Inside The Bills

Improving division record among priorities

Posted by Chris Brown on July 26, 2013 – 10:10 am

Buffalo’s division record has proven tough to improve since the 2000 season. The Bills only have one season with a winning record in the division since the turn of the century.

That came in 2007 when Buffalo finished 4-2 in the division in a season when the team went 7-9. As we examined in our Top 25 Countdown, posting a winning record in the division is critical for playoff hopes. Here’s a look at what the division records have been for the Bills since 2000 along with the team’s final record at the end of the season.

Year       Div. record          Season record
2000       2-6                          8-8
2001       1-7                          3-13
2002       2-4                          8-8
2003       2-4                          6-10
2004       3-3                          9-7
2005       2-4                          5-11
2006       3-3                          7-9
2007       4-2                          7-9
2008       0-6                          7-9
2009       2-4                          6-10
2010       1-5                          4-12
2011       1-5                          6-10
2012       2-4                          6-10


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Posted in Inside the Bills

40 sacks a benchmark not often reached

Posted by Chris Brown on July 24, 2013 – 10:59 am

In the NFL 40 sacks in a season for a team is a popular benchmark if you want to be among the top 10 clubs in the league in that category. While defensive coordinators often dismiss team sack totals as an indicator for how effective a team’s pass rush is it’s still interesting to look at some of the Bills’ best seasons in terms of sack totals and see where the team ended up at the end of the year. Here’s a look.

In our Top 25 questions until camp we asked if new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme would lift the Bills up among the league leaders in sacks? Pettine’s defense is known for high pressure and disrupting quarterbacks, but not high sack totals. Here though is the list of the 10-best sack total seasons for the Bills and how those seasons turned out.

Buffalo has reached 40 sacks or more in a season in 14 of their 53 seasons as a franchise.

Year       Sacks     Season outcome
1964       50           Won AFL title
1995       49           Won AFC East, lost in Divisional playoff
1996       48           Lost in Wild Card playoff
1981       47           Lost in Divisional playoff
1988       46           Lost in AFC Championship game
1997       46           Finished 6-10
2004       45           Finished 9-7
1992       44           Lost in Super Bowl XXVII
1990       43           Lost in Super Bowl XXV
1967       43           Finished 4-10
1998       43           Lost in AFC Wild Card


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Constant change on ‘D’ good vs. Brady

Posted by Chris Brown on July 24, 2013 – 9:42 am

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has a defensive scheme that acts a lot like a chameleon, constantly changing it’s pre-snap appearance. We examined if the new scheme will make the Bills unit one of the league leaders in sacks in our Top 25 questions until camp countdown. Bills veteran DT Kyle Williams is perfectly fine with the nenw approach, knowing the perennial All-Pro quarterback in their division feasts on defenses that don’t change things up.

“I think they make things confusing,” said Williams of Pettine and his staff. “We can show blitz and get out of blitz, they can blitz outside, inside. There’s just a lot of different things that we do it out of and we do it out of multiple personnel, multiple formations.

“We can show a base look and you can blitz everybody out of it or you can bring one. There are just a lot of different ways that they can do things and with us playing Tom Brady twice a year you have to do different things to him. If you’re going to get in your defense and this is what we’re going to stay in and we’re going to play it well. No matter how well you play he’s eventually going to figure out how to spin the top on you. That’s one of the great things we’re doing now.”

Williams admits the new scheme has been a shot in the arm for the guys on his side of the ball.

“I think it’s exciting,” he said. “Anytime you have something new that you haven’t done before. Obviously it’s no secret. We haven’t had much success. At the end of the year I said, ‘I just want to win.’ You only get so long to play this game and I’ve been around for a little while. So I’m down for anything. I’m going to be me and give it everything I’ve got. I’m excited about it.”

Jets defense, in keeping teams off guard


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Playoff teams score 24 per game

Posted by Chris Brown on July 22, 2013 – 8:45 am

While the familiar refrain of ‘Defense wins championships’ might hold true in some cases, scoring points gets NFL clubs to the playoffs. As we examined in our Top 25 Countdown to Training Camp today, whether or not the Bills can average 24 points per game, we see that if a team can maintain that average in the regular season it usually turns into a playoff berth.

In 2011, 9 of the 12 top scoring teams in the league made the playoffs. Last season 10 of the top 12 made the playoffs. Only two of those playoff teams in 2012 did not average 24 points per game (Minnesota 23.7, Indianapolis 22.3) and both were relatively close.

Here are the top 12 scoring offenses in 2012 in points per game. The bold faced teams are the ones that didn’t qualify for the postseason.

1 . New England – 34.8
2. Denver – 30.1
3. New Orleans – 28.8
4. Washington – 27.3
5. Green Bay – 27.1
6. NY Giants – 26.8
7. Atlanta – 26.2
8. Houston – 26
9. Seattle – 25.8
10. Baltimore – 24.9
11. San Francisco – 24.8
12. Cincinnati – 24.4


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Gilmore a popular breakout choice

Posted by Chris Brown on July 21, 2013 – 10:06 am

Today we profiled the men on Buffalo’s roster that are most likely to become playmakers on defense this season. Stephon Gilmore was one of them and apparently our thoughts on Buffalobills.com were echoed on NFL.com.

NFL.com listed Gilmore as their No. 12 breakout player for 2013. Here’s what they wrote.

 

Gilmore, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, led the Bills in defensive snaps last season by a good margin, missing fewer than two snaps per game. After some early missteps, he closed the season very strong. His problems are correctable and his strengths are difficult to find in a young cornerback. Gilmore is a physical cornerback with great coverage skills.


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More wins in year 1 with new coach?

Posted by Chris Brown on July 20, 2013 – 10:23 am

It might seem hard to believe knowing how difficult it’s been for the Bills to post winning seasons since the 2000 season, but when a new coach comes in for Buffalo an improved win total in year one from the previous season isn’t as rare as one might think.

As we covered today in our Top 25 questions until training camp, Doug Marrone stands a good chance of improving on the win-loss total from that of a year ago (6-10) for a number of reasons.

Also encouraging is recent history is on his side.

Mike Mularkey inherited a team in 2003 that went 6-10, but had a good deal of talent on its roster. In 2004 the Bills improved their win total by three and finished 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs.

Dick Jauron inherited a team that in 2005 when 5-11. In 2006, year one under Jauron, the team went 7-9, improving the team’s record by two victories.


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The plan for Mark Anderson

Posted by Chris Brown on July 20, 2013 – 9:34 am

In the spring Mark Anderson was diligently working his way back from an injury that forced him to miss the last 12 games. He participated in practices in the spring and signs are optimistic that he’ll be participating even more in practice come training camp. Whether he’ll be full go is a wait and see, but defensive coordinator Mike Pettine already has a plan for working him back into the flow of things defensively.

“I think we’ll start with third down for Mark and work our way backwards,” said Pettine. “I think when he’s healthy he can be an elite pass rusher. His body of work is evidence of that. Here’s a guy that as much as maybe he wants to rush the passer he has value on early downs as well.

“With (outside linebackers) coach (Jim) O’Neil he’s done a good job of buying in. He could think to himself that he’s a designated pass rusher and doesn’t need to sink his teeth into the playbook and the rest of our stuff. But that hasn’t been the case. He’s making the effort to learn it and there will be times in packages on first and second down where he’s out there as one of our edge players.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hackett sees WR competition differently

Posted by Chris Brown on July 18, 2013 – 9:39 am

While Bills fans are no doubt interested in who the number two receiver opposite Stevie Johnson will be this season, which we examined in our Top 25 questions until training camp, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has a much different perspective.

Hackett’s view is far broader as he only sees five skill position players on the field between the tight ends, receivers and backs. So to ask him about the candidates for the number two receiver role struck him as odd.

“I think when you look at the wide receivers it’s not just the wideouts, it’s a competition for everybody on the team,” Hackett told Buffalobills.com. “It’s who are the best five skill players that we have? It’s my job to take those five best players and put those guys out there a whole bunch and be very multiple with that.

“If it’s a lot of wide receivers then you might have a lot of wide receivers. If it’s more tight ends, more running backs, whichever one dominates and does a better job out on the field that’s who we want out there.

“So I think it comes down to who excels in training camp. So it could be a lot of wideouts. It could be more tight ends, more fullbacks, more halfbacks. We just want the best players out there so I think that will always kind of fluctuate.”

While some might see this as a problem, Hackett sees it as a positive.

“That’s the good thing. It’s really just a competition amongst everybody, not just the guys in that receivers room. It’s everybody on the field. Whoever those best five are, put them out there and line them up all over the place.”

My follow up question was what if there are more tight ends and backs filling those top five skill position roles?

“If there’s a bunch of other guys that are better than the wideouts we’re going to be a lot different looking team than a lot of people thought,” Hackett said. “It all comes down to who are the best five. I think that’s always going to be difficult. We’re lucky because we have a lot of guys there that are competing and competition brings the best out of everybody and that’s all you can ask.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Potential key to run ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on July 17, 2013 – 9:33 am

The Bills run defense has not ranked better than 28th over the last four seasons. In three of the last four seasons it’s ranked 30th or worse. That figures to change in 2013 under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. As we outline in our Top 25 questions until training camp, the run defense should be much improved from it’s ranking of 31st last season. Pettine and his staff should certainly help, but there’s one key addition that could really help on the field.

Second-round pick Kiko Alonso is taking aim on the starting middle linebacker position and was all over the field making plays in the spring practices. It’s clear that head coach Doug Marrone has already recognized what Alonso could do for Buffalo’s defense.

“I see a player that’s very comfortable out there,” said Marrone. “Sometimes you look at someone and they’re bright-eyed and trying to get of sense of what’s going on around him. I see him coming in with a purpose and a willingness to compete for a starting position. He’s shown he has all the ability to play all three downs within the defense whether it be run, pass, nickel, sub, whatever it may be. We’re excited about seeing how he progresses, but again we’ll see if he can make the same type of growth he’s making now.”

Provided he lands that starting role, his play will be critical to Buffalo’s hopes to improve an area of their defense that has been sorely lacking.


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A look at how fast ‘Cuse offense went

Posted by Chris Brown on July 16, 2013 – 9:36 am

As we ask how fast Buffalo’s offense will go in 2013 in our Top 25 questions until training camp, we take a look at what offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and head coach Doug Marrone did with the Syracuse offense during their tenure there. Here are some offensive rankings to note about the Orange attack under Buffalo’s new coaches.

In 2012 Syracuse’s offense ran a play about every 10 seconds when operating at top speed. In a 13-game season ranked 17th in the country in total offense with better than 475 yards per game (476.3).

Total yards – 21st (6,192)
Total plays – 13th (1,029)
Plays per game – 11th (79.1)
1st downs per game – 25th
Rushing yards – 41st (2,431)
Passing yards – 23rd (3,761)
Points per game – 55th (30) – which was just behind Boise State (30.2) and just ahead of Michigan (29.8), LSU (29.8) and Wisconsin (29.6).

Their red zone touchdown percentage was also 61% (36 TDs on 59 attempts).


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Sleeper Blatnick quick laterally

Posted by Chris Brown on July 11, 2013 – 10:52 am

Bills DE/OLB Jamie Blatnick is one of the featured players in our latest Top 25 questions until training camp feature, ‘Who are the training camp sleepers?’ Blatnick went undrafted when he was eligible for the 2012 NFL draft, but put together some productive practices in the spring. The biggest change in his game is the fact that he dropped 20 pounds off his frame from what it was a year ago, which has only enhanced one of his greatest physical attributes.

Blatnick considers himself a ” hard worker” and a “technique player.” That combination is often a good one for a player that might not be enormously gifted physically. There is however, one physical attribute where Blatnick does excel and that’s his ability to change direction in his pass rush.

Evidence of that came at the 2012 NFL Combine. Blatnick was an invite out of Oklahoma State. In the 20-yard shuttle, which is a good indicator for change of direction skills, Blatnick clocked a time of 4.2 seconds. That was good for the second-fastest time among defensive ends at the Combine that year and he did it at 263 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than he is currently.

Those change of direction skills have been seen more often than not as Blatnick was pretty disruptive lining up on the edge in Mike Pettine’s defense in the practices.

He also had the third-best bench press total among DEs with 28 reps and had a 4.81 40-time.


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Other possible sleeper candidates

Posted by Chris Brown on July 11, 2013 – 9:33 am

In our Top 25 questions until training camp we profile some of the top sleeper candidates for this summer’s camp at St. John Fisher today (Thursday). Here are a couple of additional names that could factor into the sleeper category as well.

FB Frank Summers – The blocking back is a bowling ball, but has some receiving ability and can play a role on special teams. With veteran Corey McIntyre no longer on the roster, Summers is the closest thing to a true fullback. It’ll likely come down to what the offensive staff feels they need and the play of profiled sleeper Kendall Gaskins.

WR Kevin Elliott – The receiver offers great size at 6’3″ and 205 pounds and has demonstrated an ability to use his body to shield defenders from the ball. Elliott runs well and looked to be a player that the quarterbacks looked for when he ran with the second and third units.

DE Corbin Bryant – Getting a fair amount of reps with the second unit as an end, the 330-pound Bryant is a sizable force that could land a role on the practice squad where the defensive staff could further develop the Northwestern product.


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Fans split down middle on Byrd outcome

Posted by Chris Brown on July 10, 2013 – 10:17 am

top-25-20-story

At the bottom of our #20 question in our Top 25 questions until training camp, which asked will Jairus Byrd be signed long term, we asked fans to weigh in on what they believe the outcome will be. Suffice to say that Bills Nation is split right down the middle.

Granted 2,000 votes is a small sample size, but the vote by Bills fans was separated by just 20 votes (click on image below to view it full size). It speaks to just how divided Bills fans are on what they think could happen with the Pro Bowl safety.

byrd poll (3)


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Receivers on roster history

Posted by Chris Brown on July 10, 2013 – 10:14 am

With our examination on how many receivers the Bills new offensive staff may choose to keep on the roster this season in our Top 25 questions until training camp, we take a look back at what the previous regimes did in terms of their roster totals at wideout.

Going all the way back to 2006, it’s surprising to see that the numbers were actually greater further back than they are now, though Brad Smith was not counted toward the receiver total in 2011 and 2012.

Position                2006       2007       2008       2009       2010       2011       2012
WR total                  6              5              6              6              5              5              4


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Stevie pumped by level of WR competition

Posted by Chris Brown on July 10, 2013 – 9:36 am

While we take the time to examine just how many receivers will be kept on the 53-man roster this fall in our Top 25 Countdown to Training Camp today (Wednesday), we also thought we’d shed some light on what the prevailing thought is inside the locker room on the degree of receiver talent that exists on the Bills roster.

Stevie Johnson is pretty encouraged by the collection of talent, albeit young, that he suddenly sees assembled around him as this offseason comes to a close.

“I like it. It’s exciting having the new guys come in,” Johnson said. “I liked what I saw. We’ve got a lot of talent. I think we’ll be a problem when it comes to Sundays.”

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, as is his practice, is looking at the passing targets in a different way than most. It includes all skill position players, not just receivers. So the competition will run deeper than just strictly the receiver position when it comes to roles in the passing game this year.

“It’s everybody on the field,” Hackett said. “Whoever those best five are, put them out there and line them up all over the place.”


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When Byrd thought he’d be a free agent

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2013 – 11:27 am

Late last season before the franchise tag was even being discussed, Jairus Byrd contemplated free agency.

In an interview with Buffalobills.com last December I asked Byrd, besides money, what would play into his free agency decision making.

“You’ve just got to look at where the team is headed, what’s going on with the situation,” Byrd said. “You’ve got to take in a lot of things.”

Money in most cases is top priority. There’s a small window of time in which NFL players can earn their money, but Byrd, who is profiled in our Top 25 questions until training camp series today (Tuesday), has also made it clear that winning is important too.

“We just have to win,” said Byrd. “That’s the biggest thing, just winning and I want to be somewhere where I’m wanted too.”


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Bills have contingencies at safety

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2013 – 10:09 am

While the Jairus Byrd franchise tender remains unsigned by the Pro Bowl safety, Buffalo hasn’t sat idly by hoping the situation get resolved sooner rather than later. Buffalo drafted a pair of safeties and transitioned Aaron Williams from corner to safety early in the spring practices.

Williams showed promise as he was one of the two leading interceptors in the spring workouts in Buffalo’s secondary. His confidence appeared to grow, as well as the confidence the defensive staff has in him.

“I think he’s ahead of schedule of where we thought he would be,” said Mike Pettine of Williams. “He’s flashed just the things that we saw in him as far as being a safety. He’s had some interceptions and obviously his range his ability to get sideline to sideline is obviously something we’re going to take advantage of.”

Buffalo also drafted a pair of safeties in the middle rounds in Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks. Though it appears that Williams will see some time at cornerback too. Da’Norris Searcy, Dominique Ellis and Mana Silva are other options that have seen time with the top two defensive lineups in the spring.

None of them have Byrd’s experience and none of them are proven commodities at that position in the NFL. It’ll certainly be a position that bears watching in training camp whether Byrd signs and reports or not.


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Where signing franchise tender leaves Byrd

Posted by Chris Brown on July 9, 2013 – 9:25 am

As we profiled in our Top 25 questions until training camp, whether Jairus Byrd is signed long term seems to be less and less likely as the calendar moves closer and closer to the July 15th deadline to do so. If the Bills franchise player ultimately chooses to sign the franchise tender offer of $6.916M to guarantee his salary this year, here’s where he’d rank in terms of average salary and base salary for the 2013 NFL season.

Below are the top average salaried players at the safety position.

1 – Troy Polamalu – Pittsburgh – $9.125M
2 – Eric Berry – Kansas City – $8.34M
3 – Dashon Goldson – Tampa Bay – $8.25M
4 – Eric Weddle – San Diego – $8M
5 – Antrel Rolle – NY Giants – $7.4M
6 – Jairus Byrd – Buffalo – $6.916M
7 – Antoine Bethea – Indianapolis – $6.75M

Here are the top base salary players at the safety position for 2013.

1 – Troy Polamalu – Pittsburgh – $7.5M
2 – Eric Berry – Kansas City – $7.01M
3 – Antrel Rolle – NY Giants – $7M
4 – Jairus Byrd – Buffalo – $6.916M
5 – Eric Weddle – San Diego – $6M

So while getting designated the franchise player is rarely well received by a player, they don’t lose in terms of their pay for the upcoming season should they choose to sign the franchise tender.


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Clayton: update on franchise tagged players

Posted by Chris Brown on July 8, 2013 – 3:36 pm

ESPN NFL reporter John Clayton in a report on the flaws of the franchise tag system, also provided an update on the Jairus Byrd situation with the Bills concerning a long term contract.

Clayton, who astutely pointed out that none of the eight franchised players this offseason have reached long-term deals, gave the following brief update on Byrd’s situation with Buffalo, from the point of view of the Byrd camp.

Byrd isn’t overly optimistic about getting long-term security with the Bills and might hold out. He’s unsigned.

Buffalo and Byrd have one week to negotiate a long term deal. We’ll have more on Byrd’s likelihood of agreeing to a long-term deal in our Top 25 Countdown to Training Camp Tuesday morning on the home page of Buffalobills.com.

 


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Rooks on offense working on chemistry

Posted by Chris Brown on July 8, 2013 – 10:39 am

Buffalo has a host of rookie talent on the offensive side of the ball from their 2013 draft class. As we profiled in out Top 25 questions until training camp it appears that more than one or two of those rookies could contribute early. One is TE Chris Gragg, who has made a strong effort to establish an on field rapport with fellow rookie QB EJ Manuel.

“I think me an EJ work good together,” Gragg told Buffalobills.com. “Ever since rookie training camp we’ve been here doing stuff, and sometimes we stay for extra work to work on some stuff. Once we got our timing down I think everything has been going good.”

 


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