Bills wideouts have to work fast

Posted by Chris Brown on October 19, 2013 – 11:04 am

The Miami Dolphins aren’t lighting up the sack category thus far this season, but they’re respectable and they’re expected to have their top pass rusher back in the lineup Sunday as Cameron Wake is recovered from his sprained MCL. Obviously the offensive line will have a big hand in keeping Miami’s pass rushers at arm’s length from Thad Lewis, but Buffalo’s receivers will also need to work fast to give Lewis options to unload the ball.

“We’ve just got to get open and get open fast,” said Stevie Johnson, who returns to the lineup this week. “Their line and their linebackers are studs. As receivers, we got to get to where we’re supposed to be and make sure we have space for Thad to put the ball in there. Those linebackers and those linemen are coming.”

Buffalo has not won in Miami since 2010.


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Stevie’s favorite quality in Lewis

Posted by Chris Brown on October 19, 2013 – 9:24 am

Stevie Johnson will be back in the lineup Sunday, and after working with QB Thad Lewis all week in practice there is one quality in particular that he likes most in his new signal caller.

“Just the charisma that he has, making plays,” said Johnson. “He’s got that little ‘It’ factor about him. He walks around with big shoulders, head up. That’s what he’ll bring, that confidence, to the offense.”

Lewis’ two big touchdown drives to wipe out a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter last week also helped instill some confidence in the rest of the team that they should be alright offensively with Lewis at QB.

Johnson also said he felt a week of work with Lewis should have the two of them in sync in the passing game.

“I don’t think it will be a disadvantage, we had all week,” said Johnson. “It’s a lot of time until game time. I’m not really worried about any miscommunication between me and Thad, we’ll just go from there.”

 


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Stevie 80-85 percent

Posted by Chris Brown on October 16, 2013 – 5:33 pm

Stevie Johnson was limited in practice Wednesday as he returned from his lower back injury, but appeared to be moving well. Johnson said he’s still not quite 100 percent healthy.

“I’ve probably got a little bit more work, I’d probably say 80-percent, 85-percent,” said Johnson. “That’s good enough right now, and we’ll have treatments the rest of the week, so I’m good. I feel good about this Sunday.”

Johnson, who did not practice at all with Thad Lewis last week, believes the practices this week will be enough time and provide enough reps for them to be in sync come Sunday in Miami.

“It’s my first time working with him in the reps and it was good so far,” he said. “Everything was pretty much in stride.  We know it’s another level when you get on Sundays but this is where it starts.”


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Stevie, Lewis both practicing

Posted by Chris Brown on October 16, 2013 – 11:50 am

Head coach Doug Marrone was optimistic on Monday that Stevie Johnson and Thad Lewis would both be able to practice on Wednesday. That has proven to be the case as both are dressed and participating.

Johnson said Monday that he expects to be back in the lineup and really wanted to test his lower back ailment today (Wed.). Lewis’ foot sprain had him in a walking boot as recently as Monday, but he too is participating in practice.

We’ll see how they’re listed by head coach Doug Marrone post practice this afternoon.


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Will Miami blitz Lewis or not?

Posted by Chris Brown on October 15, 2013 – 3:23 pm

The Miami Dolphins do not have much game tape on Bills QB Thad Lewis this season. A half of a preseason game against Detroit and last week’s game against Cincinnati. One of the first decisions an opposing defense has to make in approaching a new QB is whether to blitz and pressure him a lot or just in certain situations. Lewis’ performance last week likely won’t help Miami in making that decision.

That’s because first and foremost Lewis wasn’t blitzed a lot by Cincinnati. According to ProFootballFocus Lewis was blitzed on just five of his 41 drop backs in the game last Sunday. On two of those five blitzes however, Lewis delivered touchdown passes of 22 and 40 yards to Scott Chandler and Marquise Goodwin. So 40 percent of the time last week when blitzed, Lewis not only delivered positive plays, but game changing ones.

That might give the Dolphins defensive staff pause when considering how and how often to blitz Lewis. Just ensuring they get pressure might be the route they take. Again according to PFF, on the 11 dropbacks in which Lewis was pressured, not blitzed (extra pass rushers) Lewis had four pass attempts (all incompletions), was sacked five times and scrambled out of trouble two other times.

Cincinnati accomplished this pressure, by initially rushing their ends up the field, then had them stunt back underneath to collapse the pocket.

“Hats off to their defensive line,” said Lewis of Cincinnati’s defensive front. “Any quarterback you have to step up in the pocket and the defensive linemen know that and they did a great job with (stopping) that, but I thought we adjusted well and got some plays run.”

Miami ranks 14th in opposing QB passer rating when blitzing (77.3).


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Can Flynn nail down game plan in a week?

Posted by Chris Brown on October 14, 2013 – 5:16 pm

Bills new QB Matt Flynn has a chance to be the backup quarterback to Thad Lewis Sunday in Miami if he can demonstrate a firm grasp of the offensive system to the point where he can capably execute this week’s game plan. Flynn wanted to get a better look at the scheme before deciding whether it’s something he could pull off in a week’s time.

“It’s hard to say, it really is,” said Flynn.  I haven’t dived into it yet. I’m about to start doing that. I think game plans are a lot
shorter than coming in and learning an entire playbook. Game plan-wise, I feel confident I can come in and get a pretty good feel for it fairly quickly. How quick that is, I don’t know. I’ll have a better feel for that later today or tomorrow.”

Flynn believes there is some carry over from the West Coast systems he used to play in with Green Bay and Seattle to Buffalo’s scheme, though with it being an up tempo scheme he thinks the language will be more concise with Buffalo’s system.

 


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Marrone thinks Lewis will play Sunday

Posted by Chris Brown on October 14, 2013 – 2:05 pm

Bills head coach Doug Marrone said that both the MRI and X-rays on Thad Lewis’ sprained foot came back negative and he is considered day to day.

“I expect him to be out at practice Wednesday and I feel good about him being able to play on Sunday,” said Marrone.


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Report: FA QB Matt Flynn in Buffalo

Posted by Chris Brown on October 13, 2013 – 5:49 pm

For the second straight game the Bills suffered an injury at the quarterback position as Thad Lewis has a sprained foot. Reports of free agent QB Matt Flynn’s presence in Buffalo is fueling speculation that the Bills are looking for more alternatives at the position.

A Minnesota Wild hockey beat writer reported that he spotted Flynn on his plane to Buffalo Sunday.

 

The Bills saw QB Thad Lewis finish Sunday’s game despite a foot injury that by Lewis’ description did not improve as the game wore on. Lewis said x-rays were negative and that it’s just a sprain, but his foot was in an immobilizer boot as he left Ralph Wilson Stadium.

 


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QB Lewis says foot just sprained

Posted by Chris Brown on October 13, 2013 – 5:19 pm

Bills quarterback Thad Lewis left the stadium with his foot in a walking boot but fortunately x-rays were negative.

“It’s just a sprain,” said Lewis. “The doctors said the x-rays looked good. So I should be alright.”


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Unknown QBs have succeeded vs. Bengals

Posted by Chris Brown on October 13, 2013 – 7:51 am

It’s a bit of a strange quirk for the Cincinnati Bengals, not only this season, but in past seasons as well. In 2013 they’ve beaten quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. On the other hand they lost to Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer in his first NFL start. And the list for Cincinnati doesn’t end there.

As ESPN Coley Harvey points out Cincinnati tends to struggle against the unknown quarterbacks, who have had spot starts due to injury.

Bruce Gradkowski in 2006 and 2009.
Shaun Hill in 2007.
T.J. Yates in 2011.
Brian Hoyer in 2013.

What’s encouraging for the Bills is Gradkowski in both his victories and Hill did not throw for more than 200 yards in their three games against Cincinnati and still won.

Thad Lewis with a good run game today shouldn’t have to light it up today either.


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A look at Thad Lewis’ strengths

Posted by Chris Brown on October 12, 2013 – 2:56 pm

By now everyone knows Thad Lewis’ stat line for his only NFL start at Pittsburgh in last year’s season finale for the Cleveland Browns. 22-32 passing for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But what did Lewis prove he could do well? Buffalobills.com took a look.

Browns head coach at the time, Pat Shurmur, used a lot of play action in the game even though the Cleveland rushing attack did not have much success. Anything to hold off a formidable pass rush even for a millisecond. Lewis worked well off play action particularly on passes over the middle.

More often than not Lewis’ throws were on target as evidenced by his 68 percent completion percentage. He seems especially sharp on seam throws to the tight end Ben Watson in the game.

He also was able to throw the 10 to 12 yard outs on a line to the sideline and put it on the player’s chest to effectively move the chains for Cleveland. In the short to intermediate areas he was pretty sharp as it was evident the Browns did not want to take too many chances in the passing game with Lewis.

On his touchdown pass he extended the play by rolling out of the pocket to his left and then found Greg Little in the back of the end zone. Not an easy throw for a right-handed QB. All in all it was an encouraging performance for him especially in a hostile road environment.

On Sunday he’ll have a home crowd behind him. What will be interesting is if Buffalo takes a similar approach with Lewis, focusing on high percentage throws in the short to intermediate areas of the field. We’re also curious to see if the Bills choose to have him make plays on the move with some designed bootlegs and rollouts.


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Marrone convinced QB Lewis is ready

Posted by Chris Brown on October 11, 2013 – 10:44 am

He’s only had two practices with the first team offense, but head coach Doug Marrone is convinced that QB Thad Lewis is ready for his big opportunity this Sunday against Cincinnati.

Making his weekly appearance on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550 this morning, Marrone discussed how opportunities like this do not come along often and how Lewis is ready to seize it.

“There’s no doubt that Thad is ready,” said Marrone. “Some guys they have to understand this in this profession. This is a great opportunity. In this league sometimes you don’t get the opportunity. When you have this opportunity whether it’s Thad Lewis or anybody else that’s what you have to do, take advantage of it. And in most cases it’s a one shot deal. Some people can handle that because there is pressure to that and some people can’t. The ones that can handle it have a chance to play in this league, the ones that can’t aren’t going to be able to play.”


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Changes for rest of offense with Lewis in

Posted by Chris Brown on October 10, 2013 – 9:21 am

Anytime a new quarterback enters the starting lineup there is an adjustment to be made by the other 10 players on offense, especially when the new signal caller hasn’t had a lot of snaps with the first unit. Such is the case for the Bills this week with Thad Lewis now in at quarterback. Here is where some of the changes lie for the other 10 on Buffalo’s offensive unit.

“Major things that we’ll just have to get used to are just snap counts and things like that. The way he calls the cadence, how he takes control of the no-huddle,” said Fred Jackson. “As far as play calling I don’t see much changing at all. We’ll just have to do whatever we can to make him comfortable. Do whatever we can as skill positions to make his job easier.”

For Jackson and C.J. Spiller that means providing an effective ground game for Lewis to work off of with play action passing and some deep shots here and there.

If we can get the running game started early it’ll take a lot of pressure off of him. Take a lot of pressure off our receivers and make their job easy,” Jackson said. “That’s what we want to get done. That’s what myself, C.J. (Spiller), the offensive line, what we’re going to pride ourselves on is going out and being able to get this running game going early and taking a lot of pressure off of those guys.”

Of course lining up with an unproven quarterback, Jackson and Spiller are expecting a lot of eight man fronts from the Bengals on Sunday. But that’s much of what they’ve seen the past few games with a rookie QB in the lineup anyway.

It’ll be the same situation,” said Jackson. “They’re going to do everything they can to get us out of the running game and make him beat them. I know that’s the challenge he’s looking forward to. It’s a challenge we’re looking forward to. To be able to establish that running game like we’ve been able to thus far this year and hopefully we can continue to do that and get better at doing it.”

 


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Lewis: I’ll have timing down with WRs

Posted by Chris Brown on October 9, 2013 – 10:12 pm

One of the bigger challenges for a new quarterback stepping into the starting lineup is nailing down his timing in the passing game with his receiving targets. As far as Thad Lewis is concerned he’ll be in sync with his receiving corps come Sunday.

“It’s easy when you practice,” said Lewis. “Now if I had to come in, like the three days I had in preseason, and just had to play and didn’t get any full speed reps, that would be difficult. But with three days of practice, you pretty much get the timing with the guys and (Wednesday) we had a good day.”

The one receiver with whom Lewis will get only two days (Friday, Saturday) of work with in practice is Stevie Johnson. Johnson won’t return from a family funeral in his native California until Friday.


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Never nervous Lewis

Posted by Chris Brown on October 9, 2013 – 6:12 pm

For a quarterback with just one start on his NFL resume, Sunday’s game against the Bengals might seem a bit daunting, but Bills QB Thad Lewis is not the least bit nervous about his first start with Buffalo.

“No nerves at all,” said Lewis. “I’ve done if before. I’m still playing football. It’s not like anything changed. I’m doing the same thing I’ve done, I’m just able to play this Sunday.”

Bills head coach Doug Marrone indicated earlier this week that there are no restrictions with Lewis concerning the playbook and installing a game plan this week. Lewis confirmed Marrone’s statement.

“My command of this offense is high, it’s not like I’m going in there and coach says we can’t run this because you can’t do
it,” said Lewis. “He’s putting in the game plan, I’m putting in the time I need to to prepare to run this game plan, and we’re going to run it.”


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Prepping from the practice squad

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 1:08 pm

Some might not see the practice squad as a great launching pad to a starting role, but Thad Lewis will have the chance to prove it can be. Here’s what he did to stay prepared for just the opportunity that sits in his lap for this Sunday.

“I have a great sense of the game plan, a great grasp of it,” said Lewis. “Every week you don’t just sit on the practice squad and don’t prepare as if you’re the starter. That’s your job. This is what you’re supposed to do. You have to learn and know the things you need to do. I’ve been doing that every week so it’ll be a regular week. I just get a chance to start this Sunday.”

As Eric Wood pointed out running the scout team every week in practice, Lewis, even though he wasn’t running Buffalo’s offensive plays still had more of a chance to impress the coaching staff and progress by getting more snaps during the week than backup Jeff Tuel.

“Thad has looked really good in practice. Your practice squad quarterbacks are generally going to get more reps throughout the year than your backup because he’s running the other team’s offense,” Wood said. “I think they liked a lot of what they saw in Thad throughout the season in the show team reps.”


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How Lewis intends to lead

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 11:35 am

He hasn’t called a play in the huddle or thrown a pass in a regular season game with his Bills teammates. So how will he be an effective leader without any play to back up his words?

“It’s not difficult,” said Lewis. “You go out here on the practice field and you show everybody you know what to do. The mike points, the plays, you know the protection and guys feel comfortable with that. As long as I have three days to practice and
jell together and get timing with the wide receivers, but as long as you know what you’re doing guys will rally behind you.”

“He’s stepping into a pretty stable offense,” said Eric Wood. “We’ve had some injuries and stuff, but for the most part everyone has played. There are not a lot of moving parts around him, which will be good and he’s got reps within this offense before. I don’t think there’s as much chaos as people think. We just conducted a pretty extensive walk through and no mental errors and putting the ball in the right places.”


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Bengals seeking tape on QB Lewis

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 10:51 am

The Bills defensive staff was working hard to scrounge up tape on last week’s opposing QB Brian Hoyer. With just two games in Cleveland’s offense, Mike Pettine had to dig a little deeper for Hoyer footage. The Cincinnati Bengals will be doing much the same this week as they try to prepare for Bills QB Thad Lewis.

Cincinnati DC Mike Zimmer has already been through the process before having had to prepare for Hoyer the week prior to the Bills game against the Browns, but Cincinnati lost to Cleveland two weeks ago.

The Bengals coaches may also lean on Lewis’ former college teammate, LB Vincent Rey, who is on the Cincinnati roster.

Either way Lewis might be able to pull a few surprises on Cincinnati’s productive defense.


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8 man fronts expected by Bills offense

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 10:35 am

With Thad Lewis now starting at quarterback for the Bills, Buffalo’s offense is fully expecting opposing defenses to put eight men in the box in an all out effort to stop the run. Their intent is to put the game on Lewis to win for Buffalo, but Eric Wood says the Bills won’t be dissuaded from running the ball by eight-man fronts.

“You’ve got to throw them out of it or you have to be effective running the ball,” Wood said. “Our backs have done a great job of making people miss and C.J. (Spiller) showed last week if you put that safety down there and he misfits on a hole that’s a big time play.

“I like Adrian Peterson’s theory on eight and nine man fronts from last year. I thought his theory was great. If he sees an eight or nine-man front he’s thinking home-run because all he has to do is get past the second level and he’s out the gate as opposed to maybe the third level. He credited them loading the box to a lot of his big runs last year. I think that’s the mindset you have to have as a running back. See it as a challenge, almost a compliment that they have to put an extra guy in there and then you try to smoke that safety.”


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Lewis’ measure of comfort with read option

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2013 – 9:45 am

One of the reasons former practice squad QB Thad Lewis was elevated to the role of starting quarterback was due in part to his athleticism and the ability to extend plays and scramble should the pocket break down. Lewis is considered a viable read option signal caller and the quarterback told the John Murphy Show that he’s comfortable running it.

“Just an extra added dimension just to make the defense practice for something else,” said Lewis. “I think it’s great and it gives us an extra opportunity to run the football a little more even if I have to use my legs. Whatever is called the quarterback touches the ball every play so you have to be a playmaker and make it work. I think the read option presents some type of trouble to the defense and you can keep them off balance with it so I think it fits well in this offense.”


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