Inside The Bills

Hostler familiar with what Hackett faced at QB

Posted by Chris Brown on February 13, 2014 – 11:18 am

Bills Senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler was once a first time coordinator when he was promoted to the position in San Francisco under then head coach Mike Nolan. Faced with the prospect of starting a young highly drafted quarterback in Alex Smith, his situation in terms of quarterbacks used in that 2007 season, trumped that of Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett this past season.

It’s been well documented that Hackett was faced with the prospect of starting three different quarterbacks for different stretches of the season last year. EJ Manuel played Weeks 1-5 and Weeks 10-15, Thad Lewis Weeks 6-8 and Weeks 16-17 and Jeff Tuel in Week 9.

Hostler in 2007 was forced to use one more than that.

“The year I was coordinating, Alex (Smith) had started, but he only made it seven games and then we played with Trent (Dilfer) and he only made it six games and then it was Shaun (Hill),” said Hostler. “So I went through some of the same things Nate had to deal with last year. I’ve played with four quarterbacks, some of whom didn’t show up until the week before the game so I understand some of those issues he had last year.”

The other two quarterbacks Hostler had to thrust into the lineup that season included Shaun Hill, who made two starts and Chris Weinke who started one game for San Francisco that year.

Having a fellow former offensive coordinator on staff, who went through the same thing, should provide Hackett with a bit of reassurance knowing there’s a fellow assistant who can relate to what a juggling act 2013 was for him.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Assts work with young QBs appealed to Marrone

Posted by Chris Brown on February 13, 2014 – 9:24 am

As we profiled in Bills Focus on the video side of today, Buffalo’s new quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and Senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler both have experience tutoring rookie quarterbacks, who were first round picks and seen as the future franchise quarterback. Both also had to guide those QBs through injury affected rookie seasons. It was part of what made Downing and Hostler appealing to head coach Doug Marrone.

“It was part of the process,” Marrone told “It was part of thinking about what do the Buffalo Bills need? I think that was the main thing. For us we want people that have that type of experience because they’ll foresee maybe some of the challenges that they have working with younger quarterbacks. If something seems like a challenge and someone is in the room saying they went through this with Stafford or Alex Smith and you’re like, ‘Okay it’s normal.’ And you’re not in a panic mode.”

Marrone was most impressed by how he saw Downing interact with the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl in 2013, one of whom was EJ Manuel. And once Manuel spoke highly of Downing he was convinced.

“When I thought about Todd Downing I remember watching him at the Senior Bowl and watching him interact with EJ and I remember talking EJ about his experience at the Senior Bowl and who coached him,” said Marrone. “He mentioned Todd’s name and what their relationship was like and that was important for me because we were going to hire a quarterback coach and I wanted EJ as well as our other quarterbacks to feel comfortable in that type of setting where they didn’t have any barriers of communication. It was already set so that put us ahead of the game.”

Downing has worked with both Manuel and Thad Lewis having had him on his roster in Detroit last year before the Bills acquired him via trade.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-31

Posted by Chris Brown on January 31, 2014 – 12:00 pm

We’ll all be waiting to see if the ninth time is the charm for Bills Wall of Famer Andre Reed for Hall of Fame enshrinement. Hopefully the path is cleared for Buffalo’s all-time leading receiver. On to your questions from email at and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills Hey Chris. Stayin busy in the off-seasn? Lol. Is there a greater % for injury of same knee now that EJ’s had 2 surgeries on it?


CB: EJ said this week that he plans to wear a knee brace on his left knee permanently much like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning do with their front leg when they drop back to pass. I believe the idea is to protect him from injuring the knee again in a freak way, such as a penetrating defensive lineman falling on his front leg as he tries to step into a throw. He doesn’t believe it will inhibit his escapability if he needs to take off and run so the added protection would seem to make sense.

It’s clear to me that EJ has thought long and hard about how to keep that knee healthy without impeding his athletic skills. So if anything I think the percentage for a future injury happening are reduced, but as we all know in football injuries are never 100 percent preventable.


2 – @ChrisBrownBills do you think Hostler will be senior off asst/WR coach?


CB: Even though Jim Hostler has been a very accomplished receivers coach during his time in the NFL ranks I don’t get the sense that he’ll be assigned the receivers specifically. As I understand it Hostler will be another set of eyes for the offense. He’ll work closely with coach Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and likely have some self-scouting responsibilities to help the offensive staff to better accentuate their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. I’m sure he’ll have input when it comes to game planning as well. I see him as a valuable sounding board for Hackett and Marrone on the offensive side, but his job sounds more all-encompassing with the offense rather than position specific.


3 – Chris,

Thanks for the great coverage as always. My question regards our offseason needs as we have a few, OG,OT,LB and a big wide out. These holes will be filled with a mix of the draft and free agency most likely. Where do you believe we will choose to go with youth versus veteran experience?

We have a pretty young receiver group as well as a young potential star at middle linebacker in Kiko it’d be nice to see some solid veterans thrown into the mix. But I can’t argue trying to grab another young stud linebacker in the draft either along with an offensive lineman. Also who do you believe has the best shot to have an impact at one of these positions of need who may already be in house I know there’s a few candidates.(Elliot,Unga,Asper etc.) Looking forward to your thoughts thanks again.


CB: I think your reasoning makes sense, but what you want to do is often affected by what’s available in terms of talent. When it comes to linebacker I get the sense that the team would prefer to move Kiko Alonso out to the weak side where they can take better advantage of his athleticism and coverage ability. That would mean a middle linebacker would need to be plugged in.

Buffalo was fortunate that they had a rookie in Alonso who was able to learn and call a new defense as a rookie at the mike spot. That doesn’t always happen, so I’m inclined to think that they would want to add a veteran in free agency at that position. However, the market is particularly thin, which means the price tag on what the Bills might see as an affordable option (as Doug Whaley calls them, ‘dust settle’ guys) may not be if there are other teams competing for experienced LBs.

I could see the Bills adding a linebacker both in free agency and in the draft. They need bodies at that position.

At receiver another rookie is probably not the way to improve the offense sooner rather than later. They need a player who has produced in the past and has adapted to different offensive systems before. Buffalo invested a pair of high picks at the receiver position last year (2nd and 3rd round) so I’d be surprised if they go that route again, especially early.

Offensive tackle is where I expect them to turn to the draft for help. There’s good talent at the top of the draft and with some QB hungry teams ahead of Buffalo in round one some great talent could fall to them at nine.

Guard is a position where I think they will plug in the best talent they can find. They have some players in house who they believe have starter potential, but they might add a stop gap free agent veteran to hold down the fort until they feel comfortable enough to plug in one of the prospects that you mentioned.


4 – Chris,
Thank you for all your coverage during the season.  What’s more is your continuous coverage during the off-season.  Being a fan in Virginia, I rely a lot on what I get from you.  I have two questions for you.

My first is in a previous Fan Friday someone mentioned there was possible discussion about trading Stevie.   I haven’t heard anything about that, yet you responded to it, so it sounds like there has been talk.  Where has this been said, and did I miss it due to me being in another state?

My second and big question is about the draft for next year.  Watching the playoffs this year I am noticing a theme.  The teams that are winning are winning due to great running games and strong defense.  What are the Bills going to do to boost up the offense and defense in the offseason?  Our pass defense is much better, but we let too many runs get by us.  I think we have a great running game, but it needs.some help with a better offensive line creating holes at times, especially in the red zone.

Thanks for keeping everyone informed.

Diehard fan in VA

CB: There are a lot of things that happen in the first year with a new coaching staff inheriting a roster of players. They have to learn how to work together, help one another and succeed. Doug Marrone did a solid job in establishing how things were going to function and earned the trust of the players. I think Stevie Johnson is a player who is wholeheartedly on board and wants to win.

At times I think the way the season unfolded frustrated him and I’m not sure he effectively communicated his frustrations to the people that matter most. I think it led to a lot of speculation about Stevie’s future with the team and whether he could effectively fall in line with the rest of the team and do things coach Marrone’s way.

As I said before Johnson wants to win in the worst way and he wants to win here. I think after the dust settled on the season coach Marrone and coach Hackett made the necessary changes to their offensive staff and I get the sense that they came to the conclusion that they need Johnson in this offense. In a year where they’re trying to improve the talent around EJ Manuel so he can raise the level of the passing game, taking Johnson out of that equation would be foolish.

He gains consistent separation on pass routes perhaps more than any other receiver on the roster. An open receiver is a valuable asset for a young quarterback. I’m not saying that the Bills don’t need to add more talent to the receiving corps, but to get Buffalo’s passing game to reach critical mass you need to hold onto weapons not remove them from the offense. That’s a long way of saying I don’t anticipate any trade talk regarding Johnson.


5 – Chris,

Thanks for all the great coverage throughout the season.  My question is, since the bills can get a deal done with Byrd now, wouldn’t this be the best time to do it since he can’t talk to other teams until FA starts?

Jason from Missouri

CB: Bills GM Doug Whaley and President and CEO Russ Brandon in speaking with the Associated Press this week said they have hit the reset button on negotiations with Jairus Byrd and his representatives. Whaley said on the John Murphy Show last week that contract offers would be going out to the free agents they would like to retain and Byrd is one of them. So yes, they are making an effort to get something done now before free agency opens in mid-March.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hostler’s two great strengths

Posted by Chris Brown on January 30, 2014 – 11:24 am

Bills newly hired senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler is a veteran offensive coach. His most recent coaching work has been primarily with receivers in Baltimore. So the John Murphy Show asked Ravens play-by-play man Gerry Sandusky for some insight on what Hostler will bring to the Bills staff.

“Jim has two skills that really stand out,” said Hostler. “One I think he’s an exceptional evaluator of talent. One of the things he’s blind to things like where you were taken in the draft and what college you played at. He has the ability to see a player and know what they can and cannot do. Jacoby Jones is a perfect example.

“Last offseason when the Ravens traded away Anquan Boldin that meant that Torrey Smith was the new number one and Jacoby Jones became the number two receiver. I talked to Jim Hostler about the new depth chart and he told me that they were not going to make Jacoby Jones your typical number two receiver because Jacoby is a fast guy, but he doesn’t have the ability to come back to the ball very well and he doesn’t have the built-in ability to get vertical and go up for balls the way Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin did. So he was not the typical number two receiver.

“So he’s done this with a lot of receivers. Identify what their skill set is, see what they can grow into and see what they’ll never become and he doesn’t try to force players to be something they’re not. A lot of coaches do and he doesn’t.

“The other strength is he is a magnificent teacher of technique. Torrey Smith has become a fabulous receiver from the Ravens. The very first day we saw him at the first minicamp after the draft everybody wondered if the Ravens made a mistake on this kid. He was fast, but he didn’t have any skills, no ball skills, route running skills and in a couple of years with Jim Hostler he’s become a very polished and seasoned receiver sooner than any of us expected.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hostler previously worked with Marrone

Posted by Chris Brown on January 29, 2014 – 5:29 pm

Bills new senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler has spent the past six seasons as the receivers coach in Baltimore, but he has a previous working relationship with head coach Doug Marrone.

Hostler coached for two seasons with Marrone on Herm Edwards’ staff with the New York Jets from 2003-2004. Hostler served as the wide receivers/quarterbacks coach while Marrone was the offensive line coach on the Jets staff. So the two worked together on the offensive side of the ball.

As senior assistant Hostler will likely work closely with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, knowing Hostler was a candidate for the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator’s post and was a former coordinator with the 49ers.

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Posted in Inside the Bills
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