Inside The Bills

Fowler a Cardinal

Posted by Chris Brown on August 4, 2009 – 8:48 pm

Former Bills center Melvin Fowler was signed by the Arizona Cardinals. It’s a good fit for his family.

His parents have a winter home in Arizona and that will make travel for them much easier. Mr. and Mrs. Fowler were two of the more dedicated parents I’ve ever seen in the pro ranks as they never missed one of their son’s games home or away.

Melvin is also probably happy to be out of the AFC East where all the dominant nose tackles reside. In the NFC West the nose tackles aren’t nearly as dominant. Looks like Fowler will serve as the backup in the pivot.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Pack signs Preston

Posted by Chris Brown on March 27, 2009 – 11:57 am

Bills free agent center Duke Preston is now a Green Bay Packer. After making free agent visits with the Raiders and Packers, Preston decided to play in the NFC North. That according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The Packers were looking to bulk up a bit in the pivot and add some athleticism according to Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy.

“He’s got a nice frame,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week. “He’s more of an athlete. We see him as an athletic frame. Once again, he’s young, too. He has a lot of football in front of him.”

Buffalo is not expected to re-sign Melvin Fowler or Jason Whittle so the Bills in addition to Geoff Hangartner will presumably have a new backup center as well. Drafting an interior linemen is quickly becoming a must even if it is for depth purposes.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Looks like Preston is in Oakland too

Posted by Chris Brown on March 3, 2009 – 9:30 pm

In addition to Melvin Fowler, Buffalo’s other free agent center Duke Preston is also visiting with the Raiders.

Preston has a lot of game tape from last season and he’d probable welcome the chance to avoid the likes of Kris Jenkins and Vince Wilfork twice a season.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fowler visiting with Raiders

Posted by Chris Brown on March 3, 2009 – 8:28 pm

Bills FA C Melvin Fowler is visiting with the Oakland Raiders out west today. The Raiders have a need at center now that they’ve lost Jake Grove, who signed with the Dolphins.

Fowler is not expected back with the Bills after losing his starting job last year to Duke Preston. If any of the three interior line free agents returns (Whitlle, Preston, Fowler) odds are it will be Preston, but likely as a backup to Geoff Hangartner.

Miami is putting together a nice offensive front, albeit at a pretty steep price. We’ll see if it pays dividends for them, as their running game struggled down the stretch last season.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 2-20

Posted by Chris Brown on February 21, 2009 – 3:24 am

It’s been a busy couple of days so I apologize for getting this up so late. You can send questions to me at I answered more questions this week figuring there would be more draft related questions, but nothing on the combine. Catch up with you next week.

1. Chris,

I know you think a pass rush DE is our likely 1st round pick, and other Mock Drafts have us picking a TE with that first pick (which I think is a huge reach at 11) but what about Aaron Curry, OLB from Wake? Assuming Crowell doesn’t re-sign after his issues with the front office this past season, we will be looking at hypothetically losing not only depth if Ellison doesn’t re-sign, but also potentially our starting OLB.

Todd McShay has the Seahawks picking him at #4, but I don’t see it– especially with glaring needs like WR, and people like Michael Crabtree likely being available when they pick. Curry is big, physical, and has the high motor that the Bills love (ie Kyle Williams)– so why not Curry at 11?

Thanks Chris,

Matt, Beverly MA

CB: I wouldn’t rule Curry out as a possibility, but I’d be surprised if he’s there at 11. I suppose it’s possible, but this guy is super on the field and super off. Squeaky clean and a playmaker. Jerod Mayo went 7 last year to the Patriots. I can’t see him dropping to the Bills at 11, but if he does I wouldn’t mind the Bills taking him at all. He’s one of the safest picks in the draft.

2. Chris with Mr. Wilson stating that our beloved Bills lack talent what do you see as a realistic off season as far as resigning our own or free agents go? Very interested in your response.
Scott Eustace


CB: I think some of the restricted players could be retained in addition to Jenkins and DiGiorgio like Keith Ellison and Gibran Hamdan, but I think Angelo Crowell will be allowed to test the market. If it’s lukewarm and he has trouble getting offers I think the chance of him returning increases. As for Greer, I fear that his asking price will be too high. Buffalo is heavily invested in Leodis McKelvin and could probably re-sign Terrence McGee to an extension as an alternative. I think Kirk Chambers and Duke Preston stand a good chance of being re-signed, but I think both would be reserve players if the Bills acquire what they want to in free agency and the draft.

3. Hey Chris,
I don’t agree that it is imperative to find an experienced backup QB. I think Trent will be fine. Of course the game is still a bit fast for him, he has only played a little more than one season. The second time he saw the 3-4 defenses and 8 in coverage he handled it. (The running game wasn’t exactly helping the first time through those teams either!). No one works harder wants to learn more, and don’t you think we may already have a decent backup??
Thanks, Ray Perez

CB: While I agree with some of what you’ve said, I think an experienced backup would be a welcome sight for the Bills quarterback position. Talking to Turk Schonert at the combine today he too would like an experienced backup.

The reason why is he believes a veteran, that knows his role, can really help Edwards with some of the nuances of the game that he may not have experienced extensively as of yet. The problem is the free agent pool at quarterback is so thin that I don’t know that they’ll find a good fit for the Bills.

Finding an experienced backup, that knows his role, is actually a way to help Trent (and the team) not to threaten him with competition.


4. In your opinion, what needs to be upgraded more, offense or defense? I am of the opinion that offensive success is more due to strategy (ie: playcalling), and defensive success is more due to talent. I’d like to see the Bills draft defensively. Also, do you think Schonert will finally implement the no-huddle? It’s something the OC’s have talked about for a couple years now, but we’ve yet to see. What are your thoughts?
-John, Rochester NY.

CB: I think both offense and defense need to add playmakers. When opponents can double Lee Evans and shut down the passing game, that screams for more talent, despite the fact that I think Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish are good complementary receivers. The added talent has to come at tight end to help Reed in the middle of the field. On defense you’re right another pass rusher, and outside linebacker that can start are two big pieces that need to be added.

As for the no huddle Turk Schonert addressed why they didn’t use it as much at the Combine today. I’ll let him explain.

“We didn’t use it a lot, not like we wanted to for various reasons,” said Schonert. “We’d use it for a series and we actually used it in the fourth quarter of the Oakland game and it helped us win the game and wore them out. We started a couple of games in no huddle, but we didn’t execute and weren’t very good so I got out of it in the first quarter.

“Last year we had to back off a little bit at the start of the season because of Jason’s (Peters) holdout. All of a sudden he’s coming into a terminology change so we had back off at the beginning of the season due to that. Then Josh (Reed) gets hurt, he’s out three games and we had a rookie flanker in there. Then Trent (Edwards) got hurt. We kind of hit these roadblocks that kept us from using it as much as we wanted to.”

As for 2009, Schonert said that they plan to use it more.

“We’re going to continue to work on it, we like it, we want to use it,” Schonert said. “But we’re going to use it, try to improve it and plan on having it in our arsenal.”


5. Hey Chris;
Is there any chance the Bills keep Greer? It would be tough to watch another player that has developed into a dependable starter at a vital position walk (Winfield, Clements). It would seem they want McKelvin to take that starting role with Youboty as the nickel, and Corner as the dime. It would be great to see McKelvin battle Greer for the starting role, with the player finishing second be the nickel. Greer seems to always come to camp prepared to compete, and would push McKelvin to do the same, or become the nickel, which would still give them 3 top corners, and solid depth.
The need for a solid starter at weak side linebacker needs to be addressed. How do you see the Bills taking care of that need? Crowell?
Thanks;   Dan from Williamsville

CB: As Russ Brandon told me today at the Combine they’ve maintained an open dialogue with Greer’s representatives, and have made it clear that they would like to bring Greer back. The problem is the money. My guess is that Greer’s agent is looking for $7-$9M a year in light of some of the recent contracts signed by comparable corners (Kelvin Hayden, Corey Webster). I can’t see the Bills committing that kind of money to Greer as much as they’d like to retain him. I think he hits the market.

As for the strong side linebacker position (Mitchell plays the weak side), there are options in free agency like Tyjuan Hagler, who could come in familiar with the system having played in Indianapolis in similar scheme. I think Morlon Greenwood would be an affordable option too.


6. Hey Chris,
I heard the Lions are leaning toward giving Culpepper the #1 spot and releasing Kitna.
How would Kitna fit in as a back up to Trent? How much do you think he would cost? Would any team look at picking up Kitna as a #1?

CB: I think Kitna would be an interesting option. I think the first thing that has to be clear is that Kitna is willing to accept a backup role and realize in Buffalo he would not be able to compete for the starting job. As long as he can do that, I think he could be a capable backup. Kitna has always been prone to at least one big mistake in games, but as a backup that’s less likely to happen. He has seen a lot in this game and could probably assist Edwards in the quarterback room.


7. Hey Chris,
I really like Eric Wood (out of Louisville) at center.  I am a U of L fan so I have been able to watch this guy for a while.  Where do you see him going in the draft itself and could the Bills use him?
Mike Lundert

CB: There’s no debating that the Bills need help at the center position. Jason Whittle, Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler are all free agents. I think Preston is the most likely to be re-signed before free agency opens, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they seek another veteran player, and add another interior linemen in the draft. It could be a player like Wood, who figures to go late 2nd to top half of the third round.

I like the way Wood finishes plays, but according to the experts drive blocking is where he needs to get better. I liked some of the tape that I saw on him and he seems to get to the second level pretty well. I think he’d be a good player to groom behind a veteran center to eventually take over the job in a couple of years.

8. Chris,
I know this may sound crazy but consider this. I  don’t think the Bills want to spend the money that Peters would be looking for thus making him an unhappy Bill. Trade for a top 5 pick and another solid pick. Bills won’t want to pay for a top 5 pick so trade down to near 10. Use the pick to get another tackle. Trade into top 10 with the other pick from Peters trade to get one of the top DE’s. Then use second round pick for TE?
After seeing what you wrote about the other OT getting big money I think there is trouble ahead with Peters.

CB: Sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. If it were up to me a bird in the hand (or in this case a franchise left tackle) is worth more than two in the bush. You have a bona fide Pro Bowl caliber left tackle on your team that is unhappy because he feels he’s underpaid, and he played like it last season.

I believe the Bills will find a way to rectify that situation in the form of a new contract for Peters. They’ll have to make some roster decisions to do so, but left tackle is the second most important offensive position after quarterback and you’ve got a guy that can play eight to 10 more years. I’m confident that if Peters gets a contract he is happy with he will be back to Pro Bowl form on the field.


9. Chris,
My question is what likelihood do you think there is that the Bills draft Pettigrew. He has character issues and I have to believe we will be very gun shy. A lot of the pundits have us drafting him with the first pick. I say “no way.” Have a good one.
Mark Tate

CB: I think Pettigrew is a very impressive player. He’s the only major all-around tight end and will be a first-round pick. His off the field blemish stemmed from a house party and he was charged with assaulting a police officer when he “elbowed” one in the chest as he was dispersing. Rest assured the Bills just like every other team will investigate it fully.

I felt Pettigrew came across well in his interview with the media. He seems very focused on his career and excelling at the next level.

I’m still a bit apprehensive about making him the 11th pick in the draft. There aren’t many picks of tight ends between 8 and 15 in the last 15 years that have proven worthy of a selection that high. Tony Gonzalez is one of the few exceptions.

And I think if you’re taking a tight end that high he has to be Tony Gonzalez good.


10. Chris,
What do you think about Torry Holt being traded to the Bills in a Stroud-esq. trade? He makes perfect sense considering he has two years on his contract, and we will have a solid receiver alongside Evans while Johnson and Hardy are learning the system and will prove to be the real deal or not. He’s played well on a terrible team and before this year had 83 receptions on a team that drafts top 5. He had a slight dip with comparable numbers to Lee Evans. With Holt, Edwards will have another great target and a better learning curve.
My concern is his transition from 6 games in a dome to 6 games in swirling winds and cold weather. He respects the Bills as he’s said prior to playing us and wants to be traded.
What do you think the likelihood is of us bringing him in and what would it take?
Jonathan – Westchester, NY.

CB: I think it would take probably a third or fourth-round pick, but I’m just guessing. Holt is on the decline, but I like your thinking in terms of another weapon to work opposite Lee Evans. Holt is still respected by opposing defenses so it’s not a bad idea. A veteran receiver is what is needed not more youth.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 1-9

Posted by Chris Brown on January 9, 2009 – 4:19 pm

As always you can send your questions to me at and I’ll get back to you either personally or here on Fan Friday. Here we go.

1. Hey Chris,
I started to see draft talk on some sites this week. I know this is a bit premature, but how do you see the Bills going this year? Could this be a year were trading for a player may make more sense than making a first round pick?

CB: I doubt that the Bills are going to cough up their first round pick in a trade this year. I’m hoping the Bills take a defensive end with their top pick, provided the depth of talent is still there. I wanted to Buffalo to take a defensive tackle in 2003, but by the time the Bills were on the clock they were all gone and they took McGahee. But that would be my preference this spring.


2. Chris-
Is it too early to call James Hardy a bust and do you think the front office will add another receiver this off-season in case he is not able to contribute immediately next season?

CB: I think that is a possibility, but more so because James Hardy has a torn ACL to rehab from. He’s not a bust. Eric Moulds didn’t have a breakout season until his third year. The ACL is the issue. It’s usually 7-9 months before a player can come back. He tore it on Dec. 14, so he may not be full go for training camp. Missing all those spring practices and OTAs will hurt his development so I think they do need to add another receiver even if it’s just for a one or two-year deal.


3. Dear Chris,
Who do you think the Bills might pick up in this year’s free agency market?  There are some very high profile defensive ends (Suggs, Peppers), and some solid centers (Birk, Brown, Saturday, Meester) up for grabs.   The Bills have attempted to solve their biggest problems in the free agency market over the past two seasons.    Do you think they will try to make a splash at either of these positions?

CB: I think Birk and Brown are realistic. Saturday and Meester are more at the end of the line. As for DE Suggs and Peppers they will cost too much and Peppers has already been negotiating with Carolina to re-sign.

I believe the Bills get their pass rusher at the top of the draft this spring.


4. Hey Chris,
Were any Bills named pro bowl alternates?

CB: Yes, I blogged this a while back. Marshawn Lynch and Marcus Stroud were Pro Bowl alternates. We’ll see if someone pulls out of the game with an injury.


5. Chris,
What is the contract status with regards to free agents, both restricted and un- restricted.
Thank you for your help,

Mike Czerwonka

CB: Unrestricted – Kirk Chambers, Angelo Crowell, Melvin Fowler, Jabari Greer, Teddy Lehman, J.P. Losman, Corey McIntyre, Duke Preston, Jason Whittle.

Restricted – John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Dustin Fox, Gibran Hamdan, Justin Jenkins, George Wilson.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-12

Posted by Chris Brown on December 12, 2008 – 6:29 pm

Fan Friday 12-12

For any questions you might have on the Bills feel free to email me at I try to answer every email I get either personally or here in my blog. Let’s get to it.

1. Hey Chris,
Saw that Dick Jauron will have Jabari Greer be the starter when he comes back from injury, instead of letting McKelvin continue to play. Is there a reason why Jauron continues to have other corners who aren’t a hundred percent play instead of starting McKelvin?  Case in point, having Terrence McGee play at Miami where he was burned by Ted Ginn Jr. for 175 yards.  Thanks.
Matt Bills fan from Michigan

CB: First of all, Jauron said when Jabari is healthy he will start. I don’t think he’ll have Jabari start unless he is 100 percent. This week for example, Jabari is not 100 percent healthy and he’s been ruled out for the game. I wouldn’t anticipate him starting over McKelvin until he’s full go.

McKelvin has shown he can handle a starting role, but that being said Jabari has had a solid season.



2. Hey Chris,

Just wondering what the chances are of Gibran getting the start for the Bills this Sunday? With the way the offensive has been running as of late (0 touchdowns in the last 2 games) what have we got to loose? Does he not at least deserve a shot?

CB: I don’t think it will happen this week. I actually asked this question of Dick Jauron when I spoke to him for Bills Digest on Thursday. If the Bills lose on Sunday and Trent is still not healthy to play he indicated that there could be a scenario in which Gibran sees time on the field. But I think the Bills have to lose big and J.P. has to play as bad as he did last week for this to possibly happen. Losman has a 111.1 passer rating in his career against the Jets. But with as bad as this offense needs a spark, I’m all for it.



3. I was wondering, why do the Bills have such a tough time against the 3-4 defenses.  It seems more like bad play calling to me personally against the Dolphins(example: the fade route to Evans in the end zone) but still we could not get our ground game going.  I think this is a serious issue for our offense because all teams in our division use it and we need to play them multiple times.  I love what Turk Schonert did with the offense, but do you see him staying in as offensive coordinator seeing as he has trouble against this kind of defense?
Thank you,

CB: I think it starts in the middle at nose tackle. All three division opponents have superior nose tackles. Kris Jenkins may be the NFL defensive MVP this year. Vince Wilfork is a man child and Jason Ferguson has played well for an aging vet. All three teams have been in the top half of the league in run defense.

Buffalo needs to acquire a center that can better handle these monstrous nose tackles, because they’re so disruptive to the run game and in pushing the pocket in the pass game. Your six most important games of the year are against these teams, so this issue has to be addressed. The problem is the free agent center class isn’t overly appealing.

Matt Birk is 32-years old and Jeff Saturday is 33. Both have also played their entire careers in Minnesota and Indy so prying them away will require overpaying. Baltimore’s Jason Brown is not a world beater and other than those two vets there aren’t many other center candidates that jump out at me.

Still I think it’s worth plugging that hole with a good veteran and hoping you can acquire a promising young center/guard type in the draft this spring. It’s a position that’s more important to Buffalo than perhaps any other team in the league because of the 3-4 prominence in their division.

Second is the 3-4 scheme is one that can better disguise blitzes causing more confusing situations up front. Making it even tougher is all three teams in the division have big OLBs (Matt Roth, Adalius Thomas, Calvin Pace) that are mismatches for backs in blitz situations and can even overpower tight ends.

Ironically, these teams didn’t have to blitz much as committing 7 and 8 to coverage was just as effective against Trent Edwards. I’d like to see the Bills spread these teams out with a total spread package most of the time. They’ve got to change something. Buffalo is 5-1 against the 4-3 and 1-6 this season against the 3-4 heading into the Jets game. Something has to be done to fix that.



4. Chris,
                Can you possibly tell me why the Bills get away from their running game when they are inside the 5 or 10 yard line?  We have an exceptional back in Lynch, who rarely gets less than 1 yard.  We, instead , choose to throw the ball.  I have watched this over and over again & simply cannot figure it out.  It was particularly frustrating to watch the interception in the end zone with the attempted pass to Evans from Losman.  Once again, a pass instead of a couple of runs?  And also, a timing pass play with our now backup QB?
                With all due respect to the coaches, can’t they see this?  We have a talented bunch of guys on this team, but the play calling does not allow them to do what they were recruited to do.

CB: I agree Lynch runs as hard as anyone in the league and hasn’t seen much action inside the 10-yard line. Buffalo had nine plays inside the 10-yard line against San Francisco and Lynch got the ball once. In the fourth quarter of the that game he had one carry. It is mind boggling.

I think with your backup QB in the game you should lean on your feature back all the more. I’d like to believe the coaches do recognize this. Whether it changes remains to be seen.



5. Chris,
Where has Melvin Fowler been? I have not heard any discussions about him being hurt. Duke has really hurt us the last couple of weeks in key situations. When is Melvin going to be back or was he benched in favor of Duke, which I would not understand !!!

CB: He has been benched in favor of Duke Preston. I thought Duke had a few good games in the middle of the season, but he’s had his share of problems. I don’t think he’ll be coming out any time soon. He’s bigger than Fowler by about 25-30 pounds and against the 3-4 fronts of the Jets and Pats coming up I anticipate he’ll stay in there. Fowler is quicker and more mobile, but had his problems holding his ground against the likes of Jenkins and Wilfork.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 12-5

Posted by Chris Brown on December 5, 2008 – 6:29 pm

Fan Friday 12-5

Here’s the latest rundown of questions posed by you the fan. You can always e-mail me at I try to answer each and every question, if not personally in this blog. Let’s get rolling.

1. At the end of a game and in critical situations, who makes the offensive play calls? Is it Turk or Jauron?
Thanks, John

CB: I don’t know exactly how it works specifically with Schonert and coach Jauron. In a lot of cases the head coach will have a ‘check with me’ policy in crunch time. A lot of times a head coach will be in a coordinator’s ear where he’ll tell him any number of things from, ‘Run it again’ to ‘you’ve got two downs here because we’ll go for it on fourth down if necessary.’ But head coaches don’t often tell a coordinator what specific play to call. They like to have their coordinator feel like he has he freedom to call the game the way he feels comfortable. Otherwise why did you hire the guy to begin with?

2. Chris
I was curious of what direction you think the team will take with the following free agents:
Angelo Crowell   (has this ship sailed when the team placed him on IR ?)
Melvin Fowler   (Lost his starting job to Preston, can he handle the big 3-4 NT?)
Duke Preston  (He’s done well the last few games, at the very least a valuable back up)
Jabari Greer   (Has developed into a very good corner, also one we won’t be able to afford)
CB: I would be surprised if Crowell is back in light of how his whole injury situation/surgery decision went down at the beginning of the season. I don’t anticipate him being back because that situation did not appear to go amiably.

Melvin Fowler I think is another player that doesn’t stand a good chance of being re-signed. I think Preston is a possibility, but I believe the team will find quality competition for him at center whether it’s in the draft or in free agency.

As for Greer, I don’t think his contract demands will be up in the stratosphere like Nate Clements were. They might be able to work something out, but if he hits the open market it will be much more difficult.



3. Hi Chris,
I’m a Bills fan stranded in Phoenix. Anquan Boldin is keeping quiet for now but has not changed his mind about wanting out of AZ. I have dreams of seeing him line up opposite Lee Evans- what a Christmas present that would be !
If I were GM I’d offer the Cards a #1 pick plus James Hardy, McCargo (if they are interested), and their choice of Kelsay or Denney. I might even dangle Jabari Greer if he’s not interested in signing an extension w/ the Bills.

AZ has been getting by with journeyman CBs Hood & Green and would like an upgrade- they also need an upgrade over aging and injury prone DE Bertrand Berry.

James Hardy would be a reasonable replacement at WR with Steve Breaston moving into Boldin’s slot.
If you don’t think I’m offering enough, keep in mind Boldin wants to get paid what Fitzgerald is making and I don’t think AZ can afford to tie up so much of their salary cap in 2 WRs. And the Bidwells are ALWAYS looking to pinch pennies.
What do you think?
Gilbert, AZ

CB: Well there’s no question that you’ve thought this through. Unfortunately the problem that the Cardinals have in keeping Boldin happy ($$$$), is the same problem any other team would have in acquiring him. He’d likely want a new deal for considerably more money and since his career numbers are better than Evans, he’d probably want more than him.
I just don’t seeing that flying in Buffalo. So as much as I like your dream, I think you’re going to have to keep dreaming.



4. Do you think now that Turk is calling plays from upstairs it will help the Bills offense and maybe get a better view of what defenses are trying to do?”
Mike from Williamsport, PA

CB: That’s what he seems to think after I spoke to him following the Chiefs game outside the locker room. Most coaches say they can more definitively see what is unfolding with respect to defensive coverages or offensive formations depending on which side of the ball the coordinator is in charge of. That should translate into quicker play calls and more effective counter punches. It’s been two weeks and the results have been very different from on the field from one game to the next. We’ll see how things work in the last four games.



5. Any news on their prospects for Schobel, Whitner and Greer returning?

Also, what are your thoughts on the play of Ko Simpson? On the surface he appears to be soft & late in pass coverage and has looked out of position on several of the long runs the team has given up.

Mike M.

CB: Schobel is not playing this week. He practiced fully according to Dick Jauron on Wednesday and Thursday, but in the brief time we watch practice, he did not look game ready. The good news is he won’t need surgery.

Whitner should play on Sunday (he’s questionable) and Greer (out) is probably a week or so away. As for Ko Simpson I think the organization was expecting he would be making more plays at this point in his career. That’s why Donte Whitner has been steadily transitioned to free safety.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 11-28

Posted by Chris Brown on November 28, 2008 – 7:35 pm

Fan Friday 11-28

Here’s the latest edition. If you have a question you’d like answered just e-mail me at

1. Why haven’t we been utilizing James Hardy in the red zone, more specifically inside the five? 


CB: That’s a good question. While it’s been no secret that Hardy is still working on grasping the playbook, having him run a fade pattern in the end zone doesn’t appear to be something that requires a lot of playbook retention. I saw Hardy on the field in the red zone on one occasion last week at KC, but he did not run a route into the end zone.

I understand that he might be coming along slowly in terms of the entire offense, but there’s no denying he’s a physical mismatch in the red zone and would create coverage dilemmas for an opposing secondary.

2. What do you think the chances of Teddy Lehman eventually stepping in for Ellison to provide more strength are?

CB: I think they’re remote unless Ellison is injured and Lehman is healthy. Right now Ellison is nursing a lingering ankle injury and will be a game time decision for Sunday. Unfortunately for Lehman he’s not healthy to fill the void if called upon because he has a hamstring injury of his own. Right now Bryan Scott would be the next guy to step in at linebacker.

Ellison is a heady player with a bit more athleticism than Lehman and it appears that is what the coaching staff covets at that position especially with stouter linebackers alongside Ellison already in Poz and Mitchell.

3. Dear Chris,
The offensive line appears to have regressed significantly this season.  It seems to me the biggest change has been Coach Jim McNally’s retirement; your thoughts?
Dick Sheehy

CB: There’s no question the offensive line has had its share of problems this season. However, I don’t think coach McNally’s retirement is the only change. Peters was a holdout curbing his development into an elite tackle, Butler was out for three games and they got so thin inside at one point that Kirk Chambers had to play guard. Now I’m not completely excusing the offensive line of criticism because of injuries, but they do play a factor.

With all due respect to coach McNally, the run game and effectiveness in short yardage were issues for this line last year. Marshawn Lynch only has four 100-yard rushing games in his career counting his day against the Browns. So it’s not like they were ripping yards off in huge chunks last year either. And on 3rd-and-1 last season Buffalo was one of the last teams in terms of conversion percentage in the league.

I actually think they have some of the same problems from last year to be honest.

4. Chris,
I was wondering if you had a complete and up-to-date list of Buffalo’s free agents for 2009. I did some research and here’s what I’ve got so far:

CB: Here you go
Unrestricted free agents – Angelo Crowell, Kirk Chambers, Melvin Fowler, Jabari Greer, J.P. Losman, Teddy Lehman, Corey McIntyre, Duke Preston, Jason Whittle.

Restricted free agents – John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Dustin Fox, Gibran Hamdan, Justin Jenkins, George Wilson

5. Hey Chris, i was wondering, from everything that i’ve read so far, tolbert is saying that steve has a better grasp of the bill’s offense and that he’s better at adjusting to the defense he’s seeing, if that’s the case, why has it taken so long to get him involved in the offense? i’m not saying replacing reed (when healthy), but being in there in place of hardy earlier in the season.


CB: I think it’s due primarily to the fact that the grasp of the offense only started to happen for Johnson these past couple of weeks. Only in the past couple of weeks did the light bulb really go on for Johnson is how I understood Tyke.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills-Chiefs inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on November 23, 2008 – 4:50 pm

Buffalo Bills
20-Donte Whitner
25-Xavier Omon
33-Jabari Greer
65-Jason Whittle
77-Demetrius Bell
94-Aaron Schobel
97-John McCargo
10–Gibran Hamdan – 3rd QB

Kansas City Chiefs
23-Patrick Surtain
30-Ricardo Colclough
45-Michael Merritt
55-Pat Thomas
59-Donnie Edwards
71-Andrew Carnahan
73-Adrian Jones
80-Jeff Webb

Starting Lineup Changes
#75 Duke Preston for #67 Melvin Fowler
#92 Ryan Denney for #94 Aaron Schobel
#28 Leodis McKelvin for #33 Jabari Greer
#37 George Wilson for #20 Donte Whitner

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday

Posted by Chris Brown on October 31, 2008 – 7:21 pm

Here’s our latest edition. Remember you can send your questions to me at Let’s get started.

1. Chris,

Our three starting DE’s – Schobel, Kelsay, and Denney – have ONE sack each.  Why is nobody talking about their lack of production after all we heard is how they are going to thrive with Stroud, who has been nothing but impressive thus far, and where is Chris Ellis? Why did we draft him if we are not going to give him
a shot?  Thanks

-Nick K.

CB: The main issue with the pass rush as I see it is the quick passing game they’re facing. Every team uses it now offensively and the last three weeks in particular opponents have been relying on it to neutralize Buffalo’s pass rush. So far it’s worked, I believe in part because there hasn’t been a lot of press coverage on the back end.

If you don’t have your cornerbacks press at the line, the quarterback can take three steps and throw it and get five yards. In Arizona in Week 5 Kurt Warner did that the whole game. When defensive ends were coming clean they still couldn’t get there in time. Until there’s more press coverage, teams are still going to take the underneath stuff and move methodically down the field.

The Bills can hope that the opposing QB will screw up at some point, but against veteran signal callers like Warner, Pennington it doesn’t happen often. Chances are greater this week, but Favre is another guy that knows how to throw on rhythm quickly.


2. Chris,
Can you do the fans a favor and talk to either O-line coach about the ‘scheme’ that they use?  There is debate (ongoing would be an understatement) about whether the Bills employ a “zone blocking” scheme or not.  Perhaps they could share their philosophy with you.
Hope you can fit this in.  Thanks.

CB: I talked to Dick Jauron about this and he told me that they make use of a few different blocking schemes including zone blocking. He wouldn’t divulge if they do one any more than the other.

I do know this. They tried zone blocking early last season and when it was not successful they moved away from it and the numbers got a bit better on the ground.

Zone blocking schemes are usually implemented for the lighter more athletic lines in football, but with all the twisting and stunting that defensive lines do these days, it’s almost necessary to incorporate some zone blocking into your scheme.

I’d rather see more plowing straight ahead than zone blocking. Then again when they do try to plow ahead in short yardage they haven’t been overwhelmingly successful there either.

But to answer the question they do some zone blocking, but it’s not their exclusive approach offensively.


3. Chris,
Do you think the Bills made a mistake with focusing so much on size at the receiver position that they ignored the awesome skills and speed of receivers DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal which would have been a perfect fit for our offense? 
Coach 85

CB: I don’t think the skills of Jackson and Royal were ignored. The Bills scouting staff takes a look at the whole picture of the player. A mismatch in terms of size was essential for the Bills on the outside however. Jackson was not on the board when the Bills were on the clock in round two. He went to Philly in round one. Royal was on the board and went to Denver with the very next pick after Hardy. I know both of them have made an impact sooner than Hardy, but I’m going to encourage you to be patient. He’s coming along in practice. He should have a bigger role this week. We’ll see.


4. I have a question I hope you can answer for me. My question involves a game against the Jets I “Think” in 1995. It was in the 4th quarter with a couple minutes left when Jets were marching down the field. They threw a hail Mary into the end zone. And like all hail Marys everyone jumped for it. Well we were called for pass interference! It was a total BS call. Wade Phillips was HOT! Pete Carroll was the coach and Wade was so ticked off he called the team off the field and went into the locker room leaving time on the clock. Carroll proceeded to rack up points with no defense (Bills) on the field. My question is do you remember this game or can you find this  game for me? I’ve been a Bills fan for 20 years and actually live in California all my life. I have other fans here we watch the games with (Bills Backers) And they don’t remember the game I’m talking about (rookies!). Any help would be appreciated, Thanks Don.

CB: Well Don you’ve got the coaches right, but the Bills were playing the Patriots and it was 1998. This is the infamous “Just give it to them” game. Andre Reed had put the Bills ahead with six minutes left on a four-yard TD reception from Doug Flutie to make it 21-17 Buffalo.

Drew Bledsoe began a Patriots drive. Facing a 4th-and-9, Bledsoe threw a pass to Shawn Jefferson along the Bills sideline with six seconds remaining. Replays indicated that Jefferson not only failed to get two feet inbounds, but went over the sideline short of the first down marker.

The two officials on the sideline huddled to discuss the play and were within earshot of Andre Reed. After talking for about 30 seconds, Reed said he heard one official say to the other, “Just give it to them.”

So the Patriots were given the completion and the first down.

On the next play Bledsoe threw the Hail Mary pass to which you referred from the Bills 26-yard line which fell incomplete with no time left, but the officials called pass interference in the end zone on Henry Jones even though the ball was not catchable.

So the Patriots were given possession 1st-and-goal at the one-yard line and Bledsoe threw a play-action touchdown pass to Ben Coates for the winning points.

After the TD, Wade Phillips pulled his team off the field and the Patriots, with no defense facing them, had Adam Vinatieri run a two-point conversion in for a 25-21 final.

Believe it or not that game is the one that bothers me more than any other. More than ‘wide right’ more than ‘home-run throwback’ because it was the biggest robbery of a victory I have ever seen in my time covering this team.


5. What would be the consequences for local viewership/blackout if the Toronto game didn’t sell out?

To my understanding, the game is considered a sell-out because it was ‘sold’ to Rogers.

Could you please let us know the exact situation and nip any potential panic in the bud?
Thank you,


CB: The Bills-Miami game in Toronto is being treated like any other home game for the Bills with respect to blackout rules as it’s been explained to me.

The game must be sold out 72 hours before kickoff for it to be broadcast on television. Remember clubs and suites do not count toward a sellout, only general admission. So as long as the game is sold out you’ll be good to go on TV.


6. Regarding DiGiorgio’s injury, the linebacker situation and the signing of Buggs (and not Haggan) do you think in the unfortunate event that one of the Bills starting linebackers goes down with an injury that the team employs a 4-2-5 scheme where the DB’s consist of 3 safeties? I feel that with the size and play of Scott that the Bills could still be an effective run defense with a safety tandem of Whitner-Simpson-Scott in the game and only two linebackers.
Andrew Suppo

CB: I think the 4-2-5 is unlikely to be their regular base package if another LB goes down. However, your mention of Scott is very astute. Scott has been getting reps with the linebackers during individual position drills just so he’s familiar with the responsibilities at the outside linebacker position. He’s not all that different from Coy Wire in terms of body type, who was transitioned to linebacker in his final season in Buffalo.

So if there was another injury at the position, I would anticipate Scott to be the next player moving into the lineup at LB instead of Marcus Buggs, Jon Corto or Blake Costanzo. And it would be a move based purely on experience as Buggs, Corto and Costanzo have little to none on defense at the NFL level. 
7. What is the Bills best starting record (I know 5-1 is the best since 1995) but what is the all time best? When can we say this is the best start ever?

CB: The Bills best start ever was in 1964 when they went 9-0 before losing a game. That season they finished 12-2 and of course won the AFL title. Buffalo has gotten off to 5-2 starts eight other times in their history and made the playoffs five times (1980, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1996). In three of those five postseason appearances, the Bills lost in the first round.


8. Hey Chris,
The Bills have been giving up at least two sacks a game. Duke Preston steps in for Melvin Fowler and the Bills allow no sacks. Do you think they are better off with Duke Preston at center?
Thanks  Alex G.

CB: You’re right the Bills did not allow a sack against the Chargers when Duke was in there and he did have a good game against Jamal Williams. Of course the Chargers barely sent more than four pass rushers the entire game which helped as well. Duke might very well be a better fit, particularly against 3-4 defensive fronts when the nose tackles are bigger and stronger on the whole. Preston goes 326 pounds, with Fowler closer to 300. Just being able to stand in there is easier due to size for Preston.

Though Dick Jauron hasn’t come out to definitively say that Duke is ‘the guy’ moving forward, I think he will be in there for the foreseeable future even when Melvin is 100 percent healthy.


9. Can you discuss a bit more about Reggie Corner?  I thought you had said he looked good in pre-season and maybe would be ready to play before Leodis?
Mark Teske

CB: At the time I made that comment on Corner, McKelvin was still unsigned in camp. I said if McKelvin misses much more training camp time, Corner could be on the field before him. I was anticipating that Corner had a decent shot at the nickel job, and knowing they had McKelvin focusing on outside corner almost exclusively that opinion made sense to me.

Of course Ashton Youboty then came out of nowhere to win the nickel job.

I still have faith that Reggie Corner will make an impact before the season is over at CB. I think his best position is the slot and with Youboty’s lingering foot injury not improving they made need him there at times sooner rather than later.

The defensive staff has a hard time putting a lot of faith in rookies knowing the negative consequences that can result (six points) and I totally understand that. But playing McGee last week against Miami instead of a healthy McKelvin might not have been the best idea.

When injuries force your hand you’ve got to put them out there and trust them. Not saying McKelvin or Corner won’t make mistakes, but sometimes the risk has to be taken. They made the roster because they can play. When you’re short handed you’ve got to use them.

But I think Corner can play and make plays on the ball. I still believe he’s going to be a good player for this team when he gets his opportunity.


10. Hey Chris,
I read your blog where you said you were surprised the Bills didn’t re-sign Mario Haggan. Isn’t he suspended for four games if/when a team signs him?
Maybe I made that up, but I thought that news came out over the offseason.
Also, why not Donnie Spragan at linebacker?

CB: Haggan has served his suspension. It covered the first four games of the season whether he was on an NFL roster or not. As of Week 5 he was clear to play for any NFL club that wanted him.

I just thought that with all the experience lost on the special teams coverage units in the offseason, that losing DiGiorgio was another loss of experience that had to be replaced. Haggan made sense to me in that fashion. The Bills thought otherwise.

As for Donnie Spragan, I think his best days are behind him, but in a pinch he could be serviceable. He’s just lacking a bit in space.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Reed’s injury

Posted by Chris Brown on October 27, 2008 – 3:27 am

Josh Reed left the game early with a strained achilles and did not return. At the end of the game Dick Jauron had yet to be updated on the injury suffered by Jason Whittle.

When he left the game Melvin Fowler came in at center and Duke Preston moved to right guard.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Practice update

Posted by Chris Brown on October 24, 2008 – 2:58 pm

Not practicing for a third straight day are Brad Butler, Aaron Schobel and Ashton Youboty. That obviously doesn’t make the prospects of any of them playing Sunday very good.

Melvin Fowler appears to again be limited as Duke Preston is taking first team reps at center.

Terrence McGee is participating again. We’ll find out after practice from coach Jauron if in fact he did more today than Thursday.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills injury update

Posted by Chris Brown on October 23, 2008 – 6:13 pm

Bills head coach Dick Jauron could be without two starters and a valuable subpackage defensive back again this week. Aaron Schobel, Ashton Youboty and Brad Butler all did not practice for a second straight day.

“With Ashton, Aaron and Brad we’re not going to rule them out, but they haven’t practiced for two days and I don’t know if they will (Friday),” said Jauron.

If none of the three practice Friday, it would almost rule all of them out for Sunday’s game. Youboty and Schobel are battling foot injuries. Butler has a sprained knee.

Limited in practice Thursday were Melvin Fowler and Terrence McGee. But McGee did more than he did on Wednesday and got some first team reps for the second straight day.

The big concern with McGee was how he would feel and respond a day later to the level of practice activity he endured Wednesday. With him back on the practice field Thursday it’s an encouraging sign that McGee should be available to return to the lineup on Sunday.

Derek Fine has participated fully throughout the week and it appears he is finally 100 percent healthy and recovered from thumb surgery. However, being active on Sunday is another story.

“It’s just hard to get anybody up on the 45-man game day roster particularly when things are going okay,” said Jauron. “We’ll keep talking about it up until game time.”

But if Fine is inactive Sunday, he will be a healthy scratch.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

McGee practicing again

Posted by Chris Brown on October 23, 2008 – 4:15 pm

Terrence McGee is practicing for a second straight day, which is a very good sign that he’ll be a go on Sunday. McGee lined up with the starters at his familiar left cornerback position.

Not practicing Thursday were Ashton Youboty and Aaron Schobel. Schobel is still in the walking boot. Dick Jauron did not anticipate Schobel practicing Thursday, so it’s not a surprise.

Also not practicing was Brad Butler. Melvin Fowler was practicing, but Duke Preston was still taking first team center reps, with Jason Whittle next to him at right guard.

We’ll have a full update after practice.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Injury update

Posted by Chris Brown on October 22, 2008 – 7:19 pm

Bills head coach Dick Jauron updated Buffalo’s injured Wednesday afternoon.

Not practicing were Brad Butler, Aaron Schobel and Ashton Youboty.

Limited in practice were Terrence McGee and Melvin Fowler.

Derek Fine was able to practice fully Wednesday.

When asked about Schobel, who is still in an immobilizer boot, and whether he’s improving, Jauron said he was getting better, but does not believe Schobel will practice Thursday. As for Schobel’s chances for Sunday Jauron said.

“I’m not overly optimistic, but I won’t totally rule him out. He’s a different kind of player.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

McGee practicing

Posted by Chris Brown on October 22, 2008 – 4:22 pm

Terrence McGee is back practicing in team work for the first time in a month since suffering a sprained MCL against St. Louis. McGee looked to be moving pretty well though he’s still wearing a knee brace.

Also back practicing was Melvin Fowler, but he may not be 100 percent as Duke Preston was still working with the first team offense.

Not practicing Wednesday were Aaron Schobel (foot), Brad Butler (knee) and Ashton Youboty (foot) looked very, very limited. Schobel is still wearing the walking boot.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills-Chargers inactives

Posted by Chris Brown on October 19, 2008 – 3:55 pm

Buffalo Bills
13-Steve Johnson
24-Terrence McGee
25-Xavier Omon
67-Melvin Fowler
77-Demetrius Bell
86-Derek Fine
94-Aaron Schobel
1–Gibran Hamdan – 3rd QB

San Diego Chargers
58-Derek Smith
67-Kynan Forney
75-Corey Clark
84-Buster Davis
88-Kris Wilson
89-Chris Chambers
94-Jyles Tucker
6-Charlie Whitehurst – 3rd QB

Lineup changes for the Bills:
75 Duke Preston will start at center.
28 Leodis McKelvin will start at left cornerback.
92 Ryan Denney will start at right defensive end.

Lineup changes for the Chargers:
80 Malcom Floyd will start at wide receiver.
92 Marques Harris will start at outside linebacker.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday

Posted by Chris Brown on October 17, 2008 – 7:00 pm

Fan Friday

Here’s the latest installment. Don’t forget if you have a question just e-mail me at and I’ll do my best to get all your questions answered.

1. Chris,
I went to NW Missouri and grew up in Maryville, Mo. I’m not able to watch Bills games but try to follow Xavier’s progress.
What’s going on with him currently? Is he on any special teams or has not even seen the field yet this year? I truly think the Bills have a hidden talent in Omon that someday, given the chance, will bust out into a very productive back.
Roger Watson

CB: Xavier was active for the opener, but did not play. He’s been inactive every week since. It’s been tough for a lot of the rookies to see time on the field. To date it’s been just McKelvin, Hardy and Johnson. But the coaching staff likes what Omon has done in the practice setting and on the look squad to prepare the starters for the upcoming opponent. There’s no denying he has potential.

2. Hi Chris,
I was wondering about the Ashton Youboty’s contract. Drafted in 06′ how many years does he have left on his deal? He has obviously stepped up his play and one can argue that he has been the best defensive back on the field this year. What are the chances of he Bills possibly extending Youboty before his on the field  play continues to excel and warrants more money down the road?
Thanks and Go Bills!
Sean Lindstrom

CB: Ashton is signed through the 2009 season. He was signed to a four-year deal coming out of college in 2006. As for extending Youboty, I think he may have to wait in line. Just at his position alone, Jabari Greer is up after this season and like Ashton, Terrence McGee is also up after 2009. McGee might prove too expensive which may cater to the team extending Ashton.

3. Chris – Now that Evans’ contract is extended, and Peters is (presumably) next in line for an extension, who are the players the Bills will target for extensions in coming seasons?


CB: As mentioned above, Jabari Greer is a free agent after the season and Terrence McGee and Ashton Youboty are free agents after ’09. So there will need to be some big decisions made with respect to the secondary. Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler are free agents at the end of this season so there will need to be some decisions as well with respect to the interior of the offensive line. John DiGiorgio and Keith Ellison will both be restricted free agents so linebacker is another position that will have to be examined. Angelo Crowell is a free agent after this season, but I don’t expect him to return.

4. When is the offensive line going to start making some holes for Marshawn Lynch.?

CB: This is a question that Dick Jauron has been asked several times over the past few weeks so I’ll let him answer it. He starts by disagreeing with the questioner who blamed it on the offensive line.
DJ: I wouldn’t say that. I would say it’s a combination of everybody. Marshawn and Fred would probably be the first to tell you they don’t hit every hole. They’ve missed some holes. The guys up front would be the first to tell you they’ve missed some blocks, too. We just have to get the whole thing put together and get better at it.

It was a focus of the team during the bye week so hopefully the production improves.

5. Chris,
I am a US Military Man serving in El Salvador and I have 2 quick questions for you. First what is Alvin Bowen’s status? I assumed when we brought in Spragan he was done for the year but Spragan was cut and I never read anything else about Bowen’s injury. What is the injury ACL/MCL?  is he out for his entire rookie season?

MA1(SW) Joseph A. Zaccagnino
Watch Supervisor/Command Career Counselor

CB: Alvin Bowen has begun rehab following his ACL knee surgery earlier this season. The recovery time is generally pegged at 7-9 months which would put him at about April. He’s on injured reserve so his rookie season is over.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Injury update

Posted by Chris Brown on October 17, 2008 – 4:39 pm

McGee is out (knee) and TE Derek Fine (thumb) is doubtful.

Questionable for Sunday are DE Aaron Schobel (foot), C Melvin Fowler (elbow) and CB Ashton Youboty (foot) who was limited Thursday and Friday with a foot that’s been bothering him since the bye week when he was held out of practice.

“It’ll probably be a game time decision,” said Jauron in reference to Fowler’s status for Sunday’s game. Jauron said that Youboty will also be a game time decision and it’s believed that Schobel will be in the same boat.

Ko Simpson, Trent Edwards and Roscoe Parrish are all listed as probable by necessity since they were listed on the injury report. All three are expected to play Sunday, but Simpson may not have a lock tight grip on the starting free safety role. Sunday’s game will tell us more.

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Posted in Inside the Bills
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