Inside The Bills

A solid start for special teams

Posted by Chris Brown on September 14, 2015 – 10:37 am

Often lost in Buffalo victories is the performance by the Bills’ special teams units. On Sunday Danny Crossman’s group was on point.

Colton Schmidt had five punts with a solid gross average of just over 50 with an impressive net punting average of 46.2 and a long of 63. His early punts in the game were critical to the field position battle with Indianapolis. The Colts’ first four drive starts were their own 20, own nine, own eight and own four-yard lines. The result of those drives? Punt, punt, INT, punt.

Indianapolis’ average drive start for the game was their own 19-yard line, while Buffalo’s was their own 35. That stat belongs to the Bills special teams unit.

Randell Johnson’s fumble recovery off the muffed punt return by Phillip Dorsett helped the Bills seal the game as it led to an insurance field goal midway through the fourth quarter.

On punt returns for the day Indianapolis had a total gain of one yard.

Dan Carpenter was perfect on field goals and extra points with a pair of 40-plus yarders and all three extra points.

Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay had three touchbacks on six kickoffs with all three going through the back of the end zone. On Gay’s shortest kick, his coverage picked him up. His kick that went just a yard deep in the Colts end zone to start the second quarter was brought out just five yards to the Colts’ four-yard line when Chris Hogan dropped him.

And on a day when Buffalo was flagged for 11 penalties for more than 100 yards, the Bills’ special teams units were responsible for just one.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-12

Posted by Chris Brown on June 12, 2015 – 1:09 pm

1 – Hey Chris,

I love these Fan Fridays, and thank you if you get to reading and responding to my question. With Michael Buchanan is it a possibility that he plays defensive end like he did in college and I think in his first year, and moving Jerry Hughes back to line backer as he did some coverage as linebacker as he did is his first year of with the Colts, if I’m not mistaken. So to summarize. Is it possible for that exchange to occur with the possibility if this free agent signing?

Thank you Chris,

CB: Buchanan has lined up exclusively at defensive end since he’s been on the practice field with the Bills. He’s a long and angular player. I think Buchanan will be fortunate to make the 53-man roster knowing the depth Buffalo has on the defensive line. So unseating Jerry Hughes is a pretty big leap to make. That being said I do think Hughes could see some time as a stand-up OLB in some of Buffalo’s defensive looks, where he rushes the passer that way instead of as a traditional end.


2 – CB,

Most teams carry 4 offensive tackles. Right now the Bills have 3. Do you see them signing someone? I assume they hope Cyrus can be their swing tackle or push Henderson. How many guards do you expect to make the roster. Rex wants to keep Urbik but they are very high in numbers (Williams, Richardson, others). They can’t keep all these guys. I hope John Miller wins the job. What your idea of the the line/backups will fare out?

CB: The Bills have a fourth OT in Tyson Chandler an undrafted rookie. There isn’t much on the free agent market in terms of proven talent. I do believe the Bills will try to add a fifth tackle at least for training camp. They need numbers there for reps and in the event of an injury. Knowing how thin the veteran free agent market is it’ll probably be a young player if it happens.

As for guards I think they keep three true guards and Kraig Urbik, who is a center and guard.



3 – Chris,

I appreciate the excellent reporting you provide for all of us Bills fans in Nevada.

How serious was Matt Cassel’s injury and where does he stand in his rehab?

Is there the potential for the tutoring that EJ is receiving from Steve DeBerg to be in conflict with what David Lee will teaching him?

Will coach Ryan or Thurmond be calling the plays on game day?

Thanks again,
Hank from Boulder City, NV
CB: Thanks for the kind words. Cassel’s foot injury was a very serious one last season. He is fully cleared to practice and insists his foot is fine. I think when we get closer to game speed in the preseason it’s something to keep an eye on. I’m not saying that because of anything I’ve seen in OTAs. I’m saying that because we know QBs are untouchable in the training camp setting, so in the preseason if he takes a hit or two on that foot it will bear watching to see how it holds up.

As for EJ’s tutoring from Steve DeBerg they did focus on throwing motion, release point and footwork, so I suppose there is a chance that DeBerg’s teachings could conflict with that of Bills QBs coach David Lee. I don’t anticipate there being any major differences however, between the two coaches where it would set Manuel back because the biggest focus was making his throwing motion more compact. Manuel had a bit of wind-up last year and needed to shorten it up. I’m confident David Lee likely came to a similar conclusion watching Manuel’s 2014 tape.

Finally, as it’s been explained to me, Rex Ryan will call the defensive plays on game day.


4 – Chris,

Thanks for all of the excellent year-round Bills coverage.  Knowing that the Bills have been among the league leaders the last couple of years in having to play teams off a bye week or extra rest, how does the schedule look this year in regards to that? How many games do the Bills face an opponent coming off a bye or three extra days of rest due to a Thursday night game?  Also, do the Bills face any division opponents coming off extra rest?

R.J.  Rome, NY

CB: The situation is a bit better for the Bills facing opponents coming off extra rest, but not by much. Buffalo has three games against opponents who will be coming off extra rest. The unfortunate part is they’re all clumped together in the first five weeks of the season, and yes one is against a division opponent.

In Week 2 the Bills will host the Patriots, who will be coming off an extra three days rest by virtue of their season opening Thursday night game against Pittsburgh.

In Week 4 they host the Giants, who will be coming off a Thursday night game in Week 3 and will also have three extra days of rest before facing the Bills.

In Week 5 Buffalo travels to Tennessee to face the Titans, who will have a full extra week to prepare coming off a Week 4 bye.

In Week 15 Dallas will technically have an extra day of rest going into their game against Buffalo because they play Saturday in Week 14, but that will be somewhat negated by the fact that the Cowboys have to travel to Buffalo. So in essence it’s three games.

Washington leads the league this year with five games against opponents with extra rest.

Buffalo has two games against opponents where they’ll have the extra rest and both are against division opponents (Week 9 vs. Miami, Week 11 at New England). Of course in between those two games is a Thursday night road game at the Jets.

Three straight games against division opponents is not a good draw at all, especially when the first two will be played in a four day span (Week 9 vs. Miami, Week 10 at Jets – Thurs. night). Basically the Bills face all three division opponents in a stretch of 15 days with two of them on the road.

That’s probably more of a disadvantage than playing teams off extra rest because of the importance of those games in the AFC East standings. Of course they could be the Packers, who play four division games in a row from Week 10 to Week 13. Ugh.

5 –
Hi Chris,
Just wondering what your thoughts are on one last years late round picks, Randell Johnson, and what his chances are of becoming a contributor? I didn’t hear much about him last year, but his instincts and tackling really stuck out to me last summer in the preseason. Now that a lot people are saying LB is a need I’m wondering if he can possibly fill it.

CB: I believe the coaching staff is hoping he can provide some valuable depth at linebacker, and they’re giving him every opportunity to prove himself. Through the OTA practice sessions Johnson has largely run with the second unit at outside linebacker. His length (6-4, 245) is perfect for a 3-4 front. Defensive coordinators look for long body types there.

There is a lot to process in this defense and I feel like he’s working his way through it. Right now I don’t see anyone really pushing him for that outside spot on the second unit, but that could change come training camp. Knowing his assignments well enough to just freely run and hit will be beneficial to his game.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 3-27

Posted by Chris Brown on March 27, 2015 – 1:03 pm

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks Bills fans. Let’s get to what’s on your mind with your questions from email at and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills

Given the #Bills have only 6 picks N 2 in the top 150 how aggressive should we expect them to be in Undrafted Free agency?


CB: I don’t expect the Bills to be especially aggressive in undrafted free agency. Here’s why. The roster is probably as deep as it has been in 10 years. There’s a good chance some of their late round draft choices do not even make the 53-man roster, let alone any undrafted rookie free agent signings.

That being said I believe they will sign a handful of college free agents, but unless some unexpected prospect goes undrafted and slips into the undrafted pool I don’t expect the Bills to go crazy once the draft is over.


2 – Chris,

I think Doug Whaley is a very good GM, but sometimes I wonder if he said what he really meant to. A question I had on the press conference he had a little while ago.

He said we would be a run heavy, play great D team until we had a franchise QB. That sounded like he was saying that EJ Manuel was not that guy. If he is saying that they no longer have faith in him. That would be new information.

CB:  I think your assumption is a bit misguided. What Whaley said about the offensive approach is accurate. What he also said about a franchise quarterback is also accurate. After 14 NFL starts he, along with everyone else, doesn’t know if EJ Manuel can be the team’s franchise quarterback. It’s not enough of a sample size to know for certain.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe Manuel could become a franchise QB. Here’s a good comment from Whaley to peg where he and the team stands on EJ heading into 2015 when he was asked about Manuel heading into his third year.

“A guy that has had some ups and some downs and a guy that knows that he has to produce,” Whaley said. “He’s excited. We’ve talked to him. He knows that this is a crucial year for him. He knows he has to step his game up to be consistent. We’ve seen flashes of good things. We’ve seen flashes of some things that he needs to improve on. We know he’s going to put in the work to be the best player he can be.”


So by having all this new offensive talent around the quarterbacks and a top five defense, not to mention solid special teams, the quarterback doesn’t have to be franchise caliber right now. If Manuel can win the job and develop into a franchise signal caller in a year or two, then all the better.


3 – Chris,

Do you see Randell Johnson as a player on the rise that might fit Rex’s defensive system? He’s raw and a good athlete from what I remember. With Rivers gone and Spikes up in the air, could Johnson see more of a presence on defense? He seems like a good fit on the outside as a pass rusher in 3-4 system.

CB: I don’t think Brandon Spikes’ future impacts Johnson because they have different roles. Johnson at this point is going to be serving as a depth player at LB behind guys like Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes, depending on how the defensive staff chooses to line him up.

Johnson’s length is an asset in a Rex Ryan scheme at OLB. What also helps him is he has some experience from his college days as an outside rusher at Florida Atlantic. I just think it’ll be hard for him to get on the field on defense with all the veteran talent in front of him.


4 – Chris,

What do you think of Brandon Bridge as raw QB? Has the arm, body, and speed but its truly developmental. I know all the throws aren’t there yet but he has giant arm? With Roman’s work with Colin, do you seen him as maybe the best fit for the Bills in the draft?

CB: You’re right he is a developmental prospect all the way. He has a lot of the physical tools that NFL talent evaluators look for in a QB. The question is how long will it take? He’s only got 373 career pass attempts in college. He’s played in all of 20 collegiate games. And for his career he’s completed just over 50 percent of his passes. To say he’s green would be an understatement. I’d be wary of a quarterback who needs to step it up as much as he does when it comes to ball location, completion percentage and reading defenses. You just don’t know what he is and is not capable of, so he’s a difficult projection. I’d be surprised if he goes before the sixth round.


5 – Hey Chris,
I enjoy all the coverage you and the team provide throughout the year for bills fans everywhere.

With the best player available draft process that seems to be what all the perennial contenders use, does need play into the equation at all?

Thanks again for all your great coverage.

Justin from Eden
Transplanted to Lynchburg Virginia

CB: Yes, need does play into the equation. As Doug Whaley and many other GMs have said before you go with best player on the board, but if there are a couple of prospects on your board closely ranked and one is at a position of need, in that instance you would lean toward your positional need.

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Why Chandler and Gilmore sat out

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 8:24 am

In the preseason finale Thursday almost all the starters opened the game on offense and defense. There were however a couple of missing pieces from the lineups on each side of the ball. The offense was missing their starting tight end and left guard. The defense was missing their starting cornerback opposite Leodis McKelvin. Here’s why.

Scott Chandler was reported by the team to have a knee injury. Meanwhile Stephon Gilmore was reported to have a groin injury. The severity of each injury is not known and it’s presumed that both injuries were sustained in practice during the week.

Rookie LB Randell Johnson also suffered an ankle injury. He was a game time decision Thursday and tested it pre-game, but could not go.

WR T.J. Graham also came out of the game with an ankle injury.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

LB Johnson passes physical

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2014 – 1:57 pm

Bills seventh round pick LB Randell Johnson has been on the active non-football injury list since before training camp opened. He was finally moved of that list Friday.

Johnson passed his physical and was moved to the active roster.

The rookie linebacker has largely lined up at the outside linebacker spots since OTAs.

Posted in Inside the Bills

LB Johnson surprised by Bills pick

Posted by Chris Brown on May 11, 2014 – 12:29 am

He didn’t have much pre-draft interaction with the Buffalo Bills so late on day three of the 2014 NFL draft, Florida Atlantic LB Randell Johnson was caught off guard when he became Buffalo first of two seventh round picks.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect this,” said Johnson. “I don’t really know anything about Buffalo at all so I was surprised. I was just surprised Buffalo picked me up. I’ve been talking to the Seahawks mostly the whole weekend and the 49ers and the Dolphins, so I was expecting them to call me. But once I got the call I was just excited. Man my dream came true. I’m just going to live it up.”

At 6-2 245 pounds Johnson ran an impressive 4.6 at his pro day.


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