After almost a week in Arizona I want to believe the Bills are a lot more focused after spending it in isolation in a training camp type atmosphere. We’ll see on Sunday. Now to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net and @ChrisBrownBills on Twitter.
1 - Chris,
I think Chan does a good job on offense of giving a lot of different looks, motion and changing things up. This keeps the defense on their toes and constantly adjusting. I know a lot of fans are frustrated with the Defense and the lack of imagination in play calling. I can’t recall one blitz in the game… it just seemed like we got a little bland in our pass rush schemes against Brady.. the Cardinals beat them with confusing defenses and Brady even admitted to Jay Feely that. Then we go out and rush four linemen every play. Is there any chance we swallow our pride and liven up the pass rush or do we just stay the course?
-Eric (Buffalo, NY)
CB: I think in the wake of the last two losses Dave Wannstedt has no choice, but to “liven it up” as you say. There were a few more blitzes against San Francisco, but they were ill-timed as the 49ers had a run play that went for big yardage on one overload blitz the Bills had in that game. With Mark Anderson out I think it’s on Wannstedt to develop ways to create more consistent pressure especially against a team in the Cardinals that has had major pass protection issues.
2 - Chris
First and foremost thanks for keeping the diehard fans up to speed on the team.
My main question is why isn’t the team blitzing to create some added pressure. Does coach Wannstedt not think we need too? It would seem to benefit us especially in certain situations, and with the coverage were getting out of our defensive backs , should translate to more sacks. I understand our d- line is talented but the blitzes could/ will make us better.
Please advise, thank you
CB: Unfortunately the coverage of the young cornerbacks has not been consistent, so it hasn’t really translated to coverage sacks. There are two approaches a defensive coordinator can take when the corners are inconsistent in coverage. They can either bring everybody and play cover zero (no help for corners) or rush four and drop seven. Obviously the success in dropping seven has been limited at best, in part because the four down linemen haven’t developed consistent pressure.
I think it will really be interesting to see Wannstedt’s approach against Arizona without one of the primary pass rushers in the lineup in Mark Anderson. There could be a noticeable shift in his approach with respect to blitz calls.
3 - Chris,
Since you’re around the team a lot more than the average fan what is your take on team leadership? A number of fan who were at the Patriots game indicated, in their message board posts, that after the Pats tied it up at 21 it looked like the whole team was hanging their head. Do you see any leadership issues? The team does not seem to have a player or coach who will fire the team up or get their heads back in the game. Is there anyone who is a Ray Lewis type who can fire the team up and back up his words with his play?
CB: I don’t believe it is a leadership issue. I believe it is a mental toughness issue. A dozen years of non-playoff football has cultivated a losing culture. Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix have worked very hard to change that culture and have made strides in improving it.
Unfortunately I believe it resurfaced in that loss to New England and was perpetuated even further in the defeat at San Francisco. Both Gailey and Nix said it had to be addressed. Gailey has challenged his team, but as Nix has said it has got to come from the players. There are some emotional leaders on this team like Fred Jackson and George Wilson, but the advantage Ray Lewis has is not only is he the quintessential emotional leader, he has also won… a lot. That carries even more weight.
Re-establishing mental toughness in the throes of a season is a difficult thing to recapture. Personally I think a hard fought victory in a nip and tuck type game is the only remedy for bringing something like that all the way back. Let’s hope it happens.
4 - Chris,
Thanks for all the information and insights. While there is plenty of blame to go around for last weekend’s humiliating loss, perhaps the biggest question on most fans’ minds is what is up with Mario Williams? If ever there was a game when our investment in him needed to pay dividends it was this one. Everyone knows the way to beat the Pats is to get to Brady (nevermind Mario’s lack of run defense along with the rest of our pathetic 8 man front). If Mario was double teamed all day, I might forgive him, but that was rarely the case. Frankly, he looked lethargic on many plays. Can you please offer any insight into why he is not producing as expected. And why is nobody in the media challenging Chan Gailey or Buddy Nix on Williams’ poor performance? Also, why during the post-game press conferences were no defensive players interviewed? I would love Mario to be held accountable and answer to the fans. After all, we’re helping to pay his huge salary.
CB: It’s very hard for me to provide an explanation for Williams’ lack of production. Offensive tackles are capable of handling him one-on-one in a lot of situations thus far this season. Knowing he is a power player more than a speed pass rusher the use of his hands are extremely important to his game. He has even said as much. My suspicion is the wrist ailment he is dealing with is keeping him from effectively using power with his left arm. I’m no expert, but I wonder if he’s essentially playing with one arm out there. Buddy Nix has been asked about Mario’s play and he’s said that four or five games is not enough to pass judgment on a player that has been productive for six years.
I think it’s safe to say that everybody expected more from him. At the same time I don’t know that anybody can live up to that contract. Even if he had all the sack numbers people expected I still wonder if he’d measure up to the deal in people’s eyes. That being said he knows just as well as anyone he’s got to pick up his level of play. He has to be a difference maker.
5 - Chris,
After the New England and San Francisco games do you get a sense that this team psychs themselves out whenever they have a big game? It seems maybe they should try treating every opponent the same instead of putting extra pressure on themselves for the good teams. They seem nervous and at the first sign of trouble it all seems to fall apart. They start the game with a McKelvin punt return TD called back and they never recovered. It’s really disappointing to see this defense play just like it has for the past five years after all the additions and change made at defensive coordinator. I wasn’t able to watch the San Fran game but from what I saw in the highlights everyone looked really worn down maybe even dehydrated. Do you think they didn’t know how to handle the long trip?
CB: I don’t believe it’s a matter of psyching themselves out. I think when adversity strikes the team tightens up and plays tense. It leads to players trying to do too much in an effort to make a play instead of sticking to their assignments and their scheme is compromised. It leads to inefficient or inconsistent execution and there’s a snowball effect. Once things start rolling downhill players only get further discouraged and the rout is on. Trusting in the system and playing loose and confident despite the circumstances is the only way to stem the tide in a game that starts to go the wrong way. The players have to have confidence in the system and in one another and deliver on making plays down in and down out for that to happen.
As for handling the trip, the isolation in Arizona might’ve been just what this football team needed. No distractions and all football. We’ll see if it helps on Sunday.
Tags: Buddy Nix, Chan Gailey, Dave Wannstedt, Fan Friday, Mario Williams, mental toughness
Posted in Inside the Bills
Stevie Johnson appeared on a Sacramento radio station late last week and espoused on several things concerning his career, the 2011 season and the Bills. When asked what led to their seven-game slide out of playoff contention last fall, Johnson couldn’t nail down on thing specifically, but believes there is one area where the team has to absolutely improve as a group.
“I can’t really put my finger on it,” Johnson told 1140 The FAN Sportsradio in Sacramento. ”It’s not from injury or any changes in game plan or what the defense had done. It’s one of those things that happened in a season. Guys were still working hard. We still had guys showing up after practice after three losses and we felt we could still make the playoffs. It’s something that happens and we have to build up some more mental toughness and get over those bad stretches. The good teams they get over it fast. After one loss or two losses they’re already over it, bouncing back and getting those ‘W’s’. So it’s just mental toughness I guess. That’s what we have to work on.”
Johnson believes the collective mental toughness of the Bills just wasn’t strong enough last season and was part of what allowed the losing streak to stretch so long.
Tags: mental toughness, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills