Big bounce back week for the Bills as they host Minnesota. Just have a feeling the run game will be rediscovered. On to your questions this week from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills. Keep them coming.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why isn’t Kraig Urbik starting? Is it stubbornness or the right call or something else in your opinion?
CB: Coach Marrone has been asked about this quite a bit this season. Based on what he’s said it sounds like he and the offensive staff would like to give rookie Cyril Richardson the opportunity to grow into the position. He said as long as Richardson, and Seantrel Henderson for that matter, are still showing signs of improvement in their play they’ll remain in the lineup.
As for Urbik specifically, here is his most recent answer as to why he hasn’t considered re-inserting Urbik into the starting lineup at either one of the guard positions.
“We feel comfortable what his role is for the team right now,” said Marrone of Urbik’s role as backup center. “If someone’s not playing well or not improving, I think (a change is) a possibility. We talk about that too. I think those (rookies) are getting better in there. And collectively, we’ve got to keep them coming along. It’s an option with him. We’ve got Kraig backing up a lot of positions inside.
“I think his versatility is his strength. I think he has good versatility. If we want to put him in there he has the ability to be a starter and go in there and play. He gives us experience. He’s our best option if something were to happen with Eric Wood, and to be ready in case we ever do anything.”
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
Will the bills be as predictable as last week? First down, run. Second down, run. Third down, pass.
CB: Contrary to what you might think the Bills threw a good deal on first down last week. In fact on first down they had 12 runs and 15 pass attempts. Granted in the second half they were behind and had to throw more, but even in the first half they had eight runs and six pass attempts. Here were the results.
1st half rush figures – 8 carries, 29 yds, fumble lost
1st half pass figures – 6 pass attempts, 7 yards, INT, sack – fumble lost, 2 incompletions
2nd half rush figures – 4 carries, 6 yds
2nd half pass figures – 9 pass attempts, 24 yards, touchdown, 5 incompletions
Against Detroit the week before the Bills ran on first down 11 times and threw 21 times. So until the propensity to run on first down becomes predictable we’ll take a closer look at the play calling by the offense.
3 - @ChrisBrownBills
How much do the Bills spend on real scouting and that’s both Collegiate & Pro CFL/NFL?
CB: There’s no way for me to get you the budget line for the Bills scouting operations, but I can tell you that the personnel department has upwards of 20 scouts, counting GM Doug Whaley. There are pro scouts, who do the advance scouting of future opponents and put together reports on every prospective free agent in the league. They will also take a look at CFL talent.
The college scouting department makes up the bulk of the group and they are scattered across the country. Each scout is assigned to region of the country and they are assigned to all the schools in their territory, with some overlap between scouts so they can get more than one opinion on a prospect.
The Bills as an organization have long believed in the value of scouting when it comes to building a roster and that has not changed one iota under Doug Whaley.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why do u think they haven’t used Sammy in the screen game? It was what he did the most in college and excelled at it.
CB: I’m not sure why he hasn’t been used more in the screen game. They have run a handful of receiver screens this season, and Mike Williams is an excellent blocking receiver as is Robert Woods. What I like most about your idea is it is an easy way to get the ball in Watkins’ hands regardless of what the opposing defense is doing coverage-wise.
You’re right he did excel at it. Whether it is something the offensive staff turns to more moving forward however, remains to be seen.
5 – Hi Chris,
My question has to do with the offensive line. If Orton can improve the play at the QB position even just a little this team can make a run at the playoffs. However all the QB attention has hid some issues on the offensive line. This offensive line is massive in size but for some reason seems to get very little push and obviously lacks in mobility compared to smaller, quicker lines. What is most disconcerting is that when they run between the tackles there is little space for Freddy or CJ. Most of their run yardage comes when they bounce it outside and get around the edge with their speed. I guess my biggest problem has to do with their philosophy of getting BIG linemen as opposed to smaller more athletic guys that you tend to see on successful teams like the Patriots. Do you think outside of QB, the offensive line is the biggest area of needed improvement and should Marrone be held responsible for this since that is his area of expertise?
CB: Coach Marrone himself admitted that the line play up front needs to be better. Against some of the better defensive fronts this season Buffalo’s offensive line has had trouble winning at the line of scrimmage. It’s a bit surprising in light of their size as you mentioned. All that size has left them a bit less mobile for screens and pulls.
I agree with coach that the line play has to be more consistent and not just in the run game, but in pass protection as well. They’ve got to raise the level of play quickly, and that won’t be easy with a couple of rookies learning on the job.
Tags: Doug Marrone, Doug Whaley, Fan Friday, Kraig Urbik, Kyle Orton, Offensive line, play calling, Sammy Watkins, scouting department
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 - Chris,
Great job keeping Bills Nation up to speed as usual. I think Jim Leonhard has been instrumental is providing some “glue” to the secondary so far this year. When we signed him in late in camp, did we sign him to a multi-year deal, and if not, do you think we should lock him up for next year now? At 30, he can clearly still play well.
SEASON TICKET HOLDER SINCE 2005
CB: Leonhard was an astute signing. He knew Pettine’s defense coming in and has helped direct the defensive backfield in the absence of Jairus Byrd and others. He’s currently here on a one-year contract. I think a lot of what Buffalo does at safety hinges on the situation with Byrd, so I wouldn’t anticipate anything elsewhere at the position until that is resolved.
2 - Hi Chris,
I notice that many injured players getting closer to becoming activated practice on the “scout team.” Why is that? Does the scout team (I presume an attempt to mirror the week’s opponent) practice less and is less physical? I am not sure why, for instance, if Jairus Byrd, still recovering, is a “full participant,” he is practicing on the scout team — it seems to make sense for him to be practicing with the 1st or 2nd team to practice the week’s game plan. Does practicing on the scout team, even if a “full participant,” indicate that that player is unlikely to play that week?
Matthew from Los Angeles
CB: When a player is typically working on the scout team coming off an injury, it’s an indication that they’re unlikely to play Sunday because they’re not getting the reps on defense or offense for that week’s game plan. If they’re not repping the assignments in the game plan during the week, it’s unlikely that they’re going to be trying to execute them on Sunday.
Very often a player coming off injury is used on the scout team as a way of getting them back into the flow of the practice setting. It’s not any less physically demanding, but they’re just not at the point in their recovery where they’re fit to play on Sunday. They’re medically cleared to practice, but not all the way back to play effectively in a game.
3 - Hi Chris,
Why do you think the Bills haven’t used Chris Gragg more often? He showed some good skills coming out of Arkansas, and in the preseason. I would think he could help open up our offense, in two tight end sets.
CB: The Bills coaching staff watches young players and their progress in the practice setting constantly. If they see a jump in a player’s performance in practice they’ll often be given an opportunity on a game day. Brandon Smith, who was called up from the practice squad is a prime example.
Gragg is a player the team clearly values, but with Scott Chandler the primary receiving weapon at the position and Lee Smith a solid in line blocker (something Gragg is still working on) it’s hard to know when Gragg sees the field.
4 - Chris,
Can you help us understand the philosophy of Bills playing calling on first down? There seems to be no imagination and nothing to keep defense’s guessing. I predicted every first down offensive play last night. Except for CJ’s run they all were awful. I am really concerned about Hackett’s ability.
CB: You are right the Bills do have a high propensity of running the football on first down. They are second in the league in percentage of run plays on 1st-and-10 at 62.5%. Only Seattle is higher (64.2%). It is admittedly a high figure, but Buffalo is also first in the AFC in rushing and third in the league.
You might see it as predictable, but predictability matters less when there’s consistent production. Buffalo’s run game has been productive and they’ve done it against a pair of top five run defenses in each of their last two games.
Last year there were a lot of fans that were complaining that the run game was scrapped too quickly. Hackett sticks with it and to this point the Bills have been rewarded with C.J. Spiller’s long touchdown run against Cleveland the most recent example.
5 - Chris
I still think the Bills receiving game would Open up much more with an alignment of Woods and Easley on the outside and then rotating Stevie, TJ and Hogan in the slot.
what do you think ?
CB: I think the Bills coaches feel they have more effective options for their passing attack ahead of him. Buffalo’s passing game is primarily based on timing and receivers getting early separation. Easley is fast, but he has build-up speed, so quick separation is not his specialty.
Easley can serve as an effective deep threat, but the coaching staff obviously feels that Graham and Goodwin more effective deep threats.
That being said he’s been fantastic on kick coverage this season. He’ll have to wait his turn on offense.
Tags: Chris Gragg, Fan Friday, Jairus Byrd, Jim Leonhard, Marcus Easley, Nathaniel Hackett, play calling, scout team
Posted in Inside the Bills