Alright Bills fans, time for another round of your offseason questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net. Feel free to submit any questions you might have via e-mail. Let’s get right to it.
1 - Chris, One thing I’m often wondering about in the offseason is what the players are up to: their perceptions of weak areas in their games they could try to strengthen, exercise and practice routines, their daily life -families, hobbies, community service, books, movies, TV, travel. Does Levi Brown work on specific areas of need in his game or just on getting stronger physically? Does he throw much? Does he do things to work on decision-making, play calling, recognition of defenses, etc,etc. Do the players work together (receivers and quarterbacks, offensive linemen and defensive linemen)? Do agents provide mentors for young players? Would the team normally give them grades on their play and suggest or provide off season coaching (not this year of course). We keep hearing how professional athletes have year round commitments to their sports in terms of conditioning etc, but just how specifically do they try to improve their skills in the off season?
CB: Most rookies when they enter their first NFL offseason are usually told they need to get stronger. Their first trip through the rigors of a 16-game season is a learning experience. Often times they’re asked by their coaches to improve their strength and stamina to better handle the more demanding pro schedule.
Players usually have exit interviews with their position coaches and head coach at the end of the season. It’s then when they’re given a road map on where they need to improve their game. A lot of times a coach will ask the player first what they’d like to improve. Obviously improving some things is limited to a team practice setting, like reading defenses quicker (for receivers). But there are things they can improve on their own, like sharper route running.
Working together with teammates usually doesn’t happen in a normal offseason, that is until they come in for OTAs and minicamps. But maintaining their conditioning is a year round process.
2 - Hi Chris,
Which of the Bills draftees do you actually see starting on the field this year (If the lockout ends)? I’m guessing Dareus will be a full time guy, and that Williams and Sheppard have a good chance of starting. Also, who do you think makes the 53-man team? Which veterans will be really pushed for their jobs this year?
CB: In talking to Bills GM Buddy Nix, I know he’s confident that most of the top half of his draft class will push for starting jobs from Dareus to Searcy. Dareus should start from day one just because of his immense talent. Williams steps in at a position where there are currently only three cornerbacks under contract in McGee, McKelvin and Corner, so there’s an opportunity there.
Sheppard might have the stiffest competition as he presumably will be going up against veteran starters. Searcy’s versatility will earn him a long look at strong safety.
3 - Hey Chris,
Seeing that Pryor will most likely enter the supplemental draft, do you think that the Bills will take him? I don’t know how it works, but they would have the third pick would they not? And the two picks before them don’t need a quarterback. Gailey could work with Pryor’s skill set and Fitz and all the Bills could help guide him.
Tommy of Pittsford
CB: Having not spoken to Chan Gailey or Buddy Nix it’s hard to know what they might think of him. My own issue with Pryor is he hasn’t developed the quarterback skills that you need to succeed in the NFL as I see it. That’s not to say that he can’t develop them. Most expert evaluators I’ve spoken to are of the opinion that he can’t make all the throws, needs more experience effectively sensing pressure (takes off too soon) and needs more experience in a pro-style offense. Most draft gurus believe an NFL club would not surrender more than a 5th to 7th round pick on Pryor.
If a team chooses to use a pick on Pryor the way it works is an NFL club if they choose to use a 5th on Pryor would surrender a 5th in the 2012 NFL draft and use it instead in the Supplemental draft.
4 - Chris,
How do you think the bulk of the carries will be split between CJ and Fred. It’s very obvious that Chan is smitten with CJ’s skills but Fred can do everything well. Most fans would like to see CJ explode this season and be a 10+ touchdown guy. Chan does like to throw the ball more than run it. What do you think Chan will do?
CB: This is a tough one having not seen any team practices in light of this unusual offseason. I do know they want to get C.J. more involved in the offense, however I still believe Fred will do a lot of the heavy lifting with respect to inside run plays. I think in the end we’ll see Spiller get a lot more touches per game, but I anticipate a lot of his work to be out in space outside the numbers, similar to the role Reggie Bush has played in New Orleans’ offense.
5 – Chris,
I’m a little concerned about some of the rule changes I’ve read about. According to an article I read online recently:
The following hits on players in a “defenseless posture” are now illegal:
• A player in the act or just after throwing a pass.
• A quarterback any time after a change of possession (i.e. turnover)
If a player in the act of throwing a pass is considered a defenseless player, does that mean that a QB can drop back with his arm cocked back (statue of liberty style) and then get as much time as he wants to pass while no defenders are allowed to hit him? Are defenders allowed to try to knock the ball out of the QB’s hand and cause a fumble as he’s winding up? Are QB’s basically going to be able to pump fake any time a defender’s about to hit them to force a penalty if the defender touches him?
Also, if a QB throws a pick, is he still allowed to try to tackle the player that’s returning the INT? That sounds a little unfair if the QB is trying to tackle the ball carrier and nobody on the returning team is allowed to block him.
Any clarification you can provide would be appreciated as I haven’t been able to find any in-debth description of how these rules are phrased or would be interpreted by officials. Thanks for your help.
-Brendan (Las Vegas)
CB: On the plus side defensive players will no longer be penalized for grazing of quarterbacks’ helmets. That should avoid some of the ticky tack penalties that we saw last year.
Defenders can no longer leave their feet and launch themselves up into an opponent delivering a blow to the helmet with any part of his own helmet. (15 yard penalty)
And yes the definition of the defenseless player was expanded to include those players:
-throwing a pass
-attempting or completing a catch without having time to ward off or avoid contact
-a runner whose forward progress has been stopped by a tackler
-kickoff or punt returners while ball is in the air
-kickers or punters during a return
-a QB during a change of possession
-a player that receivers a blind side hit from a blocker moving toward his own end zone.
These defenseless player definitions are not black and white, they will involve judgment calls on the part of the officials, and as we saw with the horse collar tackling, it took a while for the refs to have a good handle on that.
Regarding your question about the statue of liberty tactic, if it’s clearly not part of a “normal football play” it’s probably not going to be in the official’s judgment to be a defenseless player. And again the defenseless player deals mainly with hits to the head and neck area with the helmet or forearm primarily.
With respect to a QB defending an INT, or a punter or kicker defending a return, what the aim of those players being included in the defenseless player definition is to prevent opponents from taking a free shot on the opposing QB on a change of possession.
A good amount of the time the quarterback has no chance of making a play on the ball after a pick, but opposing linemen usually take a shot at them anyway by “blocking them to the ground.” If a quarterback chooses to try to make a play on the ball then he’s fair game as I read it.
Tags: Aaron Williams, C.J. Spiller, Da'Norris Searcy, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, Kelvin Sheppard, Marcell Dareus, rules changes, Terrelle Pryor
Posted in Inside the Bills
The impact of moving the kickoff line back to the 35, which is where it was 17 years ago, will go far beyond improving player safety.
With it becoming easier for kickers to achieve touchbacks, the need for a kickoff specialist will be lessened. It will also hurt the teams that are blessed with a strong legged kicker like the Ravens. More than 50 percent of Billy Cundiff’s kickoffs went for touchbacks as Baltimore was far and away the league leader in touchbacks with 40. The next closest team was Oakland with 29 thanks to Sebastian Janikowski. Now with the kickoff line moved up more NFL clubs will be able to neutralize the league’s better returners more effectively.
In terms of a touchbacks for versus touchbacks against, the Ravens are not surprisingly tops in the league at a plus 29. Oakland is second at plus 17. Philadelphia (+12), New England (+12), Chicago (+11) and Jacksonville (+10) are the only other teams with a double digit positive differential.
In fact only three other NFL clubs Dallas (+8), Arizona (+4) and Green Bay (+3) had positive differentials in the league. So the other 23 clubs were either even or negative in touchback differential. Denver was worst in the league with a minus-14 differential (22 for, 36 against), followed by Detroit (-12), Tampa (-10), San Francisco (-9) and San Diego (-9).
Buffalo was a minus-8 last season with 8 touchbacks four versus 16 touchbacks against tied with the New York Giants.
Tags: rules changes, touchbacks
Posted in Inside the Bills