Lee on board now. He was the assistant that brought the Wildcat from college to the pros as an assistant in Miami.
So if there are variations to implement off the straight Wildcat the Bills coaches will have them drawn up for Smith. The only question is how much of a presence will Brad Smith plays have in the game plan week to week?
A lot of that could depend on the opponent more than anything else.
5 - Hi Chris,
Thanks for all the off-season updates. I was wondering if the Bills have pursued Marcus McNeill as a candidate to fill the hole at LT. He’s definitely a proven LT in this league and his size fits the Buddy Nix prototypical offensive lineman, plus I think he drafted McNeill. At this point I was wondering if it is problem with the cap space or if the staff thinks Hairston can step in and protect Fitz for a whole season.
John in Fredonia
CB: I wouldn’t be surprised if Bills GM Buddy Nix, who did have a hand in drafting Marcus McNeill, was monitoring McNeill’s health this offseason. He’s had back and knee problems and missed half the season last year with a neck injury. That’s giving teams pause in pursuing him because coming out of college he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal column.
His agent claimed that McNeill was cleared by a back and spine specialist in mid-March, but teams will want to use their own doctors to make their own assessment.
If Chris Hairston and Cordy Glenn struggle mightily at left tackle in the preseason, I suppose McNeill could surface as an option if he was still on the market. But it’s hard to pin down whether he is too great an injury risk to sign.
Tags: Aaron Williams, Brad Smith, Fan Friday, Marcus McNeill, Mario Williams, Mike Jasper
Posted in Inside the Bills
In the wake of the NFL draft here is the latest edition of your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net. Let’s get to it.
1 – Hi Chris
I enjoy reading your articles and blog -thanks for the insight into 1 Bills Drive.
After listening to Buddy & the guys discuss the draft, I had a question on how the Bills categorize players and stack their board. Typically, most draft websites or mock drafters grade and rack players based on their position – for example, CB or WR.
But NFL teams really use players in specialist roles – X,Y, and Z receiver; slot DB vs boundary CB; dime OLB vs rush OLB; etc.
I’m wondering if Buffalo categorizes and stacks their draft board based on these specialist roles or if they stack them based on the position? How does this impact how they run their draft – I assume if they need a dime DB, they are going to look at the highest rated one left on their board, as opposed to a higher rated boundary CB to fill that need?
Tim from Syracuse
CB: No, the Bills rank players with an overall board regardless of position by round. They also have a board that ranks all the players by position, but where they might fit within that position, ‘X’ receiver for example or slot CB is taking into account with their evaluation.
I think it’s fair to assume that a cornerback that can play on the boundary is going to have a higher grade than a CB that can only play in the slot. So the player evaluation of strengths, weaknesses and versatility and limitations properly rank the players and remove the need to further categorize rankings into specialty roles.
2 – Hi Chris,
I was wondering why the Bills have not kicked the tires on Marcus McNeill. He has the size that Buddy Nix covets, he was at one point considered an elite LT in this league, there is that San Diego connection, he is only 28, and I wouldn’t think the price would be too high at this point in the free agency game. So why not? Injuries? I know he had a neck issue but we could at least give him a physical. Was there a drop-off in his skill set that I am not aware of? I would think it would be worth it to bring him in for a visit/workout and see what he could bring to the table, and it would allow us to look at other positions early in the draft if he is healthy.
Thanks for your time!
CB: It is an injury issue with the neck problem as you point out. I believe knowing that Nix was directly responsible in drafting McNeill for the Chargers, that if there’s a chance for McNeill to be medically cleared for football again that Nix will be one of the first to know. In fact it wouldn’t shock me if Nix checks in with McNeill’s agent periodically for updates on the OT’s status. That’s not to say that they want to sign him, but you always monitor potential options that you believe can be a fit for your team.
3 – Hey Chris,
Last year you guys had cameras in the draft room during the first several rounds and posted a video chronicling the thought process of Buddy and the scouts as the pics/rounds developed. I thought this was incredibly insightful and interesting to watch so is there any chance of this happening again this year?
Andrew in Tonawanda.
CB: I’m happy to tell you that we will again have a video presentation of how Buffalo came to make their first three picks. It will air next week on Buffalobills.com. We’ll be sure to give you a heads up as to when it’s posted in the media center. I’m looking forward to it because I believe you fans will really enjoy it. Good behind the scenes material.
4 – Chris,
GM Nix & Company did a great job in free Agency landing two (2) pass rushing DE in Mario & Mark
Like the draft adding +2 Corners, +2 OTs and +2 LBs
Had on my draft wish list
CB- Stephon Gilmore
OT – Cordy Glenn
LB – Nigel Bradham
LB – Tank Carder
I know TJ Graham is a speed burner, but is he going to be durable to play an O/S WR for 16 games ? If you’re on IR doesn’t matter how fast you are.
In the 6th round I would have loved to have seen the Bills draft QB BJ Coleman as a developmental QB, perhaps challenging Thigpen for # 2, Bills waited to long on that move and the Packers took him in the 7th. Not sold on Thigpen to come in and move this team if needed.
CB: I think that is something we’re just going to have to wait and see. We all know that cornerbacks in the NFL are far more physical than in college. The Bills believe in Graham’s ability to handle an outside role, so I think everyone needs to wait and see what he can do when we get to training camp and the bodies start banging.
As for a developmental QB, you’re not alone. There are a lot of Bills fans that wanted a project QB to be drafted. But they’ve got Aaron Corp coming in and they’re pursuing free agent options, though there doesn’t appear to be anything imminent coming down the pike on Vince Young.
But I think the Bills will live up to what they always say they do, which is they’ll always look to make an upgrade at any position and if they can they do it.
5 – Hey Chris , I’m happy with the draft this year, we filled the needs that we needed at LT,LB , DB, LT was a big need for us and we did get Huge LT that are going to improve by working with Mario and Mark Anderson,,,,One question for you round four if the Redskins didn’t take Kurt Cousins do you think the Bills had him in their sights,,?
CB: I know they did like Kirk Cousins, but when you consider what they landed in the fourth and fifth rounds it’s hard to argue with the talent they accumulated. Cousins I think can be a nice player, but they need players that are going to help their depth on the field early. Cousins would not be that, so I think that’s why they grabbed players like Bradham, Brooks and Sanders and Carder. Players that will line up on special teams, possible subpackage roles on defense (Brooks) and challenge for a swing tackle role (Sanders).
Tags: 2012 NFL draft, Buddy Nix, Fan Friday, Kirk Cousins, Marcus McNeill, Vince Young
Posted in Inside the Bills
The home opener is here. I think the Bills have a good chance to get off on the right foot Sunday, but first your questions. Remember AskChris@bills.nfl.net if you’ve got any questions of your own.
1 – Chris,
Do you think that Ed Wang will get any significant playing time this season at LT based on his performance in training camp although it was cut quite short?
Thanks Mr. T
CB: I think 2010 is going to be a learning year for Wang. I don’t anticipate him stepping in and playing any appreciable time on the offensive line this year. He’s still 2-3 weeks away from having full use of his hand after thumb surgery. Building strength back into the hand will take time after that. There’s a good chance he might not be game ready until almost midway through the season.
So with all that time missed I think he’s going to find it difficult to get on the field barring a rash of injuries in his rookie year.
2 - How good do you think the team is compared to last year?? I suppose the Dolphins opener will be revealing.
CB: I think these are the areas where this team will be better this season. I think they will be fundamentally sound and execute plays more consistently. I think they will not beat themselves with unforced errors like pre-snap penalties. I think they will be mentally and physically tougher due in part to their rigorous training camp. And I believe they will score significantly more points this season than they did a season ago.
All that being said we have to remember that with new offensive, defensive and special teams schemes, they will take time to get rolling. The players will do their level best to play fast right out of the gate, but the speed of regular season play demands that players react, not think and react. Getting accustomed to executing their new schemes at regular season game speed consistently will be the challenge. If they can get to that point sooner than later they’ll be in decent shape.
3 – Chris:
Why don’t the Bills try and make a trade for Charger hold out LT – Marcus McNeil. This would provide a solid LT and Bell could be moved to RT.
I have been a die-hard Bills fan since the Joe Ferguson/ Chuck Knox era, and making the trip back into Buffalo for the season opener against the Fins. I believe the Bills are going to pull off the upset. It would be a great start for the Chan Gailey era to knock off the Fins and come out of the gates with a divisional win.
Let’s GO Buffalo!
CB: I think ultimately that the Chargers and McNeill will get a deal done. They’re not going to get rid of a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle that’s just hitting his prime. Don’t get me wrong, he’d be a great acquisition, I just don’t see the Chargers parting ways with him.
4 - Hey Chris,
Do you go on Twitter at all? Would love to follow your up to date news on the Buffalo Bills.
Enjoy your blog a lot.
CB: I spend most of my time following Bills players on twitter, but I do not tweet. However, we do have a twitter presence. Here is the link to our website twitter handle. http://twitter.com/buffalobillscom
There you can find links to all the latest content at the website, but only occasionally do they re-post my blogs. But you folks can re-tweet my blog posts when you view them. There’s a little tweet button at the bottom of each blog, so you can share them with whoever you want.
5 - Hi Chris, based on the last two preseason games, the Bills offense seems to have improved, but how about the defense? It seems that Indianapolis and Cincinnati were able to move the ball with relative ease on the first string defense. Is there cause for concern?
Tony, Daytona Beach.
CB: I think we all have to realize that it’s going to take playing in regular season games before a lot of these starters that are new to the 3-4 are going to feel comfortable where they’re just out there playing instead of thinking. This scheme is a dramatic shift from what they’ve played the past four years. It appears to me that players are still thinking and then reacting, instead of just reacting. Reps in regular season games will help to bridge that gap between thought and action, which is why Chan Gailey calls the defensive transition a work in progress.
Tags: 3-4 defense, Ed Wang, Fan Friday, Marcus McNeill, Twitter
Posted in Inside the Bills
Chargers restricted free agent LT Marcus McNeill let the June 15th deadline to sign his qualifying tender come and go and now is not required to play for San Diego until after Week 10 of the 2010 season.
Chargers GM A.J. Smith spoke Tuesday as if he was fully expecting his team to play without McNeill’s services this fall in light of what failed to happen.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune McNeill is hoping to come to an agreement on a long term contract extension or be traded, but the paper reports that neither are likely to happen.
Tags: Marcus McNeill
Posted in Inside the Bills
OTAs are more than half over then a mandatory minicamp and it’s break time before training camp. Remember questions can be emailed to AskChris@bills.nfl.net. Now to your questions.
1 – Hi Chris,
I have a question about injured reserve. Players like Demetrius Bell and Eric Wood finished the year on the IR.
Are they technically still on IR? Can they stay on IR and NOT count against the 80 man roster until they are “activated” (or do IR exemptions only apply to the 53 man roster?) Do players on IR have to be activated by July 29th / start of training camp?
CB: After the Super Bowl is over there is a period of time in February where players are removed from the injured reserve list. At this point in time, provided they are still under contract with the club they count toward the team’s 80-man offseason roster limit. Leaving them on injured reserve is not an option.
If however, they are unable to pass a physical prior to the start of training camp they would be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list at which point they would count as a player on the roster unless they were designated as Reserve-PUP like James Hardy was last summer.
2 - Hi Chris, How do you see the 3-4 defense faring during the season? Do you think that Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel will make the most of their new roles as outside linebackers? Turning to offense: How do you see the Bills offense performing during the season barring injury? The addition of C. J. Spiller and Marcus Easley helps, but will it be enough? I will look forward to your answer.
Tony, Daytona Beach, Florida
CB: Well at this point it’s hard to determine what Chris Kelsay is capable of at his new position. I think we’ll get a better handle on that at training camp. Aaron Schobel is a big ‘if’ because he’s leaning toward retirement. That means players like Aaron Maybin, Chris Ellis, Reggie Torbor and Danny Batten will be the other candidates.
I like the way Batten has moved in space. He’s better than I thought he’d be at this point knowing he too is switching from a defensive end position. Ellis has some potential and Torbor is a veteran. Maybin I envision playing a big role on passing downs.
With respect to the offense I think Chan Gailey is going to need to be very creative to get chunk yardage plays this year. I believe we’ll see a heavy emphasis on running the ball because to this point no quarterback has definitively demonstrated that they deserve the starting job.
I believe Spiller and Easley will both contribute as rookies, Spiller more so right away, but Easley has been impressive in spring camps. We’ll see if that continues when the pads go on in late July.
3 – Hey Chris,
I’m confused about why the Bills don’t make more of an effort to get Gaither from the Ravens to put at LT and then sign Flozell Adams and have him play RT. I really think that would be a wise choice, because then we could see what our QB’s on the current roster really have to offer. So what if it is for 1yr at least next yr we would know what direction to go in the draft. If the guys on the current roster couldn’t produce with a that front unit then we would know we need to get new QB’s. But if they perform well then we would know we need to build up the line more in next yrs draft.
Garrett from PA.
CB: First of all no one really knows what kind of effort has been put together by the Bills to land a veteran left tackle via trade. Gaither has been the subject of trade talks according to reports and many suspect the Bills. Gaither however, has a history of not being the most dedicated player. It’s unclear if that is enough of a red flag to dissuade the Bills from pursuing him.
I understand your point of improving the tackles to gain a better assessment of the quarterbacks. It’s a valid argument. I just get the feeling that the Bills intend to build this thing steadily and not fill holes with quick fixes that may or may not work.
4 - I have noticed that Marcus McNeill has not signed his RFA tender yet. I have not seen any news out of SD with regard to this, is he not happy? I was wondering if it is worth Buffalo giving up a 1st and a 3rd next year for someone who is a ProBowl caliber OT who could fill the position for years to come with out the potential baggage that Baltimore’s Gauthier seems to have with work ethic and feet. What are your thoughts?
CB: As I blogged earlier this week McNeill and the Chargers are at a bit of standoff. McNeill believes his Pro Bowl resume makes him deserving of a long term contract. The problem is San Diego already has a handful of high-priced players and seemed to be inclined to bide their time in giving McNeill an extension, hoping he would sign his one-year restricted tender so they could buy another year before handing out the big money, especially with some labor uncertainty.
The Chargers have reportedly threatened to reduce his tender amount on June 15th, something they’re permitted to do under league rules by 110%. So his salary for 2010 would go from $2.4M to $583K. But word is McNeill is willing to hold out to get what he feels he deserves. San Diego has signed veteran tackle Tra Thomas in case McNeill stands firm in his position.
Whether they would trade a young, talented player I believe would depend on how contentious this stand off gets. The Bills could use a proven left tackle and not only is McNeill familiar with Buddy Nix from his time with the Chargers, but there are two former college teammates on the Bills roster in Spencer Johnson and Reggie Torbor. It’s a situation that bears watching no doubt.
5 - Chris,
Aaron Maybin appears to have the right work ethic to be successful with the Bills. I think he was a victim of coaches last year, that never gave him a chance. How do you see Maybin being utilize in the 3-4 defense and will he live up to his potential as 1st round pick?
William, Schenectady, NY
CB: Maybin himself has said he has some adjustments to make in the Bills new 3-4 scheme. His responsibilities are different and more varied in this system. I think it’s safe to expect him to have a more prominent role in terms of the pass rush. He’ll definitely be on the field on any passing downs, but this staff may choose to play stouter ends on run downs. It’s something that we’ll have to keep an eye on through the preseason games.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, C.J. Spiller, Chris Kelsay, Demetrius Bell, Eric Wood, Fan Friday, Jared Gaither, Marcus Easley, Marcus McNeill
Posted in Inside the Bills
San Diego restricted free agent left tackle Marcus McNeill has yet to sign his qualifying tender offer, and now if he doesn’t by June 15th, the Chargers are reportedly leaning toward cutting his tender offer back significantly.
Under league rules, the Chargers have the right to reduce McNeill’s tender by 110 percent if he does not sign by June 15th. Due more than $3.1 million his figure would drop to $583K. If he continues to hold out, one wonders if McNeill would demand a trade to another club in need of a left tackle, not that it’s his choice.
Buffalo’s situation at left tackle is anything but set in stone at this point, and McNeill has a familiarity with Bills GM Buddy Nix.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, McNeill is willing to sit out and wait as he’s seeking a long term deal. It certainly bears watching as June 15th fast approaches.
Tags: Marcus McNeill
Posted in Inside the Bills