Saturday, July 27, 2013

2013 Training Camp Preview: Offensive and Defensive Lines

by Coast

Perhaps among the least exciting but most important positions on an NFL team are the offensive and defensive lines. The Bills defensive line was supposed to be a strength of the team the past few seasons, but in my opinion has been a colossal disappointment.

The Bills defense ranked 2nd worst in the NFL in yards rushing allowed in 2012 at 145.8 per game...even after spending $100 mil on Super Mario and another $25 mil on Mark Anderson. The Bills also were expecting big things from then 2nd year pro Marcell Dareus. Yes, I know the Bills linebackers were atrocious which didn't help, but it all starts in the trenches...and the Bills were simply not good enough. The Bills have actually been atrocious in stopping the run for years...ranking 28th in 2011, 32nd in 2010, 30th in 2009, 22nd in 2008, 25th in 2007, 28th in 2006 and 31st in 2005. Good God...their highest ranking in rush defense in 8 years is 22nd?! They ranked in the bottom 3 of the league 3 times and bottom 5 of the league in 5 of the last year years.

Coincidentally, 2005 was the year the Bills drafted "underrated" Kyle Williams. If Kyle Williams is so good, why has the defense been horrendous since he has been on the team? Is he underrated or is he just mediocre? I would take the latter based on how this defense has performed.

Last year was the year Marcell Dareus was supposed to take that next step. He has just not been enough of an impact player on defense in his first two seasons to warrant the top 5 selection that he was. He has 5.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons as a Bill...but I think at least 1/3 of them were in Toronto in one game against Rex Grossman. Marcell did have off the field distractions last year that understandably could have impacted his play, so I am going to give him the 2013 season before I consider him a bust.

Mario Williams...the highest paid defensive player in NFL history...the highest paid player in the history of Buffalo sports...didn't earn his paycheck. Yes, he had 10.5 sacks...but if you take out the Colts game, he really had a minimal impact on games...and even in the Colts game, the Bills lost. There has been a lot of drama surrounding Williams since he has been on the team as well. He had some mysterious wrist injury that was allegedly the reason why he was invisible the first half of 2012. He is in the news because his fiancee left him and wants to keep the ring. Mario needs to get his shit together asap and be an MVP caliber player in 2013 to warrant his massive contract.

Alex Carrington is still on the team...the unquestioned 2nd best player from the worst draft in recent memory in 2010. Carrington can block field goals...yay.

Another bust from 2010 is Torell Troupe...he has been often injured and has made zero impact as a 2nd round pick. This will be his last chance to earn a job...odds are good he will get the ax.

The Bills picked up free agent tackle Alan Branch. Branch started all 31 games that he played the past 2 years for the Seahawks. The Seahawks had a good defense & Branch was a contributor so Branch should provide some solid depth at the position.

The offensive line on the other hand has been a relative strength for the team. The Bills ranked 10th in sacks allowed in 2012 and 1st in 2011. The Bills also ranked 4th in the league in yards per carry in 2012 and 5th in 2011. I know that Fitz' ability to get rid of the ball quickly, and CJ Spiller's ability to just be outstanding has helped the offense significantly in these statistical categories, but still impressive nonetheless.

The anchor of the Bills line is center Eric Wood. There is no doubt Wood is a stud...but his problem has been staying healthy. He has never played 16 games in a season (10, 14, 9 and 14).

The most important player on the line along with Wood is 2nd year man Cordy Glenn at left tackle. Glenn seemed solid in his rookie year. You never really heard his name called during games in 2012...which is a good thing for an offensive lineman. I have high hopes for Glenn being a star in his 2nd season.

Another returning starter is Kraig Urbik at right guard whom the Bills have locked up with a contract extension through 2016.

After Urbik, the line is in a state of flux. Andy Levitre got overpaid by the Titans, so the left guard position is up for grabs. Doug Legursky, the veteran free agent pick up from the Steelers, may be the favorite to win the job based on his experience as he has started 17 games in the past 3 seasons (also started in Super Bowl XLV). Colin Brown will also battle for the starting position.

Chris Hairston probably would have been the favorite to start at right tackle, but will begin training camp on the PUP list. With Hairston out, Erik Pears has a chance to take a hold of the position. Both have played a number of the games in the past few seasons and both have been adequate.

2013 Bills Training Camp Preview: EJ Manuel v Kevin Kolb

by Steve

The only real question that needs to be answered during the Buffalo Bills training camp: Who is going to be the starting quarterback? At this point there is no obvious answer.

The Dougs (Marrone and Whaley) have said all along it is going to be an open competition, Erik James Manuel versus Kevin Kolb.  Rookie v veteran, potential franchise quarterback v journeyman, good v evil?

I don't know one person that actually wants Kevin Kolb to start the season as the starting QB (outside of maybe his wife and other family members).  Kolb is a bum, a nobody, a guy that got paid big time in Arizona and flopped almost immediately.

EJ Manuel, the 16th overall pick, is supposed to be the franchise QB this town has been begging for since '96.  He is the hope this franchise desperately needs.  If he can't beat out Kolb as the starting quarterback does that doom him before he even plays a real NFL game?

I don't think so.  Yes, ideally he looks like a boss from day one and separates himself from Kevdog but it isn't a necessity. I won't be outraged if Kolb is the starter v New England 9/8.  Maybe Kolb isn't a total piece of shit and can play adequately enough that the Bills are competitive.  Who knows, maybe they could win 9 games with ol' whats his name playing all 16 games.

Either way, there is practically no way Kolb stays healthy the whole year so there is no doubt Manuel will see the field in 2013 any way.  Furthermore, if Kolb is a flop after beating Manuel out in camp they'll bench his ass and it will be EJ's turn.

If I were running the team I would have named Manuel the starter from day one and scrapped any idea of a QB competition.  He was the Bills first round pick (even if they traded back from their original position).  Every year rookies start and succeed and especially in recent years.  But that's not what the Dougs wanted so now they are stuck with a competition.  Who ever looks better has to be the starter from day one or they lose their credibility.

My prediction is Kolb starts.  He'll play 6 or so games probably go 2-4 or get hurt and Manuel will be the starter from then on.  Best case scenario is Manuel beats out ol' Kolb-er and is a beast.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Friday, July 26, 2013

2013 Bills Training Camp Preview: Wide Receivers

by Steve

The Buffalo Bills report to St John Fisher in Rochester this weekend.  Since you're dumb and we're smart we're previewing the team for you. Here was a look at the new coach and the defense, now on to perhaps the weakest position of the entire team, the wide receivers.

This weak yet young wide receiver corps can be summoned up pretty easily, it's Stevie Johnson (the face of the franchise) and a bunch of kids. Well, that doesn't count "cut me" Brad Smith because I assume the Bills will cut Brad Smith.  Why wouldn't they?  There is no more wild cat, he is a marginal receiver and his only real talent is returning kickoffs.  Sorry, you're replaceable dawg, you're cut.

Even with Smith on the roster, SJ13 has 95 more catches 1,703 more yards and 19 more TDs than the other 11 WRs on the roster combined.  Take away Brad (and Dorin Dickerson because I assume he's a TE) and all the other players on the roster listed at WR combined have 9 total years of experience with 4 rookies combined for 0 (obviously).

The main problem with this is the idea that rookie wide outs rarely make a big impact their first year in the league.  The problem with this problem is the Bills are counting on rookies to make an impact in 2013.

Here are some prominent WRs and their first season in the NFL:

Julio Jones 54 959 8
Calvin Johnson 48 756 4
Demaryius Thomas 22 283 2
Dez Bryant 45 561 6
Hakeem Nicks 47 790 6
Arrelious Benn 25 395 2 (2nd round pick same year as De Thomas) Benn drafted 39 Robert Woods 41

Other than Julio Jones none of those guys had really impressive seasons and they are some of the best wide receivers now in the league.  All I'm saying, don't expect much from any of the Bills rookies and that is exactly what the team is doing.

Another case in point being second year guy TJ Graham.  The speedster out of NC State came into the season with mild expectations because the Bills traded up to get him and the team had a dearth of speed at the position.  He didn't fail to disappoint only catching 31 balls with 322 yards and one touchdown. Ouch.  Blame the quarterback and the shitty coach if you'd like (and I will too) but if this team had any discernible talent at the position Graham would be on the hot seat.

The Bills brass knew they needed a reset at this position and went hard in the draft to restock the roster. Robert "Bobby" Woods was taken in the 2nd outta USC and Olympian Marquise "4.21 40" Goodwin was taken in the 3rd round.  Woods at least from reports is much more polished a WR and appears to be slated as the #2 guy oppo Johnson.  Was Goodwin taken too high and will have a season ala Graham last year? Probably, but I heard once that speed kills, so we'll see.

The two most intriguing and wildcard esque players in the mix at WR are Da'Rick Rogers and Marcus Easley. One an undrafted "bad boy" (no he isn't a rapper in Diddy's crew he got booted from Tennessee, yes Tennessee kicked him off their team so you know he's a screw up) and the other an injury prone "never was".  Both of them have a good shot at making the roster.  Rogers has the potential to be a beast if he wants to be (think Moulds with more speed) and Easley just needs a break and good health.

With this corps of wide receivers the franchise must be thinking rebuild mode, have the young guys take their lumps this year and look towards 2014.  I don't necessarily disagree with the sentiment but again why is Brad Smith still here taking up a roster spot then?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Buffalo Bills parking lot restrictions

By Steve

Got our season tickets in the mail with a letter explaining the new "fan enhancement" policy for tailgating.  Of course this new bullshit isn't even on their official website yet but probably will be updated soon.

Briefly, no more drinking or smoking while waiting in line to get into the stadium.  They request you refrain from bringing bottles.  No more binge drinking. No more kegs.  No more funnels. No more binge drinking games.  Basically dont park in the real lots any more.

The Bills do realize they are a joke and barely exist right? They realize a large percent of their fans show up for their piece of shit product just to tailgate right? No binge drinking, huh?!?

To enforce these new rules they will have 128 MORE security guards at each game and will have camera surveilence.

Umm so see you in the grass lots folks.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2013 Bills Training Camp Preview: Defense

by Coast

The Bills have made wholesale changes in their organization, starting at the top, this off-season. Russ Brandon took over for Ralph Wilson after 53 years as president of the franchise. The coaching staff was replaced and a new head coach with no head coaching experience in the NFL was named in Doug Marrone. The coaches are younger, more energetic and will attack more than the old fashioned regime led by Chan Gailey that was clearly coaching as if it was 1994. As training camp begins, we will soon see if the culture of this franchise is indeed going in a different direction.

Let's start by breaking down the linebackers and defensive backs.

Mike Pettine is going to install a defense with an attacking mind set. The Bills will blitz often and show many different looks. The defense will not sit in its base 4-3 scheme like they did under Dave Wannstedt while getting shredded without making a single adjustment. The Bills base defense under Pettine will resemble the nickel formation, but will be fluid and attacking. The linebackers will be important in the varying blitz packages and in getting pressure on the quarterback. The only problem is, there is no way to know if this group of linebackers has the capability to do so. To better fit the new attack Mike Pettine defense the Bills made changes to the makeup of their linebacker corps during the offseason including the release of leading tackler Nick Barnett.

The Bills spent the 46th pick of the 2013 draft on inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, who should be a starter from day 1. Alonso comes with off the field problems, but his upside outweighs his risk. Alsono is another versatile player who is capable of playing any of the linebacker positions which will enable him to fit perfectly into the Pettine scheme. Out of all the linebackers on the Bills roster, Alonso is the front runner to be the quarterback of the defense and remain on the field on all downs.

Nigel Bradham is the favorite to join Alonso as the all down linebacker in the "nickel" base defense being installed. Bradham's speed and athleticism can make him a viable option at this position. Veteran linebackers Bryan Scott and Arthur Moats will also compete, but ideally, Nigel will separate himself from the pack.

Manny Lawson, a former first round pick of the Bungals from 2006, was signed via free agency. Lawson was brought in to play strong side linebacker opposite Mario Williams and is a versatile defender who is strong against the run. Manny's weakness is pass coverage, but his versatility and ability to play multiple positions should immediately help the Bills' defense.

Kelvin Sheppard, a very ordinary middle linebacker, was traded to the Colts for Jerry Hughes, a former 2010 first round draft pick. Hughes can play both outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme and has experience at defensive end. Hughes should be a situational pass rusher that will play behind the likes of Mario Williams and Manny Lawson.

Adding depth to the position is Marcus Dowtin who played for the Jets and is familiar with Mike Pettine. The Bills also think highly of undrafted Howard U rookie Keith Pough. Pettine thinks highly of his linebackers going into training camp but this could be lip service until we see these guys on the field. The position has been so pathetic since 2004 so it is a breath of fresh air to start over with young guys with a lot of upside/potential.

The Bills secondary is a bit of an unknown as well. Leader of the secondary, and defense as a whole, is free safety Jairus Byrd. The only problem is that Byrd is likely going to hold out through most, if not all, of training camp. Byrd will probably show up for the season, but will not be up to speed on the new defense. In Byrd's absence, and with the release of George Wilson (finally) this offseason, the safety positions are completely up for grabs.

Aaron Williams, the cast off cornerback, has switched to safety but based on what I have seen out of him since the Bills drafted him in the 2nd round, I do not have high hopes (even if he is a front runner to start at strong safety).

In Byrd's absence, Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams will battle it out for playing time at free safety. Searcy got some playing time in 2012, but did nothing to prove he is better than the rookie Williams. Duke brings more versatility to the defense than Searcy (Williams played some corner this spring), but Searcy may be better in run support. Let's all just hope Byrd signs his tender and gets to camp ASAP so these two can battle it out for the back up role and not starter.

At cornerback in my opinion could be the Bills' best defensive player in 2013. Stephon Gilmore. He has the potential to be the shut down corner that will take over for Revis as best in the division and maybe the conference. Opposite Gilmore is a bit of a question mark. The Bills paid Leodis McKelvin but he warrants a contract for his ability to return kicks, not cover anyone. Ron Brooks and Justin Rodgers will battle for the 3rd and 4th cornerback spots with rookies Jonathan Meeks and Nickell Robey.

The Bills have a lot of unknowns in the defensive backfield this year, but I will take that over the known mediocrity that we are used to.

Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 Buffalo Bills Training Camp Preview: Doug Marrone

by Steve

Holy smokes, the Buffalo Bills open training camp in less than a week!  So I better start breaking things down and preview this probably pathetic team for you.  Let's start right at the top with novice head coach Doug Marrone.

I still have no clue who Doug Marrone is and no one knows how he's going to be as an NFL ('scuse me National Football League) head coach.  He's 48, slowly worked his way up the coaching food chain via stops at tiny colleges, NFL assistant coach jobs and of course as Syracuse head coach.

At Syracuse (a Big East school at the time) he went 25-25 which includes five wins against illustrious power houses like Maine, Colgate, Stony Brook and Rhode Island.  He went 4-5 against ranked opponents and the teams best non conference win was either v Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl (2010) or @ Missouri in 2012.  Not exactly Jim Harbaugh or even Chip Kelly's resume.

So clearly the guy can't recruit college talent but thankfully he doesn't have to in the NFL, that's the other Doug's job.  What makes this guy qualified to be a head coach in the biggest sports league on the planet?  I just can't give this guy the benefit of the doubt coming from Mediocre Syracuse and with this franchise's history.

Maybe if he was coaching at a power house football program or even a respectable conference I'd cut him some slack because he's coached against a lot of talent.  But a .500 record in conference that just disintegrated because it was such a pathetic football conference?

Then again his past doesn't mean all that much in reality.  It all comes down to how his offense performs and how he grooms and develops one Erik James "EJ" Manuel.  Let's face it, Kevin Kolb isn't leading this team any where.  That fact may not even have much to do with Kolb's talent and more to do with circumstance.  He is injury prone, the offense will be run based (at least initially) the wide receivers aren't any older than the corps Marrone had at 'cuse last season and Manuel was drafted in the first round.

Unless Kolb lights up the Patriots, Jets and Ravens early on in the season it is going to be Erik's team and Marrone's job to make him succeed. Marrone in all likelihood will live and die in Buffalo with Manuel unless he turns out to be absolute garbage (meaning in 2015 the Bills are looking to draft another QB). But, if Manuel is absolute garbage then that falls on Doug Whaley who also hired Marrone (who will certainly have a bad record by then) and at that point everything comes into question.  Then again I can picture it now, "oh but it was Buddy Nix who was around when Marrone was hired and Nix was around when Manuel was drafted!" FML

Ok ok I'm getting ahead of myself.  All I'm saying is Kolb better come out hotter than shit or Manuel better be the read deal or it will be nearly impossible for Marrone to be a winner. His job is the offense and in the NFL offense now wins championships. This offense better improve dramatically.

The first thing we can actually judge Dougy M. on is his coaching staff he's compiled.  Surprisingly I sorta like what he has done.  Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is saying a lot of the right stuff and was successful with the Jets.  How much he had in building those defenses can certainly be questioned but he has to deserve at least some credit. The special teams coach (Danny Crossman) is anyone other than Bruce DeHaven which is good. 

On offense he brought in his crony from the Orange, Nate Hackett. This guy is more of a question mark than Pettine and better not require us to call him Nathaniel cause I ain't. He's young and has obviously worked with young QBs (see Ryan Nassib [who the Bills thankfully did not draft]) so those are positives.  He has the pedigree (his dad Paul has worked in the NFL) and has worked in the NFL albeit briefly. Basically, I'm willing to give Hackett a chance just as long as he doesn't ruin Manuel single handily by the end of training camp.

At this point in my Bills fandom I've seen everything fail EXCEPT for going young at every position, having a lot of people named Doug in charge and not truly knowing what to expect. I guess technically this doesn't HAVE to fail, right? Right?!?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Is Darcy Regier Alive?

by Steve

If not for the recent trade of some guy I never heard of for over paid over aged Henrik Tallinder I would truly be wondering if Darcy Regier didn't get caught in a ravine on a hike like that 127 hours guy.

Why is Regier even the GM still?  Wait, never mind, don't answer that, because you can't.  And because I have been asking that question since 2006.  A more realistic question might be why is Ryan Miller still on the team?  Why is Thomas Vanek still on the team?  Why have the Sabres done nothing since the draft?

I thought I was beyond incredulity with Darc.  I didn't think his ineptitude and failure could prompt me to yet again write the same things.  I guess even I am wrong from time to time.

Look around the new "division" the Sabres are in and you will see teams making moves all over the place.  Toronto, Detroit, Tampa, fuck, even Florida (well sorta, I guess).  What has Darc done besides get ol' threesome Hank back?  (Spare me your "it will fix Myers" bullshit)  I can't wait to see pictures of Toni Lydman at the airport tomorrow christ.

Bottoming out and rebuilding makes sense,  I get it.  But wasn't that what the Sabres were doing the past 2 seasons?  They didn't make the playoffs, Regier said that was the plan when they shipped Gaustad outta here.  How long is it going to take?

Death, taxes, Darcy Regier as the Sabres GM, and zero winning in the city of Buffalo, all certainties in life.

How Much Will EJ Manuel Play In 2013?

Followers of the NFL already know how much of an impact a rookie quarterback can make in the league right away these days. From Cam Newton to Andrew Luck, there have been quite a few youngsters who have instantly helped their team turn thing around. With EJ Manuel now on the roster for Buffalo, just how much of a chance will he have to make an instant difference? 

With Ryan Fitzpatrick out and Kevin Kolb in, the veteran fresh off a subpar showing in Arizona is the only true threat that stands in front of Manuel. Kolb is known as a steady signal caller who doesn’t make a ton of mistakes,  but he figures to be nothing more than a security blanket while Manuel grows up.

People knew that Manuel had talent heading into the draft, but the Bills surprised a lot of people around the NFL when they took him as the #1 quarterback in 2013. He fits the new mould of NFL quarterbacks that took fantasy football by storm last season that can effectively run and pass the ball, but many feel as though he is not quite ready to start right away.

When it comes to the preseason, expect Kolb to win the job for Week 1. However, not only could Kolb lose his starting job due to not winning games, but he could also lose it to injuries. He has had a few setbacks in recent years, so staying on the field could be a struggle for him.

Manuel has the tools to be a solid player in the NFL, but it’s probably unfair to put him in the same tier of quarterbacks that have gone in the first round of the draft the previous two seasons. In a rebuilding year, Manuel will get the chance to get some reps in 2013 and hopefully be ready going forward.