Inside The Bills

Knowing where Watt is

Posted by Chris Brown on December 6, 2015 – 10:08 am

The Bills have a big task in front of them in the form of reigning Defensive Player of the Year and current AFC Defensive Player of the month for November, J.J. Watt. With free reign to line up anywhere across the Texans defensive formation everyone will need to be aware of where he chooses to line up pre-snap. TE Matthew Mulligan, who will probably be offering the offensive tackles help in pass protection and probably run blocking, knows what they’re up against.

“You’re going to feel his presence wherever he is on the field,” said Mulligan. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s savvy too. He’s not just a guy who will beat you with just brute force. He’s a guy who understands the game really well too and you can watch that. You’ve got to be fundamentally sound, everybody has to be on their ‘A’ game and you’ve got to know your assignments too. The second you have to start thinking against a guy like that is the second you get behind and then he’s making plays like he’s done his whole career.

“That’s where practice comes in and you continue to work with your guys. Like it is every week, it’ll take a team effort to play a defense that good and a player of his caliber.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Ryan’s message for Week 1

Posted by Chris Brown on September 11, 2015 – 11:10 am

Rex Ryan addressed the team this week in advance of Week 1, a week that we profiled as a very successful one for Ryan in his time as a head coach in the NFL on Buffalobills.com. TE Matthew Mulligan, who has been with Ryan for a couple of his previous openers, laid out what the message from Rex was this week.

“His message was of confidence, but for me what I took out of it was how we’re one team,” Mulligan told Buffalobills.com. “We are not going to play as individuals. We are going to play as a collective unit and that’s how we’re going to win games this year. We’re going to all buy into one thing and know that it’s for the betterment of the team whatever we’re doing. That to me speaks volumes.

“We can talk about guys on an individual basis. We’ve got some crazy good athletes and players here where you can do that. He doesn’t do that. He’s like, ‘We’re a team. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the top of the roster or the bottom. We’re all part of the 53 and then you have the practice squad guys who are just as important too. But we’re going to work together and that’s how we’re going to win.’’


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-7

Posted by Chris Brown on August 7, 2015 – 11:31 am

We’re a week into training camp and a lot has happened already. Here’s your latest round of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter at @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris,
You and your team do a great job all year long of keep Bills fans on the up and up.

I was wondering what you think the roster will look like when it gets down to 53?  Right now we have several positions with too many players but they are loaded with talent. WR, CB, RB and even QB have to get cut back or we may not have enough depth at other positions.

I know this is a great time to be a Bills fan but I just want to know what our roster will look like.

Thanks for everything,
Justin from Lynchburg VA

CB: I think it’s a bit early to be predicting who makes the 53. Preseason game performance always have a strong influence on who does and does not make the roster. You are right that WR, CB and RB are deep positions. So is the defensive line.

With respect to quarterbacks, knowing the rest of the roster is deep it would not surprise me if the Bills only kept two QBs, a practice a good number of teams in the league subscribe to nowadays.

How many WRs are kept could hinge on other positions like TE and RB. Defense might prove tough at the safety position where there are a handful of legitimate NFL caliber talents.

Just remember that it’s GM Doug Whaley that has final say on the 53-man roster, while coach Ryan determines who is up or down on game days.

 

2 – Hi Chris:

2014 seems like a lost season for EJ. Aside from what he has said about being more aggressive and trusting his stuff the next chance he gets, what did he learn by sitting and watching? I sure wish he had 12 more games under his belt going into this season.
G. Knight

CB: There are some things that he did learn by watching Kyle Orton prepare for opponents each week. He also learned how to lead an offensive unit from a confident veteran. Manuel specifically said that he learned from Orton how to more efficiently spend his time preparing for an opponent.

He learned what is worth spending extra time on and what isn’t. Unfortunately what happened last year with EJ was supposed to be how his rookie year was to play out. Kolb was supposed to start while EJ sat and learned. Kolb’s preseason concussion derailed all that and EJ was thrown into the fire.

Then he was told to play conservatively by the previous coaching staff last year. Even Doug Whaley admits with the way everything played out it has put Manuel  a bit behind where he should be entering his third season, but you can’t fix the past.

Manuel has to make the most of this opportunity to win the starting job now.

 

3 – Chris,
As much as the Bills need numbers at the tight end position, they currently have two very effective fullbacks in Felton and Conner. Do you think that there’s a chance that the team keeps both of them, using them in a mixed tight end/fullback role occasionally?

Thanks,
Joseph P.

CB: I’ll have coach Ryan answer this one for you regarding two fullbacks.

“I think first off when we got Felton, Jerome was…I thought he was probably, he’s right up there with the best fullbacks in the game,” said Ryan. “So it was an opportunity for us to get a player that we will use, a fullback positon, and one of the top guys if not the top in this league. So it was great opportunity for us to get him.

“John, we weren’t planning on bringing John Conner in. However when he was still out there, it’s like I know he’s a good football player and we want (good football players). At the end of the day were not worried necessarily about hey we’re bringing in one fullback, going to bring this or this. We want the best 53, and I think John will challenge for a position on this team and that’s why we brought him in.”

 

4 – Hey Chris ,

I’ll keep it short & sweet ! What’s the chance (in your mind) of the Bills being with out their Dr. of Defense “MD” Marcell Dareus after this year ?

Thanks Mr. T

CB: We just covered this topic on Buffalobills.com Wednesday. GM Doug Whaley said he’s optimistic they’ll get a deal done with Dareus on an extension to keep him in a Bills uniform. He felt similarly optimistic about getting a deal done with Jerry Hughes.

I think what we have to keep in mind is this is going to be a complicated deal because of the amount of money involved and how it needs to be structured over the multiple years of the deal (e.g. – front loaded money, guaranteed money, bonuses, LTBE incentives, etc.).

 

5 – CB,

Can you break down how the tight ends are playing and lining up during training camp? I’ve heard little about Clay/O’Leary so far. Do you expect them to keep 4 tight ends? Can we expect to watch 3 tight ends sets?

CB: I can tell you that Charles Clay is beginning to show a bit more with each passing day, especially in the passing game. O’Leary hasn’t been much of a factor in the pass game, but I do like Marqueis Gray. I think he’s the best understudy option to Clay in terms of being as versatile as Clay.

Matthew Mulligan is more athletic than he gets credit for and is a pretty good in line blocker. As for formations and personnel groupings we’re less than a week into camp and with as voluminous as Greg Roman’s playbook is the tight ends are only beginning to scratch the surface of what they’re going to be called upon to do this season.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

TE group still jumbled behind Clay

Posted by Chris Brown on August 7, 2015 – 9:25 am

The Bills tight end contingent has its share of talent, but in terms of how the depth chart falls behind starter Charles Clay it’s still pretty muddled through the first week of training camp.

Head coach Rex Ryan likes the group, but it’s likely going to take the preseason games for some players at that position to make a case for themselves.

“It’s going pretty good. There are guys with a lot of ability there,” said Ryan. “We have some guys that can run, guys that can catch and guys that can block. So there’s a good combination. You’re right you’re going to have to earn it to get playing time on the field. It’s a deep group.”

One player that Ryan likes chiefly for his blocking ability is Matthew Mulligan, who he had when he was coaching with the Jets.

“I don’t know if you can say perfect blocking tight end, but he’s pretty darn good,” said Ryan. “He is a big physical guy; he’s close to 280 pounds, strong as an ox, dead lifts like 600-something pounds. If you ask him, he’ll tell you exactly, its 653 pounds. You know, one of those guys. Big old meathead guy. He’s a great kid from Maine, I had him with the Jets, and we lost a lot when (he wasn’t on the roster anymore). His presence of a blocker is pretty big.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-24

Posted by Chris Brown on July 24, 2015 – 12:17 pm

Less than a week until Bills training camp. Get ready Rochester! Here’s your latest round of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter at @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Do you really need a franchise QB to win the Super Bowl? I refer you to Brad Johnson of the Tampa Bay Bucs. The team went 9-7 the year before, had a new coach and went on to win super Bowl 37. Thoughts on any similarities to the current Bills?

CB: To answer the first question it certainly helps to have a franchise QB to win a Super Bowl because most teams with one are perennially in contention for a championship. Yes, there are Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer examples, but they are few in number.

What Super Bowl-winning QBs, who were a bit better than Johnson and Dilfer, but might not be considered elite like Phil Simms, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson reinforce is that you need a top flight defense if you don’t have the All-Pro QB.

As for similarities I again point to the defense. Tampa’s Super Bowl-winning defense was number one in the league in total yards allowed, points allowed, touchdowns allowed and passing yards allowed. They were also fifth against the run and tied for sixth in sacks. Buffalo’s defense would likely have to put up a similar type of season this year.

 

2 – Hi Chris, as always, you do a great job covering the Buffalo Bills.

My question is concerning the possible cut of Fred Jackson. I just feel from a depth standpoint, the Bills need to hang onto him. Obviously, LeSean McCoy will get the bulk of the workload, but Fred Jackson is still a good runner, and excellent pass catcher. If Shady McCoy is injured, you need a proven starter. I’m not sure Bryce Brown, Boobie Dixon or Karlos Williams are ready.

If this is a run heavy scheme, you need a good backup to keep things moving.

Your thoughts,

Tony Falzone,
Ormond Beach, Fl

CB: I feel pretty good about Fred Jackson being on the roster this season. You’re right he is a good insurance policy for McCoy, but more critical to his job security is his effectiveness in pass protection. None of the other running backs, aside from McCoy, come close to his pass protection reads and ability and that makes him valuable for this offense.

Now if one of the other backs suddenly demonstrates a vast improvement in pass protection I suppose that could change things, but I’m not anticipating that knowing it’s another new offensive scheme this season under Greg Roman.

 

3 – Chris,

I’m very skeptical of the group of QB’s for the Bills this season, and I’d hate to waste a great defensive season, so are there any guys out there like Kyle Orton was last year that the Bills could bring in if things don’t pan out? Or are the Bills going to just play this QB competition out…?  Thanks for your great work Chris!

Sean from California

CB: I understand and respect your skepticism, but there is not a lot out there right now to choose from. Michael Vick is the biggest name out there, but I don’t see Rex Ryan going down that road again after having him with the Jets.

I honestly do not see the Bills looking to add another quarterback unless there is an unexpected release during the preseason or some unforeseen trade option surfaces like the LeSean McCoy deal did in the spring.

 

 

4 – Hello Chris:

Thanks for all the 24/7 365 day coverage. I’m a lifelong fan of 55 years born in Kenmore N.Y. now in SLC.

Just a quick question. With our situation on the O-Line, I sure would love to see Evan Mathis in Red White and Blue.

Are we in the running at all? Do we even have the cap space? Are we even trying? Other than questions at QB I see this as our only week spot.

Thanks again,
Jon SLC, UT.

GO BILLS, DIVISION WINNERS 2015

CB: Evan Mathis hasn’t signed anywhere because his asking price is too high. Who blinks first, an NFL club or Mathis remains to be seen.

At this point I think the Bills are relatively comfortable with their guard situation with Incognito and rookie John Miller as the projected starters. Kraig Urbik is the center-guard swing player and there’s some youth in reserve.

If the Bills are going to add anywhere on the offensive line it’s going to be at offensive tackle where they have just four true OTs. Buffalo currently has one roster spot open.

 

5 – Hi Chris!

As a life-of-the franchise long Bills fan, I have always wanted to know more about the newer players.. those who must fight to get a roster or practice squad position. Look at the 90-man roster, there are some I know virtually nothing about.

I am keenly interested this year in our tight ends. At this moment, we have 7 on the roster. I feel certain that 3 or 4 will be on the 3-man roster, and 1 or 2 on the practice squad. I believe that Clay, O’Leary and Gray are virtual locks, with Gragg or Mulligan as possibilities. In that regard, in your opinion, do Marquise Gray and Chris Gragg have basically the same skill set or might they somewhat complement each other?  Also, Clay Burton seems to have impressed to this point..might he have a slight edge over Gragg for the 53-man roster? He has a larger frame and might offer more room to develop.

Finally, I am intrigued by Chris Manhertz. Does he show enough potential to warrant a spot on the practice squad? If not the practice squad, is there an alternative system whereby he might continue to learn the position and then return next year for another go?

Thanks for the time you have taken in reading this. Have an abundantly blessed day!

Dr. Gary

ps….One of my close work associates is a very loyal Virginia Tech man…very hyped about Tyrod Taylor!

 

CB: Marqueis Gray and Chris Gragg do not have the same skill set. Gragg’s body type is longer and lankier than Gray, who has a bit wider and thicker frame.

Gray’s greatest asset in the tight end competition is his versatility. He can line up in the backfield as a fullback. He can be a move tight end, an H-back, line up detached or in line, though that’s the part he’s probably working on the most. This will help him in the competition because it caters to a lot of what Greg Roman needs from his tight ends.

Gragg has worked hard on his blocking, but his strength is lining up detached. He’s got great straight line speed. I just don’t know if his skill set is as diversified as Gray’s.

Matthew Mulligan was signed for one reason, his blocking. The tight end position didn’t have a dominant blocker among them until Mulligan signed. Knowing how much Greg Roman incorporates tight ends into his blocking schemes in the run game I think is a major plus for Mulligan’s chances of sticking on the 53-man roster.

As for how many tight ends make the 53, I believe there’s a good chance they keep four knowing how much Roman calls on them in his offensive scheme.

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-10

Posted by Chris Brown on July 10, 2015 – 12:14 pm

Our training camp countdown is on! Here’s your latest round of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter at @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

My question to you is lately the Bills have brought in guys i.e. Wayne Hunter, Matthew Mulligan to add to our depth. In your opinion do these guys have a chance to make the team or are they just filling positions because we are running basically two teams in practice now.

I know Rex likes his ex-players and both have a history with him. It appears Seantrel Henderson is losing ground on his position and is it possible that Hunter was signed because the coaches don’t like what they see in Henderson?

Also we cut Lee Smith who was basically a blocking tight end and now we bring in Matthew Mulligan essentially the same type player is there a concern that the tight ends on the roster outside of Charles Clay can block effectively? We have had Chris Gragg the last few years and he has not impressed as either a receiving or blocking tight end.   Would love to hear your thoughts and again thanks for all you do for us!!! Let’s Go Buffalo!!!!

Donald F.

CB: The signings of Hunter and Mulligan are for very specific roles. Not leading roles mind you, but roles where Rex Ryan wants a veteran player he feels he can trust. Hunter is a player who struggled as a full-time starting right tackle in his last season with the Jets, but as a jack-of-all-trades role player in 2009 and 2010 for the Jets, Hunter excelled as a swing tackle (first off bench in event of injury), a blocking tight end in jumbo and short yardage packages and even as a defensive tackle in goal line formations.

Mulligan will serve in a blocking capacity as well. So you know Lee Smith wasn’t cut. He was a free agent and got big money from Oakland. Buffalo wasn’t going to pay Smith upwards of $3M a year. Mulligan is a reliable veteran blocker and is a much better value.

 

2 – Hey Chris,

I watched your 1 on 1 interview with Greg Roman and I found it interesting when he said that whichever QB is in there on game day will be the franchise QB in his opinion.  I was curious of your reaction and thoughts to that?  That’s a pretty bold statement.  Do you think that one of these 3 guys just may have shown something in OTA’s and minicamp for him to say that?   I also thought maybe he just meant that when one of these guys shows he can understand and fully command Romans offense then it means he is Romans “franchise guy”?   Whatever it means I am very confident in Roman and whoever he chooses to be the guy.

Go Bills!
Jillian

CB: I didn’t interpret Roman’s comment as an indication that one of the three QBs showed him franchise QB ability. If that was the case the guy would be the starter already.

I think he was simply saying when one of the QBs separates himself from the others that he will be the franchise guy because he’ll be the starter. That being said, depending on that QB’s performance who the starter is could be subject to change. Let’s just hope whoever wins the job performs well enough and consistently enough to hold the job for the whole season.

 

3 – Hey Chris

Want to start off by saying thanks for the great work you put in.  Keeping us all updated on the team for us not in the Buffalo area.

My first question is about EJ.  I can’t say I was a big fan of us drafting him first round overall. That being said I think he is working hard.  I would like to see him get a real shoot this year. I know this is an all in season for the bills. With all the free agent adds. So I get why they are trying to have so much competition but I feel he needs to get a full season in. He wasn’t that bad last year.  Don’t get me wrong he wasn’t that good either.

I feel with all the competition going on can be a bad thing as well. I feel whoever wins the job we need to stick with regardless and not switch guys after a few bad games. The whole team gets hurt this way since none of the QBs are the same style.

My second question is about Fred Jackson.  They keep talking about cutting him. I think that would be the dumbest moves we make this year. I think he works hard and he makes plays but more importantly he is a captain and a leader.  I think we need that more than anything with all these high profiled playmakers on the offense side of the ball.  I think he might be our best shot of these guys playing as a team.

CB: As I stated in the above answer the ideal situation is that the QB who wins the starting role holds onto it the whole season. That means he’ll be performing consistently and effectively and that’s good for the offense. You’re right there are contrasting styles between the three, so keeping that position consistent with the same person helps the other 10 players on offense.

As for Fred Jackson, I think the things working in his favor more than anything else are his leadership and his pass protection. LeSean McCoy might be the only back on this roster who knows how to pass protect as well as him. If you can’t trust a guy to pick up blitzes and make pre-snap adjustments to be in position to protect your QB, you can’t put that guy on the field.

The offensive coaches can trust Fred. I think the only thing that puts his job in jeopardy is if he struggles to get through camp and perhaps looks a step slow. Knowing how well he takes care of his body I don’t see that happening.

 

4 – @ChrisBrownBills

With an unsure O-line (although I think they will surprise us) isn’t Tyrod Taylor the smart choice? #bills #ScrambleFactor

Dustypractor

CB: I think your premise is a bit of an oversimplification. Offensive coaches will base their starting QB decision on a myriad of factors that will go far beyond the protection capabilities of the men up front. I think the offensive line’s pass protection would have to represent a jail break on every pass play in the preseason to move this kind of factor high enough on the priority list in why they choose one QB over another.

 

5 – Hey Chris,
Thank you for keeping us Bills fans well informed, you are doing a great job, keep up the good work.

Now my question may be the same old song, but as fans it is very important to us; The Quarterback Position. With the three QBs splitting reps with the first team, does that give enough time for the #1 guy to develop a relationship with the WRs, TEs, and the backfield?

Also since none of them have set themselves apart from the others, does that mean that the coaches aren’t pleased with any of them or are all 3 looking that good? Everyone hoped that Matt Cassel would come in and at least get it done for this year. Since he does not have a contract extension yet, is that saying anything about how he is doing? Thank you
Ken
Lancaster, NY

CB: Your first question is a valid concern. Rex Ryan has said that he will take as long as he needs to pick the right guy. I don’t question for a second that picking the right guy is the most important factor in all of this. A close second however, is making a decision that leaves enough time to get that starter ready for the regular season.

With all three splitting reps it inadvertently compromises the on field chemistry between the QB and the 10 other starters on offense. After witnessing Kyle Orton step right in last year with no preseason or training camp snaps perhaps it’s not as big a deal as some might think.

But with a new offensive system as varied as Greg Roman’s, deciding on a starter with a preseason game or two left on the schedule would be ideal because it should afford the starter enough time to get fully in tune with the rest of the starting unit.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

TE Mulligan doesn’t mind journeyman label

Posted by Chris Brown on June 19, 2015 – 9:59 am

Bills newest TE Matthew Mulligan, who signed Thursday, has been with seven different NFL clubs in seven NFL seasons (practice squad year in Miami). He was with three teams last year alone, as he spent time with Arizona, Chicago and Tennessee. But if you ask Mulligan if he’s bothered by that he’s not. He doesn’t mind being called a journeyman.

In an appearance on the John Murphy Show Thursday night, Mulligan explained why he’s got no problem with a resume that has a lot of NFL clubs on it.

“It is a lot (of teams), but I’m thankful for it,” he said. “I think if it was only my second year you might think what’s going on, but in order to be a journeyman and be in your eighth year like me you have to actually have some quality play. I’m thankful for every spot I’ve been in. It’s molded and shaped me and I’m thankful to be here now.”

Mulligan believes a lot of of NFL teams in the early stages of the offseason look for tight ends that offer more “flash and dash” and can score points by making plays. Then as training camp draws closer they realize they need more of a blue collar mentality at tight end.

“Once teams gets to offseason practices or training camps teams seem to realize that they need somebody who can set the edge,” said Mulligan. “That’s what I’ve hung my hat on my entire career. Just being able to fight with those outside linebackers and those big defensive ends and I’ve been able to hold my own and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

Mulligan, who spent his first three seasons in the league on the field under Rex Ryan, explained what it is about his personal game that he thinks appeals to Ryan.

“I think Rex Ryan just wants a guy who can get his hands dirty and be physical,” Mulligan said. “That’s one of Rex’s mantras. You better be physical and bring your lunch pail every day. The physicality of my game is one of the things that stood out for him.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills