Inside The Bills

Backup QBs need to step forward

Posted by Chris Brown on August 25, 2014 – 5:02 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone has made no secret that the quarterbacks behind EJ Manuel on the depth chart need to perform better and time is running out with one preseason game remaining. Buffalo released Dennis Dixon on Monday leaving Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis on the roster. Both will need to put up solid performances to convince their head coach that he doesn’t need to look outside the organization for better options.

“I think it’s what you see,” Marrone said. “Either they have to play better or we have to look to see if there’s someone who can better that position, like we would any other position.  If we feel at the end of the day that it’s not good enough to win with, which we haven’t seen yet, there’s only two ways to go.  Either you put a lot of work into those guys in getting them better,  until you get to where you feel comfortable with it. Or you have to upgrade that position some other way.”

Tuel has completed 64 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 73.9.

Lewis has completed just over 51 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 41.

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Marrone on Dixon and backup QBs

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2014 – 10:00 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone made Dennis Dixon the second quarterback in the game on Saturday night after EJ Manuel’s time on the field was over. The move came as a surprise, but Dixon’s two snaps in the preseason prior to the Bucs game and his lack of satisfaction with the backup quarterback play to this point led to the move.

“I wanted to bring Dennis in because I haven’t seen him in a game. I wanted to actually play him longer than that, but then I got a little concerned about the ball security,” said Marrone after Dixon fumbled twice.  “Then we went in with the players who have been playing the best in practice and the games. Jeff [Tuel] had been playing well on that and we put him in. I’m not going to say I’m satisfied because I’m not.”

When asked if Dixon is still in the mix for a backup spot, Marrone confirmed that every quarterback on the roster is in the mix.

With Marrone saying more than once that he needs to see more from the backup QBs, he was asked if he would look outside the organization for another backup QB option. This was his response.

“I’ll be very honest. I think in talking with Doug [Whaley] and not talking for Doug, our conversations are always, ‘Hey, if we can better our football team, whatever we have to do we will do,’” said Marrone. “We wouldn’t be doing right to ourselves, the team or the fans if we felt we could upgrade ourselves by going outside and not do that because, maybe, we were too comfortable.”


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QB Lewis-no more playing catch-up

Posted by johnmurphyshow on May 30, 2014 – 3:30 pm

Quarterback Thad Lewis wound up getting five starts for the Bills in 2013.  Which was pretty amazing, considering he wasn’t even on the roster until late August.

Lewis had to go through a crash course in Buffalo’s offense on the fly to get ready to start in mid-October against the Bengals.

This year, it’s a totally different story. Lewis wrapped up the first week of OTAs Friday with confidence in his command of the offense, something he could not say last season.

“Every day I had to study from the ground up,” he said after an OTA workout this week. “The other guys were moving on, because they didn’t have time to teach me. It was a hard grind.”

Lewis has been getting backup quarterback reps during the first three workouts of the spring OTAs.  And after spending the last month in the QB meeting room, he says he now feels confident in the Bills offense and what he has to take out onto the practice field.

“It’s been great. Getting an opportunity to know what you’re doing and going ahead and just running plays—being able to correct the things you see on film.  “Last year I was kind of iffy on that situation there. It’s been good. It’s been an easy transition, I wish I would have had this before I had to start that game in week six last year.”


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Thad Lewis back at old stomping grounds

Posted by Chris Brown on April 9, 2014 – 12:09 pm

Bills QB Thad Lewis is back on campus at his alma mater today (Wednesday).

Lewis has been working out and training with his former college coaches at Duke most of the offseason where he played for the Blue Devils and head coach David Cutcliffe. He tweeted out a photo of himself with Cutcliffe and his former OC Scottie Montgomery.

The John Murphy Show had Cutcliffe on the show this past season to talk about Thad Lewis when he had him as a player at Duke.

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Whaley: Adding another QB not likely

Posted by Chris Brown on March 14, 2014 – 10:34 am

This week the Bills parted ways with veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb. With three “green” quarterbacks on the roster, there is some thought outside the organization that they might consider adding a free agent with more experience to compete for a backup role. Bills GM Doug Whaley put that thought to rest Friday.

In an appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Whaley confirmed that right now there are no plans to add another quarterback though he would not completely rule it out.

“At this time no, but again we will keep all options open,” said Whaley.

When asked if the team would feel comfortable going into training camp with the three quarterbacks currently on the roster, EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel, Whaley said they would be.

“Comfortable, very comfortable and then you throw Dennis Dixon in,” he said. “All those guys are going to be another year in the system, so if you bring someone else in they’ll be new in the system. So we’re comfortable with where we are with the quarterback position.”

Dixon was on Buffalo’s practice squad as a quarterback last season.

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Assts work with young QBs appealed to Marrone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lewis not only QB on roster Downing coached

Posted by Chris Brown on January 24, 2014 – 11:32 pm

With Todd Downing having agreed to terms to become the new quarterbacks coach of the Buffalo Bills, it’s obvious that he has worked with Thad Lewis before as the two worked together all offseason in 2013 before Lewis was traded to Buffalo at the end of the preseason. But Downing has also coached EJ Manuel.

Downing and the Detroit Lions staff coached Manuel at the Senior Bowl last year. Downing worked with Manuel all week and got a good feel for his abilities as a signal caller. So there is at least some small measure of working together before that the two can work with as Downing joins the staff.

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Where does QB Lewis stand?

Posted by Chris Brown on December 31, 2013 – 11:54 am

Bills GM Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone both reiterated EJ Manuel is entrenched as their starting quarterback heading into 2014. Thad Lewis after a late preseason trade moved all the way up from the team’s practice squad to the backup role. With a year left on his contract, where does his performance in his five starts for the Bills leave him on the depth chart?

Whaley was asked specifically about Lewis and his hold on the backup role. Buffalo’s GM left the door open to an addition being made this offseason that could further upgrade the depth at the position.

“We are pleased with Thad. We brought him in on a trade; he came in and was very serviceable,” said Whaley. “We look forward to his further development, but again we will not hold ourselves back from picking a person that would help us take a winning step.”

Knowing the collective lack of experience at quarterback in 2013 for the Bills, which was compromised when Kevin Kolb was lost for the season, Buffalo seems likely to try and add a veteran quarterback to their ranks in the offseason when free agency opens in mid-March, especially if Kolb does not intend to resume his career in 2014.

The free agent pickings however, appear slim with the more noteworthy veteran QBs being Chad Henne and Josh McCown. Jay Cutler is set to become a free agent, but he’s not seen as a realistic option knowing he’ll be looking to start somewhere if it’s not going to be back in Chicago.

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Marrone: Lewis got the reps he needed

Posted by Chris Brown on December 27, 2013 – 1:05 pm

He didn’t get all the practice reps this week because the team was waiting to see if EJ Manuel’s knee injury would come around as the week progressed. So Manuel and Thad Lewis split practice reps on Wednesday and Thursday. But come Friday the reps with the first team offense were all given to Lewis in preparation for his fifth start Sunday as they decided Manuel would not be healthy enough to play in New England this weekend.

Marrone believes Lewis got enough time under center this week to be prepared for the Patriots.

“Before the base offense is in both players have a very good feel for that,” said Marrone. “As we go along during the week the reps do become limited especially today with red zone and increased third down reps. So after going through all the film and the process we got (Thad) all the reps he needed to be productive. I don’t feel we’re lacking anything from that aspect. He took all the reps (Friday).”

Lewis agreed with his head coach feeling he’s ready for Sunday.

“Preparation was great. I feel like I got an ample amount of reps to be able to go out and compete,” said Lewis. “It’s just another great opportunity to try to go out and make the best of it and help this team get a win.”

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Lewis to start at QB, Manuel doubtful

Posted by Chris Brown on December 27, 2013 – 12:10 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone announced after Friday’s practice that Thad Lewis will start Sunday. EJ Manuel is listed as doubtful for the game with a sprained LCL.

It’s a non-surgical injury for Manuel. More details at

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EJ and Lewis both take reps

Posted by Chris Brown on December 26, 2013 – 1:10 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone updated the situation at quarterback with EJ Manuel trying to return from a knee injury.

Marrone said both Manuel and Lewis practiced Thursday. Manuel was listed as a limited participant, but Marrone said he and Lewis both took starter reps during the team portion of practice.

More details later on

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EJ listed as limited

Posted by Chris Brown on December 26, 2013 – 10:10 am

Bills starting QB EJ Manuel practiced on Tuesday. On Wednesday the team did not practice, but had to list what the participation level would have been if the injured players had practiced. Manuel was listed as a limited participant.

Also listed as limited was WR Marquise Goodwin, who sustained a knee injury in last week’s game and did not return.

Four players were listed as non-participants.

RB Fred Jackson – ribs
DT Kyle Williams – achilles
S Aaron Williams – ribs
WR Stevie Johnson – not injury related

Backup QB Thad Lewis was also listed as a full participant with a left shoulder injury.

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Could good day by Lewis cement backup role?

Posted by Chris Brown on December 22, 2013 – 10:12 am

The Bills plan at backup quarterback entering the 2013 season was Kevin Kolb. With Kolb absent since the preseason Thad Lewis made the unlikely rise up the depth chart from the practice squad to assume the backup quarterback role. Now set to make his fourth start for the Bills today, could a solid performance cement his role as EJ Manuel’s backup QB? asked head coach Doug Marrone how effective Lewis has been this season in proving he can be a reliable backup QB to turn to when EJ Manuel is not healthy enough to play.

“That’s the evaluation (we’re going through) and Thad has done everything he needed to do in the classroom and on the practice field,” Marrone told “He’s a very bright kid. He has good arm talent. He has mobility so he has a lot of things that we’re looking for so again it’s a process with him as well as it is with all of our quarterbacks developing him.”

In assessing some of Lewis’ strengths Marrone pointed to Lewis’ arm and toughness.

“Thad can go back there and throw it. He really can and we all know he’s tough as hell,” Marrone said. “It’s a matter of working with him and make sure he’s quicker with his reads and his decision making. It’s also about the people around him. We always put a lot of pressure on the quarterback to make sure he gets it right. Thad will get it right, we need everyone around him to play up to that level.”

While those answers are not definitive when it comes to where Lewis will sit on this team’s depth chart next year, he is under contract through the 2014 season. It may take a full offseason and training camp for Lewis to prove he deserves the number two spot behind Manuel moving forward.

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Faith in Lewis

Posted by Chris Brown on December 19, 2013 – 9:13 am

While there’s no doubt that Bills players to a man would prefer to have EJ Manuel running Buffalo’s offense on Sunday, there has been a level of faith developed between Thad Lewis and the rest of the team.

After making three starts for the club and taking numerous shots in the chops in the first meeting with Miami, and some kill shots to the ribs in the road game at New Orleans one week later, Lewis has earned his stripes in Buffalo’s locker room. So going into a game with Lewis at quarterback is not an issue for the rest of the offense at all.

“He’s a good ballplayer for us. Really talented,” said Eric Wood. “Plays within himself, he knows the throws he can and can’t make. And he does a good job. He’s been impressive in practice since taking over those three games. Obviously, we want EJ out there, but we’re looking forward to letting Thad go out there and see do his thing, too.”

Lewis will make his fourth start this season on Sunday.

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Lewis not worried about playing in elements

Posted by Chris Brown on December 18, 2013 – 5:55 pm

Bills QB Thad Lewis, who will make his fourth start for the team this Sunday against Miami is a south Florida native himself. But he’s accustomed to playing in the elements up north this time of year.

Lewis has played in cold games before. The coldest was just last season in the final regular season game of the year for Cleveland at Pittsburgh.

“Last year against Pittsburgh I think it was 18 degrees and snowing,” he said. “So I’ve played in a game of this magnitude with the weather so I don’t think it’ll be a factor.

“The weather is not a factor when you’re playing. It’s just a factor when you’re standing there watching, like anybody in the stands. The weather won’t be a factor, you just go out and play as usual.”

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Bills dress just 2 QBs

Posted by Chris Brown on November 10, 2013 – 11:50 am

Bills head coach Doug Marrone hinted at it, but it’s official now. Buffalo is going into today’s game with just two quarterbacks.

It’s far from unusual, but EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis are the two active QBs. Jeff Tuel is inactive for the first time this season.

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How Lewis will assist EJ today

Posted by Chris Brown on November 10, 2013 – 10:40 am

The last time EJ Manuel started at quarterback for the Bills, Thad Lewis was on the practice squad. Now he’s Manuel’s backup and that will change the dynamic of how Lewis can help be an extra set of eyes for Manuel during the game today against the Steelers.

During Manuel’s first five starts this season, Lewis was up in the coaches’ booth and could not communicate directly with Manuel until halftime in the locker room. That won’t be the case now with Lewis moving to the sidelines.

“If I see anything I share the information like I always have,” Lewis told “Just being able to play a little bit and have some insight playing on the field and having played against Pittsburgh last year, just letting him know some of the things.”

Lewis’ first career NFL start came last season in the 2012 season finale for Cleveland at Pittsburgh. The Bills backup QB has also tried to impress upon Manuel that he doesn’t have to try to do more than what’s required of him within the game plan in his return to the lineup.

“Him coming back from injury I’m just telling him to continue being himself,” Lewis said. “Don’t try to overdo it. Obviously try to see you’re going against. I’ve got to be ready on the sidelines with my eyes as well. What I see from the sideline I can communicate it to him right away whereas I couldn’t sitting upstairs in the coaches’ booth.”

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Thad Lewis’ miserable week

Posted by Chris Brown on November 9, 2013 – 5:07 pm

After taking a half dozen rib shots and still finishing the game in Buffalo’s Week 8 loss at New Orleans, Thad Lewis’ body just could not respond in time to make him available for their game the following week against Kansas City. Lewis shared with one of the most miserable seven days he had as a pro leading up to the Chiefs game last week.

Lewis had terribly sore ribs, which was coupled with a bout with the stomach flu. Unfortunately for the Bills QB, that stomach flu only made his ribs feel worse.

“I’m going to tell you the worst part,” Lewis told “I caught the stomach flu, so I was throwing up with my sore ribs. It was not cool. I couldn’t sleep. I finally got a recliner sent to my room and slept on the recliner. Last week was really tough.”

One of the worst things when one has a rib injury is to cough or sneeze. It drives the pain or discomfort level through the roof for a several seconds when one is dealing with sore ribs. Last week for Lewis it happened early in the week.

“One day last week I was like, ‘Yeah I’m feeling better.’ I was walking up to breakfast and I said, ‘I’m going to take the stairs today.’ A few steps up I sneezed and it brought me down to my knees. I changed my mind and took the elevator. Sneezing hurts.”

What left Lewis the most disappointed was not recovering in time to be an option for head coach Doug Marrone and the offensive staff last Sunday against the Chiefs.

“I’m an ultra-competitive person and I wanted come back bad and help my team out (against the Chiefs), but I felt if I couldn’t be myself I would be doing those guys an injustice. Going out there if I couldn’t throw the ball the way I can throw it or run and protect myself… I just needed time. I just needed more time.”

Lewis said had the Saints game been on a Thursday night the week prior it would’ve given him enough time to recover to be ready for Kansas City 10 days later. But Lewis had just a week to bounce back and it just wasn’t enough.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 11-8

Posted by Chris Brown on November 8, 2013 – 12:51 pm

Sunday could be a game where the Steelers’ flaws match up well with the Bills’ strengths. We’ll see if Buffalo can end the Steelers’ six-game winning streak against the Bills in Pittsburgh. Here is your latest edition of questions on email at and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Thanks for all that you do for us Fans.

Can you enlighten me about a few of the recent hits the Bills have taken the past weeks? Thad (Lewis) got hit helmet to helmet against the Dolphins and popped his helmet off. Also, the Saints had a similar penalty as well.  Were there any fines accessed by the league?

I couldn’t find any info on these.

Secondly, what is the likelihood that Carpenter is kept on around next year vs Hopkins.

Gary in Indianapolis

CB: I do know that Miami LB Jelani Jenkins was fined for his hit to the tune of $15,750. I never did see if Saints S Chris White was fined. The fines are typically handed down by the league the Friday following the game. The NFL does this on purpose, figuring that the upcoming game carries greater priority and a fined hit from the previous week either A – won’t be asked about or B – will not get reported.

Most helmet to helmet hits on quarterbacks do draw fines even if incidental in nature.


2 – Chris,

I have been very happy with the direction the Bills have taken. The coaching staff, the trades, the free agents, the drafts… Even the trades and FAs they didn’t do. For example, as much as I love Andy Levitre as a player, we couldn’t pay him what Tennessee did.  The one move I question though was not trying to resign Rinehart.  Prior to him signing elsewhere I said to myself ‘I don’t like that we are losing Andy but at least we have Chad’.  He didn’t get a huge deal in SD, so it wasn’t money. Any input as to why they didn’t try to keep him?  Again, every other move they made makes total sense to me, except that one. As much as I loved Wilson he wasn’t worth him salary anymore. Fitz had to go, 8 mill for Andy was too much… But why not 2 mil for a guy who would be starting for us right now if he were here and healthy.

CB: I share your preference in trying to keep Chad Rinehart in the fold. It would not have taken big money to do it, but I have heard there was a desire on Rinehart’s part to follow now Bills former offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris. When D’Alessandris wound up on Mike McCoy’s coaching staff in San Diego it made the Chargers a top choice for Rinehart in free agency.


3 – Hey Chris,

Just out of curiosity, why isn’t Ronnie Wingo a wide receiver? Seems like he has more the measurables of a receiver at 6’3″ and 230 pounds than he does of a running back.


CB: He was used as a fullback in college at Arkansas. His build looks more like that of a tailback than a receiver. He is not a long and lanky 6’3”. He’s thickly built, which is probably why coaches over the years stuck him in the offensive backfield.


4 – Chris,

Thanks for your updates for the Bills fans in here southern Nevada. With coach Marrone’s mantra of accountability and availability and making the assumption that the quarterback is the most valuable piece on the chess board, do you think it necessary for the team to draft a quarterback early in next years draft. Manuel’s health issues have to be a major concern for the organization.

Thanks, Hank

Boulder City, NV

CB: While I don’t think your point is without merit, I think it is a premature conversation at this time. The personnel department and the coaching staff need to evaluate Manuel over these last seven games and make a determination on a host of things with respect to his game, the state of the offense and what positions need to be addressed the soonest.

NFL personnel departments often review the entire body of work of each and every player, then the offensive unit is assessed and positional needs are determined thereafter. Manuel has seven more games and that’s about half a season. A lot can change.


5 – Hi Chris,

Just wondering why Coach Marrone says that EJ has to be 110 percent healthy when CJ, Fred, Stevie and others are out there battling through injuries? I know the QB position is obviously important but so are some of the Bills other positions that are banged up. Just wondering the thought process as to why he has to be (Perfectly) healthy when other players don’t. I’m sure he has his reasons as a head coach, and I’m not questioning his decision making, just curious how it works.

Thanks, Tim in Niagara Canada

CB: I think the location of the injury on the outside of the right knee was such that until he was all the way back healthy he would not be able to firmly plant that back leg in the ground and drive off it effectively to throw the football. If the knee injury was going to compromise his throwing mechanics it’s going to impact the consistency of the passing game. So I think that’s where the difference lies in needing him at 100 percent.


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Marrone may only dress 2 QBs Sunday

Posted by Chris Brown on November 8, 2013 – 7:40 am

Doug Marrone is expecting to have both EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis available for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Provided they both continue on their current full participation path in practice there’s a good chance that third quarterback Jeff Tuel could be inactive Sunday.

“I probably get more concerned with linemen because there’s more positions,” said Marrone of his choices for his Sunday inactive list. “We go into the game with seven (linemen), but if someone maybe a little bit tweaked or injured, maybe you go into a game with eight.  I think the same at quarterback.  If someone is 100-percent healthy you may go in with three, but for limited number of people that are active… if I felt that someone was injured to the point that he could play, but if he gets a hit or a twist or a strain, for me I put him in there thinking I can at least get a half out of him. If I feel like that I usually add an extra guy.”

When asked if he’ll still dress all three quarterbacks, Marrone said he’s still weighing the options, but is leaning toward just keeping two active Sunday in Pittsburgh.

“That’s what I’ve been looking at,” he said. “I feel very good about EJ playing, I feel good about Thad and that’s why (Wednesday) I didn’t want to say this guy’s starting, this guy’s backing him up. I wanted to make sure they were healthy, they practice and how they feel after practice. I’m probably not ready to make that decision yet, but right now they both look good, and if they both look good them I’m only going to dress two.”

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