Hard to see SLB not being Ellison

Posted by Chris Brown on July 7, 2009 – 1:19 am

With the strong side linebacker job Keith Ellison’s to lose, and his best competition expected to be two players that do not have NFL experience (Bowen, Harris) it’s hard to see the four-year veteran being the starter come September and here’s why.

If you read our training camp question 19 on the home page it’s clear the coaching staff values playing experience at the NFL level. And in a season when making the playoffs is pretty much a must I’ve got to believe that the staff will feel more comfortable with a savvy vet like Ellison on the field.

The only thing that trumps that as I see it is a remarkable playmaking preseason by Bowen or Harris.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-3

Posted by Chris Brown on July 3, 2009 – 2:45 pm

Happy 4th of July weekend everybody, and thanks to our service men and women who keep us a free country so we can continue to celebrate that independence. Now onto your questions.

1. Chris,
Which safeties, free safeties and corners will make the 53 man roster? How will they impact Whitner’s play? Thanks

CB: I think the safeties that make the roster are Whitner, Scott, Byrd, Wilson and Wendling. Wilson and Wendling because of their value to special teams. If Byrd comes along quickly and has a monster camp he could start at FS which would move Whitner to full time SS. If Byrd takes longer to develop, Whitner will be the FS and Bryan Scott the SS.
As for cornerbacks I think at least five make the roster.


2. Hi Chris,
I’m concerned about the outside LB spot vacated by Angelo Crowell. Who’s going to start? It’s obvious that Keith Ellison can’t remain the starter. Are the Bills content and certain that Nic Harris is the answer?

CB: It’s Ellison’s job to lose. He’s clearly got the edge in experience and is a heady player to begin with. His main competition will be Alvin Bowen and Nic Harris. We’ll see what shakes loose in camp and the preseason.


3. Dear Chris,
Is Trent Edwards a leader of this team or not?
It is a question I don’t hear much asked but it is very important for the future of the team.
Is Trent Edwards a leader? Is he considered a team leader? Is he a leader in the locker room? Does he take command during games and lead? Does he have that Kellyesque field general mentality that we need. I’m starting to have my doubts.
What’s your take? If you could answer this question, I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you for your time.
Die Hard Bills Fan,
Jack Harmsen
Buzzards Bay, Ma

CB: I think Trent Edwards can be a leader for this team. By no means is he as in your face as Kelly was because he doesn’t have the same personality. What complicated his stepping into a leadership role last year was the presence of J.P. Losman. It’s very hard to step forward and lead when the guy that used to do that is standing behind you.

As a young starter I think Trent really wrestled with that last year. It’s also hard to lead when you haven’t accomplished a lot yet in your career. When you’ve been there and done that it’s easier to take charge. I think Trent will be a more demonstrative leader this year because Losman is gone and the coaching staff has given him a huge vote of confidence with the added offensive responsibilities he now has.


4. Hey Chris,
I just read about T.O. having some of the mini camp workouts being shot for a VH1 show.  With other things already causing a bit of a distraction (off the field issues) do you think this is something that could’ve been shut down?  Do you think it’ll affect the players and coaches focus as we try to rebuild with the new acquisitions?

CB: First of all, to my knowledge the VH-1 cameras will not be allowed at One Bills Drive in any capacity during practices or the regular work day for the players. So affecting player focus doesn’t appear to be an issue. The show isn’t about football at all, but rather Owens’ off the field life. So the only person who could be distracted is Owens and I don’t see that happening as hard as he practices and plays. The game is too important to him.


5. With pretty talented depth at Cornerback, do you see McKelvin as an elite corner in the league now that he will be starting on the other side of McGee?

CB: I think Leodis McKelvin has the potential to be an elite cornerback in the league, yes. It is my contention that he will be a Pro Bowl cornerback in the near future. Probably not this year, but it will happen in the next 2 to 3 years in my opinion. I think he can be that good.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-12

Posted by Chris Brown on June 12, 2009 – 5:26 pm

Fan Friday 6-12
Well minicamp is wrapped up and now begins the six week hiatus until training camp. Something tells me it’s going to move quickly. Let’s get going with the latest installment. Thanks for your questions. Keep them coming at AskChris@bills.nfl.net.
1. Do you see the Bills extending the deals of any more players on their roster like they did with Stroud? Guys like McGee, Josh Reed, Denney, Whitner, Poz and a few others only have 1-2 years left on the deals. Getting a few of them locked up would be a good move.

CB: I believe that on the list of guys you have that McGee is top priority. He’s still in the prime of his career and has been an outstanding performer for the Bills from day one. He’s a model professional, plays hurt and keeps his nose clean.

That’s the kind of guy the Bills typically lock up long term (see Lee Evans) so I expect that to get done before the 2009 season is over.

As for Reed and Denney the situation is a little different. Reed has had back issues through the course of his career and to his credit he’s fought through them and performed. Knowing how much Trent relies on Reed it wouldn’t surprise me if he was extended, but with some promising young receivers on the rise (Hardy, Johnson), I’m not sure you can say he’s a lock to get an extension.

Denney is in a similar boat. A solid, steady performer, but with the team invested in Chris Ellis and Aaron Maybin I’m not sure he’s re-signed long term.

Whitner and Poz I anticipate will be taken care of eventually, but probably not this calendar year.


2. Do the Bills believe Bell is ready to step in and contribute at this time? Going to have to have the O-line do a lot of work to get them to work together for this year with all the new players….also, I wonder if Walker can hold up at left tackle for 16 games? Your thoughts????

CB: I don’t think there’s any doubt that the biggest question mark entering the season will be how far the offensive line can come with all the new pieces.

As for Bell I don’t anticipate him challenging Walker or Butler to start, but I do think the staff believes he’s ready to handle the swing tackle role if he’s able to win that job over Kirk Chambers, who has held it the past two seasons.

Walker’s strength as a tackle is in pass protection, which might surprise some people looking at him. That’s a good thing knowing he’s going over to the left side, but he will be facing some top flight pass rushing talent with the schedule this season.


3. Chris,
Its my understanding that Aaron Maybin weighed about 250lbs. at Penn States pro day, at which he displayed consistant 4.6 speed.  Is it likely the Bills will have him continue his growth atleast 10 more pounds, and if so does his quickness remain the same?

CB: Talking to Aaron about this very subject you need to understand he just turned 21 in April so his frame is still just filling out. He said he’d like to be around 255 by his second NFL season, which I think is sufficient. He’s confident he can maintain his speed at that weight.


4. Hey Chris,
How are contract negotiations going with the rookies? I just saw that Sanchez got his contract and I was just wondering when our rookies are going to be signed. Thanks!

David Rieth
Rochester, NY

CB: Negotiations are just in the preliminary stages with some of Buffalo’s later round picks. I don’t see signings beginning for at least another week or so. However, with San Francisco (which picked ahead of the Bills in most rounds) setting the market by signing players right around Buffalo’s picks early it might grease the wheels a bit. We’ll see.


5. Hi Chris,
I was just curious if the Bills are looking to upgrade the outside linebacker position with what’s still left in the market or are they content with the youngsters they have on the roster.  I also am curious if you know the status of Derrick Brooks?  Is he still looking for work or did he decide to hang it up?  If he is still looking for a contract, do you think the Bills should take a 1 year chance on him until they can develop Nic Harris or Al Bowen?

CB: I believe the club will stand pat at OLB heading into camp. Injury could change that, but I don’t see them pursuing Derrick Brooks, though it makes sense with his familiarity with the system. I think the coaching staff has a lot of faith that Alvin Bowen and Nic Harris can be legitimate competition for Keith Ellison and from what I’ve seen I would agree.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

49ers give Bills contract parameters for rookies

Posted by Chris Brown on June 11, 2009 – 4:59 pm

The San Francisco 49ers have been very proactive in signing their draft picks early. And what that has done for the Bills is provide some fairly concrete contract parameters for a couple of their own players.

The Niners have signed a handful of their draft picks already including fifth-round pick Scott McKillop (reportedly 4-$1.94M-$192,250 signing bonus) and seventh-round pick Curtis Taylor (reportedly 4-$1.8M-$59,880 signing bonus).

The reason I mention those two players specifically is they were drafted exactly one spot ahead of both Nic Harris and Ellis Lankster, and they both play the same position as McKillop and Taylor, linebacker and defensive back.

Teams and agents often haggle over the percentage increase from the exact draft spot in which they were taken the previous year, but when a rookie is slotted by other players that sign early right in front or right behind them in the draft, it sometimes can get the process moving a bit quicker. We’ll see.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-5

Posted by Chris Brown on June 5, 2009 – 8:25 pm

OTAs are almost over and then it’s three days of minicamp before the six week break. Hard to believe training camp is around the corner. On to your questions.

1. Hello Chris,

What are the chances the Bills trade Kelsay with or without Parrish to get Scheffler? Denver needs to improve their defense and we need to get a TE badly. We also have Maybin now… And shouldn’t we sign one of the remaining free agent linebackers? It seems like if we could be put this all together, the Bills could be a real competitor this year. What do you think?



CB: I don’t see it happening, mainly because Denver has recently come out and said how much they intend to make use of Scheffler in their offense. Some might see that as window dressing to move him, but knowing that Kyle Orton won’t be slinging it downfield nearly as much as Cutler did for Denver, makes Scheffler that much more valuable as an intermediate receiving threat. Minus Cutler Denver will need to hold onto all the offensive talent they’ve got and Scheffler is too valuable to part with.


2. Chris,
What is the situation with Shawn Nelson?
How much are Xavier Omon and Marcus Smith being used in practice?  Do they have a reasonable chance of making the 53 man roster?  Do you see the team keeping a backup center, and if so, who?  Do you think Chris Ellis is making much progress, I expected a little more from him last year (I know you can’t expect too much from rookies).  Are any of the undrafted guys making much of an impression (maybe Ashlee Palmer?)
Thanks for the updates.

CB: Shawn Nelson was dealing with some personal issues this week according to head coach Dick Jauron. He’s expected back next week. 

As for Xavier Omon and Marcus Smith, one is seeing more time than the other. Smith is being rotated in with the second team defense. He subs in for Spencer Johnson and has done okay. Again it’s hard to assess line play in the OTA setting because there isn’t live contact and hitting in the trenches. He’s an interesting prospect after he spent last year on the practice squad.

Omon’s reps have been limited with Lynch, Jackson and Rhodes ahead of him. In fact Bruce Hall, last year’s practice squad back has seen more reps than Omon this week. We’ll see if that continues, and if it does Omon has an uphill climb to make the roster.

Ellis is progressing. He’s working with the second team on defense and sharing reps with Copeland Bryan on the right side. Again line play is not something you can asses in the OTA setting. We’ll see how far he’s come when we get to training camp.  


3. Hi Chris,  just a question on who you believe will emerge as our starting strong side linebacker….is it possible that Mitchell will be moved to the strong side and a smaller linebacker will take over on the weak side…thanks again for all your insight…Ray

CB: I think that’s a tough one to answer. So everyone is clear Keith Ellison plays the strong side with Mitchell on the open or weak side. That’s been the same through OTAs. I think it’s Ellison’s position to lose. His greatest competition at the spot will be Alvin Bowen and rookie Nic Harris. Ellison is obviously the most experienced in the system and one of the smartest players on the team. That goes a long way with this staff. I think one of the other two candidates will have to show greater playmaking ability and equal smarts to take the spot away from him.


4. Hey Chris,
Following the Bills in the OTAs this year, I’m noticing Aaron Schobel was participating early on but now has been absent for a while. Is everything okay with him? I’m hoping he hasn’t re-injured his foot or that it wasn’t quite healed after all. Pease let us know.

CB: Schobel is fine. He was here for the first week of OTAs and has chosen to skip the remaining voluntary practice sessions which run through Monday. He’ll be here for the mandatory minicamp which begins on Tuesday. In the time he was here he said his foot felt good and that he was encouraged by how it responded to three straight days of work. Hopefully that continues through minicamp.
5. Chris, you’ve wrote a lot about “would be” sacks, and I was wondering how the offensive line is doing? Do you think that they show any early signs of meshing well together? I know that it takes time to get the cohesiveness down, but I feel this season’s success hinges on just that happening. On paper they have a team that can contend for a playoff berth, but I really think that it comes down to the o-line.
Thanks…Bryan – Canandaigua NY

CB:  I agree with you that a lot of Buffalo’s offensive success will hinge on the offensive line’s ability to jell with five guys in five new positions up front. As for the pass pressure and ‘would be’ sacks a lot of them are coming on blitz calls, which at this point in time the offensive line isn’t always ready to handle and adjust to. That’s part of why it’s so important for the starting five, whoever they wind up being, spend as much time together as possible.

That being said I will say that Seth McKinney and Geoff Hangartner did a heck of a job picking up a blitz by Paul Posluszny and it enabled Trent to hit Lee Evans for a 65-yard touchdown play.

We’ll get a better assessment in training camp and the preseason.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Just some observations

Posted by Chris Brown on May 2, 2009 – 8:31 pm

Just thought I’d pass along some of my notes from Saturday’s practice regarding some of the Bills draft choices.

Eric Wood is put together real well. The guy is not even in pads yet and he looks like he’d win most battles in the trenches in the NFL. The guy has done well in one-on-ones (no pads mind you) with fellow offensive linemen.

The linemen were doing some cut blocks in which they lunge out at an angle, leave their feet and throw their inside arm at the defensive lineman’s thigh. Wood was getting some major air and distance. Just a lot of power in that frame of his.

Andy Levitre is more of a technician. He likes to mix it up too, but he doesn’t have the same build as Wood. More squatty and square Levitre holds his own, but is real quick with his hands.

Shawn Nelson is very flexible. There have been several times where he’s had to twist behind his body to make a catch. He bends very well. He’s already made a few shoe top catches on the run. Coach Coiner is getting on him about sharpening up a few of his routes, but he’s been real smooth in the pass game.

Nic Harris is making a nice transition to LB. He has no problem handling coverage assignments. He’s got a lot of confidence in his ability to adapt mentally and physically to linebacker and this scheme is a perfect fit for a guy that runs as well as he does. Had a nice pass breakup in the morning practice today.

Cary Harris looks like he’s hurting. He put on some supportive knee pads today. Didn’t have a chance to ask him if his knees are bugging him, but he’s not running well. He gave up a long touchdown pass today, though he did have a pass breakup in the morning. It just seems like he’s fighting his way through practice.

Ellis Lankster hasn’t made any plays, but he runs well and looks like a decent cover man. I don’t know if that means he makes the roster, but he’s held his own here in this camp.

Jairus Byrd is a sharp tack. The guy is already directing his other DBs and linebackers somewhat pre-snap during 7-on-7 and team work. It’s clear that he’s on a higher level mentally in understanding the nuances of the game. Be nice if that translates into INTs.

Aaron Maybin showed his athleticism during individual position drills. Coach Bob Sanders was doing in pass tip drill, where the player first in line tips the pass and the second defensive linemen intercepts it (or tries to).

When Maybin was the second guy on the drill (the interceptor) he leaped up high and simply snatched the ball out of the air with one hand for the INT palming it like a basketball.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-1

Posted by Chris Brown on May 1, 2009 – 9:08 pm

Fan Friday 5-1

We’re into May and rookie minicamp. But there’s plenty of free agent and trade talk as well as a little post-draft so here we go.

1. Chris,
     Its my understanding that Aaron Maybin weighed about 250lbs. at Penn States pro day, at which he displayed consistant 4.6 speed.  Is it likely the Bills will have him continue his growth atleast 10 more pounds, and if so does his quickness remain the same?


CB: Maybin addressed this issue at rookie camp today. He said he’s not going to hurry to put more weight on, but sees himself adding 5 to 10 more pounds over the next year or so to be near 260. He believes this is a weight he can handle without sacrificing his trademark speed off the edge. We have to remember the guy just turned 21 years old. He’s still filling out. So I think that 258 to 260 is realistic in a year or so.


2. Chris,
There are rumors that the Steelers are going to release or trade Larry Foote. It was also reported that the Steelers were interested in Roscoe Parrish. How about a trade or if they release him I think we should sign him. I love his grit.

CB: I don’t see any of what you’re suggesting happening. First, Foote is a two down player in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 system. He simply doesn’t have the foot speed to play in Buffalo’s defensive system, in which he’d have to cover more ground and be lined up further from the ball.

Second, while the Steelers were looking for receiver help and a return man, they just signed free agent WR Shaun McDonald which fills at least the receiver need.


3. Chris,

Now that Denver is loaded with RB’s again they have released Selvin Young is there any chance that that the Bills will pursue him. I don’t think he is the caliber player of Lynch or Jackson but her could be our #2 until Lynch returns from injury and our #3 when he returns.

Young looked very promising last year even though he was hit hard with a hamstring injury and I think he would be a great addition. I would be interested in hearing you thoughts on this.


CB: Sorry I don’t see the Bills being interested in Selvin Young. Their top three backs on the depth chart are set with Lynch, Jackson and Dominic Rhodes. With youngsters Xavier Omon and Bruce Hall also in the fold I don’t see room for Young and in my opinion he’s not enough of a difference maker where he’d be a major upgrade.


4. Do the Bills have “open” tryouts, or in other words “walk-ons”? Is that what is going on this weekend? Also, do players have to be invited to these tryouts and when are they?
Thanks for your time!
-Brian in Rochester-

CB: The Bills brought in 30 “tryout” players for the rookie minicamp. They’re not considered the same as the draft picks or undrafted free agent signings because they’re all under contract.

Thirty is the most the Bills have had. They’re mostly players they have worked out in the past over the last year or so. Some are fresh out of college too. They’ve got three days to make a good impression, and after that they might be signed. Otherwise their back on the street looking for work.

The most interesting tryout player is WR De’Cody Fagg. The Florida State product was at the combine last year and ripped up his knee requiring surgery. He looked pretty good today with some limited opportunities. It’s hard to tell if he’s all the way back. May have to talk to him.


5. Chris,

Who do you think will be starting beside Poz and Mitchell at linebacker?  Do you think the Bills are watching for any free agents?  I noticed that LaVar Arrington was in town when Maybin met the media.  Do you think anybody in the front office has flirted with the idea of inviting him to try out?  He was a three-time pro-bowl linebacker and is only 30 years old.  If he is still in shape and all healed up from his injuries, why not?  Please pass this along to Coach Jauron or Russ Brandon…

-Joe Maciag

CB: Arrington is not an option. He’s retired and part of Aaron Maybin’s management team. After a motorcycle accident reclaiming his career really wasn’t an option anymore. Plus his style of play put a lot of miles on his tires quickly. I think they’ll see how Nic Harris (5th round pick) blends in through the spring and possibly even early training camp. If they don’t feel they’ve upgraded the position at all they make look around at that time.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Sooners Harris to play LB for Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on April 26, 2009 – 7:06 pm

He played safety at Oklahoma, along with a host of other roles, but in the NFL for the Bills, Nic Harris will play linebacker.

Harris is not unlike Keith Ellison, in that he has a safety background in college. Ellison did play his last two collegiate seasons at LB, while Harris only played there on an emergency basis.

Typically though it’s easier to transition a player that’s further away from the ball closer to the line of scrimmage than taking a bigger player and transitioning them further from the line of scrimmage.

He simply doesn’t have the speed (4.7) to be a defensive back in the league. The Bills said they’ll have him bulk up his frame to around 240 pounds to handle linebacker better.

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Posted in Inside the Bills