Bills Beat Blog

By Joe Buscaglia

Bills' Marrone had cancerous mole removed

The Buffalo Bills announced on Tuesday evening that head coach Doug Marrone had a scare with cancer. The coach released the following statement, revealing he had a cancerous mole:

"During a recent doctor's visit, it was discovered that I had a cancerous mole on my skin, which has since been removed. The only follow up required is to have my moles checked every 3 months and that basically is the end of the story. The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward."

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Draft guru says "good chance" Texans trade out of No. 1

The NFL Draft is still over two weeks away and the anticipation is only building up to bigger and higher levels. When May 8 rolls around, the Houston Texans will be on the clock for the first overall pick, but might that only be for appearances?'s Gil Brandt, who is widely known as "The Godfather" of the NFL Draft did a question and answer session with his followers on Twitter. He unleashed one heck of a draft nugget that, if you allow it to, could tie itself to the Buffalo Bills by way of two other reports.

Brandt is referring to the draft day trade from 2004 that sent Eli Manning to the Giants in return for Phillp Rivers heading to San Diego after the Chargers held the first overall pick. Plenty of fans in the area will and have made the leap that the mystery team that could be the New York Giants to Houston's San Diego might just be the Buffalo Bills.

To review, two separate connected and respected NFL writers have mentioned the Bills when it comes to the first overall pick. On March 27, Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report wrote that sources told him the Bills could be a trading partner for the Texans and that Buffalo is interested in moving up. Within the same month, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports wrote that the Texans are attempting to move out of the top pick, and mentioned both the Bills and the Atlanta Falcons as teams that might want to move up.

It's an interesting proposition, and one that you could argue both ways for which WGR did back when Pompei's original report came out.

But here's another thing to consider: might Bills GM Doug Whaley be more inclined to deal away future first round picks, which is likely what it would take to move up to first overall, because of the fear that not winning this season will cost him his job whenever a new owner comes on board?

It's an idea WGR's Mike Schopp has been kicking around on the air for the past week or so. It was also one that was written out in long-form by a Buffalo-based blogger, Joe Pinzone of BuffaloWins, asking the question if 2014 was a do or die year for both Whaley and Doug Marrone.

If there is any truth to the thought it would undoubtedly be one of the biggest trade attempts in the history of the franchise, and one they would have to get right. And in this case, right just wouldn't mean a solid starter on the defense. It would mean a hell-raising pass rusher that forces the opposition to gameplan for him, and a player to build their defense around for the future.

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NFL announces 30 draft day attendees

The wait for the 2014 NFL Draft is a bit longer than most years, but the league continued to fan the flames of anticipation by announcing the players that will be in New York City for the festivities.

The Buffalo Bills are selecting ninth overall in the draft order, which means there is probably a good chance that the next member of their roster will be at Radio City Music Hall to don the team's hat and jersey on May 8.

Here is a list of the scheduled attendees for the draft, while noting which of the players have been through Orchard Park for a pre-draft visit:

Quarterback (4)
Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Wide Receiver (7)
Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU (Visited Buffalo April 10)
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Mike Evans, Texas A&M (Visited Buffalo April 22)
Cody Latimer, Indiana (Visited Buffalo April 1)
Marqise Lee, USC
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Tight End (1)
Eric Ebron, North Carolina (Visited Buffalo April 4)

Offensive Tackle (5)
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (Visited Buffalo April 9)
Morgan Moses, Virginia
Greg Robinson, Auburn

Defensive End (2)
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Kony Ealy, Missouri

Defensive Tackle (2)
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

Linebacker (3)
Khalil Mack, Buffalo
C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (Visited Buffalo April 2)

Cornerback (4)
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (Visited Buffalo April 21)
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
Bradley Roby, Ohio State (Visited Buffalo April 2)
Jason Verrett, TCU

Safety (2)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

*All photos courtesy of the AP
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Three Bills ERFAs re-sign

On the same day that voluntary offseason conditioning started for the Buffalo Bills, their three remaining exclusive rights free agents re-signed with the team on Tuesday. Wide receiver Chris Hogan, offensive lineman Antoine McClain and fullback Frank Summers all signed the dotted line to spend 2014 with the Bills.

Hogan and Summers each contributed on offense throughout the 2013 season. Hogan, who primarily played on special teams units but also filled in at receiver when there were injuries, made 10 catches for 83 yards. Summers was mostly a blocker and special teams contributor, but also chipped in 12 carries for 46 yards, 7 catches for 79 yards and two total touchdowns.

McClain hooked on with the Bills on their active roster during the season in early October, but failed to be activated for any of the team's games last season. Head coach Doug Marrone did group McClain in with fellow guards J.J. 'Unga and Mark Asper as players that he believes have starting potential at the position.

The trio re-signed with Buffalo mostly because there options were severly limited. As an exclusive rights free agents, as long as a team issues the player a tender, the player then has only two options for their upcoming season. They can either re-sign with their current team, or, they can leave the NFL entirely.

The Bills now have 75 players on their active roster. Teams are allotted a maximum of 90 throughout the offseason, leading up to the initial cutdown day in late August.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

*All photos courtesy of the AP
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People : Antoine McClainChris HoganDoug MarroneFrank SummersMark AsperUnga Asper


Bills' Manuel begins journey to prove himself as starter

For the first time in 2014, the Buffalo Bills have reconvened and are starting their preparations for the upcoming season. While there weren't any drills on the field, it was a time for players to do some conditioning and strength work, all the while communicating with the coaching staff for the first time since the end of the season.

"Obviously we're extremely excited as coaches and as an organization when the players start coming back in this building," head coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday. "Even though you're limited to doing a lot of things and we know it's voluntary. It's great to see the players back knowing that we do have a lot of hard work ahead of us."

According to the coach, the attendance was near 100-percent for the first day with only a few exceptions. Marrone said that he has the understanding that it will get to full attendance very shortly.

Topping the list of those present for the first day will be the player directly tied to the success or failure of the Bills in 2014: starting quarterback EJ Manuel. There is little doubt that it's a quarterback-driven league, and Buffalo will have to hope that Manuel irons out all the wrinkles from his game as a rookie. The quarterback agrees with all of that, and knows he needs to prove himself in 2014.

"A year after you're drafted you have one year under your belt so I know you usually want to make that big jump from your rookie year to your second year, your sophomore year," Manuel said. "I'm eager about it. I'm very excited and I think I'm taking the right steps right now. I tried to jot down everything I felt I needed to work on and I felt like I made the proper steps up to this point and helped myself get prepared for that so now it's just staying a part of the plan.

Those in attendance could notice a different air about the second-year player. Not having to deal with the whirlwind that is the NFL Draft process like he did this time last year, Manuel looked noticeably more loose and comfortable in speaking with the media.

Even Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson noticed the differences during their on-field workouts in Miami a couple of weeks ago. Johnson alluded to the zip, and how Manuel's throws were all on point. The wideout even said that Manuel was much more vocal, telling teammates where to be and what to do if they had a misstep.

"The main reason was because I've been doing so much studying I can pretty much go out there and call whatever I want to call," the second-year quarterback said. "As far as me maturing as a quarterback and as this team's quarterback, that is what they want from me. That's what I want to be able to do, I want to have the responsibility to tell those guys that the route wasn't right and they won't take that personally."

Manuel and some of his receivers met for a five-day stretch in California, and then a four-day stretch in Miami. There they all participated in churning through the playbook from an on-the-field perspective.

It's all encouraging in April, but most know that with a playoff-worthy roster in place for 2014, it's on the young quarterback to lead the team back to the place that the Bills haven't been since the turn of the century. Right from the end of the season, the decision makers of the organization have at times gone out of their way to say how invested in Manuel they are for 2014.

It's Manuel's team, and they'll either sink or swim with the progress of their young quarterback. Much of that will be determined by his health after missing six games in 2013 due to various knee injuries.

Manuel said that his knee, which endured another procedure since the end of the 2013 regular season, was back to normal and even characterized himself as a full participant during Tuesday's workouts.

"I haven't had any limitations throughout the whole offseason since it was time for me to start working out and running and throwing," he said. "No limitations at all, I feel great."

Manuel and the majority of his teammates participated in what is termed as "voluntary offseason conditioning" workouts Tuesday. If the players so choose, they are able to be at team facilities working out for five separate four-day stretches, all happening in consecutive weeks.

Once that period ends, the next line of work for veterans of the Bills will be with the start of Organized Team Activities on Wednesday, May 28. There will be a total of 10 of those on-field workouts, which are also voluntary, that extend into June. It all leads up to the team's three-day mandatory minicamp that begins on June 17, which will be the last time the team can work with their players until the start of training camp in July.

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WR Mike Evans, two others visit Bills Tuesday

The 2014 NFL Draft is drawing near, and yet another big named prospect has made the trek to Buffalo to visit with the Bills. On Tuesday, the team announced that Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans was in town for a pre-draft visit.

Evans declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore following two seasons that yielded back-to-back 1,000 yard campaigns. Over those two years, the 6-foot-5, 231-pound wide receiver brought in 151 receptions for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is widely considered to be the second-best at his position behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins, and there is much speculation that Evans will be selected in the top 10.

In addition to Evans, the Bills also hosted two other college prospects on pre-draft visits. USC interior offensive lineman Marcus Martin and Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon each visited team facilities in Orchard Park on Tuesday as well.

In what has been advertised as a weak class for centers, Martin is one of the best available. He switched to center ahead of his junior season, but started at left guard during both his freshman and sophomore years. Martin is 6-foot-3 and 320-pounds, and will likely be selected at some point of Day Two of the draft.

McKinnon split his time in 2013 as both a quarterback and running back at Georgia Southern, but will need to focus on playing running back to make it in the NFL. Over the past two seasons, McKinnon maintained a yards per carry average of 6.7, gaining a total of 2,867 yards and 32 touchdowns in the Eagles' triple-option attack. He's projected to be a potential Day Three selection.

The Bills have now conducted 23 of their 30 pre-draft visits for non-local college prospects. For a full list of who has made their official visits, click here.

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Bills Draft Outlook: Cornerback

With the help of the pressure brought on by the front seven of the defense, and with a couple of roster improvements, the Buffalo Bills cornerbacks had a better year than they did in 2012. The position struggled mightily in the early going of 2013, but once usual starters began to return from injury, the corners settled in a bit more.

Even still, the Bills are bringing in a number of top cornerback prospects to meet with coaches and see the ground in Orchard Park for pre-draft visits. It's interesting considering their current roster makeup and for the fact that cornerback is one of the forgotten positions when it comes to the draft.

Could it be that where there is smoke, there is fire as well? Might the Bills actually draft a cornerback earlier than anyone is thinking at this point? Let's examine:

What they have
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey (nickel)
Reserves: Corey Graham, Brandon Smith, Ron Brooks, Mario Butler

What they need
- Regardless of when it comes to fruition, the Bills will eventually need to find a longterm starter to pair with Stephon Gilmore to finally put the cornerback need to rest. Entering his third season, the Bills are hoping Gilmore can put his injury behind him and continue down the same path he was on during training camp of developing into a shutdown corner.

They'll need him to regain that form, because the defense under coordinator Jim Schwartz will likely have a much different feel to it. While Mike Pettine specialized in bringing blitzes from all different places and sending more than four rushers on occasion, Schwartz shifts the philosophy back to having a dominant front-four and, in turn, putting more pressure on the cornerbacks on the field.

The big question is not about Gilmore — at least not at this point. One would have to believe that the concern is how Leodis McKelvin, who is heading into his seventh year, will do with more time in coverage. There isn't any doubt that his season in 2013 was the best he's had since his rookie year. If you study the tape, however, it's fair to ask if it was merely a byproduct of Pettine's pressure-packed defense.

Here's another caveat to consider: McKelvin's cap number takes a 50-percent jump up from the 2013 season to 2014. And if you go based on his 2013 number, his 2015 cap hit goes up nearly 61-percent. While there is no immediate danger to McKelvin, who turns 29 in September, it would be shortsighted to not at least wonder if the Bills are trying to find that longterm replacement.

Considering his age, his past struggles, a lack of playmaking ability (interceptions) and with more dynamic return specialists on the roster currently, it's fair to consider if the former first-round pick could be in trouble after 2014. After all, McKelvin is owed a $750,000 roster bonus ahead of the 2015 season, and the normal rule of thumb for cornerbacks is to gently bring them up to the starting lineup after learning the NFL game.

Some will ask about free agent acquisition Corey Graham, but it seems he's more of a situational player that will be used at both cornerback and safety depending on how the offense lines up. Graham will likely be a jack-of-all-trades type based on his skill set.

Nickell Robey is a solid nickel corner and will continue in that role, so there isn't any reason to move on from the former undrafted free agent. Past those four, though, the Bills lack depth. Former fourth-round pick Ron Brooks has been a humongous disappointment in the rare times that he's been healthy and could be entering a "prove it" training camp in 2014. Brandon Smith is an intriguing developmental player, but is far from being ready to contribute.

If the right player is available and depending about how they feel about McKelvin, cornerback could be the sneakiest "need" position for the Bills in 2014.

How will they do it?
- If the Bills stand pat at ninth overall, it would be a bit of a stretch to consider one of the top cornerbacks being in consideration for that pick. Based on the talent level of this draft that will likely push the top cornerbacks down the draft order, the Bills could be in prime territory at 41st overall to land a cornerback that could have been selected in the first round during weaker draft years. They've been bringing in numerous fringe-first round cornerback types, and some that could even be available in the third round. It would not be surprising at all if the Bills used a Day Two selection on the position, considering the type of pressure that will be put on them this coming season.

Players connected to the Bills (will be updated)
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (Pre-Draft Visit)
Bradley Roby, Ohio State (Pre-Draft Visit)
Phillip Gaines, Rice (Pre-Draft Visit)
Bashaud Breeland, Clemson (Pre-Draft Visit)
Ross Cockrell, Duke (Pre-Draft Visit)
Walt Aikens, Liberty (Pre-Draft Visit)

Previous 'Bills Draft Outlook' Editions
Wide Receiver
Defensive End
Running Back
Defensive Tackle
Tight End
Offensive Tackle

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