Inside The Bills

EJ on 98-yard hookup with Watkins

Posted by Chris Brown on July 31, 2014 – 5:58 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel has really settled in at practice the last two days. His internal clock is more aware of the rush, he’s making his way through progressions and he’s delivering the football with more decisiveness. On Thursday he uncorked a 40-yard pass on the money to Sammy Watkins, who was streaking down the left sideline. Watkins pulled in the over the shoulder pass and kept on running  another 58 yards to the end zone. Here was Manuel’s take on the play.

“I just dropped back and threw it and he ran a great route and he ran that against Gilmore and that says a lot,” said Manuel. “Being backed up that’s kind of your dream as a QB to have a chance at a 99-yard touchdown reception. Sammy did a good job of stacking him and it was a huge play for us.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins latest ‘wow’ play

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2014 – 8:04 pm

Sammy Watkins has been routinely turning in dynamic and high degree of difficulty receptions in the passing game since training camp started. On Sunday he turned in another.

Watkins took off down the sideline on an outside release. CB Ron Brooks was stride for stride with him. Despite the tight coverage EJ Manuel put the ball up anyway. The pass drifted inside a little bit to where Brooks had positioned himself, but Watkins jumped as the ball was arriving and reached his hands up, out and over Brooks to pull the ball in and kept running. The fans in attendance went nuts.

“My confidence is huge in him,” said Manuel. “I’ve said it before, I was a Sammy fan before we even went and picked him up. When he got here and he showed what he could do to all of us the confidence is only going to go higher.

“When the ball is going to Sammy, he looks at it like it’s his ball, and nine times out of 10 he’s going to come down with it. That was just a prime example of it.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins playmaking will open things up

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2014 – 11:03 pm

With all the plays being turned in by Sammy Watkins in the training camp practices, it’s bound to lead to greater attention from opposing defenses and that will lead to more opportunities for the other receivers.

That doesn’t always reveal itself in the structured nature of practice, but in a game when opposing defenses are reacting Watkins is going to draw added attention. That will benefit the likes of Robert Woods, Mike Williams, Marquise Goodwin and the rest of the receiving corps.

“I don’t think it’s ever been just Sammy and Sammy knows that too,” said EJ Manuel. “He’s obviously getting an opportunity to make plays just like the rest of those guys. Obviously, all I want to do is just give those guys an opportunity to make a catch and they do the rest.”

“We’ve just got so many guys that can go out and make plays, we’ve always got a lot of speed on the field,” said Watkins. “We’ve got guys that can go over you, we’ve got guys that can run great routes, so when one guys making plays, that’s when other guys start to open up because they start to double or run a certain coverage. With everybody making plays, it’s been hard for the coaches and the offense because they want everyone on the field at the same time.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

What comes after reps to build rapport with WRs

Posted by Chris Brown on July 17, 2014 – 1:19 pm

Bills QB EJ Manuel is about to begin his most important training camp. Big things are expected from him after a rookie season that included three different knee injuries that cost him six starts. And he’ll need to do it while getting used to a pair of new wideouts in Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams. Obviously reps on the practice field will be the most important way to build the chemistry between himself and the two receivers in the passing game. As for the next most important way to build the rapport, Manuel has a thought on how to most effectively get on the same page.

“I think the biggest thing for us is to watch the film together,” Manuel told Buffalobills.com. “I think that’s one thing that we’re excited to do. Obviously with coach Hackett being the OC he kind of goes over everything, but I think it helps me to watch film together because everybody can be on the same page. Instead of receivers saying, ‘Hey what was EJ thinking here?’ Or, ‘What was C.J. thinking here on this run?’ We can all just talk about it right then and there and it goes back to our rapport getting stronger as a team being together for year now and it’s easier to hold everybody accountable.”

Today in our Camp Countdown we took a look at the three ways EJ Manuel can become a difference maker for Buffalo’s offense.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Wood not worried about EJ-Sammy chemistry

Posted by Chris Brown on July 15, 2014 – 2:30 pm

Sammy Watkins made news when he said the on field chemistry isn’t all the way there yet between himself and EJ Manuel. Of course not many realize the pair only had about a dozen practices together on the field this spring. Regardless veteran center Eric Wood isn’t concerned about the passing game connection of Manuel and Watkins. He believes it will develop quickly.

In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio Wood expressed his confidence in the abilities of Manuel and Watkins coming together.

“Chemistry is extremely important and I think EJ and Sammy will definitely get there,” Wood said. “They made some plays in the spring that were really eye-opening. I think EJ is really getting better as a player and Sammy is going to be an NFL probably very quickly. He’s got a tremendous work ethic and his skill set is pretty obvious to those of us who have watched him.”

While most veteran players might be disappointed by the extended training camp the Bills have in light of the additional preseason game, Wood sees it as a benefit for young players like Manuel and Watkins.

“This extended training camp with us having the Hall of Fame game, that extra time it seems pretty daunting as a player, but it’s work that we definitely need if we want to get where we want to get on offense so any extra work before we open up against Chicago would be great.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-11

Posted by Chris Brown on July 11, 2014 – 11:23 am

Alright Bills fans one week and counting until players report. Nine days until the first practice. Get ready. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris,

I was wondering, with Sammy having youth football camps and Adidas commercials and endorsements and having all the pressure of becoming better than Stevie Johnson, do you think he’s living up to that???

Also, I was wondering how EJ really looks. Some people on Rant sports and Buffalo down say he looks great in mini camp and training camp, but then someone wrote how EJ looked bad and made bad choices. How do you feel about what EJ has shown you???

Thanks,
Dan Reinagel

CB: Sammy Watkins is not going to be concerned with being better than anyone. He’s focused on being the best receiver he can be and with his well documented work ethic I think he’ll make steady progress with his game as the season moves along.

As for EJ I think he knows the offense like the back of his hand. Pre-snap he’s very good at diagnosing the alignment of the defense and making a change at the line if necessary. Where he’s had some fits and starts is after the snap. If his first read isn’t there on occasion he’ll hesitate and the timing of the play is disrupted. That’s the hurdle he still needs to clear so more often than not he’s not only making the right reads, but still delivering the ball on time as well.

 

2 – Chris,
I saw a recent write up that said Sammy Watkins was struggling mentally in OTA’s.  This is starkly different that what we’ve been hearing from BuffaloBills.com.  What’s going on?

Thanks
Len

CB: From what I saw the number of plays made by Watkins in the practice setting decreased as the volume of plays being installed increased. This is a normal occurrence for a rookie at a skill position like receiver. He admitted himself even during the first week of OTAs that he’s still thinking about what to do as he’s running a route instead of just playing.

It’s the typical learning curve that a rookie receiver must travel. Again knowing how badly Watkins wants to make an impact at the NFL level I trust in time the thinking will dissipate allowing his natural playing ability to take over.

 

3 – Chris-

First off, the coverage your group does on buffalobills.com is exceptional and should serve as a model website to the rest of the league in terms of operations, promotions, etc.

Now, my question involves more of an input in regards to your observations of how the team has been built over the past several offseasons. I’ll start by pointing out that the current Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks, held one of the most dominant offenses in league history to eight points by simply dominating on the line of scrimmage and playing exceptionally well in the secondary. In comparison to the Bills, it looks as if we are beginning to move towards the Seahawks mold on how to be a champion. Seattle prided itself on its Defensive Line and Secondary, much like us with three Pro Bowlers and a sack artist in Jerry Hughes as well as an underrated secondary with Gilmore, McKelvin, Williams and Searcy. Secondly, we brought in a coordinator that prides himself on mixing up coverages so as to allow his dominant line to impose its will on opposing offenses. Given all of this on defense, Seattle also prides itself on a dominant run game with Russell Wilson playing the “game manager” role at QB. This reliance on the offensive line and running game in general, proved to be their “bread and butter” throughout the past several seasons, ultimately ending in a Super Bowl Championship. According to these observations, I firmly believe that we are on the path to adapting how the Seahawks play football simply by our focus on the development of the running game, the emphasis on the defensive line and the talent in the secondary.

Although we haven’t proven to be at the level of the “Legion of Boom” or have the same depth on defense as Seattle has, is it fair to assume that in this copycat league, the Bills are doing their best, both schematically and personnel-wise, to adopt the methods of the Super Bowl Champions?

I look forward to your insight.

Michael

CB: First and foremost thanks for your compliments. We work hard here at the website to keep you all informed on the latest happenings with the team.

As for the way this team is being built I think your observations are rather astute. Yes, I think Doug Whaley has made a concerted effort to build the defense in similar fashion to that of the Seahawks. The only area where perhaps the Bills are different is they do not have as much speed off the edge as Seattle does. The Seahawks have about three or four speed rushers who don’t go much more than 245 pounds. They’re deployed in the team’s ‘NASCAR’ package, which is called that because all their pass rushers are fast guys in that package. They kick their run down defensive ends inside and bring out their ‘race car’ pass rushers to line up on the edge.

Outside of that I think the Bills and a good number of other teams are trying to mimic the model. Seeing Buffalo add depth at running back for a ball control ground game is another example.

 

4 – Hi Chris, thanks for keeping us with something to read during the month between minicamp and training camp. I was glad to read Jeff Tuel is progressing this year. I actually thought they should’ve given him the backup job last year while EJ was out. I read so many comments about him where people say he obviously wasn’t ready because of his two interceptions in the KC game last year. He was playing a team that was undefeated mostly because of their defense and if all it takes is two interceptions to say a QB isn’t good enough EJ wouldn’t be around either. The thing I really liked about him is he was able to get the WRs involved hitting them on intermediate routes throughout the whole game which is what EJ was lacking outside of the two minute drills. My question is about Tuel’s arm strength. Would you say he can throw the ball farther and harder than Fitz or are they pretty close? If he does have a stronger arm I hope he gets a real shot if EJ doesn’t improve this year. I could really care less that he wasn’t drafted. Nobody knew who Tom Brady was until Drew Bledsoe went down either. From what I’ve seen Tuel makes fast decisions and has the courage to throw the passes that need to be thrown. Watching him last year was a lot like watching Fitz come in after Trent Edwards got shell shocked and wouldn’t throw the ball to a WR because truthfully EJ and Thad Lewis looked the same way. Obviously EJ’s arm strength and ability in the clutch are going to buy him some more time to show he can run the offense, but if he doesn’t come around I think Tuel can surprise some people.

 

Dan

Western, MA
CB: Tuel has better arm strength than Ryan Fitzpatrick. He can fit the ball into tight windows pretty effectively, or at least he’s demonstrated that this past spring. His decision making has been encouraging and I believe he’ll be pushing Thad Lewis for the number two role in training camp. Backup quarterback will have a bona fide competition this summer.

 

5 – Hey Chris,

I appreciate all the coverage you guys do, but I’m curious why there hasn’t been any highlight reels lately( For example mini camp?)

And another question maybe for FanFriday.

How will the Bills use all four of their RB’s?

Thanks!
God Bless,
Braeden

CB: The highlights were missing from Bills Roundup in minicamp per coach Marrone’s instructions. If coach is concerned about other teams seeing anything they want kept under wraps we have to respect it. We know the fan loses in the process, but competitive advantage has to come first.

That being said full highlights will return to Bills Roundup presented by ECMC at training camp so get ready for action.

The newfound depth at running back and how everyone is utilized will be interesting. On Monday in our Camp Countdown on Buffalobills.com we will be addressing that very question. I encourage you to check it out for some answers. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had some interesting comments on what will be a good dilemma.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins rookie confessional

Posted by Chris Brown on July 7, 2014 – 2:35 pm

Who is Sammy Watkins looking forward to facing the most in his rookie season? And what does he think about his new NFL city? The dynamic wide receiver provided the answers.

Appearing in an NFL.com rookie confessional, Watkins methodically laid out his goals, those he wants to play against and what he likes about Buffalo.

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-4

Posted by Chris Brown on July 4, 2014 – 11:42 am

Happy Independence Day everyone! A proud day to fly the flag. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Given the new additions on offense do you see the Bills being run heavy or pass heavy? With Dixon and Brown there won’t be enough carries to go around. Getting 4 RB’s the ball seems like a tough task. Given the league is pass heavy and Watkins is in the fold how is the ball going to go around. Its a pass heavy league and EJ will need to throw 300 yards often. How do you see this shaking out?
Thanks,

Sean

CB: It’s my contention that the Bills want to be a run heavy team, but not to the point where they’re grossly imbalanced. Last year is a perfect example. With a rookie quarterback in 2013 the Bills ran the ball more than any other team in the league, but they still only ran the ball 49 percent of the time (546 times on 1,116 plays).

Every team in the league strives for balance as much as possible, but I believe Doug Marrone wants to be able to run the ball whenever he wants regardless of whether the defense knows it or not.

And as much as you want to call it a pass heavy league here’s a look at the 12 teams that ran the ball the most last season. Eight of them were playoff teams including the last two NFC teams standing last year. Yes, some of them also threw it ton (New England, Denver), but it wouldn’t surprise me if Marrone wanted his offense to be similar to that of San Francisco. The 49ers ran 52.5 percent of the time last year, and knowing the pace at which the Bills want to run their offense if they’re successful they’ll be more plays and thus more opportunities for more backs to carry the football.

Don’t kid yourself there will be a pecking order and some backs will see less of the field than others, but if their offense operates as they anticipate there will be more than enough carries to go around.

2013 Total rush leaders
1 – Buffalo – 546 rushes
2 – Seattle – 509
3 – San Francisco – 505
4 – Philadelphia – 500
5 – NY Jets – 493
6 – San Diego – 486
7 – Carolina – 483
8 – Cincinnati – 481
9 – New England – 470
10 – Tennessee – 462
11 – Denver – 461
12 – Green Bay – 459

2 – Hi Chris,
With all the talk around EJ Manuel and his progression, I have a question. I’ve listened to Coach Marrone and Coach Hackett say how good he is coming along, then I hear Marrone talk about the playoff drought. If EJ Manuel doesn’t pan out by the 3rd or 4th game, is he willing to pull EJ and replace him with either Lewis or Dixon? I am also curious as to why he has not been asked this by the reporters, because as fans we want a winning team as well. I’m curious as to why Marrone hasn’t been asked this and what his response would be. Just bought my season tickets this morning for the first time!! GO BILLS.

Thanks,

Lee
CB: First, thanks for supporting the team. We look forward to seeing you out there this fall. The reason coach Marrone hasn’t been asked this question is because coaches don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, especially those that deal with replacing players in the lineup. So if the question was asked it wouldn’t be answered.

Now to speculate on the situation you present is difficult. The organization has said from the day they drafted him that they’re all in on EJ Manuel. That plan is not going to be scrapped if he gets off to a slow start. That being said every plan has a breaking point. What that breaking point is for this coaching staff however, is hard to pin down now.

I think the staff is under more pressure to win in light of the ownership void. They know victories validates them as coaches, but only coach Marrone has to what lengths they’ll go to get wins and he’s not going to cross that bridge until he comes to it.
3 – Hey Chris,

I’m still trying to form a conclusion of whether or not the Sammy Watkins trade was a good one.

Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the people jumping off of my couch yelling “Sammy or Mack!” when the trade first scanned across the screen.  But after the dust has settled, and now that we are in OTAs and such, we tend to come back to reality and realize that afterall….Sammy is just one guy.  Yes Sammy is a playmaker, but statistics show that most rookie WRs do not produce heavily.  Plus you factor into the equation that Manuel was very inconsistent (to say the least) with his accuracy…along with a bunch of other variables working against Sammy.  So with all that being said, I guess I have 2 questions for ya.

1)  Would YOU have done the trade or would you have stood pat and taken say…Ebron or Beckham for much cheaper of a price in the 1st round?

2)  Since you were in the war-room, what was Buddy Nix’s reaction to the trade?  In the video and pictures of the warm room, everyone was clapping, cheering and celebrating the pick.  Buddy, however, was the ONLY one NOT celebrating.  I know it’s just Buddy, but he is still an advisor that has a wealth of knowledge and a history of not making trades on draft day.  So I’m just curious if you got the sense that he wasn’t thrilled about the value that was given up.

As always, Thanks for all you do.

And GREAT work on your draft coverage.

Sincerely,

Tim in NJ
CB: I think if I believed that Sammy Watkins was the best player in the draft and I had an opportunity to get him I would certainly take a swing at it. Doug Whaley said himself he wasn’t their top receiver, he was their top player in the entire class.

Yes, there’s no doubt there are variables that can impact Watkins’ production. He is dependent on quarterback play and such, but I think A.J. Green is a good indicator as to what Sammy can be in his rookie season. Green was also the fourth pick in the draft and he played with a young quarterback at the time in Andy Dalton. Green had 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns as the number one receiver in the Cincinnati offense. I don’t think those are unrealistic numbers for Watkins.

As for Buddy’s reaction in the room, you have to remember the dynamics at work there. It was the first draft Buddy was attending since stepping down as GM. It was Doug Whaley’s first draft and he just completed a huge deal. I think Nix was being respectful of Whaley’s role now. It was Doug’s room, Doug’s draft and Nix was letting Whaley and the personnel staff enjoy the moment.

And so you know Whaley and Russ Brandon consulted Nix on about a dozen occasions through the course of the draft, most often when they were done having conversations with other clubs on the phone. So Nix is still a highly respected man in that personnel department.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks again for all you great coverage.  Makes it easy for us not living in Buffalo to get our daily fix of the Bills.

Two questions about the defense:  Is Marcell Dareus facing a suspension from either the team or the NFL for his drug charge and driving incident?  And are you concerned about Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme looking a lot like Dave Wannstedt’s scheme from two years ago.  Both Jim and Dave said they rely on the front 4 to get pressure on the QB and our D from two years ago was not exciting, never blitzed, and seemed to never be aggressive or in control.  Mike Pettine’s D was exciting, aggressive, and confusing for offenses.  Which Defense do you expect to see more of this year?

Pat

CB: Thanks for the kind words. With Dareus the cases are just going to have to play out and based on their results the NFL will decide if disciplinary action is warranted. So they’ll have to reach their conclusions before the league steps in if at all.

As for Schwartz’s defense I’m not concerned about the Wannstedt comparison. Schwartz is a cutting edge coordinator in this league. He’ll blitz a whole lot more than Wannstedt ever did. And if I have to trade in 10 sacks in exchange for the best third down defense in football (Detroit was #1 last year) and a top 10 run defense (Detroit was 6th last year) then I’ll do it.

 

5 – Chris,

I’m interested in you thoughts on how Mike Caussin has been a Bill since 2010. He has almost no NFL production to his name and has an injury history, but continues to keep getting camp invites year after year. Does he have immense potential? Has he shown something in camp in previous years that keeps him around? I’m just used to seeing guys with his history off the roster after a max of 2-3 years. Thanks for all your work.

Nick in Baltimore
CB: I think what’s most appealing about Caussin’s game is his athleticism. He’s a pass catching tight end that has uncommon agility for a man his size. He’s also trying to develop as a backup long snapper to Garrison Sanborn. Yes, injuries have largely derailed his career. That’s why this is likely a make or break camp for him with tight end as deep as it’s been in a while in Buffalo.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-13

Posted by Chris Brown on June 13, 2014 – 11:32 am

Three weeks of OTAs are over. Only the mandatory minicamp remains next week before the countdown to training camp. As always we’ll have full coverage here on Buffalobills.com. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hey Chris,
I am hearing a lot of fans chatter about the Bills running back situation.  It’s come to be pretty crowded at the RB position at this point and since the Bryce Brown trade fans seem to think CJ is on the trading block? I don’t buy it myself.  I know that CJ and Fred are FA’s in 2015 and while it makes me very sad I tend to think that will be it for Fred Jackson.  As for CJ I don’t really know if they would like to lock him up long term.

I wanted to get your thoughts and see if you have a feel for what they might want to do.  My take is they brought in Bryce Brown because they liked him but also as insurance for the season and to see what he’s got.  I would also imagine that if they do like him after the year that he would most likely be Fred Jackson’s replacement.  To me CJ Spiller is more than just a running back and I do not believe that he has even scratched the surface of what he can be.  He’s a threat every time he touches the ball and I’m very optimistic that he is going to shine this season.  As long as he stays healthy and the coaches put him in the right situation he should be able to really show what he can be.

Like Sammy said I hope that I see CJ and Sammy play together for a long time to come.  And also what do you think of CJ’s contract situation and the RB market? Do you think that could be beneficial for the Bills or could CJ still demand a hefty contract maybe pending his season?

Thanks a lot, Jillian

CB: I think with the pressure on everybody at One Bills Drive to win this year and make the playoffs the thought of C.J. Spiller being on the trading block is absurd. Yes, C.J. is entering the last year of his contract. It’s my understanding though that Spiller wants to stay in Buffalo long term. For him to sign a long term extension now however, would not be in his best interest. He’s coming off an injury-plagued 2013 and the new offense took some getting used to.

Spotrac.com recently did a great job projecting a long term contract extension for Spiller based on what he’s done in his career to this point and presented a lot of good comp numbers from other backs in the league. Spiller presumably would want more than the $4-plus million they project, and to do that C.J. has to approach, or more likely, exceed his numbers of 2012 (1,244 yards rushing, 459 receiving, 8 TDs) to be able to negotiate more.

At this point Spiller is without an agent though he’s looking to hire one in the not too distant future. It’s my belief that both the Bills and Spiller will let the season play out and regardless of his production they secure a long term agreement that’s beneficial to both sides.

I will add that I am encouraged that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will diversify the ways in which he uses Spiller in the scope of the offense.

2 – Hi Chris,

I personally love the trade to go up and get Watkins, and right now after rookie camp, it looks like he is the real deal. This year is also the year that Stephon Gilmore is supposed to make the jump to an elite cornerback. With minicamp coming up and I’m expecting them to match up against each other, what would the coaches rather see? Watkins showing he is the real deal, but also Gilmore might not be the cornerback they hoped. Or would they rather have Gilmore shut him down, but also raise doubt about whether Watkins was worth what they gave up for him?

Thanks for all your coverage and GO BILLS!
Ethan
Washington DC
CB: In an ideal world for the coaches their head to head play raises the level of both players. That’s the competition that coaches and GM Doug Whaley have talked about all offseason. When the competition level is raised it inherently raises the game of the players involved and that makes the team better.

Gilmore however, is not expected to get a full workload in the team portions of practice next week. Coming off of his surgery he’s expected to be eased back into the practice setting and got a handful of snaps the last week of OTAs.

 

3 – Chris,
Thanks for the great Bills coverage for all of Bills Nation here in the desert southwest. Given the imminent change of ownership and the potential uncertainty that can bring, what is the mood of the Bills employees at OBD. Are people apprehensive regarding salary and benefit restructuring or can everyone, (including yourself) focus and keep it in the background. Thanks and the best of luck.

Hank from Nevada
CB: Our President and CEO Russ Brandon has stated more than once publicly and to us directly that it’s business as usual and we take him at his word. There is no sense in worrying about things we can’t control. So as far as I see it it’s in our best interest to do the best job we can do in the roles that we have until we know more about the future leadership of the organization. Thanks for your concern and well wishes.

 

4 – Chris,

How do you think the coaching staff views Chris Gragg? We keep hearing the Bills don’t have that “new-age” athletic TE on their roster, and if they do it’s Tony Moeaki, but Gragg has an intriguing skill set in my opinion. Is he a guy that they are planning on trying to get more use out of in his second year, or do you think he has an uphill climb to make the final 53?

Thanks!
Josh

CB: I don’t think there’s any debate about Gragg’s athletic skill set. He’s done all the right things this offseason including making it to each of the Bills player passing camps run by EJ Manuel in California and Florida this offseason.

With Scott Chandler limited he had the benefit of getting some first team reps in a rotation with Tony Moeaki and Lee Smith in OTAs.

I spoke to him this past week and he told they’ve expanded his responsibilities in the scope of the offense where he’ll be playing both the ‘Y’ (in line TE position) and the ‘F’ (detached). So there appear to be plans to broaden his role, but he’ll need to outperform both Chandler and Moeaki in camp if he’s going to get any significant playing time this season.

 

 

5 – Hey Chris,
Thanks for the great coverage this off-season. I always look forward to Fan Friday. My Question is in regards to the #3 QB spot. What have Jeff Tuel and, Dennis Dixon been up to this off-season? Tuel showed a lot of promise last pe-season but, clearly wasn’t ready when thrust into the spotlight. I still hold out hope for him. Living in Western Pa. I got to see Dixon play some as a Steeler. The guy has a motor for sure. Do you think Tuel’s spot is safe or does Dixon have a legit chance to overtake him? Maybe try to stash Tuel on the PS?

Thanks again, I look forward to your insight on this.
Scott

CB: At this point it appears that Tuel has the edge on Dixon for the third QB job on the roster. This offseason Tuel has definitely strengthened his body. He’s leaner, but stronger and it’s showing in his escapes from the pocket when a play breaks down and in his arm strength. Dixon is clearly the best athlete when it comes to taking off and running. He would win the footrace of all four QBs easy.

Tuel does have practice squad eligibility, but I’m going to have to check on Dixon. This will be a very hard battle to gauge because their reps on so limited. It’ll likely go all the way to the preseason games before a definitive call can be made.

I will say through the OTA practices I thought Tuel flashed more with the plays that he made.

 

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Projection for Watkins 2014 season

Posted by Chris Brown on June 11, 2014 – 9:15 am

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks has put together a projected season stat line for Bills top pick Sammy Watkins along with a handful of other top rookie prospects for the 2014 season.

Brooks believes Watkins can be a dynamic weapon for Buffalo. He’s just not sure when it will all kick in for the Clemson product. Here’s his prediction.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

Best-case scenario: The Bills are counting on Watkins to add juice to the passing game as the No. 1 option on the perimeter. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound speedster is a dynamic catch-and-run playmaker who also excels as a deep threat on the outside. With the Bills increasing the pace and tempo of their attack this season, Watkins will get plenty of touches on quick throws, bubble screens and deep shots designed to take advantage of a fatigued defense. With an offense looking for more explosive plays in the passing game, Buffalo should work to get Watkins at least six to eight touches per game.

Worst-case scenario: Rookie receivers typically struggle with the NFL transition, thanks to the complexities of the pro passing game. Watkins could encounter some growing pains, considering that he played in a spread offense at Clemson that didn’t feature a lot of route conversions based on coverage. (Thus, he might have a tough time identifying sight adjustments and hot routes in the Bills’ passing game.) Additionally, Watkins’ lack of experience running pro-style routes could prevent him from making an immediate impact as a No. 1 receiver.

Projection: 65 catches, 950 receiving yards, seven touchdowns.

These projected numbers aren’t far off from what A.J. Green did in his rookie season in 2011. He had 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also the number four overall pick in the 2011 draft.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins route running progress report

Posted by Chris Brown on June 5, 2014 – 3:32 pm

Bills rookie receiver Sammy Watkins has made route running his top priority in the spring practices. Knowing the precision that receivers coach Rob Moore and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett are demanding, Watkins is anxious to tighten everything up. Here’s his assessment of where he’s at after two weeks of OTAs and a rookie minicamp.

“I’m getting better. There are probably two or three routes that I still have to work on,” he said. “Overall, I think I’m looking similar to the older guys in the offense and I think I’m picking it up real fast.”

Watkins explained why the route running part of his job is a demanding hurdle to clear.

“You’ve got different routes than I was running in college. There are so many routes in this offense,” he said. “Most of them are similar but you got to have steps, it’s more steps now than yards. You got to get the correct steps to get your yardage.  So that’s been the biggest struggle.  But this week, I’ve been doing all my steps and revolutions, I know how to do them now so now I’m running my routes perfect.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hughes a pass rushing force Wednesday

Posted by Chris Brown on June 4, 2014 – 4:21 pm

Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes was living up to his billing in practice Wednesday. Though it’s far from real football at this point in time in OTAs, Hughes had his best practice thus far.

After a would-be sack midway through Wednesday’s practice during a 9-v-9 segment the Bills run, Hughes followed it up with three more sacks in a span of five plays. In practice pass rushers can only tap out a QB on a pass play. Hughes tapped out Jeff Tuel and EJ Manuel on his four sacks.

On his last play Hughes swooped around the right side and tapped out Manuel before he could launch a deep ball for Sammy Watkins down the right sideline. Hughes began shouting down the field, “Bring that ball back! That was a sack!”

While much has been made about the adjustment Hughes may need to make going from Mike Pettine’s defense to Jim Schwartz’s as Hughes sees it not much has changed for him.

“He’s brought in his 4-3 scheme, but as far as what I’m doing it’s pretty much the same thing I did last year,” said Hughes. “My hand is in the ground and I’m coming off the edge trying to create pressure to get to the quarterback.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

EJ tipped by C.J. on Watkins pick

Posted by Chris Brown on May 28, 2014 – 4:42 pm

EJ Manuel was watching the 2014 NFL draft like the rest of us back on May 8th. He naturally got excited when he saw the Bills move up from ninth to fourth in round one. Before the pick however, EJ got a phone call tipping him off as to who the team was about to pick.

“C.J. called me right before the pick and I guess he got wind that we were going to take Sammy that we were trading up to get him,” said Manuel. “We were both excited. Obviously with C.J. being a Clemson guy, but if you watch college football on Saturday you always saw Sammy making big plays. So we’re very happy about the pick.”

As for his thoughts on Watkins on the practice field today, Manuel was encouraged.

“Well I was extremely impressed with him the first day beyond his physical attributes, he’s a big guy, he’s a big receiver,” said Manuel. “But at the same time he works hard too. He does a lot of things after practice. So whenever we’re finished he’s still out there walking through his routes on his own. That’s what you want to see from a fourth pick overall whose coming in with huge expectations. You want to see him put that front foot forward and work hard. So I’m extremely happy to have him on our team.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins wishing he didn’t have to miss OTAs

Posted by Chris Brown on May 28, 2014 – 2:42 pm

As encouraging as Sammy Watkins play was in his first day on the field in Buffalo’s offense, he’s unfortunately going to miss the next two days of organized team activities due to the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles, which mandates the attendance of the top players in the draft class. If Watkins had his way he’d be staying in Orchard Park the rest of the week.

“I would rather stay here and get the connection with the quarterback,” Watkins said. “I don’t want to fall behind. It’s a long season so I need to be prepared to be ready for the first game. It’s kind of sad that I have to leave for three or four days and everybody will have that two or three days ahead of me. So I really have to go down to the rookie premiere and study the plays and actually get out there running and train a little bit and not get behind too far.”

The three-day event is hosted by NFL Players Inc., the marketing and licensing arm of the NFLPA. EJ Manuel and Robert Woods attended the event last year. Here’s a list of the rookies attending this year.

LAST

FIRST

POS

SCHOOL

TEAM

Adams

Davante

WR

Fresno State

 Green Bay Packers

Archer

Dri

RB

Kent State

Pittsburgh Steelers

Beckham

Odell, Jr.

WR

Louisiana State

New York Giants

Benjamin

Kelvin

WR

Florida State

Carolina Panthers

Bortles

Blake

QB

Central Florida

Jacksonville Jaguars

Boyd

Tajh

QB

Clemson

New York Jets

Bridgewater

Teddy

QB

Louisville

Minnesota Vikings

Carey

Ka’Deem

RB

Arizona

Chicago Bears

Clowney

Jadeveon

DE

South Carolina

Houston Texans

Cooks

Brandin

WR

Oregon State

New Orleans Saints

Ebron

Eric

TE

North Carolina

Detroit Lions

Evans

Mike

WR

Texas A&M

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Freeman

Devonta

RB

Florida State

Atlanta Falcons

Garoppolo

Jimmy

QB

Eastern Illinois

New England Patriots

Hill

Jeremy

RB

Louisiana State

Cincinnati Bengals

Hyde

Carlos

RB

Ohio State

San Francisco 49ers

Landry

Jarvis

WR

Louisiana State

Miami Dolphins

Latimer

Cody

WR

Indiana

Denver Broncos

Lee

Marqise

WR

Southern California

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mack

Khalil

LB

Buffalo

Oakland Raiders

Manziel

Johnny

QB

Texas A&M

Cleveland Browns

Mason

Tre

RB

Auburn

St. Louis Rams

Matthews

Jordan

WR

Vanderbilt

Philadelphia Eagles

McCarron

A.J.

QB

Alabama

Cincinnati Bengals

Moncrief

Donte

WR

Ole Miss

Indianapolis Colts

Murray

Aaron

QB

Georgia

Kansas City

Pierre-Louis

Kevin

LB

Boston College

Seattle Seahawks

Richardson

Paul

WR

Colorado

Seattle Seahawks

Robinson

Allen

WR

Penn State

Jacksonville Jaguars

Sankey

Bishop

RB

Washington

Tennessee Titans

Savage

Tom

QB

Pittsburgh

Houston Texans

Seferian-Jenkins

Austin

TE

Washington

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shaw

Connor

QB

South Carolina

Cleveland Browns

Thomas

De’Anthony

RB

Oregon

Kansas City Chiefs

Thomas

Logan

QB

Virginia Tech

Arizona Cardinals

Thornton

Khyri

DL

Southern Miss

Green Bay Packers

Watkins

Sammy

WR

Clemson

Buffalo Bills

Watson

Asa

TE

N.C. State

New England Patriots

West

Terrance

RB

Towson

Cleveland Browns

Williamson

Avery

LB

Kentucky

Tennessee Titans


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Ebron already citing Watkins as ROY favorite

Posted by Chris Brown on May 20, 2014 – 2:31 pm

Detroit TE Eric Ebron in discussing friendly wagers he had with Houston DE Jadeveon Clowney on where each of them would go in the draft, was asked if there would be another wager between the two top 10 draft choices. Ebron said Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year might be the next line, but the Lions tight end doesn’t believe he’ll be able to land that honor after the 2014 season.

That’s because Ebron believes Sammy Watkins will be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

“I’m going to try to go for Offensive Rookie of the Year, which I probably won’t get ’cause Sammy Watkins is there,” Ebron told the Detroit Free Press. “But we’re going to try.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Sammy eager to get started with EJ

Posted by Chris Brown on May 19, 2014 – 4:12 pm

Bills voluntary OTAs are still more than a week away, but that hasn’t quelled Sammy Watkins eagerness to get on the field with Buffalo QB EJ Manuel. With rookie minicamp now in the rearview mirror Watkins is anxious to get started with the team’s starting quarterback.

“I can’t wait,” said Watkins. “That’s the best time where you’ve got the right time with the quarterbacks and you’ve got the older guys at wideout teach you the routes and the steps and the releases. That’s going to be timing also so I can’t wait to get started with him.”

Watkins is also preparing himself for the fact that facing NFL veterans in OTAs means it’ll be harder for him to win on every route in practice.

“It takes time. Those guys have been here two and three years,” he said. “They’re going to win most of the matchups and I’ve just got to compete every day with a workmanlike mentality and know there are going to be positives and negatives in the early stages.”

The first voluntary OTA practices begin next Wednesday.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why Cockrell never covered Watkins

Posted by Chris Brown on May 19, 2014 – 3:50 pm

During Ross Cockrell’s four years at Duke the Blue Devils only faced Clemson once while Sammy Watkins was on the Tigers roster. In that game Cockrell didn’t even get a chance to cover Watkins, but with good reason.

Cockrell was busy covering the receiver who was a first-round pick in 2013 for Clemson.

“I didn’t really get a chance to guard him much,” said Cockrell of Watkins. “I was covering DeAndre Hopkins, so they had a two-headed monster that year.”

After seeing a lot more of him in practice during Buffalo’s rookie minicamp, Cockrell is pretty convinced that Watkins is the real deal.

“Sammy is an explosive guy,” Cockrell said. “He was explosive in college, he’s explosive here so he’s going to be a great player.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins: better now than at Clemson

Posted by johnmurphyshow on May 17, 2014 – 7:00 pm

He hasn’t played a game in four months.  Sammy Watkins has been through the NFL combine and his pro day along with several private workouts.

But after his first session with the rest of the Bills rookies on Saturday, Watkins says he’s already a better route runner than he was when he played his last game for Clemson.

“My routes are way better than I was at Clemson,” Watkins said after the 80-minute workout Saturday. “It was more of being fast being quick and just get me the ball. Now it’s more of being detailed, being a route runner, being fluid through your routes and not making everything hard on yourself.   It’s about leverage, pushing your route, pushing depth and being on the same page as the quarterback.”

“I’ve gotten better,” he said. “That’s the NFL. You learn more and more here. You’ve got smarter guys here, guys who teach you details, and that’s what it’s about on Sundays—the details.”

 

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-16

Posted by Chris Brown on May 16, 2014 – 2:36 pm

The NFL draft is in the rearview mirror. Time to review it and other topics you’re wondering about courtesy of your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills This weekend’s rookie camp, is it just rooks or are 2nd year guys encouraged to attend. i.e; Manuel, Gragg, Woods, etc.?

Grayson Tumult

CB: In addition to the draft choices, undrafted rookie free agents and street free agents with less than a year of accrued NFL time there are some first-year players who are eligible to participate this weekend. Here’s a look at the first-year players (have a year accrued in the NFL) who will be on the field Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Players like EJ Manuel or Chris Gragg are not eligible.

DB – 47 – Michael Carter
OL – 76 – Randy Colling
OL – 72 – Edawn Coughman,
FS – 40 – JaJuan Harley
DE – 98 – Ikponmwosa, Igbinosun
WR – 16 – Cordell Roberson
LB – 54 – Jacquies Smith
WR – 87 – Chris Summers
LB – 58 – Nathan Williams

Michael Carter is technically a rookie even though he came out in the 2013 draft class. He went undrafted and did not stick on an NFL roster so he does not have an NFL accrued season from the last calendar year.
2 – Hey Chris,

After seeing Free Agency pan out and how many teams weren’t willing to pay their own Free Agent RBs (or other FA RBs) a lot of money or even commit to long-term contracts, it looks like CJ Spiller wouldn’t require that much to keep in Buffalo after his rookie contract expires. I know that it’s been pointed out as a concern for the Bills Fan Community after this year when Fred and CJ become free agents, but I’m less concerned. Knowshon Moreno had a career year (completely destroying Spiller’s stats) and ended up in Miami on a 1 year, $3 million deal. Although he had Peyton as his QB, I think this is the future of all RBs– just like no RBs were drafted in the First Round last year, and it may be the same again this year. Do you see the Spiller contract situation shaking out the way that I do? And also, do you think the Bills will draft an RB at some point in the draft now that they’ve signed Anthony Dixon?

Thanks,

Nate from Garbage Plate City

PS- Go Bills!

CB: I think it’s very hard to see how the future will play out with C.J. Spiller. He has a player option first and foremost on his current contract. It’s going to be very interesting to see if offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has tweaked his approach in how to make the best use of C.J. Spiller on a week to week basis. Naturally the high ankle sprain injury hindered a lot of their plans last year for him. Fully healthy Spiller can be a dynamic weapon in this offense that is expected to move at a fast tempo.

While I think there is merit to your argument about running backs being had for relatively affordable prices it’d be hard to part with one of the four or five most talented athletes on your roster. While Buffalo’s roster arguably has the most talent from top to bottom than it has had in a while, Spiller is still one of just a handful of elite players. Money will naturally have a lot to do with the final decision and how it impacts both sides.

 

 

3 – Hello Chris.
Thanks for all the great coverage of the Bills year round. My question has to do with the 2014 pre-draft visits the Bills conducted this off-season. In a review of the 29 players that visited One Bills Drive, I found it rather interesting that they didn’t bring in a single QB. We have heard how Coach Marrone likes to have a high level of competition for every spot on the roster, so why not bring in a QB or two that has a decent chance to still be drafted in Rounds 3-5? Clearly the Bills can’t be content with just having Manuel, Lewis and Tuel, considering how few career NFL starts the trio has amassed.

I just think they could have added at least 1 or 2 potential QB’s into the mix. It would have also created some kind of confusion around NFL circles as to that the Bills are up to, which I believe would be a good thing.

Thanks Chris.
Dan Van Wie

CB: Even before the pre-draft visits began the Bills were pretty clear that they were content with their quarterback depth chart particularly with Thad Lewis as the backup. GM Doug Whaley reiterated as much right after the draft.

“We do not anticipate bringing in another arm,” said Whaley. “I’ll never say never, you never know what is going to happen. Someone could get hurt… But at this time we’re very confident with the guys we have on campus. Like I’ve said before, our philosophy should keep you .500 and Thad came in and got us close to the three, two and three. So we’re excited about that and then Jeff Tuel came in and played against Kansas City, did some good things but also had some mistakes. But we were conscious of the fact that he was an undrafted college free agent rookie so we expected him to make some mistakes.

“And Dennis Dixon has been in the league for a while and he brings a skillset that will compliment what we’re trying to do offensively. We have some competition. We do have some young guys, but they’re experienced in our system. And that was another thought process: if you bring someone else in, they’re just as young or younger and less experienced in the system so we’re very confident where we are right now.”

 

4 – Hi Chris,

The Bills front office said going into the draft that they really liked Sammy Watkins. However, Watkins’ agent is Eugene Parker.  Given our past trouble with his clients, does the front office take that into consideration?  They will never publicly say that they hate a certain agent.  But wouldn’t you rather draft players that you can keep for long term?

I just feel it may be a waste if they spent all those draft picks to move up to get Watkins and can only keep him for 4-5 years.

Thanks,
Bruce
CB: You make a great point and I understand your concern. Ultimately though the Bills are going to take the best player they can get for their team regardless of agent affiliation. Yes, they took a risk moving up the board, but they felt strongly that Watkins would put them over the top and into the postseason. It came at a cost and we won’t know if their calculated risk pays off until the 2014 season plays out.

With respect to Watkins long term future, I know the track record for second contracts to keep that guy’s clients in Buffalo isn’t strong, but let’s watch the kid play for a year or two before everyone starts to worry about those things.

 

5 – Chris
There is no question Watkins is a top talent..but what are your thoughts on the trade overall?  My opinion is that if you want to trade a first round pick it better be for a franchise quarterback…

CB: What you have to remember is a general rule of thumb is if you’re trading a pick that is in the following year it typically requires an increase of one round (a two this year equals a one next year). So if you don’t want to trade a second-round pick this year the way for a GM to get around that is to offer a first in the following year.

We can debate how equitable the trade was all day long, but I think this team hasn’t had a true number one wideout since Eric Moulds was in his prime. It was an absolute must for EJ Manuel’s development. He will help the 28th passing offense from 2013 take a big step forward and potentially into playoff contention.

I think after 14 years of missing the playoffs a bold move was required. Something drastic to end the postseason drought. You couldn’t find a more talented option in this draft class.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why draft choices are signing faster than ever

Posted by Chris Brown on May 16, 2014 – 11:47 am

NFL draft choices are signing faster than ever. Exactly one week after the NFL draft a few clubs have almost all of their draft choices signed prior to their team’s rookie minicamp. The Bills signed three of their draft picks Thursday. Even fifth overall pick Khalil Mack signed with Oakland. Here’s why.

Even though the salary cap went up more than eight percent there is a freeze on signing bonuses so all this year’s picks will get the same signing bonus as the players did last year who were taken in their draft slot. For Sammy Watkins that’s Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson, who got just over $12.8M. 

The reason why bonuses are staying flat is because teams borrowed money from future rookie pools (2012, 2013) after the lockout in 2011 to make sure that rookies that year wouldn’t be paid less than the rookies from 2010 prior to the readjustment in salary cap and the rookie wage scale. That money is now being repaid in 2014. CBSSports.com’s Joel Corry did a great job of laying everything out if you want to know more.

So essentially the only increases the 2014 draft class is seeing is in their base salaries. 

Forbes.com put together a very good contract projection for all of the first-round picks earlier this week and nailed Mack’s contract to the dollar. Of course it’s much easier now knowing there are only a couple of increasing variables. In any event here’s the projection, which includes Sammy Watkins.


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Posted in Inside the Bills