Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 7-27

Posted by Chris Brown on July 27, 2012 – 11:05 am

Alright Bills fans, training camp is underway! Time to get to your questions from, and keep them coming. You can also fire off questions to @chrisbrownbills on twitter if that’s easier. Let’s get going.

1 – Chris,

I understand that Mario Williams is going to do fine in the new 4-3 scheme being installed in Buffalo, but can any comparison be made to how Jason Taylor was used in Miami under Wannstedt?  If so, can you break down how you see him being used and what type of scheme Miami used with Taylor.  Were they just turning Taylor loose to use his ability?  How did the other players on that Miami front 7 compare to the ones in Buffalo?
Rochester, NY

CB: The only real similarity between Jason Taylor and Mario Williams is their height. Both are 6’6”, but as far as body type, style of game and fit in a defense they’re vastly different. Williams at 292 pounds is an Adonis that has uncharacteristic athletic ability for his size. Though he has good speed around the edge, he has a great power game as well. Add in his solid run stopping ability and he really is the total package.

Taylor was a pass rusher first and foremost and did what he could to help against the run, but he played about 50 pounds lighter than Williams.

If anyone on Buffalo’s roster has a role similar to that of Jason Taylor I would expect it to be Mark Anderson. Wannstedt feels Anderson’s quick feet are comparable to those of Taylor, and he’s lining up on the same side of the formation at right defensive end.

So if you’re looking for a pass rusher that’s going to do similar things I’d tell you to watch Anderson.


2 – Chris,
 Once again, thanks for the work you do.  Simple question, I always hear the team talk about how different Stevie runs his routes. Can you explain what makes him different? How hard is it for a receiver with a “different” style of running to make it in the NFL, is Fitz just that kind of QB who can handle what other QB’s cant? I guess just over all what makes Stevie special at his position?
displaced fan in AZ 

CB: What makes Stevie unique is his route running. For decades most receivers focus on the precision of their routes to make their cuts as sharp as possible to gain the necessary separation. The thought being if my routes are as sharp as they can be every single time, I give myself a better chance to gain separation and make a play.

Of course that precision in some ways can also become predictable, making a receiver easier to read and scout and prepare for in a given game.

Stevie is the exact opposite of precision. The way he runs routes is very unconventional. When he runs a comeback or a dig it’s very rarely the same route twice. Johnson uses stutter steps, hesitation, shoulder fakes, side steps and just about every other trick in his bag to gain separation and make a play.

Fortunately for him he has a head coach that’s only concerned that he get to the spot where he’s supposed to be on time. He doesn’t care how he gets there, just as long as he does when the ball is arriving in his timing-oriented offense.

So Stevie has the freedom to improvise his routes so long as they stay within the framework of the offensive system.

This is confounding to defensive backs, even some of the best (See: Revis) because there is no effective way to prepare for Johnson. Rarely does he run a route the same way twice over the course of several weeks let alone a single game. So it’s almost impossible for cornerbacks to anticipate what is coming putting them at a distinct disadvantage.


3 – Chris,
How does Mario Williams compare to Bruce Smith?


CB: That is not as easy a question as it sounds. I think the two were both physical freaks. Uncommonly athletic for men their size while also possessing an unnatural amount of strength. As talented as Mario Williams is he’s got an awful lot more to do in this league to measure up to the all-time sack leader, but there aren’t many other defensive ends over the last 25 years that can match the rare physical abilities of both men.

Lawrence Taylor is one of the few that come to mind.


4 – Chris,

How do you see the cornerback position shaking out? Will they start Gilmore and McGee (if healthy) or might they go with Williams regardless of McGee’s health? Do you believe McKelvin is expendable with Rogers and Brooks pushing hard from behind? Would they keep just 5? Is there anybody on the roster right now who might crack into the top 6 (Gilmore, Williams, McGee, Rogers, McKelvin, Brooks) and push another out? Thanks for your time!

Chris in Binghamton
CB: I think Terrence McGee has some ground to cover in his return from a torn patellar tendon. He’s got some time, but not a lot. The problem with his situation is they can’t wait on McGee very long because if he can’t play effectively they have to make sure they have Aaron Williams ready to start.

As I see it McGee is the only guy that can overtake Williams at left cornerback with Gilmore a virtual lock to start from day one at right cornerback. Leodis McKelvin looks like a guy they want to move inside to the slot for the nickel package.

I like Justin Rogers’ skill set and believe he could be a bigger contributor this year, but covering slot receivers might be the best fit for him. So against four wide sets he could cover the other slot receiver assuming McKelvin is the primary slot defender.

I think Brooks also makes the roster. He’s a top flight physical talent and in my mind has the fastest feet of all the corners. I want to see how he holds up though when the pads go on because he is not the biggest guy. Those are your top 6 and yes, I think keeping six is a distinct possibility with another likely on the practice squad.


5 – Chris,

If Shawne Merriman returns to form (or even gets close to it) and has a productive season for the Bills this season, will Buddy Nix try offering him a contract extension? Thanks! 

Fredericksburg, VA

CB: I think the Bills have a lot of decisions to make on a bunch of players heading into contract years. Most notably Andy Levitre, Jairus Byrd and Kraig Urbik. David Nelson is also a restricted free agent. Those players, who all have a longer career in front of them than Merriman, are likely to get priority when it comes to extensions.

If Merriman is productive I would anticipate the Bills trying to keep him, but it’s not a one player decision.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Chan keeps DE rotation to himself

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2012 – 5:09 pm

Bills head coach Chan Gailey was asked about a lot of the position battles and starting roles with respect to the depth chart. And though he cautioned not to read too much into who lines up where at the first practice Thursday, he did not give much at all with respect to how the very crowded defensive end positions are going to shake out in terms of reps and playing time with the first and second units.

“I’m not ready to go there yet,” he said. “I think different guys will play in different situations so I don’t know that we’ll say we have two guys that are going to start every snap of every game. We’ll have a rotation that we’ll have there. How it goes I don’t know yet. I know who the left end will be, but whoever else I don’t know right now.”

Gailey is naturally referring to Mario Williams, who is a lock as the starter at left defensive end. Beyond him the pool of candidates for right end include Chris Kelsay, Mark Anderson and Shawne Merriman.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Merriman, Kyle to be full go

Posted by Chris Brown on July 25, 2012 – 5:01 pm

After both participated in spring workouts on a limited basis the forecast for defensive stalwarts Shawne Merriman and Kyle Williams is to not have any restrictions in the practice setting.

“I expect them both to be full go,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “They both did things in OTAs and minicamp so I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t be full go.”

Williams was optimistic himself.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Lesson learned for Merriman

Posted by Chris Brown on July 21, 2012 – 11:29 am

Bills DE Shawne Merriman in trying to play the past three years had to do so on one bad wheel. It forced him to develop sharper techniques to be effective having lost his trademark burst and explosion with a bad Achilles. Now that his burst and explosion are back Merriman believes he’s the best all-around player that he has ever been.

“I’m a much smarter player and much more technical now,” he said. “I know a lot more about the game. When you don’t have those physical tools the last three years and being able to blow by a guy or great pass rush ability you start to learn more about the game and you get a little bit more technically sound. And that’s what happened. Now my body is ready to take that on again along with the knowledge I’ve picked up over the last few years. It’s going to be good.”

Provided he clears the final hurdle of contact in training camp, it could be better than good. It could be downright scary.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Merriman set on 4-3 change

Posted by Chris Brown on July 21, 2012 – 10:20 am

There has been a lot of speculation as to how much of an adjustment moving from the 3-4 to the 4-3 will be for Shawne Merriman as he prepares to recapture his status as a premiere player in the NFL this season with Buffalo. As Merriman sees it that adjustment has already taken place.

“It feels like I’m right at home because even in some of the schemes we played in 3-4 we were in nickel which is putting my hand in the dirt anyways,” said Merriman. “It’s just like I’ve been doing in the past.”

During the spring practices Merriman spent a good deal of time at the right end position in the team’s first nickel package. But Merriman is just happy to feel like he’s part of the team again as a contributor after largely sitting and watching the first two years with Buffalo.

“For me I have so much self motivation nobody has to kick me in my butt to get me going,” he said. “I wake up for it and I love it and I am anxious to get back on top, I am period. There is no other way to put that other than me getting ready for the season, me being excited to be around these guys and put something together. That is what we are doing here, we are putting something great together and I am just happy to be a part of that.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-6

Posted by Chris Brown on July 6, 2012 – 11:15 am

Hope everybody had a good 4th of July celebration. My favorite holiday of the year and there’s still a whole weekend to go! On to your questions from

1 – Chris,

Thanks for your great coverage of the Bills this offseason.

First, is Fitzpatrick considering wearing a rib protector this season like those made by Evoshield? I heard RG III on an interview with Jim Rome recently and he is a spokesperson for the molded, rib-protecting equipment. Has Fitz worn something like this before or will last season’s injury make the team and trainers look into something like this? 

Second, how many D-linemen do you see the Bills carrying into the season? We easily have 4 DEs in Super Mario, Anderson, Lights Out and Kelsay. And we have Dareus and Kyle Williams etched in as DT starters. Those are the only players that seem like a lock. Is it possible that they keep 8 or even 9 D-linemen on the roster through the season? I’d hate to lose either a veteran talent like Spencer Johnson or some younger talent with upside like Troup or Carrington. 

Go Bills,
Nate in Rochester
CB: If I’m not mistaken I believe Fitz does wear a measure of rib protection around the back and sides of his rib cage. When London Fletcher hit him last year it was with the crown of his helmet right into Fitzpatrick’s sternum. A rib protector isn’t helping up that high.

The defensive lineman count is going to be one of the more interesting decisions the coaching staff makes when it’s time to whittle down the roster. Going to a 4-3 defensive front the defensive staff can keep a couple of more defensive linemen, but I can’t see the number going higher than 10. Personally I think nine is the more likely number.

Under Chan Gailey with a 3-4 defense the Bills kept just seven defensive linemen each of the past two seasons. I could see that number increasing by two this fall, which will leave some capable talent off the roster this season.


2 – Hey, Chris.

In the current Bills’ “Lead the Charge” spot, Stevie Johnson says something like, “…when you hear 73,000 fans going ‘Buffalo, Buffalo, let’s go Buffalo’…”.  I have been to Rich/Ralph Wilson stadium more times than I can count, and I don’t recall ever hearing that chant.  (they do chant “Let’s go Buffalo, Let’s go Buffalo” at Sabres games, but that does not apply).  Am I losing my mind, or can you confirm the writers of the spot just exercised some poetic license with the facts (to what end, I do not know)?  Other than “Shout!”, do the fans really have any regular chant? 


CB: I believe Stevie is referring to the portion of the ‘Shout’ song when the guy sings, ‘Let’s go Buf-a-lo!’ And the crowd responds ‘Let’s go Buf-a-lo!’ They sing that two times in a row every time the ‘Shout’ song plays. It’s right at the end.

I’m afraid you might need a refresher course on the ‘Shout’ song my friend. Please listen and read the lyrics as well.


3 – Chris,

All talk has been focused around the D-line, and with good reason, I am loving our D-line also. I would like to hear your thoughts on our secondary. How likely is it that we will see Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore as the starting corners, and Ron Brooks in the slot? Again, with good reason, all talk has been about Mario, Kyle and Shawne’s return. Not much is being said about Aaron, Stephon or Ron. I think this could be a great secondary, especially covering NE’s TE’s, if you add in Shepp and Barnett at the Mike and Will LB positions, respectively. This could become a feared group to pass against, and given the BIG boys up front, this could be a hard D to pass against. 

Thanks for your coverage,

Norwalk, CT

CB: The secondary has added some big time talent no question. I think knowing how physical Dave Wannstedt wants his cornerbacks to be there’s a very good chance that Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore wind up being the starters on the outside come kickoff weekend.

As for the slot I think it’s much more up in the air. As we profiled on as part of our Top 25 questions until training camp series, there are four worthy candidates for the nickel corner job.

In my personal opinion I think Justin Rogers lands the job in the end, but you’re right there’s a good mix of youth and vets and two safeties that work well together in Byrd and Wilson.


4 – Hi Chris

A quick question I hope you can answer. If Shawne Merriman displays he is healthy

& 1 of the best defensive players on the team, why not start him @ the outside

Linebacker spot they have reserved for Kirk Morrison?


CB: I think this is a very valid question, and I’d be interested in asking it of Wannstedt. I believe the reason we haven’t seen Merriman in that role to this point is the coaching staff did not know what they were going to get from the veteran pass rusher. With that kind of uncertainty placing him in a starting role in the spring might be a bit of putting the cart before the horse.

Coaches don’t like to depend on players that aren’t exactly locks health-wise. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the staff decided to just let Merriman rush the passer in the spring workout setting and see what they get. But if Merriman continues on his current path he’ll be able to handle a full time role instead of a part time one.

Then and only then might an expanded role as a strong side linebacker even be considered, but it’s certainly a role he could handle when fully healthy.


5 – Chris…

It would seem to me that the best evidence of whether or not the investment in the Bills defense has paid off would be made by Fitz and the Offense…they practiced against the ones every week last year and are watching them amp up this year…I also think if the defense you practice against is significantly better, year over year, then the offense stands to get better as well…just because they need to play at a higher level….you’ve watched the Bill’s for a long while…do you see any of that…do the guy’s on offense talk about how much better the defense is….do you think the offense is playing or trying to play at a higher level just to keep up….or is it just too soon to tell?

thanks for all you do to keep us current….and it’s great that Murph is now really part of your team….

Bernie Dennis
Sudbury, MA

CB: Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the most outspoken about the defense making their life difficult. He’s stated to me more than once that there have been days where they just can’t execute a lot of the same plays they were able to in practice last year because of the additional talent on that side of the ball.

Furthermore, Fitz believes it’s making them better as an offense. So the signs are encouraging, but we’ll know more when they all put on the pads at camp.

And yes we’re glad we’ve been able to add Murph to the fold full time. We’re looking forward to expanding our coverage of the team with Murph on board.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fitz & Merriman to tee it up

Posted by Chris Brown on June 27, 2012 – 9:27 am

C.J. Spiller isn’t the only one playing golf this offseason. While Spiller is playing this afternoon at Centerpointe Golf Club in Canandaigua to benefit the YMCA’s in Ontario County, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Shawne Merriman will be out west in mid-July playing for the LIVESTRONG charity.

Fitz and Merriman have accepted invitations to compete in the 2012 American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe this summer. The $600,000, 54-hole competition is set for July 20-22 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

In checking the odds at the local Sportsbook right there in Tahoe they list Merriman as a 40 to 1 shot to win, while Fitz is at 15 to 1. The favorite is Dallas QB Tony Romo at 5 to 2.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Pass rush adds could be difference

Posted by Chris Brown on June 25, 2012 – 10:31 am

Buffalo’s pass rush additions have garnered the Bills a lot of offseason attention. But by adding Mario Williams and Mark Anderson and the strong likelihood of a back to form Shawne Merriman, they’re also being looked upon as a legitimate playoff contender because of what recent Super Bowl history has said about teams with pass rush talent. analyst Daniel Jeremiah astutely pointed out that four of the last five Super Bowl winners finished in the top 3 in sacks in their championship seasons. He then looks at the bottom 10 NFL clubs in sacks from 2011 and picks out four that he feels best addressed their pass rush shortcomings. Naturally the Bills were on the list. Here was his assessment.

Buffalo Bills (T-27th with 29 sacks): The Bills weren’t bashful in addressing their pass-rushing needs. They brought in the top available pass rusher in free agency (Mario Williams) and robbed a divisional rival of their top pass rusher (Mark Anderson). Those two players should help the Bills drastically improve their anemic sack total of 2011.

Merriman isn’t even mentioned in the assessment, but with the spring he was able to put together the Bills could have a third proven pass rusher added to the fold.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-22

Posted by Chris Brown on June 22, 2012 – 11:05 am

1 – Chris,

Are we assuming Kyle Williams will be his old self? Most players don’t return to form until 2nd yr after major injury…what say u?


CB: Williams’ surprise participation in OTAs and minicamp can only be taken as an encouraging sign. I think a lot of fans forget that Williams (and Shawne Merriman for that matter) did not rupture his Achilles. He only had to have it repaired. The rehab on such a surgery is 4-5 months. By camp he and Merriman will be 8-9 months removed from surgery.

After seeing Williams in action in the team setting the past month, though his reps were only 5-10 a day, I’m encouraged that you’ll get the old Kyle Williams come training camp, the preseason and the regular season. The sudden burst off the ball was there and knifing through gaps was evident. Get ready.


2 – Hey Chris,

Thanks so much for your daily updates on Bills mobile, one of my favorite things to wake up to! Anyways, I need to ask about the running back situation. Fred recently signed a contract extension, I know this, but when will Spiller be the official starter and get his chance? Even though Fred had a breakout year, I think people tend to forget Spiller was a top ten pick, and I feel as if were completely wasting away his talent.

CB: Chan Gailey has been asked this question in one form or another often. Spiller certainly showed he’s ready for primetime with his performance over the last six games in place of an injured Fred Jackson. As good as C.J. was I think you’re forgetting that prior to the game that Fred got hurt he was first in the AFC in rushing and third in the league, third in the NFL in yards per carry average (5.5), had the second-longest TD run of the season at the time (80 yds) and was 5th in the league in receiving yards for running backs with the second-highest yards after catch average among RBs in the NFL (12.8).

In terms of total scrimmage yards he was second only to Matt Forte, who had him by 15 yards at the time (1,391 to 1,376).

You don’t toss that production aside because you have a top 10 draft choice on your roster. Chan Gailey and his offensive staff know they have to get both players on the field a lot and get them both involved in their attack. This is where having a veteran offensive play caller and designer is an advantage.

I think you’ll see a good number of split backfields with both Jackson and Spiller out there simultaneously. I think there will be a good amount of pre-snap motion with either Fred or C.J. motioning out of the backfield and lining up somewhere else. And while game to game the amount of work each of them get might not be in perfect balance I believe come season’s end, barring any injuries, that both will be integral components in the offensive production.

Coach Gailey has told me it’s impossible to keep everyone happy with the amount of touches they get, but his focus is doing what’s best for the team to win games.  What that translates into could change week to week based on the opponent and based on player performance. Just know as a fan you’ve got a good situation no matter which one of them has the ball in their hands.


3 – Chris, 

With the drafting of TJ Graham, do you expect Marcus Easley to be a factor in the Bills passing game?

And what are his chances of securing the position of the Bills No. 2 receiver? 

William Aiken
Schenectady, NY

CB:  I think Easley’s situation certainly wasn’t made any easier by the addition of Graham. Graham is clearly the fastest wideout on the field. It’s not even close by my eye. He’s very, very explosive. That being said he’s still trying to master the base concepts of the offense.

He was however, given a ton of reps with the first unit through the spring workouts for a reason. They want him out there to stretch the field vertically. I just think when the pads go on it may prove to be harder for Graham to make plays consistently because he may get knocked around a bit.

I still believe that Easley has the best physical skill set of the entire receiving corps for the outside receiver role they’re trying to fill opposite Stevie Johnson. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there are other players on this roster that are capable of holding down that job (see: Donald Jones). I just believe if Easley can put it all together he’s the clear choice out there at 6’4” 225 pounds and running a 4.4 40-time.

He clearly impressed the coaching staff in OTAs and minicamp because in minicamp Easley was given more reps with the first unit.

He plucks the ball out of the air, rarely body catches, can make plays with DBs hanging on him or in traffic. Really the only thing that has stopped him is his body (injury, medical condition). Having three years of exposure in this offense will be an asset, but he’s got to get through camp healthy and not miss time.

I’m confident if he does that he’ll be right in the mix for that outside job opposite Stevie.


4 – Chris,

Shawne Merriman says he has never felt better coming of surgery for his Achilles injury.  Considering how he was a force with San Diego when he was healthy, could he be a sleeper factor in the Bills’ newly revamped pass rushing attack?

Mike in Rochester

CB: After what we saw in OTAs and minicamp I think you can be encouraged that Merriman is as close as he has ever been to his former self when he was terrorizing quarterbacks all over the league and a three-time Pro Bowl talent.

Now there’s still another bridge to cross in training camp when the pads go on, but nothing in the spring workouts gave any indication that he could have a setback. His first step burst has been impressive and his power game looks to be back as well. We’ll know more when the pads are on and the football gets far more physical, but the arrow is pointing up right now on Merriman’s outlook for the first time in a long time.


5 – Hey Chris,

First off thank you very much for all the great Bills coverage you provide us loyal Bills fans every day. My question to you sir is about the QB position and how you think it might pan out. With the signing of Vince Young do you think that Brad Smith will stay listed as a QB?

I would think that Vince Young having the same kind of running QB wildcat potential, and if he wins the QB 2 job I can see it making sense to have him run the packages that were originally designed for Brad Smith allowing Brad to focus on WR/KR and be listed there on the depth chart, relegating Thigpen to the QB 3 roster spot, it’s an intriguing situation and was hoping to get your thoughts, thanks again. 

Sean Clemens
Las Vegas, NV

CB: Appreciate the sentiments. Chan Gailey made it clear that Brad Smith is his third quarterback and will run their Wildcat package. So Vince Young is essentially in a quarterback competition with Tyler Thigpen for the #2 job going into camp.

Through the last week of OTAs and minicamp Young and Thigpen rotated in and out with the second unit and I anticipate that to be the case when we all get to training camp as well. So although Young is athletic Smith is the better option for that Wildcat package.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why OTAs valuable for D-line

Posted by Chris Brown on June 15, 2012 – 3:44 pm

Buffalo’s defensive line is probably the most talented position group top to bottom, but at the same time one could argue that they needed the OTA practices more than any other position group.

That’s because three of their most impressive pass rushing pieces have not really played with the rest of the group in Mark Anderson, Shawne Merriman and Mario Williams.

“It’s been fun because a lot of us haven’t played together yet; me, Mark, and Mario,” said Merriman. “We haven’t really had a chance to play with each other and also in the different schemes. It’s happened pretty fast.”

With all three on hand for all 10 OTA practices the past three weeks they’ve been able to get a feel for their fellow linemates and one another even though it’s still been far from real football.

“I think we’re jelling a lot more,” said Merriman. “Guys understanding more of their responsibilities, where we have to be and where we have to get to.  And that’s happening a lot faster for us now.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 6-15

Posted by Chris Brown on June 15, 2012 – 11:35 am

OTAs wrapping up today with only mandatory minicamp left before the break. Let’s get to your questions from

1 – Chris,

With all the attention the Bills off-season moves garnished (and deservedly so), I feel the Bills special teams are getting overlooked.  I was hoping that you would provide some insight on what you see the Bills doing with the gunners?  I am really intrigued at the prospect of having Leodis McKelvin on one side and Ron Brooks on the other.  McKelvin looked outstanding in the latter part of the year as a gunner and I read Brooks performed very well as a gunner in college.  With that kind of speed and athleticism on the outside I would think the Bills would see a lot of fair catches on punts (even Moorman would have a hard time “out kicking his coverage”).


Displaced Buffalonian in Santa Barbara, Ca

CB: In the OTA setting players like McKelvin and Brooks have been focusing more on defense than anything else, though McKelvin has been in the rotation as a punt returner with C.J. Spiller and Justin Rogers.

Some of the gunners that I’ve seen line up to this point have been Kamar Aiken, Naaman Roosevelt, Ruvell Martin and even David Nelson. Now Roosevelt and Nelson are two players I don’t anticipate seeing out there come the season. They’re probably just being used as bodies for walk through type drills because none of them are running 40 yards down the field live in OTAs.

I could however, see Aiken and Martin as a part of the competition at gunner. I think your suggestion of Brooks is a good one, but we’ll have to see how he handles things when the pads go on and the play gets a lot more physical. But no question he can fly. Other candidates that I would put in the gunner category are David Clowney, Prince Miller and Isaiah Green.


2 – Chris,
Am I beating a dead horse wondering what Merriman’s role will be?  Has he ever played in a 4-3 defense?  My football knowledge only goes so far, (not very) but I don’t see him being able to play OLB in a 4-3. So It would seem their options are, play him at DE as part of a rotation, use him like Dallas used Charles Haley, or release him.  I’m wondering about a forth option, playing him inside at MLB.  What does his future look like to you?

Pete Howell

CB: I think the Bills are hesitant to give Merriman a prominent role coming off of Achilles surgery. As such I anticipate that he’ll be a part of the team’s nickel pass rush package and other pass rushing personnel groupings. Basically I expect him to be a situational pass rusher to start the season and if he shows he can take on a bigger workload he might begin to factor in more on run downs. It’s truly and wait and see situation. And no, he’s not a middle linebacker.


3 – Chris,

Dorin Dickerson would be the perfect short yardage / red zone RB with his size and speed. I wonder if that could be in the works?

CB: Dickerson is going to be used as an H-back if he makes the squad. I think he’s done very well in these OTA practices to carve out a niche for himself in this offense. He’s at least given the offensive staff something to strongly consider as a new option in their offense as a ‘move’ tight end/H-back. At 227 pounds however, he’s not a short yardage guy.

Your best short yardage player on this roster is Fred Jackson, who can earn a yard just about whenever you need it.


4 – Hi Chris,

A lot of fans are worried about the #2 WR spot.  We have several guys that can play over there.  I think we missed on that spot this offseason as far as getting that big guy that is not covered even when he is covered, but I think we are still ok and can work on that in the coming years.  I do like the drafting of Graham.  I could see a bunch of guys playing there, but I think the main guys will probably end up being Easley, who looked great last preseason and Brad Smith who played really well during the season.  My question is how do you feel about the #2 WR spot, and these guys going forward and also do you think Brad Smith would be willing to go to WR full time?  Would the coaches like that or do they want him for wildcat plays only?  Also do you think Jones will shift inside now to the slot to share time with Nelson now that Graham is here as well?   

Thank you for your time

CB: Unfortunately for Brad Smith I don’t foresee a full time role for him anywhere. He could factor in at wide receiver, but not as a full time #2. I think his presence in a Wildcat type package at QB will be expanded.

The main candidates I see for the number 2 receiver job, removing primary slot receiver David Nelson from the equation are Donald Jones, Marcus Easley and Derek Hagan. I believe unless Easley grossly outperforms Jones and Hagan it will eventually be a two-player race. Jones being the incumbent from last year stands a good chance of remaining in that role.

I do believe long term that Easley offers the best physical skill set for what they want outside opposite Stevie Johnson, but he has to deliver on a consistent basis for that to happen.

The offensive staff wants to be able to move Jones around, particularly inside as the second slot receiver opposite Nelson in the four wide sets. So there will still be opportunities outside for guys like Easley and Hagan.

It’s certainly going to be one of the most intriguing position battles in camp.


5 – Hi Chris,
How many receivers do the Bills plan on keeping on the roster for the start of the regular season? Obviously, you have Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley, Derek Hagan, and Ruvell Martin. Will another one be in the mix? As always, looking forward to your response.

Tony, Ormond Beach, FL

CB: I think six receivers are a lock for the roster knowing how much Buffalo makes use of the four wide sets. In your listing you omitted Donald Jones, who will make this team barring a complete collapse in training camp. There’s an outside chance that seven receivers are kept if the position numbers allow it, but I’m not anticipating that. I think they keep a couple on the practice squad in the event of injury and keep six.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why Stevie is so eager to practice

Posted by Chris Brown on June 14, 2012 – 3:45 pm

Stevie Johnson’s groin surgery has kept him from practicing fully with the team to this point. He made more progress Thursday, but just like other veteran players coming off of offseason surgeries there’s a very good reason why he wants to get back with his teammates and participate.

“I know what to do from the sidelines, but it’s a total different story once you’re in there,” Johnson told “I don’t want to just start in training camp and just be able to get my wheels going then. I want to get started a little bit earlier to get a feel for the guys.”

Kyle Williams and Shawne Merriman also pushed to participate in OTAs as well to be that much further ahead come training camp.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Teammates respect Mario’s ability

Posted by Chris Brown on June 13, 2012 – 7:45 am

Early in OTAs Shawne Merriman was so impressed with Mario Williams physical stature he called him “a creature.” Donald Jones had a similar experience in OTAs earlier this week.

On a specific play in OTAs Jones had to execute a block on a run play on Williams. Though OTA practices are far from live football just seeing Williams running in his direction made him realize how difficult the task would be on a Sunday.

“Those kinds of assignments, those are cool for me,” said Jones. “So I don’t have a problem with that as long as I don’t have to block Mario. I had to block him yesterday in practice and it didn’t go too well for me. He saw me coming and I felt like he looked through me, but it’s cool. I’ll get it done in the game.”

Suffice to say Jones is glad Williams is on Buffalo’s roster.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Merriman on ESPN

Posted by Chris Brown on June 1, 2012 – 3:42 pm

Bills DE Shawne Merriman is scheduled to appear on ESPN’s NFL 32 show Friday evening.

Merriman is scheduled to be on the show by phone at about 6:40 pm.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Why Merriman is a fit at DE

Posted by Chris Brown on May 31, 2012 – 5:30 pm

After playing virtually his entire pro career in a 3-4 defensive system, some outside observers openly wonder if he can handle a defensive end role in Dave Wannstedt’s 4-3 defense. Answer? Yes.

First, GM Buddy Nix himself laid out the measurables they look for in a defensive end in a 4-3 system last winter at the close of the 2011 season.

“As an outside backer in a 3-4 you want a guy 6’4” or 6’5” 255 or 260. In a 4-3 those guys are defensive ends. If he’s that size and he can rush the passer he can play in either one.”

Merriman is listed at 6’4” 261 pounds. Add in the fact that he’s uncommonly strong and an underrated run defender and transitioning to defensive end shouldn’t even be an issue.

“I’ve played in the 4-3 and 3-4 and everywhere in between,” Merriman said. “I didn’t really look at is as a big deal when I had to put my hand in the dirt because last year, even when I was playing, we were 60 percent nickel which is basically with your hand in the dirt so I had to play D-end.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Merriman going Benjamin Button?

Posted by Chris Brown on May 31, 2012 – 4:53 pm

When you’ve struggled with a persistent injury for the better part of three years, and you’ve finally reached the point where that injury has been effectively rectified you’re going to feel pretty darn good about your situation. That’s why Shawne Merriman, despite turning 28 last week, feels like he’s turning back the hands of time after returning to the practice field Thursday.

“I’m like Benjamin Button, man,” he said. “I’m going backwards.”

Merriman is referring to the movie character, Benjamin Button, who was “afflicted” with a reverse aging disease at age 70.

Having played in just eight games the past three years, one thing is certain, he’s got a lot less wear and tear on his body, so one could make the argument that Merriman is a ‘young 28.’

“I feel very young,” he said. “Anybody that will get a chance to watch me this year, I’m moving around as I did when I came into the league. Fortunately, that’s really all I had, the Achilles, over the last three years. Now that I’ve had that done, I’m a lot more confident.”

If Merriman continues to progress through OTAs and minicamp the Bills defensive line could be a downright terror for every offensive line in the league. They could come at teams in waves with pass rushers like Mario Williams, Merriman, Mark Anderson as well as interior pocket pushers like Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. To have more veteran talent like Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson and Chris Kelsay to boot has to have Dave Wannstedt giddy.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Merriman back practicing

Posted by Chris Brown on May 31, 2012 – 1:33 pm

Bills DE Shawne Merriman was back on the practice field Thursday for the first time since his offseason Achilles surgery.

Merriman participated fully in practice including team drills.

Merriman missed Tuesday’s voluntary OTA session due to a doctor’s appointment as he was seeking final clearance to participate in practice.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Merriman visiting doctor

Posted by Chris Brown on May 29, 2012 – 2:24 pm

There was a good reason for veteran DE Shawne Merriman missing Day 1 of OTAs at One Bills Drive Tuesday.

The workouts are voluntary, but head coach Chan Gailey explained why Merriman was absent.

“He was gone today,” said Gailey following Tuesday’s practice. “Today was the only day he could get final clearance with the doctors and stuff.”

Merriman, who is coming off Achilles surgery, is expected to participate in some capacity in OTAs. Gailey believes he stands a good chance of being on the field as early as Thursday for Day 2 of OTAs.

“I think so,” said Gailey. “We’ll have to see what the doctors say.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 5-25

Posted by Chris Brown on May 25, 2012 – 11:45 am

Happy Memorial Day weekend Bills fans. Don’t forget those servicemen and women that made the ultimate sacrifice. May they all rest in peace. Let’s press on with your questions from

1 – Hey Chris,

I’m hoping you can give us some idea how our line plays out after Kyle, Mario, Anderson and Dareus. Do Kelsay and Merriman split time on the left end with Kelsay playing run downs and Merriman playing pass downs? I assume Dwan Edwards and Troup are tackles. Are Carrington and Spencer Johnson tackles or ends? Are Moats and Batten ends or linebackers? Do you think all of those players even make the team?

Thanks and Go Bills,

CB: From what I have heard Dwan Edwards is now a defensive tackle and to me that makes sense in a 4-3 scheme. Troup obviously is still a defensive tackle. Carrington and Spencer Johnson are both ends, with the ability to kick inside to defensive tackle on obvious passing downs should a rotation be needed. Moats and Batten are both outside linebackers. Kelsay would presumably be a run defending end with Merriman and Anderson pass rushing options on obvious passing downs.

Do all of them make the team? I’m not so sure they do.


2 – Chris,

With the upgrade to the pass rush, it is still to be determined how much better the Bills’ run defense will fair. Pass rush was an issues that needed to be fixed with Mario and Anderson. However, the last two years the Bills run defense has been last and 28th in the league. I feel this part is being ignored by the team in some degree. Even when the Bills were using the 4-3 they gave up lots of yards. How will the switch to the 4-3 contain the “big plays the team gave up. It is still a question how the 3 LB’s will shape up in new positions. Obvious a healthy Kyle is part but what else do they need to do since they appear in pass rush mode instead of stop the run. 

Thanks always, 

CB: When they went to the 4-3 they were still giving up rushing yards because they didn’t have Kyle Williams, Torell Troup and Shawne Merriman (a very underrated run defender) in the lineup. The players they get back healthy this offseason is what will improve the run defense, more so than the scheme.


3 – Chris,

Short and simple.. how is our center doing? haven’t heard anything about Eric’s rehab. Wood love an update:) 

Eric (displaced fan in AZ)

CB: Wood is progressing well, but won’t be doing any real on the field football-related stuff until training camp. That’s the timetable.


4 – Hey CB,

I was looking through the remaining free agents and I saw that there are still some decent free agent WR’s. Do you think there is any chance of the Bills still picking a receiver up? Or OT? 

Thanks, Carter

CB: I would never rule anything out. Buddy Nix always says you never know who might become available late in the free agent process, like Nick Barnett last year. That being said, Chan has said time and again that he likes his group of receivers on the roster already. I think an offensive tackle is added only if Hairston and Glenn struggle mightily.


5 – Hi, Chris, 

Last pre-season, the Bills said that they had too many good receivers, so they traded Lee Evans. Roughly a year later, they say that a deep threat receiver (e.g. Lee Evans) is near the top of their needs list. What has changed? Have they re-evaluated those “too many good receivers” and decided that they are not so good after all?

Tom from Charlottesville, VA

CB: First, the Bills were trying to publicly show some respect for the years that Lee Evans gave them. They didn’t publicly say they felt he was a player in decline, but that was their opinion and ultimately why he was traded. That was the main impetus, not because of who they had. They did feel by moving Evans off the roster it would allow more of their young talent to blossom, chiefly Marcus Easley, who is a deep threat and a huge target. That was compromised however, when his medical condition ended his season before it began just days before Week 1.

They’ve added additional deep threats in T.J. Graham and David Clowney, so there’s some insurance this time around and Easley is medically cleared and ready to get his career off the ground.

BONUS: Chris,

Thanks for keeping BillsNation in the loop with your work.   I’m curious if you could give us a sense of what the Bills main objectives are in OTA’s?   Clearly assimilating new players from free agency and the draft is job 1, but what else do they view as important during OTA’s?

Tony C.

CB: I think getting the defensive players up to speed with the new defensive scheme under Dave Wannstedt is at the top of the priority list. Second, there are a lot of new pieces that have to get accustomed to playing with one another in that front seven. And third, there’s a very good chance that a second-year CB and rookie CB will be starting on the boundaries in Aaron Williams and Gilmore, so getting them ready will be huge.

On offense it’s finding a definitive answer at left tackle, being more consistent on third downs, getting Marcus Easley ready for the season, finding a true number two threat opposite Stevie Johnson and finding a way to get Jackson and Spiller on the field at the same time.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Merriman update

Posted by Chris Brown on May 14, 2012 – 10:39 am

Bills DE Shawne Merriman’s progress continues to be encouraging as the team’s OTAs are just two weeks away. Appearing on XX 1090 Sports radio in San Diego late last week, Merriman provided an update on just how far he’s come off achilles surgery.

“I was just talking with coach about this, it’s probably the best I have felt in three years,” Merriman said. “The first time I got the chance to have full surgery on my Achilles and have a real off-season. I am looking for a big year.”

Merriman also explained how difficult the last three years have been not being able to perform like he knows he’s capable of playing.

“It’s been rough man. It was a rough process just going out there on the field and not knowing if I was going to be 100% or whether I am going to be able to play next week, practice next week,” he said. “I dealt with that my last year in San Diego and my first full year when I got out here and that’s not the case or the scenario this year. I’ve been here every day for the past 3 or 4 weeks doing everything the team has been doing with the off-season workouts. It’s been good.”

Merriman was out on the west coast this past weekend attending funeral services for NFL 12-time Pro Bowl LB Junior Seau.

Posted in Inside the Bills
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