Inside The Bills

Thurman called defensive plays

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2016 – 9:53 am

It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last, but defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman called Sunday’s game for Buffalo’s defense and Rex Ryan could not have been more pleased with the results.

“Dennis Thurman did a great job of calling the game,” said Ryan. “Then my brother’s contribution in the red zone looked pretty decent I think.”

Buffalo’s unique 1-3-7 defensive formation, used most on third down, with Kyle Williams the only defensive lineman, three linebackers and seven defensive backs including four safeties had Arizona’s offense thoroughly confused. The Cardinals did not convert a third down for the first 20 minutes of the game and finished 5-of-15 on third down conversions. They were also just 1-for-3 in the red zone after Rob Ryan did a two-year study on Arizona’s red zone tendencies under Bruce Arians in preparation for the game.

When asked if Thurman calling the plays was a change from the norm, Ryan simply explained how everything went down in terms of delegating responsibilities on the defensive side of the ball.

“Yeah, he was calling it,” said Ryan of Thurman. “Here’s what happens, we present it. So I came up to Dennis and said, ‘Look, we’ve played this guy a long time, this is what in my opinion we need to go to.’ So we put in a turbo package that we were ready with. Then we dialed them up on down-and-distance what we wanted to do. So his (call) sheet has everything specific to the plan. It was a joint effort of the entire defense. Some of the contributions that some people made was absolutely huge.”

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Palmer ugly in last 4 games vs. Ryan defenses

Posted by Chris Brown on September 25, 2016 – 9:56 pm

Carson Palmer’s struggles against Rex Ryan defenses continued on Sunday when the Cardinals fell to the Bills 33-18.

In his last three meetings with Rex Ryan defensive units coming into Sunday’s game at New Era Field, Palmer was 0-3 and had a passer rating of 27.7. Against the Bills his passer rating was slightly better, but his performance fell right in line with his previous three matchups with Ryan.

His 26-50 passing performance Sunday for 287 yards with four interceptions and five sacks led to a passer rating of 36. If you add his stats from Sunday in with his previous three games you come up with the following.

51-120 passing (43%) for 516 yards with one touchdown, 8 interceptions and 13 sacks and a passer rating of 31.1. He’s also 0-4 in wins and losses in that span.

“I came to (defensive coordinator) Dennis (Thurman) and I said, ‘Hey we’ve played this guy a long time. This is what in my opinion we need to go to,’” said Ryan. “So we put in a turbo package so we were ready and we dialed them up on down and distance what we wanted to do. I think we went with a four safety look to mess their count up a little bit. They wanted to go ahead and go to empty (backfield) so that was good for us. We wanted them in that situation. We were fortunate. Obviously Carson is a great quarterback.”

“They played this game a lot differently than the first two,” said Palmer of Buffalo’s defense. “Definitely different than the second one. But a lot of the same coverages we saw played when they were in Baltimore Week 1, some of the same stuff that they were doing last week and then some of the stuff we expected to see. What they did last week, they just didn’t do.”


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Biggest offensive change expected? Tempo

Posted by Chris Brown on September 25, 2016 – 10:35 am

The personal preferences from the Bills offensive playbook by new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will obviously change what Buffalo’s offense runs on Sunday. But the biggest change is expected to come in the functionality of the Bills attack, especially when it comes to tempo.

The first two weeks of the season getting in and out of the huddle has been an issue. It hasn’t afforded Tyrod Taylor much time to survey the defense before the snap and call an audible or check at the line. Coach Lynn intends to change that, something that has been confirmed by Taylor and head coach Rex Ryan.

“I think number one the tempo will be faster,” said Ryan. “That’s what we’ve stressed to our players and then there are going to be some different ways that we’re going to attack.”

“I definitely think we’ll speed up the process and push the tempo,” said Taylor.

Lynn doesn’t just want the offense operating at a quicker pace, he wants to see long drives, something that’s been noticeably absent from Buffalo’s offense.

“I want to play smart, physical football,” said Lynn. “I want to be explosive down the field, and right now, I just want to stay on the damn field. That’s what I want to do. So, we’re going to play a little bit faster and see if we can put a little pressure on the defense and just execute.”


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Ryan: Talented Cards might be just what we need

Posted by Chris Brown on September 20, 2016 – 2:51 pm

Rex Ryan was effusive in his praise of the Arizona Cardinals and how well rounded they are as a club. The defending NFC West champs are coming off a 40-7 shellacking of Tampa Bay. They’ll be a tough matchup to say the least, but Ryan thinks a team of this caliber often gets a team as focused as ever to execute.

“You know what this might be the exact team we need to play,” said Ryan. “It might be the best team in the league and maybe this is the exact team we need to play, and it’s back-to-back weeks by the way. You’ve got Bruce Arians this week and Belichick next week. There are probably a few more easier options than those two, but maybe this is exactly what we need.”

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Tyrod’s brief exit was call made by Hochuli

Posted by Chris Brown on September 16, 2016 – 1:19 am

In the fourth quarter Tyrod Taylor was escorted off the field after he took a sandwich hit from a couple of Jets defenders on a tackle. Head referee Ed Hochuli walked Buffalo’s quarterback to the Bills sideline and he was promptly examined. The decision however, wasn’t made by any independent neurologist on site. It was made by Hochuli.

“It was a call he made,” said Rex Ryan of Hochuli. “Our quarterback took a shot and it was like, ‘Okay we get it,’ and EJ went in there. I certainly understand that and I’m all for that. They told me that he took a good shot and I certainly get that. This should be about protecting the players and Hochuli explained that to me and I certainly understood.”

Taylor missed two plays before he was declared safe to re-enter the game.

“It’s protocol because I got hit. He said he thought I was a little woozy on the ground,” said Taylor. “You never want to come out in the middle of a series especially in a close game, but I understand it’s protocol so I have to deal with it.”

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Why Rex chose not to pressure Fitz

Posted by Chris Brown on September 16, 2016 – 1:14 am

Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the ball out about as fast as any quarterback in the league, so blitzing and pressuring the Jets QB isn’t always the best idea. But that’s not why Rex Ryan chose not to pressure him Thursday night.

“I was afraid to pressure because we weren’t holding up in man coverage so we played the whole game trying to stuff 15, quarters, deuce, we tried everything,” said Ryan. “To their credit it didn’t matter what we played they were the better team today.

“We thought we could cover them. We thought we had a chance. They have a great group of receivers with Decker and Brandon Marshall obviously, but the other guys, I thought 81 played his butt off against us 11, 89 everybody showed up. You’ve got to give them credit. They did a great job and we couldn’t do anything to disrupt them rhythm-wise.”

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What isn’t part of Matt Forte’s repertoire

Posted by Chris Brown on September 15, 2016 – 6:04 pm

Jets RB Matt Forte didn’t look much different in Week 1 than he has over the last several seasons of his career, which was previously spent in Chicago. He had 155 total yards from scrimmage in the Jets one-point loss. As versatile as Forte is there is one part of the game that isn’t a strength according to Bills head coach Rex Ryan.

“One thing he can’t do is he can’t pass protect,” said Ryan. “He’s a great receiver and he’s an outstanding runner. So his protection? Let’s just say it’s not that good.”

Ryan, not surprisingly, had more favorable praise for Jets backup RB Bilal Powell, who Ryan coached when he was in New York.

“Bilal Powell is a different type of guy,” said Ryan. “Great in protection, decent runner and also a good receiver.”

Powell has been a third down back for the Jets for that very reason and that appears to still be the case now. In Week 1 on the Jets’ 14 third down opportunities Powell was on the field in place of Forte for 12 of them.

The only two he wasn’t was in a 3rd-and-goal at the two-yard line, and it appeared that Forte did not recognize the pass rusher coming off the left side of the Jets’ formation. Fitzpatrick got rid of the ball in time as he typically does. The other was the second to last play of the game when the Jets went empty backfield to put more receivers out on routes.

Expect to see more of the same tonight at New Era Field.

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Can Fitz improve his numbers vs. Ryan?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 15, 2016 – 4:44 pm

Much has been made about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s lack of success against Rex Ryan’s defense, and that trend continued in the two meetings between the Bills and Jets in 2015.

Fitz and the Jets took two losses at the hands of the Bills last year, and Fitzpatrick’s numbers were not all that productive. Here’s a look at the combined numbers he put up in the two games against Buffalo last season.

Fitz was 31-71 passing (43.7%) for 374 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He averaged 5.3 yards per attempt, was sacked twice and had a passer rating of 49.9.

Ironically, he performed marginally better in his last two games for the Bills against Ryan’s Jets defense in 2012, Fitz was 30-58 passing (51.7%) for 420 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, wasn’t sacked and had a passer rating of 76.8.

So will those struggles for Fitz continue? Rex Ryan wouldn’t mind it.

“Gee I hope that trend continues,” Ryan said.

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Positive reviews for Preston Brown

Posted by Chris Brown on September 13, 2016 – 3:56 pm

Coming out of the opener it looks like the bounce back year for Preston Brown is already underway.

The team’s mike linebacker took charge of the defense in the opener and performed admirably not only as a linebacker, but as the quarterback of the defense.

That according to head coach Rex Ryan, who was very pleased with Brown’s calls and his play.

“He did fantastic,” said Ryan. “He runs the whole show so he is literally the captain of the ship back there and he has taken to that role and you combine that with a guy who has a lot of physical talent that’s the guy we want running that defense.”

Brown is determined to make sure their defense is better than the defensive unit of the team they’re facing. He said that wasn’t the case last week. But he believes as long as all 11 guys understand the scheme they’ll continue to improve and succeed.

“The biggest thing is guys know what they’re doing,” said Brown. “I took the leadership role to make sure guys know what to do and communicate so it goes across the board. It’s been great to see.”

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Safety rotation by snap count

Posted by Chris Brown on September 12, 2016 – 9:56 am

Duke Williams got the start opposite Corey Graham at safety Sunday, but a rotation soon followed. A rotation in which all of their safeties dressed for the game (Colt Anderson was inactive) saw time on defense. Head coach Rex Ryan said it was by design, in part to get Aaron Williams back up to speed in small doses. There also seemed to be a package element to the substitutions as well. In any event here’s a look at the snap count breakdown by safety.

Corey Graham – 68 snaps – 100% playtime
Aaron Williams – 28 snaps – 41% playtime
Duke Williams – 21 snaps – 31% playtime
Jonathan Meeks – 13 snaps – 19% playtime
Robert Blanton – 5 snaps – 7% playtime

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Where to watch Rex & Rob Reunited

Posted by Chris Brown on September 10, 2016 – 2:00 pm

MSG will be airing the debut of Rex & Rob Reunited tonight. While the premiere will air in Buffalo and Rochester on Saturday night at 8:30 (Part 1) and 9 pm (Part 2), there will also be a nationwide airing wherever else MSG is carried.

MSG outside of Buffalo and Rochester will air Rex & Rob Reunited at 10:30 pm (Part 1) and 11 pm (Part 2). 

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Bills successfully expand their return options

Posted by Chris Brown on September 10, 2016 – 10:41 am

Though Buffalo is facing arguably the best kick/punt returner in NFL history, they’ve taken steps to address their own return game. After finishing 23rd in punt return average and 30th in kick return average the Bills decided to add veteran return men to their ranks.

Buffalo had some capable return men last season, but most of them were injured during portions of the season. Several of them also didn’t return to the roster (Leodis McKelvin, Percy Harvin, Marcus Thigpen).

So Buffalo signed Reggie Bush a week into training camp and this past week they added veteran returner Brandon Tate to the roster. Walt Powell is an additional option for the return game.

“We feel much better than we did quite honestly at any time last year,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “We’ve got three guys that we know can catch it and return it.”

Just who handles what at the outset of the season remains to be seen, though it’s likely that Tate handles kickoffs and Bush handles punt returns. Of course based on numbers there could be weeks where one of them handles both duties.



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Cardale’s throwing shoulder still sore

Posted by Chris Brown on September 8, 2016 – 4:00 pm

The Bills had just a few players unable to practice Thursday. One of them was third-string QB Cardale Jones, whose sore throwing shoulder has stretched into a second week.

Jones didn’t throw for a week between the second and fourth preseason games. He played in the preseason finale, but the shoulder soreness returned. Head coach Rex Ryan however, sees it at a pain issue not an injury issue.

“There’s a difference between pain and injury,” said Ryan. “We believe it’s a pain thing, not a full blown injury or we’d be treating him a lot different.”

Player Pos Injury Participation Thursday
Colt Anderson S Foot DNP
Kevon Seymour CB Hamstring DNP
Cardale Jones QB Right shoulder DNP
Ryan Groy OL Ribs LP
Jonathan Williams RB Ribs FP

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A redshirt year for Cardale

Posted by Chris Brown on September 7, 2016 – 10:52 am

As the team’s third QB, it’s unlikely that Bills fourth-round pick Cardale Jones ever sees the field in the 2016 regular season. His rookie year is largely expected to be the equivalent of a redshirt season. But head coach Rex Ryan maintains that they have a long term plan in place to help grow Jones’ individual game.

“I’ve got a huge plan for him, we do as an organization,” said Ryan. “We will have special projects for him. We are always going to have him up on the game plan and things. There are other things we are doing with this young man as well that I won’t get into. But let’s just say we are trying to build a quarterback.”

Throwing mechanics are expected to be a significant part of the tutoring. Quarterbacks coach David Lee is one of the best coaches in the league in teaching proper quarterback mechanics from footwork to hips and torso to arm follow through.

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Rex: strong possibility of having 53 by Friday

Posted by Chris Brown on September 2, 2016 – 12:06 am

Bills head coach Rex Ryan and his staff have a lot of decisions to make between now and Saturday’s 4 pm deadline to reduce the roster to 53. Ryan said there’s a chance they’ll reach that number by Friday. 

“I think there’s a real strong possibility of that,” he said. “We have an initial plan to 53, but it won’t really be finalized until the following week. I think we’ll go into it that we were assuming we’re not adding anybody, and this will be our 53, but that could change we could pick up one or two guys.”

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Rex liked Gronkowski’s performance

Posted by Chris Brown on September 1, 2016 – 10:45 pm

Making an impression in the final preseason game can be make or break for players when it comes to a roster spot. FB Glenn Gronkowski’s performance may have made things difficult for head coach Rex Ryan when it comes to roster cutdown time this weekend.

“(Glenn) Gronkowski played really well,” said Ryan. “I’ve been impressed with him. That’s about the only bright spot. I’m sure there’s a few more. I was looking for some guys to make our football team. Just like this Gronkowski kid. It may be hard to keep him off our team now. We’ll see.”


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Spikes rounding into form

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2016 – 10:29 am

His first week with the Bills at training camp, Brandon Spikes was falling all over himself thanks to a full calendar year away from the game. The veteran linebacker was on his couch in 2015, unable to latch on with a club. Now three weeks in with Buffalo, Spikes feels his game rounding back into form.

“Like night and day,” Spikes told “The first day I just felt out of shape and my balance I was all over the place on the ground falling down. Now I’m getting back to myself. I feel like I still have a long way to go, but as long as I can stay at it every day and keep my head in the playbook I’ll be fine. Right now I’m a little hesitant about certain stuff, but it comes with the reps.”

Spikes’ greatest asset is his ability to diagnose run versus pass. He had a couple of plays where he made tackles in the run front before offensive linemen could even set their blocks.

“I see him getting better and better and I think he’s playing more,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “He actually looks quicker. He’s taking to the defense. I love the temperament that he has. I think that’s a real positive. All the guys in that locker room, they look up to him. They all respect him and I think that’s a real positive as well.”

“I would say 75-80 percent of that is instincts and 20 percent is film study,” said Spikes of his run-pass diagnosis. “I knew what was going to happen and they did exactly what the coaches said they would do and I was able to read and react. And that’s one of the things I’m good at is stopping the run.”

Spikes still brings the wood when he hits ball carriers as well, but right now he’s hoping to finish the preseason strong so he can lock down one of the team’s 53 roster spots.


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Rex still waiting for separation at WR

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2016 – 4:30 pm

Bills head coach Rex Ryan was again asked if anyone has pulled away from the pack at the wide receiver position, one of the few legitimate position competitions for roster spots. Though training camp is over and the regular season is closing in Ryan doesn’t believe anyone has definitively staked claim to a role beyond the top two wideouts (Watkins, Woods).

“I think there is good competition there still,” he said. “You’re not just competing with our roster you’re competing with the whole league. I’ve been really encouraged by Walter Powell. I think he’s done a nice job for us in the return game and as a receiver. And I think Boykin, Little, Dez (Lewis), everybody has had their… you see things from them that they can play. I don’t think anybody has jumped out and taken a job yet. That’s something that we’ll continue to watch going into this last preseason game.”



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Cordy confident in practice speed

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2016 – 2:29 pm

Rex Ryan has no intention of playing Cordy Glenn in Thursday’s final preseason game even though he has yet to taste preseason action. Ryan insists they’ll replicate game speed in practice to get Glenn ready. The veteran offensive tackle believes that’s realistic with the experience they have on both the offensive and defensive lines.

“I think we do a good job of that,” Glenn told “Guys who have been around for a couple of years know how to do it and the young guys can just follow their lead. So I think we’ll be able to handle it.”

Glenn missed most of training camp with an ankle injury.

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Rex: The best EJ Manuel I’ve seen

Posted by Chris Brown on August 27, 2016 – 2:19 am

Lost in the news about ACL knee injuries for Chris Gragg and Jonathan Dowling, and Rex Ryan’s decision to sit a lot of his starters in what is typically the last dress rehearsal for a team’s first unit on both sides of the ball, was another solid outing by EJ Manuel.

Manuel’s numbers don’t look great in the end, but he was the victim of spotty pass protection and some dropped passes as he played almost the entire game Friday against Washington.

He finished the game 21-39 passing for 221 yards with an interception on the last play of the game that was forced into coverage to try to get a game-winning touchdown pass to Walt Powell.

Overall Ryan has been impressed with the growth he’s witnessed in his backup quarterback.

“I thought he played really well and if we can protect him we would be in business,” said Ryan of Manuel’s performance. “That’s unfortunate. We’ve got to do a better job in protection. But I thought he played really well and he’s done that. I told you guys I feel really good about our quarterback situation including EJ.”

Manuel’s ball location on the whole was good, despite being under duress much of the game. He was also decisive when it came to where he was going with the football and though he was sacked twice his internal clock seemed to be in sync with Washington’s pass rush.

“I think every time we put him out there he’s done a great job. He threw the touchdown at the end, but sure enough, it’s OPI (offensive pass interference) so the touchdown is called back.”

Ryan was referring to Manuel’s touchdown pass to Powell two plays prior to Manuel’s final throw that was picked off. Powell was flagged for offensive pass interference.

“But I really liked the way he played. I love the way he competes. He’s got a great look in his face. He loves competing. You know what? Sometimes quarterbacks take a little longer to develop. I think this is the best EJ Manuel I’ve seen.”

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