Inside The Bills

Watching for Wildcat

Posted by Chris Brown on October 26, 2014 – 10:40 am

As the Bills coaching staff prepared for the Jets this week they had to account for one new element of the Jets’ offense, namely Percy Harvin. Although New York head coach Rex Ryan has been trying to portray a plan that Harvin will only have a small package of plays due to a lack of familiarity with the offense, Buffalo’s coaches can’t buy into that. In fact they’re preparing for some simplified football plays that took the league by storm a few years back.

With Harvin unlikely to be familiar with much of New York’s passing game in the week he’s been with the club, the Jets will try to put the ball in his hands at or near the line of scrimmage and hope he can make something happen in space. Bubble screens, jet sweeps and slip screens are just a few of the options. There’s another option as well. The Wildcat.

First re-introduced to the modern game by the University of Arkansas, it spread through the league like wildfire about five seasons ago. Harvin, who would likely serve as the “quarterback” on those plays can get on the edge of a formation quickly with his speed, especially if the defense flows to the running back on the read option.

The likelihood of seeing some Wildcat looks from the Jets is further enhanced by the presence of David Lee on New York’s staff. The Jets’ quarterbacks coach, who previously was Buffalo’s quarterbacks coach under Chan Gailey, was largely responsible for turning to the Wildcat formation while he was coaching at Arkansas when everyone adopted it for their own offense.

Knowing this, Buffalo’s defense worked against some Wildcat sets through the course of the practice week in the event that it’s a card the Jets choose to play with Harvin.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Wildcat will expand

Posted by Chris Brown on September 20, 2012 – 9:46 am

It didn’t have a whole lot of success in Week 2, but Buffalo’s Wildcat package with Brad Smith will continue to evolve and be put to use this season.

Head coach Chan Gailey even admitted the Wildcat package did not provide the desired results in the win over the Chiefs.

“The Wildcat looked like it was the first time we’d run it in a game, that’s what it looked like,” said Gailey. “It’s got rust all over it and we’ve got to polish it up, get it ready to go in the future and we’re going to continue to use it as many weeks as we see it being a viable part of our offense. So you’re going to see it some more. We’ve got to add some stuff to it, we’ve got to put in a few more things but I like where we’re heading with it.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-13

Posted by Chris Brown on July 13, 2012 – 11:15 am

Less than two weeks until training camp. Hard to believe it’s almost here. Let’s get to your questions from And keep sending them in. I usually get to everyone eventually.

1 – Hi Chris:
Do you think the Bills will carry seven wide receivers for the regular season? They are very deep here, and based on competition, I would say that maybe Naaman Roosevelt and Derek Session do not make the final roster. What are your thoughts? 

Tony, Ormond Beach, Fl
CB: I do not think they keep seven wide receivers. As I outlined in our Top 25 Questions until training camp series, I foresee the coaching staff keeping just five with a couple on the practice squad. I don’t dispute that it is a talented group, but in each of the past two years Chan Gailey and his staff have kept just five receivers. The main reason last year being that Brad Smith as the third quarterback can also serve as a wideout. This affords them some wiggle room at the position. Plus with talents like Kamar Aiken, who still has practice squad eligibility they can keep a reputable talent there if needed due to injury.

Six receivers (not counting Smith) is a remote possibility, but seven will never happen.

2 – Chris —

Hoping you might post this “question” (and your response) in your “Fan Friday” blog on  I continually find fellow Bills fans bemoaning the presence of DE Chris Kelsay on the roster.  Kelsay has become a lightning rod of sorts — many fans believe he has underperformed, they don’t understand why he was extended by Nix, and they feel as though he should be a roster cut.  I’ve grown tired of defending him myself, so I hoped you could give the perspective of the organization as to why they believe Kelsay is a valuable piece of the puzzle.

Thanks as always for your contributions,

Eric Haase
Durham, NC
Bills Season Ticket Holder since 1990

CB: I think the reason Chris Kelsay doesn’t garner the respect of some Bills fans is because they pigeon-holed him as a pass rusher. Kelsay is not a pass rusher by trade. He’s said it himself. He’s a well-rounded defensive end that when given an opportunity can log some sacks (see Week 16 vs. Denver last season). But his game is predicated on being good at everything. Not elite, but solid. His leadership both in his work ethic and what he says in that locker room carry weight as well.

The fans with whom I’ve spoke over the years that aren’t a big fan of Kelsay’s, almost all of them say he doesn’t get enough sacks. I’m confident the misperception of him as a pass rusher from the time he came to the team in 2003 is where a lot of this disappointment in his game is rooted.

3 – Hi Chris,               

It was fun getting updates on how the players are doing in the OTAs and being excited about the upcoming season.  One player I hadn’t heard anything about is Fendi Onobun.  How is he doing?  I thought it was great when we acquired him as there have been a number of athletic basketball players that have become really productive as tight ends.  Do you see him figuring into the Bill’s plans?  Thanks.


CB: Onobun is an athletic talent no question about that. The problem is the game is still very new to him coming from a college basketball background. As a result the nuances of the game do not come naturally to him yet. The coaching staff is eager to work with him and develop him, but I would expect him to reside on the practice squad this fall.

4 – Whats up Chris?

Thanks for the weekly insight, but I have a two part question with us drafting T.J. for the other side for Stevie how is he looking so far? Does look like he will have a chance to start opening day? & last I know Stevie gave Stephon his props & corner was 1 of our weaknesses last yr, so how does Stephon & Aarron look so far & could either have shutdown capabilities?
Thanx Chris          

Draper Jackson Memphis,TN

CB: T.J. has definitely made progress. He made more plays in the passing game as OTAs came to a close and ran into spring minicamp. That being said I want to see how he handles things when the pads go on in training camp. It’s a different game against physical corners when the pads are on and closer to what Graham can expect out there on Sundays.

In fact Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore would out muscle him for the ball in the spring. Now that they’ll have a chance to work normal contact on him within five yards it’ll be interesting to see how he handles all of it. Training camp and preseason will tell us a lot about what to expect.

Williams and Gilmore looked very good in spring practices. I think those two will only benefit when the pads go on knowing both have a physical style to their play on the corner. It wouldn’t shock me if both wound up being the starting outside corners come Week 1.

5 – Chris,

Last season, I felt that the plays called in the Bills wildcat formation were predictable and unimaginative. Now that we have added a more talented QB in Vince Young to the wildcat formation, do you foresee the Bills using this package more often in ’12 and with Young in there do you predict that he will be throwing the ball more from that position as well. I don’t have the numbers but it seemed that Brad Smith’s arm was never utilized in the wildcat thus giving the Bills’ opponents a lame, predictable and ineffective offense. Will Young provide the wildcat offense with more plays throwing the ball. Chan seemed to have no confidence in Brad Smith’s ability to throw the football.

Thanks for your diligent and thorough coverage as we impatiently wait for this anticipated season to begin. 

Schenectady, NY

CB: The reason the Bills Wildcat package looked so limited last year was because the Bills could not sign free agents until a week before training camp. It prevented the Bills from fully incorporating Brad Smith’s talents into the offense because without spring practices like OTAs and training camp there was no forum to experiment with plays and effectively evaluate what he can and cannot do. Chan often lamented that fact during training camp.

Now with a full offseason Smith will again be the featured Wildcat QB and it’s my contention that he will throw more. Here’s a quote from quarterbacks coach David Lee for you to chew on regarding what they were trying to get out of OTAs and minicamp with respect to Smith’s capabilities.

“Every day the script for him is at the end of the OTAs determine what he does best,” said Lee. “What are Brad’s four best passes from empty? What are his four best passes with six-man protections? We’re trying to find out what he does best right now.”

Presuming they gathered that information in the spring practices the coaches will now install what they feel gives them the best chance for success in that package during training camp and make use of it with Smith at the right times during the season. Make no mistake, Smith is the Wildcat QB.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

B. Smith #1 in Wildcat

Posted by Chris Brown on August 1, 2011 – 9:39 am

Though I wasn’t surprised to hear Bills head coach Chan Gailey say that Brad Smith is an ideal fit in the Wildcat package, I was surprised after checking out the archives of the stat crunchers and film reviewers at Pro Football Focus that Smith was the most productive Wildcat QB in the NFL last season.

Pro Football Focus ranked the top 5 QBs in the Wildcat based on productivity and Smith was ranked number one after he averaged 7.1 yards per carry out of that formation for the Jets last season. He had 30 carries for 212 yards and a touchdown according to PFF. When he handed off his backs got four yards per carry.

According to PFF’s report as the season went on the Jets used Smith in the Wildcat more and more, including the season finale against the Bills when he ripped off runs of 20 and 40 yards. Knowing he’s coming in late (hasn’t practice yet due to CBA) I’d expect Smith’s role to increase as the season wears on with the Bills as well.

And with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the backfield it’s reasonable to expect them to match the Jets four yards per carry average from their backs last season with Smith. 

To the Bills credit they were ranked just outside the top 5 with the Wildcat in the ‘Best of the Rest’ category. Buffalo used the Wildcat sparingly last season with only five such plays, but they averaged five yards per carry (5 car., 25 yards) according to PFF. I’d expect that number of snaps to go up significantly in 2011 with Smith on board.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Sparano expecting Bills Wildcat

Posted by Chris Brown on September 9, 2010 – 8:31 am

Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, whose team was the first in the league to re-introduce the Wildcat formation, is fully anticipating the possibility of seeing a version of that formation from the Bills on Sunday.

“First of all, I know that Chan’s history is one that he’s done whatever he has to do to move the football and he has utilized his personnel as best he can,” Sparano said. “That’s really what we did when we started the Wildcat thing. As far as them running it, I’ve seen everybody else running it so it’s not something new anymore. And most defenses are now having to prepare for it every day against their own team. Do I expect to see it this weekend? I expect to see a little bit of everything this weekend.”

Buffalo showed some Wildcat in the preseason game against Cincinnati with C.J. Spiller as the primary ball handler.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Gailey on the ‘Wildcat’ formation

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2010 – 6:44 pm

Bills head coach Chan Gailey was asked for his thoughts on the ‘Wildcat’ formation and while he had an interesting opinion on it, he’s not ruling it out as a possibility for Buffalo’s offense.

“Oh yeah. We consider everything,” he said. “We’re not so polished in one area that we can stay in that and beat people. We’re going to have to consider everything.”

With the stable of running backs the Bills have a lot of outside observers believe Buffalo could be very successful making use of it. Gailey was even reminded by one media member that in the Bills’ limited use of the Wildcat last season that Fred Jackson threw a touchdown pass to Lee Evans in Week 10 at Tennessee.

Gailey had a great response to that reminder, knowing he wasn’t here last season.

“I heard he threw a touchdown pass,” Gailey said. “I actually saw it on film, and he’s made sure I know that he’s thrown a touchdown pass. If we get to that somewhere down the line, then we’ll see how all that pans out.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Patriots also sprinkling in Wildcat

Posted by Chris Brown on November 3, 2008 – 3:14 pm

The Bills weren’t the only team to sprinkle a Wildcat formation type look into their game plan Sunday. New England also did on Sunday night as RB Kevin Faulk took a direct snap from center and completed a pass to Wes Welker, though it went for a two-yard loss.

Faulk said the Colts were prepared for it, and that the Pats would likely put it back on the shelf. In light of how well Buffalo defended the Wildcat in the game against the Dolphins, I’d be surprised if we see much of it from New England this coming week at Gillette Stadium.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Jauron admits Wildcat formation requires extra prep

Posted by Chris Brown on October 22, 2008 – 9:26 pm

The Dolphins’ Wildcat formation, which usually has Pennington split wide, two tight ends and two running backs, one of which is Ronnie Brown lined up as the QB, will force the Bills to study a bit longer this week to prepare for it Sunday.

“I think what they do is really good,” said Dick Jauron. “The reason why it’s successful is how they do it. They execute it well. It does take time. There’s no way around it. It’s why offenses, including us, do certain things. First of all, you like to execute and get plays out of it, which they have, obviously in games. It’s been very good to them. Secondly, it takes preparation time for your opponent. It’s been very good to them and we are having to put in time.”

Donte Whitner said the Dolphins have run a lot of different variations off of it so knowing their defensive keys are critical to defending it effectively.

Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown feels there are a lot more wrinkles that can be thrown at opponents out of that formation.

“It’s exciting,” said Brown. “It creates opporutninties to get more people on the field and get the ball in more people’s hands and kind of create mismatches. It’s something for the defense to worry about. It’s exciting to do that on this level.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Wildcat formation tutorial

Posted by Chris Brown on October 22, 2008 – 4:55 pm

For those that want a closer look at what the Dolphins do out of the Wildcat formation, they can check’s anatomy of a play, which took a closer look at what Miami tries to do out of that set after their Week 3 win at New England when they caught the Patriots completely off guard.

I don’t know how much the Dolphins are going to use it this week after Baltimore had answers for it last week, but it was a pretty informative video.

Posted in Inside the Bills
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