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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Tags: Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jarius Wynn, Jim Schwartz, Kevin Kolb, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Mike Williams, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has faced heavy criticism this week from fans for running the football as much as he did in the Bills’ 20-point win over the Jets. While there is no debating that the run game did not produce a respectable yards per carry average it did open other things up that were just as important in the victory.
Below Hackett capably explains that the run game isn’t always about averaging four yards a carry. It’s also about keeping a defense honest. It’s about wearing a defense down and giving your offensive line enough of a feel as to how to block certain individual opponents up front. Buffalo’s explosive plays in the passing game may not have happened were it not for Hackett’s persistence to run more than the Bills threw.
“There was not a lot of explosive plays in the run game,” Hackett admitted. “The run game was about getting two yards, three yards, four yards, getting into a manageable third down situation, and then your quarterback can convert.
“When you have a good run game you’re always looking for one that’s going to pop. You want to wear down a defense, you want to keep on running at them. You want the offensive line to get a feel for the blocking scheme, get a feel for the guys they’re going against. If you all of a sudden run the ball four times and don’t get five yards or 10 yards and you just leave it, then if you start throwing the ball every time, you’re going to be susceptible to interceptions, sacks, sack-fumbles.
“I think you have to commit to it so you can do the play action game and all those things and it opens up those things. That’s why when we throw the ball 17-times we get four touchdowns. You look at those things and you say, ‘Why was the pass game so efficient?’ A lot of it was because we were running the ball and those guys had to honor it. And once you have a guy like Sammy Watkins out there, Robert Woods, who are being successful in those limited pass reps, now the defense starts playing a little bit softer. That’s when the run game starts getting more effective.
“Last week (against the Jets), the big thing was they knew we were going to run the ball because we had the lead and it was a dramatic lead throughout some of the game. I don’t want to turn the ball over. That was the big thing we stressed as a group, as an offense. We said we’ve been a turnover machine for the last three games and as long as we don’t turn over the ball we’re going to be in every single game with the people we have on this team. That was something that we wanted to focus on and you’ve got to run the ball to do that.”
Tags: Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
While the players get a weekend off from the grind of games the offensive staff will be looking for solutions to their run game in an effort to rediscover the production they had in the first month of the season.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett says part of the challenge has been adapting from a read option capable QB in EJ Manuel to a pocket QB in Kyle Orton.
“That’s something we’re really taking a look at,” Hackett said. “We want to put ourselves in a better position to run the ball and as you guys now, I want to be able to run the ball. I think that’s something I try to push towards them because I think it creates a toughness for our guys.
“We look back at last year, being a no huddle team, it’s a different aspect. The read-option is a different aspect. I think we’ve had to make some transitions with Kyle being in there as a quarterback. Your whole philosophy and things have to change a little bit.
“I think we have to look at some of those things he can bring to the table in checking in and out of things or keeping more two back runs, to two tight end runs. We’re kinda looking at what has been the most successful. Those are the things we really have to focus on.”
Buffalo is currently ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing at just over 97 yards per game.
Tags: Nathaniel Hackett, Run game
Posted in Inside the Bills
They are two of the most physically gifted players in the entire league, but in the eyes of some C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins haven’t been utilized enough in Buffalo’s offense. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett commented on the number of offensive plays run by the Bills the participation of Spiller and Watkins in those plays.
Through the first six games Spiller and Watkins have had the ball put in their hands on 28 percent of the offensive plays run, with 107 combined carries and receptions out of 382 plays run. When asked if they need to get more involved more often Hackett said that is always the plan.
“Of course. There are all kinds of things and those kinds of things need to be executed the right way,” Hackett said. “Sometimes it looks like they might not have been a priority, but they probably were and some circumstances changed that. I think whenever you have those guys on the field you always want to try to highlight them as much as you can.”
Hackett denied that Watkins was ignored in last week’s game against the Patriots because he was being covered by Darrelle Revis.
“No, I think we wanted to utilize him in certain situations,” said Hackett. “We wanted to let him work on him a little bit and then once we came out in the second half we targeted him and he started doing a good job so it’s one of those things where he’s young and we wanted him to get a feel for everything and then we start feeding him.”
Hackett also said they’d like to feed Spiller the ball as much as possible too, but he again came back to execution.
“(C.J. is) another guy we have to keep feeding him the ball and get him up field,” said Hackett. “When you get that opportunity to make a play the key is to take advantage of it. The thing with C.J. is he wants to sometimes do too much. We always say, ‘See three, get three.’ If he focuses on that he’ll hit his stride again.”
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Nathaniel Hackett, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
In their thorough analysis of what’s ailing the run game, the Bills offensive coaches, including head coach Doug Marrone, are most committed to doing what fits the talent they’re putting on the field the best. What that means for today’s game we won’t know exactly until the game unfolds. Rest assured Marrone and his assistants have looked under every schematic rock.
“Scheming the run whether it’s zone or gap schemes or pulling or tossing it outside there are a lot of things you can do,” said Marrone. “Whichever one we think our backs do well we have to get them out there and give them a good opportunity. But even when you do you still need that execution from everybody.
“Everyone has what they like to do. There are certain plays that I like to run, but in the same sense you’ve got to be able to change and take advantage of your talent. We’re not trying to pound that round peg into the square hole. So we have to make sure we put them in a good position and then they have to execute.”
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was also preaching execution. Coaches can only do so much in calling plays, but it’s on the players to make it happen.
“The options are always wide open,” Hackett said. “Anything you want to do as a coach you always want to think of everything, but you always have to bring yourself back to reality. You have to understand what you can and can’t do. You don’t want to overthink it. That’s a problem that coaches have at times. They try to do too much or overreact. You have to maintain a steady flow and believe that everybody is going to start working together better.”
Tags: Doug Marrone, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
When Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett first joined Doug Marrone’s staff in Buffalo his preference was to call plays from the coaches’ booth. After a short time last season Hackett and Marrone in conjunction with EJ Manuel decided it was better for Hackett to have direct communication with Manuel on the sidelines during games. So Hackett was down on the sideline to facilitate Now with Kyle Orton starting today, Hackett will return to calling plays with a birds-eye view.
Being a veteran quarterback, who has essentially seen it all, Kyle Orton apparently feels comfortable enough being down on the sideline without having the offensive coordinator right next to him. If he needs to discuss things with Hackett, he’ll just pick up the sideline phone.
Quarterbacks coach Todd Downing will assume the sideline communication responsibilities, as he will be radio calling plays into Orton from the sidelines.
It will be interesting to see if Hackett’s return upstairs provides him with a different perspective and impacts his play calling today.
Tags: Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel, Kyle Orton, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – @ChrisBrownBills do you have an early projection for which wideouts will make the team?
CB: I honestly believe the wide receiver position is pretty cut and dry in terms of personnel. Most of them have solidified their roles either on offense or their contributions on special teams. I think the bigger question is how many do they keep?
In Doug Marrone’s first season as head coach the Bills kept six receivers. I think this time around there is a realistic chance they keep seven. Now that obviously means they would have to trim from another position, presumably on offense. Do they only keep two quarterbacks? Do they keep one less tight end?
The Bills will also have an extra roster spot to play with knowing that Nigel Bradham will presumably go on the reserve suspended list and not count toward the 53-man roster.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills Will Coach Hackett be on sideline or in booth this season?
CB: The Bills offensive coordinator made a move down to the sidelines last season and intends to stay there. He’s been on the sideline all preseason so I’ve got no reason to think that will change this coming week.
3 – Chris:
Thanks for your coverage on the team!
I have a question on the Bills Offensive philosophy in short yardage and Red Zone. It appears (at least in the preseason) that the Bills are going the stay with the tight formations on short yardage and goal line situations (basically power on power) why don’t they use the spread more? Not to bring up previous situations but the Bills seemed more consistent and successful (under Chan Gailey) spreading the defense which opened more running lanes and the middle of the field. Do you see the Bills incorporating some of that offensive thinking?
CB: I think what you saw in the preseason is only some of what you should expect in the regular season. The Bills have spent the better part of the last two offseasons trying to increase their size and girth on the offensive line. That was done with winning those short yardage battles by plowing straight ahead in mind. In all likelihood that will be the approach a good amount of the time this season, but I wouldn’t rule out some spread looks as well.
4 – Chris,
So far through the preseason games, the Bills run defense looks a lot better than it has in years. I feel a big reason for that has been the addition of Brandon Spikes at MLB (and of course, Jim Schwartz as DC). I know Spikes signed a one-year deal with the Bills in the offseason, do you see the Bills offering him a long-term contract extension sometime during the season? I would love to see Spikes re-signed as I feel he’s been a great mentor to the younger players on the team, as well as being a great MLB.
Thanks for the great coverage on the Bills!
CB: There’s no question that Spikes is a guy that younger players follow. They respect his instincts for the game. To further illustrate that I’ll let LB Ty Powell explain it himself.
“Me and Preston Brown are usually side by side, following Spikes and stuff,” said Powell. “Spikes has a lot of knowledge of the game, he has great instincts, so we just follow him around.”
The young linebackers on the roster are just trying to soak up whatever they can about playing linebacker in the NFL from Spikes.
As for an extension I would expect that to be a wait and see situation, but the run defense is probably the most encouraging thing about this team to come out of the preseason.
5 – Hello Chris,
Love the work you do for the Bills and Fan Friday. I am wondering if the I-formation seen in preseason, is what we will be mainly seeing by the Bills. With all the talent they have a wideout, Williams, Woods, Goodwin, seems crazy they wouldn’t stick to more of a spread offense? Plus this would create space for Spiller. Maybe they are just not showing much of their packages at this point but still. Thanks for the Bills Coverage.
CB: My suspicion is that while that is a part of their offensive playbook we won’t see nearly as much of it in the preseason. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has always been about putting his five best playmakers on the field for the offense. That should mean more wideouts on the field more often come the regular season.
Tags: Brandon Spikes, Doug Marrone, Fan Friday, I-formation, Nathaniel Hackett, red zone, run defense
Posted in Inside the Bills
Facing a Tampa defense Saturday night that is a lot like the one they’ll face in Week 1 at Chicago in terms of scheme there was a good chance that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and head coach Doug Marrone were going to play things close to the vest and not make use of plays they feel might work best against that system. EJ Manuel and Mike Williams essentially confirmed that they are holding onto some key parts of their playbook for the regular season.
“There are a few things that I asked him for and of course he said, ‘Hey we’re saving this and that for the regular season,’” said Manuel. “Which I understand, but at the same time we still want to go out there and win and move the ball and score touchdowns. But there are some things that we’re going to continue to save for Chicago.”
“I don’t want to give away a secret, but I think we’ve been doing what we can,” said Mike Williams. “I’ll just say it like that. I think we’ve been doing what he’s been giving us and we’re trying to get better at that. Our play calling has been simple really. We’ve been trying to get better at the simple things and take away the penalties.”
Tags: Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel, Mike Williams, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
Well Bills fans it’s here. The 2014 Bills training camp presented by Connors and Ferris gets underway with player report day today. I will do my best to keep up to date on Fan Fridays during camp knowing that’s when questions will be flying in from you folks. It just gets a bit nutty sometimes at camp so bear with me. Send your questions as always to me on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hey Chris.
I Love all the work that you do. As far as the current Bills go I had a question about the plays EJ was requesting to be removed from the offence. I remember that he wanted ‘clean reads’. I don’t know much about professional play structure, but I wanted to ask if, by eliminating those, does that make it easier for the defense to adjust to the play, or, more generally, how does doing that affect the defense. Are they clean reads versus the Tampa 2, but maybe not 3-deep, etc.?
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Sal Prezioso
CB: I appreciate the compliment. I’ll let EJ explain what he was getting at with respect to the give and take with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on choosing plays to keep or remove from the game plan week to week.
“I think Coach Hackett is going to put everything on my plate that we need to win. I don’t think he’s going to be limited at all as far as his play calling,” said Manuel. “It’s just having the rapport with your coach. Sometimes there may be plays I don’t like and I’ll tell him. I know there were a few plays we came into at minicamp I just wanted to be clean, I wanted to have sharp reads. I told him hey I don’t like that play and we took it out. I think that’s having that good rapport between Coach Hackett and I.”
Having “clean reads” could mean a number of different things so we’d only be speculating as to what EJ meant exactly.
In reality taking plays out doesn’t make it easier for the defense. They still will likely not know what’s coming next. And as Manuel said very shortly after making this comment, you could have just 20 plays in a game plan and if you execute them effectively it doesn’t matter what the defense does. That was the M.O. of the K-gun offense. Fast, simple, effective.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the current Bills try to adopt a bit of that philosophy this season. Not the same offense, but the same approach.
2 – Hi Chris,
My question is about the general experiences that a fan from Charleston, South Carolina needs to experience (born and raised in Damascus, VA- a very small town but now, I live and have worked in SC for 7 yrs). I have been a fan since I was a kid and one of my dreams is now coming true. My wonderful wife bought me tickets for the Minnesota game and being so far away from Western New York of course this will be my first game.
I was wondering if there are places to possibly get autographs from the team? I do have many questions but I will keep it brief; could you tell me the name of the wing place that they take the first round draft pics at? Any information would be greatly appreciated you do a great job at keeping us non-local fans informed.
CB: Autographs are easiest to obtain at training camp with the next best option being by good old fashioned mail. If you’ve got an item you want signed that can be mailed I’d recommend it. Just send it to the player’s attention at One Bills Drive, Orchard Park, NY 14127 with a self-addressed envelope so he can send whatever he signs back to you.
As for experiences here on game weekend Duff’s is the place to go for wings, but you’ll be able to get them right at the stadium this season at most of the concession stands. They’re the official wing of the Buffalo Bills.
The brand new Bills store will be up and running so that will be a stop you have to make. We also have the Bills Experience inside the team’s Fieldhouse on game day that is open to fans from 9:30 to 12:30 for 1 pm home games. A lot of interactive stuff is there for fans to do along with a host of vendors and you can watch the pre-game radio show on our flagship station live for the whole three hours. I’ll be there for the final hour myself so be sure to come say hello. Safe travels and we’ll see you up here on Oct. 19th!
3 – Hi Chris,
Looking forward to training camp and we always have a group which goes to a night practice. Is there any information available on where and when we can get tickets? This is the toughest part of the process as sometimes they are only in Rochester locations. Trying to make plans, so this would be a great help. Thanks so much.
CB: Here is the link to all the information you’ll need on night practice tickets.
4 – Chris,
Thanks for all of the great coverage of the Bills throughout the year. I was disappointed when I heard the news regarding Kiko; he was all over the field last year and the heart of the defense. However, I feel that Bradham and/or Rivers are capable of quality play at linebacker. Returning from a torn ACL is never easy, but do you think it is easier for defensive player to return to their pre-injury form after recovery compared to offensive players? I just hope Kiko will be able to go sideline to sideline in the 2015 season like he did during the 2013 campaign.
R.J. Westmoreland, NY
CB: I don’t know if it’s any easier for a defensive player to return to pre-injury form than an offensive player. The reason a blanket statement like that can’t be used is because every ACL recovery case is different. Every person heals and recovers differently from the next. That’s largely why physicians put a 7-9 month recovery window on ACL reconstruction patients. Some heal faster and some heal slower, so a two month window on the recovery is given. Let’s hope Kiko is a quick and effective healer.
5 – Dear Chris
First and foremost you’re the man. Your work ethic on providing up to date info on our squad is second to none.
My first question is why is Aaron Williams being moved to FS? I would’ve loved to see him stay at SS with Corey Graham taking FS. I thought that’s why Graham was signed. Poor Williams has had 4 new DC. And 3 position changes now.
Second has there been talk about slowing down the offense towards the end of games if we’re leading??
Last years week 1 NE game is still stuck in my head. WE HAD IT!! But in all honesty our line should be a lot better this year so I might eat my words. Thanks again
CB: Williams is being moved to free safety to replace Jairus Byrd. Coming from a coverage background at corner, he has the athleticism and experience to cover the deep half and roll over the top of his corners in double coverage situations. The way Jim Schwartz uses safeties makes the position designations of strong and free somewhat moot. They’re largely interchangeable in his scheme.
Corey Graham will probably get a look at safety. How lengthy that look will be and how seriously he’s considered for a role at safety be it as a starter or reserve remains to be seen. Da’Norris Searcy enters training camp as the top guy at strong safety at this point. He’ll get healthy competition from Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks.
As for slowing down the offense. If the Bills have the lead late I do expect them to go into a four-minute mode more often especially with a pound out yards rusher like Anthony Dixon now on the roster. Whether they’ll slow down the tempo is likely going to be decided on a case by case basis.
Tags: Aaron Williams, Bills 2014 training camp, Corey Graham, Da'Norris Searcy, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Kiko Alonso, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
Last season when C.J. Spiller played his way through a very painful high ankle sprain, some outside observers couldn’t understand why his game was so negatively impacted when other backs in the league in recent years didn’t struggle as much to maintain their productivity. Spiller explained why a high ankle sprain is probably the worst possible injury for his unique skill set.
“A lot of people were saying that I didn’t have the year that I had in 2012, but to me playing on one wheel – especially the way I do it,” said Spiller. “If I was more of a power back it would’ve been a different deal, but with my ability to cut and accelerate I need both of my wheels healthy. Unfortunately I had one down, but to still get close to 1,000 (yards) – talking to Coach (Buddy) Nix we both agreed that it was a pretty good year playing on one wheel for the whole year that was tough to do and very painful, but I don’t worry about that. I know when I’m fully healthy the kind of player I can be.”
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett agreed.
“It’s funny, he didn’t have that bad of a year last year and he missed out on a game and was hindered by that, and he still had over 900-yards (rushing),” Hackett said. “I think with him being healthy and him being more familiar with the system, what we’re asking him to do, he’s going to be more and more comfortable just like the other guys will be.
We covered Spiller’s health and some other factors in examining whether he’ll be able to return to Pro Bowl form this fall in our Camp Countdown.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills were one of the most run heavy offenses in the league last season. They led the league in total rushes and ranked second in rushing yards per game (144.2). The pundits in trying to predict the run-pass balance of the league’s 32 teams believe the Bills will be one of the most run heavy teams in the league this year.
Rotoworld predicted the passing percentages of every team in the league and categorized teams as pass heavy, balanced and run heavy. Not surprisingly Buffalo was predicted to be run heavy after being very reliant on the run game in 2013. Here’s what Mike Clay wrote in his prediction for the Bills.
Bills – 2014 Projection: 56% pass (2013: 54%)
In Doug Marrone’s first year as Buffalo’s head coach, we saw a clear inclination to lean heavily on the running game. The Bills ended up calling pass 54 percent of the time, which ranked them as the league’s No. 3 run-heaviest team. Of course, had they been more competitive, no team would’ve called run at a higher rate. Adjusted for game flow, the Bills called pass seven percentage points below expected. With an underwhelming quarterback (EJ Manuel) and a strong one-two-three punch at tailback (C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown), the Bills will, once again, contend for the league lead in rushing attempts.
In our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we profiled how OC Nathaniel Hackett might take advantage of the improved depth at running back and believe it or not Buffalo may throw a bit more to their backs either out of the backfield or when they’re lined up as wideouts. The Bills will certainly be run heavy, but with Buffalo’s backs expected to be scattered all over the formation it’s hard to say all their touches will be carries.
Tags: Bills 2014 season, Camp Countdown, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
In our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we profiled how offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will take advantage of the team’s running back depth with Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon now lined up behind Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the depth chart. Spiller senses that after a year of experience in the system for most of the offensive unit that season two under Hackett will lead to even more production in the run game.
“For us to be second in the league in rushing with a new system and us trying to get comfortable with what was going on – Now we have that year up under us and you can see the difference,” said Spiller. “Everybody is confident in what we’re doing and hopefully that will bring better things. But there’s a ton of work to be done before September 7th against the Bears. We’ve got to be willing to put in all the hard work necessary to put ourselves in the best situation to win.”
Buffalo averaged over 144 yards on the ground a game last season and that was without a lot of passing success as the offense was 28th in that category. So even when opposing defenses largely knew what was coming the Bills were still pretty productive running the ball.
What is most encouraging from the standpoint of Spiller is how he’ll fare in the offense in his second season running it. Some might recall that in his first season under Chan Gailey as a starter (2011) Spiller struggled at times to be productive. Then in his second season he had a breakout season. The dynamic Pro Bowl back is now in a similar situation going into his second year in Nathaniel Hackett’s system. One wonders if similar production to that of 2012 is on the horizon this fall.
Tags: Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
Alright Bills fans one week and counting until players report. Nine days until the first practice. Get ready. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hey Chris,
I was wondering, with Sammy having youth football camps and Adidas commercials and endorsements and having all the pressure of becoming better than Stevie Johnson, do you think he’s living up to that???
Also, I was wondering how EJ really looks. Some people on Rant sports and Buffalo down say he looks great in mini camp and training camp, but then someone wrote how EJ looked bad and made bad choices. How do you feel about what EJ has shown you???
CB: Sammy Watkins is not going to be concerned with being better than anyone. He’s focused on being the best receiver he can be and with his well documented work ethic I think he’ll make steady progress with his game as the season moves along.
As for EJ I think he knows the offense like the back of his hand. Pre-snap he’s very good at diagnosing the alignment of the defense and making a change at the line if necessary. Where he’s had some fits and starts is after the snap. If his first read isn’t there on occasion he’ll hesitate and the timing of the play is disrupted. That’s the hurdle he still needs to clear so more often than not he’s not only making the right reads, but still delivering the ball on time as well.
2 – Chris,
I saw a recent write up that said Sammy Watkins was struggling mentally in OTA’s. This is starkly different that what we’ve been hearing from BuffaloBills.com. What’s going on?
CB: From what I saw the number of plays made by Watkins in the practice setting decreased as the volume of plays being installed increased. This is a normal occurrence for a rookie at a skill position like receiver. He admitted himself even during the first week of OTAs that he’s still thinking about what to do as he’s running a route instead of just playing.
It’s the typical learning curve that a rookie receiver must travel. Again knowing how badly Watkins wants to make an impact at the NFL level I trust in time the thinking will dissipate allowing his natural playing ability to take over.
3 – Chris-
First off, the coverage your group does on buffalobills.com is exceptional and should serve as a model website to the rest of the league in terms of operations, promotions, etc.
Now, my question involves more of an input in regards to your observations of how the team has been built over the past several offseasons. I’ll start by pointing out that the current Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks, held one of the most dominant offenses in league history to eight points by simply dominating on the line of scrimmage and playing exceptionally well in the secondary. In comparison to the Bills, it looks as if we are beginning to move towards the Seahawks mold on how to be a champion. Seattle prided itself on its Defensive Line and Secondary, much like us with three Pro Bowlers and a sack artist in Jerry Hughes as well as an underrated secondary with Gilmore, McKelvin, Williams and Searcy. Secondly, we brought in a coordinator that prides himself on mixing up coverages so as to allow his dominant line to impose its will on opposing offenses. Given all of this on defense, Seattle also prides itself on a dominant run game with Russell Wilson playing the “game manager” role at QB. This reliance on the offensive line and running game in general, proved to be their “bread and butter” throughout the past several seasons, ultimately ending in a Super Bowl Championship. According to these observations, I firmly believe that we are on the path to adapting how the Seahawks play football simply by our focus on the development of the running game, the emphasis on the defensive line and the talent in the secondary.
Although we haven’t proven to be at the level of the “Legion of Boom” or have the same depth on defense as Seattle has, is it fair to assume that in this copycat league, the Bills are doing their best, both schematically and personnel-wise, to adopt the methods of the Super Bowl Champions?
I look forward to your insight.
CB: First and foremost thanks for your compliments. We work hard here at the website to keep you all informed on the latest happenings with the team.
As for the way this team is being built I think your observations are rather astute. Yes, I think Doug Whaley has made a concerted effort to build the defense in similar fashion to that of the Seahawks. The only area where perhaps the Bills are different is they do not have as much speed off the edge as Seattle does. The Seahawks have about three or four speed rushers who don’t go much more than 245 pounds. They’re deployed in the team’s ‘NASCAR’ package, which is called that because all their pass rushers are fast guys in that package. They kick their run down defensive ends inside and bring out their ‘race car’ pass rushers to line up on the edge.
Outside of that I think the Bills and a good number of other teams are trying to mimic the model. Seeing Buffalo add depth at running back for a ball control ground game is another example.
4 – Hi Chris, thanks for keeping us with something to read during the month between minicamp and training camp. I was glad to read Jeff Tuel is progressing this year. I actually thought they should’ve given him the backup job last year while EJ was out. I read so many comments about him where people say he obviously wasn’t ready because of his two interceptions in the KC game last year. He was playing a team that was undefeated mostly because of their defense and if all it takes is two interceptions to say a QB isn’t good enough EJ wouldn’t be around either. The thing I really liked about him is he was able to get the WRs involved hitting them on intermediate routes throughout the whole game which is what EJ was lacking outside of the two minute drills. My question is about Tuel’s arm strength. Would you say he can throw the ball farther and harder than Fitz or are they pretty close? If he does have a stronger arm I hope he gets a real shot if EJ doesn’t improve this year. I could really care less that he wasn’t drafted. Nobody knew who Tom Brady was until Drew Bledsoe went down either. From what I’ve seen Tuel makes fast decisions and has the courage to throw the passes that need to be thrown. Watching him last year was a lot like watching Fitz come in after Trent Edwards got shell shocked and wouldn’t throw the ball to a WR because truthfully EJ and Thad Lewis looked the same way. Obviously EJ’s arm strength and ability in the clutch are going to buy him some more time to show he can run the offense, but if he doesn’t come around I think Tuel can surprise some people.
CB: Tuel has better arm strength than Ryan Fitzpatrick. He can fit the ball into tight windows pretty effectively, or at least he’s demonstrated that this past spring. His decision making has been encouraging and I believe he’ll be pushing Thad Lewis for the number two role in training camp. Backup quarterback will have a bona fide competition this summer.
5 – Hey Chris,
I appreciate all the coverage you guys do, but I’m curious why there hasn’t been any highlight reels lately( For example mini camp?)
And another question maybe for FanFriday.
How will the Bills use all four of their RB’s?
CB: The highlights were missing from Bills Roundup in minicamp per coach Marrone’s instructions. If coach is concerned about other teams seeing anything they want kept under wraps we have to respect it. We know the fan loses in the process, but competitive advantage has to come first.
That being said full highlights will return to Bills Roundup presented by ECMC at training camp so get ready for action.
The newfound depth at running back and how everyone is utilized will be interesting. On Monday in our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we will be addressing that very question. I encourage you to check it out for some answers. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had some interesting comments on what will be a good dilemma.
Tags: Bills Roundup, Bills training camp, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jeff Tuel, Nathaniel Hackett, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
EJ Manuel would be the first to admit that at times they had their struggles with consistent execution in OTA practices the previous three weeks. Part of that was due to the large volume of plays being thrown at the offense at that time. Now, according to Manuel, the volume for minicamp isn’t nearly as large, leading him to believe their collective performance will be better this week.
“We were a little frustrated, I know I was, throughout the OTAs, but I like the fact that (offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett) put more on us,” said Manuel. “We have young guys at skill positions, and that just puts the onus on us to put the time in and really study. This week, it’s easier because we know all the plays, we’ve done it a bunch of times, so there’s not going to be any surprises as far as play calling goes.”
Manuel also believes their execution on offense will be helped with most everyone together on his side of the ball again this season.
“We’re all used to each other now. The O-line is used to hearing my voice, they’re used to how I make a call, how I call cadence,” he said. “How I get in and out of plays as far as checking into different plays. I think our rapport overall as an offense has gotten a lot better. We’re a year older together. It’s good to have the same OC, the same Head Coach, all that stuff, to not have a bunch of new changes.
“With everybody having that rapport, it’s easier to hold each other accountable. If somebody’s not doing the right thing, they’re not going to take it the wrong way if you point them out and let them know.”
Tags: Bills 2014 season, EJ Manuel, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
As a rookie he was on a short leash, but EJ Manuel now with a year invested in the Bills offensive system sounds like he’s got full clearance to make a decision on getting the offense into a better play if the first one called looks like a dubious one against the defensive look he’s seeing.
There have been a fair number of audibles at the line of scrimmage this week in OTAs by all the quarterbacks. Manuel confirmed his firm grasp of Nathaniel Hackett’s system has given him the green light to change the play at the line.
“I would say from the last game last season to now I’m way further ahead,” said Manuel. “We’ve learned our responsibility of having the ability to change plays. Coach Hackett is not second guessing what we’re doing. I think he trusts me a lot more to get us in the right play.
“Obviously in the game it’s easier because you have a game plan with specific things that you check into. In practice it’s kind of all the place, but I definitely feel a lot better with my grasp of the offense. Sometimes I get frustrated because I know it’s there and if we have one misstep (in practice) and it’s not complete that’s frustrating. I try to pride myself on knowing it so well, but we’ve just got to keep rolling with the punches.”
Tags: Bills OTAs, EJ Manuel, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
It’s very far from real football in the organized team activity setting of spring football, but coaches have to evaluate to some degree anyway. Here’s how Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett does it before the pads come on.
“It’s about the spacing, it’s about what the defense gives us,” said Hackett. “We don’t know what the defense is going to run so it’s all about kind of what they give and how that play fits, just like a game situation. You want to see how everybody makes their decisions. How they adjust their routes, how they adjust their drops, where a quarterback is going within the progression. As long as we get through the proper steps and we get to the right guy within that progression that’s how we evaluate that, that this guy was able to run his route in the progression.”
Tags: Bills OTAs, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
OTAs are coming up next week. In the meantime enjoy the holiday weekend and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
Thanks for all the great draft coverage! I personally loved the way the Bills really focused on beefing up the offensive line this year, in addition to the Watkins pick of course! It seems like some great picks at truly great value. I was wondering, if Seantrel Henderson pans out – and he has 1st round talent at LT, could he eventually start there, with Glenn moving to LG? Don’t get me wrong, Glenn is a really good LT, but I imagine a starting line of Henderson, Glenn, Wood, Richardson/Urbik, Kouandjio being among the most dominant lines in the entire league. Thoughts on this?
CB: While you certainly have every reason to be optimistic I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. I think all of the linemen drafted this year have talent, but it’s hard to project their immediate future until the pads go on in training camp. There are some proud veterans on this roster so the influx of young talent will ramp up the competition. Henderson most definitely has the skill set to play in the NFL. What he needs to demonstrate is consistency not only in his play, but in his commitment as a pro. Kouandjio might need a little time on the job before he’s challenging Erik Pears for a starting role and we’ll see what Richardson can do.
The picture you’re painting might be more realistic for 2015, and with the way Cordy Glenn played last year, I’m not sure he’ll be on the move even then if that level of play continues.
2 - @ChrisBrownBills
Why would @buffalobills ever pick Bon Jovi’s Lawyer to help sell the team?
CB: I think you need to understand that the Bills organization was seeking one of the most renowned firms when it came to managing estates and trusts. Proskauer was named “Law Firm of the Year” for Litigation–Trusts & Estates in U.S. News-Best Lawyers 2014 “Best Law Firms,” the only firm to receive this prestigious designation in that category. So this is more of what led to the decision to retain them.
It just so happens that Proskauer Rose, which has a gigantic client base in their entertainment department, also has represented Bon Jovi. It’s not clear if they still do at this time. I would think that relationship no longer exists otherwise it could be construed as a conflict of interest.
3 – Hey Chris,
There has been a lot of varying reports trying to explain the compensation the Eagles will be receiving for the Bryce Brown trade. Most of those reports are very confusing to read and have people scratching their heads. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t we basically trade Stevie Johnson for Bryce Brown straight up?
Whatever we get for Stevie is what we give to Eagles?…right? Only exception to this line of thinking or simplification is if we end up getting a 3rd for Stevie because he performs and Bryce underperforms we only are on hook for a 4th….right??
BTW…loved our draft. Loved the aggressiveness of Whaley. It was very refreshing and sent a jolt of excitement in the fan base. Even if it doesn’t pan out I’m still glad he was aggressive. When u r 6-10 forever and u keep the same draft approach its by definition insane. Everyone is saying playoffs or bust. Honestly if we go 9-7 and EJ looks like he takes steps fwd…I will see this season as a success. Looking fwd to getting out of this 6-10 rut!
Thanks for your time and go Bills!
CB: Here’s the easiest way to look at it. If the compensation from the 49ers remains a fourth in 2015, it goes to the Eagles. If Stevie Johnson hits undisclosed performance benchmarks and improves Buffalo’s conditional pick from San Francisco to a third, then the fourth-round pick the Bills owe the Eagles would push forward to the 2016 draft, since they would not have a fourth-round pick to give Philadelphia in 2015.
Bills fans should root for Stevie to do well in San Francisco this season. If he excels Buffalo will have seven picks in 2015 (a 2nd, two 3rds, two 5ths, a 6th and a 7th).
4 – Chris,
Thanks for all your news that you provide to Bills fans outside of the Buffalo area.
My question is regarding the off-season training of EJ, while not at the Bills facility. Knowing that OC Hackett, scaled back the offense last year; is there anything that EJ is doing during the off-season to get a much better understanding of the playbook?? or is EJ just working on his mechanic’s ?? Seems like a little waste of time, if EJ is not in some way learning a bit more of the playbook during this down time.
CB: EJ has been diligently working on every aspect of his game. That includes mechanics (footwork, deep throws), playbook and working with teammates having worked with some out in California this offseason on their own. I’m confident people are going to see a different EJ on the field this year.
5 – Hi Chris,
Russ Brandon and Doug Whaley are always quoted as saying that they will “do whatever it takes to make the Buffalo Bills a better football team.”
With that understanding, how does trading away Stevie Johnson (1,000 yard/season, 26 TDs, veteran WR, one more weapon for EJ Manuel) make the Buffalo Bills a better football team?
At the very least, Stevie would draw coverage away from Sammy Watkins!
This is such a typical move for the Bills–make progress with the drafting of Sammy Watkins, trade away good talent in Stevie. It’s similar to the Marshawn Lynch trade. Draft CJ Spiller, trade away pro-bowler Marshawn. I just don’t understand. What are the Bills not telling us? On paper these moves make no sense.
Please help me, and many Bills fans, have a better understanding. PLEASE no “company line” answer.
Discouraged Season Ticket Holder
CB: On the field here’s is why the move was made. Buffalo acquired Mike Williams by trade, a true outside receiving threat with proven touchdown production. They traded up to get the best receiver in the draft in Sammy Watkins, another true outside threat. Williams will draw attention from Watkins.
Perhaps even more important Robert Woods is a receiver this coaching staff believes in a lot. There was more than one assistant who believed by the end of last season that he would be the best receiver on the roster. That dynamic changed with Williams and Watkins added to the roster. In order to help Woods flourish in the current corps of receivers Stevie had to be moved from the slot receiver role so Woods could fill it.
It’s believed that Woods can be an even more productive receiver in the slot. Right now he has the most chemistry with EJ Manuel as OTAs are set to begin. What’s more his precise route running provides more consistency for a quarterback looking to take the next step in his on field performance than the unconventional route running of Johnson.
As Doug Whaley has said the aim this year is to help EJ Manuel take the next step in his development as a franchise quarterback. Providing him with the most dynamic receiver in the draft and a proven scorer in Mike Williams, both of whom can high point the ball as well as anyone, and then a reliable receiver in the slot in Woods they believe will enhance Manuel’s chances of succeeding.
In essence it was a bit of musical chairs and when all the moves were completed at the receiver position Johnson did not have an available seat. He would’ve been the team’s fourth receiver at a hefty price tag moving forward.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Bryce Brown, Cordy Glenn, Cyril Richardson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jon Bon Jovi, Nathaniel Hackett, Proskauer Rose, Russ Brandon, Seantrel Henderson, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills top pick Sammy Watkins is already being asked how he’s going to handle facing the likes of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Brent Grimes in the AFC East. As far as he’s concerned he believes in his technique.
Appearing on NFL Total Access Thursday night Watkins confidence was evident when asked about the weekly matchups he’ll see in the division.
“I believe in my craft. I believe in what my coaches teach me,” said Watkins. “For me, it is going out there week in and week out and competing. That is what the game is about. Of course, there are great corners all over the league. They are great at what they do. For me, it is just to go out there and make the best plays.
“They are going to win match ups and I am going to win match ups, that’s part of the game. I am going to make sure I am ready to compete against those guys and the coaches are going to get me prepared.”
Watkins has also been preparing for rookie minicamp this weekend and is excited about the offensive plans offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has for him.
“That just makes me even happier knowing that I am going to be moved all over the field running different and various routes,” he said. “It’s just a blessing that I got to be in this position, I just got to come prepared and be ready, dissect the playbook, and be hungry and humble. That is what I have been doing so far, and the coaches have been doing a great job with managing everything and so far I have been running with the ones, running with the twos and getting acclimated has been the best part.”
Tags: AFC East, Nathaniel Hackett, Sammy Watkins
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills Senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler was once a first time coordinator when he was promoted to the position in San Francisco under then head coach Mike Nolan. Faced with the prospect of starting a young highly drafted quarterback in Alex Smith, his situation in terms of quarterbacks used in that 2007 season, trumped that of Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett this past season.
It’s been well documented that Hackett was faced with the prospect of starting three different quarterbacks for different stretches of the season last year. EJ Manuel played Weeks 1-5 and Weeks 10-15, Thad Lewis Weeks 6-8 and Weeks 16-17 and Jeff Tuel in Week 9.
Hostler in 2007 was forced to use one more than that.
“The year I was coordinating, Alex (Smith) had started, but he only made it seven games and then we played with Trent (Dilfer) and he only made it six games and then it was Shaun (Hill),” said Hostler. “So I went through some of the same things Nate had to deal with last year. I’ve played with four quarterbacks, some of whom didn’t show up until the week before the game so I understand some of those issues he had last year.”
The other two quarterbacks Hostler had to thrust into the lineup that season included Shaun Hill, who made two starts and Chris Weinke who started one game for San Francisco that year.
Having a fellow former offensive coordinator on staff, who went through the same thing, should provide Hackett with a bit of reassurance knowing there’s a fellow assistant who can relate to what a juggling act 2013 was for him.
Tags: Jim Hostler, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills new senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler has spent the past six seasons as the receivers coach in Baltimore, but he has a previous working relationship with head coach Doug Marrone.
Hostler coached for two seasons with Marrone on Herm Edwards’ staff with the New York Jets from 2003-2004. Hostler served as the wide receivers/quarterbacks coach while Marrone was the offensive line coach on the Jets staff. So the two worked together on the offensive side of the ball.
As senior assistant Hostler will likely work closely with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, knowing Hostler was a candidate for the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator’s post and was a former coordinator with the 49ers.
Tags: Doug Marrone, Jim Hostler, Nathaniel Hackett
Posted in Inside the Bills