Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 10-24

Posted by Chris Brown on October 24, 2014 – 12:27 pm

A big division tilt with the Jets on Sunday at MetLife stadium before the bye. Here are your questions this week from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Keep them coming.

1 – Hello Chris, thank you for keeping us Bills fans up to date with all the great insider news!

My question is very simple. With such a stout defensive line and very talented linebackers, and a talented secondary why is it in your opinion the bills give up so many pass yards?

CB: The passing yards given up by most NFL defenses are sometimes a byproduct of having a good run defense. In the Patriots game for example, Buffalo completely shut down the Patriots run game, so New England turned to their passing game. Unfortunately Tom Brady got hot and there were some miscommunication problems in the secondary according to the players.

In most cases strong run defenses make opposing offenses one-dimensional and the opponent turns to the pass game. So a good number of teams that play great run defense give up more yards through the air. Generally it’s because the opponent is behind on the scoreboard because they’ve been punting the ball away because they’re unable to run and hold onto the ball through a balance attack.

The Bills aren’t a true representation of that rule because they’ve been behind on the scoreboard a good deal, even in their last two victories. But their run defense is ranked in the top five and often forces opponents to start throwing to move the ball. More passing yards are then racked up and the Bills pass defense ranking suffers. Hope that spells it out.

 

2 – Chris,

Thanks for the work you do. When I talk to my fellow fans the thing I hear most often is some variation of “Why do they keep trying to run Spiller up the middle?”  I’ll admit I ask the same thing when I see this electrifying player disappear into the line. Does coach Hackett hear the same criticism that I do? Spiller is great in space, and the the inside of the line is our weakest position. Has he been asked about it? Do you think he’s capable of adjusting his offense to utilize Spiller’s strengths? Or is he happy with the results he is getting?

Thanks again,
Brian

CB: As the players and coaches have explained the lack of success up the middle is an all-encompassing problem. Their inside zone runs used to be their bread and butter plays going all the way back to running them under former head coach Chan Gailey. They have been less successful of late including the carries by C.J. Spiller. Spiller, before he got hurt, told us he has to trust his eyes more and that the hole will be there when he arrives.

The linemen have blamed themselves for not effectively controlling the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis. Coach Marrone has also put it on himself and his offensive staff to devise more effective ways to get more productive run plays for all of their backs.

 

3 – Hey Chris,

Some sites say Orton is making $5.5 mil a year on a two-year deal. Other sites say $3mil this year. Are they wrong or is he getting $3mil salary this year and a $2mil signing bonus for this season?

Thanks for the clarity!

Go Kyle, Go Bills!

CB: It is a two-year deal and the total value is $11M. The other reports you’re seeing are just breaking down the money differently based off of base salary, signing bonus amortization and guaranteed money. Signing bonus is paid out as soon as the contract is signed, but that money is averaged out over the length of the contract when it comes to the salary cap hit.

 

4 – Hi Chris:

I can’t for the life of me figure out why our offensive coaches won’t use Fred and CJ on the field in the backfield together (Pro Set)? The only time I can recall seeing this formation was a couple years ago in the red zone and they scored on the play. It seems like a no brainer to have two of your best playmakers in the backfield together. It’s a matchup nightmare given their pass catching abilities. It also dictates to the defense, because they are forced to respect their abilities and account for both. I wish this message could be personally relayed to Nathan Hackett. Thanks for your time and I appreciate all the insight.

Regards,
Nick U.

CB: They have been on the field together at the same time, albeit sparingly, this season. Now neither are available, but I understand your point. I thought with the running back talent in reserve on this roster (Brown, Dixon) that there would be less of a risk in using both Jackson and Spiller on the field at the same time. I know they have a specific package for that split back look, and they have been on the field at the same time with Spiller split wide. There just wasn’t a lot of it prior to the two of them getting hurt.

 

5 – Hi Chris,

I have been following the Bills for years in Ohio and NC and you truly do a great job bringing Bills coverage to people outside of WNY.

My question is about the pass interference/defensive holding call against Sammy Watkins on the sideline in the Detroit game that was picked up and given an explanation of “all contact was legal” by the ref. I almost had a coronary when that happened and am sure Coach Marrone felt the same way. The CB was all over Sammy on that play and for the flag to get picked up blew my mind. Has there been any reasoning from the league or officials as to that play?

Thanks for everything
Chris in NC
CB: Thanks for the kind words Chris.

Unfortunately there’s no good answer for you on pass interference and defensive holding because it’s a judgment call by the officials. On that play it was a 3rd-and-8 with Watkins beyond five yards and standing at the first down marker when Darius Slay was flagged for defensive holding. We have a great look at it at the 1:35 mark of our ‘Wired for Sound’ feature from that week when we had Watkins wearing the mic. You’ll see the flag is thrown. Later it was picked up.

At that time it was the third flag picked up of the season that would have benefited the Bills. I think every NFL team understands it’s going to be a judgment call. What really makes it difficult for teams to accept is when the call is changed after it is made or wiped out completely, especially in the competitive atmosphere of a game.

The Bills just like any other club handle those issues internally with the league’s head of officiating, Dean Blandino.


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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