Inside The Bills

Bicknell move to WRs coach huge

Posted by Chris Brown on August 1, 2012 – 10:12 am

While most are aware of the value in hiring David Lee as the team’s quarterbacks coach, the under the radar move that could be instrumental in helping to lift the Bills passing game to new heights is the shift in duties for assistance Bob Bicknell.

A former coordinator in NFL Europe and a former O-line and tight ends coach, Bicknell is now in charge of the wide receivers. The benefit of Bicknell’s coaching is his ability to teach the offense as a whole to the receiving corps instead of just their assignments. He’s also been able to offer Ryan Fitzpatrick some alternatives on plays that could present better solutions to getting those plays more effectively executed.

“I’m pretty set in my ways in terms of how I want them to run routes and Bob offers a different view of that,” Fitzpatrick told “So we’ve changed a few things that he wanted to tweak and try out and some things that worked well in OTAs, that maybe I didn’t see the same way. There’s a positive communication between he and the receiver unit that makes it a lot better for the guys. They respect him and listen to what he’s saying and they’re attentive in meetings.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Walk-thrus reinforce WR duties

Posted by Chris Brown on August 1, 2012 – 8:32 am

Walk-throughs might seem like a waste of time to some, but Buffalo’s receiving corps is finding valuable communication time with their starting quarterbacks and the assistant coaches believe it will lead to uniform execution from the top to the bottom of the receiving corps. And that’s important for a Bills team that has lost its share of receivers to injury during the last couple of seasons.

“It’s happened every year I’ve been in this league,” Receivers coach Bob Bicknell told “A lot of people are going to end up playing and a lot of things are going to happen in this league. And you want that (backup) guy to be able to come in and have the same reps as a David Nelson did on stuff. Well he’s not going to have that so you have to give him the best chance to succeed. I think those guys have done a good job of trying to accomplish that in our walk through periods with Fitz.”

To see just what kind of dividends the break off walk throughs between Fitz and his receivers are paying read our feature story on the home page of today.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 2-17

Posted by Chris Brown on February 17, 2012 – 1:58 pm

Less than a week before the NFL Combine. Make sure you keep your laptop locked on for wall-to-wall coverage from Indy beginning on Thursday morning. Now to your questions from

1 – Hey Chris,

My question is in regard to Kirk Morrison.  I thought he was an above average to good NFL linebacker in Oakland, then what happened?  That was only 2 years ago, he’s not even 30, and now he can’t sniff the field?  And if it was the Bills system more than his level of play, why has he not been talked about at all as an option in the new 4-3 defense that is expected to be installed more often next season?  I believe his contract is up, but I haven’t heard or read his name once. 

Thanks again,
Fredonia, NY
CB: Morrison had a tough time getting on the field for a couple of reasons. First, he was signed days before the season opener so he had some catch up work to do. By the time he was fully adjusted to the scheme Kelvin Sheppard had begun to emerge and locked down the ILB spot alongside veteran Nick Barnett.

What’s going to be interesting is with the defense switching to the 4-3 I think he’s going to be a consideration for the strong side linebacker position. Talking to Coach Wannstedt he did express a desire to get Morrison re-signed. I think he’s capable of backing up Sheppard in the middle while also competing for a starting role at SLB.


2 – Hi Chris, 
You do a good job covering the Bills.  I do want to ask why the management wants to change from a 3-4 back to a 4-3 when they have spent two seasons drafting the personal for the 3-4?  I do not see this as a step forward, but rather a waste of the investment in players they have taken the last two years.  Shawne Merriman did not work out, but could be an answer to the pass rush problem. 

As a coach I had to change my defense year to year because my players were not always  suited to what I did the year before the current season.  I made changes in how I played a defense to suit the players I had and schemed to make them more effective.  

The Bills right now have players that could play both even and odd front looks  effectively given the chance to develop and having all  the players able to play.  Maybe a more aggressive defense with

good  technique containing the outside ( setting the edge ) and new wrinkles, which should come with our new defensive coordinator, will make it all work without a mid rebuilding change of plan.

A suffering fan in Arizona,
Max F. Stolzenberg, Jr.

CB: I think to characterize the defensive change as a prompt to rebuild is misguided quite frankly. The Bills played with four down linemen a good deal of the time, but I’ll let Dave Wannstedt explain.

“We played last year about 65-percent of our snaps in nickel personnel, where we actually had four down (linemen) in the game with their hand in the ground. No matter if we had five defensive backs or six defensive backs it didn’t matter,” said Wannstedt. “The point was, if you looked at us, we were doing a lot of things that there’s carry-over within the 4-3 scheme.”

I think there are a lot of players that offer scheme versatility on Buffalo’s defense. Chief among them are Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay. Williams and Kelsay have already played most of their careers in the 4-3 with the Bills. Merriman has never played in the 4-3 in the NFL, but might benefit from dropping into coverage less as a true rush end and is underrated as a run defender.

Torell Troup played defensive tackle in a 4-3 in college and Alex Carrington played defensive end in a 4-3 at the collegiate level. Spencer Johnson was signed in free agency by this team when they were still playing a 4-3 front under the previous coaching regime.

Sheppard played MLB in a 4-3 at LSU and Nick Barnett is more than capable of playing weakside LB in a 4-3. So I don’t really see a rebuilding plan here. I think most of the pieces are scheme versatile enough to hit the ground running with this scheme.


3 – Hey Chris,
I have a few questions about the 4-3 defense we may run under Wannstedt.  If your remember that last time we were a full 4-3/cover 2 defense Byrd had 9 interceptions, now I was wondering how a 4-3 defense differs from a 3-4 as far as secondary scheme goes because in 09 it seemed like we had way more interceptions then in ’10 and ’11.  Also i assume that we will target a nice pass rush DE in the draft and that Kelsay will move back to DE also but who will be the DT I also assume that it will be Dareus and Williams with Johnson and Troup that 3rd and 4th but where would guys like Carrington go?

Thanks Chris,
Josh Hubert, Syracuse NY

CB: I think most of your assumptions are right, although Dwan Edwards might be the other defensive tackle alongside Troup in the rotation. I think a guy like Carrington has to prove he can put pressure on the passer at the end position. He did that at Arkansas State as an end in a 4-3 front (21.5 sacks). As far as the secondary is concerned not a whole lot changes going from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The coverages are largely the same, though the means by which they disguise some looks might be different.

I don’t know that you can tie Byrd’s success as a rookie to the scheme. Personally I think Byrd’s best season was 2011. I felt his all-around game was as good as I’ve seen it. He’s not just a takeaway guy, he’s shown he can be more than that.


4 – Hey Chris,

I remember you mentioning that one of the best things the current Bills management has done is to build the front lines.  I was just wondering if the Bills found that the best player available in the first round was a DT like Devon Still from PSU, would they consider drafting him and moving Dareus to DE like Haloti Ngata has done at times for the Ravens?  Do you think they would draft the DT to continue getting depth at DT?  Or would they go to the next best player not at DT?

CB: The way the Bills operate is they take the best player on the board when they’re on the clock. If there are a couple of players of comparable value and one is at a position of need then they’ll take the player at the position of need.

Devon Still by the way is trumped at the DT position by some underclassmen. Most scouts I’ve spoken with maintain that Michael Brockers from LSU, Jerel Worthy from Michigan State and Dontari Poe from Memphis are all superior to Still.


5 – Chris:

I always enjoy your interviews and film breakdown with the coaches in your top 10 series.  I was wondering if you see a time where Coach Gailey will turn over the play calling to Offensive Coordinator Curtis Modkins, and exactly how much is Coach Modkins involved with the game planning and game day decisions?  What are your thoughts on Coach Bicknell being on the radar for other teams as Offensive Coordinator and eventually getting interviews for Head Coaching Positions? I believe he may be on many teams short list soon.



CB: Thanks for the kind words on our Top 10 Performances of 2011 Series. We enjoyed bringing it to you and for the dedicated fan it’s a great way to get some film room insight from Buffalo’s coaching staff. Our last installment of the series will run this Tuesday.

As for play calling duties Chan Gailey when he was hired did say he would eventually hand off those responsibilities to Curtis Modkins, but I don’t think he’s there yet. I think once Gailey feels as though his offense is a smooth running machine week in and week out, only then might he turn over the reins.

With respect to coach Bicknell, it would not shock me if he started drawing interest around the league for OC positions. Knowing he was a successful offensive coordinator in NFL Europe it would not surprise me at all.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Will Bowe make it to free agency?

Posted by Chris Brown on February 17, 2012 – 9:18 am

We’ve been trying to keep a running tab on the likelihood of some of the bigger receiver names in free agency this offseason and gauge whether they will make it to the free agent market in mid-March or be re-signed or tagged. We’ve seen things flip flop back and forth on Vincent Jackson. New Orleans is so focused on the new contract for Drew Brees that Marques Colston hasn’t been addressed, and Reggie Wayne is definitely not going to be in Indy next season. But what about a big time receiver that has good familiarity with Bills head coach Chan Gailey and is only 27?

Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe is a huge target and touchdown maker and at age 27 would be very attractive to a lot of teams. But he’s worked with Chan Gailey before as Buffalo’s head coach was his offensive coordinator in 2008, a season that still stands as his best in terms of receptions (86), 2nd best in touchdowns (7) and third best in yardage (1,022). He could walk in the door at One Bills Drive and know what to expect in the offense and perhaps even have a head start on the terminology.

Bowe also knows Buffalo’s receivers coach Bob Bicknell, who just moved from Bills tight ends coach to receivers coach after the 2011 season. Bicknell was Asst. offensive line coach, offensive line coach and tight ends coach with the Chiefs over Bowe’s first three seasons in Kansas City.

What’s more’s Peter King believes there’s a chance Bowe makes it to free agency. When asked on his twitter account by a follower if the Chiefs are likely to re-sign free agent Dwayne Bowe and CB Brandon Carr, King responded as follows.

Peter King RT @KCKID913: Do you think the Chiefs sign both Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Carr? … No. Carr more likely.

Knowing the new head coach in Kansas City is defensive-minded in Romeo Crennel, it’s not unrealistic to think that Bowe might consider other options. Buffalo GM Buddy Nix has stated they wanted another “big time receiver” in addition to Stevie Johnson, whom the Bills need to re-sign. Reports have indicated that negotiations with Johnson have been ongoing with more talks to take place in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bicknell wants success for Nelson

Posted by Chris Brown on July 7, 2011 – 8:47 am

For any coach successfully maximizing a player’s potential is the ultimate. That’s what made Shawn Nelson’s 2010 season so frustrating, for him and tight ends coach Bob Bicknell. But both are no doubt hoping 2011 can be a much different story.

Bicknell said he had an end of season discussion with Nelson as he does with all his tight ends. All he wants is success for what he sees as a physically gifted player.

“My job is to help (players) achieve (their full potential) and if I don’t you always feel disappointed because you know Shawn’s a talented player that for whatever the reasons are you’re not tapping into that talent yet,” Bicknell told “So we talked about maximizing his talent where I know and he knows we’re getting the most out of him.” 

Bicknell sympathizes with Nelson’s plight with migraines and does not know if Nelson found a solution this offseason due to the fact that he cannot have contact with him during the current labor situation. He just believes time on the practice field alone is enough to get bigger and better results out of Nelson.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

4 wide makes TEs traditional

Posted by Chris Brown on June 9, 2011 – 8:08 am

The Bills made heavy use of their four wide sets on offense in the second half of last season with the emergence of players like David Nelson, Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt, following the season-ending injury to Roscoe Parrish. What that also did was limit the number of opportunities for Buffalo’s tight ends in the passing game, since they weren’t on the field. But Bills tight ends coach Bob Bicknell effectively explains what can be done to combat that challenge.

“It’s always a challenge,” said Bicknell of getting everyone involved in an offense. “It’s a challenge for (the tight ends) and I try to help them with that challenge where they can get on the field and have production. We’ve found some good receivers and we use the tight end a lot of different ways so it’s not always going to be about them catching the ball, and sometimes when they’re called on to make the big play they’ve got to make it.”

Last season the tight ends fit more of a traditional tight end role, on the line next to the tackle. The only tight end with game breaking route running ability that cold be split wide in a four wide set, Shawn Nelson, missed most of the season last year due to suspension and a bout with migraines.

Bicknell, who provides insight on the outlook for late season pickup Scott Chandler heading into 2011 in our home page feature today (Thursday) is confident that if his group of tight ends does what they’re called upon to do from coach Gailey and the offensive  staff that opportunities will develop down the line. 

“It’s a challenge, but we’ve got good kids in here that only ask what their job is and what they have to do,” he said. “All of the other stuff will come if they continue to do their job on the field.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Seasoned staff so far

Posted by Chris Brown on January 28, 2010 – 12:14 pm

It’s pretty clear that in addition to wanting good teachers and communicators on his staff, Bills head coach Chan Gailey wants experienced coaches based on the hires announced Wednesday.

Here’s a rundown of the years in coaching for the members of his staff thus far.

Giff Smith – 13 years
Curtis Modkins – 15 years
Bob Bicknell – 17 years
George Catavolos – 25 years
Bob Sanders – 30 years
Joe D’Alessandris – 37 years

Only offensive quality control coach Kevin Patullo is young in his coaching career, which is usually the case for assistants in such positions.

Also almost all of the coaches hired thus far have NFL coaching experience.

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Posted in Inside the Bills
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