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2018 NFL Draft - Mock Draft - Buffalo Bills Draft - Rankings

Bills Notes

Pre-Draft Bills Visit Tracker

Official Visits (30 Max)

1. Nathan Peterman QB Pitt -
2. Garrett Bolles OT Utah -
3. Tedrick Thompson S Colorado - RapSheet
4. Nate HaIrston CB Temple -
5. Cam Robinson OT ALabama -
6. Tim Williams DE Alabama - Aaron Wilson
7. Derek Rivers DE Youngstown - Jeremy Fowler

8. Chad Williams WR Grambling State - RapSheet

9. Grover Stewart DT Albany State -

10 Philip Walker QB Temple - Ryan Talbot

11 Marion Humphrey - CB Alabama - RapSheet

12 Marcus Sayles CB West Georgia - Ryan Talbot

13 PJ Walker QB - Temple  @viccarucci

14 Grover Stewart DL Albany State Tony Pauline

15 Nyeem Wartman-White, LB Penn State Josh Reed

16 Malik Golden S Penn State Sporting News


Local Invitees (Does not count towards 30 max visits)

Chad Kelly QB Ole Miss

Brisly Estime WR Syracuse

Ryan Radke  WR  Thiel

Private Workouts

1. Mitch Trubisky QB - North Carolina - SalSports

2. Deshone Kizer QB - Notre Dame - SalSports

3. Deshaun Watson QB - Clemson - Draft Diamonds

4. Cam Johnston P - OSU Draft Diamonds

5. Marquell Lee  LB Wake Forest - Aaron Wilson

6. Josh Harvey-Clemons S Lousiville Aaron Wilson

7. Patrick Mahomes QB Texas Tech - Rap Sheet

8. Brandon Barnes TE Alabama State Tony Pauline

9. Jordan Morgan OL Kutztown Tony Pauline

10. Eddie Jackson S Alabama Ryan Talbot

 11 Praise Martin-Oguike DL Draft Diamonds

12 Luke Stice LB Texas Tech Draft Diamonds

Thoughts on Bills Free Agency Thus Far

Mike Watkins



A little over one week into free agency and the Bills are picking their spots. They haven’t made any splash signings which is completely fine by me. Far too often those signings bust and blow up your cap. The Bills have chosen on the other hand to be calculating and address depth while adding a couple quality starters

This to me is how the Bills should be operating in Free Agency the vast majority of years. If they are ever going to turn this ship around it will have to be from drafting well and signing their own

DB Micah Hyde: Often referred to as the Swiss army knife of DB’s Hyde offers the Bills a lot of flexibility if they can’t address CB or S in the draft or later in FA’cy. You can play Hyde at any position in the secondary and he will be solid too good. He also has a knack for playing bigger when the lights go brighter. The Bills got themselves a starter and at a good price. Where he starts is to be determined but it was a good get for day 1

S Jordan Poyer: I liked Poyer a lot coming out of Oregon State. I likened him a lot to J.Byrd. He has a very high football IQ and is built to play FS in a zone heavy scheme. He has been ok in his career so far but I think he is finally in a defense that fits his abilities which is why he and Buffalo closed the deal rather quickly on day one. This is a signing I’d pay attention to because at the very least he will be good depth and could turn out to be a good starter

FB Patrick DiMarco: Two things tell me that the Bills scored a good player with the DiMarco 1.The Falcons players and specifically the RB’s raved about him 2.The fans in Atlanta wanted him resigned and did not want to see him go. The Bills signed a throw-back player with a style that will help the ground game progress even further. By what I have seen of DiMarco Shady and Gilly are going to love him and the lanes he creates

OL Vladimir Ducasse: Ducasse is a real up and down player. There are some games where he looks like a solid NFL starter. There are other games where it looks like he really has no business being in the NFL. Its a crapshoot of what you will get game to game. The Bills should not nor do I believe they will count on him as a starter

K Stephen Hauschka: Like I said when they signed him, I am not going to sit here and pretend I have been following Hauschka career. Yes I know about the missed PAT’s but those seem to be the exception not the rule. From what I could find Hauschka seems like a very good bad weather kicker and he also gets rid of the need for the absurd philosophy of carrying a kick off specialist

WR Philly Brown: Brown is an interesting addition. He tends to get lost in the shuffle but also will come up with a big play for you if you stop paying attention to him. I look at him as a good 4/5 WR who can fill in for a number 3. Anything higher than that and you are playing with fire. That Said I do consider this an upgrade from Goodwin who couldn’t stay on the field.

DE Ryan Davis: Davis looks to be a career backup with some ok production from that role. He is what I think should be one of the priorities in FA’cy and that is to improve the depth of the roster. Davis should compete for a role on the team and hopefully improve on the overall depth of the roster which has been exposed as of late

WR Jeremy Butler: Butler could very well be a sleeper signing. He has bounced around the league in his time but the measurable are there. Butler seems like a player that just needs a team to give him more of a chance. There are a lot of Ravens fans that were not happy about letting him go. Butler could end up being one of Whaley’s FA gems that he seems to find nearly every year

WR Andre Holmes: Holmes has always had good measurable but the issue is that he cannot seem to put it together on the field. He is still a project and shouldn’t be looked at anything more than a back-up. If the staff can get more out of him then the Raiders staff did this could be a good get for the Bills. Like the other signings though his value is in that he has starts under his belt and can be a quality back up

CB Leonard Johnson: Knows the system and has played under Frazier. He fits the system and could push for a 5th CB role

WR Corey Washington: At this point should be looked at nothing more than a camp body

RB Joe Baynard: I would be surprised if Baynard even makes it to camp on the roster. At his point its just to get bodies in the room and take a look

Thoughts on McDermott and Staff

Mike Watkins




It’s been over a week since Sean McDermott has been named the coach of the Buffalo Bills. Of the coaches that had interviewed with the Bills or were rumored to be connected to the job McDermott was the coach I felt would best suit the team, city, and its fans. I’m pretty happy with this hire overall and believe the Bills finally got it right with this hire. I wanted until his staff was mostly filled to fire off some random rapid fire points, here they are


Mentors: I have been a fan of McDemott’s since his days in Philadelphia. The time he spent under Andy Reid and Jim Johnson is extremely valuable and will pay dividends. Jim Johnson was an excellent DC and to have learned under him while being under one of the better offensive HC’s of the past 3 decades will serve him well as a HC. The exposure to Ron Riveria I also think will serve him well as it showed him that you need to take gambles in this game. Going for it on 4th down and not punting from 40 yards out can sometimes pay off.


Humility: As strange as this sounds I actually like the fact that he was fired in Philly. It’s good to get humbled every once and awhile in your profession. It’s the best and quickest way to spurn growth and adjustments. How did McDermott respond? He went down to Carolina and produced one of the better defenses in the league throughout his tenure. That’s the type of response you want to see. Get knocked down, get back up, and get better.


Built for It: McDermott rose through the ranks as one should. Position coach to coordinator to head coach with good tenured time at each spot. This exposes you to a lot of aspects of a team and gives you a good understanding of how it should be put together


Detailed CEO: McDermott is extremely detailed but this can both be good and bad. Its good in that he will emphasize that the little things matter. It bad in that he needs to remove himself from some of the smaller details and trust in his staff. This is one of the toughest parts from moving from a Coordinator to a HC. When you are a coordinator you can get completely absorbed into your side of the ball and plan down to the smallest detail. When you are a HC you have to remove yourself from this or you will get got up in the small details while the big picture falls apart.


DC: Some got too caught up in looking at L.Frazier record and stats as a DC. I’m pretty confident in saying that McDermott hired Frazier because he believes he can implement McDermott’s scheme and coach it the way he wants it to be coached. McDermott didn’t hire Frazier to come and install a Frazier defense in Buffalo. Frazier is a seasoned coach who McDermott can lean on to lead the defensive staff while he oversees the team


OC: I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I have been following Rick Dennison’s career and any Bills fan or writer that says they have is lying to you. It looks to be like he has spent most of his career as an OC in name but really has been an Offense Caddy to an offensive minded Head Coach. This is a bad thing he has been exposed to a lot of winning teams. He clearly has been around the NFL and stuck in it for a long time which bodes well for him and is clearly a qualification that McDermott held in high regard. He wasn’t my first choice, wasn’t my last choice, I like him better than Olson, and I’m intrigued to see what he does with the offense. I know this though, when a coach shows up to a meeting with multiple Super Bowl rings most players are going to give him the benefit of the doubt


Tyrod: I’m seeing a lot of “Denver wanted Tyrod when Dennison was there so that means he will want him here” First off we do not know who in Denver wanted Tyrod. Second we do not know exactly what they wanted him for. They could have wanted him because they thought he was a really good backup who knew the system, not a 16-million-dollar starter. So while it seemingly bodes well from 3 miles up I think some major details are missing.


43: Fundamentally and Conceptually I have always preferred a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. I just think that a 43 defense allows it players to play fast and do what they do best. With that said the Bills never really had the parts for the 34 defense Rex wanted to install. The current group now is far better suited to what McDermott has historically done.

A look at the Bills Pending Free Agents

Mike Watkins



Stephon Gilmore: Is Gilmore an Elite shut down CB? No, I wouldn’t put him in that rarefied air. That however does not mean he is not a very good CB, he is, and you in general should want to keep your most talented players. I fundamentally would like to keep Gilmore. The problem however is he will find big money on the open market from teams that run a heavy man scheme on defense. The Bills really cannot get into that market at their current cap situation. I think he plays elsewhere in 2017

E.J. Manuel: There is no reason to bring Manuel back. He is not even a valuable vet number 2. It is best for everyone to part ways. If he is brought back that should serve as a red flag for what Whaley wants to do at the position

Percy Harvin: Even if he is healthy you can not count on him. He should hang it up for health reason

Corbin Bryant: Bryant is a guy I want to bring back. He is a fit for any defense as a reserve. You can count on quality snaps from him. If the numbers are right he would be great to keep as quality depth

Jordan Mills: I think its time to go a different way. Kromer was a fan of his. He was abused most of the year

Reggie Bush: lololol…no….

Justin Hunter: He is worth a one year deal to see if he can build off what he did in 2016. He may want to leave but I think this would be the best opportunity for him to get snaps and succeed

Zach Brown: Brown is an interesting case. He found a home in the Rex Ryan defense but the McDermott defense brings him back to an alignment where he saw very mixed results. I would like to bring him back because his coverage skills will be valued in this defense and they are hard to find at the LB position. Of the big 3 free agents I think he is the most likely to get a deal from the Bills

Robert Woods:I like Robert Woods and think he is a good number 2. This however will make it hard to sign him. The numbers he will likely get on the open market will dwarf what the Bills want to do. The issue is while he is a good number 2 he is not good enough to carry the passing game when your number 1 goes down. I’d like to bring him back but I don’t see the Bills doing it

Jerome Felton: I could see the Bills bringing him to camp, I don’t see him making the roster

Ramon Humber: Good Special Teamer but is a misfit in the defense, gone

Lorenzo Alexander: I would not blame him for wanting to cash in with another 3-4 heavy defense. In this defense he is a misfit but still an all pro level special teamer. He’s still a great team player I give it 50/50 he’s back

Leger Douzable: Doesn’t fit, will be gone

James Ihedigbo: Worth a camp invite, nothing more

Robert Blanton: I wouldn’t bring him back, exposed all year

Corey White: Id move him to Safety and take a look at him in camp on a vet min

Colt Anderson: Worth a camp invite on a vet deal for Special Teams ability

Lerentee McCray: Doesn’t fit the new scheme

Brandon Tate: Worth a deal for ST’s ability, I’d like to bring him back

Brandon Spikes: Defense is a horrible fit for what he does. He is still valuable on short yardage situations but its hard to justify a roster spot for that

Sergio Brown: Brown is worth a one year deal and of the free agent safety’s on this list I think he would be the most likely to stick as hopefully only a reserve

Marquise Goodwin: Goodwin is a good guy, as about as good as you could hope for off the field. That said I see no reason to bring him back. It’s just time to move on

Chris Gragg: Worth a one year deal with maybe an option for a second year to see how he recovered from his injury

The Curious Case of Tyrod Taylor

It has been quite a ride with Tyrod Taylor and the Bills for the past nearly two years. From a basically unknown signing to a franchise trying to maneuver its way out of the balance of the 92 million dollar extension signed over the summer. There have been QB’s in the past that have sparked a lot of debate but Taylor and what the Bills are doing with him now has garnered the attention of not only the local media but the national media with a lot of head scratching.

With previous Bills QB’s the masses generally were in agreement towards the end with a few outliers that there are in every crowd. There seems to be a general split though however with Taylor. Some see him as the best the Bills can do so they might as well stay with him. Others view him as a plateau talent with faults and the search must continue on without his hefty price tag.

The Bills curiously decided to announce, shortly after they fired Rex, that Taylor would be a healthy scratch and that EJ Manuel would be getting an audition for a possible roll with the team in the future. I’m sorry (actually I’m really not) but I do not buy any of this. This is nothing but a charade from top to bottom

First and foremost, you do not bench your starting QB of the past 2 years one that you just gave an extension too this past summer and coming off arguably his best game of the year for the sake of a “Business Decision”. Let’s be completely real the decision has been made, Tyrod Taylor is done as a Buffalo Bill. There will be no coaches decision with whomever the Bills roll out there as the next Head Coach. If they thought for 1 second that he was the QB of the future they wouldn’t disrespect him in front of the league, media, fans, and his own teammates by benching him for fear of actually having to pay him. Its ludicrous at best

I know fans want to believe and they have been sold that the next coach will make the decision. Which flies completely against the reports that Whaley will have final roster say. So lets get this straight, he is going to let the new Head Coach decide the fate of the most important position in the game and then he gets the leftovers as far as roster decision? No, the reality is Taylor is not Whaley’s guy, Taylor is Rex’s guy. Rex found him and pushed to acquire him and has been his staunchest supporter through his tenure. There were reports for weeks that the Bills wanted Taylor benched in favor of EJ Manuel. Which leads me to my next point.

This is much more about EJ Manuel this week than fans want to believe or have been told. Manuel is to Whaley what Tyrod Taylor was to Rex, his guy. I’ll assume Whaley wants to see if A.Lynn has been able to get more out of Manuel the way he was able to get absolutely everything he could out of Tyrod.

The fact that they say this is some tryout for next year makes about zero sense. EJ will be a free agent and some team somewhere will give him a deal and a possible shot to compete for the starting position. Hue Jackson for one was quoted as saying he liked EJ Manuel and would be able to work with him (Any shock here that Whaley preferred Hue Jackson, see more dots connecting?)

This start is Whaley’s last chance to show that EJ could still possibly live up to that 1st round selection that Whaley spent on him. If it wasn’t it makes far FAR more sense to give the start to Cardale Jones, who while raw would benefit far more from a full game of live in season action than EJ Manuel. Jones is going to be on this roster next year and will spend the entire off season with the Bills. EJ Manuel may not however unless he turns in a performance that Whaley can justify an extension for. So again, Why not start Jones? The answer is Whaley still wants his first round QB selection to pan out no matter how many shots it takes.

With that said on game 16, even if the Bills started Taylor they would still head into the offseason with question marks at the QB position. Is Tyrod Taylor a bad QB? No, he is not but that also doesn’t make him a good one either. He really is middle of the road when it comes to QB’s and I honestly do not think you can ever win consistently with him.

You can break down all the stats and cut up all the analytics or you can save yourself the time and just watch how opposing defenses play him and game plan for him. All the good DC’s and defenses that play against him recognize and respect two things he does well.

One, he throws a really nice deep ball. There really is no argument here when it comes to that. It especially gets better when he has Sammy Watkins at his disposal. Two, he can and will hurt you with his legs. Taylor is not just a good running QB he is an excellent one. When he gets in the open field he is the equivalent of a high end slot WR with the ball in his hand. He has done a lot of damage to opposing teams with his legs and it has helped make up for some of his deficiencies.

Now the issues, and the issue with the issues is that I do not think any of them can be coached away. The most glaring one is an ability you either wake up with or you don’t. Taylor has little to no ability to anticipate or throw WR’s open in the short to intermediate parts of the field. He has no sense of timing in this area at all and its where opposing teams and the better DC’s of the league dare him to beat them.

These issues are why he tends to struggle against teams with even above average defenses. The opposing team is daring him to beat him with his arm in the short and intermediate. When the book on your QB is that he cannot beat you with his arm sans deep throws that should be a pretty big red flag about your QB.

The problem here is you are not teaching any of this to a 20 year old QB let alone a 27 year old QB. It’s something either you have or you don’t in my opinion. Many coaches careers have ended due to the belief that you can teach and coach this. It is my belief that you cannot.

So that has left the Bills in the situation they are in, do you go forward with a QB you know has big deficiencies that will cost you games and make it really difficult to ever get a win against a good defense at his price tag? Me personally, I do not think the team will be ever be built up enough to be able to mask his faults enough to get this team back into the playoffs. The key players are getting older and there is just too much movement year to year to sustain it. Plus the whole “just build the team up around him” theory only works if said QB’s price tag is low, Taylors is not

I also believe this is what Whaley and the front office have concluded and they do not want to be on the hook for another 30 million while they try to improve the position. Whaley’s best case is that A.Lynn can get the same or near the same out of EJ or Jones at a fraction of the cost. With that in mind the move to bench Tyrod and start EJ becomes a lot clearer.

Whaley is definitely a guy that likes to gamble. He right now is gambling that Tyrod will go somewhere else and perform at the same level and that he will be able to get better or the same out of whatever QB lands under the center in 2017 for the Bills. If he loses that gamble however he will likely find himself in the same position Rex is this year. One thing I do respect about Whaley is if he is going to strike out, he’s going to strike out swinging for the fences, not the double…I’d be doing the same thing

A Look at Possible HC Candidates for The Bills

Mike Watkins




So here the Bills are yet again just two years later, back searching for another Head Coach to lift this team like a phoenix from the depths of despair. Of course that is what it will be sold as, it has time and time again. It’s pretty laughable at this point. There is more discussion on how the Bills front office will spin their latest dumpster fire rather than what will be done to actually correct the fundamental issues with the team


I would like, for a nice change of pace, to be giving my opinion on the Bills playoff matchup or what they plan on doing with the 28th or even better yet 32nd pick of the first round. Yet here I am again looking over Head Coaching candidates and then I will be on to seeing what the Bills will be doing with their top 18 pick


In any case below is listed who I think possibly will and should get looks. Pay close attention because the list won’t change that much when the Bills do this again in two years. Well except I will also be including GM candidates.


Here is some of what I look for in Head Coaches


-Natural Leader: This one seems obvious but its not. Either you wake up a leader or you don’t. You cannot in my opinion become one by reading a book, or taking a class, its something that is in you from day one


-The ability to identify coaching talent: I cannot stress how important this is. A Head Coach is only as good as his staff. Go back over the history of the league and you will see all the great ones have this attribute. They can all identify coaching talent and they can get that talent to follow them


-Innovative: The league is consistently changing, you are either ahead of it or behind it. Being ahead of it is the key to any type of sustained success. Last thing you want is a coach to bring in the playbook and philosophies of the 90’s thinking it’s going to work today (Cough, Cough, Wanny…)


-Driven: Being a NFL Head Coach is a 24/7/365 job. Losing can not be acceptable or tolerated at any time



In House Candidates

Anthony Lynn, OC: Lynn is the only in house coach with a shot at the gig. He has garnered attention in the past and showed some real promise as he was able to get a lot out of a hobbled Bills offense in 2016. While the running game was the best in the NFL the passing game left a lot to be desired at points during the season. By all accounts he seems to have the respect of his players and by a good amount of people in NFL Circles

Probability: High, he by all accounts seems to be the front runner at the moment


College Ranks

David Shaw, Stanford: for the 3rd search in a row he would be in my top 3 and my top candidate from the college ranks. He is a natural leader who players want to follow. He would have access to a lot of qualified coaches would join him on his staff. Unfortunately he will not leave Stanford sans a unreal deal


Probability of getting the gig: Very Low, really like him but he’s not leaving Stanford for Buffalo


Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: He’s flirted with the NFL before but has said to love the college lifestyle and the state of Texas. He also has an unreal contract that would provide any team a lot of hurdles


Probability: Very low, See Shaw


Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: Would be my top choice overall, ZERO chance he even considers it


Probability: hahahahahahaha, Keep dreaming Bills fans


James Franklin, Penn State: The Pegulas affinity for Penn State is well reported. Still even they know that Franklin is still a little to green to be a real candidate for the gig. I wouldn’t be surprised if they give him an interview as a show of respect for him and to give him a glimpse into the process for the future


Probability:  Low, but a dark Horse


Nick Saban, Alabama: Excellent college coach who had a mediocre NFL run. Its rumored that he may want back into the NFL to give it another go given how he failed in Miami. To do that though it’s also rumored it would take an extraordinary offer. Saban should stay in college. While I consider him a good coach, his best attribute is that he is a world class recruiter and that skill is rendered moot on the NFL level


Probability: Very low, I cant see him leaving Alabama for the NFL unless there is a boat load of cash on the table and a franchise QB in place or a draft pick that lands him one





J.McDaniels, OC, Patriots: his name has been getting hotter and hotter but he seems to be content in New England and will be calculated in picking his next spot. He has previous HC experience which is a big plus. He also knows that ownership and access to a franchise QB are what make good teams great for a long time. The Bills may have the money and willingness to spend but they have nothing that resembles a franchise QB. My guess is he is waiting out the Colts gig or to succeed Belichick in New England


Probability: Low, sad to say but I think he will have better options than Buffalo and will look to leave the AFC East


M.Patricia, DC, Patriots: McDaniels counterpart seems a more likely option for the Bills but I still think it’s a long shot. While considered very bright and a natural leader I think he would likely want to leave the division to get away from Brady and Belichick. I also think he will wait for a much more stable looking franchise. With that said the front 4 and the talent the Bills still have there may be enough to persuade him to jump ship


Probability: Moderate, Less options than McDaniels in my opinion and Buffalo could be appealing to him


Frank Reich, OC, Eagles: I like Frank, really I do. It would make for a great story. The QB of the greatest comeback ever in football leads another great comeback for the playoffs. Problem is I really don’t see him as being that good of a HC candidate. He is an above avg OC but I don’t know that I would want him leading the ship. Still the Buffalo ties cannot be ignored so I expect him to be a player in the game


Probability: Moderate, Like I said the Bills connection is there but I don’t think his resume gets him the gig


Jim Bob Cooter, OC, Lions: He should be in contention for the name alone. JBC gained acclaim for name now people pay attention to his game. He has made Matt Stafford into an MVP candidate and has been in charge of a very steady Detroit Lions offense. I really like what he has done in Detroit and I hope he gets some strong consideration


Probability: Moderate, he has gained steam but I think he is a year away


Teryl Austin, DC, Lions: JBC couter part in Detroit I must say I am not a fan of. I think he is one of the more overrated candidates out there. The Lions defense has been up and down and I have a hard time buying into him even though the media seem to be big fans of his. The reports are that Whaley likes him so that will put him in the game


Probability: Good, Whaley likes him and if he is looking for a HC who won’t challenge him or his request Austin is the guy


Harold Goodwin, OC, Cardinals: Goodwin I go back and forth on as a candidate. On the one hand Goodwin is very well respected around the league and will have great access to excellent coaches who will want to join his staff. We has also been mentored by some of the best in the game. I however in general do not like taking a coordinator from a HC who’s expertise is that side of the ball. In Arizona its pretty clear Arians runs the offense. He’s definitely worth the consideration but its very boom or bust


Probability: Moderate, He could be the dark horse among coordinators


Jim Schwartz, DC, Eagles: How ironic would this be? I understand Schwartz defense was excellent that one year he was the DC but he also seemed to be working with the perfect storm of a front 4. You can’t count on that again and he would be the HC not the DC so that has to be kept in mind


Probability: Low, I honestly just don’t see the reunion happening


Sean McDermott, DC, Panthers: Realistically McDermott should be a HC right now and I think he will be one this offseason. His scheme despite some up and downs this year is still effective. He has the demeanor that teams look for in a HC. If its not in Buffalo it will be somewhere. Buffalo may appeal to him given the investment the team has made and continues to make in the front 4


Probability: Moderate, Decent candidate with a system that could work right away. He could make a push for the job


Kyle Shanahan, OC, Falcons: This year has made his star brighter but I have to say I am luke warm on Shanahan at best. I like that he makes it a point to get the ball to his playmakers. However, if that does not work he seems to have no idea how to make the adjustments to get he offense go again. Which leads to a lot of up and down games. Given that a HC needs to be able to make a lot of in game adjustments I view this as a red flag


Probability: Low, I don’t see there being a mutual interest but stranger things have happened


Todd Haley, OC, Steelers: Haley has to be considered a top candidate. He comes from the Steelers which gives him the obvious connection to Whaley. He has completely rehabilitated his image and career in Pittsburgh and learned from one of the best coaches in the game Mike Tomlin. He has been a HC before which means he knows what he is in for and could possibly learn from his mistakes. I’ve never been that big a fan of him but I think he will draw a lot of interest from the Bills


Probability: Good, as this process goes on I think you will hear his name more and more in connection with the Bills


Darrell Bevell, OC, Seahawks: He is the coordinator I wanted 2 years ago and he still tops my list two years later. Whomever snatches up Bevell is going to be very happy. He Has been with a multitude of coaches of various styles and teams. Is well respected around the league and is known as the coach who found and cultivated R.Wilson. I like Bevell because he is very flexible with his game plans week to week and often goes outside the box


Probability: Moderate, He’d be very high on my radar but I’m not sure he’s high on Whaley’s


Former Head Coaches, Big Names


Bill Cowher, CBS/Steelers: It’s amazing that Mr.Cowher always seem to have a craving for Buffalo area food every time the Bills head coaching job opens up

Probability: In Buffalo folklore, Excellent….In Reality, I have a better shot at being the next HC


Tom Coughlin, Formally of the Giants and Jaguars: It’s no secret that Coughlin did not like being forced out of New York and wants to get back into the HC game. He visited Buffalo in the spring and has been rumored to have an eye for the job. He likes the Pegulas and he thinks it’s a win now roster. I’ve always been a fan of his and one of the reasons why is his ability to assemble coaching staffs. He Also has been a thorn in the Patriots side which will be appealing in that he can go into the ownership and say “I know how to beat the Patriots, I have beat them, and I have beat them on the biggest stage”


Probability: Very Good, he has interest and the Bills seem to have mutual interest. If they go big name former coach I believe Coughlin will be the guy  


Jon Gruden, ESPN/Bucs/Raiders: I personally have never been a fan of Gruden but he does have a ring and he did turn around the Raiders when they were horrid and ran by a delusional owner. That said he is said to be happy where he is and will only go to a team with a franchise QB in place. People mention the Rams but the team he really has his eye on is the Colts


Probability: Very Low, I honestly don’t think he will have any interest


So Who Would I go With?

If It’s a coordinator I am going with D.Bevell. I think the Bills need someone who knows how to coach and identify the QB position. Bevell has been around enough very good QB play to know what it looks like and he knows how to get the most out of it. I think he is an innovative mind who adjust his offense as needed to what its strengths are. His time under Carroll has been extremely valuable. He has been around the league enough and under enough good coaches that he knows were all the up and coming coaching talent is in the league. When I see Bevell he reminds of Sean Peyton time and time again. I think that is exactly what the Bills need


If it’s a coach with Former HC experience, I am going with Coughlin. I think Coughlin can win with this roster right now and he has enough clout in the league where he could set up an excellent staff now and for when he departs. He is the type of coach this team needs right now. It needs accountability and structure. None of which it has. He also seems to have an interest in being here and wanting to win here. That may mean more to some than others but I tend to like it.

Who do I think it will be?

In all honesty I think it will be T.Austin from Detroit or A.Lynn. I think Whaley wants someone who won’t challenge him and his decisions. His job is on the line so he is not going to want a coach with a Super Bowl ring going rouge on him and end running him to ownership. He will definitely want that kept in check. Neither of these two have the clout to do so. Hence I believe one of the two will be the next HC of the Buffalo Bills

Bills Scouts Attend Garrett Grayson's Pro Day- Schedule Private Workout

Anthony D. Macar@nflwarroom

It's no surprise the Bills are doing there do diligence with all the top prospects in the draft, especially at QB. However, in the past, there is a significant correlation between Bills draft picks who have paid pre-draft visits to One Bills Drive or who have had private workouts. After Coloroda State QB Garrett Grayson had his pro day on Monday, Drew Boyhart reported that the Bills had scheduled a private workout. 

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Grayson is widely believed to be battling Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley to be the 3rd QB taken off the board somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd round. With numerous reports the Broncos, Browns, Dolphins and Jets are all expressing interest, it would seem if the Bills want him it will cost them their first pick, a second rounder, to land him. Grayson's stock has been on a steady climb after a solid senior bowl week performance and with a solid pro day. 

Grayson has a good NFL caliber arm capable of making all the throws with accuracy at all levels. He has a bit of a low 3/4 release that isn't the quickest or most sound mechanically. His greatest asset is his pocket presence were he uses his plus athleticism to step up or slide instinctively when feeling pressure. 

The Bills would corner themselves into making some pretty quick major decisions at QB if they were to select one in the 2nd or 3rd round. you would assume a spot on the roster would have to be kept for a high draft pick. With 4 veterans already on the team, that would only leave 2 spots open for newly signed Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and Bills returning QB's EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel. Tuel would be an obvious first causality, but that would still leave a major decision regarding the roster status of Manuel, Cassel and Taylor.  If a pick were to be used on a QB early, that may very well be the clearest indication that EJ Manuel's time in Buffalo is nearing an end. 

Handicapping the Bills QB Competition 

by Anthony D. Macari @nflwarroom

After a fast and furious start to the NFL league year for the Bills, the dust has settled on the first phase of team building for the new regime. With a month to go before the draft, the Bills have a dramatically revamped roster, particularly on offense. In addition to adding weapons at WR, RB, FB and TE, Rex Ryan and Doug Whaley have added two QBs to compete with EJ Manuel for the starting position. 

Rex Ryan has promised a wide open competition among the 3 veterans. Rex certainly hopes the old adage that if you have two QBs you really have none, doesn't apply to cases where you have three. Jeff Tuel rounds out the competition but realistically faces an uphill battle just to remain on the roster. The possibility remains that the Bills add a 5th QB to the mix in the draft but without a first round pick, they will have limited options to upgrade the competition. 

Matt Cassel has to be viewed as the slight favorite going into camp. Rex just got out of a situation were a young, highly drafted QB was in direct competition with a more experienced veteran. However, the Jets situation was as dysfunctional as it gets and Rex's hand was forced to go with the younger option.  That didn't turn out well and Rex may be reluctant to repeat history despite some pressure from Whaley to start the younger prospect he spent a first round pick on just two drafts ago. While Cassel has had some success in the league, he has clearly not progressed to the point where he can be considered anything more than a journeyman stop gap option. With the weapons added on offense and the deep talent on defense in the capable hands of Rex Ryan, a journeyman stop gap veteran may be good enough to snap the leagues longest playoff drought. Of the 3 options, he represents the most know quantity. Like Orton a year ago, he brings the experience and leadership needed to quickly bring a young talented roster together. Rex and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman could look to Cassel to manage a game plan heavy on the run game and short horizontal passing game. Alex Smith had success for Roman in San Francisco in a similar role.  However, Cassel will have to dramatically reverse his career trend which has seen him throw and alarming 33 interceptions vs only 30 TD's in his last 4 seasons. Those are not the kind of numbers you want to see from a veteran care tacker. He has also had difficulty staying on the field and actually initially failed his physical with the Bills after being traded from the Vikings. 

While Cassel's experience gives him the edge, there is no doubt the best case scenario at One Bills Drive is that EJ Manuel, in his 3rd year, dramatically matures and emerges as the undisputed starter. While the pro tape for EJ is limited, that tape clearly shows the game at this level is simply too fast for him. I recently re-watched tape of EJ from his sophomore year at Florida State and was shocked to see how much more tentatively his game seems to be now than it was when he was first cutting his teeth for the Seminoles. The reads were simple and he still didn't always make the right decision, but he played with a fearlessness that allowed him to make plays with his legs and arm that he simply has shown no sign of at the pro level. Instead, he was all to quick to check down no matter the situation to avoid making the big mistake. While that may not be the worst thing on a team with a defense as talented as the Bills, nothing disheartens a team's confidence in its QB than open receivers down field not getting the ball. Especially when the ball goes underneath short of the first down marker on 3rd down after 3rd down.  There were also reports from players that EJ was too passive in the huddle. When a QB with as little charisma as Kyle Orton can be seen as a true field general by comparison, something might be wrong. The only hope for EJ, is that reports coming from the Bills front office that EJ's demotion last year was handled by him in a way that was truly beneficial. that he realized by watching a veteran lead an offense what it takes and is truly motivated to develop into the kind of QB the Bills thought he could when they took him in the first round of the 2013 draft. The Bills drafted him highly with the hope he could develop his prototypical size, rocket arm and decent straight-line speed and athleticism into a franchise QB. He has the presence to command a room off the field that you hope will translate into strong leadership on the field. However, sometimes even when you can check all the individual boxes, the sum of the parts still come up short. EJ will have an opportunity to show he is more than what Mike Mayock described him as when he was drafted, a lump of clay waiting to be developed. Potential can be a curse when undeveloped and unless the game significantly slows down for him and he once again plays with the reckless abandon of a young emerging collegiate star, hye may never shake that curse.

The dark horse candidate for the job, is a player who also had to learn from the bench. Like EJ, Tyrod Taylor came into the league as a lump of clay brimming with potential but far from being a pro ready prospect. In fact, most teams asked him to make the switch to Wide Receiver. With 4.5 speed and dynamic play making ability with the ball in his hand, he likely would have been able to make that switch. However, he stuck to his guns and decided to take the more difficult path to his dream of being an NFL starter. As Rex has repeatedly said, Taylor may just be the fastest QB in the league. Along with his blazing speed, he also has that unique athletic ability to extend plays in the pocket and slip tackles in the open field that will bring fans out of their seats and lift teammates off the bench. Taylor also has the flare for the dramatic at Virginia Tech and in limited pre-season action for the Ravens, leading the Hokies and Ravens to several dramatic last minute wins. Rex may see Taylor as a potential read option, change of pace QB, but Taylor himself may be out to prove, after a 4 year apprenticeship in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco, that he is full time starter materiel. Taylor actually has done exactly what the experts say a prospect with his raw ability should do, sit and learn. He's had the opportunity to practice every day against one of the leagues best defenses and obviously showed enough for the Ravens to keep him around as the primary back up since his rookie year. By all accounts, Taylor is also a solid positive presence in the locker room. At the very least, the Bills have themselves a dynamic change of pace option, but don't be surprised if a year from now, we all look back and say despite all the other additions to the team this off-season, the Taylor signing proved to be the most significant. On a team with the kind of speed at the skill positions, adding Taylor to the mix could be simply too much for opposing defenses to defend. While Taylor has a solid arm with a quick release, his lack of accuracy on the intermediate range passes could prove to be his downfall, but he can deliver the big throw down-field with touch and would excel in a horizontal offense given the speed now at WR, RB and TE.

There is also always the chance the Bills add another QB to the roster through the draft if one they like falls to them. Gil Brandt reported Rex Ryan flew out to Texas to workout Bryce Petty. Petty was a successful college QB running the same wide open attack that inflated the pre-draft ranking of RGIII. Petty has all of the intangibles you want in a QB and also brings prototypical size and arm strength. However, short and intermediate range accuracy comes and goes for Petty. Two cracked bones in his spine, similar to the injury Cowboys QB Tony Romo suffered, could be a cause of regression in Petty's mechanics. He likely is not NFL ready and would be a true risk reward pick who's value probably doesn't make sense until the 3rd or 4th round. Yet, some team will likely fall in love with his potential and reach in the 2nd. Brett Hundley is most often named as the #3 QB after Mariota and Winston, but the similarities to Manuel are stark and he is two years behind in development. Like Manuel, Hundley will be drafted more on potential than production. One QB option I do like and wouldn't mind the Bills taking a flier on him in the 3rd round if available is Garrett Grayson. Although undersized, he has some experience under center, has good pocket presence and the arm to make all the throws. His accuracy and arm strenght require a clean pocket where he can step into his throws but he does have some escapability and the ability to throw outside the pocket. 

So if your a betting man, Cassel is the odds on favorite and safest bet to start the season but there may be some pressure to give Manuel one last shot. If you're looking for the big payday and want to play the longshot, Tyrod Taylor just may surprise when all things are said and done. Save your money on prospects in this draft class or with also ran candidate Jeff Tuel.

Clay Day Finally Arrives in Buffalo

Mike Watkins



It took a while to get there but the Bills finally landed the player that sat atop their wish list for Free Agency. Charles Clay signed the Bills offer sheet and a couple days later the Miami Dolphins decided to let him go. Fans of both teams witnessed a chess game back in forth between two teams in the same division. At times it was fun, most of the time it seemed to drag on endlessly. In the end though the Bills landed the player they wanted and the Dolphins prepared for life without Clay

For the Bills Clay represents the most talent they have had at the position in a while. While Clay has had some injury issues in the past he has proven to be a productive player on the field. Many will ask why the Bills paid such a high cost for Clay. They gave him similar money to some of the elite TE’s in the NFL.

The answer is pretty simple, Roman’s style of offense values a TE he can move around the field. He is asked to be an H-Back, FB, In Line TE, Slot WR, all while being able to be a proficient blocker both in line and on the second and third levels. There are not a whole lot of players walking around with that specific skill set. Clay is one of them and honestly may be the best one of the bunch.

You cannot just look at Clay’s reception numbers and come to a conclusion on why the Bills and Roman wanted him. His value is going to show up a lot when the game is being played but will not be fully reflected on the stat sheet. Clay will be a safety valve for the Bills QB’s, whomever that may be. That is something that they have not had in a long time. He is a good route runner who can identify the weak spots in coverage and move towards them. This is important with what the Bills have at the WR position. If they can drag the coverage down field this will allow Clay to work the middle of the field. Chances are he will be lined up with a LB and that is a tough assignment for nearly every LB in the league. That contribution will show up on the stat sheet

What won’t show up on the stat sheet for him is when he is on the second level and the pass makes its way to say RB L.McCoy. At this point clay becomes a FB who is good at blocking a moving target. It’s blocks on the second and third level that can turn a 6 yard gain into a 60 yard TD. That will never show up for Clay on his stat sheet but it’s an important feature in the offense the Bills are constructing right now. YAC will be the name of the game in Buffalo. To do that you have to have willing and able blockers on the second and third level. These players are a lot harder to find than some think.

From the Miami perspective I can see why they are willing to let him go. Miami’s offense doesn’t really require a lot from the TE. It is more focused on getting the ball to the WR’s. Miami over all would prefer to have a 3 number 2 WR’s than a 1, a 2, and a 3. They focus on spreading the ball and letting the WR’s make plays. Clay numbers dropped in Miami partly due to this. They were far more focused on getting the ball to Wallace and Hartline than Clay. For what they paid J.Cameron and what they have in D.Sims it made no sense to keep Clay at the price the Bills paid for him.

One thing I will defend Miami on. I keep seeing “they could have avoided this by just spending the extra 1.3 million to franchise tag him”. Personally I don’t think they wanted to avoid another team negotiating with Clay. I think they wanted it and welcomed it. They don’t value him enough to pay the franchise tag cost on him nor the transition tag. I think they wanted him to hit the open market hoping another team would agree with their valuation and sign him to a deal that they could match. Or at the very least they are only on the hook for one year at appx 7 million that they could have negotiated down on a long term.

Signing Clay to the franchise tag made no sense for them. By doing so they are going far over what they want to pay for the position. Second, absolutely no one is going to give first rounder’s for Clay. So that keeps any teams from negotiating with him which again leaves his open market value up to opinion. Plus if Clay and his agent had any clue they would immediately sign the franchise tender locking him into that 8+ million guaranteed and then likely freeing him up next year. That is one thing the Dolphins definitely did not want to happen. Thus they moved on.

The Bills have clearly focused on offense this offseason and are giving their current QB’s as many weapons as they can to help them succeed. They definitely have not sat quietly on the sideline with a shoulder shrug going “well we don’t have a QB”. They have been pro-active about finding alternative ways to build and compete while the search for that elusive franchise QB continues. One thing is for certain though, if a franchise QB does become available the Bills have made themselves into a very attractive destination for one looking to win now. This is a point in the media that seems to have gone right over their heads, and it should not be looked over nor diminished. The Bills clearly have a plan and they are executing it aggressively, for Bills fans they welcome this effort with open arms.

Thoughts on The Harvin, Felton, Taylor Deals

Mike Watkins



Percy Harvin, ATH/WR: I’m not the biggest Percy Harvin. I feel he has been overrated for a while now, mostly due to that he doesn’t understand what his role on most teams is. He isn’t a classic WR and thus really shouldn’t be used as one. The biggest reason for this is because he’s a pretty horrid route runner and he has issues reading coverage. That doesn’t mean however that he doesn’t have a place in the league. Harvin is as explosive as it gets with the ball in his hands. The Bills have to find a way to do that, and do it in open space. There have been numerous issues with this in the past with countless players and staffs.

On a one year deal it’s really hard to dump on the Bills for this move. If he can stay healthy they added a player defenses have to account for and when he is on his game can tilt a defense. It will be interesting to see how Roman deploys him in this offense. Roman does like players that can play multiple roles. Overall it’s not a bad move but I’m also not overly excited because I don’t think nor expect his Viking numbers. I’m also hoping that Harvin has had a bit of a reality check over the past two years. Yes there were other teams interested in him but no one was going to pay him anywhere near what he was making. Harvin has a lot riding on this year. This year will set up his likely last multi-year deal of his career.

Jerome Felton, FB: FB is one of those positions some Bills fans seem to want year in and year out even though the position has almost faded completely from the NFL. As far as talent goes Felton is top 5 at the position. The real question however is how McCoy will respond to having Felton blocking for him. Not all RB’s like a FB in front of them. It can sometimes lead to congestion or if they are out of sink a lot of negative or no gains. It will be a little bit of a work in progress but I think it will have a positive effect. The signing represents a clear upgrade

Tyrod Taylor, QB: Taylor is an ultra athletic QB that has been planted on the Baltimore bench for awhile. I personally am for any QB move at this point. He has a decent arm and can be a threat with his feat. It’s a long shot at best to expect anything spectacular from him but given the position the Bills QB position is in nearly anybody is worth a shot. The Bills were not the only team interested in Taylor and for good reason, he has a lot of raw athletic ability. A the very least you can be utilized in some sub packages

Hughes Stays Home

Mike Watkins



For as much grief as some like to heap on Buffalo with the mantra of “who would want to play there”, Buffalo has yet again shown that it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be. Jerry Hughes is the latest example of a player who once he is in Buffalo, often doesn’t want to leave. At first Jerry Hughes shook off the mention of a hometown discount at the end of last season. He’s completely within his right to do so. When you have a rare skill set you should always try and maximize what someone will pay you. Especially if you are making a career out of a sport. You only have a short amount of time to maximize your income. Yet when it came down to a bigger pay check or staying in Buffalo, he chose Buffalo (Admittedly he still made out very well contract wise).

Hughes was once thought a bust, and rightfully so. The Colts made him a first round selection and a lot of people likened him a bit to Jason Taylor. An edge rusher who could change games as he did in college at TCU. Once he landed with the Colts it never seemed to come together. He would tease with his talent but would always disappear.

The Bills had the same high hopes for Kelvin Sheppard. An ILB thumper who could lead the defense. He like Hughes was disappointing. So the teams decided to swap their perceived draft mistakes. Hughes signs a 45 million dollar deal and Sheppard may be out of the league. So there is no reason to debate who won the trade, the answer is pretty obvious.

Heading up to Free Agency Hughes was primed to make a very large contract. After the tag deadline passed he then became arguably the top pass rusher on the open market. In a league heading more towards the passing game it greatly increased his value. Hughes was going to cash in big time from a team flush with cap space looking to upgrade their pass rush.

Problem for those teams is the Bills saw the value in bringing him back and didn’t even want to let him out the door. Adding Hughes back into the fold became very important to the Bills. They recognized that keeping arguably the premier front 4 in the NFL together has a lot of value. Rex Ryan now has as much talent in the front 7 as he did since his days with the Ravens as a DC.

It’s one thing to build a strength but it’s a whole other to keep it a strength. The Bills realize that with no franchise QB of the sorts on the roster they had to keep their elite unit intact to have a shot at the playoffs this year. Keeping Hughes here with an elite defensive mind like Rex at the helm can take an already very good defense to another level.

It’s that type of thinking that I believe kept Hughes in Buffalo. I’m sure he had bigger offers from Jacksonville and maybe the Raiders. What would he really be getting by moving to one of these team for say an extra 5-7 million on top of the deal he could have in Buffalo? Sure it’s a lot of money and it’s tough to turn it away. In Buffalo however he still gets to be a part of a unit that has made a name for itself terrorizing opposing QB’s. In Buffalo he still gets to play in front of a diehard fan base that appreciates hard work and good defenses. In Buffalo he gets to play for a coach that can take his game to an even higher level. Most importantly in Buffalo he gets to play for the franchise that saw something and believed in him enough to put him on the field to make plays, making him the best player he can be

Thank You Jerry Hughes, for staying and believing in Buffalo like they believe in you…

Thoughts on The McCoy Alonso Trade

Mike Watkins



My initial reaction to the McCoy for Kiko trade was a strong dislike for it. I could not fathom trading a young promising LB who excelled in the system that Rex will put back in place for a soon to be 27 year old RB on a monster deal. I’ll admit it Kiko was one of my favorite Bills players and I was excited to see him play this season. Now that I’ve had some time to digest the trade it’s become more acceptable and reasonable but still a stunner overall, especially at the speed in which it took place

Let’s start off with McCoy. My first initial issues with the trade were McCoy’s age and his price tag. Right now McCoy is heading out of his prime. So the Bills will not be paying him for his best years they will likely be paying for his decline. Now that decline will have some years that will be better than some best years. That’s just the type of talent McCoy is.

In general a RB’s prime years are 23-27. This is when they are at their peak ability and the wear and tear of the league has yet to catch up with them. McCoy at 27 likely has 1 really good year left, a couple good years and then we will see a decline. Now how sharp the decline is will be up for debate. McCoy has a running style, Elusive, that tends to have a longer high end shelf life than the other bulldozer style of running. McCoy doesn’t seek out contact he looks to avoid. This will extend his career outwards a long ways especially if he accepts a 3rd down RB roll in his 30’s. This is also why I prefer RB’s McCoy style as opposed to the other bulldozer type.

Overall I’m not too worried about the prime years left after thinking about it. The Bills for the most part have to make a run now before some of their key players like Kyle Williams and Mario Williams start to decline as well as the cap catching up with them. So the 2-3 year window makes sense. If it’s not working you will likely see a roster blow up in 2-3 years anyway.

That’s brings us to the cap hit. Now the Bills have to be careful how they structure this. I would not add any more than one year to the current deal and would try my best to restructure and move some money around to his benefit within the current years allotted in the deal. The relief can be had without the Bills being too much on the hook for his declining years which is what they should look to avoid. Overall the contract isn’t terrible for the type of talent McCoy is. He’s arguably the best RB in the NFL. The money needs to be moved around however to help the Bills make some other key moves as they obviously are looking to make a playoff push now and not later.

 Now on to Kiko Alonso. The issues I had with moving Kiko is that he looked very much like an up and coming talent that was about to be playing in a defense that made him look like an elite talent. He also had a very manageable contract that would allow the Bills a lot of flexibility with both lineups and offseason moves. Some have tried to downplay the second half of his rookie season. What I saw was an excellent player naturally hitting a rookie wall. Make no mistake about Kiko is a gamer and will continue to be one in Philly. The Eagles fans should be excited about the player they received in return for McCoy

 While I like Kiko the Bills are very much in a win now mode and in a transition as to how the offensive side of the ball will be run. With this in mind the trade became more reasonable. While I like Kiko Alonso and thought he had and has a very bright future, the Bills will be fine without him as they were last year. Preston Brown exceeded expectations and looks like he will be a very good ILB for the Bills for a long time. The Bills front office has also shown a knack for being able to identify LB talent in the draft. So they must feel confident that if they had to they could pluck another one out of the draft.

 Another reason why the trade doesn’t bother me as much is one of the things I used to criticize Rex Ryan for in his days with the Jets. What he would seem to do is sink a lot of assets into that side of the ball to keep it flush with talent and leaving the offense near devoid of talent. It also provided a built in excuse, “My defense works, it the OC and offense that cant get it together”. My reasoning always was that if Rex is such a defensive mastermind shouldn’t he be able to do more with less? I feel like with the moves he has made thus far, and this trade is a prime example, he has learned from that mistake in New York. I think he now realizes that if he pumps up the offense with talent he can make it work on defense and still be a top 5 defense with the talent he has. Kiko at this point was more of a luxury for Rex than a necessity. Due to that he likely felt he could move Kiko and still have his defense running at a peak level with a combination of Brown, Bradham, and maybe David Harris via free agency

 With McCoy I understand some of the trepidations Bills fans have with the move. The latest and greatest line being pumped out is “RB’s are a Dime a Dozen”. To a point I agree yes they are. RB’s who can give you 700-1100 yards are a dime a dozen these days. RB’s on McCoy level who can make things very difficult of defenses week in and week out and have the talent to go 1500-1800 yards however are not a dime a dozen. There is a distinct line between good and elite, McCoy sits on the elite side of that line

McCoy is a special talent that can make opposing teams pay in a number of ways. He is just as deadly taking the handoff as he is receiving the ball. He is a true 3 down RB. Once the ball is in his hands he can score from anywhere on the field and has some of the best vision in the league. He’s in reality a lot of what the Bills thought they were getting when they drafted CJ Spiller,  obviously Spiller did not end up being that.   

I don’t agree with this narrative that the Bills are just going to grind him into the ground the next three years. Yes McCoy will obviously get the bulk of the carries and likely the most touches on offense. I still see the Bills using Fred Jackson to spell him even more than Sproles did with the Eagles. Dixon should still get some touches and B.Brown is a bit of a wild card but if an injury occurs he will be right in the mix as well.    

“But they still don’t have a QB” is the quote I’m hearing most often from some media. Some people seem to be confused as to the supply of these types of QB’s and where they are acquired. It’s not like there is a bunch of franchise QB’s out there in free agency or on other teams ready to be traded and the Bills ignored them for McCoy. These are the types of moves you have to make when you cannot get your hands on the franchise QB. You have to find alternative methods. Not all teams or going to have that type of access to a franchise QB. The reality is the Bills do not have any way of acquiring a QB that is head over heels better than what they have. That doesn’t mean they should attempt it but you do so knowing you’re essentially trying to catch lightning in a bottle. So you do what you can. Try and build it up around what you have at QB to lessen the need on the position with an attempt to avoid getting in shootouts with teams who have clearly better QB’s. The Bills have and are trying to do that at the moment. I can’t fault them for this, it’s a far better method of operation than hoping for a QB to pan out from the free agency pile

This is one of those rare trades that I believe benefits both teams. In the short term it will ultimately help the Bills more. Long term the Eagles may set up to get the better end of it. Given the rare amount of player for player for trades in the NFL it’s even rarer for it actually benefit both sides. After the initial shock of the trade I’m on board with it and am excited to see McCoy in action next year. One thing is for sure the standard offseason operation for the Bills has drastically changed and hopefully for the better.

Bills Free Agency Preview

Mike Watkins



The Hello NFL, I’m Terry F’ing Pegula and I’m gonna make it rain Free Agents

-J.Houston, OLB: Listen I like J.Hughes just as much as the next guy, but the thought of having Houston on one side Mario on the other with Dareus and Williams in the Middle would bring tears all across the board. Tears of Joy for Bills fans, and tears of fear for opposing teams. Sure there is about zero chance this happens for multiple reasons but that’s why it’s on this part of the list

-D.Revis, CB: Rex Ryans other man crush. Revis is everything Rex wants in a CB and Rex defense plays exactly into what Revis does best on the field. With the importance of CB play in Rex defense I imagine he will convince the Bills to go hard after him. Unlike Houston this has a legit chance of happening. I’m personally not scarred off by the years because I think much like Rod Woodson and Charles Woodson I believe Revis will end his career as a very good safety

-J.Thomas, TE: There are few positions the Bills fans have been begging for more over the past decade and half then a play making TE. Thomas represents want and need. Grant it his numbers are inflated by Peyton Manning but even with the inflated numbers accounted for he would be light years ahead of anything the Bills have had in, well, light years

The yea I’ve got deep pockets but I’m not going to Snyder this thing up in my first year Free Agents

-Charles Clay, TE: The guy just makes plays when he is out there. He is coming off a knee injury that kept his numbers down in 2014 which in turn will keep his contract down a little. This would be a signing that would help in 2 ways. One it improves the Bills, and two it weakens the Dolphins. He has a lot of D.Keller to him, which Rex knows all to well

-O.Franklin, OG/OT: The ability to play either LG or RT at a high level will attract a lot of teams and the Bills will be one of them given that they without a doubt have a major problem at one of those positions and a possible problem at the other if a young S.Henderson doesn’t develop

-C.Boling, OG: Everyone is looking and hoping for Iupati but I like Boling better because I think he is the better player and he will also be cheaper than the aforementioned Iupati. I’d rather pay for game then name

-P.McPhee, OLB/DE: Not your household name yet but if Hughes bolts McPhee would be a good substitute. Every Ravens game I watched this kid made plays. He’s equally good against the run and the pass. He’s talented enough where the Ravens may extend him and waive bye bye to Suggs or Dumerville

-J.Odrick, DE/DT: Odrick was made for a system like Rex Ryans and if he and his agent were smart they would find a way to get him to a hybrid scheme like Rex’s. He is a jack of all trades DL who is good in all phases of the game. He’ll never get the awards but he is one of those players that makes everyone around him better

The lets pump the breaks they are about to be overpaid Free Agents

-M.Iupati, OG: Look, I get it, the guy is an absolute monster in the run game and he leaves a little to be desired in pass protection but not much. For what he is going to command on the open market I really don’t think he is worth it. The Bills are obviously in need of this exact position but there will be good players out there at a far less cost

-N.Fairley, DT: I feel like this guy is still living off of his one good college year. Sure he has had some flashes here and there but playing next to the beast that is Suh helped spark that flash

I guess I have to sign a QB Free Agents

-Jake Locker, QB: This is seriously with a gun to my head because there is no QB out there worth signing and expecting anything out of. So it came down to a flip of the coin between Locker and Mallett. As you can see Locker won. I had Locker extremely overhyped coming out of college but he does have some good physical traits when you know, he’s not on IR

The Under the Radar I hope I hit on these because I barely have any draft picks Free Agents

-J.Gresham, TE: He has talent and shows flashes of it from time to time. I personally think this is a change of scenery player who could blossom elsewhere. The Bengals have a lot of offensive options so Gresham tends to get lost. If he was featured a little more he could finally reach his potential

-A.Clayborn, DE: I liked Clayborn coming out of Iowa. He is coming of an injury this past year that cost him 15 games. His biggest issue in my opinion is that he has been playing in a defense that doesn’t really suit him his whole career. I think he would be far better off in a hybrid type system than a straight 4-3

-S.Brown, S: Ask any Colts fan and they will tell you that Brown is better than L.Laundry, and they are right. He played very well for the Colts down the stretch

I’m going to go ahead and pass on them Free Agents

-D.Harris, ILB: Signing this guy would make about zero sense to me. To me he is now an older more expensive version of B.Spikes. At that point the Bills might as well keep Spikes in the fold.

-M.Sanchez, QB: I’m not clueless, I get it, there is actually an extremely good shot of this guy coming to Buffalo. Reality is he is the ultimate tease at QB. He will make some throws and have some games that make you think, yea its finally clicked for him. Then he will revert right back to, I can’t believe this guy has an IQ higher than 50 games and throws. He is what he is at this point in his career. A good back up that can get you through a 4 game stretch at .500 but that’s about it

The Rex Ryan Glue Guy Free Agents

-L.Douzable, DL: I can’t be the only one who noticed that this guy always seem to make a play or two every time the Jets played. He is by no means a starter but is a solid rotation player who knows the system

-D.Landry, S: I don’t think he will start many if any games at all, but he knows Rex’s system and that has value. Given his age and up and down production this should be a cheap signing  and one that is more of an on the field coach more than anything else

The homerun or strike out nothing in between free agents

-A.Cromartie, CB: If the Bills would be getting 2014 Cromartie than it’s a no brainer. If they are getting 2013 Cromartie then absolutely no way you even consider him. At age 31 I believe he is closer to the 2013 version than the 2014 version.

-B.Orakapo, DE/OLB: Orakapo will be one of the most interesting Free Agents to follow this offseason. He is ultra talented when he is healthy. The problem is he is rarely healthy anymore. So giving this guy any type of big money is truly a roll of the dice. Now if Hughes gets away I am completely on board with that roll of the dice. Mainly because while still a decent sized contract I still think he could be a bargain. If he is healthy then the Bills have by far the best front 7 in football and it wont be close

Other Thoughts

-Realistically I expect the Bills to be aggressive in the free agency period. They actually need to be with no first round pick this year. That doesn’t mean I expect them or want them to toss money all around the place. They still have to be smart and calculated about it.

-I expect Offense and former Rex players to be the name of the game in Free Agency. With limited draft picks in a shallow draft they have to set themselves up to be able to pick the BPA in every round

Thoughts On the Richie Incognito Signing

Mike Watkins



Obviously the Bills made an interesting signing this week when they brought in offensive guard Richie Incognito. There is no reason to rehash why Incognito is such a controversial player. If you are reading this then you know the story and if you don’t I really don’t know where you have been for the past year and a half.

The need is obvious with the signing. The OG position has been a complete dumpster fire the past two years. Incognito immediately became the most talented OG on the roster once the pen hit the paper. That speaks much more to the complete lack of talent on the Bills roster much more than it does Incognito’s talents. The Bills clearly need help and they did not want to wait until the free agent doors opened.

Overall from a fit standpoint Incognito is exactly what they are looking for at the position. He has always been a poor mans Kevin Gogan. He is an average to sometimes good OG game to game. Better in the run game than in the pass and provides that nasty streak on the field that coaches often look for in the position. So from a pure on the field move it’s a no brainer with what Rex and Roman want to do with this offense.

Now obviously there are plenty that take issue with the signing because of the harassment charges from his Dolphin days. There is no doubt that is a concern and the one year deal represents that concern. The Bills really have no risk other than maybe a week or two of bad press if it goes wrong again.

I for one do not take issue with the signing. I believe that every wrong decision has a penalty and once that penalty is paid its time to move on. I think the year and half Incognito spent away from the game constitutes paying the penalty. I don’t believe that Incognito should just be banished forever and live his life in exile.

Everyone makes mistakes, I’ve made them, you’ve made them, we have all made them. I’ve found in my 30 plus years on this earth that I often change and learn the most after a mistake and more often than not for the better. I do not like this branding of someone when they make a mistake or they do something wrong that the person shall forever be identified and known as that mistake. To me it’s foolish at best.

I also believe that it is unbelievable ignorant to say that Kim Pegula or the Bills franchise and fan base somehow deem it ok and are fine with Incognito for his past discretions simply because he signed here. I’m not, they are not, and none of us will ever be fine with what he did. I’m not here to make excuses for Incognito nor are they and there is no stamp of approval on those past actions. That version of Incognito may not even exist anymore. Personally I don’t know and I bet no one else knows either including Richie himself.

I haven’t always had this mindset. I’ve found that as I get older that forgiveness is more of a virtue and changing is inevitable across the board. For me I’ll be rooting for Incognito to show that change is possible, recognize what he did was wrong, and show that positive change can come from a bad situation. I hope Incognito understands the opportunity that has been given to him by the Bills and that he takes full advantage of it. The better person and player he is will not only benefit him but the Bills team as a whole.

Run Down of The Bills Free Agents

Mike Watkins



Main Free Agents

CJ Spiller: I like Spiller and think he can a very explosive back when he is given lanes and space. There are a few issues though. For starters he cannot seem to stay healthy which is a problem with any type of big commitment. The second issue is his age, at 28 the Bills or any team for that matter would be crazy to sink any type of big money into him. He is a nice player to have but only at the right price

What to Do: I’d let him test the market and the most I’d offer is just south of what R.Bush got from Detroit. Absolutely nothing over 4 years though

Prediction: Spiller leaves town. I think the Bills will be right to move on because sinking any type of real money into a RB at his age with his injury history would be a mistake. My guess is with the Jets or Giants. Jets make sense with the Gailey there and the Giants front office was very high on him coming out of college and tried to move up for him.

J.Hughes: I wouldn’t say Hughes is an absolute must to bring back but he’s clearly the top FA on this list that the Bills should attempt to lock up. He has proven to be very productive on this team in multiple systems which has a lot of value. Knowing this his agent will want to try and get to the market to land a big deal. The Bills will have to convince him otherwise. They do have some carrots to dangle with a system he produces in and playing alongside ultra-talented players on defense

What to Do: I’d try not to let him get to market. 5/48/20 the absolute max I would go. The reality is if they don’t bring him back there will be many other pass rushers looking to line up alongside Williams, Williams, and Dareus

Prediction: I think Hughes exits. While the Bills are trying to lock him up now he is eventually going to start to get some open market numbers from some teams. While Hughes has blossomed in Buffalo I believe he is going to let money determine where he lands. It’s not impossible to bring him back because I’m sure he knows the extreme advantage he has playing around the talent he does here

B.Spikes: I’m much more a fan of Spikes then when they signed him. He is still is the one dimensional 2 down LB he was when they signed him. However he brought an attitude and a pride to run defense that the Bills had been searching for, for years now. If the Bills had stayed with Schwartz it would have been nearly impossible to bring him back based on numbers alone. With Rex Ryan in town with his scheme it becomes more plausible for him to return but still unlikely. The Price has to be right along with the years though.

What To Do: I think he has taken to Buffalo and would like to stay. A contract in the 3-4 year range between 10-14 million would be about right for a player that is a 2 down player

Prediction: This is a tough one but I think the Bills find a way to keep him on the fold. He seems to have really taken to the area and team but will he accept a reduced role is what will determine this

D.Searcy: I like Searcy I think he is a solid but not spectacular player. He is great depth and a starter you can live with. I think he wants nothing to do with Depth and I also think he will find it too hard to crack the starting lineup with Williams entrenched and Rex likely to bring in one of his own guys

What To Do: I wouldn’t even offer him a deal. Searcy has been a solid player but I think it’s time to move on

Prediction: I think he will be gone and I imagine may try and follow Schwartz

Other UFA

-E.Pears: I think his time has run its course on the team. He was decent under Gailey because he hid him but he has serious issues with speed rushers. Wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with the Jets now that Gailey is on board

-C.Hairston: He’s not a bad utility OL when he can stay healthy. I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing him back but I would let him out on the market first and see if an upgrade can be found

-M.Easley: To me it’s a no brainer to bring him back. He is clearly the best ST player on the roster. To let him get away would mean a down grade in that phase and for that alone I would bring him back

-L.Smith: I’m 50/50 on him. Decent ST’er and you could do a lot worse for a third string TE.

-J.Wynn: Solid depth and a good team player. I don’t really see him being a fit in the new scheme however. I think he will be gone

-S.Sylvester: Gone, see no reason to bring him back

-L.Dean: Camp Fodder?

Looking at the Top 5 Positions of Need Heading into the Offseason

Mike Watkins



1.QB: This one is an obvious, the Bills currently have no QB on the roster that is even average let alone one that could be labeled the answer. EJ Manuel has a little bit going for him this offseason in that it looks like the Bills will be mimicking the things Florida State did to hide EJ Manuel. Strong defense, strong running game, and a passing game that limits reads and takes advantage of EJ’s arm down the field from time to time.

Realistically the Bills have to bring someone else in. I don’t expect that player to come from the draft unless one they have rated high falls right into their lap. So Free Agency looks to be the route, the obvious connection is Mark Sanchez. He is better than EJ but he cannot ever be considered the long term answer at the position. Whomever they pick is going to come in with clear flaws in their game, that’s the reality with 99% of free agent QB’s. You don’t see teams let good QB’s hit the market on a regular basis. You have to try and find one that has flaws that become workable in your system

2.OG: Another obvious one. I am firmly on the record stating that you don’t pay big money or spend high draft picks on the position. That said, you cannot just leave the position completely void of talent and expect it not to be a disaster. That’s exactly what it’s been for two years now under Marrone. Now with Kromer and Roman in the fold I expect a focus on upgrading the position. There is some ok talent on the roster that could develop if coached up. Richardson was forced into action to early and I believe he and Kouandjio deserve a look after a year in an NFL weight training system. They however should not be looked upon or counted upon as the answer at this junction.

I expect the Bills to be aggressive in trying to plug this hole with both a Free Agent pick up and a draft pick. The obvious one is Iupati but I really like C.Boiling from the Bengals

3.TE: I am not in the group that seems to love to hate Chandler. I actually think Chandler is average to above average when it comes to starting TE’s. If the Bills could find another player at the position to move Chandler to the number 2 TE then I think his value greatly increases. The Bills really just lack that safety valve TE than can find the soft spots in defenses and exploit it. Chandler is to up and down for that.

There happens to be some good free agent options at the moment. A few of them I imagine will get tagged so the list will get much shorter in terms of talent. The draft is average at the position so it will be interesting to see how the Bills tackle upgrading this spot if at all. I believe they will value pass blocking in the position with what Roman is trying to do, so that is something to keep an eye on

4.FS: Safety is a key position in Rex’s defense. They are set with A.Williams manning one spot but the other is a little more open. Searcy played well and keeping him will be a cost based decision. I don’t expect them to go all out trying to fill this but Rex’s defense works at its highest level when he has a ball hawking centerfielder of a FS.

This position is very Meh in FA’cy and the draft. I wouldn’t expect them to be really aggressive trying to upgrade here and may just go with trying to coach up the in house players.

5.DL: This one may come as a little surprise. The Bills have spent a lot of assets and time building up the DL into one of if not the best in the NFL. It has become their identity of sorts. I think the Bills would be wise to keep it that way by keeping the pipeline fresh with talent especially with Williams and Williams on the wrong side of 30. I believe in having a deep talented DL because it can make up for a lot of miscues of the back 7

I don’t expect this to be that high of a priority but I would specifically look to the draft to keep this unit on top. The new defensive staff specializes in finding DL and coaching them up to elite status. The Bills would be wise to take advantage of that and keep this unit on top

The Dust has settled, My Thoughts on the Rex Ryan Hire

Mike Watkins



The dust has started to settle a bit on the Rex Ryan hire. Rex wasn’t my first choice but he wasn’t my last choice either. From a personality standpoint he fits Buffalo and the general energy of the city. Fans and media alike will take to him rather quickly. Especially the media as he makes their job far easier because he is a quote machine at the podium.

In the media they have been 50/50 and as to critical or liking the hiring. Those whom like the hire state then when he had an elite defense and just average QB play he made it to two AFC title games. He is close to that formula right now. For a team in a very much win now mode, his structure and previous record fits what is trying to be done with the Bills right now.

Those whom are more critical of the move point to that Rex is a defensive coach and the Bills defense was fine so why not hire an offensive minded coach. Let me be clear about this, this is far and away the dumbest thing that gets said year in and year out during a coaching search. When looking for a head coach you should be looking for a leader of men and a coach who can identify coaching talent. That is what you are looking for. You should not be looking for a coach that is going to fix the deficiencies on one side of the ball. This is why I feel so many hires go bad in the NFL because of that exact line of thinking

I’ve been critical of Rex in the past because I think he was allowed to have too much say in the roster decisions. With the Jets from the moment he got there he began sinking the vast majority of the teams resources in building up that side of the ball. With good reason, it’s the side he knows the best and could fix the fastest. Due to that however it left the offensive side baron of any talent. It also however left him a built in excuse, his defense was performing but his offense was not.

In Buffalo however that is not the case, unlike the Jets in his first year the defense is loaded and ready to go. As a bonus it’s the same defense that they ran just two years ago and Schwartz kept most of the verbiage to make the transition to his defense faster. To revert back will move even faster than that. If the Bills bring Hughes back there is very little that has to be done. A possible tweak at the FS spot will likely happen given how critical that position is in Rex Defense. Outside of that, Rex Ryan could not have picked a better spot to run what he wants to do immediately.

Now what this affords Rex to do is focus the team’s attention and assets to the offensive side of the ball. This is something that could rarely be done in New York because Rex had to keep the defense stocked. With no first round pick and a coach and a team in a very much win now mode you can expect the Bills to be active in free agency. Rex Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman I’m sure is making a wish list as we speak.

Speaking of Roman, I like the hiring for what Rex wants his football team to be. When the rumor started to circulate that Trestman was tied to Rex it didn’t make too much sense to me. Trestman is more of a pass first finesse coach. Whereas Roman is more of the grind it out ball control coach. Roman fits Rex style and that is the first change and adjustment you will see from New York to Buffalo with Rex. You will see coaches that fit his style rather than trying to adjust his style to the OC.

With Roman Rex understands you can’t beat Tom Brady by trying to out-Brady him. The last thing you want to do is get into a shootout with him because to put it bluntly your QB is not going to be as good as Brady. So to counter that keep the ball out of his hands by keeping Brady off the field. I fully expect that to be the game plan week in and week out, can’t match your QB play so the Bills will limit your QB’s opportunities.

I said in my coach search column that if the Bills were looking to hire a coach with experience that Rex Ryan would be the front runner. That came to fruition, and not because Atlanta stalled, but because the Pegulas and the Front Office could see the match from the coach to the city. It’s a certain style and a temperament I believe was being searched for. That style is what I believe we will see and why the Pegulas felt Rex Ryan fits them, the city, and the team best at this moment. Rex is a blue collar guy in a blue collar city. A city that appreciates toughness and on the football field a tough physical team that can roll over you Sunday after Sunday. That is the vision I believe Rex and the Bills front office and ownership is looking for. Will it work? I think so, Rex is Buffalo as much as Buffalo is Rex

It’s not the QB, it’s that the Bills need a better….

Mike Watkins



You can go ahead and fill in whatever you want there at the end of the title. It’s been 15 years and inevitably a faction of Bills fans always find some other part of the franchise to blame other than the obvious issue. It can be from owner right on down to the training staff for injury issues. I’ve heard it all, the owner doesn’t spend, he spends but not on the right guys, the coaches need to go, the GM needs to go, the defense is bad, the OL is bad, the WR are not good enough,….on and on.

Now, the QB problem is one that gets brought up but seems to evaporate to the litany of excuses stated above. This year it’s the OL and the OC. This is the debate I have been having for the past decade and a half, first on message boards and then on Twitter. Fans of the Bills seem to convince themselves that if the OL play or the OC was better that they could get by with an average QB, or that somehow those two things combined would somehow raise the play of the QB. In both cases they are wrong and have been wrong

I’ve heard it all, they often point to Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and now Aaron Rodgers and say they have great OL play. Problem is they fail to realize that none of them have had great OL play over the course of their careers. What they have though is an innate ability to get rid of the ball, be able to read a defense, and then make accurate correct throws. This will make any OL look far better than it actually is. Andrew Luck has arguably one of the worst OL’s in the NFL yet where is his team going, the playoffs.

The Bills can go ahead spend and improve the OL all they want. You can give Orton and or Manuel all the time they need back there. Give the RB’s better blocking up front but it will all be for naught if the QB position is not improved. Opposing defenses can and would much rather adjust to a good OL and running game then a good QB any day of the week and especially on Sundays

The same can be said about the OC. The OC is always only going to be as good as the QB talent he has. Chip Kelly learned that lesson this year. I’ve been saying for years Play calling is one of the most overrated thing in sports while execution is one of the most underrated. You can get any OC you want, if he doesn’t have talent at the QB position with the ability to execute what he’s calling it won’t matter.

So once again we can come up with a million excuses, we can once again reference the Baltimore Ravens Trent Dilfer anomaly of a Super Bowl victory to give us some sense that there is a chance with out the most important position in all of sports left void of talent. The reality is this, the plight of this franchise will not change until the talent level of the QB position is raised. They do not have anything on the roster even resembling a player that could be the solution. The priority this offseason, next offseason and every offseason has to be finding that player at all and any cost. When that is solved you’ll be shocked at how all those other roster and team issues seem to evaporate.

Takeaways from the Marrone and Whaley Press Conferences 

Mike Watkins

(Twitter: @merk256 )

-It looks like Whaley is going to take a BPA approach to the draft. Which given where he came from shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. It’s a drafting philosophy that I firmly agree with. Going with the best player available is the best way to add talent to the roster. Need based drafting leads to far to many bust and keeps a team mediocre 

-I’m expecting the Bills to draft a RB somewhere in this draft. I would say a bigger thumper type RB. The RB position has become a sleeper need this year for the Bills. The Bills have two starting caliber RB’s but the issue is they both have become injury prone and are often banged up with a nagging injury. I also think the Bills are getting ready to let Spiller walk in two years. They are not, nor should they, going to want to pay the price tag that Spiller will command. I wrote earlier in the year that if the Bills want Spiller around for the long term they should try and extend him this year or next at a reasonable price if he and his agent are for it. When his deal is up I would not give him big money given his age.

-I wouldn’t completely discount a QB for the Bills this year. It will not be a high pick but if a Mettenberger or Murray are there in the 5th or the 6th don’t be surprised if the Bills pull the trigger. At worst they have someone to push Lewis and a back up plan if the bottom falls out on Manuel

-I really didn’t think they would do it, and I’ll give Rob Quinn (@RQUINN619) some credit for being one of the first to pointing it out, but they seem to be very open to moving Kiko to WLB. If they plan on going LB in the draft then I think Kiko stays right where he is because the OLB class is stronger than the ILB class. However if they add a LB via FA’cy the ILB class is much stronger than the OLB class. In that FA class look for it to be Rey from the Bengals or Butler from the Chargers. Bills fans keep talking about Spikes but both Rey and Butler are far better than Spikes and its not close

-The Bills recognize they need OL help in at least 2 spots and possibly 3. Marrone has the back round as a OL coach so he is going to think he can coach average talent into becoming good talent. That said, even he recognizes that would be a stretch to pull off with 3 players. I’m glad they recognize that RT needs an upgrade. Pears was really bad last year

-They are not going to let Byrd just walk out the door this year. All reports are they will tag him which is a no brainer

-They seem to be open to extending Dareus. This is a good sign and I think they have learned their lesson from the Byrd situation that has been completely botched for almost 3 years now. The key is to get ahead of the ball when it comes to signing your own talent to extensions. When you let the clock run out it becomes vastly more difficult to get a deal done as they are finding out with Byrd. Dareus needs to be extended this year or they will face a similar mess with him that they now have with Byrd

-They tried putting an end to this Stevie Johnson trade talk. Marrone said he had a long good conversation with Johnson and they hired Rob Moore almost specifically for Johnson. This is the proactive approach you want to see from a Head Coach. You want to see him try and make players buy in instead of just ridding himself of the problem as some coaches have in the past. Marrone recognizes that is part of his job. The reality is the Bills are better with Johnson then they are without him

Byrd and The Bills….Round 2
by Mike Watkins @Merk256

Here we are once again, an offseason where we have Jairus Byrd on one side and the Buffalo Bills on the other. Then you have the fan and media backing each side as if it were a presidential election. This time however there are some subtle changes in the bargaining power on each side. Not much, but it may be just enough to move it in the right direction to where I wanted this to end last year, a contract extension for Byrd.

 To be clear and review I have always been in the camp of retaining Byrd. To me the only way the Bills are going to end their playoff drought is to keep talented players like Byrd in the fold. I believe the Bills botched it last year and wasted an opportunity to already be through likely one of the most expensive years of a would be contract extension and the fact that the Bills sat on double digit cap space all year further proves my point. However, that is neither here nor there now.

     So where do we stand now? This is a little bit different negotiation. This time around it’s going to cost the Bills about 2 million and change more to slap the tag on Byrd. While certainly doable that will at least get them to pause before doing it. Byrd and his agent I would bet are hoping that it’s enough of a deterrent to keep them from tagging Byrd thus letting him hit the free market. The free market is a place where Byrd will have no less than 5 suitors eagerly waiting to make him the highest paid safety in the game. Two of which I am told are recent playoff teams.

     Now the chips may look like they are heading towards Byrd, however they are not. Mainly because the Bills have something more valuable on their side than money, time. See at this time last year Byrd was a 26 year old elite player heading into his prime. This time around he is 27 in his prime and still elite but that’s not where the Bills hold the advantage.

     The advantage is the Bills, if they are smart, will tell Byrd and his agent that they fully intend to tag him again with no intentions of trading him. Bluff or no bluff that is not what the Byrd camp want to hear and will likely force Byrd and Parker to the table.

     What is forcing them to the table is this, Byrd on another tag deal will get through the season likely playing at his same level. The difference is now he has started to chew through his elite prime years on one year deals. Instead of the 26 year old heading into his prime years he will be viewed as the 28 year old safety who will be 29 years old during the season heading out of his prime years. That view will cost Byrd millions of dollars on a long term deal. Teams have become much more diligent on not paying for players decline and the line is 30 years old. So that 5 year deal of a year ago with all his prime years now becomes viewed as 2 prime years and possibly 3 declining years. That’s a big difference

     Now Parker is known as a tough negotiator but he is also a very intelligent one, he knows how to get the most for his client. He will push this as far to the line as he can and possibly over it. He will make the Bills show their hand at some point. Ultimately though he will likely see the value in getting the most guaranteed money now rather than waiting another year. However make no mistake about it, the Bills while not making him the highest paid safety in the league are going to have to come close to it to lock Byrd up.

     To me the Bills have no other recourse but to tag Byrd again. They cannot let that type of talent walk out the door while getting nothing in return. If at worst case Byrd and Parker dig in and say they want out you can allow them to find a trade partner. Worst case you get a couple thirds back and best case you recoup the second rounder you spent on him. That is a small amount for a big talent but its something and that’s always better than nothing.

Buying The Schwartz…Was it The Right Hire?

by Mike Watkins

(Twitter: @merk256)

It’s been over a week now and I still don’t like the hire of Jim Schwartz as the new defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. Its not that I don’t think he is qualified or a bad coach. I think as far as DC goes he is good but not great. Which for this franchise at that coaching position is not a bad thing at all. Bills fans know it could be worse, a lot worse

It’s not so much the coach that I can’t get on board with but rather the switch in philosophies. Myself personally, I have always been a fan of the 3-4 and more recently the hybrid defense. It likely stems from the glory days of the Bills in the 90’s. Where I saw a defense that was dominate year in and year out. I’ve taken to the hybrid more recently because I feel offenses have advanced so far that you have to try and match wits now with opposing QB’s and OC rather than taking the my guy can beat your guy style. The hybrid and the 3-4 in my opinion give you far more options in terms of masking pressure and coverage’s than a standard 4-3 does.

Schwartz no matter what you read will bring something close to a wide 9 here. Now he is smart enough to tweak it here and there to make it fit the players that he has in Buffalo. It won’t look exactly like it but the basic principles he operates under will be there. He will rely on his front 4 to create pressure in the passing game and will use his LB’s to stop the run in the run game.

The basic principle of his pass defense will be to create space for one on one matchups. The more space a defensive lineman has the better his chances are. If you have ever watched the Senior Bowl practices or been a part of any football practice you know that a one on one DL vs. OL drill always favors the DL. That’s why when scouting that drill you look for the OL who does well in that drill because he has the talent to negate a very good advantage.

The run defense you need the DT’s to control the line of scrimmage and not make the gaps to big so the LB’s can’t perform what most coaches call the “Fill and Kill”. Basically, the LB’s job is to see the hole and plug the hole. It involves intelligence, good point of attack strength, and lateral movement.

The defense in its nature tend to be simplistic with its weaknesses being counters and traps on runs and in the passing game the wide lanes it gives you makes it real easy on any QB if his OL can hold the pocket. It’s advantages are it lets athletes be athletes and the install can happen fairly quickly leading to a short learning curve.

While I have seen this defense be effective I don’t understand why the Bills would want to move away from what they had last year. No, they were not going to change Pettines mind about staying. He has always had aspirations to be a head coach and I have no ill will towards anyone realizing their dream.

Still, the Bills found a defense that both players and fans truly liked. The Players often gushed about how they loved the style and really bought into it. So if you are the Bills why wouldn’t you find a coach to continue to build on what looked like a really strong foundation in year one. Just look at the years some of the Bills defensive players had in this defense last year

-Mario Williams looked like a 100 million dollar player

-After a rough second year Dareus finally looked like a top 5 pick

-Kyle Williams had the best year of his career

-L.McKelvin finally found a defense he can play well in on a consistent basis

-Manny Lawson found a home in a defense he looked very good in

-Jerry Hughes went from first round bust to a pass rushing fiend

-Two rookies, K.Alonso and N.Robey, in their first year excelled in this defense. Alonso to the point where he almost took home rookie of the year honors.

So if you were the Bills why wouldn’t you look to continue to build off of that? Players across the board on every level were finally tapping into their potential and the Bills decide to hire a defensive coordinator who has a drastically different way of playing defense.

To me it was a mistake. The pass defense in its first year was very good and flirted with being elite all year long. The run defense was a bit of a different story but it was not far off from taking a leap forward to being at least good. In my opinion the Bills where two good players away, a DL and a LB, to making the run defense good enough to match the pass defense. This defense was well on its way to becoming an identity that this franchise has lacked one for so long. So to me the hiring someone who had similar or the same defensive philosophies as Pettine would have been a better option for the Bills. Now you are left wondering again about who is going to fit and produce in the new scheme.

The Bills have some work to do to get the players needed to run what Schwartz wants to run. The DE and LB spots need multiple starting and depth upgrades. The Bills only really have one DE in Mario Williams that fits what Schwartz likes to do and to be honest even he isn’t that great a fit. Luckily the Bills have in place the DT’s needed to run this scheme and a better secondary in terms of talent than Schwartz has maybe ever worked with.

Schwartz is here to stay, and I’m willing to give any coach a chance. No matter what the Bills run or who the coach is, it comes down to the talent on the field and the execution from the players. If at minimum Schwartz can get these players to execute on a consistent basis and shore up a what has become a decade long bad run defense, than that should be good enough from that side of the ball to end this never ending playoff drought. It would be nice to finally not have every opposing RB on the Bills schedule circle the date with a big smile.

How to Build Around EJ Manuel
by Mike Watkins @Merk256

Year one of the EJ Manuel era is in the books for the Buffalo Bills. It ended with a good amount of questions moving forward. If you follow me on twitter( @merk256) you know that I was not a fan of the selection when it happened. I did not have a 1st round grade on him, I had a high 3rd on Manuel, and I never saw the makings of a franchise QB at his time at Florida State. Regardless of that I have been wrong before and was more than willing to give the young Bills QB a chance to see what he has. So I watched the season play out and then I have since rewatched every snap of his from the 2013 season.

I from the get go was not in favor of sitting him as a lot of Bills fans were. To me that type of development has gone by the way side in today’s NFL. These QB’s come from far more sophisticated systems in High School and especially in college. They also now spend their off time in QB camps around the country. They are a far more finished product then they have ever been coming out of college before. That in turn makes the development time less and you know what you have more times than not after only a couple years. Obviously there will be an exception here or there along the way

That said, what Manuel needed to improve on coming out could only be done on the field and not off it. That is why I was so adamant about him playing right from the get go as opposed to waiting. Mentally and from a leader stand point Manuel has always been a sharp player. What he needed work on was his accuracy, reads, and pocket awareness. These can only be done through live in season action

So what did I see this year from Manuel? The first thing that everyone is going to take some issue with is the injuries. This was a surprising negative from Manuel given his size and his history of not really being injury plagued. On this level is what counts however where the size and speed of players is greatly increased. On this level Manuel has shown to be injury prone thus far. I really don’t know how that can be debated. What he was in the past is irrelevant in the discussion at this point. The only thing that matters is his health on the NFL level and right now it’s not a good track record. Those 7 games he missed were very critical and they can never be made up.

From the Bills standpoint moving forward they have to make sure they have a sound investment in the back up QB position for the next year or so while Manuel hopefully removes this label from himself. Lucky for the Bills they made a sound trade for Thad Lewis who looks like he can be that guy.

Outside of that I still see a lot of what concerned me about Manuel in college on the NFL stage. His accuracy has always been very much a come and go commodity for him. I am one of those who believe this is not a ability that can be taught. Either you wake up with it or you don’t. Manuel has always had issues with deep ball accuracy and that has carried over to the NFL level. In the intermediate and short routes he’s either on or off and it can be Quarter by Quarter.

This offseason Manuel would do himself a lot of favors by living with his WR’s and practicing as much as he can, especially on the deep ball. Some of what he does can be corrected. He often fires the ball when adding touch would do him a lot of favors. He has to learn to take some off the ball when on the short and intermediate routes. Even with this though I don’t see a whole of improvement in this area, maybe a percentage point or two.

The other big concern is the pocket awareness. Manuel has developed a knack through the year of feeling pressure that isn’t there. It’s a very bad habit to form and one that is very tough to break. Sometimes his feel was legitimate, but far to often he would have been better staying in the pocket and stepping up into it rather than hitting the panic button almost immediately. The Bills coaching staff need to address this immediately because it has reached a point where even when he does have a nice pocket and time to throw he still looks very uncomfortable.

What you saw that you liked with Manuel is his command of the team. He has garnered the respect of his teammates for now. Its pretty clear that when he is out there he is in full control. To maintain that level of respect however he has to stay on the field. At this moment the same respect is being built for Thad Lewis. You don’t want there to become a divide because of missing time.

Manuel has also shown as he did in college, the knack for coming up with a big throw or play a couple times a game that really sucks the life out of a opposing defense. He has the arm strength to cut through any wind and while the accuracy isn’t always there, when he does connect, it’s usually right on the money. Manuel has been doing this for a while. He goes up and down from drive to drive but always seems to make a big play to get his team where they want to be. This is what the Bills need to build off of.

The most important question is where do the Bills go from here? The reality, despite how hard some Bills fans want it to happen, the Bills are not going to select a QB in the first round of this years draft nor will they draft one high. Once you draft a QB in the first you are locked in for a minimum of two years in today’s NFL. No team is going to bail on a first round QB without going through at least the minimum of one offseason program with him. Even then it would still take a lot for a GM and Coach to bail on that QB. These GM’s and Head Coaches get where they are in larger part because of their ego’s. It would be a massive blow to said ego if they were to admit that they were wrong on a QB that they deemed could be a franchise player after 1 year. It really isn’t going to happen.

That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t win with Manuel. You just have to in my opinion go about it a different way. The reality is EJ Manuel is not a franchise QB and he is never going to be on the level of a Brady, Manning, or Brees. He doesn’t have to be however to win. You have to accept the fact that he is more of a Joe Flacco Type. Now I don’t see Flacco as an elite QB or one that can carry a team all by himself. He and Manuel have a few things in common that can lead to wins on the NFL level however. The main attribute in common being that both have howitzers masquerading as arms on them. Which means the opposing defense has to play more honest because either can take the top of you with a flick of the wrist. Flacco just happens to have more accuracy at this point and time. That right there is what the Bills have to realize and adjust to

The consensus of most Bills fans is you have to build up and sink team assets into the offense around him so he can make more plays. The problem is Manuel is never going to be an accurate enough QB to make big play after big play and take an opposing defense apart. No, what the Bills have to do is sink their assets into the defense. Now this may sound crazy at first but the reality is it will be the quickest way back to the playoffs for the Bills. Its also the mold the Ravens use to build around Flacco

The Bills defense, even with the switch from Pettine to Schwartz, has a lot of talent. Enough so where it can be elite with a couple more pieces. What needs to be shored up is the run defense and giving up the big play once or twice a half. Those are two things Schwartz has shown in his career that he can get a handle on. If the Bills start sinking assets into this side of the ball making it a truly elite unit, one that is suffocating to opposing teams. Then in turn you now reduce the number of plays Manuel has to make per game. Manuel is not a QB that is going to win shootouts but he is a QB who can produce one or two big plays a game and he also is a QB that knows how to take care of the ball. This is key, because with those attributes and the talent the Bills already have on offense with two starting caliber RB’s and a nice collection of WR’s the Bills can grind down and beat a lot of teams.

Chasing down more elite talent on offense doesn’t make sense for the Bills if Manuel isn’t going to be able to get them the ball. They have the speed on the outside and possession WR’s. Add a decent TE for a red zone/safety valve target, an OG, and RT and the Bills with Manuel at the helm have enough to win as long as he has an elite defense on the other side of him.

This to me is the way the Bills should progress forward with Manuel. Understanding what they have in Manuel is going to be key. The team is closer than fans and media think but it’s going to take the right maneuvering on the roster to get the Bills where they want to go. Its not the conventional way but this is a league where the unconventional becomes the conventional in no time at all.   

Buffalo Bills In House Offseason Moves

Michael Watkins(@merk256)

*Note: The numbers do not represent order of importance

1.Dump the Toronto series: Russ Brandon has said that winning will be placed above all else. Well if that’s the case he can no longer sit there saying that with a straight face and continue on with the Toronto series. The competitive disadvantage at this point it clear, the Bills play awful in front of a crowd that on its best day is impartial but more often than not is favorable to the “away” team. The Players hate it, the fans despise it, and the media makes fun of it. Russ has the position he does because of his business savvy. Then he should prove to the fans of Buffalo that winning is placed above all else and use that savvy to get out of and end the Toronto series for good

2.Tag J.Byrd: Whether or not the Bills decide to get a long term deal done with Byrd or not, the one thing that can absolutely not happen is for J.Byrd to be allowed to leave with no compensation besides the hope of a compensatory pick in 2015. Byrd has a rare valuable skill set and the Bills should want to keep this home grown asset if they ever plan on making it back to the playoffs. With 29 million in cap space there is no excuse not to tag him for the 8 million with the worse case being you get another year of elite safety play 

3.Lock in A.Williams if Byrd flies the coup: If the Byrd negotiations head South again and he is either traded or allowed to leave the Bills should then turn their attention to Safety A.Williams. While Williams still has a ways to go to learning the Safety position, still takes bad angles, he is light years ahead of where he was as a CB. He has become valuable to the Bills in that he can still play that CB position in a pinch as well as float around the entire secondary and play every position in it. I don’t think it would cost all that much to lock him up now and get ahead of the ball as he enters the final year of his deal

4.Exercise the 5th year option on Dareus: Dareus ended what was a very good year a little shaky by being late to a few meetings. He missed 3 quarters of play in the final two games because of it. I look at this as a mild infraction for a player who looks to finally be on the verge of living up to being the 3rd overall pick. It will cost the Bills about 7 million to exercise this option for 2015 but given what DT’s are paid and if he builds off what he did this year, that would be a bargain. I’m willing to gamble that he does

5.Open a contract dialog with CJ Spiller: I’ve written previously that this is going to be a tricky negotiation for the Bills. Spiller came into the league at 23 years old which is old for a rookie RB. By the time he reaches Free Agency he will be 28 and 29 when the season starts. This is significant because he will only have one shot at a big deal and being that close to 30 will drive the price down. The Bills could use this and the season he just had to get a bargain on him. Spiller at this point is not really a 3 down back but is a very good change of pace game breaker. There is a value to that. Now he and his agent are going to be looking for full time starter money and if that’s the case the Bills should let him play out his deal or trade him next offseason and move on. I would not get locked into a big deal with Spiller or any RB at that age. I’d offer him an extension that gets him to 30 or 31 years old with most of the money up front to lessen the cap hit as he slows down. It’s unlikely that Spiller and his agent would want to negotiate off this past season but it’s worth a shot to see what they are thinking

6.Fire Crossman: This unfortunately doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I get it, we live in a “who you know” world and sports is no different. That said, many of Head Coaches have gone down due to blind loyalty to sub-par coaches. Marrone will have no choice but to fire Crossman if there is not dramatic improvement in the Special Teams play in 2014

7.One year deals: I’d give one year deals to Carrington, Leonhard, and Moorman. Not all may accept but that’s what I’d have on the table. Carrington after his injury I suspect will be looking for something more long term and he may find it. With Branch signed I don’t really see the need for him but would be willing to bring him back for depth. Leonhard I don’t want to make the team but having him in camp with some of the young Safeties the Bills have would be valuable. If a camp injury does happen to occur then you have Leonhard in shape and ready to go. Leonhard would basically be an on the field coach, which with the youth the Bills have at safety would help move along their development. Moorman you bring to camp to compete with whatever else you can bring in

8.Do Not Cut nor Trade Stevie Johnson: I get it, for some Bills fans he is real hard to take sometimes. He speaks his mind and he has the whole hipster/rapper thing going on off the field. If you want to make the case that he’s not a true number, fine, I can buy into that. That however does not mean he is not good or cannot help this team get back to the playoffs. He makes plays and is arguably one of if not the best route runner in the league. Some of his off the line moves can be seen in use by the young WR’s on this roster. So I don’t buy into this “he’s a bad influence” for the younger WR’s nonsense that I have been seeing. His contract is also not that bad compared to what WR’s are getting on the open market. Johnson will be paid 8.5 million this season, Mike Wallace will be paid 17.25 million this season. Let those numbers and what you are getting for those numbers sink in before you are so quick to get rid of him

9.Get rid of the “White Out” promotion: The Bills brass have been trying to make this an event ever since the uniform change. Problem is that it’s been over done throughout every major sport. Turn on the NBA playoffs and you will see almost every team attaching itself to a single color during the playoffs. It’s not innovative, it’s not unique, and the fans clearly don’t buy into it on game day when the stadium is anything but all white clothing. Concentrate more on winning games and worry about the fan unity stuff after that has been accomplished.

10.Extend Dan Carpenter: He seems to have found a groove in Buffalo. After spending August in nearly a third of the leagues camps he finally landed in Buffalo. What was supposed to be a short term stay until the Bills draft pick, D.Hopkins, returned turned into a full year stint and he was good. Guys like Carpenter are the reason I don’t like drafting Kickers. To me you can find a good one as a UDFA of in the free agency market. I like what Carpenter showed this year and he should be brought back

Bills Pay for not Following Their Own Blueprint
by Anthony Macari @NFLWarroom

Draft well and re-sign your own stars. It's been the mantra in Buffalo for years. The thinking goes a small market team can't compete at a high level for outside Free Agents, but they should rely on their own home grown talent and lock them up long term sooner rather than later. 

It's a bit of a leap of faith to sign your own young budding stars to long term deals before they hit the market but hopefully they come with a hometown discount and by signing earlier, you end up with enough of a discount to stay competitive. However, last year the Bills went on a spending spree. They brought in big flashy names at premium salaries. While Mario Williams finally seems like he may start earning some of that big pay check, Mark Anderson is no longer even on the roster. Those two signings alone may have pushed in-house talent like Jarius Byrd and Andy Levitre far enough down the list of priorities that the Bills didn't have enough cash on hand to get deals done before they hit the market. Levitre signed a lucrative deal in Tennessee and he is helping anchor a dominant line. Byrd, after a lengthy holdout is disgruntled and refuses to play with a foot condition he played with all last season.

This Sunday against the Jets, it was hard not to notice the gaping holes at Left Guard and in the Secondary. While the secondary has been decimated by multiple injuries exasperating missing Byrd, LG is being plugged by OG Colin Brown, who through the first 3 grades as graded out near or at the bottom of the league. Amazing to think the Bills were comfortable letting Levitre walk and think they could plug the hole with a journeyman. It is no coincidence the struggle CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson have had trying to run between the tackles this year vs the past two seasons. 

To the Bills credit, they did move quickly to lock up Eric Wood this year and previous extensions given to Stevie Johnson, Kyle Williams and Leodis McKelvin. Encouriging signs that they do indeed want to hold onto their own home grown talent. However, for far too long the philosophy in Buffalo was draft disposable players high at positions like RB and CB where you can get some early production, but then let them walk. This has put them in a cycle of always having to fill needs at the same positions year after year. Despite having hit on 2nd round pick Levitre to fill one Guard position, now a draft pick will certainly have to be spent next year on Guard. Despite multiple high draft picks spent on the secondary, the Bills will again need to invest multiple picks there again next season. So where does the improvement come through the draft if you constantly have to readdress positions you already successfully drafted?

It seems the Bills now have their future franchise QB on board. They owe it to fans and veterans on the team to continue add talent while rewarding and keeping that talent. When you own the leagues longest playoff drought it is not acceptable to have salary cap surpluses year after year and watch your draft picks help other team's get better.

While it's easy to blame Byrd for refusing to play with a foot condition that he played through all last season, but the fact is the Bills didn't get a deal done and now must pay the price of an unhappy star giving them nothing for their franchise tag. After the signing of Mario Williams, it might have been understandable to miss out on one of their two high profile free agents, but to fail to get a deal done for either plus losing Levitre's quality veteran back-up Chad Rheinhart and then still not address the position with another quality free agent or any draft picks has left the team in the situation it finds itself now.

Not the Same Old Bills
EJ, Rookies and Marrone's Staff Bringing New Hope to Buffalo
By Anthony D. Macari @NFLWarroom

Bills fans have all seen the script before. A game filled with highs and lows. A solid, even inspired performance marred by a few critical errors. Hopes raised only to be crushed in the most devastating fashion game after game, season after season. However, after Rookie QB EJ Manuel led a near miraculous game winning 80 yard drive with only 1:38 on the clock and no timeouts, there may finally be hope in Buffalo that the tide has finally turned. 

Of course the performance wasn't perfect by Manuel or the team as a whole. There were still the kind of mind numbing critical errors that has had Bills fans not only fearful of a last second heartbreak, but a near perfect fatalistic expectation that the Bills will find a all new creative way to crush their spirit. WHo could blame the fans in attendance on a beautiful fall like day in Ralph Wilson Stadium for assuming the worst and start heading for the exits before the final gun. Of course those Bills fans who weren't in diapers when the Marv Levy's Bills led the greatest comeback in NFL history stubbornly never give up hope. 

Despite the tortured history, even the most hardened fan had to notice something different in these Bills. It starts with the defense. For me the star of this game is Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine. For the most part, this is a team with similar talent to what was here last year. The main difference is a relentless aggressive attitude that perfectly suits the strength of this team. Is there any doubt that the players have bought into this system 100% starting with DE Mario Williams. Mario was indeed super yesterday applying constant relentless pressure to break Bruce Smith's single game sack record with 4 1/2 on the day. If not for the athleticism of Can Newton, that easily could have been 6. The pressure from the front four and by blitzing back 7 masked the deficiency of the secondary and now for two weeks in a row kept star QBs uncomfortable and at times, don right rattled. 

The defense was on the field and put in difficult situations throughout most of the second half. A drive was kept alive by a critical special teams holding penalty on a punt, which led to a TD and 2 EJ Manuel turnovers in his own end that led to two FGs and gave the Panthers a 6 point lead soon after the Bills had tied it. However, the fact the Carolina was held to FGs after Manuel's back to back fumble and interception kept the Bills faint hopes for a miracle alive. 

The Bills offense answered with a drive highlighted by a 43 yard CJ Spiller run, but it stalled and they had to settle for a FG. This is where it appeared all too familiar. Carolina, after failing to get much out of their run game all day long began to march down the field, mostly on the ground. The Defenses valiant effort looked like it was about to be wasted and no one would blame them for breaking on this drive considering the time spent on the field, but once again they dug in and held the Panthers to a FG with 1:38 on the clock. One more first down would have been the end with the Bills out of time outs. That set the stage for the dramatic.

One thing that struck me before the drive started, EJ Manuel confidently went up to each of his lineman and gave them a pat on the head. Like everything Manuel seems to do, it wasn't over the top of demonstrative but seemed be small but important gesture to let them know it was time to win the game. While plays by Jackson, Stevie and EJ highlighted the drive, it was those lineman who protected that pocket who were the real stars, and the few times the Panthers managed to put some heat on EJ, he was up for the challenge. The patience EJ showed on that drive and the discipline of everyone of the Bills on the field to understand the situation, get to the sideline and the first down marker. There is a quiet calm about Manuel, that even in a pressure situation like this in his 2nd NFL game, he manages to stay cool and collected that gives confidence to all around him. I couldn't help think back to the parade of QBs between Flutie and Manuel who failed much more than they succeeded in these type situations. Sure there were the occasional mini-miracles like Fitzpatrick's game winning drive against the Pats but I couldn't help think of all the 4th quarter failures of JP Losman, Trent Edwards, Kelly Hocomb and all the others. Than I thought back to a young Jim Kelly marching the Bills down the field against the Dolphins in his first year. That dramatic drive ended with a Kelly scramble for a TD in the final seconds. Then there was EJ, after throwing what appeared to be a game losing interception that was correctly overturned by an obvious interference call, which caused the interception in the first place, scrambling towards the end zone, it looked like he might challenge for the pylon, but he wisely dove for the sideline to stop the clock. Time for one more play from the 2 yard line. 

For once, it was the other guys who blew the coverage at the end, it was their penalty that wiped out the big play. For once it was the Bills celebrating in the end zone and it was Buffalo's QB overcome with emotion sharing the moment with his dad. Even the last 2 seconds caused enough doubt in Bills fans minds. Thoughts of home run throwback and the Dallas Monday Nightmare still vivid enough to keep us from exhaling until Kiko Alonso safely deposited Cam Newton on his back to end the game.

The coaches, the QB, the rookies the renewed veterans have brought something different to Buffalo. Maybe, just maybe they won't be the same old Bills anymore.  

Week 1 Notes: Pats 23 - Bills 21
By Mike Watkins @Merk256

-Bills fans should be encouraged by how the Bills played against a perennial upper Bowl contender but in no way should they be satisfied. At some point the Bills have to start closing out these games if they ever want to make it back to the playoffs.

-EJ Manuel looked good in his first NFL start. He had some nice passes but also made some rookie mistakes and couldn’t move the ball to at least PHOTO:  Gary Wiepert

gather a game changing field goal in the final quarter.

-The Patriots were blatant in selling out to Spiller. It was clear their main goal was to keep him out of any type of rhythm from the get go. This is a classic Patriot game plan betting that the rookie QB with the new young WR core can not beat them as opposed to the explosive Spiller. Other teams will mimic it and continue to sell out to stop Spiller until its proven that Manuel's arm can put up win’s. The Bills need to counter with far more play action and spraying the ball

-This defense is night and day compared to last year and the players have taken to it and enjoy playing this style. The blitz is back and there was far more pressure in this game then in previous years from the D.

-I personally cant wait to see what the defense looks like when a stud CB and All Pro FS are added to the mix

-Speaking of that All Pro FS, at half time someone must have pulled Brady and the Patriots OC aside and informed them that Byrd isn’t in there and he should start attacking the middle of the field. That’s exactly what Brady and company did. Yes Searcy and Williams made a play here and there but overall they where both taking horrible angles most of the game. That’s the Difference a player like Byrd makes. Fans forget real fast, because it doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, the plays an instinctive FS like Byrd can prevent.

-McKelvin finally seems to be in a defense he can actually do well in

-I like the way the Bills used Ron Brooks in this game. In college he was an excellent blitzer off the edge and you saw him more than once do it in this game

-The penalties have to be addressed. It’s a young team but you want to put an end to that early and make it completely unacceptable

-I’m not upset like some are with the Bills continuing to run the hurry up at the end of the game. The style really doesn’t matter it’s the execution of the style. If they can  move the ball then it doesn’t matter if you are in a hurry up or a huddle and snap style

Notes from around the league

-The Jets received a gift from Tampa Bay and a win is a win in this league.

-Geno look ok against what I think is a not very good Tampa Bay team. He bought himself at least another couple weeks as the jets move Forward

-The Jets run defense looks better than last year. Given how bad they looked last year there was really no place to go but up

-If you are the Patriots you have to have serious concerns at WR. All these players that received so much praise in the preseason did not look the part on Sunday

-However if you are the Patriots you have to feel good about your front 7. They look like they are getting back to where they were a few years ago. The have both size and speed and will be difficult to run on this year

-Miami landed a win in Cleveland but it wasn’t pretty. The concerns with the OL from the preseason are clearly still there. The running game is  not there and if one isn’t established in the early going its going to get real hard on Tannehill real fast.

-Much like I mentioned when the signing happened. Mike Wallace is going to be wasted down in Miami. The reality is they do not have nearly a good enough OL to do 5 and 7 step drops on a regular basis. These are the bread and butter for Mike Wallace. The majority of the passes are going to come off of 3 step drop which is a quick underneath passing game. Wallace is not that guy and is now the NFL most expensive decoy

-I really don’t like Tampa Bay at all this year. I think they have a serious QB issue and I think their coach is overrated. When they hired Schiano I gave him 3 years and gone. I think you will here the rumblings this offseason

-Seattle got a wake up call week 1. That game should have not nearly been as hard or as close for them. I expect a more focused and team next week

-Its going to be a long year for a Pittsburgh team in a roster transition. Im talking top 10 pick type of year. Good thing for them is they are so good at drafting that if you give them a top 10 pick in every round they can bounce back real fast

@NFLWarroom Bills Pats Game Tweets

Another performance lost in the Bills loss was Leodis Mckelvin. Really stepped his game up today Can't wait to see him in this D paired w Gilmore

  1. Bills injury update

  2. Pettine's Defense w some obvious holes in the secondary relentlessly attacked Brady. Didnt stop him but definitely slowed & frustrated

  3. @CrawDoggy of course the win would have been awesome but if Bills have found the answers at QB & Coach this season will be a success

  4. @CrawDoggy i mean if he is this cool and poised in his rookie debut imagine when he gains experience & even more confidence Natural leader

  5. @NFLWarRoom poise is the word to describe him. Haven't seen that from a bills qb in years. I feel good about him

  6. @CrawDoggy Bills wisely played it a bit close to the vest w him Can't wait to see him w few more miles under his belt

  7. Bills O-line did well in pass protection but didn't open up enough holes inside for run game CJ missed Levitre today

  8. I had zero problem w/ Marrone sticking w up tempo Not executing 3rd down to Stevie was problem, not leaving 5 instead of 2 min on clock

  9. @CrawDoggy really impressed with the calm cool & collected poise EJ showed wish he had a few more seconds for a final drive

  10. @CrawDoggy there was a lot to build on. Obviously need to clean up mistakes but think they are a lot closer than most realize

  11. Alonso took himself out of too many draw and mis-direction plays but showed sideline to sideline athleticism and made stuff of game at goal

  12. Didn't check the D stats yet but thought Kiko Alonso had an up & down day. Great job on goal line and in pursuit but over ran plays

  13. @CrawDoggy wouldn't expect anything else. #ESPN is little more than hype & muck rakers

  14. FJax outplayed CJ today but both will get their touches. Good problem to have.

  15. EJ will rightly get most of the press for his debut but rookie WR Robert Woods was impressive too.

  16. Penalty's hurt today, especially one that wiped out long completion to Woods in 1st half. CJ fumble hurt big too.

  17. Rookie starting QB debut wins are rare and we were 5 seconds away from 2 today. Impressive debuts for both Ej and Geno.

  18. Stevie Johnson had a chance to make a huge 3rd down conversion to help close out game but went off his finger tips. If you talk the talk?

  19. Brady looked rattled much of the game. Ball wobbled & off the mark more than usual. Still got it done but perhaps age starting to show

  20. Thought the Bills depleted secondary held up well today. Few uncontested passes, solid pass rush helped.

  21. Despite the Buffalo loss today can't help feeling the #Bills are a team on the rise and #Pats in decline...finally

  22. @Rangenius Geno vs Bucs EJ vs Pats might be a factor there too.


  23. That TD Pass from Manuel to Johnson was the best thrown ball I've seen from a BIlls QB since Doug Flutie was starting.

  24. For EJ to resist the adrenaline to over throw that TD pass to Woods and drop it in the bucket with touch is impressive

  25. I can't say enough about the poise EJ showed in his first half of his first game as an NFL QB.

  26. Tremendous way to end the half for EJ Manuel and the Bills. The defensive pressure has rattled Brady. Has thrown some ducks including pic


  27. I want to #Billieve but new coach, new QB and huge holes in the secondary, LB and IOL not a recipe for success today vs Pats.

  28. @HighRizaz19 100% agree but Rookie QBs rarely win debut. Wanted to try to set a realistic bar.

  29. Sadly I predict I will not be as optimistic as I am right now about this season for the rest of the year #billsfan

  30. Jim Kelly set a high bar for Manuel to compare to in his Rookie Debut: 25-42 59.52% 305 Yds 3TDS 1Int 95.8 Rate in loss 28-31 loss to Jets.

  31. I would think anything over a 75 QB Rating, 60% completion 2 TD 1 INT 275 yd performance for Manuel or Smith should be viewed as success

Mike's Preseason Week 3 Notes
by Mike Watkins @Merk256

-Kolb going down with what looks like at minimum a long term injury is going to have some impactful ramifications. The time table on Manuel's return is now that much more critical. If he can't be ready for week one that is going to force the Bills to use up roster spots on QB’s instead of position players to get them through the first week of the season. As of right now he is said to be on pace to start week one but that can change in a blink of an eye
-Of the two QB’s signed, neither of them are anything to write home about and if either has to make a start the Bills are in some serious trouble. Lewis is basically Trent Edwards part two and Leinart is, well I don’t know exactly what Leinart is besides a bust. He just never looked like he ever got acclimated to the speed of the NFL game. It’s a flip of the coin as to who Marrone will keep.
-Jeff Tuel had shown a little something in the first 2 preseason games. Then he had something fall right into his lap that every undrafted QB dreams of having fall in his lap. The chance to take nearly all the snaps in what most consider the most meaningful of the 4 preseason games, game 3. With that chance Tuel threw up a dud of a game and pretty much locked himself into a practice squad spot. The delusions of grandeur can be safely tucked away for Tuel.
-No one who is currently battling for a job really stood out at the WR spot. At this point I think its Hogan and Smith for the final two roster spots. Hogan is the classic slot WR with great hands and a knack for getting open. Smith's versatility is an asset and the final WR spot is always heavily decided on special teams performance.
-Defense did not look well for most of the game on Saturday but I also think they dialed it back a bit from the Vikings game
-Still awaiting news on S.Gilmore as this is being written. If he misses any significant time that is a major blow to the defense. Gilmore has the ability to seal off one half of the field and without that, given the performance of the rest of the CB’s so far, would spell big problems for the defense
-C.White is a good special teamer and goal line LB but with the play of Blatnick and Dowtin he became expendable.
-I really don’t want to see Spiller get a single carry on Thursday night. Fred Jackson should barely touch it either. Both are far too important to this offense and the development of the rookie QB to take any risk in them getting injured in a meaningless game 
-I really don’t know how I feel about the TE spot. It looks to have very little involvement in this offense at this point. Which is fine to an extent. With the explosive speed at WR that is where you want the ball to end up. Still it’s a factor right now that looks like opposing teams have to pay very little or any attention to
-Good thing Byrd is back because the Safety play has left a lot to be desired thus far
-On the trading Byrd rumors, its not happening. As fans you shouldn’t want it to happen either. When a team has an elite talent it should do what it can to keep that talent. Not find a way to trade it away. For some reason people have convinced themselves that this is what good teams do. Frankly, no they don’t. Go look at the Seattle’s and San Frans of the NFL. Look at how many of their own players they have extended over the past three years. You don’t hear about it because they are good at locking up their elite players before they can even sniff free agency.
-On Byrd's value. The Bills wouldn’t receive a first rounder. The value of first rounders has skyrocketed and teams don’t part with them unless they have a franchise QB coming back. The best case scenario is 2 second rounders but even that will be a tough get with the contract Byrd will want. The realistic value is a 2nd this year and a future conditional pick that can maybe make it to a second depending on Byrds play. Also keep in mind you also will likely have to use the acquired picks to try and find a safety with Byrds skill set to fill the void left by Byrd. So in reality what are you gaining? In the long run you may spend more assets and money looking for a player like Byrd instead of just signing him long term 
Other Notes:

-Rex Ryan's routine has officially worn thin in New York. It is also getting to the point where he is going to cost himself another head coaching job and may be stuck with the label of just being a good DC. He is getting the harsh reality of the most brutal media in the world now
-Matt Flynn is another example in a long line of ones that shows you should never give any type of real money or valuable draft picks to back up QB’s that have a small sampling size of games and success.
-C.Ponder and J.Locker, if one of those names is your starting QB you cant feel good right now
-Andrew Luck, if that is the name of your starting QB you must feel great. Ask any Colt fans if they care about that 2 win season now or how important it would have been to there franchise to tack on a 3rd meaningless win
-If Tim Tebow makes the New England Patriots roster is proof that you can make an NFL team based on nothing but spite for the media
-I said last fall that Josh Freeman is a lot more available via trade than people think. I’ll call it right now, the Bucs are not going to extend him, not going to franchise him, and he will hit Free Agency next offseason

Preseason Game 3 Notes: Bills vs Redskins 
by Anthony D. Macari @nflwarroom

If EJ Manuel didn't already lock up the starting job in Buffalo as soon as he is healthy again, he certainly locked it up by default in Washington. Kolb looked shaky in the handful of plays he was in for before going down with an apparent concussion on a seemingly mild blow to the head during a scramble. Kolb has the look of a broken NFL QB who simply can not stay on the field. Here's some quick thoughts on the Bills - Redskins game tonight:

  • With EJ out and Kolb going down early, Jeff Tuel had a golden opportunity to show he belongs in the NFL. As an UDFA, he may never get a chance again like he had tonight and he simply failed to rise to the occasion. The Tuel led Bills offense went 3 and out series after series after series. Bills now are desperate to find a veteran for the short term. 

  • It looked like CJ Spiller got hit in the knee a few yards out of bounds. He stayed in and 2 plays later scored a TD, but he stayed down in apparent pain. It was later said he got a cut from a cleat to the knee, but the injury seemed serious enough to warrant taking the Bills most valuable offensive weapon out of a meaningless game, and yet a short time later Spiller was brought back in. Bills are in no position to play Russian Roulette with Spiller and should have kept him out until opening day.

  • The Redskins 3rd and 4th string QBs torched the Bills secondary all night long and that was before they lost Gilmore. If Gilmore is lost for any time, the Bills will in a desperate situation. Amazing to think after so many top picks spent on the secondary over the years that things could be this bad.

  • After Spiller went down, I looked for a spark from Freddy Jackson. Never came. Wonder if father time has finally caught up to the vet.

  • Hard to imagine EJ Manuel doing more to lock up the starting position if he actually played. The silver lining is there shouldn't be a veteran on the team upset the team is turning the keys over to a rookie.

  • Not far behind the issues in the secondary are the problems at LB. The Bills got run over and passed around all night long at the edges. Poor tackling, coverage and anticipation was on display all day long at the OLB positions. Arm chair scouts should start looking closely at back 7 players for the Bills in the next draft.

  • The Bills went to TJ Graham deep 3 straight times and all 3 resulted in PI. 2 on the D and one on TJ. All 3 passes were poorly thrown and only on the 1st did TJ get clean separation. From what I've seen this pre-season, I'd put TJ behind both Goodwin and Easley as outside deep threat weapons.

  • My biggest concern with Doug Marrone at 'Cuse was the apparent lack of discipline regarding penalties and ball security. More penalties and sloppy ball handling are to be expected in pre-season, but the Bills have that same look the Orange had as being a team that simply lacks focus at times and commits stupid, costly errors and turnovers.

  • More than the actual quality of play at the QB position, the Bills today had the look of a team without its leader. EJ Manuel, as a rookie, already seems to command the respect of a field general out there and his absence had a bigger impact on the overall attitude of the team than I would have expected at this point. 

  • No matter how bad things seem at the QB position for the Bills, the Jets always manage to make it look good. Geno Smith throws 3 interceptions and runs out of the end zone JP Losman style to give the Giants a go-ahead safety, then Sanchez goes down with a shoulder injury playing in garbage time behind a back up O-Line. Early returns give EJ a huge lead over Smith. 

  • The Bills announced shortly after the game that they will add a veteran QB to the roster for at least the short term. I must admit, if Tebow is released from the Pats and EJ won't be ready, I can't resist the thought of giving Timmy 1 game to salvage his NFL career. How much fun would it be to see Tebow play against Belichick right after he cut him. Of course it would be a circus and a distraction but so what. EJ is the long term answer but for one game, if he couldn't go, I'd never bet against Tebow. 

  • Stevie Johnson contorts himself into so many awkward positions trying to get open or break tackles its hard to imagine him making it through the season without hamstring and groin issues.

  • I really really really want to believe the hype about Kiko Alonso coming out of 1 Bills Drive but didn't see much today.

  • For my bottom line, this season is really all about EJ. In a QB driven league, the Bills have floundered for over a decade without a legit franchise QB. EJ was noticeable by his absence today. If he can prove worthy of being a 1st round QB, good times may soon be back in Buffalo.

Pre-Season Week 2 Notes: Bills vs Vikings
by Mike Watkins @Merk256

-Tough break for EJ Manuel but as far as NFL injuries go it could have been a lot worse. Problem is that this is going to cost Manuel valuable snaps as it was/is pretty apparent that he is the best QB the Bills have on their roster. I imagine he’ll miss the opener with N.E. but will be back the second week of the season.

-Meantime this is a huge opportunity for Kevin Kolb and Jeff Tuel. Who wants it more? Kolb people should be telling him that this is extremely important and that this may be the last time anyone ever sees him as a starting QB. Blow it and he’ll be bouncing around the league as a forever back up or just straight out of the league. Tuel on the other hand has surprisingly looked good enough to push Kolb for the starters role while EJ is out. This is a tremendous opportunity for him to stick on the roster all year by showing enough to make the Bills think they can't get him through waivers to the practice squad.

-The WR competition has taken an interesting turn in that it looks like Chris Hogan is going to pull an upset and has locked up the 5th WR spot. That leaves one spot left, a spot that is largely determined by special teams play on the NFL level. If you are any of these WR’s on the outside looking in now is the time to really start paying attention in those ST meetings and start showing up on the field in that capacity.

-WR Da'Rick Rogers: What we have here is a classic example of fans and some media being excited about a player and thus seeing what they want to see instead of the reality of what's there. My timeline on twitter has been littered with how good Rogers has looked. Problem is that perception is not meeting the reality on the field. Rogers clearly has not impressed the coaches enough to give him any type of playing time. Another thing working against Rogers is that given his tremendous amount of off the field nonsense he had to not just be average to above average, he had to be good to very good to allow the coaches to justify the risk reward. That clearly has not happened and I look for him to get cut.

-I think the last WR spot comes down to Marcus Easley and BradSmith and it’s going to be tight. Both are good on ST’s (people forget Easley was one of if not the best gunner in college football for 3 years at his time on UConn). Smith offers more versatility in my opinion but I think Easley can be the better WR

-There has been some debate as to whether the Bills defense is showing too much during the preaseason in terms of blitzes. I don’t have a problem with it. Teams will have it all on film from every team before October hits in the NFL. I like it because Doug Marrone and Mike Pettine are setting a mentality that it doesn’t matter if its Practice, Preseason, Regular Season, Playoffs, or the Super Bowl. The Bills play this way no matter what at all times. There is no turning it on or off

-Early returns look like the Bills stole Jerry Hughes from the Colts. I liked him coming out of TCU and this is the player I thought the Colts would be getting. He looks completely different in a Bills uniform

-Nickel Robey looks like he might stick on this roster. He looks like the Nickel CB the Bills have been searching a while for

-Bills had better hope that they can keep the pressure on with the front 7 because the Safeties on this team have been underwhelming at best. If the Bills can't sustain this type of pressure look for opposing teams to go over the top a lot on the Bills.

-DT Jay Ross may end up kicking Alan Branch to the Street

-I really think Marcell Dareus is in for a big year. It may not show up as much in the stat sheet but I think he is going to allow players around him to make a lot of plays. He has really taken to this defense
AFC Notes:

-Tough break for Dustin Keller but as numerous media and fans have pointed out, this is going to be life in the NFL after mandate after mandate against going high on players. The number of lower body injuries are going to skyrocket and its going to be life in the NFL

-The Jets may have the worst offense in the league this year. I caught some of their game and is there a single player on that side of the ball that you have to account for? I can't name a single one

-I get more confident game after game with my assertion that Dee Milliner was one of the more overrated players in this past draft. Kid looks lost and overmatched in both the games and all the camp reports I’m reading

MIkes Pre-season GAme 1 Notes
by: Mike Watkins (@Merk256)

-It all starts with the QB and EJ Manuels first start went about the way I would thought it would. He had some timing issues for the first couple drives which are to be expected. He is working with WR’s he has never worked with before in live game action. The speed gets amped up a little from training camp and add in the adrenaline pumping him up and the inaccuracy was to be expected. What I dint like what I saw from him was a lot of staring down of WR’s and he was aiming instead of just throwing. Both of those can be corrected. What I did like was he absolutely looks the part. He stands tall in the pocket and showed a cannon of an arm on the 2 min drill TD pass. That was a perfect way to end his day

-I think Bills are going to see a dramatic difference in play out of the front 7 almost immediately this season. The Bills have far more talent than they showed there last year. Mario Williams and Kyle Williams look like they are really taking to the defense

-CJ Spiller is in for a monster year. Spiller looked like he was in midseason form right from the get go. He looks explosive and decisive early

-The WR’s are interesting for the Bills. From the camp reports I’ve been reading from fans and most of the media you would think D.Rogers is a lock to make the team. This is a case where the camp reports don’t look to be lining up with the reality. Yes he had a TD catch but outside of that he was below avg at best. I saw a player who is by no means a lock to make the roster let alone be a starter at one point. He’s very much in a fight for a roster spot. Easley led the teams in receptions and clearly has a good rapport with back up QB J.Tuel. Hogan could make this roster, he was the victim of EJ’s early struggles but was clearly getting open. R.Woods had a so so game but still looked like he can be a factor. Goodwin showed world class speed on the KR but not much in the receiving game. That however may be a product of the Bills really not letting it lose with EJ. Overall it was a good day for the WR’s but the competition is far from over

- Not impressed with the secondary as a whole outside of Gilmore. There is a ways to go but the Safeties left a lot to be desired as did the first team CB’s opposite Gilmore

-One player who really impressed me was Blatnick. The camp reports look accurate on him. He was all over the field and very aggressive from the moment he stepped on the field

-LG competition was very Meh. No player really blew me away so that is still wide open

-I really liked the pace of the Bills offense. They ran it fast and outside of one or two blips were very crisp and organized. This doesn’t look like any of the past supposed “Hurry up offenses” that former coaches played around with. This looks like a well organized version that you can tell they have spent a lot of time putting together so it runs smooth.

-I’m not going to overreact to J.Tuel performance but I think he showed enough to warrant a place on the practice squad, that much is clear. Now over the next two games it’s going to be interesting to see if he shows enough to warrant a roster spot

-Overall the game was not a bad start for the Bills. There was some sloppiness that is to be expected from game 1. There was certainly a lot to like as far as the overall depth and talent on the roster. Next game I, like I imagine most Bills fans, would like to see Manuel showcase that deep ball we keep hearing about in camp. So hopefully they let him air it out a little more. On defense I want to see the secondary clean up the mental errors and see hopefully McKelvin play to see how he looks in this scheme

Byrd Saga is a Tale of Two Sides
By Mike Watkins

Bills fans have a front row seat to a classic labor stand off. On the one side you have the Bills (The Company) and on the other you have starting free safety J.Byrd (Labor). The Bills are trying to use the tools provided them by the CBA to keep the asset they have in Byrd for as long as they can for as good a price as they can. Byrd on the other hand is trying to get what he has earned and what the market is paying for his rare valuable skill set. It’s a classic dispute that has been going on for ages.

First lets take a look at it from Byrd's point of view. If you are J. Byrd you have to be wondering why the Bills have been almost unwilling to sit on the other side of the table with you and your agent. You are a perfect example of what they have been trumpeting since this regime took over. “Build through the draft” “sign your own players” “Our FA’s will always be the priority.” And so on and so forth.

What more could have Byrd done? Since being drafted in the 2nd round he has 2 Pro Bowls to his name, has been the starter since midway through his rookie year, is arguably the best player on the defense, has displayed a rare hard to find ball hawking skill set that has put him in the elite at his position and is clean on and off the field. Why are the Bills so hesitant to pay the money to keep a player like this around? This is what you hope every 2nd round, heck every, draft pick turns into.

Now this situation has gotten to the point where no long-term deal can be signed and instead a one-year deal has to be worked out. If you’re Byrd there is no way you are signing unless the Bills agree not to franchise you again. Byrd and his agent know the market and they know there is a very high premium out there for a player like Byrd and his rare skill set. They want to go into the market because they know there is a strong possibility with multiple teams bidding they can make him the highest paid Safety in the game

Now from the Bills point of view. The Bills dropped a lot money the previous offseason with the signing of Mario Williams alone. So paying Byrd near $50 million and having two players locked in at 150 million is a tough pill to swallow for a now again rebuilding team.

Another factor that has to be taken into account is that the team is going to have multiple contracts coming up and they are going to have to pick their spots with whom they want to keep and whom they want to trade or let go. Players like Spiller, Wood, and Dareus are all up coming. Getting all 4 players locked into long term deals will not be easy for the Bills especially if the 3 above mention all have big years in 2013.

Another reason the Bills are hesitant to do a deal is that they can tag him again next year and even at that tag price its still a bargain at Byrds Skill level. By waiting they get to see how he reacts in the new system and at worst case move tag and move him in the offseason for high draft picks.

Both sides have legitimate stances to justify their actions. Personally I would have paid Byrd to avoid this. He earned the right to be paid as one of the top S’s in the league and so be it if the Bills over pay a little. I would rather error on overpaying a talented player than spend assets looking to replace what the Bills already had on their roster, thus continuing the cycle that has kept this team out of the playoffs for over a decade.

That time has passed though, so where are we now? Right now if I’m Byrd there is no way I sign anything that says they can franchise me again next year. Byrd's problem though is the Bills would have to be incredibly stupid to ever give up that right. They learned their lesson from the Nate Clements situation years ago. If I’m Whaley and they are demanding that I say nothing to Parker but “See you week 12”. The Bills cannot and I mean CAN NOT give into Byrd and his agent on the tag rights. If they do it would be an epic mistake in a long line of epic ones for the Bills. At the very least if the Bills can't keep him here they need to be rewarded in some way for drafting a talented player.

The Predator 
Stephon Gillmore Perfect Fit for Pettine's D
by Mike Watkins -@Merk256

If there is one player on this roster that should be excited about the arrival of the new Bills DC Mike Pettine, it’s CB Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore is about to embark on learning a defense that plays to all his strengths which is man island coverage. Pettine must also be happy that a key component to making his defense work is already on the team.

Gilmore came quietly out of college last year and was selected by the Bills with their first round selection. I personally was happy with the selection because I had been saying all draft season that Gilmore not Claiborne was the best CB in the draft. That debate is still ongoing. Gilmore however did not let me down last year even after a rough start.

Most Bills remember he was torched his first couple weeks and was making all the classic rookie mistakes. Being over-aggressive, biting on double moves, and just thinking too much. However what did not nearly get enough attention was how he turned it around after a rough start.

How good was Gilmore after week 4? He didn’t allow a TD the rest of the year and only allowed a WR once to go for over 50 Yards against him. It got to the point where opposing QB’s stopped throwing to his side of the field as if he was a seasoned vet and not a rookie that they should be attacking. Mind you this is in a defense that was having him play in a scheme that didn’t exactly exploit his talents.

Now that Gilmore is in a defense that plays to his skills, has a coach that understands how to use him, and a year under his belt the sky is the limit for S.Gilmore. Bills fans should be excited about the possibility of what Gilmore could become in Pettines defense. By this time next year he could be talked about as one of if not the premier CB in the NFL