1 – Hi Chris,
First off I just wanted to thank you for keeping me informed over the years being a displaced, and soon to be reunited, WNY Bills fan. I look for your stuff daily!
This is pertaining to Mike Tolbert. I see a lot of hype on Pat DiMarco, which is understandable. I see nothing on Tolbert. Will he even make the roster? Living in SD for the last 30 years I have followed the Chargers as well and really like Tolbert. I was wondering if you think he will make the cut, and if he does will be utilized at all?
SD Bills fan
CB: I think Tolbert is going to be given every opportunity to make this roster. He’s seen as a valuable locker room presence by Sean McDermott. Building the culture here is job one for McDermott and Tolbert could be one of his best allies in the locker room to cultivate that. Now he also has to be able to contribute on the field.
I believe he’s underrated as a receiver out of the backfield and can serve as a short yardage and goal line back. Add in his abilities on special teams and I do think there’s a way to have both Tolbert and DiMarco on the roster.
2 – Dear Chris:
I’ve looked over our roster and have noticed a lack of depth particularly at DE and safety, and I’m not so sure about Will linebacker either. Are the Bills still looking to add guys? What are your thoughts?
Sincerely, John from Pennsylvania
CB: With respect to defensive end I tend to agree with you. The starters are solid with Lawson and Hughes, and Lorenzo Alexander could line up there on obvious passing downs. But Ryan Davis and Max Valles are the second teamers. Davis has NFL experience, but has been a role player for most of his career. Valles has never appeared in an NFL regular season game.
So it’s understandable to feel uneasy as a fan when there is no proven track record for the guys the team will be counting on behind the starters.
At safety they improved their depth this week with the signing of Bacarri Rambo, whose entering his fifth season in the league. But much like defensive end there is a lot of unproven talent there. I like what I’ve seen from Joe Powell, but again behind starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer there isn’t much NFL experience.
WILL linebacker is improved with the addition of Gerald Hodges in free agency and draft choices Matt Milano and Tanner Vallejo will likely be battling for second string roles.
The bottom line is with a new GM and personnel department and a new coaching staff the roster turnover on the back half of the roster will be particularly high as the decision makers try to shape the squad in the image they feel fits the team identity and demands the best.
You can’t fill every position with supreme depth in your first year on the job, but that won’t mean that Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott won’t be trying to do so.
3 – @ChrisBrownBills
Moving the chains is so important in West Coast offense. Could we see Daikiel Shorts edge out guys like Powell and Lewis? Can Shorts be anything but slot?
CB: Shorts is a sleeper player for sure in this camp. He can play outside in my opinion. He’s 6-1, 202 and knows how to gain separation right before the catch point. The key here will be his ability to execute the route assignments consistently. This is a precision and timing offense, so if Shorts can be dependable for his quarterbacks and make plays in the process, he’ll have a shot. At the very least I see this kid landing on the practice squad.
4 – @ChrisBrownBills
Any insight to the Stevie hoopla? Is this really a thing?
CB: Everything I’m hearing about Stevie Johnson is he’s happy in retirement. John Murphy Show co-host Donald Jones, a former teammate of Stevie’s still talks to him a lot and there doesn’t appear to be any desire on Johnson’s part to try to resuscitate his NFL career. As much fun as it was to watch Johnson play, his offseason training regimen was basically playing basketball. His herky-jerky route running style was effective, but put an enormous amount of strain on his groin muscles and as he got older he missed time on the field with the 49ers and Chargers the last few seasons. Now 31, and with a lot of off the field interests, I see Stevie enjoying other pursuits rather than football.
5 – Chris:
Cardale Jones is traded for a conditional pick. What does the mean exactly? Conditional on his making the team? Conditional on how many games he plays in? Making the practice squad count?
I read it was for a late round pick. Does that mean it can be 5th – 7th round?
Thanks very much
CB: The team doesn’t confirm trade terms, but I’ve heard from my sources that it’s a conditional 7th round pick
What the terms are to improve the standing of that pick could be anything. It could be if he wins the backup job it improves to a sixth-round pick. It could be if he makes six starts it improves to a fifth-round pick. It could be any number of conditions that the Chargers and Bills came up with to make the trade suitable to both parties.
Tags: Cardale Jones, Daikiel Shorts, depth chart, Fan Friday, Mike Tolbert, Pat DiMarco, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Alright Bills fans. OTAs start next week after the holiday, but let’s all be sure to take a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we’re privileged to have in this country. Here is the latest edition of questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills
Hey Chris does this mean that he will not appeal the decision?
CB: All indications at this point are that he will serve the one-game suspension handed down by the league for his synthetic marijuana possession traffic stop in Alabama last year. So I do not anticipate an appeal.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why the NFL moving the extra point Attempt back 15 yards?
CB: The NFL maintains that the old extra point has become too easy to convert and has become a boring part of the game. In an effort to demand more skill from the kickers and liven the play up they’ve made the extra point a 33-yard attempt instead of 20-yard kick. They’ve also now allowed for the defense to score on the conversion play whether it’s a one-point try to two-point try. So if t’s turned over by the defense they can return it for two points of their own.
As we covered on Buffalobills.com with K Dan Carpenter this week, it will be an adjustment for everyone, coaches, kickers and special teamers.
3 – Hi Chris
Thank you for keeping all of us up to date with the greatest NFL team.
The true concern about the Bills is the LB position on the defence. Bradham and Brown bring awesome passion and skill to the team, but it seems like we are missing a legitimate starter at MLB to anchor the unit. Considering the defensive unit went from 10th to 4th (28th to 11th in rushing), and our lack of overall depth at the position I was surprised at the seeming lack of interest in bringing back Spikes, considering he and Brown were the only major plug-ins on D last season. Am I missing something in this regard?
I thought Spikes had stated publicly how much he likes the Buffalo organization. Was this a management decision that wants players with greater role versatility, was he not happy being relegated to a 2 down role, was his asking price too rich for the team, or was there some behind the scene discord? Any thoughts, or updates in this regard would be greatly appreciated.
CB: With respect to linebacker I agree that depth is still an issue at the position. I think with the unit expected to play a lot of 3-4 veteran Manny Lawson is the natural fit at SAM linebacker, which was the role he played in 2013 in a similar defense under Mike Pettine. So you pick up a LB there.
Preston Brown is the milddle linebacker this season, with Ty Powell backing him up.
There was an interest in bringing back Brandon Spikes, but it was as a depth player. The Bills also had a set price they were willing to pay Spikes, which presumably was the veteran minimum. Spikes chose to wait to see if a better opportunity came up to get on the field more regularly.
He felt that opportunity existed where a couple of their starting linebackers will not be ready to go at the start of the season and he stands a good chance of playing at least early in the year.
There wasn’t any discord. It was just business.
4 – Hey Chris!!
Die hard Bills fan here from Toronto!!! Love all u do to keep #billsmafia updated!!!
So here’s my question. I love all the moves we made so far, I think we still have a hole at safety, why don’t we go sign a vet? Bernard Pollard?!?!?
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!
CB: I think the Bills would respectfully disagree that they have a hole at safety. There is a vacancy with the departure of Da’Norris Searcy, but I think they feel good about the young talent they have in the pipeline and a veteran option that they have in their back pocket.
First, Duke Williams is the odds on favorite to land the job. For those that might not be aware, Williams had almost 600 snaps at safety last season as he almost split the work with Searcy 50-50. Williams is better in coverage than Searcy was and is a more physical player.
His main competition will be Bacarri Rambo and Jonathan Meeks. Two athletic players who have a bit more to prove than Williams. A dark horse in that competition will be second-year S Kenny Ladler a former undrafted rookie signee, who made the practice squad last year before suffering an elbow injury that landed him on I-R.
In Buffalo’s back pocket as a safety option is CB Corey Graham. He’s capable of playing safety and Rex Ryan clearly has that option on his radar as well. Personally I think it’s Duke Williams’ job to lose.
So that’s a long way of saying they don’t need Bernard Pollard.
5 – Chris,
Thanks for your outstanding buffalo bills coverage! You are the king!
Do you think that the return of Stevie Johnson would have been a realistic option Doug Whaley would have considered had Harvin signed elsewhere?
CB: I never got the sense that a Stevie Johnson reunion was ever on the radar. I do know that Stevie enjoyed being back on the west coast near his native San Francisco. So I think his preference was to stay out west, which he was able to do in signing with San Diego.
I know Stevie had his detractors and his supporters here in Buffalo. Sometimes a second go round isn’t always the best idea. I think that applies in the case of Stevie Johnson.
Tags: Brandon Spikes, Duke Williams, extra point rule, Fan Friday, Marcell Dareus, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Stevie Johnson may no longer be on Buffalo’s roster, but it hasn’t diminished his respect for the talents of some young wideouts he lined up last season.
In an SI.com interview Johnson explained how he thinks Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin have a lot of potential.
“All those guys have talent,” said Johnson. “Marquise Goodwin, you don’t always hear too much about him, but he can get 1,000 (yards). Robert Woods is a straight baller. He can get 1,000. Sammy (Watkins), he’s a baller, too. They have a bunch of playmakers out there. You just have to get them the ball.”
Johnson is working a the 49ers third wideout in camp.
Tags: Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Two weeks of OTAs are in the books with a week to go beginning this coming Monday. As always we’ll have full coverage here on Buffalobills.com. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
I liked what Bills did in rounds 1,2,3 however they did not address DE. Manny Lawson has never played end and Wynn is a bubble player at most. Hughes is more of a situational pass rusher. I’m a bit concerned what they are doing. Since they won’t blitz as much the DE’s are more important under Schwartz. This puts more pressure on young DB’s as well. What do you think the future is at DE for 2014?
CB: I don’t know that you can assume that this defense under Schwartz won’t blitz as much. From what I’ve witnessed in OTAs with the blitz packages going in there are an array of packages that Schwartz has in his playbook. How often he uses them remains to be seen.
Lawson and Hughes will likely split the right defensive end role with Lawson in on more obvious run downs and Hughes on passing downs.
What you might need to consider is how often Schwartz’s defenses in the past have put an opponent in a situation where blitzing is not necessary.
Knowing that Schwartz’s Detroit defense last season finished first in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed (30.3%) and were second in the league in red zone defense (Bills were 14th and 6th) I’m going to give Buffalo’s defensive coordinator the benefit of the doubt that he’ll know when to blitz and how often to do so.
2 – Hi Chris
I’m a long time Clemson fan and enjoyed watching C.J. Spiller returning kicks. He is one of the best I have ever seen at it and I billeve he could challenge Devin Hesters records. With the need at special teams, Do you think the Bills should try C.J. returning kickoffs? He does hold the FBS record for kickoff return touchdowns with 7.
Thanks, Chris Gerland
CB: It’s funny that you bring this up. As I wrote in our OTA practice notes column earlier this week C.J. Spiller was one of the kick returners in practice along with T.J. Graham and Leodis McKelvin. Spiller hasn’t returned a kick for the Bills since 2011, but it looks as though he’s at least being considered for the 2014 season. That being said I wouldn’t get excited about this possibly happening until we see it in a preseason game.
3 – Hi Chris,
With the new additions at cornerback, and a new defensive coordinator, it almost seems like Nickell Robey has been getting lost in the mix, after a productive rookie campaign.
I’ve been wondering, has their been any talk about trying him out at safety as a possible replacement for Byrd?
Between his solid tackling and his playmaking ability, I think he could transition well into the role, which would also serve to reduce his height concerns. Jim Leonhard has had a decent career at FS for a shorter defensive back.
I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.
CB: I don’t think you have anything to worry about with Nickell Robey. First, Robey has looked solid in his nickel corner role. Yes, he will have competition, chiefly in the form of Corey Graham, but knowing how much New England goes four wide as well as other opponents on Buffalo’s roster like Denver, Detroit, Kansas City and Green Bay chances are Buffalo will need to make use of both of those slot defenders.
To help you breathe easier about Robey’s role on this team I’ll refer you to a recent quote by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Robey.
“If you measure heart, if you measure things like that, he’s six-foot ten,” said Schwartz of Robey. “He’s been a guy that’s been impressive and it hasn’t just been from watching practice here. Watching last year’s tape. He’s very unique in some of the quickness he has. He’s got great anticipation, sees the game very well and he’s certainly going to have a role. He’s been one of best players through our OTAs so far.”
4 – Hi Chris,
Thank you for all you do. Let me start by saying I’m extremely happy with our draft this year! My question is regarding our depth at the receiver position. I think it may be difficult for a guy like TJ Graham to make it on the field. Another guy I like is Marcus Easley. I know Easley helped out, and excelled on special teams last year. Do you think that they might keep a guy like TJ, and utilize his speed on special teams? If not I’m afraid I don’t think he’ll make the roster. I look forward to hearing your opinion!
Buffalo native, teaching English in Thailand
CB: I do think T.J. is in for an uphill battle due mainly to the fact that additions like Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams are automatically ahead of him on the depth chart. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were draft choices deemed as fits by this coaching staff. Graham was inherited.
Add in the fact that the staff likes Kevin Elliott, who could carve out a role on special teams as well and both Graham and Easley will be battling for one of the final spots on Buffalo’s roster with players like Elliott and Chris Hogan, both of whom have shown well thus far in OTAs.
5 – Chris;
With the trade of Stevie Johnson to the 49ers do they Bills have any financial obligations remaining from his contract?
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Rochester Hills, MI
CB: The figure I have is $10.225M in dead money, which the Bills can spread over the next three seasons, which is the length that Johnson’s contract ran.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Fan Friday, Jerry Hughes, Jim Schwartz, Manny Lawson, Marcus Easley, Nickell Robey, Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham
Posted in Inside the Bills
OTAs are coming up next week. In the meantime enjoy the holiday weekend and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Chris,
Thanks for all the great draft coverage! I personally loved the way the Bills really focused on beefing up the offensive line this year, in addition to the Watkins pick of course! It seems like some great picks at truly great value. I was wondering, if Seantrel Henderson pans out – and he has 1st round talent at LT, could he eventually start there, with Glenn moving to LG? Don’t get me wrong, Glenn is a really good LT, but I imagine a starting line of Henderson, Glenn, Wood, Richardson/Urbik, Kouandjio being among the most dominant lines in the entire league. Thoughts on this?
CB: While you certainly have every reason to be optimistic I think you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself. I think all of the linemen drafted this year have talent, but it’s hard to project their immediate future until the pads go on in training camp. There are some proud veterans on this roster so the influx of young talent will ramp up the competition. Henderson most definitely has the skill set to play in the NFL. What he needs to demonstrate is consistency not only in his play, but in his commitment as a pro. Kouandjio might need a little time on the job before he’s challenging Erik Pears for a starting role and we’ll see what Richardson can do.
The picture you’re painting might be more realistic for 2015, and with the way Cordy Glenn played last year, I’m not sure he’ll be on the move even then if that level of play continues.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills
Why would @buffalobills ever pick Bon Jovi’s Lawyer to help sell the team?
CB: I think you need to understand that the Bills organization was seeking one of the most renowned firms when it came to managing estates and trusts. Proskauer was named “Law Firm of the Year” for Litigation–Trusts & Estates in U.S. News-Best Lawyers 2014 “Best Law Firms,” the only firm to receive this prestigious designation in that category. So this is more of what led to the decision to retain them.
It just so happens that Proskauer Rose, which has a gigantic client base in their entertainment department, also has represented Bon Jovi. It’s not clear if they still do at this time. I would think that relationship no longer exists otherwise it could be construed as a conflict of interest.
3 – Hey Chris,
There has been a lot of varying reports trying to explain the compensation the Eagles will be receiving for the Bryce Brown trade. Most of those reports are very confusing to read and have people scratching their heads. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but didn’t we basically trade Stevie Johnson for Bryce Brown straight up?
Whatever we get for Stevie is what we give to Eagles?…right? Only exception to this line of thinking or simplification is if we end up getting a 3rd for Stevie because he performs and Bryce underperforms we only are on hook for a 4th….right??
BTW…loved our draft. Loved the aggressiveness of Whaley. It was very refreshing and sent a jolt of excitement in the fan base. Even if it doesn’t pan out I’m still glad he was aggressive. When u r 6-10 forever and u keep the same draft approach its by definition insane. Everyone is saying playoffs or bust. Honestly if we go 9-7 and EJ looks like he takes steps fwd…I will see this season as a success. Looking fwd to getting out of this 6-10 rut!
Thanks for your time and go Bills!
CB: Here’s the easiest way to look at it. If the compensation from the 49ers remains a fourth in 2015, it goes to the Eagles. If Stevie Johnson hits undisclosed performance benchmarks and improves Buffalo’s conditional pick from San Francisco to a third, then the fourth-round pick the Bills owe the Eagles would push forward to the 2016 draft, since they would not have a fourth-round pick to give Philadelphia in 2015.
Bills fans should root for Stevie to do well in San Francisco this season. If he excels Buffalo will have seven picks in 2015 (a 2nd, two 3rds, two 5ths, a 6th and a 7th).
4 – Chris,
Thanks for all your news that you provide to Bills fans outside of the Buffalo area.
My question is regarding the off-season training of EJ, while not at the Bills facility. Knowing that OC Hackett, scaled back the offense last year; is there anything that EJ is doing during the off-season to get a much better understanding of the playbook?? or is EJ just working on his mechanic’s ?? Seems like a little waste of time, if EJ is not in some way learning a bit more of the playbook during this down time.
CB: EJ has been diligently working on every aspect of his game. That includes mechanics (footwork, deep throws), playbook and working with teammates having worked with some out in California this offseason on their own. I’m confident people are going to see a different EJ on the field this year.
5 – Hi Chris,
Russ Brandon and Doug Whaley are always quoted as saying that they will “do whatever it takes to make the Buffalo Bills a better football team.”
With that understanding, how does trading away Stevie Johnson (1,000 yard/season, 26 TDs, veteran WR, one more weapon for EJ Manuel) make the Buffalo Bills a better football team?
At the very least, Stevie would draw coverage away from Sammy Watkins!
This is such a typical move for the Bills–make progress with the drafting of Sammy Watkins, trade away good talent in Stevie. It’s similar to the Marshawn Lynch trade. Draft CJ Spiller, trade away pro-bowler Marshawn. I just don’t understand. What are the Bills not telling us? On paper these moves make no sense.
Please help me, and many Bills fans, have a better understanding. PLEASE no “company line” answer.
Discouraged Season Ticket Holder
CB: On the field here’s is why the move was made. Buffalo acquired Mike Williams by trade, a true outside receiving threat with proven touchdown production. They traded up to get the best receiver in the draft in Sammy Watkins, another true outside threat. Williams will draw attention from Watkins.
Perhaps even more important Robert Woods is a receiver this coaching staff believes in a lot. There was more than one assistant who believed by the end of last season that he would be the best receiver on the roster. That dynamic changed with Williams and Watkins added to the roster. In order to help Woods flourish in the current corps of receivers Stevie had to be moved from the slot receiver role so Woods could fill it.
It’s believed that Woods can be an even more productive receiver in the slot. Right now he has the most chemistry with EJ Manuel as OTAs are set to begin. What’s more his precise route running provides more consistency for a quarterback looking to take the next step in his on field performance than the unconventional route running of Johnson.
As Doug Whaley has said the aim this year is to help EJ Manuel take the next step in his development as a franchise quarterback. Providing him with the most dynamic receiver in the draft and a proven scorer in Mike Williams, both of whom can high point the ball as well as anyone, and then a reliable receiver in the slot in Woods they believe will enhance Manuel’s chances of succeeding.
In essence it was a bit of musical chairs and when all the moves were completed at the receiver position Johnson did not have an available seat. He would’ve been the team’s fourth receiver at a hefty price tag moving forward.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Bryce Brown, Cordy Glenn, Cyril Richardson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Doug Whaley, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jon Bon Jovi, Nathaniel Hackett, Proskauer Rose, Russ Brandon, Seantrel Henderson, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills weekend trade with the San Francisco 49ers when Stevie Johnson was dealt for a conditional 2015 draft choice became official this afternoon when Johnson passed his physical with the 49ers.
The 49ers announced that Johnson passed their team physical thereby completing the trade officially.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 12, 2014
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
The Bills made a handful of trades in the 2014 NFL draft, some of which affected their pick total in 2015. Here’s a look at where things stand right now.
2015 draft picks traded away
1st round pick – to Cleveland
4th round pick – to Cleveland
Possible conditional pick to Philadelphia (Bryce Brown trade)
2015 draft picks added
4th round pick – from San Francisco (Stevie Johnson trade)
5th round pick – from Tampa Bay
So at this point Buffalo has a total of seven picks for the 2015 draft (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 5th, 6th, 7th), but they could lose one if certain statistical figures are attained by Bryce Brown for the Bills in the 2014 season.
They do have the potential to have eight total picks in 2015 if Stevie Johnson hits certain statistical marks in San Francisco in 2014 because the fourth rounder they received from the 49ers will turn into a third and the conditional pick they would owe Philadelphia (4th rounder) would move ahead to 2016.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, 2015 NFL draft, Bryce Brown, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
The speculation only grew after Sammy Watkins was made Buffalo’s top pick in the draft. Now there are reports that Stevie Johnson has been traded to the San Francisco 49ers.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report the trade.
Filed to ESPN: 49ers trading a conditoonal 2015 4th-round pick to Buffalo for WR Stevie Johnson, per sources. Pick can become a 3rd.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 9, 2014
Buffalo lost a fourth-round pick last night in the trade with Cleveland to move up the draft board to take Sammy Watkins. Over the past four seasons Johnson has 26 touchdowns, and had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2010-2012.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Sammy Watkins, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
We knew Buffalo would be picking ninth in each round of the 2014 NFL draft, but with all the compensatory picks now handed out, we now know the pick overall in each round for the Bills as well. Here’s a look at players the Bills have drafted in those overall slots including four players on the current roster.
Round 1 – 9th overall
1968 WR Haven Moses San Diego State
2010 RB C.J. Spiller Clemson
Round 2 – 41st overall
1984 WR Eric Richardson San Jose State
2008 WR James Hardy Indiana
2010 NT Torell Troup Central Florida
2012 T Cordy Glenn Georgia
2013 WR Robert Woods USC
Round 3 – 73rd overall
1977 WR John Kimbrough St. Cloud
Round 4 – 109th overall
1970 LB Steve Starnes Tampa
1976 LB Dan Jilek Michigan
1987 DT Leon Seals Jackson State
1989 WR John Kolesar Michigan
1995 DB Ken Irvin Memphis State
2004 TE Tim Euhus Oregon State
Round 5 – 149th overall
1967 DE Bill Wilkerson Texas El Paso (formerly Texas Western)
Round 6 – 185th overall
1971 RB Tyrone Walls Missouri
1995 DE Shannon Clavelle Colorado
1997 T Marcus Spriggs Houston
Round 7 – 224th overall
1995 RB Darick Holmes Portland State
2008 WR Stevie Johnson Kentucky
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, C.J. Spiller, Cordy Glenn, Robert Woods, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
1 – Chris,
Can you give Bills’ fan an update about Chris Hairston? Is he injured? I would like to see him compete for right tackle. What do the coaches think of him? Do you see RT as a position of need?
CB: The Bills have not provided a medical update on Hairston to this point, however, when asked by a Bills fan as to whether he’ll be ready for spring workouts in April, Hairston said he would be (see below).
— Bernie Lomax (@Welborn9) March 4, 2014
— Chris Hairston (@C_Hairston75) March 4, 2014
Hairston was on the non-football illness list last season, but he appeared to have a physical ailment in training camp. Whichever cost him his entire 2013 season is unclear. Even if he is cleared to resume his career in the spring I think the Bills will be a bit leery in counting on him and putting all their eggs in his basket as right tackle competition for Erik Pears.
So in the end I think they do look for offensive tackle help in free agency or the draft.
2 – Chris,
Why does it seem like everyone thinks we need a WR and a TE ? What`s wrong with the core we have now? All our WRs except Stevie have 2 yrs. or less experience with room to grow. And Scott Chandler may not have the speed, but he can block, catch and find ways to get open. He may not be high profile, but he`s a guy that comes to work every play. If anything we need some run stuffing LBs.
CB: A lot of fans naturally gravitate to the playmaking positions so it’s not surprising that many of the Bills faithful are focused on a big WR or game breaking TE. Of course GM Doug Whaley has said more than once that a receiving talent that plays big would be a huge help to the passing game and EJ Manuel.
I don’t think that focus means fans don’t think some reinforcements need to be added at linebacker. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Bills add a linebacker in free agency and another in the draft.
3 – Chris,
With all the talent at the offensive tackle position this year in the draft, many draft analysts have the Bills selecting one with their first round pick. In my opinion, this would be a mistake. Offensive tackles are not nearly as valuable in the NFL as they were 20 years ago, and do not directly affect the outcome of a game like WRs, LBs or Safeties do. With that said, I think the Bills need more game-changing playmakers (like WR/LB) of which many of the best are found in the first round of the draft. So my question is do you think the Bills are better off with an offensive tackle round 1 or someone at a skill position like WR?
Eric from Hamburg
CB: I think both OT and WR are positions that need to be addressed by the Bills in the draft. Fortunately for Buffalo they are two of the deeper positions in the 2014 class.
In determining the better option at ninth overall, a lot will depend on what falls to them at nine. There’s only one, possibly two receivers worthy of the pick at nine. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and some are now making a case for Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. I’m not certain the value is there for Evans as a top 10 talent, but he’s close.
If one of the top three offensive tackles is there for Buffalo at nine it’d be hard to pass up as I see it. Those players being Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.
I wouldn’t rule out Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio provided his knee checks out. I think he’s underrated.
I respectfully disagree with your assertion that offensive tackles aren’t nearly as valuable now as they used to be. I think they’re more valuable because offenses are passing more than ever and with offenses going to more spread formations offensive tackles need to be able to pass protect one-on-one more effectively than ever.
So I think it is a worthy pick at nine for Buffalo if the value is there with who is available.
4 – Hi Chris,
When the Browns raided the Bills coaching staff I was afraid we lost valuable pieces of the puzzle. Coach Marrone not only found great replacements but quite possibly upgraded the staff not to diminish the wonderful job done by Mike Pettine. Does it show the respect Doug Marrone has garnered around the league that he’s able to bring in such quality coaches? It must send a signal that Buffalo not the worst landing spot for coaches. As a longtime fan I always remember the woeful staff Kay Stephenson put together back in the 80’s. Is it a telling story on how head coaches are able to put together his staffs? Thanks for the good work……..
Wally in Fredericksburg , Va
CB: I think Marrone is a respected coach and I think the talent that’s on this roster helps sell the job of defensive coordinator as well.
Your point about the Stephenson staff is duly noted. Unfortunately that’s been repeated by other head coaches who came after him, most notably Gregg Williams and Dick Jauron. Both did not hire strong staffs and it hurt player development, which is perhaps more important than ever in the league now.
Marrone is a refreshing step forward in that respect.
5 – Hi Chris
I follow the bills everyday on the mobile app, diehard fan who grew up in Buffalo, but reside outside of Indianapolis, and watches every game via the Sunday Ticket.
My Question- I know we have a lot of young receivers on the roster, and this past year was a year of developing and see who we got. I remember Chris Hogan catching my eye in the pre-season and the broadcasters talking about how they call him 7-11 because he was always open, in which he was, and he seemed to be catching majority of what was thrown to him. That was the first game against colts. Then I didn’t see him much out there til later on in the season, and again, when he finally got a chance, they referenced him as 7-11, always open, and he would get open and catch the ball. Very curious to why they wouldn’t play him more and mix it up more if he is “always open”. I don’t remember him not contributing much when he did get to line up. Seems like any time his number was called, he truly did get open and caught balls. But his number barely got called.
CB: Thanks very much for you insatiable interest in everything Bills. With respect to Hogan, the good news is he was just tendered by the Bills as an exclusive rights free agent, so once he signs his contract tender he’ll be back on the roster for 2014.
Hogan does have reliable hands and runs consistent routes. The fact of the matter is there are receivers ahead of him on the depth chart that have simply been blessed with more talent.
The 7-11 thing comes from a nickname he picked up while with the Dolphins in training camp when Miami was the featured team on the HBO series Hard Knocks.
A lot of times receivers get caught up in a numbers game at the position and often don’t make the 53-man roster. Then if they do finding consistent playing time is an even bigger hill to climb. This is where Hogan finds himself on Buffalo’s roster.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, Chris Hairston, Chris Hogan, coaching staff, Doug Marrone, Erik Pears, Fan Friday, Scott Chandler, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Head Coach Doug Marrone sounds like he’s ready to welcome veteran wide receiver Stevie Johnson back with open arms, once the veterans return to One Bills Drive this spring.
Marrone addressed Johnson’s status during a session with Buffalo area reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He responded to a report published by CBS Sports.com that called into question the coaching staff’s belief that Stevie was committed to their team concept.
“I wound up texting Stevie and he got back to me, we had a great conversation,” Marrone said. “I told Stevie, listen, I’m excited about getting started with you. I’m excited about you coming in and being healthy and getting this team going. Whatever else you’re hearing is not coming from me. But if you hear anything else make sure you call me.”
Marrone said he believes the report originated from CBS around the time of the Super Bowl earlier this month. And he said his most recent telephone conversation with Johnson served to clear the air.
“It was a good positive conversation we had in the last week,” he said. “After that happened, I found something with CBS Sports that didn’t really quote a source from the Bills. That kind of stuff concerns me. You don’t want distractions like that for your players in the offseason.”
Tags: Doug Marrone, NFL Scouting Combine, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
We’ll all be waiting to see if the ninth time is the charm for Bills Wall of Famer Andre Reed for Hall of Fame enshrinement. Hopefully the path is cleared for Buffalo’s all-time leading receiver. On to your questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – @ChrisBrownBills Hey Chris. Stayin busy in the off-seasn? Lol. Is there a greater % for injury of same knee now that EJ’s had 2 surgeries on it?
CB: EJ said this week that he plans to wear a knee brace on his left knee permanently much like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning do with their front leg when they drop back to pass. I believe the idea is to protect him from injuring the knee again in a freak way, such as a penetrating defensive lineman falling on his front leg as he tries to step into a throw. He doesn’t believe it will inhibit his escapability if he needs to take off and run so the added protection would seem to make sense.
It’s clear to me that EJ has thought long and hard about how to keep that knee healthy without impeding his athletic skills. So if anything I think the percentage for a future injury happening are reduced, but as we all know in football injuries are never 100 percent preventable.
2 – @ChrisBrownBills do you think Hostler will be senior off asst/WR coach?
CB: Even though Jim Hostler has been a very accomplished receivers coach during his time in the NFL ranks I don’t get the sense that he’ll be assigned the receivers specifically. As I understand it Hostler will be another set of eyes for the offense. He’ll work closely with coach Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and likely have some self-scouting responsibilities to help the offensive staff to better accentuate their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. I’m sure he’ll have input when it comes to game planning as well. I see him as a valuable sounding board for Hackett and Marrone on the offensive side, but his job sounds more all-encompassing with the offense rather than position specific.
3 – Chris,
Thanks for the great coverage as always. My question regards our offseason needs as we have a few, OG,OT,LB and a big wide out. These holes will be filled with a mix of the draft and free agency most likely. Where do you believe we will choose to go with youth versus veteran experience?
We have a pretty young receiver group as well as a young potential star at middle linebacker in Kiko it’d be nice to see some solid veterans thrown into the mix. But I can’t argue trying to grab another young stud linebacker in the draft either along with an offensive lineman. Also who do you believe has the best shot to have an impact at one of these positions of need who may already be in house I know there’s a few candidates.(Elliot,Unga,Asper etc.) Looking forward to your thoughts thanks again.
Will, GO BILLS!
CB: I think your reasoning makes sense, but what you want to do is often affected by what’s available in terms of talent. When it comes to linebacker I get the sense that the team would prefer to move Kiko Alonso out to the weak side where they can take better advantage of his athleticism and coverage ability. That would mean a middle linebacker would need to be plugged in.
Buffalo was fortunate that they had a rookie in Alonso who was able to learn and call a new defense as a rookie at the mike spot. That doesn’t always happen, so I’m inclined to think that they would want to add a veteran in free agency at that position. However, the market is particularly thin, which means the price tag on what the Bills might see as an affordable option (as Doug Whaley calls them, ‘dust settle’ guys) may not be if there are other teams competing for experienced LBs.
I could see the Bills adding a linebacker both in free agency and in the draft. They need bodies at that position.
At receiver another rookie is probably not the way to improve the offense sooner rather than later. They need a player who has produced in the past and has adapted to different offensive systems before. Buffalo invested a pair of high picks at the receiver position last year (2nd and 3rd round) so I’d be surprised if they go that route again, especially early.
Offensive tackle is where I expect them to turn to the draft for help. There’s good talent at the top of the draft and with some QB hungry teams ahead of Buffalo in round one some great talent could fall to them at nine.
Guard is a position where I think they will plug in the best talent they can find. They have some players in house who they believe have starter potential, but they might add a stop gap free agent veteran to hold down the fort until they feel comfortable enough to plug in one of the prospects that you mentioned.
4 – Chris,
Thank you for all your coverage during the season. What’s more is your continuous coverage during the off-season. Being a fan in Virginia, I rely a lot on what I get from you. I have two questions for you.
My first is in a previous Fan Friday someone mentioned there was possible discussion about trading Stevie. I haven’t heard anything about that, yet you responded to it, so it sounds like there has been talk. Where has this been said, and did I miss it due to me being in another state?
My second and big question is about the draft for next year. Watching the playoffs this year I am noticing a theme. The teams that are winning are winning due to great running games and strong defense. What are the Bills going to do to boost up the offense and defense in the offseason? Our pass defense is much better, but we let too many runs get by us. I think we have a great running game, but it needs.some help with a better offensive line creating holes at times, especially in the red zone.
Thanks for keeping everyone informed.
Diehard fan in VA
CB: There are a lot of things that happen in the first year with a new coaching staff inheriting a roster of players. They have to learn how to work together, help one another and succeed. Doug Marrone did a solid job in establishing how things were going to function and earned the trust of the players. I think Stevie Johnson is a player who is wholeheartedly on board and wants to win.
At times I think the way the season unfolded frustrated him and I’m not sure he effectively communicated his frustrations to the people that matter most. I think it led to a lot of speculation about Stevie’s future with the team and whether he could effectively fall in line with the rest of the team and do things coach Marrone’s way.
As I said before Johnson wants to win in the worst way and he wants to win here. I think after the dust settled on the season coach Marrone and coach Hackett made the necessary changes to their offensive staff and I get the sense that they came to the conclusion that they need Johnson in this offense. In a year where they’re trying to improve the talent around EJ Manuel so he can raise the level of the passing game, taking Johnson out of that equation would be foolish.
He gains consistent separation on pass routes perhaps more than any other receiver on the roster. An open receiver is a valuable asset for a young quarterback. I’m not saying that the Bills don’t need to add more talent to the receiving corps, but to get Buffalo’s passing game to reach critical mass you need to hold onto weapons not remove them from the offense. That’s a long way of saying I don’t anticipate any trade talk regarding Johnson.
5 – Chris,
Thanks for all the great coverage throughout the season. My question is, since the bills can get a deal done with Byrd now, wouldn’t this be the best time to do it since he can’t talk to other teams until FA starts?
Jason from Missouri
CB: Bills GM Doug Whaley and President and CEO Russ Brandon in speaking with the Associated Press this week said they have hit the reset button on negotiations with Jairus Byrd and his representatives. Whaley said on the John Murphy Show last week that contract offers would be going out to the free agents they would like to retain and Byrd is one of them. So yes, they are making an effort to get something done now before free agency opens in mid-March.
Tags: 2014 NFL draft, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Jairus Byrd, Jim Hostler, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Well the Bills have begun their search to find the best successor to Mike Pettine now that he’ll be running the Browns. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – With Mike Pettine going to the Browns do you think the next coordinator Buffalo hires will employ the same scheme and same terminology as Pettine, or will it be totally different, or will it be a similar scheme with different terminology and maybe some different details. It’s a shame that we’re losing Pettine. I was looking forward to having the same d-coordinator and scheme going into the next season; that hasn’t happened in a long time. It would be nice to be able to get deeper into the current scheme in the off season rather than starting from scratch like we’re usually doing. I think this is a big step back for the defense, you can’t build a consistently dominate defense if you’re constantly changing schemes and coaches. The good teams in this league seem to have consistency.
CB: I think the future of the defensive scheme will depend largely on whether the replacement at defensive coordinator comes from outside the organization or is an internal hire. If it’s an internal hire then the chances are far greater that the scheme remains the same. If it’s a hire outside the organization there’s a chance that the scheme changes, which we all know will lead to a new learning curve. It’s my understanding that coach Marrone will not limit himself to promoting only from within.
I think hiring an open-minded defensive coordinator is the best way to go, one who isn’t married to a specific system. One who, much like Pettine, fits the scheme to the players, not the players to the scheme.
Continuity is a factor granted, but Marrone knows he has to get the best defensive play caller to help maintain the level of productivity and play on that side of the ball. Restricting his search to only the men already on his staff would be just that, restrictive.
2 – Hello Chris,
Goodbye Stevie Johnson and hello Sammy Watkins. We need a real game breaker now!!! After watching everyone pick Geno Smith #1 last year (lol), it won’t be Bridgewater either. Any team in their right mind is going for Clowney. QB is too risky at #1. What are your early thoughts on the Bills pick?
CB: First, I don’t get the sense that Stevie Johnson is going anywhere. I admit things appeared sketchy for his future here at the end of the season. Even I was wondering what the future might hold. But I think we need to remember that to help EJ Manuel progress you need to surround him with as much talent as possible. Johnson is the most accomplished receiver on the roster.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Bills need to make an addition to the team at receiver. I think they need to add a size wideout. In the words of Doug Whaley, “Big wins.” But I expect the Bills to at least explore veteran options in free agency because there already is so much youth in the receivers room.
Second, I don’t expect Sammy Watkins to be on the board at nine. He’ll be gone in the first three to five picks. If he slips I’ll be stunned.
I think at nine, and Bills fans might not like me for this, but based on the talent that should be there an offensive tackle would make a lot of sense. There’s a long time between now and the draft, which is in May this year, but I think knowing how QB needy some of the teams ahead of Buffalo are I believe that some of the top O-line talent could be sitting there for the Bills. We can’t forget that the Bills gave up the third-most sacks in the league last year (48), and with an emphasis on surrounding EJ Manuel with talent, and more important keeping him healthy, protection will be at a premium.
3 – Chris,
Any word from EJ as to his training regimen during the off-season? Will he be going back to Ken Mastrole or is he mostly just for getting ready for pro days and combine prep? Do you think there will be a QB coach added this year?
CB: In a recent interview EJ said he was actively rehabbing to get his knee back to 100 percent. He did say he planned to do more offseason work with his personal QBs coach. And hopefully you’ve seen our reporting on Doug Marrone’s plan to hire a quarterbacks coach to lighten the burden that was on offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett last year.
In fact by this time next week there might already be a QBs coach on staff.
4 – Hey Chris,
I was wondering, with reading about the Toronto series & seeing R. Brandon at the year end press conf. exactly how far does Brandon’s power reach into the actual football side of the team ? Meaning setting up the draft board, choosing players, who to keep /who to let go (as in the Fitz decision) & so on . I know the guy is supposed to be a great mind when it comes to the advertisement & selling of the team but there have been more than a one decision that has been made this & previous years when it comes to the team that I personally wonder who made these decisions .
I know Russ wasn’t promoted until this past year & I would hope that he would leave the player & direct football decisions to those that were hired to make those calls, but i do know like in the case of some teams the owner & or president of operations power is used sometimes far too much to influence the direction or decisions of those hired to do those jobs of which some recent decisions to me any way seem as though that may have been the case . I am in agreement with the way that the team is going & some of the players that have been brought in but as all fans I have my own ideas & opinions (which don’t amount to much) but try not to draw conclusions with out knowing more than I do & that is why once again i turn to you for some possible answers. Which again as always I thank you for the time & efforts that you put forth to keep us all in the know!!
Mr. T from Fort Myers via Nashville
CB: I think Russ Brandon said it best himself at the end of the season press conference. He was asked for his assessment of EJ Manuel and he gave the following response, which I believe explains a lot with respect to his role on the football side of the organization.
“My assessment really is empowered through Doug Whaley and coach Marrone. That’s what I empowered these guys to do last year and certainly we’re going to put every resource behind all 53 of our guys to improve. Obviously the bell cow is usually the quarterback and gets all the publicity and all the media attention as we mentioned earlier. But we’re going to put everything behind him and try to see some marked improvement moving forward.”
5 – Chris,
I’m not finding anywhere that has where the Bills overall on offence and and defence were among the rest of the league. (Just stuff like #2 in rushing…) maybe you could post something about it?
CB: Here are some of the more noteworthy statistical rankings that I believe you’re interested in.
Total yards per game – 19th
Rushing – 2nd
Passing – 28th
Sacks per play – 28th
Third down – 29th
Points per game – 22nd
Total yards per game – 10th
Run defense – 28th
Pass defense – 4th
Sacks per play – 3rd
Third down – 14th
Points allowed per game – 20th
Punt return avg. – 29th
Kick return avg. – 29th
Net punting – 30th
FG % – 10th
Punt coverage – 25th
Kick coverage – 17th
Net punting against – 27th
FG % against – 17th
Tags: EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Mike Pettine, NFL rankings, QBs coach, Russ Brandon, Sammy Watkins, Stevie Johnson, Toronto Series
Posted in Inside the Bills
RB Fred Jackson appeared for a full hour on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 Monday on the Howard Simon show and addressed several topics. One was as his role as captain and heading into next season he intends to make the image of one of his teammates his personal project.
Stevie Johnson is a lightning rod for attention when it comes to Bills fans with a seemingly equal split on him as a player. Jackson was asked by Simon if he sees a future for Johnson in Buffalo in 2014. Buffalo’s co-captain said he does, but also intends to make it his personal mission to repair Johnson’s public image and consistency on the field.
“I definitely think he has a future here,” Jackson said. “He’s a guy that’s up and down so to speak. That’s on guys like myself and Kyle (Williams) and Eric (Wood) to get changed. I’ll take a lot of personal accountability for that guy. That’ll be on me next year, if he’s here, nothing is ever guaranteed. If I’m here it’s one of those things where I’ll definitely do everything I can to get that tarnished image off of Stevie because he’s a tremendous player and a guy that I think can be really great for us.”
Tags: Bills Radio Network, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Well the offseason is underway and the Senior Bowl is the next big thing on the horizon. Here’s the latest edition of your questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hey Chris,
Thanks for all of the insight on everything Bills and keep up the great work. First off I was just wondering if you think we have seen everything Hackett’s playbook has to offer? Or is he just keeping it simple because of the inexperience at quarterback? We were vanilla at best on offense this season, (despite a strong rushing attack) and when I watch most other teams it seems I see more intricate offense. We primarily run out of shotgun and our screen game pales in comparison to last season’s. Just wanted your opinion.
And secondly, do you think we should draft another quarterback? Manuel seems to be injury prone and I don’t think we can rely on Lewis or Tuel to step in and guide us deep in the season. They are strong backups but I would still like to have a QB that can stand in the pocket and not get hurt. Thanks again Chris!
-Mark in Houston
CB: I think your suspicion is dead on. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had to keep things simple so the rookies on offense with sizable roles (chiefly EJ Manuel) could effectively execute them. They ran the ball so much because as coach Marrone said last week they wanted to keep third down manageable in terms of distance to convert. Plus they were good at it, so use what works to help keep drives alive.
When Manuel was injured during the season, it forced Hackett to be even more judicious with his game plans in terms of complexity. None of his three quarterbacks had one game of NFL experience combined heading into the season.
So to fault Hackett for his play calling being too predictable would be very, very misguided. One has to appreciate and understand the circumstances under which he had to operate.
Then to see that his offense, despite all of that, finished 19th in total yards, which by the way was better than San Francisco’s and Carolina’s and a yard less per game on average than Seattle, is a pretty good showing as far as I’m concerned.
As for drafting a quarterback I don’t think that’s the best route to take. The reason why is Buffalo already has a host of inexperienced quarterbacks on their roster even now. EJ Manuel (10 career starts), Thad Lewis (6 career starts) and Jeff Tuel (1 career start) are still lacking experience. To add a fourth to the mix doesn’t help.
I expect the Bills to pursue a veteran QB in free agency that has a wealth of game experience. The market is predictably thin, but I expect the Texans to cut ties with a QB like Matt Schaub, who could be a perfect backup candidate.
2 – Chris,
On the heels of the Miami game, I was disappointed in the selfishness and immaturity displayed by Robert Woods. With the receiving corps already down Stevie and Marquise (who’d just been injured), Woods simply had to be smarter than throwing a punch and getting ejected from a game.
This brings me to my concern: with all the rumblings about the Bills possibly parting ways with Stevie Johnson this offseason, do you think an occurrence like this might be enough for the team to keep Stevie around? Woods apparently isn’t mature enough to lead the team at the position, and Marquise, as talented as he is, may be the next Roscoe Parrish…..too slight of build to stay healthy and really contribute on offense. Personally, I think the Bills would be foolish to let Stevie go right now. The receiver room is just too young without him. What do you think?
Kenny in Indiana
CB: I believe the incident with Robert Woods in the Miami game in Week 16 was an isolated incident. Woods in general is a heady player. In this instance he lost his cool, but in talking to him afterwards it’s clear he understands now that those kinds of things cannot happen again. I consider it a lesson learned.
Concerning Stevie Johnson, I think he and coach Marrone have to iron things out with respect to the way things are going to be done to ensure future success. The bottom line is they’re going to be done Marrone’s way with very little if any deviation from his plan. And truthfully that’s the way it should be.
He’s the head coach and has a vision for how things are going to get done to promote consistent winning. And he needs everyone on his roster, especially impact players to adhere to that in everything they do as a player on the roster.
Johnson is a free spirit and while there are a lot of admirable qualities with that kind of approach to the game, football is a sport that demands attention to detail perhaps more than any other.
I don’t know this, but I sense that Marrone needs to be convinced by Stevie that he’s prepared to fall in line with every responsibility he has to the team as its top receiver and do things the way Marrone has laid it out for all of his players.
If that can happen then Johnson will remain a prominent part of Buffalo’s offense.
3 – Hi Chris
Thanks for taking my question. My question is, based on all of the huge pass interference penalties this year that have affected the outcome of the games (especially with under a few minutes to go), do you ever see the rules committee making the pass interference call a reviewable/challengeable call?
I’ve watched so many teams this year, and in recent years as well, that get the ball on the one yard line in the last seconds of the game. And the unfortunate part is that a lot of them are really questionable calls…especially when they directly change the outcome of a game. I know making a penalty reviewable could open a can of worms for the rules committee, but I don’t see another immediate solution to the growing problem of these (sometimes) 50 yd plus interference penalties on the last few plays of the game, especially when replay is in effect to ensure the right call is made.
Lastly, do you think teams practice for the last second goal line pass interference call? Specifically, I’ve seen Brady win countless games by freely getting the ball on the 1 yd line with seconds to go when they all but had a nail in their coffin. Its like they are just chucking in the end zone and the WR sells the penalty if he can’t catch it. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Pats practice it since it is a really huge penalty that can be easily exploited.
Thanks for your time,
Tim in NJ
CB: I don’t see pass interference every being a reviewable call via challenge or booth review with less than two minutes in the half or game. The reason why is it is a pure judgment call. There is enough already that is reviewable. I doubt the league wants to expand that list.
I think if the NFL’s Competition Committee should change anything perhaps it should be the yardage penalty for pass interference. Maybe something similar to college’s 15-yard pass interference rule. With the NFL’s proclivity to push offensive play and scoring I doubt this would even be entertained, but perhaps a 20-yard penalty cap on pass interference plays that happen more than 20 yards downfield. I think it would be difficult to alter the policing of pass interference in the red zone/end zone. Defenders are doing everything in their power to unsuspectingly mug receiving targets in the end zone to prevent touchdowns. To reduce the pass interference consequences (1st & goal at the one-yard line) may lead to more aggressive defending and the league rarely puts any part of the game in the favor of the defense.
4 – Chris,
Thanks for all of your coverage.
My question is regarding the future of Mike Pettine. I think at most we have one or two years left with him, and that it’s also possible he gets a shot as head coach sooner.
Is there an in house assistant or option that we are grooming to be his replacement? With all the great strides we have made on D this year I’m hoping there is someone that is learning and being taught all of his schemes. I’d hate to lose all of this progress once we lose Mike.
Patrick In Boston
CB: I respect and understand your concern with respect to Buffalo’s defensive coordinator. Mike Pettine is a sharp mind, who in time should be getting head coaching interview opportunities.
The good news is I do see two future defensive coordinator candidates on Buffalo’s defensive staff. I believe both defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and OLBs coach Jim O’Neil have the pedigree to eventually be defensive coordinators in the NFL.
The problem is Weaver and O’Neil have both worked with Pettine for some time now, and would likely be offered a position by Pettine if he was named a head coach elsewhere. My guess is whoever is not offered the defensive coordinator job by Pettine when he’s named a head coach somewhere else in the league down the road, should be the coach targeted to be promoted to defensive coordinator with Buffalo.
5 – Chris,
I had been looking forward to hearing Kiko Alonso’s name being announced as a Pro Bowler for 2 months now. How did his name NOT get called, given the season he had?????
Don (Bills/ Kiko fan),
CB: I think we all know by now that it’s very difficult for rookies to get named to the Pro Bowl even with productive seasons. We often see them recognized the following year provided their production stays relatively the same. What also hurt Alonso’s chances was the team’s 6-10 record. The bottom line is in most cases more players are chosen from successful teams than those that finish under .500.
Tags: Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel, Fan Friday, Kiko Alonso, Mike Pettine, Nathaniel Hackett, pass interference, Robert Woods, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills WR Stevie Johnson and S Aaron Williams have been declared out for Sunday’s game at New England. Marcus Easley meanwhile was a Friday addition to Buffalo’s injury report.
Easley sustained a knee injury in practice Friday and was listed as a limited participant. He’s listed as probable for Sunday’s game. Here’s the full rundown of players on Buffalo’s injury report.
S Aaron Williams – ribs
WR Stevie Johnson – not injury related
QB EJ Manuel – knee
WR Marquise Goodwin – knee
WR Marcus Easley – knee
RB Fred Jackson – ribs
DT Kyle Williams – achilles
Tags: Aaron Williams, Bills injury report, Fred Jackson, Kyle Williams, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills WR Stevie Johnson sounds like he will not be available for a second straight game as he continues to mourn the death of his mother. According to head coach Doug Marrone funeral arrangements are going to make it difficult for Johnson to make it back for enough practice to play Sunday at New England.
“I’ve had correspondence with Stevie and obviously again I’m going to reiterate that our thoughts and prayers are with him,” said Marrone. “His mom’s funeral is the 27th. With that being said I think it’s very difficult as far as the availability issue of him being available for Sunday.”
The Bills are 2-1 this season with Johnson out of the lineup.
Tags: Doug Marrone, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Stevie Johnson has already been declared out for Sunday’s game after the sudden and unexpected passing of his mother last Saturday. Losing your mother might be the most difficult of them all, but Johnson’s teammate Nickell Robey knows exactly what Johnson is feeling right now.
That’s because Robey lost his mother, who unexpectedly passed his senior year in high school. Robey didn’t have a chance to talk to Stevie before he left to be with family in his native California and attend his mother’s funeral services, but he can absolutely relate to the range of emotions Johnson is undoubtedly experiencing right now.
“His mom was 48 and my mom was 44, I kind of know how he’s feeling right now,” Robey told Buffalobills.com. “The only part that’s different is he’s in the NFL and I was headed to college, but I know where he’s at right now as far as mentally and how he’s evaluating himself and his life.
“He’s probably just thinking by himself and the future and the hardest part is accepting it. I know once he gets past accepting everything and where it’s at he’ll be better coming through that whole process.”
Robey said it will be a struggle. After having your mother as a part of your life since you were born, it’s hard to adjust to life without her.
“You’ve got to accept that you will never see that person again,” Robey said. “I still can’t even get my head wrapped around my mom being gone. Your mind isn’t programmed to switch over that fast that your mother is not around anymore. So what you have to do is take all the memories and stuff and keep it with you. You have to make sure that you’re okay with it all on the inside.
“It’s not easy, but it’s do-able. I know Stevie is a strong-minded person. He’s been in the league for six years, so I know he’s equipped for it and can get through it. It’s just about going about it the right way.”
Being a rookie Robey admits he’d be hesitant to approach Johnson when he sees him again, but if he does talk to him he’ll tell him how he got through the loss of his mother.
“I would tell him to never stop fighting and build a bigger hunger for himself and his family and his life,” said Robey. “It sent chills through my body because I respect Stevie a lot so for me to come up to him it would make me a little apprehensive. I’d just tell him to never stop fighting. Whatever he does do it as if your mom was right there. Live in the footsteps that you lived in when your mom was here and work to fulfill that.
“You can still make her happy by doing what you’re doing. She’ll always be happy for you. Always have good energy and good vibes about overcoming the whole battle and this is a battle right now and I know he’s battling. He’s vulnerable and when you’re vulnerable you’ve got to really keep a strong mind. He’s going to get through this. One day at a time.”
Tags: Nickell Robey, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Bills head coach Doug Marrone announced after practice Friday that Aaron Williams, EJ Manuel and Stevie Johnson are out for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
Williams rib injury was suffered last Sunday at Jacksonville and he was unable to practice all week. Jim Leonhard is expected to see most of his reps in Williams absence.
Johnson is still dealing with the passing of his mother last week and is with his family in Northern California. He hasn’t practiced all week.
After being limited in practice on Wednesday EJ Manuel has not practiced all week as he recovers from a sprained knee suffered last Sunday.
Tags: Aaron Williams, EJ Manuel, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills
Sunday will be step one in trying to post a winning record in the division for the first time since the 2007 season. Let’s see if the Bills can make it a season sweep of the Dolphins. Here’s your latest edition of questions on email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.
1 – Hi Chris,
As a Bills’ fan for decades, I believe coach Marrone is a good coach. The question is whether he can turn around the losing culture. I have a few questions regarding accountability and talents.
What are the Bills going to do with the undependable players? This includes, but not limited to, Steve Johnson, Leodis McKelvin and T. J. Graham.
What is Jairus Byrd’s long term prospect with the Bills? The Bills like to get rid of established players to save a few bucks. In the end, this contributes to a longer wish list for the ever rebuilding process. A
recent example is the Offensive line. My suggestion is to get rid of Steve Johnson and save some money for Byrd’s contract. (Note, The Bills is in the business to make money. I suppose a better product would lead to increased revenue. In this case, a true contender in NFL).
What is the long term plan for the QB position? I mean both first string and backup in this case? While coach Marrone indicated EJ Manuel is the long term solution. I beg the difference. EJ is not playing any
better than JP Losman by comparing their rookie year. Lewis and Tuel are littering their path with interceptions and fumbles. How long do you think these two can keep their job in NFL?
Marcus Easley seems to be doing a very good job in special teams. What is the possibility of moving him to CB if the Bills cannot use him as WR? This may afford the team to get rid of Leodis McKelvin thereby saving more money.
The New England Patriots seem to be able to overcome huge deficit consistently. When playing with the Patriots (as well as other teams), what are the Bills doing to safeguard our calls/signals from being stolen?
Please keep up with the good work.
C. J. Wong, Ph.D.
CB: I understand why you feel like the players you mentioned are not dependable. This is where the coaches and front office make their offseason evaluations, but being dependable goes beyond just game day. It’s about being a professional every day of the week in everything that you do. So if the players you mentioned struggle in those areas then they could be at risk with respect to their futures here.
Doug Marrone is only going to keep players on this roster that he feels he can win with the way he wants to win. He has stressed accountability time and again and has been clear in explaining to his players what accountability means. They’ve had all season to prove they’re on board. If they’re not, and only the coaches and their teammates would know for certain if that’s the case, then they won’t be here long term.
As for Jairus Byrd, the safety has said he’s open-minded to staying here long term, which is an improvement in terms of where that situation was this past summer. I think Byrd is smart enough to know that he can really flourish in this defense with the talent he has around him on that side of the ball. Talent that is tied up long term for the most part. Byrd has to be convinced that he can win here and as is usually the case the money has to be right as well.
At the quarterback position EJ is their long term answer at the position. You may not be convinced, but the people that make those decisions are. I believe this offseason will be dedicated to putting more talent around Manuel to help him succeed. We’ve certainly seen flashes of ability. What has me most encouraged is the way in which Manuel performs when the game is on the line. Buffalo has needed a clutch quarterback for the longest time and Manuel has shown he has that ability. With improved talent around him he’ll also be better for the other portions of the game too.
I believe the decision makers still see Jeff Tuel as a developmental type prospect. Thad Lewis is still being evaluated, which is why Sunday’s game is huge for him. He’s proven he’s tough and that he can deliver big plays. Now he has to prove he can learn from his mistakes and improve from some of his shortcomings in the first meeting with Miami. It’s really the perfect litmus test for him.
I completely disagree with your Marcus Easley idea. Easley doesn’t not have the foot quickness to play CB, and Leodis McKelvin is having his most consistent season in a Bills uniform at cornerback. Not to mention he’s playing at very affordable money for his position.
Finally, the reason the Patriots are able to overcome big deficits is primarily one reason and one reason only, they have one of the best quarterbacks in a generation in Tom Brady. End of story.
2 – Hi Chris, I live in Western Canada so it is always hard to get coverage on the Bills out here. So I really appreciate all your updates.
My question is about Stevie Johnson. It seems every year there is a play that he fails to make that costs us a game. The game against Pittsburgh in OT where he dropped the wide open pass, the game against the Jets when he again dropped a game winning TD, and of course against the Falcons which just didn’t just cost us that game, but our season.
He is a great receiver, no doubt about that, but I question if he is ever going to be a clutch number 1 receiver. We all agree that we need a big “go up and get it” receiver. So if we get that receiver, someone has to go.
I think we should consider trading Stevie Johnson this off season. Robert Woods is precise in route running and has good chemistry with EJ, and Goodwin and Graham are fast on the outside and can also move inside when needed. I think Stevie is odd man out and gives us the most return for our buck, plus maybe he is to used to losing in Buffalo. What do you think we could get for Johnson? A 2nd rounder or maybe someone like Bowe in KC?
Paddy, Vancouver Canada
CB: I think Johnson is the type of receiver whose return in a trade would be limited. The reason why is he is a possession receiver. He’s a move-the-chains player not a stretch the field, deliver a game-changing play every week type wideout. Johnson is a very unique player with a unique skill set, but he is not going to blow the doors off a defense. All that being said I think at best he’d get you a fourth-round draft choice. Frankly, it might be even less because his contract may not fit the role another team might envision for him, so to take on that salary would likely lead to a team offering less in return like a fifth or sixth-round pick.
3 – Hey Chris,
My question is regarding the offensive line. How do you see the Bills helping the line in the off season? I know they have to see how guys like JJ ‘Unga pan out over the last 3 games, but if they do go after a guy in the draft, do you see them going after a guy who can be versatile? Are there typically guys who can play guard and tackle? I would imagine that’s what coaches look for in any player on the field. Do you think free agency is possible? Also, do you think Chris Hairston will be able to return to form?
CB: I would not be surprised if there are wholesale changes made on the offensive line. As I see it the only players who have job security are Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood. Kraig Urbik rebounded real well this past week after a down week in Tampa, but I think he will be pushed for his starting job this offseason and into training camp based on what we saw the past couple of weeks with J.J. ‘Unga. Beyond those three I expect to see change there. I think the organization will look to the draft and free agency to address the offensive line.
4 – Chris,
Thanks for the great reporting, week by week for the Bills. Yourself and John Murphy do a great job but My question is based of everything about this youth movement and getting these unknown guys more playing time. I been listening and reading about the guys y’all are naming but I keep seeing this guy left out…. Duke Williams? Why is he not getting involved in the discussions and not getting more reps? What part of his game is lacking that has him buried on the depth chart? Because before the season he was getting hyped up as a utility guy in the secondary, that could play multiple positions. What happened? Please explain that to me.
Brian in South Carolina
CB: Thanks for the kind words. I’ll be sure to pass them along to Murph. Duke Williams is a player that has been seeing time mainly on special teams. The reason he has not seen time at safety is because there is quality and experienced talent in front of him in Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy and Jim Leonhard. I do think heading into next season Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks could challenge for bigger roles and what happens with Byrd and Leonhard this offseason with both being free agents will have an impact on that as well.
5 – Chris,
I have been surprised at the lack of two back sets the Bills are utilizing this year. I would think this would confuse defenses as Fred is a highly capable pass-blocking back and we all know about CJ’s home run ability with every touch. Would these formations not mix things up and keep opposing defenses off balance… not knowing to expect run or pass?
Also, I am concerned (as are many fans) about the utilization of CJ Spiller. Not in terms of number of plays per game, or on the year, but the play calls he is being used in. They seem to heavily favor running him behind the left or right guards. Why not more screen plays? I think all of us get excited when CJ Spiller has the ball with 3-4 blockers in front of him with the ability to pick and choose which lanes he wants to take.
Jim from Massachusetts
CB: We saw some split backfield in training camp, but there has been very little of it during the season. I do think there is an element of predicitability there when they have only Fred or C.J. on the field in a single back set. Heading into last week’s Jacksonville game I know that Spiller had not been on the field for more than 40 percent of the snaps since Week 2.
However, when he is on the field he got the ball 60 percent of the time. While the usage is admirable I fear that it makes Buffalo’s offense predictable when Spiller is in the backfield.
Jackson is usually on the field in third down situations because they trust him with blitz pickup and blocking assignments.
I don’t know a one-thousandth of what Nathaniel Hackett knows about football, but I do think a split backfield with C.J. and Fred in the offensive backfield on third down could create a lot of headaches for opposing defenses. That’s where I think it could be most useful for Buffalo’s offense.
Tags: C.J. Spiller, Cordy Glenn, Doug Marrone, Duke Williams, EJ Manuel, Eric Wood, Fan Friday, Fred Jackson, J.J. Unga, Jairus Byrd, Kraig Urbik, Leodis McKelvin, Marcus Easley, Stevie Johnson
Posted in Inside the Bills