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Inside The Bills

Hostler familiar with what Hackett faced at QB

Posted by Chris Brown on February 13, 2014 – 11:18 am

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hostler previously worked with Marrone

Posted by Chris Brown on January 29, 2014 – 5:29 pm

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.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-17

Posted by Chris Brown on January 17, 2014 – 1:26 pm

Don’t forget to check in on our Senior Bowl coverage all next week on Buffalobills.com. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - Hello Chris,

Well, another year like all years.  Just wait fans, we have something started here!!!  Marrone’s first mistake will be not letting Hackett go.  As I have said previously, loyalty is Marrone’s achilles heel.  He won’t know how to “can” Hackett so we are stuck with him.  What really stinks is that another year has slipped away and this team still has multiple problems to address.  Where do we even start with the next draft?  Please don’t draft another Alabama player!  We let players like Levitre sign elsewhere and then we say we need to address our weakness at offensive line.  Does this make any sense?  It is just one wasted draft choice after another on positions we could have fixed with players already selected.  When is this team going to address an age old problem at the tight end position?  Successful teams have tight ends who stretch the field.  When are the Bills joining the 21st century?  Sad leadership to say the least. I won’t even get started on the QB position.

Jim (Skaneateles)
CB: Jim, I respect the frustration. You fans have waited a while for a winner, but regarding your question on losing Levitre in free agency, keeping a player at a non-priority position at what would’ve been an exorbitant price ($8M plus a season) was unrealistic. Tennessee chose to spend big money on their offensive line and where did it get them?

They ranked 22nd in offense, 14th in rushing and 21st in passing. They were 19th in scoring. As coach Marrone said recently guard is position where you can develop a player into a competent to strong contributor. Offensive tackle and center are where you need the bona fide stars.

As for the tight end position, I think the new staff with GM Doug Whaley is looking to address the need for more athleticism at that spot. Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg were the first steps in that direction. We’ll see where it goes this offseason.

Concerning your criticism of Hackett I think it’s misguided. Hackett had to curtail the variety and tempo of his offense to accommodate not one, but three “green” quarterbacks over the course of the year who were all spending their first year in his offensive system. Circumstances compromised his talent for calling plays. I’m confident the offense will expand and diversify considerably next season.

 

2 – Chris,

As always, thanks again for being a great source of Buffalo Bills information. We appreciate your feedback.

Can you explain the recent signings of 7 players to reserve/future contracts? The team moved quickly to sign these 7 right after the end of the regular season. What is this type of contract?

Bob Hammond

CB: Those contracts are typically reserved for players who were on a team’s practice squad during the regular season. If the team would like to keep those players on the roster through the offseason they must be signed to a reserve/future contract. If memory serves they have a week from when their season ends to sign their practice squad players otherwise they’re free to be signed away by other clubs.

Essentially players that the club believes can still be developed into something more are signed to these kinds of contracts, which are modest in nature.

 

3 – Chris,

With the release of WRs coach Ike Hilliard, would the Bills seriously consider bringing in Andre Reed to take over as WR coach ?  I think Reed would be a great choice. Andre had great work ethic in Buffalo and was as tough as they come running routes over the middle.

Randy C
Coach

CB: While I do not debate the qualities you described of Andre Reed’s game, it’s hard to say it’s a move that will be made. His coaching resume is very, very short though he is coaching in the NFLPA bowl on Saturday. I get the sense that coach Marrone wants someone with a more lengthy coaching background.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

I was looking at wide receiver free agents for this year, and I see that Eric Decker from the Broncos is a free agent after the playoffs. Would the Buffalo Bills pursue Decker and possibly make an offer?

Tony, Ormond Beach, Fl
CB: Yes, Decker is scheduled to become a free agent. I don’t think there’s any question that the Bills have already demonstrated a concerted effort to add size at the receiver position with the reserve/future signings of Ramses Barden (6’6”) and Chris Summers (6’4 ½”). But they need a proven answer with size at receiver. Decker is certainly a proven player, but I think they want the big receiver on their offense to also be a bona fide number one target. I don’t know that Decker can be that.

I feel that a lot of his production is a byproduct of the fact that opponents scheme to limit DeMaryius Thomas and Wes Welker and Decker becomes the beneficiary. Without a similar supporting cast, I’m not sure what you could count on with Decker in terms of production.

 

5 – Chris

When I see the names of Jason Peters and Karlos Dansby on the list for 2013, I think what if they were playing for the Bills now…… Two big problems solved…….Dansby is a run stopper as MLB, and Peters as T is one of the best.  Why don’t we as fans make the Bills FO accountable for their errors of poor decisions re. personnel choices……….And throw in there, their choice of ST coach……..Last season the FO thought Dansby as washed up… Hello, over the hill………..The Bills FO is on the clock in order to get their act together for 2014……………………

Tim in TN, Bills Fan
CB: While I understand your frustration in seeing talent flourish elsewhere instead of on Buffalo’s roster, your Bills history is a bit cloudy. The team wanted to keep Jason Peters and were willing to renegotiate his contract, which had two years left on it, but after he held out and then threatened to hold out again the next season it was clear that keeping Peters in Buffalo was going to be monumentally difficult.

So he was traded to Philadelphia for a first, fourth and sixth-round pick. When you have a player that doesn’t want to play for your team it’s hard to even make them happy with more money.

As for Karlos Dansby the Bills brought him in on a free agent visit so to indicate the front office thought he was washed up is just wrong. He chose to look elsewhere to sign essentially using Buffalo to drive up the market price for his services.

Both have been accomplished players, but if they don’t want to be here you’re not going to win with them on your roster.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Report: AVP possible QB coach candidate

Posted by Chris Brown on January 16, 2014 – 10:25 am

The Green Bay Packers could be shuffling their coaching staff around a bit after the departure of quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, who accepted the offensive coordinator post with the New York Giants this week. Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt is rumored to be a candidate to shift to the quarterback coaching job for Green Bay. But there’s a report that Buffalo may also be interested in him as a quarterback coaching option.

That according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who quoted Van Pelt saying the following when asked about possibly shifting to coach quarterbacks with the Packers.

“Obviously, I’m quarterback-trained, so it’d be natural,” Van Pelt said. “But I’m having a lot of fun coaching these guys (Packers running backs).”

The Journal-Sentinel report went on to say the following about Van Pelt’s future.

A source said the Bills were interested in hiring Van Pelt as quarterbacks coach but, with a year remaining on his contract in Green Bay, it’s unlikely McCarthy would let him go.

Van Pelt has a very close relationship with McCarthy, who was his quarterbacks coach in college for three seasons at Pitt. Of course Van Pelt also has a tight relationship with Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, having both served on Dick Jauron’s staff with the Bills. Van Pelt was quarterbacks coach while Hackett was the offensive quality control coach.

Hackett currently serves as Bills offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

McCarthy has a history of holding onto his assistants. He had previously denied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers permission to interview now departed assistant Ben McAdoo (NY Giants OC) from interviewing for their offensive coordinator post in 2012.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-10

Posted by Chris Brown on January 10, 2014 – 12:07 pm

Well the offseason is underway and the Senior Bowl is the next big thing on the horizon. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for all of the insight on everything Bills and keep up the great work. First off I was just wondering if you think we have seen everything Hackett’s playbook has to offer? Or is he just keeping it simple because of the inexperience at quarterback? We were vanilla at best on offense this season, (despite a strong rushing attack) and when I watch most other teams it seems I see more intricate offense. We primarily run out of shotgun and our screen game pales in comparison to last season’s.  Just wanted your opinion.

And secondly, do you think we should draft another quarterback? Manuel seems to be injury prone and I don’t think we can rely on Lewis or Tuel to step in and guide us deep in the season. They are strong backups but I would still like to have a QB that can stand in the pocket and not get hurt. Thanks again Chris!

-Mark in Houston

CB: I think your suspicion is dead on. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had to keep things simple so the rookies on offense with sizable roles (chiefly EJ Manuel) could effectively execute them. They ran the ball so much because as coach Marrone said last week they wanted to keep third down manageable in terms of distance to convert. Plus they were good at it, so use what works to help keep drives alive.

When Manuel was injured during the season, it forced Hackett to be even more judicious with his game plans in terms of complexity. None of his three quarterbacks had one game of NFL experience combined heading into the season.

So to fault Hackett for his play calling being too predictable would be very, very misguided. One has to appreciate and understand the circumstances under which he had to operate.

Then to see that his offense, despite all of that, finished 19th in total yards, which by the way was better than San Francisco’s and Carolina’s and a yard less per game on average than Seattle, is a pretty good showing as far as I’m concerned.

As for drafting a quarterback I don’t think that’s the best route to take. The reason why is Buffalo already has a host of inexperienced quarterbacks on their roster even now. EJ Manuel (10 career starts), Thad Lewis (6 career starts) and Jeff Tuel (1 career start) are still lacking experience. To add a fourth to the mix doesn’t help.

I expect the Bills to pursue a veteran QB in free agency that has a wealth of game experience. The market is predictably thin, but I expect the Texans to cut ties with a QB like Matt Schaub, who could be a perfect backup candidate.

2 – Chris,

On the heels of the Miami game, I was disappointed in the selfishness and immaturity displayed by Robert Woods. With the receiving corps already down Stevie and Marquise (who’d just been injured), Woods simply had to be smarter than throwing a punch and getting ejected from a game.

This brings me to my concern: with all the rumblings about the Bills possibly parting ways with Stevie Johnson this offseason, do you think an occurrence like this might be enough for the team to keep Stevie around? Woods apparently isn’t mature enough to lead the team at the position, and Marquise, as talented as he is, may be the next Roscoe Parrish…..too slight of build to stay healthy and really contribute on offense. Personally, I think the Bills would be foolish to let Stevie go right now. The receiver room is just too young without him. What do you think?

Kenny in Indiana
CB: I believe the incident with Robert Woods in the Miami game in Week 16 was an isolated incident. Woods in general is a heady player. In this instance he lost his cool, but in talking to him afterwards it’s clear he understands now that those kinds of things cannot happen again. I consider it a lesson learned.

Concerning Stevie Johnson, I think he and coach Marrone have to iron things out with respect to the way things are going to be done to ensure future success. The bottom line is they’re going to be done Marrone’s way with very little if any deviation from his plan. And truthfully that’s the way it should be.

He’s the head coach and has a vision for how things are going to get done to promote consistent winning. And he needs everyone on his roster, especially impact players to adhere to that in everything they do as a player on the roster.

Johnson is a free spirit and while there are a lot of admirable qualities with that kind of approach to the game, football is a sport that demands attention to detail perhaps more than any other.

I don’t know this, but I sense that Marrone needs to be convinced by Stevie that he’s prepared to fall in line with every responsibility he has to the team as its top receiver and do things the way Marrone has laid it out for all of his players.

If that can happen then Johnson will remain a prominent part of Buffalo’s offense.

3 – Hi Chris
Thanks for taking my question. My question is, based on all of the huge pass interference penalties this year that have affected the outcome of the games (especially with under a few minutes to go), do you ever see the rules committee making the pass interference call a reviewable/challengeable call?

I’ve watched so many teams this year, and in recent years as well, that get the ball on the one yard line in the last seconds of the game.  And the unfortunate part is that a lot of them are really questionable calls…especially when they directly change the outcome of a game.  I know making a penalty reviewable could open a can of worms for the rules committee, but I don’t see another immediate solution to the growing problem of these (sometimes) 50 yd plus interference penalties on the last few plays of the game, especially when replay is in effect to ensure the right call is made.

Lastly, do you think teams practice for the last second goal line pass interference call?  Specifically, I’ve seen Brady win countless games by freely getting the ball on the 1 yd line with seconds to go when they all but had a nail in their coffin.  Its like they are just chucking in the end zone and the WR sells the penalty if he can’t catch it.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Pats practice it since it is a really huge penalty that can be easily exploited.
Thanks for your time,
Tim in NJ

CB: I don’t see pass interference every being a reviewable call via challenge or booth review with less than two minutes in the half or game. The reason why is it is a pure judgment call. There is enough already that is reviewable. I doubt the league wants to expand that list.

I think if the NFL’s Competition Committee should change anything perhaps it should be the yardage penalty for pass interference. Maybe something similar to college’s 15-yard pass interference rule. With the NFL’s proclivity to push offensive play and scoring I doubt this would even be entertained, but perhaps a 20-yard penalty cap on pass interference plays that happen more than 20 yards downfield. I think it would be difficult to alter the policing of pass interference in the red zone/end zone. Defenders are doing everything in their power to unsuspectingly mug receiving targets in the end zone to prevent touchdowns. To reduce the pass interference consequences (1st & goal at the one-yard line) may lead to more aggressive defending and the league rarely puts any part of the game in the favor of the defense.

4 – Chris,

Thanks for all of your coverage.

My question is regarding the future of Mike Pettine. I think at most we have one or two years left with him, and that it’s also possible he gets a shot as head coach sooner.

Is there an in house assistant or option that we are grooming to be his replacement? With all the great strides we have made on D this year I’m hoping there is someone that is learning and being taught all of his schemes. I’d hate to lose all of this progress once we lose Mike.

Thanks Chris
Patrick In Boston

CB: I respect and understand your concern with respect to Buffalo’s defensive coordinator. Mike Pettine is a sharp mind, who in time should be getting head coaching interview opportunities.

The good news is I do see two future defensive coordinator candidates on Buffalo’s defensive staff. I believe both defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and OLBs coach Jim O’Neil have the pedigree to eventually be defensive coordinators in the NFL.

The problem is Weaver and O’Neil have both worked with Pettine for some time now, and would likely be offered a position by Pettine if he was named a head coach elsewhere. My guess is whoever is not offered the defensive coordinator job by Pettine when he’s named a head coach somewhere else in the league down the road, should be the coach targeted to be promoted to defensive coordinator with Buffalo.

5 – Chris,

I had been looking forward to hearing Kiko Alonso’s name being announced as a Pro Bowler for 2 months now. How did his name NOT get called, given the season he had?????

Don (Bills/ Kiko fan),
Norwalk, CT
CB: I think we all know by now that it’s very difficult for rookies to get named to the Pro Bowl even with productive seasons. We often see them recognized the following year provided their production stays relatively the same. What also hurt Alonso’s chances was the team’s 6-10 record. The bottom line is in most cases more players are chosen from successful teams than those that finish under .500.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone on idea of adding QB coach

Posted by Chris Brown on January 6, 2014 – 9:07 am

Bills head coach Doug Marrone took questions from Bills fans recently on the John Murphy Show after the regular season came to an end. He was asked if adding a quarterbacks coach was a consideration to take some of the workload and burden off offensive coordinator and QBs coach Nathaniel Hackett.

“Those are a lot of things that we’re going to look at. Obviously Nathaniel and I will have conversations about what we need and what we’re missing and how we can make things better. Mike Pettine and I and obviously Danny Crossman will have those conversations too,” said Marrone. “I appreciate Russ Brandon and Mr. Wilson telling me that whatever we need to tell them and they’ll get it done. It’s great that they have that commitment and we have to look at what resources we need to get more wins.

“We’re going to take a long, hard look and evaluate everything. We will do whatever it takes to get better. If we have to move some people around, whatever it may be we’re going to have those discussions. Right now from how I feel and how the coaches feel and there’s a large sense of disappointment. We have to continue to work on how we’re going to get better for 2014.

“We have to take a step back here and just kind of regain our thoughts and go back into it and not make any rash decisions. That’s why we have to take a long, hard look and we started that process already.”

Hackett certainly had to do the heaviest lifting in 2013 among Doug Marrone’s assistants. He not only had to teach a new offensive scheme to the players, but he also had to school up and prepare a rookie quarterback in EJ Manuel. Then after Kevin Kolb was injured in the preseason he lost the veteran presence in the quarterback room.

When EJ Manuel’s injury followed he had to then school up another rookie quarterback and later a third QB in Thad Lewis, who had just one NFL start on his resume. It will be interesting to see what course of action the Bills take moving forward.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-27

Posted by Chris Brown on December 27, 2013 – 11:31 am

Sunday will be the final step in trying to post a winning record in the division for the first time since the 2007 season. Let’s see if the Bills can get their first win ever in Gillette Stadium. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,
Coming into this season knowing the Bills were going to draft a QB and most likely be our starter, I would of thought Coach Marrone was going to bring in a OC with NFL experience and a reputation with teaching young QB’s. I was really shock when he named Hackett his QB coach and OC. I was not thrilled with this move and I still do not think he is the right guy for this job. He does not use the players the way he should , like CJ Spiller who was unstoppable last year and this year he’s been shut down for the most part mainly in the receiving area. His play calling is horrible and his short passing is getting old real quick. Atlanta game Goodwin and Graham both should of had career games as bad as Atlanta’s pass defense was and correct me if I’m wrong but did either one have a catch over 10 yards. he is not the guy for the job and I hope Marrone sees this and fixes this problem after the season. I like EJ Manuel and I feel with an experienced guy working with him he can become the QB this team needed in a long time, I just don’t think Hackett can do this. Your thoughts and thanks for doing a great job.

RR21RaceFan

CB: I’m going to disagree with you on this one. I think there is a reason that the Bills were one of the most frequent rushing teams in the league. It’s because they had a rookie quarterback. I believe as the season wore on the hope was that EJ Manuel would progress in his play to the point where they could become a more balanced offense, but that went out the window with Manuel’s midseason knee injury. Now his third knee injury has cost him more time on the field.

So running the ball became the offense’s identity, and to their credit they’ve done a great job with it. They lead the AFC in rushing yards per game. This despite the fact, as you mention, that C.J. Spiller has not been the weekly game-breaking talent that he was last season.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that has been the case. Spiller by all accounts is pretty healthy now, but his effectiveness as a runner has not improved a whole lot from where he was at when he was dealing with the high ankle sprain.

I think in Hackett’s defense he had a lot more to deal with at the quarterback position than anyone anticipated. When Manuel was hurt, he didn’t have a veteran QB to lean on, which was the plan with Kevin Kolb. So he instead he had to invest extra time trying to get another inexperienced QB ready in Thad Lewis and in one case Jeff Tuel (vs. KC).

I’m confident that if coach Marrone knew he wasn’t going to have a veteran QB in the room healthy and ready to back up and provide counsel to EJ Manuel that he may have given greater consideration to hiring a quarterbacks coach. Not because Nathaniel Hackett isn’t capable, but because of how much time and instruction would be required to school up three inexperienced QBs.

As for Hackett’s qualifications as an offensive play caller, he is more than qualified and I’ll again remind you that with a rookie QB who is learning on the job you are inherently limited in how much of the playbook you can use week to week.

2 – Dear Chris,

Thanks for all of your great coverage!  My question was about Chris Gragg. Why aren’t the bills using him more? All he’s done is make plays and I think he’s going to be a great weapon for EJ
Mike

CB: Coach Marrone has said it has been their intention to get Gragg as well as Marquise Goodwin more playing time for several weeks now, but it’s been easier said than done. Here were some recent comments he made about Gragg.

“With Chris (Gragg) it’s been tough for us at times to get him up and more involved at times, but when he has been in there he’s shown that he’s able to play and he’s able to be a tough matchup as far as how he can run,” said Marrone. “His blocking from a standpoint of willingness and movement is probably better than what his height and weight show that he should be able to do at that position so that’s encouraging also.”
3 – Hi Chris,

My question is in regards to the Bills offense. It seems that EJ is becoming more comfortable in throwing the ball “between” the numbers and play action. He threw some nice strikes to Chandler and Gragg against the Jags. Why does it seem that it takes getting into late 2nd Quarter or in the second half to start calling more of those plays? Is it because the running game has to be established first for those plays to be successful? Or is it just the way that Coach Hackett likes to call the plays?

Thanks, Tim in Niagara Ontario

CB: Once again I’ll defer to coach Marrone on EJ Manuel’s slow starts in games this season. Here’s what coach said after his most recent slow start at Jacksonville.

“I think you can see it in spots at times. But there’s no doubt that he got off to… I wouldn’t say slow, and he knows it, we talked to him, he got off to a very poor start,” said Marrone. “But the one thing about the kid, which you’ve seen over the course of him playing is he can fight his way through that and learn. Now are there some things that caught us yesterday the second time around where we would’ve liked not to make the same mistake, absolutely. But again he’s a young kid, he’s in here today working hard already watching the film getting ready to go. That’s what you want from your quarterback and keep getting better and keep playing through that.”

 

4 – Thanks Chris for all your Coverage of our Buffalo Bills!

When Aaron Williams went down on Sunday, Jim Leonhard came in and once again made 2 huge plays. It shows how important depth is on an NFL football team. Every time he has played, he has made big plays. Do the Bills make a Valiant effort to resign some of these key backup players like Leonhard?

Thanks, Eileen in St.Catharines Ontario

CB: Leonhard has been known for the big play since his college days at Wisconsin. He had 16 interceptions in his college career. He’s a savvy player who makes plays despite not being the most physically gifted safety around. He is a free agent after the season.

His return to the Bills could be directly tied to what happens with Jairus Byrd another free agent safety for Buffalo. If Byrd is re-signed I think it lessens the likelihood that Leonhard is also back knowing there are two young safeties on the roster in Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks. If Byrd is not back, then Leonhard becomes a much more viable option to re-sign as I see it.

 

5 – Chris,

I’m wondering why the Bills are using Graham more than Goodwin? IMO, the Bills are not effectively using Goodwin, as they continue to throw him an occasional deep pass to him every game. In the last Jets game, where Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods were out due to injuries, Goodwin had his best receiving game of the year as Goodwin was catching passes all over the field, and IMO, the Bills had one of their best offensive outputs of the season. I feel Goodwin can be more effective catching passes in the slot, and other parts of the field, besides going for the deep routes a couple of times a game. So far, Graham has proven to be very inconsistent as he has dropped numerous passes, and does not get the same consistent separation as Goodwin does. At this point, it seems EJ Manuel has more chemistry with Woods and Goodwin, than he does with Johnson and Graham. I would rather see Woods and Goodwin as the Bills top 2 WR’s, with Johnson in the slot as this could help Manuel’s development.

Thanks for all the hard work that you do covering the Bills!

Steve
Fredericksburg, VA

CB: Goodwin has produced when given more time on the field. I think he has demonstrated dependable hands this season even in traffic. The slot might be an interesting spot for Goodwin to line up more often moving forward, though Woods could be effective inside too. The depth chart at receiver that you’re suggesting could shift in that direction going into next season. It’ll all come down to competition at training camp.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Where has the tempo gone?

Posted by Chris Brown on December 15, 2013 – 10:05 am

A lot was made about the up tempo pace at which the Bills offense was going to operate. A rookie learning curve however, has somewhat compromised the advancement of that tactic in Buffalo’s attack.

In his weekly interview with Buffalobills.com, head coach Doug Marrone didn’t get into specifics as to why they’ve had to curtail the speed at which they’d like their offense to operate, it’s clear that the shuffling at the quarterback position in the middle of the season due to injury played a role. Not to mention getting EJ Manuel back up to speed (no pun intended) when he was again healthy after a four-game layoff.

“I think the coaches have done a good job and the players have picked up on a lot of things,” Marrone told Buffalobills.com. “Again you go into this process and you have to keep bringing them along and keep pushing them. Obviously we want them at a point where they’re not at yet. And they want to be at that point. They need to know how hard it is to get there and once we all realize that and we hold each other accountable then we’ll be able to get there.”

Buffalo’s offense had four of its five highest play count games in Weeks 2-5. The only other game to make the top five so far this season was the Week 9 game against Kansas City, in which Jeff Tuel got the start. In fact two of their three lowest offensive play count games have come in their last two games.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has always stated that you need completions to keep the tempo and pace of an offense at peak efficiency. And while that might be the case most of the time, four of the lowest completion percentage games for the Bills this season came in their highest-play count games. What happened?

In those four poor completion percentage games Buffalo also had three of the five highest yards per carry averages on the ground so far this season. So it was the run game that not only kept the chains moving, but the play count up.

Week 9 against the Chiefs is a perfect example. Jeff Tuel in his first NFL start provided some big plays in the pass game, but finished the day 18-39 passing (46.1%). Fortunately the Bills run game averaged a season-high 6.3 per carry en route to a 241-yard rushing day and the offense wound up running 77 plays, just two short of their season high in Week 4 when they ran 79.

So there are more ways in which to keep the tempo up for Buffalo’s offense than just completion percentage, but once Manuel begins to connect on a higher percentage of passes week to week than his current 57.8 percent the Bills offense can move faster on a more consistent basis.

In fact it wouldn’t be surprising if pushing the tempo at times over the last three games was attempted to continue to get Manuel adjusted to the pace at which they’d like to operate more often than not.

Here’s a look at the offense’s play count week by week with the five-highest play count games in bold face.

Week 1 – 61
Week 2 – 73
Week 3 – 75
Week 4 – 79
Week 5 – 75
Week 6 – 69
Week 7 – 66
Week 8 – 68
Week 9 – 77
Week 10 – 64
Week 11 – 67
Week 13 – 63
Week 14 – 62


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Goodwin play time to increase

Posted by Chris Brown on December 9, 2013 – 5:06 pm

Marquise Goodwin

It’s been talked about, but now it sounds like it will in fact come to fruition. Marquise Goodwin, who has delivered some of the team’s bigger pass plays of the season, will be seeing more playing time.

That according to head coach Doug Marrone, who admits the deep threat has to see more time on the field. Marrone was asked about both Goodwin and T.J. Graham and their lack of involvement in the offense of late.

“I think that those two guys are obviously guys that have great speed. We have to find a way to get them involved,” said Marrone. “Marquise Goodwin can run intermediate routes. T.J. Graham can run cross field routes so there are ways that we can get them involved, so we have to make sure we look at it.

“Like anything else, I think those guys have talent. There’s no doubt they have talent. They have better than average speed. We have to get the right group of people in the game to be productive and that’s what we’re looking at with everybody.”

Marrone then followed up later by saying he intended to meet with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to discuss giving more time on the field to Goodwin specifically.

“I think Marquise Goodwin - and I talked to coach Hackett about this I think we have to get him in there more,” said Marrone. “I think T.J. has to work on becoming more consistent.”

Goodwin played 26 of the team’s 67 snaps on offense or 39 percent of the plays.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-6

Posted by Chris Brown on December 6, 2013 – 11:49 am

It’s the final quarter of the 2013 regular season. Buffalo will try to post a winning record in these last four games, three of which are on the road. Here’s your latest edition of queries on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Thank you for all your coverage of the Bills for us fans! I have two questions for you. First of all, it seems as though as of late the Bills offense has been pretty successful on the deep Go routes from TJ Graham and Marquise Goodwin. Do you think that Coach Marrone and Hackett would consider getting Spiller more involved in some deep plays in the passing game?

Last year it seemed to work pretty well and it would give another added dimension to the offense given his speed and talent in the open field. My second question is, so far we have not seen many “trick” plays like fake field goals, fake Punts, flea flickers etc. Do you feel that this coaching staff just doesn’t feel comfortable running those plays, or is it just the fact that the situation to use a trick play just hasn’t come up yet?

Thanks, Eileen in Ontario

CB: I think the Bills will continue to work on pushing the ball down the field to take advantage of the speed that T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin bring to the offense. Those plays have been successful at times, but we all need to realize that those are not high percentage plays. Any coach will tell you the NFL is more about getting first downs than touchdowns, because the better an offense is at getting first downs, the more successful they are at scoring touchdowns.

The offensive staff has made a concerted effort to go with high percentage plays in an effort to keep the offense on the field.

As for trick plays, I think we will see a few before the season is over, but again the coaching staff is trying to build a foundation on consistent plays that are productive. There is a time and place for trick plays, but they are not something that any coach wants to hang his hat on.

2 – Chris,
First off, thanks for doing an awesome job covering all the Bills News. My question for you is in regards to the Bills Defense. I feel that Jim Leonhard really played well, especially with his takeaways while he was filling in during injuries. Why don’t the Bills sub him in on obvious passing downs? I think he could be a strong player in the backfield and result in more turnovers for the Bills D.

Secondly, do you feel that Nickell Robey has the intangibles to eventually be considered to play a boundary corner as well as nickel? He seems to be excelling and really playing good football and seems to just keep getting better every week.

Thanks, Tim in Niagara

CB: There’s no question that Leonard’s playing time on defense has suffered since Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore returned to the lineup. Gilmore’s return allowed Aaron Williams to return to safety with Byrd manning the other safety spot.

I like Leonhard as a player, and he is a heady player when it comes to anticipating and making big plays (INTs). That being said, Byrd and Williams offer better coverage ability by virtue of both of them being former cornerbacks. Byrd was a corner in college and Williams was a corner in college and his first two season in the NFL.

That provides DC Mike Pettine with a lot of versatility in coverage assignments in his defensive scheme and as Pettine himself has said the strength of his defense is its versatility.

That’s not to say that Leonhard, if needed, could not be a productive player in this defense. He’s proven that already this season. But Byrd and Williams offer more versatility and that helps to keep opposing offenses off guard.

As for Nickell Robey, he has done very well as the team’s nickel corner. At 5’8” and 165 pounds that’s his position. He would be hard pressed to be as successful on the boundary as a cornerback. The receivers on the outside in this league are just too big and too physical. Robey based on his body type alone, would be a target out there for fade passes and jump balls.

His best fit is as a slot defender and he can play for a long time in this league in that role.

 

3 – Chris:
EJ’s decision making, release time and downfield accuracy appears to have room for improvement.  This may be explained by his lack of NFL experience.  Since there is no QB coach in the organization and Offensive coordinator Hackett’s collegiate playing experience is defensive orientated, how is EJ be coached up in a professional manner?
Conrad in Elma
CB: I understand your point about Hackett’s playing experience, but he has been working at the elbow of a host of offensive coaches at the position since he was a kid. He knows how to school quarterbacks on footwork and throwing technique. Decision making is something that should improve the more he plays and gets accustomed to defensive looks.

I’ve wondered about how challenging it has been for Hackett to balance the responsibility of getting an offensive scheme implemented and executed effectively in year one while also helping a rookie quarterback make strides in his first year in the league. That’s a big ask.

Add in the fact that he had to get a second rookie QB and another young signal caller ready to play at different points in the season and you see the demands that were placed on Hackett this season.

 

4 – Chris,

What is the status of Carrington? He was playing great before he got hurt. Hope he is doing well.

Michael J. McCarthy
Pittsfield, MA

CB: Alex Carrington had successful surgery on his torn quadriceps tendon that landed him on injured reserve. I talked to him a couple of weeks ago and he told me he’s progressing well in his rehab. He’s working here at One Bills Drive on a daily basis with the trainers on his rehab regimen. The rehab timetable is typically 7-9 months and he’s just 11 weeks removed from suffering the injury, so he’s got a long road in front of him, but he’s walking under his own power.

5 – Chris,
Something that I noticed during the Falcons game about EJ. Do you remember back in the day when Dan Marino would get behind center? He would always lick his hands and you knew was going to be a pass.

During Falcons game I noticed that EJ would leave his mouthpiece in his helmet during running plays, and put it in during passing plays…. I’m wondering if anybody else is noticing this?? like the opposing defense….. if you could pass it along :-)

Thanks,
Mike bills fan
Longwood Florida

CB: To clear this up for everyone. I saw that it was a popular topic on Twitter during the game last week, but there was no merit to it. There were run plays executed during the game when his mouthpiece was tucked into his helmet facemask instead of his mouth.

There is no absolute situation in terms of play calls when it comes to the location of EJ Manuel’s mouthpiece.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 11-22

Posted by Chris Brown on November 22, 2013 – 12:10 pm

It’s the bye week, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time to answer questions. Here is your latest edition of queries on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,
Thanks for the constant Bills updates,

First, I was wondering what your thoughts are on how the Bills are going to address offseason needs (LB, CB, OL). Also, what part of EJ’s game do you think needs the most improvement in the remaining games and the offseason to help secure his role as the franchise QB.

Thanks
Season ticket holder Evan

CB: The draft is where that approach is going to start. I don’t see cornerback as a high need position right now. I could however, see an offensive tackle being taken early knowing Erik Pears is getting up there in years and Chris Hairston is a bit of an unknown at this point. Linebacker is another position that needs a quality addition or two. After that I think a big receiver that can win jump balls in the end zone could be on the add list as well.

I think the only way the Bills make a splash in free agency is if a player they respect is surprisingly available and can be had for the right price. Doug Whaley is trying to build this thing for the long haul.
2 – Chris:

I watch a lot of football and the good teams with top QB’s seem to have at least 1 tall (6’4″) receiver with glue on his hands. They are hard to overthrow, and function well in the red zone. What is the actual height of our WR’s, and isn’t there a tall receiver on 1 of the other 31 teams we could claim and try out? Besides speed, what is the Knock on tall receivers?

Thanks,
Jim in Florida

CB: The Bills tallest receivers are Marcus Easley and Stevie Johnson. Both are 6’2” and Easley is a bit thicker at 217 pounds. Hogan is 6’1” and Woods is 6’0”. As I mentioned above I think a big receiver that can be a dependable red zone target will be something that Buffalo will target in the offseason. Whether it’s a free agent or a rookie in the draft is hard to say at this point.

 

3 – Chris,

In baseball, the Oakland A’s proved that crunching numbers can translate to more wins on the field. The concepts they employed had been around for a long time, but the key was finding a GM that was willing to step up and take the heat for doing something unconventional.

After watching the Bills punt on 4th & 5 at the PIT 36 with 14:09 in the 4th quarter last Sunday, I wondered if the new analytics department could actually convince Coach Marrone (or any coach for that matter) to scrap the tradition of punting for “field position” and replace it with a plan for 4th down. There is strong statistical evidence that shows an aggressive approach to fourth down, based on field position and yards to gain, would actually translate to more wins in a season.

Alternatively, changing this philosophy could lead to more lopsided losses and will almost certainly lead to more criticism being heaped on the head coach.

Coach Marrone talks about leadership, about standing up and challenging yourself to get better every day. I personally BILLieve he has the internal fortitude to do the unconventional. Is there any chance he is willing to accept the challenge and let the analytics department, not just tradition, help him decide when to go for it on 4th down?

 

Kind Regards,

Adam K

CB: I can assure you that Coach Marrone has a lot of respect for the value of analytics in football. He’s well aware of the data on fourth down. He also is advanced enough in his thinking to not apply those statistics in a vacuum. To blindly go for it because the statistical averages say to do so without factoring in time and score, the caliber of defense one is facing, the personnel you have available to you (injury factor), the personnel the opponent has available to them, the fourth down defense the opponent brings to the table and a host of other variables is foolish.

Coach Marrone is wise enough to consider those other variables that the number crunchers often do not. Not to mention that the fourth down data does not take into account the fact that a lot of the successful fourth down situations are when the game is already out of hand and teams are compelled to go for it in an effort to climb back into the game. Maybe the opposing defense isn’t playing a ‘must stop them’ aggressive defense and is happy to trade a first down for another minute on the clock because they’re up three scores.

Believe me when I tell you that coach Marrone takes the analytics very seriously and is ahead of the curve on this not behind it when it comes to coaches in this league.

4 – Dear Chris,

After watching the Bills lose shootouts under Chan Gailey because of a bad defense, I am impressed that Marrone and Mike Pettine turned it around, allowing us to stay in games despite scoring only 23 points. On the flip side, our offense has been anemic in my opinion, CJ Spiller not living up to hype, etc. I know most of main pieces are young and inexperienced, but if Gailey could make guys like  Fitz and donald Jones productive, then I think Nate Hackett should be feeling some heat right now. He has no clue how to use Spiller like Gailey did, can’t call anything good in the red zone, I feel like his play calling has cost us games. My question is, do you feel Marrone is getting irritated at him for the punchless offense? Is there a chance Hackett could get stripped of playcalling duties?

Thanks for your time,
Bill

CB: The first thing you need to realize with play calling is Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett are on the same page with everything that is going on with the offense.

Second, Hackett has admitted that he needs to get more creative with the run game, but the amount of running that they are doing (a lot) is partially because they have to keep the quarterback in favorable down and distance situations to maintain a good rate of success on offense.

Last week was a perfect example against the Jets. Despite the fact that they were facing the number one run defense in football, they ran the ball on 12 of their first 13 1st-and-10 situations. They gained all of nine yards.

The reason they did that was to improve the pass protection when it came time to throw. In the third quarter on 1st-and-10 up 20-7 they threw a 40-yard bomb down the left sideline to T.J. Graham to move into Jets territory. The protection on that play did not have to be exemplary because the Jets were expecting run.

On the next first down the Jets were again expecting run, the protection wasn’t perfect, but they dialed up the same vertical route, just on the right side to Goodwin. Manuel’s protection was good enough, because after a big pass play the previous snap, the Jets were expecting Buffalo to go back to the ground. They didn’t and Goodwin scored on a 43-yard pass.

It might look like the Bills are beating their head against the wall sometimes with their play calling, but believe me when I tell you Marrone and Hackett know a lot about play calling and there is a method to what they’re doing. A lot of it is predicated on having a young QB.

Hopefully over the last five games they’ll be able to expand and diversify what they’re doing.

 

5 – Hey Chris,

Thanks for your in depth coverage for us fans. I have 2 questions that have come to mind after a Huge win against the Jets. First of all, With Goodwin having a great game in the slot filling for Stevie, do you believe this could raise some eyebrows and perhaps change some things up in the Receiving game and maybe change where some players line up? And secondly, it was obviously a big help to have coach Hackett on the sidelines as opposed to the booth. Why do teams even consider having coaches in the booth instead of on the field. Could you enlighten on some advantages that being in the booth would have?

Vanderklokt

CB: Thanks for the kind words. First, I think the two primary slot receivers will continue to be Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson, just because of their route savvy first and foremost. Second, both of them benefit by having two way go’s inside.

Goodwin is a more dangerous option out on the boundary, but did show he could play inside as well.

That being said coach Hackett and coach Hilliard make all the receivers learn all the positions because when this offense really picks up the tempo they have to be ready to line up anywhere.

As for Hackett being down on the sideline it facilitated the communication between him and EJ. The coordinator can also get a feel for how the players on offense are feeling about certain plays as a group instead of having just communication with the quarterback. It just facilitates communication on many levels being down there.

Being upstairs allows the coordinator to better identify personnel groupings on defense. That allows them to make quicker play calls themselves to counter it. That’s why Jason Vrabel the offensive quality control coach is now upstairs, to be Hackett’s eyes.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

What Hackett still wants from his offense

Posted by Chris Brown on November 21, 2013 – 10:32 am

While Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been encouraged by some of the things he’s seen from his offense on Sundays, he’s far from satisfied. He still doesn’t think his offense has reached critical mass when it comes to production in games.

Appearing on the ‘No Huddle’ radio show with Bills Wall of Famer Steve Tasker on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Hackett explained what he still thinks needs to be accomplished on offense this season.

“To this point we haven’t had a mesh of the pass game and the run game,” said Hackett. “One of the sides has always been picking up the other. We haven’t run and passed well in the same game. Let’s get the 30 rushes and 30 passes and roll up 200 and 300 on both sides. Get a really good output of what you want and have it mesh together with a good balance with the right stuff. The things we do well we have to master them. But we really want that balanced production.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

How Hackett convinced EJ to let it fly

Posted by Chris Brown on November 20, 2013 – 9:26 pm

Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had two long talks with EJ Manuel after each of his two setback games this season. The first was after the first meeting with the Jets in Week 3. The second was after the Steelers game in Week 10. Here’s what he talked to Manuel about in each of those two meetings.

Appearing on the ‘No Huddle’ radio show with Steve Tasker on Sirius XM NFL Radio Wednesday night, Hackett explained what he and Manuel talked about after the first Jets game, which did not go well for Manuel. He was sacked eight times.

“EJ and I had a long talk and it was right after the first Jets game,” said Hackett. “He saw a lot, but for the first time to see the things he saw it was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I see it, but they’re really all coming after me.’

“We sat down and watched a lot of the quarterbacks across the league, the great ones, like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers. Why are those guys so good? When you put on their tape they’re truly throwing the ball before the guy is open. They’re trusting their team. They’re just dropping back, they see it and they know and throw an accurate pass and let their guys make a play. He saw that in the Baltimore game (the following week) and was like, ‘Wow you’re right I’ve just got trust the look and go.’ As he continues to see himself through that he’s going to get better.

“We had that same talk after the Steelers game. It was like, ‘Look man, throw it. Just throw it as hard as you can and don’t think about anything else and believe in what you see. You got exactly what you wanted. Just go.’”

“It’s crazy. Everybody sits there and we’re judged by what happens on that field. It’s crazy to me what he’s done up to this point,” said Hackett. “Really having two bum knees. He missed three weeks before the season started and had a week to get ready for the New England Patriots. Then he goes five games and misses another month so what he’s done up to this point has been wonderful to watch.

“I think the biggest thing for him is he’s very smart. He just needs to continue to trust what he sees it. He’ll see it and know what he’s supposed to do, but then it’s okay pull the trigger. He’s got all the talent in the world. Just throw it.

“I think that we saw that this last game. He saw the looks and identified it. He made like three or four audibles on his own and I’m like, ‘Whoa this is great.’ He just needs to continue to grow.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hackett on being on sidelines

Posted by Chris Brown on November 20, 2013 – 7:40 pm

Everybody else talked about the benefits of having offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on the sidelines for their most recent win over the Jets, after he spent the previous 10 games in the coaches’ booth. Hackett, who appeared Wednesday evening on ‘No Huddle’ with Steve Tasker on Sirius XM NFL Radio talked about how he felt down on the sideline last weekend.

“There’s always that perspective of being able to look a guy in the eye and really talk to him,” said Hackett of interacting with EJ Manuel on game day. “When you’re upstairs you’re away from the whole thing. You go through the whole week where you’re with them every second and all of a sudden the game happens and I’m not there. To be down there with the guys and see how they react when things go good or bad, it’s really good for me to know what we have to do to get them going again. And just being able to communicate with EJ about coverages and all that stuff.”

Hackett admitted he saw how his presence on the sideline eased Manuel’s mind.

“That was something that I think I could really see, just a comfort level of having me there,” Hackett said. “We’re together a lot. Good thing we like each other.”

Hackett however, did not want to take the credit for the win. He felt there were some ill feelings amongst the players about how the first meeting with the Jets went down and they wanted redemption.

“I’d like to think it was all me, but it wasn’t. I just think the guys really came out to play,” Hackett said. “I think the guys were really upset about the last time we played against the New York Jets. Nobody batted an eye. We knew everybody was going to be able to do what they had to do and they wanted to make the plays and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Manuel’s progression

Posted by Chris Brown on November 19, 2013 – 9:35 am

For as discouraged as Bills fans may have been following EJ Manuel’s performance at Pittsburgh, they were equally encouraged by his performance against the Jets this past Sunday. Such are the ebbs and flows of a rookie quarterback’s first season in the NFL. But just how big a step did Manuel take in this past weekend’s game?

Manuel set single-game career highs in completion percentage (71%), yards per attempt (8.75) and passer rating (121.9). Bills head coach Doug Marrone was most excited about Manuel scanning the entire field on pass plays.

“The one thing you did see with EJ, I think we all saw it, was he was able to go through all of his progressions,” said Marrone. “He got to number five in the progression at one time, the ball that he threw to Fred (Jackson), to the right, when you saw him move a little bit and throw it. He truly went clearly across the board.  Those are the things that are encouraging.”

A good number of rookie quarterbacks are given half field reads early in their career where they have to take a look at usually no more than two progressions before dumping the ball off or taking off to scramble. What Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett saw in Manuel’s performance Sunday could potentially open the playbook up further for Buffalo’s offense.

Knowing he’s taken the step where he’s efficiently moving through his reads gives the offensive staff the ability to call more full field read plays. What everyone needs to remember however, is that protection was a big part of why Manuel was able to get through his progressions Sunday.

Some future opponents may choose to be more aggressive than the Jets proved to be against the pass, and that could alter things. Still, the progress Manuel made is undoubtedly a positive development.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Moving Hackett helps Marrone too

Posted by Chris Brown on November 18, 2013 – 4:30 pm

Much was made about how moving offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to the sideline for Sunday’s game helped EJ Manuel. The results were difficult to argue with Manuel completing over 70 percent of his passes and putting up his highest passer rating of the season (121.9). But moving Hackett downstairs also benefited Buffalo’s head coach.

Marrone and Hackett work a lot together during the week when it comes to putting together and then tweaking the offensive game plan. It’s evident that they’d like to continue that dialogue during the game as well, but when Hackett was up in the box his focus had to be on delivering the next play call down to offensive quality control coach Jason Vrabel, who then radioed it in to Manuel. There was not time for head coach to coordinator communication or if so, very little. That’s not the case anymore.

“For me it’s a lot easier to communicate with Nathaniel when he’s right next to me,” said Marrone.

Naturally the improved communication between Hackett and the rookie quarterback was obvious.

“I think it’s much easier the communication between him and EJ.  They communicate face to face all the time during the week. And then game day, it was separate. For us, it’s something that worked and we thought it was going to be beneficial to the quarterback for those reasons and obviously we’re not going to change it.”

Marrone admitted that a coordinator can track how a defense is playing against him better from upstairs over the course of a game, but those duties now fall to Vrabel, who will serve as Hackett’s eyes in the sky. The greater reward was having their quarterback play more effectively and that was the end result Sunday in a much needed victory.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hackett down on sideline

Posted by Chris Brown on November 17, 2013 – 12:53 pm

Every week this season Nathaniel Hackett has been up in the booth calling plays. That’s not the case this week.

Hackett is down on the sidelines this week. It’s to presumable have a better dialogue with EJ Manuel during the game and between series.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hackett has offense working thru QB changes

Posted by Chris Brown on November 5, 2013 – 10:50 am

Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been the one saddled with the responsibility of keeping the Buffalo offense productive through an almost unprecedented run of quarterback changes the past five weeks along with his top two running backs hobbled with injuries. To this point Buffalo’s offense ranks 15th in the league.

“I think coach Hackett is doing a great job,” said co-captain Eric Wood. “Doing a great job of bringing enthusiasm each day to practice. Being creative at times, at times being simple, but putting us in position to succeed offensively and we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball and we’ll make him look a lot better.”

“One of the things that gets missed in all this is Nathaniel Hackett, it’s been very difficult for what he’s been going through along with the rest of the players with the different quarterbacks having to play and what’s going on and who’s playing,” said Doug Marrone. “He’s really done a nice job of getting those guys ready to play.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills prepped for Superdome noise

Posted by Chris Brown on October 26, 2013 – 10:33 am

Having coached there as an offensive coordinator for three seasons, Doug Marrone knows all too well how distracting the crowd noise can be when it’s trapped inside the New Orleans Superdome. He’s been pumping artificial crowd noise onto the practice field inside the Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse all week and the players on offense feel prepared.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been drilling the players with hand signals and silent counts all week.

“If anyone has been in New Orleans, everyone knows it gets loud,” said Thad Lewis. “But we do a great job and I think we got the signals and the silent counts and things like that down pat. That’s what you work on—you try to limit your voice as much as possible. But we’ll be fine.”

“I think we’ll be okay,” said Stevie Johnson. “It’s going to be big on Thad and myself because when I’m in the slot I have to communicate with the guys on the outside. I think we’ll be okay because coach Hackett didn’t put in too many wild plays. So this whole week of practice should be helpful for us when we go down to the New Orleans.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 10-25

Posted by Chris Brown on October 25, 2013 – 1:18 pm

Here’s the latest edition of questions from you the fans on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 - @ChrisBrownBills

I would like to know how many special teams tackles Easley has inside the 20.

jkempfbills12

CB: We actually did a feature story today on Buffalobills.com on Marcus Easley. Our contributing correspondent Mark Belcher crunched the numbers and found that Buffalo leads the league with 10 kickoff coverage tackles inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Easley has six of them. The Bills gunner currently leads the league with 13 special teams tackles this season.

2 - @ChrisBrownBills

Hey Chris,
Do you see Bills Blitzing a lot on Sunday or playing more conservative with Brees pulling the trigger?

TVanderklok

CB: I think you have to careful with how you handle Drew Brees in terms of being aggressive. Brees is third in the NFL in passer rating against the blitz with a mark of 118.4, so blitzing is not a simple answer. Here’s head coach Doug Marrone on how to handle a quarterback he knows quite well having coached him for three seasons in New Orleans.

In his weekly appearance on Bills flagships station WGR Sportsradio 550, Marrone said the following when it comes to defending Brees.

“One thing you can’t do is you can’t be the same, show him the same type of look and play zone or man too much,” said Marrone. “If you give him a dose of the same stuff they’ll get after you. That’s the same with all those elite quarterbacks. You have to keep them thinking throughout the play. Before the play start if they have a good bead on what you’re doing they have an advantage. So if they’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing and people are moving around and they’re trying to figure it out as they go you have a better opportunity.”

3 – Chris,

Thanks for all the work you do! Regarding EJ, is he still in attendance at practice? Will he be at the game Sunday either on the sideline or in the box with Hackett?

Go bills!
Max

CB: EJ is not typically in attendance at practice, but he is in all the team meetings and reviewing film on a weekly basis. He is also traveling with the team and yes he is sitting in the coach’s booth with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to get a different perspective on the game from above.

This is what they did with Thad Lewis when he was on the practice squad.

4 – Chris,

I notice that the Bills don’t have an individual QB coach for your young QBs. Normally this wouldn’t be as much a concern if there was vet there to help mentor the young guys, but this isn’t the case.

I know Hackett is listed as QB coach, but he’s also OC, and has never played the position or coached it at a professional level. Are there plans to get the young QBs coaching on mechanics, game-time discussions, and work on mechanics that will help bring them along? After watching EJ struggle with mechanics, I’m worried the Bills have made a mistake in not providing a QB coach who has done it before as a resource.

Thanks Chris!
Todd, Rochester NY

CB: You’re right Hackett is both the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach. Head coach Doug Marrone did say when Kevin Kolb is fully recovered from his concussion that they’d like him to come around more and help the younger quarterbacks. We’ll see if that comes to pass.

 

5 – Chris,
Good pre-game coverage. Question:  How is it possible that Hogan is ahead of Easley on the WR depth chart.  I think Easley is a bigger, stronger WR than Hogan and has better hands and speed than Hogan. Makes no sense.  Very frustrating, reminds me back when Stevie was on the bench rather than starting when he was clearly the best WR option at that time years ago.

I think if Bills moved Easley ahead of Hogan they would be pleasantly surprised. I think once Easley demonstrates he can make plays they’ll have a hard time getting him out of the line up.

CB: I think you’re referring to the Cincinnati game in which Hogan saw his most playing time on offense. The main reason why he played more than Easley is he’s a backup slot receiver and Stevie Johnson missed that game with his back injury. Easley is strictly an outside receiver.

I think Hogan is also a quicker receiver in and out of his cuts than Easley, who is more of a long strider. Easley has build-up speed. Hogan is more sudden, which helps him gain quicker separation inside. That’s why he was a better fit.


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Posted in Inside the Bills