The Bills will look for their first road and first division win of the season Sunday against the rival Dolphins. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
I had strong hopes our run defense would finally be much improved this with the hiring of Mike Pettine. Apparently that isn’t the case. I don’t think the high tempo offense is helping much at least not until we can string together a few first downs. The play calling on offense is extremely frustrating to watch. Hackett runs CJ into a wall of bodies 1st and 2nd down in the first quarter of every game leading to many 3 and outs. By the time we throw a pass the defense knows it’s a pass and it’s hard for him to get confidence early.
Anyways, on defense you can see them stopping the run in the beginning then it really looks like they get lazy at times. I can’t stand seeing Mario being single blocked just standing there content to be taken out of the play. Is there any emphasis on playing all out on EVERY second of every play on defense?
That’s what the good ones do. Their standard is to not be satisfied ever. Our guys seem to lose steam after they make a few plays and then they seem to get comfortable as if their job is already done. They too often put a shoulder into the ball carrier and just stop because someone else came to help. Then the help wouldn’t finish the tackle because another player got in on the play. Very poor tackling at times! Do you see them being coached hard or is it just business as usual after letting up 500+ yards?
CB: I have to admit I am puzzled myself as to why the run defense is not better. The defense is solid when it comes to pass pressure and takeaways, but Buffalo ranks 28th against the run. That shouldn’t be the case with the talent they have up front.
The coaches insist that fundamentals are the main problem and they do harp on it every week in practice. They spend time during individual position drills every week doing tackling drills, more so than any other coaching staff I’ve seen here in the recent past.
So it’s on the players to do better there. Mario Williams even admitted it himself.
As for the offense I think Nathaniel Hackett has adjusted the pace somewhat. Now on their fourth QB it behooves them to slow the pace a bit to maintain possession. Buffalo’s offense did pretty well on third downs with Lewis at QB last week going 8-17 on conversions (47%). What helped was most of the time they stayed in manageable down and distance situations.
Part of the reason coach Hackett is so committed to the run game is it helps overcome the changes at quarterback. The run game makes life easier for Lewis to work play action and negate the opponent’s pass rush. Oh by the way it’s also been effective. The Bills lead the AFC in rushing.
And you should get used to some of the one and two yard gains you’re going to see in the run game in the first and second quarters. Those eventually develop into bigger gain plays later on in the game.
I remember a lot of fans used to lament how we scrapped the run too early the past few seasons. Now we’re sticking with it and some still aren’t happy. I’ve got no problem putting the ball in the hands of Jackson and Spiller.
2 – Chris,
I was hoping you could explain the captain designation on the uniforms. I have noticed that some captains have one or more of the stars under the “C” colored in in gold and others have none and some have all the stars as well as the “C” in gold. What does this all mean?
Thanks! – Kevin
CB: The captain’s patch on NFL jerseys has a large letter ‘C’ with four stars beneath it. The number of stars that are gold indicate how many seasons that player has been a captain. If the player has been a captain for more than four years, the ‘C’ is also gold. Here’s an example of Brian Urlacher’s old captain’s patch as he was a captain for more than four years.
3 – Chris,
It seems that year-after-year, the Bills have had a never-ending string of injuries to key players – and seemingly more than other NFL teams. I’m curious how the Strength & Conditioning coaches deal with preparing players to avoid injuries (and other coaches – i.e., not taking an unnecessary big hit). Looking at the last three years alone, here are players that seemingly would be on the field…but have missed time because of injury.
It’s just hard not to think that this simply cannot be simply “luck” – as it is becoming horribly routine.
Keep up the good work.
CB: So the rest of the fans reading this know, Mike provided a listing of injured players going back to 2011. I can tell you that the majority of the injured players listed above either sustained broken bones or ligament injuries. That has nothing to do with strength and conditioning. Football is a violent game. To be clear I’ll go through the injuries from this season one at a time.
Chris Hairston – had an undisclosed illness and was listed as a non-football injury
Kevin Kolb – suffered a concussion while sliding to avoid a hit and took a knee to the back of the head from a player trying to jump over him to avoid hitting him.
Brad Smith – suffered a fractured rib on a tackle.
Alex Carrington – torn his quadriceps tendon – non-contact injury, just engaged with an offensive lineman
Ron Brooks – broken foot
Marquise Goodwin – broken hand
Stephon Gilmore – broken wrist
Dustin Hopkins – groin injury (muscular)
Fred Jackson – sprained MCL
CJ Spiller – ankle injury
Jairus Byrd – plantar fasciitis
Leodis McKelvin – hamstring (muscular) – missed 3 games
TJ Graham – hamstring (muscular) – missed one game
Stevie Johnson – lower back (muscular) – missed one game
EJ Manuel – sprained LCL
Doug Legursky – sprained MCL
So out of 16 injured players only four have muscular injuries that could be related to strength and conditioning and I stress could. Three of those four players are at positions where there is the most running and players are most susceptible to muscle fatigue. Buffalo’s strength and conditioning staff monitors player load with their GPS tracking devices in practice to make sure players, especially at those positions (RB, WR, LB, DB) are not being overworked in terms of reps in practice.
Here’s a closer look at some of the efforts taken by Eric Ciano, Hal Luther, Dan Liburd and their staff. You’ll also find if you look around the league that other clubs incur similar losses to injury.
4 – Chris,
Greetings from the biggest fan in Arizona and thanks for keeping us informed.
Do you have any statistical data on Run After the Catch (RAC) of our opponents so far this year. On third down it seems to me that the short crossing routes and the RAC are killing us as far as getting off the field on third down. Kiko does such a good job getting pressure on the line or the opposing QB that the other LBs are frequently one on one on the underneath routes. With the defense beginning to get healthy, what can the Bills do to limit the underneath stuff on 3rd and four or seven and get the defense off the field.
See you in December at the Dolphins game!
CB: The Bills defense right now after six games has allowed the eighth-most yards after the catch in the league (792). Here are the teams that have allowed even more, some of whom have played only five games (see: Miami, Minnesota, Washington).
The crossing routes are some of the hardest to cover, not that it’s an excuse. I do expect Buffalo to improve in this area though with their defensive backs getting healthier as a group.
RK Team Gms Yards After Catch
5 – Hi, Chris.
Your coverage is off to another great year. Keep up the excellent work.
My questions relate to the uniforms the Bills wear each game. How far in advance are the decisions made about what will be worn? In particular, when they are wearing their white jerseys, do they have to commit to the white or blue pants in advance? Also do the players have any real preferences over what uniforms they wear, or are they largely indifferent? Do they have any superstitions about the uniforms? Lastly, do the players have any say in the uniform selection? I have to say that I am NOT a big fan of the blue pants and wish the team would stick with the all-white look on the road. It is classic look and I think it is far superior to the uniform with the blue pants. I am curious about your opinion as well.
CB: Thanks for the compliments. Here’s the deal on the uniform decisions straight from our Equipment Manager Jeff Mazurek.
The home team decides jersey color selection. Those decisions have to be turned into league office on July 1st.
As far as pants there’s no designation required it’s whatever the team prefers. Uniform combos are decided between Equipment Staff and management.
Tags: Fan Friday, Kiko Alonso, Mario Williams, Mike Pettine, team captains, uniforms, yards after catch
Posted in Inside the Bills
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you Bills fans. Though what we’ve seen on the field of late has been disappointing hopefully you have family and good health to be thankful for. Let’s get to your questions from AskChris@bills.nfl.net.
1 - Chris,
Happy Holidays and a great 2012 to you and yours!
I have concerns about the receiving corp next year. A playmaker opposite Stevie has got to emerge. Have the coaches seen enough to make them think Brad Smith could be that guy, or do you think we need to invest a 2nd or 3rd round pick on a potential no. 2 WR?
Also, you’ve stated that Gailey places a high value on Roscoe Parrish’s abilities, and that you expect Roscoe to stick. I, however, believe that David Nelson has truly earned the slot receiver spot. I’d hate to see David lose playing time, he will only get better. Will the coaches simply hand over the slot receiver role to a healthy Roscoe?
Thanks so much,
Kenny in Indiana
CB: First, I believe that receiver considerations in the draft will be predicated on what happens, or doesn’t happen, with Stevie Johnson and a new contract. If he’s re-signed then they’re not using a pick that high on a receiver. I’m not sure Brad Smith is considered to be that guy though he has had some nice performances.
I think this organization still has faith in Marcus Easley as a future #2, but I’d be willing to bet they invest in some insurance be it the draft or with a second-tier free agent, again assuming Stevie is back with a new deal.
As for the Parrish and Nelson debate I believe they’re mutually exclusive. The Bills most popular formation on offense is the 4-by-1 set. When everyone was healthy it was Nelson and Parrish as the two inside receivers. I think that’s an ideal pairing as Chan and the offensive staff see it. Their skill sets are dramatically different, but both are very effective. Having them both on the field makes the other one more dangerous.
So I see it not as a competition, but a combination that can be lethal.
2 – Hey Chris,
Why is it that coach Gailey is still calling plays for the offense? He stated in his press conference just after he was hired that he would take care of it for a while and then hire someone to call plays. Please remind him of his own comments so I can start watching the Bills again.
CB: With all due respect Lou, I think you’re misconstruing what coach Gailey said at that press conference. In addressing his play calling duties at the press conference in which he was hired, Gailey said he would “eventually” hand those duties off to a coordinator (not a new hire by the way) and that would presumably be Curtis Modkins. However, in speaking to him about that very issue at the beginning of this season I got the sense from coach Gailey that he wants to turn the team into a playoff team first before discussing any personal duties he might be willing to relinquish.
Suffice to say that until he has this team in a position where he feels it’s suitable to delegate duties he won’t do it.
3 – Hi Chris,
I’ve seen some articles lately about Kyle Williams, Roscoe Parrish, and Marcus Easley as they work back from injuries. What is the lastest on Shawne Merriman? Is he making progress and can we expect to see him back in a Bills uniform next season?
CB: I just spoke off the record with Shawne this week. He’s hesitant to discuss his rehab because he doesn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up about his play until he’s actually producing on the field. He felt bad about how everything went down this season after he showed glimpses of what he can be for this team in the preseason only to have to shut it down midseason with little regular season production to show for his efforts. I respect that approach so we agreed to address his rehab sometime early next calendar year.
Merriman, who is already jogging on a treadmill, had his Achilles repaired (it never ruptured) shortly after he went on I-R and was given a four-month rehab prognosis similar to that of Kyle Williams. He said that he would be good to go come spring workouts so we hope to catch up with him at that time.
I think a lot of fans have the misconception that Merriman won’t be back next season, but he’s still under contract number one, and number two he should be as healthy as he’s been in three years when he is back. Finally the Bills have no other proven pass rush options on their roster as they head into the offseason and rank last in the league in sacks.
4 – Chris,
It is VERY clear that we need a better pass rush. Do you feel OBD believes that Shawne Merriman can return to form or because a healthy Merriman would make our D much better at every level. If not our #1 pick has to be an OLB in my opinion.
CB: I think the Bills believe that Merriman has a good chance to return to form, but with Buffalo having the ability to address that position more heavily in this upcoming draft I expect them to fortify the position with youth as well. Merriman’s absence in the second half of the season showed just how much they are lacking at the OLB position in terms of a player that can provide a consistent pass rush. So I think they address that position with talent in the draft and perhaps a second tier free agent with a history of proven success.
5 – Chris,
Great job as always with you covering the Bills!
My question is: Will the Bills ever use Blue pants with their away jerseys?
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
CB: Thanks first for the kind words. With respect to Buffalo’s uniform I have heard nothing to indicate that the mythical blue pants that have seemingly enraptured the Bills faithful concerning the team’s uniform will come into existence for the 2012 season.
I realize there were prototypes out there in cyberspace and it wouldn’t shock me if they existed in the initial concepts of uniform design. But to my knowledge at this point we’re looking at white pants only moving forward. If for some reason that changes I’ll be sure to pass it along.
Tags: David Nelson, Fan Friday, Roscoe Parrish, Shawne Merriman, Stevie Johnson, uniforms
Posted in Inside the Bills