The first week of Organized Team Activities are in the books for the Buffalo Bills and they’ve gotten their first taste of life as a roster in 2014. The team still has seven practices to go before they head into the mandatory phase of the offseason, but plenty of work was accomplished on Friday.
The Bills saw some returning players once again during the practice, but were also without a handful of players that have yet to participate in team drills to this point of OTAs. What were some of the notable occurrences from Friday?
Here’s a look at some of the performances from the day:
1) Some offensive line struggles
- It wasn’t the entire unit by any means, but a trio of players through the first two units had negative outcomes to a few plays on the field on Friday. Right tackle Erik Pears, backup right guard and rookie Cyril Richardson as well as backup left guard Edawn Coughman all had negative plays. For Pears, he was beat on a sack by Jarius Wynn early in the practice and then Jacquies Smith worked through him and broke up a screen attempt before it even got started. Richardson, a player that some have starting hopes for, was beat soundly by Corbin Bryant on two different occasions. Richardson appeared to be lunging and Bryant took advantage. Coughman also was beaten for a sack inside. Between the three, it wasn’t the greatest of days. Players like Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and others had solid performances.
2) Manuel looks more relaxed
- While he’s still missing some throws, EJ Manuel doesn’t look nearly as eager to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible as he did around this time last year. That was a big problem of his in 2013 throughout the season, and the stress has been to try and slow down the game and not overreact to adverse situations within the pocket. Manuel was waiting on routes with receivers coming open and making some good reads, the placement of the ball just has to be better at times. He will have a relapse every once and again, like when Nickell Robey read his eyes and jumped right in front of a pass for an interception. For the most part, though, Manuel seems a bit more settled.
3) Stop the presses: Spiller, Jackson in same formation
- An idea that has been brought up time and time again by media and fans alike, the Bills showed off a few different looks that had both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the field. Predictably, Jackson was the man in the backfield while Spiller was the more athletic type that was motioned to different parts of the formation. If they can develop that and create a lot of side plays for either player based on those looks, that will be putting two of their better playmakers on the field at one time. The goal should be to continually keep a defense guessing, and a formation like that along with Sammy Watkins on the field among other options should theoretically do the trick.
4) Jacquies Smith making things happen
- Without Mario Williams taking too many reps in team drills and with the absence of Manny Lawson from OTAs, Jacquies Smith has certainly turned in some quietly effective performances. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end was an undrafted free agent out of Missouri back in 2012 with Miami. He was released by the Dolphins, and then had stops in Hamilton (CFL), with the New York Jets and now to Buffalo. On Friday, Smith burned past Erik Pears to break up a well-developed screen play and then showed the recognition to jump up and bat down a swing pass attempt later on in the day. He’s getting a lot of reps during the OTAs, and he’s certainly putting them to use.
5) Things get a little chippy
- Tempers were rising a little bit during the third day of OTAs, which is not what head coach Doug Marrone wants in these non-contact practices. On a couple of different occasions near the end of the session, players had to be broken up within the span of a few plays. Marrone, clearly not happy with it, stopped the practice and shut off the blaring music to get the message across to his team. In training camp, tempers are going to flare and little battles are inevitable due to the physicality of those practices. In OTAs, the goal is to instruct and keep away from injury, which is likely what Marrone stressed. He restarted the practice after the message was delivered and the team finished out the day. The Bills have a three-day weekend to collect their thoughts and reconvene on Tuesday for their next practice.
For those that missed it last time around, the Buffalo Bills and head coach Doug Marrone have elected to play music throughout the duration of their practices in hopes to set a faster tempo during the day. And, in case anyone was wondering, it's Marrone's playlist all the way through.
To finish off the first week of OTAs, the Bills and their head coach provided an interesting blend of music throughout the session. Here is the playlist from the third day of OTAs, along with some reviews of the choices:
(PS: Tongue firmly in cheek)
1) Shout - The Isley Brothers
- As the media walked out to the practice field, we found the stretching Bills roster serenaded by the familiar refrain of the shout song. Especially in Buffalo, it was a strong start to the day. Fred Jackson couldn't help himself but to react at the "a little bit louder now" portion of the song.
2) Sexy Back - Justin Timberlake
- Justin Timberlake makes his debut over at One Bills Drive. It's hard to not bop your head at the beat.
3) In The End - LInkin Park
4) Sex Machine - James Brown
- Can one really go wrong with a classic by James Brown?
5) Hey Ya! - Outkast, performed by The Hit Crew
- Here is the first issue of the day. The version that played over the speakers was a cheap knock-off of the real thing. The Hit Crew is getting some real run over the last two days.
6) Folsom Prison Blues (Live) - Johnny Cash
7) Crazy In Love - Beyonce, performed by The Hit Crew
- What is it with The Hit Crew? This choice not only hit the repeating artist offense, but also the knock-off version offense. Marrone's next few have to bring it.
8) For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) - AC/DC
- Yours truly isn't the biggest AC/DC guy, but their tempo brought a certain element that the practice needed. A good bounce-back effort.
9) Good - Better Than Ezra
10) Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett
- Wilson Pickett for the win.
11) Enter Sandman - Metallica
12) Paradise City - Guns ’N Roses
- A repeat from Thursday's practice. Marrone is just lucky we're still riding high from the Wilson Pickett addition to Friday's playlist.
13) Over When It’s Over - Eric Church
14) Simple Man - Lynyrd Skynyrd
- An easy please for many. Marrone didn't put himself out on too much of a limb here but it worked.
15) Talk Dirty (En Español) - Jason Derulo
- The second repeat from Thursday? Perhaps the playlist is a bit thinner than we had hoped.
Grade for Friday, May 30: 7.9/10
- So badly asking for a grade in the 8's with the entrance of Shout, Sexy Back and Mustang Sally, Marrone had to be docked points for two repeats and two knock-offs. Even still, it was a strong effort from the head coach. We'll see how he backs it up on Tuesday for Day 4 of OTAs.
When Jairus Byrd left the Buffalo Bills just a few days into the free agent period last March, his absence left a void that the team said numerous times they were going to fill internally.
With Aaron Williams already in the fold, they decided to move him to free safety and create a competition primarily between two former fourth-round picks to be the starting strong safety. Only into his second year, Duke Williams feels like he’s ready to fulfill easy he’s been aiming to do since leaving Nevada.
“Certainly there's a big void to be filled with Byrd gone. We have guys that can fill in, and you know, we're competing right now. It's a great opportunity for me to establish myself as a starter,” he said. “I’m ready, I've been through it already. The first year I got my feet wet and now I'm ready to take over.”
Williams will be in a direct competition with 2011 fourth-round selection Da’Norris Searcy. The latter has more playing experience, but the former may have more potential. Either way, the two know what’s on the line.
“I love the game, he loves the game. We're real good friends, but you know, somebody's job is on the line,” Williams remarked. “So, we're just having fun with it.”
It wasn’t easy for the second-year safety from Nevada when he first got to Buffalo. He’s the first to admit that he struggled to swim to the surface with all the information being thrown at him in his rookie season.
Former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and his complex scheme made Williams feel overwhelmed at times as a rookie. Whether it was the number of calls in the playbook or all the adjustments his safeties had to make, the former fourth-round pick just couldn’t get the grasp early on.
Later on in the year though, it clicked for Williams. He finally found his footing and the game started to slow down for him. The adversity early on in his career made him thankful for the player he is now.
“Actually, coming into this year now I am,” Williams admitted. “When I first came in here, I was just running around here like a chicken with my head cut off. And now, it's kind of like I'm broken in now, so I'm ready for anything.”
The safety cites both Byrd and former Bills player Jim Leonhard as two veterans that really took him under their wing and trained him on how to be a professional. Whether it was through studying the playbook, doing extra work on the field after practice or taking proper care of his body, Williams took his cues from a duo that have each found success as starters in the NFL.
The change wasn’t seen only by those two and by Williams himself, but by the coaching staff, and most notably defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson.
“I'm a completely different person from when I first stepped foot here in Buffalo,” he said. “The coaches saw that and [Henderson] just said, 'Continue to get better, continue to improve on your skills and improve off the field. Get inside your playbook more, understand the game, learn what concepts we're playing and learn the game. Actually get inside the playbook and make the calls, make your adjustments. Be a safety and be the quarterback of the defense.' That's gonna take me to the next level.”
With so little time on the field on defense in 2013, it was essentially a redshirt season for Williams. Fans weren’t able to get accustomed to what type of player he is and how he approaches the game.
He took the chance to describe himself as a player.
“I'm a playmaker. I'm an aggressive player, all-around. I can play free, the strong, I can match up at the nickel position,” Williams said. “I’m just a player that brings a lot of energy and brings a spark to the defense every single down. If you see 27 out there, that's what he's gonna be doing.”
If he does all the things on the field at training camp that he believes he can do, there might be another Williams to add to the starting defensive secondary.
It was only a brief absence for Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from practice, but the team got him back on the field for the third day of Organized Team Activities. After Dareus had participated in the first session of the week on Wednesday, he was seen only in the weight room on Thursday.
While he didn't do the full amount of work during team drills on Friday, he was still able to take some reps with the first-team. The reason for only doing work in the weight room on Thursday was not disclosed to the media, but head coach Doug Marrone isn't scheduled to speak until next week.
The Bills also saw another brief return to 11-on-11 work to end their first week of OTAs. Second-year wide receiver Robert Woods, who had surgery on his ankle in February, took his first few reps with the first-team of this year's voluntary practices. Woods told WGR on Thursday afternoon that he expects to be back in full for mandatory minicamp on June 17.
Five players were not seen on the practice field or off to the side working with trainers. That list includes wide receiver Sammy Watkins, defensive end Manny Lawson, defensive tackle Alan Branch, guard J.J. 'Unga and cornerback Darius Robinson. Watkins was excused to be at the NFLPA's annual rookie premiere event, while Lawson and Branch have yet to show up to any offseason workouts. The reason for 'Unga's absence is unknown, and the undrafted Robinson suffered an injury near the end of practice on Thursday.
Once again, work was limited to positional drills for a few veteran players. Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, safety Aaron Williams, tight end Scott Chandler and wide receivers T.J. Graham and Marcus Easley all did not take reps during 11-on-11 work. Chandler, though, got some work during the 9-on-9 drill on Friday. Running backs Bryce Brown and Ronnie Wingo were both present, but worked primarily with trainers off to the side.
The Bills have now completed three of their 10 OTA sessions of the 2014 offseason. They've moved their next practice from Monday morning to Tuesday, and are now scheduled to have their three workouts of next week go from June 3 through June 5.
Ever since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was struck, holdouts by rookies are a thing of the past. The new rookie wage scale has made things much easier for teams to get all their draft picks signed far in advance of the start of training camp.
On Thursday, the Buffalo Bills joined an increasing amount of teams that have gotten all of their 2014 NFL Draft picks under contract. The final player without a deal was second-round selection and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, and he signed on the dotted line just a day after first-round pick Sammy Watkins did.
By signing the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Kouandjio to his four-year rookie deal, all seven of the teams choices are under contract. The 20-year old started 27 games for Alabama before declaring for the draft with a year of eligibility still remaining.
Through two days of Organized Team Activities, Kouandjio has taken some reps with the first-team at right tackle. He'll likely be in a competition with Erik Pears for that starting job all throughout the summer.
He and the rest of the Bills will get back on the field for the third day of OTA practices on Friday. Kouandjio was the 44th overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft.
The second day of practice is in the books for the 2014 version of Organized Team Activities at One Bills Drive. The Buffalo Bills shook off the rust on Wednesday and got a bit more into things during Thursday’s session.
The day saw the return of some veteran players to at least a limited amount of work during team drills. It also provided more opportunities for some of the lesser known players to make their mark and impress the coaching staff.
What were some takeaways from the second of 10 sessions? Here’s a brief rundown:
1) First-team defensive layout, minus five starters
- With the return of both Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes to some 11-on-11 work, more clarity was found with the first-team defense. Keep in mind, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, linebacker Kiko Alonso, cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin and safety Aaron Williams did not participate on Thursday. On the defensive line, Mario Williams was the left defensive end with Jerry Hughes on the right side. Between them was the defensive tackle duo of Kyle Williams and Stefan Charles. The linebackers (Nigel Bradham, Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers), cornerbacks (Corey Graham, Ron Brooks) and safeties (Duke Williams, Da’Norris Searcy) were all the same as Wednesday. When the team went to nickel, however, Spikes came out of the lineup and rookie Ross Cockrell lined up as an outside cornerback, shifting Brooks to the slot. That formation, in particular, raises one very interesting question.
2) Where is Robey?
- One of the most pleasant surprises from the 2013 season was the success of undrafted cornerback Nickell Robey as the team’s primary nickel corner for Mike Pettine. Healthy enough to take reps throughout the day, his absence in that formation was notable. The thought behind it could be many different things. The Bills might want to see exactly what Brooks brings to the table while he’s on the bubble to make the roster. Or, perhaps Robey primary skill set just isn’t a fit in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. During Thursday’s practice, he stood out on one play by blowing up a C.J. Spiller screen against the first-team offense. He made plays like that all throughout OTAs in 2013, and he’ll have to continue the same trend to secure his role once more.
3) EJ Manuel showing both progress and old tendencies
- Following the first practice of 2014, EJ Manuel hit the right notes in his press conference by admitting that he had some work to do in trusting what he is seeing on the field and allowing routes to develop a tad longer before making a decision. He exhibited that once more in the recognition of a busted coverage deep down the right sideline. Both cornerback Michael Carter and safety Jajuan Harley got their signals crossed, and wide receiver Chris Hogan was wide open on a fly route. Manuel recognized it, let it rip and hit Hogan in stride. For that positive play there was also a negative one that he must clean up. Marquise Goodwin came open about 15 yards down the field over the middle. Manuel did well to recognize him and throw to him, but the necessary footwork wasn’t there and the pass went incomplete because it was behind the right-to-left dragging Goodwin. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett immediately went to Manuel and stressed stepping all the way into the throw to increase the accuracy. All in all, Manuel had both good and bad moments to the second practice of the year.
4) Kevin Elliott with the catch of the day
- A name that not many are thinking about when it comes to who might make the roster at the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart, Kevin Elliott is a taller target that the Bills like a lot. To go along with the positivity built throughout 2013’s training camp, Elliott made the catch of the day over Ron Brooks. Along the left sideline, a jump ball was thrown to Elliott. The 6-foot-3 wideout met the ball at it’s highest point, got one foot in and then fell on his opposite leg in bounds to secure the catch. Brooks could only look down in disbelief that Elliott made a play on the overthrow. He suffered a season-ending injury in training camp last year, but keep his name in mind for players that can figure in to the 53-man roster discussion.
5) Randell Johnson a little lost in coverage
- One of the most impressive players on the field from a looks perspective is the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Randell Johnsen. The seventh-round pick and linebacker out of Florida Atlantic looks the part and shows a lot of athleticism in positional drills. However, that’s where it seemed to end through the first couple of days at least. Johnson was partially responsible for the busted coverage on Manuel’s big throw to Tony Moeaki on Wednesday. Once again, he failed to recognize the tight end’s route on Thursday. The three-yard out towards the sideline turned into a 10-plus yard gain down the field. He has impressive tools to work with, but his recognition must get better. Then again, it is only his second day of actual practice with the team, so some slack needs to be given to a seventh-round pick just learning the defense.
One of the only local connections on the Buffalo Bills roster is no more after Thursday. The team announced a few hours after their second practice of Organized Team Activities that they have released reserve guard Randy Colling from the roster.
Colling, a native of Arcade, NY, was picked up by the Bills in the offseason after a successful college career at Gannon. Through two days of work on the field, the first-year player served as the team's third-string left guard.
With his release, the Bills now have one roster spot open as it currently stands with 89 players.
One of the most overwhelming stories to come out of the start of Organized Team Activities, nine different players on the Buffalo Bills roster had offseason surgeries that kept them out of team drills on the first day of work. One of those nine were Robert Woods, but his procedure won't keep him out too much longer, as long as he gets his way.
The ankle procedure was done by Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina, a noted surgeon that has done work on many NFL players in the past. The second-year wide receiver said it was done back in February, which means he's closing in on his return.
"The timetable is three months, which is around mandatory minicamp. I'm actually pretty much full-go, but they just want to stick to the schedule anyway, just to make sure," Woods told WGR after practice Thursday. "They just want to be safe and just keep pushing forward."
It was an arthroscopic procedure on his ankle that was recommended to remove scar tissue from the area. It wasn't from any injury suffered during the 2013 regular season, but from the ankle injury that required surgery in his time at USC.
Woods had a dialogue with the training staff before going under the knife.
"I didn't want to, I was debating with the trainers here and they wanted me to go forward and finally clean it out," he said. "The team said might as well clean it out. Sent me to the best surgeon, and he cleaned it out for me."
Now nearing the end of his projected rehab time, Woods will likely not be a full participant at these voluntary practices until the team's three-day mandatory minicamp on June 17. He doesn't believe he'll be in jeopardy of missing any time during training camp.
If you didn't get the memo following the first day of Organized Team Activities for the Buffalo Bills, there is an audibly notable difference to practices in 2014 from their predecessors. Music blares throughout the majority of practice, only taking a break during positional drills and special teams work.
It's not a playlist comprised of requests from players on the team, nor is it up to the leaders of the club to come up with the daily intake of music. The playlist, is totally up to the discretion of head coach Doug Marrone.
"I like it, it was my playlist. The more you think about it, the more you look at it and say that it keeps practice going," the head coach said quite seriously. "Make sure you concentrate on it. Anyone that has complaints can all come to me because it’s actually my playlist. That’s the problem, if I had you doing it, then the players would come to you. It will always be my playlist, so if you have any complaints from the players, media, administration, it’s my fault."
So, in an effort to be complete in attempting to connect fans with their favorite team, here is DJ Doug's playlist from Thursday, May 29 in all its glory. And a note, this will be a reoccurring theme along with some comments. The songs listed are in the order in which they played.
1) Sirius - The Alan Parsons Project
- A good warmup song, you may not recognize the title but it can be identified as the Chicago Bulls' introduction theme during their Michael Jordan years. The Bills stretched to this one.
2) Ain't Too Proud To Beg - The Temptations
- Yours truly is a sucker for the old stuff. A welcomed addition to the day.
3) Cruise - Florida Georgia Line
4) Fancy - Iggy Azalea & Charli XCX
5) Hypnotize - Notorious B.I.G.
- One could see many of the players enjoying themselves with the late B.I.G. song.
6) Jump Around - House of Pain, performed by Dance Heaven
- A knock-off of the real thing, it sounded almost like a live version. It was just a bit off.
7) Learn To Fly - Foo Fighters
- Undoubtedly the loudest song of the day. The song file must have been recorded a bit too high, because you couldn't even hear the person next to you.
8) No Diggity - Blackstreet
- The winner of the day. Curve's the word, spin's the verb.
9) Paradise City - Guns 'N Roses
10) Problem - Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea
11) Started From The Bottom - Drake
- A staple of sports teams everywhere, Marrone couldn't go wrong with this choice. And hey, if the Bills get good enough, Drake might even come hang out at Ralph Wilson Stadium and pose with everyone in pictures.
12) Talk Dirty (En Español) - Jason Derulo
13) This Is How We Roll - Florida Georgia Line
- The second song by Florida Georgia Line? There's got to be another country artist he could go with. Points are deducted for repeating artists in a 16 song span.
14) Tootsie Roll - 69 Boyz, performed by Hit Crew Masters
- The second knock-off of the real thing. At least that's what Shazam said.
15) Turn Down For What - DJ Snake & Lil Jon
- Marrone must have seen something he liked from Wednesday when this song was playing. This was the only one that found it's way onto both playlists of the first two days.
16) Where The Streets Have No Name - U2
Grade for Thursday, May 29: 7.2/10
- Marrone definitely appeased all the major categories and brought something for everyone. However, where he went wrong was in the two knock-off versions of songs and the repeating artist. You can't hate a day where No Diggity gets played, though.
The Organized Team Activities are now through two days at One Bills Drive, and the Buffalo Bills saw the return of their highest-paid defensive player to 11-on-11s. Defensive end Mario Williams, who went through an offseason procedure on his hip, returned back to team drills in a limited capacity.
During the first session of the week, Williams could not get into the rotation during the drill that had the most likeness to scrimmaging and in his absence was replaced by either Jacquies Smith or Ikponmwosa Igbinosun depending on the situation. On Thursday though, both Williams and starter Jerry Hughes took reps with the first team.
Kiko Alonso even got some work in something other than positional drills. He was spotted with the first-team during the 9-on-9 drill just a day removed from not participating in any of the team drills during Wednesday's practice.
While that trio returned to the defense, the Bills were still without cornerback Stephon Gilmore, cornerback Leodis McKelvin and safety Aaron Williams during team drills on Thursday. On offense, wide receiver Robert Woods, wide receiver T.J. Graham, wide receiver Marcus Easley and tight end Scott Chandler still were not able to participate.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was not on the field in any capacity on Thursday, but he was in the building during the second session of OTAs. Dareus was spotted in the weight room before the practice had begun.
The Bills had one addition to their injury list, fifth-string running back Ronnie Wingo injured himself during Wednesday's practice and could not do anything more than working with trainers along the side. Two players were seen going down with an injury as well.
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin had a bit of a scare, landing awkwardly following a collision with reserve defensive back Mario Butler. Goodwin was checked on for a few moments but returned to action shortly after. Meanwhile cornerback Darius Robinson had to be escorted off the field by trainers holding his left arm following a play where he got tied up with wide receiver Ramses Barden on a deep throw down the sideline.
As expected, defensive end Manny Lawson, defensive tackle Alan Branch and wide receiver Sammy Watkins were not in attendance. The Bills get back to work on Friday for their third practice of OTAs, and then conclude for the weekend before resuming practice on Monday.
It was a humbling offseason for Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel. Of course excited about the present opportunity to get a true few months of work on his own in preparation for his second season as a starter, Manuel went back and watched himself from 2013 to the point where he couldn't watch anymore.
"Each game probably twice," he said. "So I kind of watched out my games, it wasn't hard, but obviously there's things that I left out there on the field. So anytime as a competitor, that's gonna frustrate you."
Besides missed throws that will come with the territory of being a rookie quarterback in the National Football League, the more concerning part of Manuel's game in his first year was missed opportunities had he just waited for routes to open up against specific coverages. The former first-round pick recognized it, accepted it and seems quite eager to show that it won't be the case in 2014.
"Being a young guy, sometimes you will look past somebody in a progression where you could have just held on a half second longer he may have came open," Manuel said Wednesday. "So just going through my own film study through this offseason I think that's something I noticed, but, I was happy to show that improvement today."
That improvement came in the form of a recognition of a busted coverage during 11-on-11 drills at the Bills' first Organized Team Activities session. A linebacker didn't fufill his responsibilities and tight end Tony Moeaki slipped behind the coverage. Manuel, who seemed as though he was about to go short with the throw, saw Moeaki down the field at the last second and delivered a pass that gained at least 25 to 30 yards.
The play drew cheers and applause from both offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing. A stress for them this offseason has been to let Manuel know to trust what he sees.
"I think that's a hurdle... I've seen it and I think I'm getting over that hump now, truly just taking your time," the quarterback said. "It's so hard because the game happens so fast, but as a quarterback, you know you don't want to rush. You want to be quick, but you don't want be too fast, you know when you're just overlooking guys. It was just simply going through the reads, [Moeaki] was wide open, threw a ball down there to him and touchdown."
Besides self-evaluation, Manuel went through the offseason and watched four other starting quarterbacks in the NFL, all with different stylistic approaches to their craft. He mentioned Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Seattle's Russell Wilson and New Orleans' Drew Brees as the four he did film study on during his time off.
The common link between them is simple. Three of the four have won a Super Bowl, and all four have been the starting quarterback in the biggest game of the year.
"I started watching a couple other guys I wanted to assimilate my game after a little bit and that was really good for me," Manuel affirmed. "All guys who, different sizes, different shapes -- whatever you want to call it, different style of quarterbacks -- but they all get the job done."
Manuel, and the Bills for that matter, will have to hope that all the work he put in the offseason with self-evaluation will help improve the product on the field. Even though they're just words, admitting fault is an encouraging first step for a young, developing quarterback.
The Buffalo Bills got to see their prized rookie possession on the field for the first time with all the rest of the roster on Wednesday with the start of Organized Team Activities. Unfortunately for them, they'll have to wait until next Monday to see first-round pick and wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the field working with his teammates.
Watkins is going to miss the next two days of practice to be part of a yearly event for first-year players.
"It’ll be a little tough, we’ve got the rookie premiere coming up on Thursday and Friday, so Sammy won’t be here for those two days," head coach Doug Marrone informed the media. "Obviously he is excused."
The rookie premiere is the NFLPA's annual event where they have some of the top rookies from the current year's draft class all fly into one place to learn what the press release calls, "the business of football." Watkins will be one of 35 first-year players in attendance at the rookie premiere in Los Angeles. The event starts Thursday and goes through Saturday.
One player from every team is in attendance, and Watkins will be joined by Houston's Jadeveon Clowney, Oakland's Khalil Mack and Cleveland's Johnny Manziel among others. The group will hear from both active and retired NFL player over the next three days.
Watkins will likely return to Buffalo at the conclusion of the event and be back in time for Buffalo's fourth day of OTAs on Monday.
As Wednesday came and went, the Buffalo Bills got their first practice in the books in 2014. The voluntary session had 88 out of 90 players in attendance, and it was also the first time that we got to see a look at some of the depth charts at certain positions.
It was the first of 10 voluntary practices before the team then shifts into the mandatory minicamp on June 17. As the session shifts into the second day of work on Thursday, first is a look at some of the individual performances and group observations from the first day of OTAs.
1) EJ’s second season starts
- A very important campaign for the most important player on the Bills roster started on Wednesday. EJ Manuel got to work with all of his receivers, officially, for the first time this year. It was just another ho-hum practice with a bit of a feeling out process early on in the session. Not only will it take more than a few practices to gain some chemistry with his new top targets (Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams), but it will also take him a bit to get acclimated with his targets from last year once again. Manuel made some nice, crisp passes to some of his targets, but also had a couple of wobblers to his name as well. He made an outstanding play in trusting his instincts to find Tony Moeaki wide open after a busted coverage about 30 yards down the field, but also had an interception on a poorly thrown comeback route. All in all, it was a standard first day on the job.
2) Offensive line combinations
- With some definitive ineptitudes on the offensive line in 2013, one of the more intriguing aspects to the first OTA session was the different combinations along the offensive line. The first unit was a predictable one. From left to right, it featured Cordy Glenn, Chris Williams, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears. At right tackle though, it wasn’t only Pears getting all the first team reps. Second-round selection Cyrus Kouandjio got nearly half the first-team reps during 11-on-11s, likely signaling a wide-open competition between the two sides. Another position worthy of watching is right guard. Head coach Doug Marrone talked up J.J. ‘Unga among others at the start of the offseason, but it wasn’t him as the second-team right guard; it was fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson. The second unit from left to right had Chris Hairston, Edawn Coughman, Doug Legursky, Richardson and Kouandjio. The third unit featured Seantrel Henderson, Randy Colling, Mark Asper, ‘Unga and Antoine McClain. There will likely be fluidity between the second and third units as we move along during OTAs.
3) Starting defense without over half the starters
- It was an abbreviated defensive unit on Wednesday, most due to so many starters being sidelined after offseason procedures. Kiko Alonso, Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Aaron Williams, Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin all did not participate in team drills, meaning we got an interesting first unit to chew on during the initial day of OTAs. At defensive end, there was a rotation of Jarius Wynn, Jacquies Smith and Ikponmwosa Igbinosun. Those players were bookends to the predictable defensive tackle duo of Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. At linebacker, Nigel Bradham filled in on the weakside with free agent acquisitions Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers at the middle and strongside respectively. Corey Graham and Ron Brooks made up the cornerbacks, while Duke Williams and Da’Norris Searcy were the first safety tandem. Keep in mind, both defensive end Manny Lawson and defensive tackle Alan Branch were not in attendance.
4) Gragg off to a slow start
- One player that some have been keeping an eye on since the Bills selected him in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL Draft has been tight end Chris Gragg. He got a small amount of playing time on offense near the end of the season, but mostly was either inactive or used as a special teams player during games. On Wednesday, Gragg didn’t look the part as the athletic tight end that he’s been billed as. When he runs, there is some wasted movement and the breakdowns at the top of his routes aren’t as clean as you would like. He also dropped a few passes on the day. Many times, he would be on the field running a route at the same time as Tony Moeaki, and the latter looked like the superior athlete in all their movements.
5) Tuel hit the weight room
- One of the players with a bit of an improved physique since we last saw him is third-string quarterback Jeff Tuel. Anytime Tuel came up, both the front office and coaches said they’d like to see Tuel get bigger, but liked his potential as a long-term backup option. Well, Tuel looked like he took that criticism to heart and appeared in much better physical shape than he was last year. Even as he was leaving the weight room post-practice, trainers were having a fun back-and-forth with the new quarterback that resulted in him flexing a little bit. Then someone else commented how his shirt shrunk and he had a laugh about that as well. Tuel needed to get bigger, and it seems as though he has.
It hasn't been the best six-month stretch for Buffalo Bills defensive tackle and former first-round pick Marcell Dareus.
To end his 2013 regular season, he was reprimanded twice by head coach Doug Marrone for habitual tardiness to team meetings. Then, just a few days after the team elected to use their fifth-year option on Dareus, the 24-year old was pulled over for speeding and then arrested an charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The charges, according to a statement released by the Alabama State Troopers, included a felony charge for the possession of a controlled substance. When asked about potential jail time for committing a felony, Dareus said it isn't as bad as some are making it out to be.
"No, not at all, cause it’s not what you guys think. It is what it is," he remarked. "The media put things out there the wrong way but at the same time I’ve got to continue to do what I have to do, focus and handle my business and do what I have to do. There’s not really much for me to just linger on. I have a job here and I have to do the best I can to represent the Buffalo Bills and the organization."
While Dareus wouldn't specifically point out what the media had put out the wrong way just to try and clear the air, he maintained that the whole truth didn't line up with what was out there. Regardless, Dareus could be looking at a potential suspension handed down by the National Football League. He's not letting himself get all worked up about that either.
"I’m not really thinking anything negative," he said. "I don’t really try to focus on the negative, always think positive and just move forward. I’m not going to dwell."
Despite the personal setback, head coach Doug Marrone believes that Dareus has the ability to correct his problems, and provided the key for the defensive tackle to do just that.
"I think getting on track and staying focused. I think every time he's here and he's in this building, that's what we see," the head coach said. "I've always told Marcell that. The more that he can be here, the better job he seems to do. He really does. Just gonna stay on it, keep communicating, keep working. This way he can attain the goals that we want him to attain."
Dareus said the team put a big emphasis on maturing as an individual, especially when it comes to the decision from the Bills about whether to extend a big money, long-term contract his way once his current deal is set to expire after the 2015 season. He also insisted the troubles are a thing of a past.
"It’s behind me, it’s behind me. I mean, I’m not a trouble guy, I don’t cause any problems nowhere. I’m not a loud guy, I don’t do anything, just have fun and be myself. If things happen, things happen," he said. "I feel like I’m on the straight and narrow. Things happen; young, dumb. You’ve got to correct it and just work through it."
Within the past two weeks, the intentions of former Buffalo Sabres owner and billionaire Tom Golisano in regards to the Buffalo Bills have been identified. With the newest report, some details of Golisano's potential bid on the franchise have been unveiled.
According to John Wawrow of The Associated Press, Golisano has not only made his intentions of bidding on the team known to officials of the Buffalo Bills, but a potential financial partner in the purchase has also been found. The billionaire has been linked to developer Scott Congel, son of the owner of Syracuse-based company The Pyramid Group.
According to the report, Golisano's bid on the Bills will also include a proposal for a new stadium in what was termed as "south of Buffalo." The land is owned by the company and developer Golisano intends to partner with.
The former Sabres owner is estimated by Forbes to be worth $2 billion. Keep checking back for more details as they become available.
Entering a critical season in 2014, the Buffalo Bills started off their on-field preparations during Organized Team Activities without the full complement of starters available. That's because nine different players -- eight of which that were regular contributors in 2013 -- could not take part in 11-on-11 drills because of offseason surgeries.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bills were without wide receiver Robert Woods (ankle), tight end Scott Chandler (knee), wide receiver T.J. Graham (hip) and wide receiver Marcus Easley (knee). All four had surgeries on their particular ailments.
On defense, Buffalo didn't have defensive end Mario Williams (hip), linebacker Kiko Alonso (hip), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (hip), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hip), safety Aaron Williams (shoulder) and defensive end Jerry Hughes (undisclosed) during team drills. All of those players, with the exception of Hughes, were said to have had offseason surgery as well.
According to ESPN's Adam Caplan, Alonso had surgery to repair a torn labrum which typically takes around four-to-six months to rehab. The linebacker told reporters after practice that he had the operation in January.
The Bills also had two other players that were injured during the practice. Head coach Doug Marrone revealed both cornerback Ron Brooks and running back Ronnie Wingo had to be looked at during practice with undisclosed injuries of their own.
The Bills resume with their second day of OTAs on Thursday morning.
On their first day of the voluntary offseason workout session, head coach Doug Marrone said that he believes the attendance to those were in the "high 90s" of the percent of players showing up. Wednesday morning the Bills entered the next section of their offseason work with the start of Organized Team Activites, and once again were in the high 90s.
The only thing is that the Bills have seen the same two absences throughout every step of the way of their 2014 preparations: defensive end Manny Lawson and defensive tackle Alan Branch.
"I haven't seen either of those guys. I have no idea," Marrone said, appearing to be a bit befuddled. "There's a lot of other guys here that I need to be concentrating on."
Just like the workouts the OTAs are voluntary for players, so it's totally within the rights of both Lawson and Branch to stay away from the activities during this portion of the offseason. Both even missed some time last offseason during OTAs.
The difference between the two years is that it seemed like Marrone and the team were at least in contact with those players. Based off his answer, it doesn't appear that the head coach is in the know as to their whereabouts.
There isn't really a rule against players neglecting to detail their whereabouts, or even one that says they have to check in with teams during the offseason workouts. However, it can be construed as a tad disconcerting from the team's perspective.
Marrone went on to say that he can't be concerned with any of that.
"My expectation is it's voluntary. Any guy that shows up, I'm happy," he said. "If you don't show up? You don't have to. Otherwise it's very difficult for me. So, for me, hey, I'm fine."
There are still nine more days of OTAs for Branch and/or Lawson to show up and start their work. Otherwise, they only have to be in Orchard Park for the three-day mandatory minicamp starting on June 17.
When the Buffalo Bills selected Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio with their second round selection, there was a looming school of thought that he would factor into the starting equation almost immediately at right tackle. While the Bills weren't all the way in with that line of thinking, they gave Kouandjio a big compliment by splitting first-team reps between he and the incumbent Erik Pears.
Before all of his medical concerns, Kouandjio was billed as a potential first-round pick. Since the Bills are taking the 'win now' approach, taking a swing on a player with Kouandjio's ability and potential was a risk worth taking in their minds. So far, he's rewarded them with getting about half of the first-team reps at right tackle on the very first day of Organized Team Activities.
Head coach Doug Marrone believes very strongly with throwing his younger players in to see if they sink or swim in the pool known as practice.
"I'm always big, and I tell this to the coaches: when you feel that someone is ready to go from a standpoint of knowledge where they're not gonna get anybody hurt... throw 'em in there," the head coach said. "The thing I always hate about this profession is you get a kid, and you want to bring him along so to say. I'm not talking about quarterback, I'm talking about all the other positions. Then all of a sudden, you're kind of bringing him along and then year one goes by, you like him, year two goes by and you're like 'uh, uh, uh,' and then all of a sudden you're sitting there in year three and you don't know what you have."
With the Bills approaching the 2014 season like they are, it's smart to see what they have at each and every position in hopes to unearth any hidden gems from the depths of the roster. That isn't really the case with the highly touted Kouandjio, but it could be the case for others as OTAs, minicamp and training camp becomes part of the practice regimen.
"I've had a lot of success by taking young guys and once they knew what they're doing, hey, throw them in there with the first group and see what they can do," Marrone said. "I think you'll see a lot of that as we go forward in camp and go forward with the progression of our installation. And we have an opportunity with resting some guys that we know can go out there and do it."
Kouandjio replaced Pears as the starting right tackle after the latter got a few reps with the first team. During 11-on-11s, the reps were split almost evenly with Pears getting just a little more. The two are thought to be in a competition to be the starting right tackle in 2014.
The most highly touted draft pick for the Buffalo Bills in recent memory is officially a member of the team. The Bills announced shortly after Wedensday's practice that wide receiver and fourth overall selection Sammy Watkins had signed his rookie contract with the team.
As has been his modus operandi since walking through the doors at One Bills Drive for the rookie minicamp, Watkins was all about the task at hand.
"It's definitely a blessing... but for me it's to come here and perform, hit the playbook now and get bonded with the quarterback and the offense," he said, just moments after signing his rookie deal. "At the end of the day it's a blessing, and I've gotta move forward and I've gotta perform now."
Watkins is the sixth of seven draft choices to sign their rookie contract with the Bills. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound wide receiver was the team's first round selection of the 2014 NFL Draft. Buffalo moved up from ninth overall to fourth in order to draft the Clemson wideout, and it cost them two future draft picks (a 2015 first and fourth) in order to do so.
With him now in the fold, it leaves only second-round pick and offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio as the lone remaining unsigned rookie draft choice on the Bills.
The next chapter of the offseason begins on Wednesday, when most of the 90 members on the Buffalo Bills active roster convene in Orchard Park for the start of Organized Team Activities. It’s their first bit of on-field work as an entire team in 2014, and it’s our first chance to see how the depth chart stacks up.
Now, we finish the three-part series heading into OTAs with five notable players who might not make it through to the 53-man roster in September. Keep in mind, these are for players who have had a role with the team in the past.
Here’s a look at who might be in danger:
1) WR T.J. Graham
- The writing is on the wall for T.J. Graham, and it has very detailed instructions. As far as the offseason workouts and training camp is concerned, it’s time to prove himself not only on the offensive side of the ball, but on special teams as well. As it stands now, the odds are stacked against the former third-round pick to make the roster in 2014. They drafted Sammy Watkins in the first round, they traded for Mike Williams, the current regime drafted both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin just last year, and Marcus Easley has proven to be a special teams standout. Graham will be one of a glut of players at wide receiver that will be auditioning for one, or at most two spots on the roster. Graham has shown minimal improvements since being in the league, and in all his playing time during 2013, did not show enough to the coaching staff. The Bills have stacked the bottom of their wide receiver depth chart with tall receivers, and one would have to think they’d like to keep one of those players on the 53-man. Graham’s fate isn’t sealed yet by any means. However, he needs to come out and have an outstanding training camp. If he doesn’t, it could mean it’s the end of the line for him in Buffalo.
2) CB Ron Brooks
- As is the case with his fellow member of the 2012 Buffalo Bills draft class, the odds are stacked against former fourth-round selection Ron Brooks to make the roster in 2014. Brooks had opportunities in his rookie season and did not perform all that well for head coach Chan Gailey, leading to his benching after only a couple of games with him being a part of the lineup. Then in 2013 with a new head coach, Brooks was surpassed on the depth chart by undrafted free agent Nickell Robey. The Bills already have five cornerbacks who appear to be locks for the 53-man roster: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham, Nickell Robey and Ross Cockrell. With the way that they’ve been building their roster, it’s looking like they prefer the new NFL trend to have bigger cornerbacks up and down the depth chart, meaning the smaller Brooks (5-foot-11, 188-pounds) will need to really show his worth in July and August. Like Graham, it’s not an open and shut case on Brooks just yet. However, if he doesn’t show vast improvement or a special teams prowess, then he could be looking for a new team.
3) FB Frank Summers
- In 2013, the Bills brought only one fullback that had any real shot of making the roster and Frank Summers did exactly that. Now, he has some competition in the form of a player who has complete versatility. Summers was not used a lot on the offensive side of the ball last year, and his impact on special teams was minimal. He’s a good blocker when he gets those opportunities, but he is not a fluid athlete and that will likely work against him during the build-up to the 2014 regular season. The main competition for him could be free agent acquisition Anthony Dixon. Dixon has experience both at fullback and at running back, and is a noted special teams player on all four phases. The Bills could look at Dixon as a hybrid type of player that can be the fullback in the minimal times that they use one, and also bring something else to the roster. The biggest enemy to Summers will be roster numbers at other positions. Choosing Dixon over Summers could allow the Bills to keep another player at a different position. Whatever the case, Summers has a fight on his hands this summer.
4) OT Erik Pears
- The only reoccurring name from WGR’s 2013 cap casualty candidate list (Brad Smith, Rian Lindell, Tarvaris Jackson and Mark Anderson were the others), Erik Pears’ fate will be up to one or two different rookies. The Bills aren’t going to hand second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio the starting job at right tackle straight away, but they’ll give him every opportunity to do just that. They recognize that they need to upgrade the position over Pears, but if the rookie isn’t ready enough or gets injured, they won’t have a problem with using Pears once again. In 2013, Pears was likely out the door as long as Chris Hairston was healthy enough to start at right tackle for the team. Hairston never was able to get on the field, meaning Pears stuck around on the roster. Even if Kouandjio is ready and takes the starting job, there’s still a chance for Pears to stick on the roster as a backup tackle. If one of Hairston or seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson perform well during training camp or the preseason (the Bills would likely prefer it to be Henderson), that could spell the end of Pears with the Buffalo Bills. There are some variables here, but Pears’ spot on the roster is in jeopardy.
5) G Kraig Urbik
- Perhaps more of a long shot to be released than any of the other four, it’s fair to include Kraig Urbik on this list because the Bills have showed that they are looking to upgrade at right guard. Whether it’s with J.J. ‘Unga, fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson, Antoine McClain or Mark Asper, there are a lot of young players that will be battling to take that job away from Urbik this summer. If he does indeed lose that starting job, his contract could spell the end of his tenure with the Bills. As it currently stands, Urbik has cap hits of $3.375 million in 2014, $3.675 million in 2015 and $4 million in 2016. If they were to cut him after training camp, it would save them approximately $875,000 on the 2014 cap, as long as they lump his prorated signing bonus into a hit this year. Using ‘Unga at right guard late in the season shows that they’re looking to upgrade, so Urbik needs to have a strong training camp in 2014. If he does and proves to be the top option to start for 2014, the Bills will have no problem with keeping him around. If one of those aforementioned younger players steps up and outperforms him though, it could mean trouble for Urbik.
Entering the 2014 offseason, the Buffalo Bills felt as though they were a team that were just a few pieces away from competing for a playoff spot in the upcoming campaign. That’s the way they’ve addressed both free agency and the NFL Draft, which could mean playing time for certain individuals on the team may go down.
Keep in mind this is for players that were on the roster at the end of the year in 2013, not for those that just entered the fray at some point in the current offseason. Here's a look at who could be affected:
1) Doug Legursky (2013: 765 snaps on offense)
- One doesn’t need to have an expert knowledge of offensive line technique to realize that Doug Legursky struggled mightily in 2013 after the team used him as the replacement for the even worse Colin Brown. Legursky was a late free agent addition to the Bills and figured to challenge Brown for the starting job. However, Legursky got hurt which led to the Bills going with Brown until the former was healthy enough to play every snap. He is not the model offensive lineman that Doug Marrone has said he’s looking for. He wants big, long-limbed and powerful players all across the line of scrimmage. Legursky is 6-foot-1, has short arms and didn’t really pack the necessary punch Marrone was looking for. His snaps will go down tremendously with the signing of Chris Williams in the offseason, but he’ll still have a good shot at making the roster. As it’s currently constructed, Legursky is the only player that has a lot of experience playing center, so he may be the main backup for the interior of the line unless one of the younger players steps up at training camp.
2) Manny Lawson (2013: 706 snaps on defense)
- When Mike Pettine got the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo reacted with the hiring of Jim Schwartz as the new defensive coordinator, one of the Bills’ key free agent acquisitions in 2013 likely knew his role would be diminished. Manny Lawson came to the Bills to play outside linebacker, and became a big part of Pettine’s defense as a key edge defender against the run. With a switch back to the 4-3 defensive scheme though, Lawson’s high snap count will likely go down in 2014. The Bills have made it public that Lawson will be a defensive end in the new scheme, a position in which he never really could nail down since he’s gotten to the NFL. He’ll be used mostly against the run, but the presence of Jerry Hughes will likely dictate a lower snap count. Lawson will also be in the mix to be a backup linebacker, but the team has made it clear that Kiko Alonso, Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers will be the starting trio in base defense. It all adds up to Lawson’s time on the field to fall from 2013.
3) Fred Jackson (2013: 663 snaps on offense)
- This is not an indication that Fred Jackson’s playing level has fallen at all. It’s merely a product of the running back environment in Orchard Park as it’s currently constructed. Due to C.J. Spiller not having as big of an impact as the team first expected him to, and with the younger back going through a high ankle sprain a good portion of the season, Jackson played the majority of snaps on a team that had no depth behind those two. As the team enters the 2014 season, Jackson is 33-years old and on the final year of his contract, Spiller is fully healthy and the Bills likely have a more defined role for him and the team went out and traded a mid-round pick for a young running back with low mileage and a lot of potential (Bryce Brown). Jackson will still have a solid role in the offense, it just may not be as big as it was in 2013.
4) Corbin Bryant (2013: 329 snaps on defense)
- During 2013, Corbin Bryant got way more playing time than many expected when he made the team. While he had his moments of solid play here or there, he didn’t exactly prove to be a player that can consistently win at the line of scrimmage. In Jim Schwartz’s defense, winning those battles up front will be the key, which is why a younger, more disruptive player like Stefan Charles could find his way ahead of Bryant on the depth chart. Bryant still has a chance to make the roster with no substantial additions to the defensive tackle group through free agency or the draft, but the team could look at him as expendable with a bigger defensive end like Jarius Wynn on the roster. Either way, his role on the defense will likely go down in 2014.
5) Nickell Robey (2013: 609 snaps on defense)
- This one is more of a hunch than anything, because Nickell Robey had a very good rookie season for the Bills. However, Robey’s skills are tailor-made for Mike Pettine’s defense as that blitzing nickel who can get to the quarterback and make plays. That’s not to say he won’t be a fit in Jim Schwartz’s defense, but there are at least a few things to consider. First, the Bills signed cornerback Corey Graham to a substantial enough contract to make you believe he will have a role on defense, and that role doesn’t look like it will be as one of the starting, boundary corners. Second, the Bills will be doing a lot less blitzing and focusing more on their defensive line to set the tone for the secondary which takes away one of Robey’s positive attributes. Finally, the team has been looking to get bigger at every single position on the roster, and despite his triumphs as a player in 2013, his size still could be considered as a liability in a new defense. Robey is a plus-player in the view of your author. However, the NFL is all about finding the right fits for your specific schemes. Whether or not Robey fits this defense is a bonafide question.
The Buffalo Bills enter into the next phase of their offseason this week with the start of Organized Team Activities on Wednesday. The voluntary workouts will be the first bit of on-the-field activity the entire team will partake in.
Before the practices begin, there are certain players on the team that have momentum building for them heading into yet another year with the team. Whether it’s in a starting role or in a reserve capacity, these five players could be larger contributors in 2014 than they were for the Bills in 2013.
Keep in mind this is for players that were on the roster at the end of the year in 2013, not for those that just entered the fray at some point in the current offseason. So who has the chance to rise up?
Here’s a look:
1) TE Tony Moeaki (2013: 0 snaps on offense)
- As far as the tight end position has been concerned, there has been a lot of build up from both general manager Doug Whaley and head coach Doug Marrone about what they believe they’ll be getting from Tony Moeaki in 2014. The 26-year old has two starting seasons under his belt since being drafted in 2010, catching 80 passes for 1,009 yards and four total touchdowns. Two separate injuries, a torn ACL in 2011 and a fractured shoulder in 2013, have derailed his career from being a promising young tight end to one with many questions. The injury bug didn’t just find him in the NFL though. Moeaki dealt with elbow, hand and leg injuries, and a concussion as well during college. Even still, the Bills believe in his athleticism and ability to contribute. He might not be starting for the Bills, but with a full offseason expect him to be much more than just a special teams contributor — as long as he stays healthy.
2) S Duke Williams (2013: 34 snaps on defense)
- The 2013 fourth-round pick saw minimal time on the field, a whopping 2.97-percent, in a defensive role for the Bills during his rookie season. The presence of both Jairus Byrd and Jim Leonhard on the roster essentially made Duke Williams redshirt in 2013, allowing him to learn from Donnie Henderson and the other veterans for a year on how to be a professional safety in the league. Now, just one year removed from his college playing days, Williams could be considered the favorite to land the job next to Aaron Williams and start in 2014. It will be an open competition between both him and Da’Norris Searcy, but there a few factors that leads one to believe the competition is slanted towards Williams. Firstly, Williams was drafted by the current head coach and current general manager whereas his main competition was not. Second, Searcy has shown repeatedly to be a bit of a liability in pass coverage and is a much stronger run defender. Lastly, Searcy is in the final year of his rookie deal, whereas Williams has three years remaining on a very manageable rookie contract which could provide more incentive to giving him the job in a close competition. If Searcy vastly outperforms him in training camp, the three-year veteran will get the job. But if it’s a tie, or Williams is just a little behind Searcy through camp, the tie would likely go to Duke.
3) RG J.J. ‘Unga (2013: 10 snaps on offense)
- On November 20, 2013, the Bills signed J.J. ‘Unga to their active roster off of Baltimore’s practice squad. On December 8, 2013, ‘Unga got seven snaps at right guard against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you don’t believe the Bills are looking to upgrade at right guard, look no further than the evidence of a player who was only on the roster for 19 days before getting his playing time on the field in a regular season game with the team. Kraig Urbik was a Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey player, and while he’s held his own as a starter, the Bills likely believe that can get better. Urbik heads to OTA’s as the starter, but faces stiff competition from a quartet of young players with ‘Unga leading the way. If the latter has a good enough training camp, he could be the new starting right guard in 2014.
4) DT Stefan Charles (2013: 83 snaps on defense)
- The name of the game for defensive tackles in Jim Schwartz’s defense will be disruption, and in his limited time on defense during games, Stefan Charles showed that to be his specialty. Head coach Doug Marrone was very excited about Charles after his regular season debut, a five-play showing at home against Kansas City, because he was breaking through the line and making plays. With a full offseason to work with him, Charles has the potential to overtake Corbin Bryant as the fourth defensive tackle in the rotation. And if Marcell Dareus faces any suspensions for his off-the-field troubles, Charles could be the third man in on game day. His arrow is pointing up.
5) HB C.J. Spiller (2013: 389 snaps on offense)
- It’s hard to use the term “expanded role” for any player that had nearly 400 snaps the year before, but C.J. Spiller is the exception. By many accounts, 2013 was a disappointment for the former first-round pick. He suffered a high ankle sprain that put a damper on a good portion of his season and just never really evolved into the running back that the Bills were touting him to be ahead of last season. However, the argument can be made that the current Bills coaching staff just didn’t understand where Spiller would be most effective for the team when the regular season games started. They set incredibly lofty expectations as a workhorse back, but that’s not the type of player that Spiller is. By the time they realized what Spiller was, they were in the throes of the season and couldn’t put him in the spots he needed to be. The injury did not help the matter by any means and set the process back even more. Now that he’s fully healthy, that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett understands where he works best and that Spiller is motivated not only by doubters, but by an expiring contract at the end of the year, it’s fair to expect a bigger output from both a snap count and yardage perspective in 2014. He won’t be that workhorse back that they hoped for, but he’ll likely have a more defined and bigger role with the type of athleticism he possesses.
As is the increasing trend in the National Football League since the onset of the rookie wage scale in 2011, the Buffalo Bills are getting their rookie contracts out of the way sooner rather than later. The Bills announced on Friday afternoon that they've signed fifth-round pick and guard Cyril Richardson to his initial four-year contract.
A 6-foot-5, 343-pound offensive lineman from Baylor, Richardson started in 42 games over his four-year career. At one point in the draft process, he was projected to be a potential Day Two selection but fell to the fifth round during the actual 2014 NFL Draft.
Richardson is the fifth of the Bills' seven-man rookie class to sign their initial deals with the team. He joins third-round linebacker Preston Brown, fourth-round cornerback Ross Cockrell, seventh-round linebacker Randell Johnson and seventh-round offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson as the players to sign.
Only first-round wide receiver Sammy Watkins and second-round offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio have yet to sign their rookie deals with the Bills.
With the sale of the team on the horizon, the National Football League has stressed at every turn that a new stadium will be needed in western New York to keep the Buffalo Bills in the area for the longterm. The league has seen a few new stadiums go up throughout the past several years with a stress on creating a venue capable of hosting the biggest event in the football year: the Super Bowl.
Three of the most recent stadiums either built, or in the process of being built, were all designed by one architecture firm: HKS Architects. One of the key members of that staff is John Hutchings, who joined WGR Sports Radio 550 Thursday morning to discuss what goes into stadium design for the new NFL guidelines.
The firm has designed Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis), AT&T Stadium (Dallas) and the new facilities in Minneapolis that are currently being built for the Vikings. All three have a common link between them: they have all been awarded the Super Bowl to be played in their respective cities.
That is why when Hutchings and HKS Architects designed a stadium for the outer harbor of Buffalo a few months ago, he had ‘Super’ intentions in mind.
“We like to design our stadiums for Super Bowls first, simply because it's important to understand the requirements of a Super Bowl in the design of a stadium which is why on this opportunity at the outer harbor, we've designed a multi-use retractable roof stadium,” he told WGR.
“If we'd have taken the attitude 'just build a cheap outdoor stadium that's open air for the state of Minnesota,' they would not have been put in position to win the 2018 Super Bowl,” Hutchings continued. “And, the financial model doesn't work for a professional football organization if you don't have a stadium that sings and dances with all the premium amenities. And the multi-use, of course, helps the financial economic model.”
Having the biggest of intentions for a new stadium is all well and good, but the big question that remains is locally driven: does the city of Buffalo, or wherever the potential new stadium might be built, necessarily need a place that “sings and dances with all the premium amenities”?
Going beyond that, even if they did build a stadium along the same lines of Minnesota or Atlanta, would the NFL actually award the city of Buffalo with the biggest game of the year?
It’s safe to say most would be skeptical of that notion, even if they did have the facilities.
Outside of the Super Bowl talk, Hutchings touched on the “multi-use” functions of a potential new stadium, referencing not only the team’s games, but getting concerts, NCAA Super Regional or Final Four events and other things along those same lines.
He also referenced the University of Minnesota baseball team, which can use the new facilities in the area to play there during the beginning of the season when the weather isn’t ideal. Perhaps another use for any potential new Bills stadium is trying to partner up with some of the nearby universities.
Hutchings believes in the NFL, the starting point for seating capacities in new stadiums is around 65,000, with the hopes to get that into the low 70’s. It’s then up to the discretion of teams for what types of seating they go with.
“We start out with a minimum capacity of just over 60 and then kind of work with whatever franchise we happened to be involved with to try to fine-tune the amount of premium seating product, the club seats, the different seating options that we have within a professional stadium.”
Using the most recent example of the soon-to-be-built stadium in Minnesota, Hutchings said the cost for it is about “three-quarters of a billion dollars.”
With all the glass windows and the natural lighting for the Vikings new home, would all those bells and whistles be needed for a new Bills stadium? For that reason, Hutchings and his firm do a lot of groundwork to figure out what type of a design for a stadium works best for each city.
“We very much do that. If you take a look at the three designs for the other three NFL franchises that we've been involved with -- the Cowboys, Lucas Oil and Minnesota -- each one is a totally different expression of their brand, their city,” he said. “We do quite a bit of research into trying to cater that design for the local community.”
The trend in the NFL is to build stadiums like the ones Hutchings has been a part of. It just needs to be determined how capable the city of Buffalo will be to house one of these luxurious new facilities.
It’s all very early, and no answers will be provided until the new owner is named and starts to dip his toes into those waters. By all means, however, it’s very interesting to hear the type of place the league wants from a firm that has that experience.
The former owner of the Buffalo Sabres intends to become one of the prospective buyers for another professional franchise in the area. According to John Kryk of The Toronto Sun, billionaire Tom Golisano intends to put in a bid for the Buffalo Bills when the team officially goes up for sale.
With the news of the team hiring both financial and legal advisement to enter the next phase of the sale of the team, the report states that Golisano will look to gain immediate pre-approval from the National Football League. Golisano may bid by himself, or he may be the lead bidder with another businessman rooted in western New York according to the report.
A native of Rochester, the 72-year old billionaire was previously reported by The Buffalo News to have met with Bills president and CEO Russ Brandon at dinner in May. By many accounts, if he successfully purchases the franchise he would likely keep the team in Buffalo.
Golisano owned the Sabres after purchasing the team in 2003, and stayed on as the man in charge for eight years before selling the franchise to current owner Terry Pegula in 2011. He successfully started the payroll processing firm Paychex, and is estimated to be worth $2 billion.
The next step of the sale process is here for the Buffalo Bills.
The team announced on Wednesday that they've hired both a team of advisors to help vet prospective new owners in compliance with the National Football League. The Bills will use Morgan Stanley as their financial advisor and Proskauer Rose as their legal advisement.
“We are pleased to have been able to assemble, as our transaction team, two experienced and talented firms in the specialized field of sports mergers and acquisitions, Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose, to be involved in our sale process," said Team President and CEO Russ Brandon via email release.
The financial and legal advisors will help uphold the team's obligations to not only the NFL's rules and regulations for selling a franchise, but also to New York State and Erie County with respect to the 10-year lease hatched for Ralph Wilson Stadium just last year.
According to the email release, it is "anticipated" that Morgan Stanley and Proskauer Rose will begin contacting prospective buyers within the next 30 days.
The NFL Spring League Meetings have brought on a busy news day in terms of the Buffalo Bills and their inevitable sale to a new owner. Team President and CEO Russ Brandon spoke with a handful of reporters about the next step of the sale process, but a couple of other items of information have been released as well.
The looming concern for fans of the team is the longterm viability of the franchise in Buffalo, and whether or not a move is inevitable. Well, for those interested that may be fearing the worst, this was offered by one of the top NFL reporters the industry has to offer:
What I was told by someone with very good knowledge of the Buffalo Bills sale situation: "Whoever buys it has to be prepared to stay there."
Battista, who writes for NFL.com, didn't specify what that means in terms of the team past the current lease as it's currently constructed. But the source-driven report is a definitive step in favor of the Bills for the future, despite not knowing who the new owner will be.
That tweet, coupled with another from Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, provide an excellent start to the Tuesday of Bills fans everywhere.
I'm told a Toronto-based group interested in buying the Bills is reconsidering because moving might be too difficult.
To play devil's advocate, "reconsidering" doesn't necessarily mean they're pulling out of the process entirely. And it certainly doesn't mean that they're the only Toronto-based group. However, the fact that the growing sentiment around the league is that many believe the Bills will stay in Buffalo is a positive step towards securing the team for the long haul.
At the very least, the Bills are in Buffalo for the next six seasons. After that, no one really knows the specifics of how everything will play out, but the signs are encouraging for those that want the team to stay put.
When it comes to the future of the Buffalo Bills, nothing is certain past the obvious fact that the franchise will have a new owner at some point in the future. Since the passing of founder and owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the covering cloak of the sale process has slowly been lifted, revealing the steps for the oncoming transaction.
The annual NFL Spring Meeting is taking place in Atlanta this week, with Bills Team President and CEO Russ Brandon in attendance as one of the team's representatives. Speaking with a handful of local reporters including Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, Adam Benigni of WGRZ and John Kryk of The Toronto Sun, Brandon provided some additional details of the next phase in the sale.
He said he believes that an investment bank and law firm, that would be in charge of vetting any party interested in purchasing the team, should be named by the end of the month. He later revealed, according to Graham, that the firm could even be named within the next few days.
Brandon told reporters that the interest in purchasing the Bills, in his opinion, is "high." As Graham points out in his article, the team's president and CEO has been the go-to guy in speaking with prospective owners. Once the investment bank is in place to audit those individuals or groups, they will take over those duties from Brandon.
According to Kryk, Brandon wouldn't disclose the "framework" of stipulations in Wilson's will regarding who can and cannot purchase the team, and also wouldn't committ to any specific timeline for the sale of the Bills. However, according to Benigni, he said the vote on a new owner during the league's meetings in October "remains a possibility."
The NFL Spring Meetings extend through Wednesday, which is the last of the three days, before all parties fly back to their respective cities.
For some first-year players, they have the total package, everything goes right for them and they get drafted within the seven rounds. For others, they still earn a shot by getting a contract as an undrafted free agent. The rest? Well, sometimes a three-day opportunity at a rookie minicamp can either make or break their upcoming summer of playing football.
The Buffalo Bills invited four players to their rookie minicamp on a tryout basis: quarterback Kenny Guiton, and wide receivers Fred Lee, Ivan McCartney and Caleb Holley. Of the four players, head coach Doug Marrone said one caught his eye and liked what he saw.
"I did. I talked to Doug [Whaley] about that and I’m sure there will be an announcement coming," the coach said.
On Tuesday morning the Bills made that announcement and have signed wide receiver Caleb Holley. A 6-foot-4, 200-pound wideout, Holley fits the mold of the player that this current regime of the Bills have been looking to add to the bottom of their wide receiver group.
With his signing, the Bills now have five wide receivers on the roster that are listed at 6-foot-3 or taller. He joins Ramses Barden (6-foot-6), Chris Summers (6-foot-5), Cordell Roberson (6-foot-4) and Kevin Elliott (6-foot-3) as the tallest at the position according to the team.
A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Holley had 55 receptions for 970 yards and nine touchdowns for East Central (Oklahoma) in 2013. Before his two years at that school, he attended San Francisco City College.
With Holley in the fold, the Bills' roster is at the maximum allotment of 90 players.
The Buffalo Bills can put a checkmark next to one more phase of the offseason. On Monday, the team wrapped up their three-day rookie minicamp that featured 28 players trying to get some more on-field work in with the coaching staff.
The third and final practice was much like the first two, featuring more individual and positional type of drills than any sort of scrimmaging activities. Without a full complement of every position, it makes it hard to have a typical practice.
However, the practice was still useful to see how players moved and for getting experience in working with their respective positional coaches. Just as we did on Sunday, here are a few observations on some of the players on the field:
Draft Picks WR Sammy Watkins
- It was another exemplary day for Watkins, who by all accounts, was the most talented player on the field by leaps and bounds. Once again he made being a wide receiver in this type of practice setting look easy, roping in every pass thrown to him that was within his catching radius -- including consecutive one-handed grabs where it looked as though stickum was on his palm. According to head coach Doug Marrone, Watkins got to the facilities before 7 am to start working out, and he did some additional work after the practice. It's only his third day on the job, and habits need to be formed over a course of a couple of months, but Watkins is off to a very good start.
OT Cyrus Kouandjio
- The towering offensive lineman is best suited for the right side and you could absolutely tell that in his movement abilities during offensive line drills on Monday. He's not laboring by any means, he just isn't sudden -- a trait that Cordy Glenn does possess. Kouandjio likes to be in control, and when he gets his hands on the defender, it's hard for them to get away. The impressive thing about the second-round pick on Monday happened at the end of practice. Once Marrone got through his message to the players, he asked Kouandjio to lead the breakdown of the huddle. With evidence of his strong words from last week, clearly the rookie is Marrone's type of guy.
OT Seantrel Henderson
- It's hard not to notice Henderson on the field thanks to his nearly 6-foot-8 build, and on Monday he showed well in what little the offensive linemen could be judged on during practice. Henderson displayed good usage of his hands and a solid leg drive when the players had to build up from a lower stance and drive into the defender. He's got much to prove in real practice settings, but it was a nice start.
Undrafted Free Agents S Kenny Ladler
- Perhaps the undrafted free agent with the most accolades for the Bills in 2014 is Ladler, the former Vanderbilt safety. He was named to the All-SEC first-team by coaches, accrued 91 tackles and got an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He has much to prove for his NFL future, but Ladler looked smooth in his ability to turn and drive to the ball on Monday. The safety group is a very, very crowded one for the Bills with all the young players they have on their roster as it is. Ladler and Deon Broomfield will each have to have an overwhelming training camp to be under consideration for the roster.
CB Darius Robinson
- In his time at college, Robinson saw his fair share of Sammy Watkins during practices at Clemson. All that experience didn't help him on Monday, however, as Watkins beat Robinson during a one-on-one that made the cornerback resort to getting to physical with Watkins as he was getting out of his break. In the setting of a rookie minicamp, play like that is highly discouraged. And if it's against the first-round selection, a player in which the team traded a future first-round pick to get, it's an offense that will not be given the benefit of the doubt. He's not in danger of getting cut, it just wasn't a smart play to make in that setting.
Second-year players CB Michael Carter
- One of the final players to be signed after the 2014 NFL Draft and it's subsequent undrafted free agent rookie signing period winded down, Carter has a lot to prove. He was draft-eligible in 2013 and didn't hook on anywhere for the regular season after his college career ended at Minnesota. On both Sunday and Monday, defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson was constantly chirping in Carter's ear about technique refinement throughout the various drills.
G Randy Colling
- A native to the western New York area, Colling's journey is a story that will likely be written as OTA's and training camp get here. A longshot to make the team, the guard will need to work hard on his technique and hand placement to try and increase his odds. At 6-foot-5 and 320-pounds, Colling certainly has the size Marrone wants out of his offensive linemen. However, the guard from nearby Arcade needs to show a vast amount of improvement in order to have a chance against the likes of Cyril Richardson, Doug Legursky, J.J. 'Unga and others to be a reserve lineman.
Tryout Players QB Kenny Guiton
- Another day serving as the team's only quarterback during the rookie minicamp, and another one that Guiton likely wants back in a big way. He wasn't always helped out by a duo of undrafted receivers (Ivan McCartney and Fred Lee) who double caught and dropped passes that hit them in stride, but the inaccuracy remained his constant just as it was on both Saturday and Sunday. It may have only been a three-day stretch, but that's all the Bills have to go by in person and working with their coaches. Based on that, Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon are far superior. A signing isn't likely.
WR Caleb Holley
- No matter the coaching staff, once they get to their second and third years you start to see a trend in the types of players that they favor and look for. At the bottom of the wide receiver position, the common trait that links many of those players is having elite size. From Cordell Roberson, to Chris Summers and to Ramses Barden, there are many examples of players 6-foot-3 and taller. When Marrone made mention that one tryout player caught his eye, Holley may have been that player. At 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds, Holley has room to grow. He also outplayed both the other tryout wide receivers in Ivan McCartney and Fred Lee over the past three days. If they do indeed make a move to sign one of the four tryout players, Holley is the logical choice.
The Buffalo Bills got their second looks at the young players making up the 2014 rookie minicamp. Headlined by first-round pick and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, 28 players were on the field trying to make their first impressions on both the front office and the coaching staff.
The practice was based mostly around positional and individual drills, largely because the team lacked the necessary amount of players to actually line up in general formations. The day featured one-on-one's of the four wide receivers in attendance against the plethora of defensive backs trying to get a shot with the Bills.
With a lot of players attempting to catch the eye of the decision makers around One Bills Drive, some stood out for good reasons while others struggled. Here are some quick takeaways from the Sunday session:
Draft Picks WR Sammy Watkins
- The talent is very obvious in a practice setting like a rookie minicamp. The ease in his movements and his ability to accelerate to full speed after coming to a stop is a rare asset to have. In the way he moves and the way he catches the ball, he just makes it look easy against the level of competition he was facing.
CB Ross Cockrell
- Cockrell is a very intelligent player that was constantly engaging with defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson. The fourth-round selection was right on the same page with Henderson when the latter was attempting to let him know where he went wrong. Unfortunately for Cockrell, he had more than a fair share of lapses throughout the day. He wasn't crisp in his foot planting during a backpedaling drill which led to further instruction from Henderson. He's a long-limbed cornerback which is what the NFL is looking for, but one that will most certainly be Henderson's project this season.
LB Randell Johnson
- For a seventh-round selection, Johnson stands out next to all the linebackers on the field. A 6-foot-4, 245-pound athlete, Johnson also has impressive arm length and movement skills for a player his size. He's intriguing for all of those factors, and perhaps he might warrant a look at rushing the passer as well. They'll need to find his niche, but there isn't any question that Johnson looks the part.
Undrafted Free Agents LB Darrin Kitchens
- On the opposite side of things from Johnson is Kitchens, who signed with the Bills after a college career at Florida. For a smaller player (6-foot-2, 229-pounds), he struggled in overall movement skills which is exactly what a player of his stature can't have if he's going to make it. From an athletic perspective, which is all this practice was, he was the least impressive of the linebackers.
S Deon Broomfield
- The cornerback had a solid day in the various drills the defensive backs went through. His plant-and-drive following his backpedal was good, and stuck with his man in the short number of one-on-one's against the wide receivers. With a crowded safety room in Buffalo as it is, it's going to make it tough for Broomfield to make some room for himself. However, he had a nice day on Sunday.
Second Year Participants S Jajuan Harley
- One of six second-year players in attendance at rookie minicamp, Harley had the best day among all of them. Granted, it's tough for both the offensive and defensive linemen to stand out in a practice that features no hitting. Harley, though, displayed ample fluidity for his solid size (6-foot-1, 213-pounds). During one-on-one's, he read a short route well, jumped it, and followed it up with a rep where he stayed stride-for-stride with a wideout on a deep ball.
Tryout Players QB Kenny Guiton
- The only quarterback in attendance at the rookie minicamp, Guiton was the only man to throw passes to the wide receivers in both RVA and during one-on-one's. What stood out most was his inaccuracy on undefended throws that he should have no problem hitting. Wide receivers often had to over-extend to get to the ball, or slow up their movements for a pass thrown behind them. He's good for an arm in this setting, but if Sunday was any indication, he won't be wearing a Bills helmet as a quarterback past Monday's final session of the rookie minicamp.
WR Ivan McCartney
- McCartney joined Guiton as a struggling tryout member of the rookie minicamp. His breakdowns are sloppy and are easy to read for defensive backs. He's got good height, but he's also a very thin player that will likely struggle with the physicality at the NFL level. The former West Virginia product failed to shine in his many opportunities on Sunday.
Two days ahead of the start of the team's rookie mini-camp in Orchard Park, the Buffalo Bills were able to get three of their seven draft picks to sign on the dotted line for their rookie contracts. The team announced Thursday that fourth-round cornerback Ross Cockrell, seventh-round linebacker Randell Johnson and seventh-round offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson all signed their rookie deals.
Cockrell, from Duke, headlines the trio in the earliest to sign. He had 12 interceptions over his four-year college career and will first enter the team as a special teams contributor and backup outside cornerback.
The Bills still have four players who remain unsigned from their 2014 draft class. First-round wide receiver Sammy Watkins, second-round offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, third-round linebacker Preston Brown and fifth-round guard Cyril Richardson have yet to sign their rookie contracts.
During the 2013 regular season, Buffalo Bills starting quarterback EJ Manuel had a first year that was full of injuries, inconsistencies and glimpses of promise for the future. Basically, he was a rookie that played like one.
Appearing in a total of 10 games last season, Manuel did not provide the answer to the question that every Bills fan wants: is he going to be the franchise quarterback the Bills think he can be? A multitude of pros and cons could be justified after his performance for Buffalo in 2013, but Manuel still lacks a true answer to that very, very important question.
In the minds of one highly respected website, they are not all that impressed with Manuel after one season. Going through all their depth charts and adding in the rookies to each team, Pro Football Focus did the same with the Bills. Each player is qualified with a coordinating color that signifies any of the following: "elite," "high quality," "good starter," "average starter," "below average starter," "poor starter," "not enough information," or "rookie."
The important thing to point out is that these are not projections for the upcoming season and beyond. Pro Football Focus goes through every game in the NFL and grades every player on every team, so their findings are based purely on a player's history in the league.
The analysis of the Bills' starting lineup, as currently constructed, yielded a large amount of "average starter" types. In their opinion, Buffalo has one "elite" player in Kyle Williams, and two "high quality" players in C.J. Spiller and Marcell Dareus.
With the 2014 NFL Draft concluding last week, the Buffalo Bills and the rest of the National Football League have added what will likely be some of the final important pieces to each team's puzzle for the upcoming season. The draft classes have been identified, and the Bills' rookies made a decision on their look for 2014.
The team announced the jersey numbers for each of the class of 2014, and it all starts with first round selection Sammy Watkins. In his time at Clemson, Watkins wore the number '2' as a wide receiver, but that wasn't available to him in the NFL.
Perhaps putting to good use all the old Ryan Fitzpatrick jerseys still in circulation, Watkins chose the number '14' to start his playing career in Buffalo. In addition to Watkins, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (number 71), linebacker Preston Brown (number 52), cornerback Ross Cockrell (number 29), guard Cyril Richardson (number 68), linebacker Randell Johnson (number 93) and offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (number 66) all made their choices on jersey numbers as well.
Giving fans a glimpse of how they'll look on the team's jerseys, the Bills' equipment Twitter feed posted a picture.
When the Buffalo Bills selected Louisville linebacker Preston Brown in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the consensus scouting report is that they were getting a stout run defender that had the big body to be able to absorb contact. That analysis sounds a lot like another linebacker the Bills just added this offseason: Brandon Spikes.
The 6-foot-2, 255 pound Spikes was signed to a one-year contract with the hope that he'll be able to solve the team's woes in trying to stop the run consistently. And perhaps the Bills drafted the 6-foot-1, 251-pound Brown to be Spikes' protégé if the pact only remains at its original length.
The two are noted run-defenders and have even earned the billing of being a "throwback" type of linebacker in today's bigger, faster, stronger NFL. And, they have a lot more in common than just their playing styles. In fact, they were coached up by the same man, and one that has moved on to a new destination this offseason as well.
That person? Current University of Texas head coach Charlie Strong.
While Brandon Spikes was playing for the University of Florida, he was the middle linebacker for Strong while the latter served as the school's co-defensive coordinator. And in Preston Brown's college career, he enjoyed his time playing for Strong while he was the head coach at Louisville.
Brown was Strong's Spikes at Louisville, and now the two are playing the same position for the same professional team.
"Coach Strong was the first guy who called me after I got drafted," Brown said. "So he told me all about Spikes growing up down there in Louisville. I've always watched his game when I was back in high school watching him at Florida. I've always been a fan of Spikes, so, to actually play along side and actually learn from him is gonna be a great experience."
Just because the two played for the same guy, that doesn't earn Brown any special treatment from Spikes -- at least not yet.
"Yeah, I've talked to him a little bit today. But, I'm a rookie right now, so he's giving me a little bit of, kind of avoiding me a little bit," the former Louisville linebacker joked. "I'm sure I'll get some questions answered from him later."
Brown figures to be the top backup linebacker for the Bills heading into 2014.
It's not often that you see any person in any profession provide a rallying cry in one of their first days on the job -- let alone a rookie on an NFL team that will be in a battle to become the team's starting right tackle. However, Buffalo Bills second round pick and former Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio provided a memorable quote in his first face-to-face meeting with the local media.
Kouandjio comes from the Alabama Crimson Tide, who have had one of the most successful college football programs over the past several years, and even before that the prestigious DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland. Coming from those powerhouse programs, the offensive tackle will be going to a professional team that has averaged more losses in a single season over the past 14 years than Kouandjio has seen in his lifetime.
That's why his call to action so young in his career is a stark one:
"Personally, I don’t know why we haven’t been a winning team, but I’m a winner. That’s what I do. So I come here with the intention to win games, no matter what. I don’t care, I want to win and I’m going to do what I have to do to win. Whether it’s motivate whoever or whatever, if I see anything not right or see something missing in a team or characteristics missing of a winning team… I’ve been with two winning programs, I lost about seven games in my life. I know what a winning program looks like and I know the trends and I’ve seen trends in a winning program. If I see something a little bit off, I will say something. I have high hopes for this team. I believe in this team and I believe in these men. I see nothing but winners around me. I came here, I saw the attitude on the team and these guys, and I loved it. Everybody is willing to win and everybody is willing to have good plays and to work from what I’ve seen so far in one day. We’ll see." - Cyrus Kouandjio
If Kouandjio's game throughout the season is anywhere close to the passion he exuded in his first visit to One Bills Drive, Buffalo could have a good one on their hands. However, he is a rookie (a big one at that) that will be competing for a starting job to protect one of the edges for quarterback EJ Manuel.
Judging based off his strong approach, however, the 20-year old will fit right into the type of culture head coach Doug Marrone is trying to establish in Buffalo.
Following the 2014 NFL Draft, teams around the league went into the frenzied approach in trying to bring in the top undrafted free agents available. On Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills announced their group of nine that joined the class of 2014.
The Bills have signed Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield, Miami (FL) linebacker James Gaines, Florida defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, West Texas A&M defensive end Bryan Johnson, Florida linebacker Darrin Kitchens, Vanderbilt defensive back Kenny Ladler and Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson to undrafted contracts. The team also announced they've agreed to terms with defensvie back Derek Brim and defensive tackle Colby Way, both coming from the University at Buffalo.
The announcment of the nine additions, and the confirmation of the release of offensive tackle Jamaal Johnson-Webb, brings the Bills' roster to 88 total players.
Unless he joins a league at a lower level than the Canadian Football League, it appears the football career of former Buffalo Bills first-round pick Aaron Maybin is over. The Toronto Argonauts announced Tuesday afternoon that Maybin has retired from the CFL, just under seven months removed from him signing with the organization.
Maybin was the 11th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, never living up to his top billing in his time at Buffalo. Through two seasons Maybin appeared in 27 games over two seasons with the Bills, making only one start, 36 total tackles and no sacks.
He saw all of his NFL success in 2011 with the New York Jets, bringing down the quarterback six different times during that campaign. The Jets released him after only one year, and he hooked on with Cincinnati in 2012 before ultimately being released ahead of the 2014 season.
The 6-foot-4, 237-pound Maybin retires from football at the age of 26. He is widely considered as one of the biggest busts in Bills' history.
Over the course of the past few days, the Buffalo Bills found themselves a new running back via trade. In the business that is the National Football League, an acquistion often comes with the release of another player.
As is usually the case, the Bills released reserve running back Anthony Allen on Monday afternoon. Allen signed on with the Bills this past January after the 2013 season had concluded. He entered the league in 2011 as a seventh-round selection by the Baltimore Ravens.
Allen's release was made possible after the Bills acquired running back Bryce Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles through a trade. The team now has five running backs on the roster.