Inside The Bills

Fan Friday 7-12

Posted by Chris Brown on July 12, 2013 – 11:57 am

Training camp is closing in. Be sure to stay close to as we address the most pressing questions facing the team as they get set for the 2013 season under new head coach Doug Marrone. Here is the latest edition of questions from you the Bills fan from and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Hi Chris:

There were several players still rehabbing during the minicamp. What is their prognosis for the start of training camp? Kyle Williams, Leodis, Chris Hairston come to mind. What was Chris Hairston’s injury? Also, how is Zebrie Sanders doing with his rehab and where is he being slotted along the line? Finally, are Erik Pears, Mark Anderson and Torell Troup 100% yet?

Gerald in Rochester

CB: The following players are expected to be full go that were not 100 percent recovered from offseason rehabs and surgeries.

Kyle Williams, Leodis McKelvin, Chris Hairston, Lee Smith, Erik Pears, Scott Chandler and Marcus Easley.

Obviously, a setback in preparations for training camp could change things. To our knowledge Hairston had a lower body injury.

Mark Anderson participated on a limited basis in the spring. It’s expected that his workload at training camp will be incrementally increased as camp wears on.

Zebrie Sanders and Erik Pears did participate on a limited basis in the spring practices. All signs point to them being full go for training camp as well. They’ve both lined up exclusively at offensive tackle.

Torell Troup was full go in the spring and worked mainly with the second team at defensive tackle.

2 – Hey Chris,

Looking at the situation with J. Byrd this year & going back as far as Jabari Greer, & even as recent as Andy Levitre situation , the Bills have seemed to almost drag their feet when it comes to re-signing their future star players. Sometimes waiting till their contracts are up (like Greer & Levitre) to try & re-sign them we wind up losing said players that would be corner stones of the team for years to come.Yet others they sign way to prematurely (?)  Also if signed before, we may be able to get them at a better price rather than wait & let them test the market.

With all that being said, C.J. being the dynamic back that he is, also given the fact that everyone is thinking he will be even a bigger presence in the new offense, do you see the Bills possibly trying to extend him next year ? I think if we follow the same path taken in the past with other good players mentioned earlier, if he gets the chance to get anywhere near the FA market he’s gone for the big bucks !!

Thanks as always for your insight & keep up the great work we all appreciate you !

Mr. T from Ft. Myers via Nashville

CB: I think your point is an astute one. Of course said player has to be willing to negotiate a new deal and some players have agents that want to wait for the price tag to rise. Now while you’re right in mentioning the players that did get away, Buffalo has also taken a proactive approach in retaining some players long term by signing them to extensions sooner rather than later. Kyle Williams is one example. Kraig Urbik is another.

Your point with C.J. is well taken. I think another player that should merit this kind of ‘sign them early’ consideration is Alex Carrington. It’s clear that the defensive staff believes he could do big things in this defense, and he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal before he becomes unrestricted. Why not lock him up long term now before he performs like the Bills defensive coaches believe he will?

3 – Chris:

I was surprised that EJs contract was for 4 yrs instead of a 5-year contract that is permissable under the CBA terms. This means that his contract and Gilmores will expire the same year.  Do you have a reason why the team did not sign EJ for 5 years, considering the confidence they appear to have in him?   Conrad in Elma

CB: First of all, Gilmore signed a four-year rookie contract with the Bills and will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Manuel under his four-year deal will be a free agent after 2016.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, all NFL first-round draft picks can have four-year contracts with a non-negotiable fifth-year option, although not all will receive it. Since the new CBA went into effect four-year contracts for first-round picks have been the rule, not the exception.

Proof of that comes in the fact that of the first-round picks signed to this point, only Ziggy Ansah, the fourth overall pick to the Lions has a five-year deal among them.

In the grand scheme of things if Manuel pans out as expected, he’ll be re-signed at least a year before his rookie contract expires.

4 – Hey Chris —

Very simple question…Who would win in a foot race between CJ, TJ and Marquise Goodwin?

— James

CB: I think Goodwin has both of them beat.

5 – @ChrisBrownBills @buffalobills Do you expect a No1 Quarterback to be decided before the start of the season? #bills


CB: I’ll first let coach Marrone take a shot at answering this question since he addressed in a one-on-one interview with

“As a coach the earlier it can get done the better,” Marrone said. “I’d be a fool to sit here and say otherwise. The earlier the better, but again if you make decisions early and no one can see those decisions with the team then you wind up hurting your football team. So I’m hoping the decision and the timeline really relies on the players that are in competition and they have to separate themselves. And when you give people enough reps they will separate. At what point? I don’t know.”

Personally first-year coaches know that’s a position where a starter needs to be entrenched at least a couple of weeks before the regular season. I believe by the close of the second preseason game, the third preseason game at the latest we’ll have an answer from Marrone and his staff.


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Marrone’s O-line roots appeals to Sanders

Posted by Chris Brown on March 22, 2013 – 9:49 am

Bills OL Zebrie Sanders probably isn’t the only offensive lineman on the squad that feels this way, but knowing that new head coach Doug Marrone was a former offensive tackle himself is something that encourages Sanders.

“It’s good,” said Sanders. “I know that he has that inside kind of view on what he’s looking for in an offensive tackle and knows what we go through. I feel like that will help us from just the standpoint of him trying to understand the game and us trying to understand him. It gives us a deeper connection as as offensive line group with him.”

Sanders is coming off of double hip surgery that landed him on injured reserve as a rookie last season. He’s hoping to be full go by May OTAs.

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OL Sanders a guard option?

Posted by Chris Brown on March 22, 2013 – 8:16 am

With the free agent departures at guard this offseason for the Bills it has fans wondering what the options are at guard. Colin Brown was re-signed and Kraig Urbik is in the fold long term. Buffalo has some other young options on the roster, but one of the better ones could be last year’s fifth-round pick.

Buffalo was not a healthy team at offensive tackle last season, but that figures to be different this year. With Erik Pears finally healthy after a 2012 season marred by groin problems, he along with Cordy Glenn and Chris Hairston forming a pretty solid top 3 at the position. Sam Young saw time on the field last season as well, though most of it was as a fill-in guard, not his natural position at 6’7″. Matt Welch is still another candidate.

That leaves Chris Scott, David Snow and possibly Zebrie Sanders. In an interview with Sanders, who played tackle in college and in training camp last summer, admitted he hadn’t given guard much thought.

“It hasn’t crossed my mind,” Sanders told “I’ve been really focused on just getting back out there. I’ve always followed the mentality that the best five players will play and I’ll be happy just to be out there whether I’m tackle or guard, as long as I’m on the field. Wherever the coaches feel it’s best for me to play and wherever I can be the most help to the team I’ll be in that position.”

With all the tackle candidates on the roster and guard a bit thinner in numbers it wouldn’t be surprising if Sanders is lined up inside at times as the new coaching staff searches for viable options there.

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New non-participants

Posted by Chris Brown on August 28, 2012 – 3:58 pm

The Bills had a few new non-participants in practice Tuesday including a couple of offensive linemen.

Those who were sitting we’re as follows.

Terrence McGee
James Carmon
Zebrie Sanders
Erik Pears
Mark Anderson

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Hairston primed for opportunity

Posted by Chris Brown on July 6, 2012 – 9:29 am

Bills OT Chris Hairston knows second-round pick Cordy Glenn will be garnering all the attention at training camp with respect to the left tackle competition that will ensue when they report to St. John Fisher in a couple of weeks. Hairston doesn’t care about the hype. He’s focused on producing results knowing roles on an NFL club don’t get much bigger than starting left tackle.

“It’s definitely the biggest opportunity to date that I’ve had here with this organization,” Hairston told “I just want to take advantage of it fully and do everything I can to just be the right guy for that position. But all I can do is be the best player I can be and put it all out on the field and let those guys decide. I just work here you know?”

Hairston sounds as if he has the right mindset going into his competition with Glenn. Be focused and determined, but don’t get caught up in who is getting first and second team reps, and save your best for the preseason games.

“It’s a part of the business. It happens every year at every position,” said Hairston of seeing Cordy Glenn and Zebrie Sanders drafted. “I came in and there was a tackle here before me. Years and years have gone by with tackles being drafted. You just have to come in a work and do what I can do. I can only control what I can and that has nothing to do with upper management. I just play here. I’m ready to do what I can to make myself a player.”

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Zebrie’s mom a proud one

Posted by Chris Brown on May 13, 2012 – 8:52 am

On this Mother’s Day there are a lot of moms proud of their sons on Buffalo’s roster. Zebrie Sanders’ mom Ulanda is no different.

Ulanda Sanders organized family gatherings around Zebrie’s football games at Florida State and around draft weekend when Buffalo took Sanders in the fifth round.

“My mom was the one who introduced me to everything,” said Sanders, who was a boy scout and also played the viola in addition to his athletic pursuits. “She wanted all of her kids to be active.”

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More kudos for Bills draft

Posted by Chris Brown on May 1, 2012 – 8:38 am

The Bills have been given a good deal of credit for their 2012 draft haul of nine new players. Most liked Buffalo’s top two choices, but as the dust settles further on the draft, draft analysts are liking what they see beyond round 2.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay pointed out a pair of choices that he liked a lot that came after Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn when assessing the Bills rundown of selections.

Impact pick: WR T.J. Graham (third) — There won’t be huge expectations for Graham as a third-rounder, but the Bills like to spread teams out in the shotgun and he can contribute working from the slot. He brings the speed Buffalo needs, both as a vertical route-runner and after the catch, and that big-play ability makes up for his lack of ideal size. And with his 4.38-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Graham was a big-time return man in college and will contribute in that role in the NFL as well.

Intriguing pick: OT Zebrie Sanders (fifth) — Bills general manager Buddy Nix has done a great job finding starters in the third round or later in recent drafts, and Sanders is the most intriguing pick in that area from the 2012 class. He’s an experienced starter who has played on both the right and left sides and will make an easy transition from Florida State’s scheme to Buffalo’s zone-blocking system. He needs to get stronger overall, but he’s a smart, efficient tackle with long arms and good mobility, and going from a college system that emphasized cutting weight and gaining mobility to an NFL training program will help him immensely. Considering Buffalo’s struggles when it comes to finding tackles, getting one with a third-round grade in the fifth could prove to be a steal.

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Nix on why OT Sanders slid

Posted by Chris Brown on April 29, 2012 – 8:54 am

By many accounts Florida State OT Zebrie Sanders was a third-round prospect, but the Bills landed him in the middle of round five. What happened? Bills GM Buddy Nix had a theory.

“I’ll tell you why he was there I think, he had a bad Senior Bowl,” said Nix. “He goes to the Senior Bowl. He had tried to lose some weight. They worked him in there at guard and that kind of threw him off. But he didn’t have a good week. I think he scared everybody. He scared us some.

“You couldn’t get it out of your mind. We say all-star games never move a guy up or down, but once you see it it’s hard not to remember that. You go back to his body of work and he played good and he’s got some of that strength back.”

Buffalo sees Sanders as a swing tackle that can play on the left or right side. The Bills really fortified their offensive tackle depth as they now have five true offensive tackles on the roster in Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Sam Young, Cordy Glenn and Sanders.

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2 FSU Bills teammates again

Posted by Chris Brown on April 28, 2012 – 2:43 pm

Bills 4th-round pick Nigel Bradham and 5th-round pick Zebrie Sanders were teammates for four years, but playing on opposite sides of the ball they didn’t hang out all that much. That is until the Senior Bowl.

“We were roommates at the Senior Bowl,” said Sanders. “We have been together for a long time, but we were not really roommates in college. So I feel like just having a little more time to talk, we connected a lot more. He was always a good friend, but we connected a little bit more because we were roommates and talking. After every practice talking about what we did and what we can get better on.

“It is crazy we will be on the same team. Just looking at it like usual, he is a great player. I feel like he is going to help the team out a lot as well.”



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