Buffalo Bills

Bills NFL Team Column
By Bruce Schubert
2009 NFL Draft Review

16 January 2010

Buffalo Bills:  Looking for a new coach           

The Buffalo Bills made a leadership change with the promotion of Buddy Nix as the General Manager.  Ultimately Buddy Nix is a football man all the way through.  From 93 to 2000 Nix was a scout for Buffalo.  He made the move with John Butler and AJ Smith to San Diego in 2000.  He was promoted to Assistant GM in 2001 and then returned to the Bills in 2009.  His talent evaluation abilities and straight forward approach to everything he says and does will be an asset to a Bills team that needs sound direction and NOT marketing fluff. 

The Buffalo Bills quest for a new side line leader includes plenty of rumors.  What direction Nix will take with this decision isn’t clear, but he has stated that he prefers a head coach with experience in the top position.  A few of the more fun tidbits follow:

Shortly after the Bills’ let Dick Jauron go the rumors started that the Buffalo Bills made contact with Bill Cowher.  Bill Cowher’s reply was that he would wait for the end of the season to evaluate all options and decide if we wanted to come back.  Some media outlets took this as a denial from Bill Cowher of the Buffalo Bills.  However the story wasn’t over. 

On 4-Jan, ESPN reported that a ‘stealth’ meeting took place between Ralph Wilson Jr. (Bills Owner), Russ Brandon (Bills Team President) and Bill Cowher the previous week.  Tuesday, 5-Jan it was reported by Joe Logan of EastAurora.org that Cowher was to be in Buffalo on that day (5-Jan).  Several sites picked this up as it was Joe Logan who broke the story of Buffalo releasing their entire coaching staff giving him some credibility.  A variety of sites took this information and attempted to shoot a hole in it through the confirmation of Cowher’s location, but nothing was confirmed.  Wednesday, 6-Jan Joe Logan posted a tweet stating that Cowher is ‘OK’ with the Bills salary offer, but wanted a commitment from Russ Brandon regarding the money that would be available to sign players.

Is there more to come from Cowher with the Bills?  Jerome Bettis has suggested that Cowher will wait to coach the NY Giants, but who knows when that opportunity could come.  Therefore the Bills continue to be the only option if he wants to coach this year in the NFL.  While this appears to mean the Bills have some leverage, the Bills really need a coach to bring some legitimacy to the team.  Cowher brings that day one and Ralph Wilson’s age ultimately has a limited number of days remaining to improve the team he has dedicated his life to.  Bottom Line:  Get it down and bring in Cowher.

Should the Bills NOT land Cowher, other options remain and the Bills continue to schedule / conduct interviews.  The list includes:

- Perry Fewell (Bills Defensive Coordinator / Interim Head Coach) has interviewed with the Bills, but it’s unclear when this interview took place.  Ultimately Fewell’s time as interim head coach essentially served as his best chance to impress and earn the job.  He was impressive in motivating players and making due with an injury plagued roster, but the Bills truly want a new direction.  As of 14-Jan, Perry Fewell has agreed to become the Giants defensive coordinator.
- 13-Jan:  The Bills made a request to interview Brian Schottenheimer (Jets Offensive Coordinator) and were granted permission by the Jets however Schottenheimer has decided he does NOT want to interview with the Bills.  At least for now, Schottenheimer is passing on an opportunity to be a head coach.
- 14-Jan:  The Bills were scheduled to interview Leslie Frazier (Vikings Defensive Coordinator).  No word yet on how that interview went.
- It is rumored that the Bills are interested in interviewing Ron Rivera (Chargers Defensive Coordinator) and Brian Billick (Former Ravens Head Coach), but so far nothing.
- A few others remain rumored on various sites, but nothing so far.  Included on this list:  Jon Gruden, Marty Schottenheimer who has said he is retired – but the rumor hasn’t quit, Jim Haslett, and Russ Grimm.

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24 December 2009

Buffalo Bills Article:  Catching Up On Where the Bills are

While it’s true enough that the Buffalo Bills will NOT see the playoff this season, it remains interesting to evaluate what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong.  Additionally, there are interesting decisions ahead for this team that hopefully pay dividends in the form of a return to greatness. 

The past few weeks have seen the Bills give up chunks of yardage on the ground, regularly fail to score points, and field an anemic passing game while struggling on the offensive front.  A few interesting stats and points from the past few weeks include:

- @ Jacksonville:  Buffalo’s running game was non-existent, but the passing attacked was led by Fitzpatrick and performed relatively well with 297 passing yards, however two interceptions didn’t help.  Positively, Buffalo held Jacksonville’s significant running attack in check for a total of 102 yards.  Jacksonville 18, Buffalo 15

- Dolphins @ Buffalo:  Ryan Fitzpatrick was solid as was Fred Jackson, but it was the defense that stepped up against the pass with three picks.  Buffalo 31, Miami 14

- Jets @ Buffalo:  The offense was pathetic producing a total of 194 yards.  This was among the least impressive games Buffalo put together this year.  While Buffalo did manage 5 sacks no turnovers were produced.  Jets 19, Buffalo 13

- @ KC:  Buffalo’s passing was a complete disappointment for 86 yards.  If it wasn’t for the running game putting up 200 yards Buffalo surely would have lost.  Buffalo 16, KC 10.

- New England @ Buffalo:  While Buffalo held Brady to 115 yards and picked him once, the run defense disappointed allowing 109 yards.  Ultimately it was Buffalo’s offense that couldn’t pass protect and therefore couldn’t maintain a drive that lost this game.  Buffalo allowed six sacks, but it was worse than that.  New England 17, Buffalo 10

Buffalo’s search for their next coach continues:

- Mike Shanahan visited Buffalo although he left without a contract.  It has been reported that he wants to see his other options.  A number of blogs have taken this as he would never be interested in Buffalo, but I’m NOT so sure this is true.  Shanahan saw his most success in the small market of Denver which is also a cold weather outdoor team.  Additionally, Shanahan definitely wants control and would likely prefer to avoid over bearing owners such as those in Dallas or Washington.  Add to this the rumor that Ralph Wilson is willing to pay up to $10 Million per season and why wouldn’t Shanahan consider the Bills?  

- Marty Schottenheimer was reportedly contacted by an NFL team (potentially Buffalo), but is happy being retired.  We’ll see, but lots of us consider him an excellent fit for this opportunity.

- Bill Cowher remains among the most sought after coaches in football.  Buffalo absolutely has interest, but Cowher is reportedly going to wait until the end of the season to look, listen and decide.  Ultimately Cowher can NOT only name his price, but also his place.  It has long been thought that Cowher would love to go to Carolina as it would keep him close to his family.  This rumor alone puts enormous pressure on John Fox (current Carolina Head Coach) to perform.  Without a playoff birth and possibly even more success Carolina would be hard pressed to pass on Cowher. 

- Jim Haslet is another coach of interest, but likely a B candidate for most teams.  His name has come up on several web sites / blogs, but it’s unclear if contact has been made.  Haslet’s link to Buffalo, as a past linebacker for the Bills, would surely make him a fan favorite.

- Jon Gruden is certainly a name that comes up in blogs, but I have yet to see a credible source report Gruden was contacted or has visited One Bills Drive. Plus he just signed a lucrative, long term extension to stay on at Monday Night Football.

In the end, when you look at teams searching for a new coach (or teams thought to be on their way to joining the search) they each have roster strengths and weakness.  The Bills are no exception.  Talent the new coach will inherit on the Bills roster includes wide receiver Lee Evans, the option of wide receiver Terrell Owens, Line Backers Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell, defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and Kyle Williams, running backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, defensive end Aaron Schobel, punter Brian Moorman, corner backs Terrence McGee, Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin (Returning from IR) and safeties George Wilson, Jairus Byrd (Potential rookie of the year considering he currently lead the NFL in interceptions) and Donte Whitner. 

The weakness of the current Bills roster also point to areas most likely to be addressed in the off season depending on several things including the coach selected, their style or philosophies in offense and defense as well as the schemes employed.  All of these being considered look for Buffalo to avoid the following as their depth is either very good or at least no where near their obvious needs list:

- Running back:  Jackson and Lynch are a great combo and clearly not a priority to improve.  However, it’s hard to make an argument that they have been successful in 2009.  From my perspective the blame lies more on the offensive line and perhaps the scheme.

- Defensive back including both corner and safety:  Perhaps Buffalo’s deepest area including several pro bowl caliber performers.

- Wide receiver:  This will likely be avoided, but it could depend on the move made with TO and the contribution expected from James Hardy (Still in the process of returning from injury).

Where does Buffalo make an effort to improve via free agency and the draft?  Definitely expect the focus to include:

- Offensive tackle:  Buffalo’s o-line play has regularly been poor, contributing to one of the worst offenses in the NFL.  The drafting of Wood and Levitre last year to shore up the guard positions as well as the free agent acquisition of Hangartner to play center were solid, but the corner stones need a major upgrade.  Bell performed ok as a left tackle and he has potential, but his loss to IR at least brings the need that much closer to focus.  Look for Buffalo to address tackle as a priority perhaps in both free agency and early in the draft.

- Linebacker:  Buffalo needs more size at linebacker as well as a true standout linebacker.  Someone to dominate the game in both run and pass support.  This type of multi-purpose player has been lacking in Buffalo since Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher were in their prime. 

- Defensive Tackle:  Buffalo’s run defense is horrible.  Marcus Stroud has been a good player, but certainly NOT a dominant player week in and week out.  Kyle Williams falls in a similar category.  This too depends on the scheme going forward, but perhaps a true BIG man to hold down the middle of the line would make sense for Buffalo and allow Stroud and Williams to flourish once again.  While yes this position is a possibility for the draft, it was rumored prior to the trade deadline that Kansas City Defensive Tackle Glenn Dorsey was available as he didn’t fit their plans going forward.  Dorsey has the size to be a stout run defender and allow the linebackers to run free.  Imagine Dorsey next to Stroud and Buffalo still managing to add a young impact linebacker.  I know the o-line needs help, but the defense could be very good quickly.

- Quarterback:  I have consistently defended the play of quarterback in buffalo as reliant on better o-line play.  However, with Buffalo staring at a possible top 10 or better pick in the draft it is possible that the new regime would like to start over with their own franchise QB.  The question is, is there one available this year?  Surely the rest of the gang at NFL Draft Dog will debate this topic endlessly between now and the draft.

So what’s going to happen?  Expect Buffalo to address two of the first three needs while quarterback waits. 

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18 November 2009

Bills Changing Directions – Jauron Fired.

The Buffalo Bills have made the move to change directions in firing head coach Dick Jauron.  Perry Fewell (Defensive Coordinator) will take over as interim head coach and the Bills will go into the off season with a decision to make.  Does Fewell remain the head coach or do they go shopping?

Clearly an outstanding opportunity for Fewell to state his case for the job is directly ahead with a good showing and marked improvement.  Fewell’s defense is NOT statistically an impressive unit, but time and again they have shown themselves to keep Buffalo competitive (See last article).  Additionally, the defensive coordinator finds ways to make due while consistently missing players to injury.

Jauron leaves Buffalo with an overall record of 24-33 including three straight 7-9 seasons and opening 2009 with a 3-6 mark.  While the Bills’ players clearly support Jauron and appear to like the coach, his lack of success is the end of him.  If the Bills miss the playoffs this season it will be their 10th consecutive season without a playoff birth.

If Fewell doesn’t make a significant improvement or the Bills simply want to start fresh there will clearly be a number of coaches worthy of discussion including the following list. 
-  Bill Cowher:  How do you argue with making a run at this guy and giving him all the control he wants?  He can be coach, GM, trainer, OC, DC, whatever he wants…Doubtful he’ll see Buffalo as a dream come true, but I would offer him the highest contract in NFL history for a head coach and give him control.  Since this is unlikely, we’ll continue the list.
-  Jon Gruden:  Chuckie’s energy and passion particularly for offense is sorely lacking in Buffalo.  No doubt that Buffalo needs to find some way of creating a spark on offense, but to get there some improvement is needed including an improved o-line.

- Brian Billick:  Lots of success in Baltimore, but I’m not certain I’m sold on him.

- Mike Shanahan:  Built a rock sold program in Denver that performed year after year in cold weather for a decade.  He’s not a passionate coach and his success was outstanding.

- Dennis Green:   He is who we think he is!  If nothing else, he’s more animated than Jauron and could earn Buffalo some Coors Light commercials!

- Jim Fassel:  Pass

- Dick Vermeil:  Tearful press conferences.  I’m NOT sure we can take that, but he’s been successful.

- Tony Dungy:  Probably done, but the players really work for him.

- Dan Reeves:  Better choices on this list.

- Jerry Johnson:  Better off in the studio since his hair stays perfect that way.  However, Jimmy Johnson is committed to the run and that type of offense would be great in Buffalo.

- Jim Haslett:  Played in Buffalo and would be welcomed by the fans.  In the end, he might be the choice of a lot of fans, but he wasn’t tremendously successful in New Orleans.  His passion would certainly be welcomed.

- Plenty of o-coordinators and d-coordinators will be discussed, but be careful here.  Yes, there are successful examples in their first year, see Josh McDaniels in Denver, but there are plenty of failures too:  Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey…

- College Coaches?  Tough to make the jump.

I stand by my previous choice:  Marty Schottenheimer:  Marty is an outstanding motivator who brings passion and solid coaching of basics.  I know, I know, I know – he hasn’t been successful in the playoffs, but with Buffalo going on a decade of futility we are NOT going to make too much fun of him for this. 

Schottenheimer runs the offense around a solid running game (See San Diego, Kansas City and Cleveland when Marty was in charge).  Additionally, Marty builds attack style defenses that do NOT wait for the offense to go after them; instead it’s his intent to dictate to the offense (Again see San Diego, Kansas City, Cleveland).  Gotta love this!  Both a solid run game and dominating defenses work well in poor weather cities. 

Oh by the way, the Bills will play a competitive game this weekend at Jacksonville, but will likely fall as again they struggle to control the run game. 

Prediction:  Jacksonville:  21, Buffalo 10.  Go Bills!

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12 November 2009

Buffalo Bills Article:  News and Notes of the Bye Week

The Buffalo Bills had their bye week in week 9 and now prepare to start the second half of the season with a week 10 contest on the road against the Tennessee Titans.  The real Titans have apparently returned with Chris Johnson running like a man possessed and Vince Young back at quarterback.  Buffalo’s inability to produce points could get a lift against a poor pass defense and the return of Trent Edwards to quarterback for Buffalo.  The key to this game is whether or NOT Buffalo and contain the running game of the Titans.  Prediction:  Buffalo 17  Tennessee 13.

Trent Edwards has missed two complete games and most of the game he was injured in after sustaining a concussion in a week 6 win over the Jets.  Honestly the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick has NOT been spectacular, but neither has Edwards.  Buffalo could really use solid play from their quarterback to help setup a failing run game as well as take some pressure off an offensive line that continues to struggle.  Ultimately the needed fixes will NOT happen this week or even this season, but Edwards standing in and delivering strikes would go a long way to helping the offense.  Will he be a bit gun shy, we’ll see…

The much anticipated return of James Hardy to the wide receiving core of the Bills is upon us.  Hardy was added to the roster with Xavier Omon (RB) released to make room.  Hardy and Terrell Owens have a good relationship that will hopeful assist the young wideout in his continued growth.  James has the talent and work ethic to be a star in the NFL.  Considering the depth the Bills have at wide receiver it was a little surprising that a running back was released.  Ultimately, it appears Buffalo is NOT ready to settle for getting nothing for Roscoe Parrish.

Parrish continues to be the odd man out.  He has never been used as a primary wide receiver, but now his punt return skills are shelved too.  Ultimately this appears to be the result of poor special teams during the first few games including a couple of costly turn overs by Parrish in the 6-3 loss to the Browns in week 5.  Interestingly enough Parrish remains on the roster and will likely eventually find his way back on the field for special teams duty.  You might be asking, why?  In a recent Sports Illustrated poll, 296 players were asked who was the most dangerous return man in the NFL and Parrish still finished 5th.  In 2008 / 2007 respectively, Parrish average 15.3 / 16.3 yards per return on 21 / 27 attempts.

Considering production, the Buffalo Defense is certainly better than their current 25th ranking (by yards allowed per game).  Ultimately, the inability of the offense to sustain a drive or put any points on the boards consistently leaves the defense in poor field position, poor standing in time of possession and having to play against offenses that never feel the pressure to keep up.  All this being said, consider the following:
- Week one, Patriots:  Buffalo held New England to 73 yards rushing.  New England was saved by a costly special teams turnover by Leodis McKelvin.  Throughout the game the Buffalo D-line dominated.

- Week two, Buccaneers:  Buffalo held the Bucs to 57 yards rushing and essentially dominated the game.
- Week three, Saints: Buffalo held Drew Brees to a 16/29 day for 173 yards.  Buffalo was leading in the fourth quarter, but the inability of Buffalo’s offense ultimately gave the Saints too many chances.
- Week four, Dolphins:  Ok the Bills were killed in this one.
- Week five, Browns:  Buffalo held the Browns to 23 yards passing and lost due to turnovers.
- Week six, Jets:  Mark Sanchez was limited to 10-23 for 119 yards and five interceptions.
- Week seven, Panthers:  The Bills created four turnovers including three picks.
- Week eight, Texans:  Buffalo produced three more turnovers.

For the season Buffalo is tied for third with 18 total take aways, but only ninth overall with a +3 give away / take away total.  The star of the take away for the Bills has clearly been Jairus Byrd.  Byrd was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft (10th selection of round 2, 42nd Overall).  His opportunity to start came in week three with injuries hitting the Bills secondary and he has taken advantage.  In his six starts he has amassed 25 tackles including 16 solo and seven interceptions which currently has him tied for first in the NFL with Darren Sharper.

Coming out of the bye week Buffalo is a little healthier with the return to practice of Trent Edwards (QB), Donte Whitner (SS) and Bryan Scott (FS) as well as the previously mentioned return of James Hardy.  It’ll be interesting to see how Byrd is used now that the starting safeties are healthy.  I know many say it’s NOT fair to lose your job over an injury, but how do you take a guy off the field who has intercepted seven balls in the last four games?  Go Bills!

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2 November 2009

Two In a Row Done, Can There Be Three?

Buffalo out played Carolina in some areas, but certainly not all.  In the end, it was enough to register another victory.  The keys to Buffalo’s victory included:

4-0 turnovers from Carolina to Buffalo.  Winning this battle went a long way in this war.  Of particular attention is the play of Jairus Byrd and George Wilson.  Not only did they combine for three interceptions in week seven against Carolina, but they have combined for seven interceptions in the last three weeks.

- The play of Ryan Fitzpatrick.  No, I’m NOT suggesting that Fitzpatrick played great, but he didn’t make the critical errors that can derail a team already struggling on offense.

Buffalo’s weaknesses were once again on display. 

- Ryan Fitzpatrick only completed 11 of 22 for 123 yards and one touchdown.  Fitzpatrick does NOT instill fear in opposing defenses.  Considering the weapons at Buffalo’s disposal, more production has to be attained.

- The Buffalo running game has continued to disappoint.  The combined effort from Buffalo was 53 yards on 30 carries.  Less then 2 yards per carry will NOT cut it.

- While the two items above are true, they continue to be at the mercy of a poorly performing offensive line.  While the effort has been good, more talent is needed particularly on the ends of the line – the tackles.  Game after game the Buffalo corner stones are susceptible to speed rushers beating them around the corners.  Help is still needed and the best bet appears to be play calling as outlined in earlier articles.  As a note, the interior three of Buffalo’s o-line remain good and improving. 

Week eight welcomes Houston to Buffalo.  Both teams are difficult to predict as they play well one week and then they fall apart the next.  This will be a close game that will be decided by whoever makes the fewest errors instead of the most great plays.  Buffalo is vulnerable to a great rushing attack, but Houston doesn’t have one (30th ranked).  Houston has the third ranked passing attack and meets Buffalo’s safeties (Byrd and Wilson) who are playing the pass as well as anyone in the league.  In the end, the home field advantage for Buffalo will push the Bills over the top for their third win in a row. 

Prediction:  Buffalo:  22  Houston:  14

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23 October 2009

Bills Looking For Two in a Row

The Bills pulled out a win on the road in New York by stepping up and meeting the Jets challenge.  Kudos to the Bills’ defense for creating the turnovers necessary to keep the team in it while the offense continued to struggle.  The key to this victory was the creation of six interceptions including two by Jairus Byrd.  In the end, Buffalo has really needed someone to step up and the Bills Defense has found ways to keep the games close allowing for opportunities.

Ahead of the Bills remain the same challenges:

- Buffalo needs to involve their wide receivers more.  Lee Evans and Terrell Owens have NOT met expectations.  Game plans need to evolve to improve this.

- Buffalo’s run defense has been gashed a number of times this year.  This isn’t an easy fix with injuries at linebacker and no way of improving talent until after the end of the season.

- Coaching in general needs to improve.  While Buffalo pulled out the win against the Jets on the road and in overtime.  It’s NOT enough to save the jobs of the coaching staff.  A change is coming…

News and Notes:
- Trent Edwards was injured in the Jets game.  He suffered a concussion and is NOT practicing as of Thursday.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to make the start.  Fitzpatrick performed ok so this isn’t a huge negative.  Some believe there is an upside as Edwards has commonly been nicknamed ‘Captain Checkdown’.  From my perspective, I really look forward to the return of Edwards and his growth as a quarterback.  The best thing that could happen for Buffalo’s future is to have a stable, capable, dangerous quarterback.

- The return of WR James Hardy is finally upon the Buffalo Bills.  Following week six Hardy was eligible to return to practice and he has.  It is unclear when he will be placed on the active roster or who will be released.  If another wide receiver is NOT released Buffalo will be carrying seven wide outs which is a high number.

- The trade deadline passed without a move by Buffalo.  Rumors were out there including the potential move of Roscoe Parrish and Terrell Owens, but they’re still Bills.  Even though Buffalo was NOT involved in any trades there were several players rumored to be available that may be of interest after the season.  The assumption is that if they were available they will be again.  Players on this list include Adalius Thomas (LB with New England) and Glenn Dorsey (DT with Kansas City).  Both players could be reasonable additions to Buffalo for the right price.

Buffalo next travels to Carolina to face a struggling Panthers team.  Carolina particularly struggles with turnovers, more precisely interceptions by the defenses they face.  Could potentially be another good outing for Jairus Byrd.  The largest problem for Buffalo is likely their offensive line versus the threat of Julius Peppers.  Prediction:  Buffalo: 19  Carolina:  10.

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15 October 2009

Buffalo Bills: approaching pathetic, changes coming soon.

The Buffalo Bills lost at home to previously winless Cleveland in week 5.  Once again Buffalo could NOT protect Edwards nor could they run the ball.  Edwards needs to step up and make a play and involve the wide receivers, but it was never even close.  I know the Bills lost 6-3.  While this wasn’t a blow out lost there was little to take as positives.  Issues with Buffalo include:
- A lack of energy from nearly everyone.  Buffalo has to find a way to get the team into the game, hyped to perform and feel the need to go out and physically beat their opponent. 
- Play calling may need improvement, but the lack of effort, emotion and execution make it impossible for any play called to work.
- Penalties.  Buffalo could NOT get this under control with nearly everyone contributing on this one.  At one point Buffalo has twelve straight plays with either a penalty or a turnover.  Buffalo finished with a total of thirteen penalties for 75 yards.
- These first three items point to a need to improve coaching and / or management.  It’s time for Dick Jauron (Head Coach) and Russ Brandon (General Manager) to go.  Three straight 7-9 seasons and now a 1-4 start.  A change is needed.  Where should Buffalo go?

Coaches to consider:
- Bill Cowher:  It would take nearly everything to get him to come to Buffalo, but I say hand it over.  No need to pick a GM.  Bill can either be the GM or hire one.  His pick.  Make him the highest paid coach / GM in NFL history.
- Jon Gruden:  Gruden’s energy and passion particularly for offense is sorely lacking in Buffalo.
- Brian Billick:  Lots of success in Baltimore
- Mike Shanahan:  Built a rock sold program in Denver.
- Dennis Green:   He is who we think he is.
- Jim Fassel:  Maybe, but better choices available.
- Dick Vermeil:  Cries a little too much, but a great coach.
- Tony Dungy:  Probably done, but the players really work for him.
- Dan Reeves:  Better choices on this list.
- Jerry Johnson:  Better off in the studio
- Jim Haslett:  Played in Buffalo and would be welcomed by the fans.  In the end, he might be the choice of a lot of fans, but he wasn’t tremendously successful.

The choice:  Marty Schottenheimer:  Marty ball hasn’t been successful in the playoffs, but OH MY how Buffalo would LOVE this problem.  Marty is emotional and wills his teams to wins.  He runs the ball and plays BIG time defense that is great for poor weather places like Buffalo.

In the end, if we have to give some credit, most should go to Cleveland’s special teams for three punts downed within the five and the turnover on the final punt to Parrish.  Bills players to mention for good things are few, but here they are:
- Kyle Williams – He had 10 tackles as a defensive tackle.  That’s incredible.
- While Fred Jackson only rushed for 30 yards on 13 carries he did have one incredible run that only gained 2 yards, but created two fools as they failed to even touch him.

More bad news:
- Kawika Mitchell (LB) and Marcus Buggs (LB) both sustained knee injuries and will go to IR ending their seasons.

Good news:  Paul Posluszny (Middle LB) and Donte Whitner are practicing once again and may make it to the field again this weekend.

Week 6:  Buffalo goes to New York to play the Jets.  It’s clearly going to be difficult for Buffalo to compete.  The offensive line woes are likely to continue and without a BIG step up from someone this could be ugly.  Prediction:  NYJ:  31  Buffalo:  9  Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for the Bills against the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.

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10 October 2009

Dolphins Show Their Power, Browns Come to Buffalo

Week four saw the Buffalo Bills get dominated by the Miami Dolphins in Miami 38-10.  It was an ugly loss to be sure.  While the reasons for the abuse may seem like many it was really quite simple.  The Dolphins offensive and defensive lines were dominant.  As a few examples I offer:

- 250 rushing yards by the Dolphins including 115 by Ronnie Brown and 85 by Rickie Williams.

- 6 Sacks by the Dolphins’ defense, but that barely describes the pressure they applied to Trent Edwards all game long.

- Buffalo’s rushing attack produced 46 yards on 17 carries for a 2.7 yards per carry average.  This included 8 carries by Marshawn Lynch for a total of 4 yards.

Out of these ashes there were a few positives:
- Buffalo sacked Chad Henne 6 times.
- The Wildcat offensive formation from Miami was relatively kept in check throughout the day.  By my count, the Wildcat produced 46 yards and 1 touchdown on 8 attempts.

Where does Buffalo go from here?  There are a list of items that MUST be improved to salvage the season.

- Buffalo’s offensive line was dominated.  The inability to protect Trent Edwards to provide time on pass plays or to open running lanes for Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch is NOT acceptable.  While we certainly recognize Buffalo’s injuries on the line (Both tackles – Bell injured but will return / Butler on IR), the show must go on.  With the starting tackles currently Jonathan Scott (LT) and Kirk Chamber (RT), Buffalo has to find a way to protect the edges better.  In general, the center three positions of the line performed well this last week.

- To help the offensive line, play calling should be adjusted.  Clearly Buffalo is having troubles with edge rushers blowing by the replacement tackles.  Play selection needs to include draw plays.  This is particularly needed under the up field rush of the tackles.  Additionally screen plays to force the defense to stay home and respect the running backs ability to catch the ball and produce yards after the catch would help.  A final element of Buffalo’s offense that has been missing and could help is the quick slant.  The quick slant is virtually impossible to defend with a pass rush as the ball is out so quickly.  The added benefit would be to involve the very dangerous receiving core of the Bills.

- Buffalo has to find a way to involve the wide receivers.  Clearly it has been envisioned that Lee Evans and Terrell Owens would be much more than a set of decoys.  Buffalo’s offensive coaches MUST find a way to get the ball in their hands and make plays.  It should clearly be their goal to get at least 12 catches total from these two receivers a game.  More would be great, but at least 12 total.

- Buffalo’s defense is struggling against the run with much of this issue being blamed on Marcus Buggs (Replacement middle linebacker for Paul Posluszny).  I’m NOT sure this is fair, but I do like Buffalo’s planned solution.  Kawika Mitchell is moving to the Mike position.  He’s played this roll in the past and is expected to perform it well.

- Trent Edwards’ play needs to improve.  While a number of the factors above could help Trent the responsibility and leadership of the team falls on his shoulders and it’s time to step up.  Buffalo needs a win and Edwards has to deliver.

- One final suggestion:  Buffalo’s defense occasionally runs a defense in which nearly all of the front seven are standing at the snap with lots of people moving around and going back and forth from showing blitz to showing coverage.  The ‘creep’ defense is nearly always effective in short runs.  Why NOT run it more often if NOT at all times?

Looking ahead at the Cleveland Browns you have to consider:

- Derek Anderson is back at Quarterback, but regardless Cleveland’s passing game has struggled.  Buffalo needs to produce some pressure to assure this poor record continues.

- Braylon Edwards has been traded away from Cleveland to the New York Jets so this is good for Buffalo this week, but now they get to see Braylon twice a year.  We’ll see…

- Previous Years had Buffalo’s special teams something to fear.  This has NOT been true as of late.  This week Buffalo sees one of the premier return men in the NFL in Josh Cribbs.  Buffalo’s can’t afford a big play from Cribbs.

Prediction:  Buffalo is at home and really needs a win.  Buffalo 20  Cleveland 10

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1 October 2009

Saints give it to the Bills, Let’s go to Miami

Week 3 revealed a few points of Kryptonite in the Buffalo Bills.  Ok, ok.  We’ve known of some weakness, but we were feeling ok.  The New Orleans Saints certainly caused Buffalo some troubles, but it wasn’t on the side of the ball everyone expected.  Buffalo’s defense rose up and met the challenge of the best offense in the NFL.  With ten minutes to play in the game it was 10-7 New Orleans.  It’s just NOT reasonable to continue to punt the ball back to Drew Brees and Pierre Thomas and expect that to work out well. 

The Bills had the ball twelve times with nine ending in punts, two turnovers (1 interception and 1 downs) and one score (fake field goal for a touchdown).  In the fourth quarter Buffalo had the ball five times with all five drives lasting 4 plays.  This is NOT going to produce wins. 

What’s to blame for the problems with New Orleans?  Here’s a short list:

- Buffalo’s offensive line finally looked like the inexperienced unit they are.  It’s hard to give them too hard of time as they have really been impressive in weeks one and two, but New Orleans’ front four dominated them.  Additionally, Buffalo’s center (Hangartner) really struggled to get the snap to Edwards particularly in the shot gun.  This only contributed to Edward’s time issue.

- Play calling needed to assist the offensive line.  Clearly they were struggling with the pass rush of the Saints.  I’m NOT sure if this is Edward’s responsibility or Alex Van Pelt’s (Offensive Coordinator), but someone needed to make adjustments to force the Saints to do more than just pin back their ears.  Screen plays include wide receiver screens and short passes to Fred Jackson, quick slants and draw plays would have helped.  I know there’s lots of pressure to go down field on Trent Edwards, but this requires time and it wasn’t there in week three.

- Special Team Return Units holding onto the ball.  In the first three games Buffalo’s historically outstanding return units have NOT only been average, but uncharacteristically they are turning over the ball.  As bad as this is, the timing is horrible.  Game one ended with McKelvin’s now infamous fumble and game three includes a fourth quarter punt return fumble by Roscoe Parrish.  Both of these guys are great return men, but we need a play.

- TO did NOT catch a pass and Lee Evans caught four passes for 31 yards.  This Dynamic duo needs to produce more.  This is NOT to say it’s their fault, but as a team they need their wideout numbers to improve.

- Leodis McKelvin was injured against the Saints.  Ultimately he was diagnosed with a cracked Fibula.  On 1-Oct-2009 his season ended when he was placed on Injured Reserve.  The loss of a starting corner and last years number one kick returner in the NFL is a BIG one.  Expect Drayton Florence and Reggie Corner to fill in capably although McKelvin’s big play ability will be missed.  It was McKelvin’s move to IR that created the roster spot for Marshawn Lynch to be active.

- Donte Whitner injured his thumb and has undergone surgery.  He is unavailable for an unknown amount of time.

Marshawn Lynch is back with the team following his three game suspension.  Expect Marshawn and Fred Jackson to share time going forward.  As written previously Jackson should be the starter until Lynch can earn his was back into the lineup.  Jackson hasn’t done anything wrong to lose this opportunity.  Lynch did, that’s why Jackson was given the opportunity.  Make no mistake, Marshawn let the team down.  His opportunity to work his was back into the hearts of Bills’ fan starts on Sunday.  Go Marshawn!

Week four takes Buffalo to their largest rival:  Miami.  Miami is reeling from the loss of their starting quarterback, Chad Pennington.  Expect to see Buffalo play run first including guarding against the wild cat.  Eight men fronts by the defense should be there all day with the pressure on Chad Henne (The new starting QB in Miami) to make a play.  The largest question is will Buffalo’s offense including it’s wideouts show up for the game.  I say YES!  Additionally, expect Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch to be motivated to produce.  Buffalo 31 Miami 10.

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24 September 2009

Victory over the Bucs, Saints come marching in

Week two was essentially more of the same from the Bills as week one with a happier ending.  Fred Jackson (RB) was dominant in running the ball with 163 yards on 28 carries giving him 220 yards on 43 attempts.  This is fifth best in the NFL and better than five yards a carry.

Tampa Bay really had trouble matching Buffalo’s big plays, control of the ball and consistent drives with plenty of Jackson.  Game balls clearly need to go to:
- Fred Jackson – See above.
- Trent Edwards:  Trent did a great job of managing the game.  He checked down when he should have, but he stretched field several times including deep to Terrell Owens twice and Lee Evans once.  The Buffalo wide outs have the ability to be deadly and Edwards knows it’s in his best interest to get them involved.
- Offensive Line:  In the first two weeks the Bills have allowed 6 sacks (Fifth best in the NFL).  Remember how young this group is.  Bell, Wood and Levitre are going into their third NFL game ever and WOW how you wouldn’t know it.
- Kyle Williams (Def. Tackle) is playing out of his mind.  He has been everywhere.  Pressure on the quarterback up the middle and anchoring the run defense.

In the end, Buffalo is playing solid on both sides of the ball.  Through the first two weeks:
- Buffalo Offense:              Points per game:  28.5                        Ranked:  6th
Total Yrds / Game:  357            Ranked:  14th
Rushing Yds / Game:  154            Ranked:  6th
Passing Yds / Game:  203            Ranked:  20th
- Buffalo Defense:            Points per game:  22.5                        Ranked:  16th
Total Yrds / Game:  397            Ranked:  28th
Rushing Yds / Game:  65            Ranked:  6th
Passing Yds / Game:  332            Ranked:  31st

While the passing defense doesn’t look good remember Buffalo led both game by quite a lot at the end and played prevent allowing some yards.

Week three brings the New Orleans Saints to Buffalo.  They have an incredible offense capable of yards, points and problems for defenses.  Can Buffalo’s defense rise to the occasion?  Buffalo is deep at defensive back particularly if McKelvin is healthy.  This is big.  Buffalo’s front seven MUST get pressure on Brees.  Offensively Buffalo has looked good and is poised to really attack using their offensive stars:  TO, Evans, Jackson…

Prediction:  Buffalo:  31  New Orleans  23

When TO dropped the deep ball in week two versus the Bucs there were several interesting things to consider:
- Clearly that provided Edwards and the rest of the offense some space to relax.  No chance of TO complaining about the offense and his role following his missing this opportunity. 
- I don’t know if it happened, but what an opportunity.  Edwards needed to go to TO and let him know that it was ok.  Give him the good ‘ol ‘We’ll get’em next time’ talk.  It was a prime opportunity to NOT blame TO and establish a relationship.  Then later in the game make sure he gets that opportunity to make up for it (like he did).

Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch should definitely share time going forward, but this is dependent on the trade value of Marshawn Lynch.  Yeah that’s right.  Buffalo should quietly shop Marshawn.  Lynch has had a couple of opportunities to make use of a legal retainer and Jackson is looking good.  Do you make the trade?  If you can get a 1st rounder out of him – YES.  Don’t take less.  For less you keep him.  Lynch is a good player and the combo of the two backs can be great, but if someone really needs a running back and the trade value rises it might make sense.

It’s been rumored that Roscoe Parrish is on the trading block.  Should Buffalo ship him off?  This too is dependent on value.  If Buffalo can get a second round pick or more then you let him go.  For less you keep him.  Parrish is a great punt returner, but so far he has only one offensive reception.  Keep in mind that James Hardy will potentially be back following week 6 and buffalo will need to create a roster spot.

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17 September 2009

CB Leodis McKelvin Costs the Bills Dearly

As I wrote in my last article, the following poem was posted by Marv Levy after the Super bowl loss to the New York Giants on Scott Norwood’s missed field goal.  It was later posted following each of the next three Super bowl losses by an unknown source.  It still applies.

‘The Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton’

‘Fight on, my men,’ says Sir Andrew Barton,
‘I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.’

Here we are following a tough loss on the road to the New England Patriots.  There are no moral victories as they will NOT get you to the promise land of playoff football.   The bottom line is the Bills did NOT finish as they needed to and the eleven game losing streak to the Patriots goes to twelve.  Give the Patriots credit for making the plays they needed to when they needed them, but in some ways the Bills gave it away.

Yes, Leodis McKelvin fumbled the second to last kickoff leading to the go ahead score by the Patriots, but there are several interesting points.

- Why did McKelvin NOT simply down the ball in the end zone?  When McKelvin caught the kickoff, he was back peddling and caught it right about the goal line.  Did he catch it in the end zone or out?  If he caught it out and simply back peddled into the end zone he made the right choice in returning it.

- Once he made the decision to return it he headed up the field and eventually got into contact.  He should have gone down, but it appears he was fighting for yardage.  Perhaps he was being held up, but he needed to protect and get down.  The few extra yards were NOT going to matter.

- Ideally, if he caught the ball out of the end zone and had to make the return he should have taken it up the side line.  Do NOT challenge the defender.  Simply take what you can and get out of bounds.  Even if he gets surprised in this case and the ball is jarred loose it would likely go out of bounds.

Considering all of these things, I’m a HUGE McKelvin believer.  He led the NFL in average per kickoff return last year and he’ll be BIG again this year.  Additionally, he is ready to breakout as a starting corner in this league.  Hang in there.  Even the great ones (and the great to be) make mistakes.

Although the loss hurts I need to give some credit to the following:

- QB Trent Edwards has taken a beating from the media about NOT making the plays and always checking down.  There was one play down the left sideline when Edwards was flushed out of the pocket.  He threw on the run to Parrish and it was nearly picked.  Other than this play his decision making was solid.  His command of the offense and control of the tempo were excellent.  Overall Trent deserves credit for brushing off the media criticism and stepping up.  Nice job!

- QB Trent Edwards would never have had the solid game he did without the OUTSTANDING play of the O-Line.  When I say outstanding I’m NOT delusional enough to think these guys are hall of fame caliber yet, but considering the lack of experience and pressure they were under.  WOW!  Demetrius Bell at Left tackle was called for an illegal formation twice, but otherwise solid.  Wood (Rookie First Round Pick) and Levitre (Rookie Second Round Pick) started at the two guard spots and their names were never mentioned.  No news is good news when you’re an interior linemen.  Ditto for Hangartner at Center and Brad Butler at right tackle.  In the end, this line pushed the New England defensive line around both in pass protection and run blocking.

- Buffalo’s defensive line held their own against New England’s offensive line.  While they only created one sack and one turnover, they were regularly harassing Brady and their run defense was stellar.  They held the Patriots to 3.2 yards per carry including two 4th down stops in which the Pats running game wasn’t even close.  The push from Buffalo’s defensive front made sure of this.
- Fred Jackson.  How many of these guys do the Bills have?  He was everywhere running, catching, blocking…  Great job!  It is regularly said that he could start on other teams and that appeared to be true.  Jackson ended the day with 15 rushes for 57 yards, 5 catches for 83 yards and one touchdown.

Looking ahead to the Bucs in week two Buffalo is certainly happy to be going back to Buffalo.  The keys for the Bills:
- Trent Edwards needs to continue his solid play, control, poise and direction of the Bills offense.  Ideally, the Bills wide outs (Evans and TO) are pulled into this weeks production with BIG plays.  Clearly the Cowboys were able to take advantage of the Bucs beat up secondary in week one so look for BIG numbers in the passing game.

- Defensively the Bills need to take away the keys from the Cadillac.  The Bucs running back, Cadillac Williams, ran effectively on the Cowboys and the Bills defense has to take this challenge.
- Leodis McKelvin certainly must feel like he has something to prove following two fumbles on kickoffs. 

Prediction:  Bills 28, Bucs 20.

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22 August 2009

Buffalo Bills Article:  Welcome to the 09-10 Bills Season

Well welcome to another season of Buffalo Bills football.  I’m sure you are all looking forward to the start of the season as much as I am.  As seen in past seasons, I am planning weekly articles and certainly welcome input via my email link.

Rookie Update:
- Round 1, 11th Overall:  Aaron Maybin, Defensive End from Penn State University.  Signed a 5-year $17.6 million contact.  He is an obvious need player for Buffalo with his incredibly quick first step in pass rushing.  He is expected to be a situational pass rusher at least initially considering Buffalo’s depth at the D-end position.  Buffalo would love to have him quickly develop into an impact player on the left side of their defense opposite Aaron Schobel.
- Round 1, 28th Overall:  Eric Wood, Offensive Lineman from Louisville.  Signed a 5-year $9.3 million contract.  He is currently working as the starting Right Guard.  While he has a lot to learn he is said to have a nasty streak which is certainly welcome.
- Round 2, 42nd Overall:  Jairus Byrd, 6’0” and 208 pound corner back from Oregon.  Signed a 4-year $4.15 million contract.  He is expected to compete at the Free Safety Position.
- Round 2, 51st Overall:  Andy Levitre, 6’3” and 324 pound Offensive Lineman.  Signed a 4-year $3.56 million contract.  He too is working with the starting offensive line as the starting Left Guard.
- Round 4, 121st Overall:  Shawn Nelson, 6’5” and 240 pound Tight End. Signed a 4-year undisclosed contract.  Nelson is a pass catching tight end and Buffalo could certainly use one.  Opportunity is knocking for Mr. Nelson we’ll see if he can answer considering the many other threats on this offense.
- Round 5, 147th Overall:  Nic Harris, 6’3” and 230 pound defensive back from Oklahoma.  Signed a 4-year $1.94 million contract. 
- Round 6, 183rd Overall:  Cary Harris is a 6’0”, 180 pound defensive back from USC.  Signed a 4-year $1.856 million contract.
- Round 7, 220th Overall:  Ellis Lankster is a 5’10”, 191 pound defensive back from West Virginia.  Signed a multi-year deal worth an undisclosed amount.  He is thought to have 4.4 speed and is widely talked about on lots of websites.  During the Bills / Bears pre-season contest Lankster impressed with two picks.

No Huddle Offense:  It was long rumored that the Buffalo Bills were thinking of running a no huddle attack at least part of this year.  Two games into preseason and the Bills have run nothing but a no huddle attack.  They vary the speed of the no huddle to control the defense exactly as it should be.  Through this approach they determine when the defense can make substitutions – HUGE ADVANTAGE.  Trent Edwards has performed well in this setting and appears to have control while leading the offense.  For us long time fans this is a beautiful thing to see considering the success of Buffalo’s offense in the early 90’s with a no huddle type attack.

Trent Edwards:  Through the first two preseason games Edwards numbers are as follows:
- Completions / Attempts / Yards:  13 / 14 / 113
- Completion %:  92.9
- Yards per Attempt:  8.1
- TD / INT:  0 / 1
- Long:  36 yards
- Rating:  70.5

These numbers have lots of people wondering about Edwards.  He is definitely running an efficient attack, but Edwards hasn’t produced touchdowns.  Is this simply a matter of the short amount of time he has been in the games or is he ineffective?  Over the last few seasons Bills fans have seen an offense that can move the ball, but trips over themselves in the red zone.  We decided to take a closer look at the Buffalo attack through the first two games.  The following is a play by play of Buffalo’s starting offense with each PASS play rated on a 1 to 5 scale for Edward’s decision and 1 to 5 for the Execution with the following definitions: 

1 – Horrible decision by Edwards.                       
2 – Poor decision by Edwards.
3 – Solid decision by Edwards.
4 – Good decision by Edwards.
5 – Best possible decision by Edwards.

1 – Horrible execution by Edwards.                       
2 – Poor execution by Edwards.
3 – Solid execution by Edwards.
4 – Good execution by Edwards.
5 – Best possible execution by Edwards.

Game #1:  Buffalo Versus Tennessee (Hall of Fame Game)
Drive 1:
1.  1-10:  RUN Lynch up the middle for 3 yards.
2.  2-7:  PASS Quick slant to Owens for 15 yards.  No huddle offense ran.  Defense brought 5.  Good protection from Buffalo’s offensive line creating a pocket for Edwards.  (Decision:  5 / Execution:  5)
3.  1-10:  RUN, Toss to Lynch, run left for a gain of 3.
4.  2-7:  PASS to Owens.  Out on the right side for a gain of 12 yards.  Defense rushed 4.  Offensive line protected well.  (Decision:  5 / Execution:  5)
5.  1-10:  RUN Lynch up the middle for no gain.
6.  2-10:  PASS to Fine for a gain of 7.  Defense again rushed 4 and the O-Line held strong and formed a nice pocket.  Edwards threaded a tight pass into his tight end with some force.  (Decision:  4 / Execution:  5)
7.  3-3:  RUN.  Scramble by Edwards for a gain of 8.  Defense rushed 5 and created good pressure quite quickly.  Edwards made a good decision to run for the first down as the middle was left wide open.  Also a good decision to slide after gaining the first down – no unnecessary contact.
8.  1-10:  RUN Fred Jackson up the middle for a gain of 1.
9.  2-9:  PASS attempt to Lee Evan on the deep post route (21 yards down field).  Defense rushed 4 and created some pressure up the middle on Edwards, but NOT over whelming.  Edwards over threw Evans and was picked by the safety.  Due to the rush Edwards was NOT able to step into his pass and it sailed on him.  There were three defenders in the vicinity, but with a good pass Evans was reasonably open.  You can’t help but wonder if someone else was more open considering the attention Evans saw in the center field.  (Decision:  3 / Execution:  1)

Game #2:  Chicago at Buffalo
Drive 1:
1.  1-10:  RUN Lynch up the middle for 6 yards.  Bears defense was playing run with 4 on the line and all three linebackers staying home.
2.  2-4:  RUN Lynch up the middle for 1.  Again Bears defense played run with 4 on the line, 3 line backers staying home and the strong safety coming up to support the run.
3.  3-3:  PASS Left Side Line to Evans for 27 yards.  Bears rush 4 down linemen only.  Evans was man for man with the safety coming over late.  Nice read by Edwards to find Evans after a nice release off the line to create separation from the defender.  (Decision:  5 / Execution:  5)
4.  1-10:  RUN Lynch left for 5 yards.  Quick snap by the Bills.  Four linemen for the Bears were NOT set.  Entire front seven stayed home.  Coming off the BIG play, the no huddle hurried by Edwards takes advantage as the defense is reeling.
5.  2-5:  RUN Lynch up the middle for 1 yard.  Lance Briggs made a good open tackle to stop the cut back.  There was definitely an opportunity for more here, but give Briggs credit on a nice tackle.
6.  3-4:  PASS from Edwards after being forced from the pocket.  He scrambled to his right and dumped it to Lynch who was nearly immediately tackled for a loss of 2 yards.  While the pocket broke down, it was NOT incredibly quick from a pass rush of 5 Bears.  Overall it was reasonable protection.  Edwards made a good decision to evacuate.  Ideally Lynch would catch the ball with more room or Edwards would find another target.  (Decision:  3 / Execution:  2)
7.  4-6  PUNT

Drive 2:
8.  1-10:  PASS.  Dump Pass to Lynch.  Checked to him late.  Pass was high.  Gain of 2 yards.  Bears were showing 5 on the line, but rushed 4.  (Decision:  3 / Execution:  2)
9.  2-8:  Edwards sacked.  Blown protection.  A corner came free from the right side of the defense / left side of the offense.  Very quick NOT Edwards fault.
10.  3-16:  PASS.  Dump pass to Lynch for a gain of 8 yards.  Bears rushed four and created good pressure, but NOT great.  Good broken tackle by Lynch, but we needed to look for more on this play.  The Bears were in a deep zone to make a longer completion difficult.  (Decision:  3 / Execution:  3)
11.  4-8:  PUNT

Drive 3:
12.  1-10:  PASS.  Quick slant to Evans for 9 yards.  Bears show 6 and then bring 6.  (Decision:  5 / Execution:  5)
13.  2-1:  RUN Lynch to the left for 2 yards.
14.  1-10:  PASS.  Quick throw to Josh Reed for 4 yards on the left.  Defense rushed 4 down linemen only.  Good pocket for Edwards.  The throw to Reed was a second late and a little high leaving the wide receiver vulnerable and with no option to run after the catch.  (Decision:  4 / Execution 3)
15.  2-6:  RUN Fred Jackson to the right for a gain of 1
16.  3-5:  PASS to Evans on the left side for a gain of 8.  Bears show 5 and bring 4 on the rush.  This was a quick pass on the money.  Evans was tackled immediately with no opportunity for run after the catch yards.  (Decision:  5 / Execution:  5)
17.  1-10:  RUN Jackson to the right for a gain of 1 yard.
18.  2-9:  PASS to Derek Fine for a gain of 3 on the right side.  Bears rushed only 4 down linemen.  The protection was solid.  Edwards made a good decision, but the pass was low and took Fine to the ground to get the ball resulting in no RAC yards.  (Decision:  4 / Execution:  2)
19.  3-6:  PASS to Jackson on a dump pass to the right.  Gain of 5 yards with all of it coming after the catch.  Bears rush four.  Good protection.  Nice touch from Edwards over people to Jackson for again of 5 from nothing.  Credit to Jackson for breaking tackles and making something.  (Decision:  3 / Execution:  3)
20.  4-1:  RUN.  Edwards bootleg to the left for a gain of 17 yards.
21.  1-10:  RUN Jackson up the middle for a gain of 6.
22.  2-4:  RUN Jackson up the middle for a loss of 1.
23.  3-5:  PASS to Schouman for a gain of 5 yards center right.  Bears show 7 and rush 4.  Good protection.  Edwards on the quick delivery to his tight end who was easily open.  Schouman bobbled the ball, but gathered it in for the catch and first down.  (Decision:  5 / Execution 5)
24.  1-10:  RUN Jackson up the middle for a gain of 1.
25.  2-8:  Pass attempt and sacked.  Bears rushed 4.  Loss of 5.  Bears created good pressure with only four.  They got to Edwards as he scrambled up the middle.
26.  3-13:  RUN Jackson up the middle for a gain of 3.
27.  4-10:  FG

Play of Trent Edwards through the first two games summary: 
- Decision Average:  57 / 14 = 4.07
- Execution Average:  51 / 14 = 3.64
13 of 14 from Edwards in his first two games running the no huddle and he appears pretty impressive.  Particularly impressive is his control of the offense, confidence and poise in the pocket.  YES, there are those saying there are too many short passes, but remember the Bills do NOT have a single player on the O-Line returning to the same position as last year and 4 of 5 players on the line are new to the starting unit including two rookies.  Edwards can help this group by getting the ball out to his play makers quickly.  A few more notes:
- 5 of 14 attempts went for 1st downs.
- Pass average down:  2.2
- Pass attempt average yards to go:  7.9.  Compared to his 8.1 yards per attempt.  Ok.

Terrell Owens:  With a minor toe injury limiting his action as of late it has suddenly become a little quieter in Buffalo, but make no mistake.  TO changes the passing game and respect you have to spread across the field.  I certainly admit that I have questioned in the past if it’s worth putting up with TO Monday through Saturday to have him on Sunday, but so far so good.  He is exactly the type of receiver Buffalo has long needed opposite Lee Evans.  All of this being said, a double digit touchdown receiver would be greatly welcomed by all in Buffalo.

Some would say he can do that, but it’s still NOT worth it as he will ruin the team and divide the locker room.  Considering Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs in nine seasons, I believe we are all willing to take that risk.  So far, he is exactly as we have wanted.  Go TO!  I have my popcorn ready!!

James Hardy:  Hardy is NOT yet cleared for full contact practice, but remains optimistic that he’ll get a chance to play in the last pre-season game.  He is currently running routes before and after practice.  He’s catching passes and working against corner backs to provide a little more resistance against him as he runs.  He is said to be running at about ¾ speed.  Hardy tore his ACL in week 15 of last year and had off season surgery.  TO is often said to be out with Hardy and observe his workout.  Hardy is of similar style to TO so we certain wish James the best and look forward to his return to the field.  Perhaps our next item will help James Hardy.

Marv Levy Inspiration:  Following the Bills first Super bowl loss, Marv Levy was said to return to Buffalo with the team and go to his office for final team meetings and cleanup until the next season.  On the bulletin board he posted the poem below.  Several players took copies of it.  Following the next three Super bowl losses the poem was reposted each year by an unknown person.

‘The Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton’

‘Fight on, my men,’ says Sir Andrew Barton,
‘I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.’

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27 April 2008

Post NFL Draft Update

In the 2009 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills made the following selections:

Overall, Many of Buffalo’s picks are considered very smart picks that address needs of the team.  Go Bills!

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20 April 2009

News, Notes and Comments

Marshawn Lynch Suspension:  The league handed down a suspension to Bills running back Marshawn Lynch as expected for his recent run in with the law.  Lynch was arrested on 16-Feb-2009 for an unlicensed concealed weapon.  The suspension is for three (3) games and does NOT effect his status to practice, attend team meetings or work out with the team.  This is however Marshawn’s second run in with the law in his short career and could easily have the Bills worried.

Image: Bruce Schubert and friend in Cambodia

Bruce SchubertSigning of Dominic Rhodes:  As of 18-Apr-2009, Buffalo signed veteran running back Dominic Rhodes to a two year offer.  Rhodes is entering his ninth NFL season with most of those coming as an Indianapolis Colt.  Clearly Buffalo has wanted a veteran backup to Lynch and Jackson as they have interviewed several running backs.  Rhodes joins a crowded back field once Lynch returns from his suspension, but this is NOT new to Dominic as he has always shared running back duties with the likes of Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai.

Fred Jackson Contract:  Fred Jackson remains unsigned as an Exclusive Rights Free Agent of Buffalo.  With the recent signing of Dominick Rhodes where does this leave Freddy?  Buffalo should make every effort to resign Jackson.  He has been a great pick up to the offense when spelling Lynch.  With Lynch regularly finding himself on the wrong side of the law, Jackson provides needed insurance.  Additionally, I believe you always reward the good ones and Jackson’s effort is seen play after play with an attitude that appears model worthy.  He is a role player without complaints.  Buffalo will resign him.

Donte Whitner in trouble:  As of 14-Apr-2009, Donte Whitner was formally charged with aggrevated disorderly conduct and resisting arrest outside of a Cleveland night club where he was reportedly attending a birthday party for former Ohio State team mate Ted Ginn Jr.  This was very disappointing from a player that has been a role model for the Bills.  He has truly taken a leadship role within the team and he knows how to handle himself in these situations.  Unfortunately he did NOT make the right decision and he should see disciplinary action from the league.  A few articles ago I thought Buffalo was a little too clean of a team with NOT enough players on the edge.  Careful what you wish for.

Jason Peters Trade:  The Buffalo Bills traded Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles for a trio of draft picks including one of Phily’s 2009 1st round picks (28th overall).  Additionally Buffalo received Philadelphia’s 2009 4th round selection (121st overall) and a conditional pick in 2010.  Philadelphia went on to sign Peters’ to four year extension that ultimately results in a six year $60 million contract.  Analysis:  It’s too early to tell who got the best of this.  Buffalo was never going to pay Peters that kind of money and was facing another hold out similar to last year.  Make know mistake that Peters can be the best tackle in the game however he can also get an attitude when he spends more time believing all the hype then proving the hype is true.  In the 2008 – 2009 season Peters was the only left tackle in the NFL to allow double digit sacks (11.5).  This he accomplished in only 12 games as he missed the opener after holding out and ended the season injured. 

2009 Draft Plan:  Clearly a few short weeks later and there are several new factors to consider when evaluating what the Bills might do in this weekends draft.  Below I have placed them in order of urgency:

2009 Draft Prediction:  Buffalo will select a Defensive End with the 11th overall pick (Everette Brown out of Florida Sate) and an offensive lineman with the 28th overall pick (Michael Oher from Ole Miss).  Round two will bring Buffalo a tight end although they will need to move up to get Brandon Pettigrew from Oklahoma State.

Bills’ fans are Global:  When I’m not watching the Bills play, reading articles on the Bills or engaged in a conversation about the Bills I do have a day job.  I work as the Director of Global Sourcing for Tippmann Sports.  Tippmann Sports is the largest manufacturer of paintball markers in the world.  My position does involve some travel and from time to time takes me to far away places including Asia.  While traveling in Asia, I had the opportunity to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia to visit the temples including Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and others.  It was at Ta Prohm that I noticed someone wearing a ‘BILLS’ T-shirt.  I just had to meet them.  It turns out that he was Cambodian and his brother-in-law was from Buffalo.  As would be expected, he (The brother-in-law) was a HUGE Bills fan and saw to it that proper attire was available to all.  We had a nice short introduction chatting about the Bills for a moment.  YES, the Buffalo Bills are a Global phenomenon.  See the attached picture – I am on the left.  Go Bills!

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