It’s Not Time to Push the Panic Button

August 27, 2013 by

It’s a travesty how long it’s taken me to post and for that I apologize. Lack of patience for a city cloaked in bad luck, failed divestitures, and a sports tradition that rivals the impotence of an 80 year old man trying to operate a motor scooter are collectively an effective enough excuse for my absence of content for the last month or so. There are few things I enjoy more in life however than sitting down and composing a piece on my beloved Bills or Sabres however. So what finally motivated me to pick up the proverbial pen (keyboard) and key in my first post since June 24th? Monday, August 26th.

The national spotlight typically casts a massive shadow over the city of Buffalo and our sports franchises. Whenever we’re in the media spotlight it’s typically for something heartbreaking or unfathomably frustrating. Tom Brady bashing out hotels, Marshawn Lynch running people over on Chippewa or OJ Simpson’s collection of felonies, just to name a few in a long line of on and off the field misery. Yesterday was unprecedented for me however. A four or five-for, depending on what you consider actual news, of injuries, roster moves and pouty players complaining about making $7 million a year.

The day started off with a lovely press conference featuring franchise player and, until a few days ago, training camp holdout Jairus Byrd pissing and moaning about not getting the “respect” he thought he deserved by being awarded a long term deal making him the highest paid safety in the game. His consistent response of “it is what it is” and “it’s just business” infuriated me more than a 30 minute round table discussion with a panel of Kim Kardashian, Kayne West, Miley Cyrus and Rush Limbaugh would. Granted, Byrd deserves a big pay day from the Bills. He’s been the most consistent player on a mediocre team since he entered the league in 2009. To steal a line (this may sound a bit harsh so I apologize) from the movie “Waiting”: “That’s like being the smartest kid with Down’s syndrome”.

Byrd deserves to be paid at the level that he was franchised at (roughly 6-7.5 million) which is a collective average of the top 5 players at his position. At this point in his career he probably ranks and the 3rd or 4th best safety in the league behind names like Earl Thomas and Eric Berry. To complain about being paid almost $7 million guaranteed this year is completely preposterous and to seem so discontent to the point where you can’t say you’ll be ready for the week one opener against the Patriots is unacceptable. Russ Brandon has made it publicly known that he intends to lock Byrd up long term in the off season and his avoidance of questions regarding being open to resigning with the Bills is childish.

The next bit of juicy info divulged yesterday was that Stephon Gilmore would miss anywhere between 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist suffered at the hands of roster-bubble player Da’Norris Searcy. Gilmore was set to be the centerpiece of Mike Pettine’s defense this season and his loss is catastrophic. Behind Gilmore stands a line of fringe corners who have done little-to-nothing to show that they’re legitimate NFL-Caliber starters. When the season starts you’re likely to see a contingent of starters that includes first round bust Leodis McKelvin, Crezdon Butler, Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers. If the Bills new attacking defense can’t make Tom Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, he’s going to have a career day against the Bills’ back end.

The quarterback situation received a swift kick to the proverbial groin yesterday as well with news coming out that Kevin Kolb’s career is likely over due to a severe concussion. The Bills brought in all-time first round bust Matt Leinart and traded for some guy name Thaddeus Lewis to back-up undrafted free agent rookie Jeff Tuel. Doug Marrone announced yesterday that the team is planning on making history by making Tuel the first ever undrafted rookie to start a season opener. Don’t get me wrong, Tuel has been very impressive for most of camp and in two of the three preseason games but come on. Bill Belichick is licking his lips in anticipation of the opportunity to scheme around a kid who 32 teams didn’t feel was worth a seventh round flier.

Let’s just call it what it is, yesterday was a prototypical day in the lives of Buffalo Bills fans. Two preseason games full of excitement and optimism dashed by the reality that the lights don’t shine bright in Western New York. This is no time to stop believing that the team is moving in the wrong direction however. This is a completely rebuilt roster with a coaching staff and front office that finally seems to know what they’re doing. While yesterday can be the centerpiece for a season full of pessimism it’s important to remember that not one snap has counted for anything thus far. The Bills still have CJ Spiller, a defense that looks like it might be able to surprise a few people and a wide receiving corps that seems reborn. The day will come (and for some has come) to stop believing in this team but as Bills fans aren’t we used to this level of adversity? Until the bullets go live on September 8th try to keep that in perspective. The combination of Marrone, Doug Whaley and Russ Brandon hasn’t truly been tested yet and while things look murky right now, try to retain some sort of faith in a team that just two weeks ago most people thought was heading in the right direction.

Bills Show Hand With Anderson Release

July 24, 2013 by

The Mark Anderson era in Buffalo came to an end yesterday, a little more than a year after the Bills signed him to a $19 million deal with $8 million in guaranteed money. A tremendous waste of money for a player who saw action in five games, recording one sack and 12 tackles before succumbing to a knee injury and missing the remainder of the season. It’s tough to judge a player on one year of production but the Bills brass clearly saw indicators that the Anderson they inherited wasn’t the one that racked up 10 sacks for the Patriots in 2011. The Buffalo version of Anderson seemed to be the one that struggled to find a team for the better part of four years and whose inconsistency made him an easy pre-camp release.

With the release of Anderson, the Bills seem to be showing their hand a bit more when it comes to what defensive front they’ll likely feature in 2013. While defensive coordinator Mike Pettine insists that the Bills will run multiple defensive looks to keep opposing offensives off track, it looks as though the team will primarily feature a three man front. Mario Williams is the X-factor on the defense of course and he’s likely to be the rover/predator, lining up all over the field. There might be plays where Williams lines up with his hand on the ground but it looks as those the Bills base D will feature Williams and free agent acquisition Manny Lawson manning the outside linebacker spots. Rookie Kiko Alonso and second year player Nigel Bradham are locks to start in the middle of the defense playing behind Alex Carrington, Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams.

The player who benefits most from this move is Jerry Hughes, who was acquired for struggling third year linebacker Kelvin Sheppard after the draft. Hughes, a former first round pick, has been seen by many as a bust after the Colts selected him with the 31st overall choice in the 2010 draft. After receiving little to no playing time in his first two years in the league, Hughes had his best season in 2012 racking up 41 tackles, and four sacks. He’s spent his entire career playing in the shadow of two of the greatest pass rushers of the 21st century in Dwight Freeny and Robert Mathis and was really only given a shot to prove himself while filling while the aforementioned Freeney and Mathis were recovering from injuries. Hughes will likely be given every shot to not only make the team out of camp but be a key contributor on passing downs. Undersized as a 4-3 end (6’2”, 254 lbs) Hughes seemed much more comfortable coming off the corner as a rush linebacker last season. Hughes (24) is still a young player in this league and if he’s able to develop his pass rushing skills under Pettine and linebackers coach Jim O’Neil this trade could prove to be a steal for the Bills.

Bills Looking for a New Mentality

July 22, 2013 by

Russ Brandon, Doug Marrone and Doug Whaley. These three names would’ve essentially meant nothing to you five years ago with the exception of maybe Brandon. Now they’re the three most powerful men in the Buffalo Bills organization. Brandon has the final say, Whaley is the personnel decision-maker and Marrone calls the shots on the field. A median age of just 45 years old, the three men who are in charge of returning a once proud franchise to glory will be one of the youngest trios of decision makers in the league.

The changes made at the top of the organization this offseason signify a massive paradigm shift from Bills front offices of years past. Whaley (41) is 32 years former Bills GM Buddy Nix’s junior while Marrone (48) is 13 years younger than Bills former signal-caller Chan Gailey. Those numbers are of course child’s play compared to the age gap between decrepit 94 year-old Ralph Wilson and new 46 year-old CEO Brandon however and therein lies the framework for the aforementioned top down overhaul. Brandon’s vision is contingent upon the development and creativity of a younger generation of athletes and decision-makers. An idea that has seemed so foreign to this organization since the glory days of the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Perhaps Brandon’s biggest make-or-break decision came on the first day of the 2013 draft when he gave the ok to select his quarterback of the future in FSU’s E.J. Manuel. While it’s still up in the air whether or not Manuel’s Bills career will start week one against the vaunted Patriots, his selection will likely be the decision that this regime is judged upon. The Manuel selection represents only the third time in franchise history (Jim Kelly, J.P. Losman) that the Bills have used a first round selection on a quarterback, an almost mind-numbing statistic for an organization that celebrated its 50 year anniversary four years ago. While the rookie wage scale allows teams to take bigger chances on players in the first round, the selection of Manuel could either usher the Bills into a new era of success or set them back another 3-5 years.

No matter how you look at it however the new era of Bills football has certainly begun in Western New York. The days of draft-day pandering and uncertainty seem to be over. Not only did the Bills select the player that they believe can lead their franchise out of the dark ages, they acquired multiple draft picks in the process (including likely starting ILB Kiko Alonso) and guaranteed that the division rival Jets couldn’t select the player that they coveted in West Virginia’s Tayvon Austin.

When the season starts the Bills will have one of the youngest starting units in the NFL. According to ESPN’s Mike Sando’s projections they’ll field the fifth youngest group of starters in the league (with Kevin Kolb projected to win the starting QB job). If Manuel wins the starting job outright out of camp the Bills will likely have the youngest or second youngest starting corps in football. While the inexperience of a rookie quarterback and a very young defense can typically spell disaster for some teams, the creativity of a young coaching staff that focuses on the strengths of its core players should at least bring some much needed excitement to a fan base starved for something to believe in. One thing is overwhelming evident about the 2013-2014 Buffalo Bills: they’ll be unlike any team you’ve seen the Bills field in the last 8-10 years. Only time will tell if they’re heading in the right direction but you can’t fault Brandon for the direction he’s taking his new team in.

Five Guys Primed for a Breakout Year

July 17, 2013 by

Believe it or not the Buffalo Bills open up camp at St. John Fisher College one week from this Sunday. It’s crazy to think that football is right around the corner and summer is that much closer to being over. With the news of the team’s inability to come to a long term deal with All Pro safety Jairus Byrd by Monday’s deadline, camp will no doubt start on a bit of an ominous note. Entering the 14th consecutive season without a playoff birth, the region seems somewhat devoid of hope that this version of the Bills roster has what it takes to break the longest postseason draught in the league. Nevertheless, being the eternal optimist that I am, I’m willing to give this team a shot.

In that vein I’m going to do my best to highlight some of the positives of the potential 2013-2014 roster. In this rendition of players on the current roster that looked primed for bounce-back/breakout years I’m going to focus on individuals with at least one year of NFL experience before I delve into the plethora of rookies on the team.

Alex Carrington, DE/DT: It may have taken him three years to make a mark in the league but the former third round pick out of Arkansas State showed flashes of brilliance throughout the 2012-2013 season. While he was only a rotational player on the defensive line, when he was given an opportunity to play he was a consistent facet in opposing teams’ backfields. His numbers last season weren’t anything to shake a stick at (19 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF) but perhaps his most impressive stat was the team record 4 blocked kicks he accrued. He received some praise from Pro Football Focus as the Bills’ “Secret Superstar” this offseason and earned a +8.7 overall grade on defense this past season. Carrington is penciled in as the starter next to Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus when the defense shows a three man front. Carrington, who was initially drafted as a 3-4 defensive end, has as good of a chance as anyone on the defense to have a breakout year.

Kevin Kolb, QB: For you E.J. Manuel fans out there this one might come as a bit of a shock to you but Kolb is far from finished in the NFL. Sure, he was a bust in Arizona but keep in mind he played behind one of the historically worst offensive lines in NFL history. In 15 games played during his two year tenure with the Cardinals Kolb was sacked 57 times and that doesn’t account for the almost constant pressure from opposing defenses on a snap-by-snap basis. Even with the almost constant pressure Kolb has amassed 28 touchdowns compared to 25 picks and a 59.5 completion percentage in his career. Even with the loss of Andy Levitre the Bills current offensive line is exponentially more talented than any line Kolb has ever played behind in his career. He’ll be 29 when the season starts and if he wins the starting job out of camp he’ll have a two-headed monster in the former of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to alleviate some of the pressure and plenty of other young weapons to utilize to turn his career around.

Aaron Williams, S: I can already see the majority of you mocking me for this choice but in all honesty Williams was billed as a first-round prospect at safety coming out of college. He’s still only 23 years old and should have the biggest chip on his shoulder of anyone on the current roster. While he didn’t have the speed to stick with number 1 and 2 receivers, his build and strong tackling ability makes him an ideal fit at safety. I’m not saying he’s going to overtake Byrd if/when he signs his tender but there isn’t a more pleased person with the current situation than Williams. He’ll most likely have all training camp to show that he wasn’t a bust as an early second round pick and has a golden opportunity to shine in Byrd’s absence. Williams could be a gem if he makes a smooth transition from corner to safety.

Dorin Dickerson, H-Back: I can already see my friend Pat mocking me for this choice because I’ve been building Dickerson up as the second coming of Chris Cooley since he joined the Bills at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Dickerson’s numbers were anything but impressive last year but if he was on the field, nine times out of ten the play was specifically designed for him. He has elite level athletic ability and will be given a golden opportunity to earn some snaps while Scott Chandler recovers from ACL surgery. If Nathaniel Hackett can find different ways to effectively implement Dickerson into the offense he could be lightning in a bottle. He’s a matchup nightmare for safeties and linebackers at 6’1”, 226 lbs and 4.45 speed and could be a huge part of the team’s red zone offense. There was a reason the Bills didn’t go after a tight end in free agency and in my opinion that reason was Dickerson.

Nigel Bradham, LB: Bradham probably should’ve been at the top of my list but he’s everyone’s sexy pick to have a breakout year. In his rookie season he was typically used as a situational linebacker and was never really given a consistent shot to prove he could be a three down player. Bradham’s measureables are off the charts however. At 6’2”, 241 lbs he doesn’t look like he has an ounce of fat on him and he has an uncanny ability to run down ball carriers with 4.6 40 speed. Bradham will likely start next to rookie Kiko Alonso in the middle of the Bills base 3-4 D and he’ll likely be asked to blitz a significant amount in Mike Pettine’s aggressive scheme. Of these five players, Bradham likely has the best chance to take a gigantic leap in his second year.

Figuring out what to do with Byrd

July 16, 2013 by

Here we go again. Nate Clements, Jason Peters and now Jairus Byrd. All former/current upper echelon players that tried to bleed the Buffalo Bills organization for every last penny. Byrd, this year’s designated franchise player, and the Bills couldn’t come to an agreement on a long term extension before yesterday’s deadline. Now he’s faced with two options: swallowing his pride and doing the smart thing by playing under the close to $7 million franchise tag number for the 2013-2014 season or sitting out to try and prove some sort of idiotic point. News came out yesterday that Byrd was seeking to become the highest paid safety in the NFL (close to $10 million per year). While Byrd is an elite level talent, I couldn’t agree more with the Bills’ decision to not pay him close to seven figures.

Byrd, who has yet to sign his one year franchise tender, has the option to sit out the first ten weeks of the season and still earn his $7 million base salary if he decides to play after that (i.e. Vincent Jackson). Going into next offseason the Bills still have the option to franchise Byrd again (at a much higher base level) or try to get a long term deal done in the process.

In the meantime the Bills are stuck with a massive quandary in the secondary. Their best defensive player is disgruntled and all signs are pointing to a hold-out that could last for most of the duration of training camp. The list of candidates to step in for Byrd is short and somewhat depressing when you look at it. The obvious candidate to take the majority of the first-team reps in camp is converted corner Aaron Williams who was once a first-round draft grade at safety. Williams stands to benefit the most from Byrd’s absence and should be driven to prove that he’s not a complete bust. The Bills gave Williams a shot at corner over the last two seasons and he repaid them by being burnt consistently and taking costly penalties which occasionally cost them games. I happen to be of the opinion that Williams was always better suited to play safety. He’s a strong tackler who has good feel presence but a massive lack of speed. A switch to safety would hide some of his lack of mobility and allow him to see the whole field, rather than focusing on one-on-one coverages against receivers that are far more athletic.

The Bills still need to figure out what to do with Byrd in the process. If they play the waiting game and allow him to sit out the first 8-9 games of the season they’re receiving absolutely no value for their investment. There have been rumors that the Bills are willing to trade Byrd in return for a guard and a high round draft choice but at this point it seems difficult to fathom a team willing to give in to his salary demands while parting with at least two important pieces in the process. The Bills need to maximize the value for one of their most talented players in the past decade. At this point it may be pertinent to tread lightly in the trade waters to see what other teams value Byrd at while still keeping an open mind that he’ll come to his senses and play under the franchise tag for one year. Either way it looks like the All Pro’s days in Buffalo are numbered.

Evaluating the Bills Draft: Robert Woods (WR, USC) and Marquise Goodwin (WR, Texas)

May 3, 2013 by

Heading into day two of the NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills had their franchise QB of the future but they were seriously lacking weapons for him to utilize. With the exception of a loaded backfield in CJ Spiller and Freddy Jackson, EJ Manuel’s weapons on offense only really included Stevie Johnson and maybe T.J. Graham to an extent.  It’s crazy how much a team can change in the matter of a week.

With their first pick in the second round the Bills hit a home run, selecting one of the most NFL ready wide receivers in the draft. In the third they added a home run threat in his own right, and by far the fastest player in the 2013 draft.

Why it Makes Sense: Their second rounder Robert Woods will be a day one starter opposite of Johnson and he’s already begun to draw comparisons to the Bills’ number one receiving threat. Like Johnson, he’s not the biggest or fastest receiver in the world. He is however a terrific route runner, is great at extending his arms and catching balls in traffic away from his body and is great at finding holes in coverage. Though he lacks ideal size, he’s not afraid to go over the middle and take a hit and keep on going forward. He has serious potential to develop into a number one receiver and immediately upgrades the Bills’ lack-luster receiving corps.

Marquise Goodwin, the Bills third round selection, is a name many people hadn’t heard before the NFL combine. Goodwin is an undersized (5’8”, 183 lbs) slot receiver and a four year starter at Texas. His performance in the Alamo Bowl (4 catches for 68 yards and a TD) began to catch the attention of NFL scouts but his Senior Bowl and NFL Combine performances started to draw him comparisons to Mike Wallace. Goodwin finished just shy of Chris Johnson’s record 40 time when he blew away the competition running a 4.27. At Texas he was utilized in the spread formation as a running and receiving threat. He definitely needs some polishing but Goodwin could become the type of dynamic threat the Bills haven’t seen at the receiver position in recent memory. Oh and he finished 10th at the 2012 Olympic Games for Team USA in the long jump.

Who could They Have Picked Instead: The case could’ve been made for a linebacker in the second if the Bills didn’t take Kiko Alonso a few picks after Woods. Several promising tight ends including Vance McDonald and Gavin Escobar were still on the board when the Bills picked in the second but receiver was clearly a bigger need. In the third round a case could’ve been made for Stedman Bailey who has the best hands of any receiver in the draft but clearly the Bills were looking for a more explosive athlete.

Verdict: Honestly, Buddy Nix got both of these picks right. I had a little more of a bias for Bailey in the third because I had an opportunity to watch pretty much every game he played in last year but Goodwin makes a ton of a sense in a fast-paced speed demon offense that already features a couple burners in Spiller and Graham. Both receivers immediately upgrade what has become a much more intriguing receiving corps. Woods will likely start from week one but may have a fight on his hands if UDFA Da’Rick Rogers can control his life outside of football. Either way both receivers are likely to see a good chunk of time in their rookie seasons.

A Quick Thought on Larry Felser

April 29, 2013 by

I’m ashamed that it’s taken me this long to post anything about NFL Sports Journalist and former Buffalo Bills beat writer Larry Felser’s passing. Most people who read this blog are likely not old enough to remember Felser very well. After all he did retire from writing in February of 2001. The words I jot down in this post aren’t going to do Mr. Felser’s legacy any justice so for a truly great article on his incredible life and contributions to the sports world please take a minute to read Mark Gaughan’s obituary at http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130424/SPORTS/130429553/1032.

Instead of blurting out facts that I found on the Buffalo News website or Wikipedia, I figured I’d take a second to honor a man who has paved the way for sports journalists for decades in my own way. One of my earliest memories as a child is my father reading me Felser’s articles in The Sporting News on Sunday mornings before the Bills played. With little to no knowledge of the sport of football at the time I took it for what it was worth, quality time with my dad. As I grew older and became more interested in sports, particularly football I began to take an active interest in sports journalism. I can remember reading articles written by legends of the written word like Vic Carruci and Felser. When the Bills were blacked out locally, my dad, his friend and I would drive up to Victor just to watch regular season games of a mediocre Bills team led by Todd Collins. I remember sitting in the backseat of my dad’s car reading Felser’s articles before that day’s game. In my teen years I think back about going to the gas station or 711 to pick up a copy of the Buffalo News just so I could read Felser’s column. He awoke something in me that I wouldn’t truly understand for years.

In my adolescence I was never really sure what career path I would follow. After watching movies like John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” I thought I would become a public defender or litigator. My love for animals as a child gave me ideas of one day becoming a veterinarian. My 4th grade teacher and lifelong mentor Sonya Werner told me I should be a gerontologist because of my close-knit relationship with my favorite person in the world, my grandmother. Neither came to fruition.

As the years past and the urgency of picking a profession became greater and greater I decided a few days before I left for my freshman year at St. John Fisher College that I wanted to be a sports journalist. Memories of Mr. Felser’s columns and listening to the Howard Simon show with my father in car rides, to a sporting destination no doubt, on WNSA spurred a passion that I still have to this day. I wanted to talk about, report on and write about sports. Though I haven’t fully realized my goal of turning my passion in to my profession, remembering those Sunday mornings reading and listening to my father speak the passionate words of a true giant in the industry still gives me hope that one day I’ll realize my dreams. In many ways Larry Felser shaped my life in to what it is today. Although I don’t work for a major sporting outlet or a professional sports organization I still get to do what I’m truly passionate about, writing about sports. The world lost a great man on Thursday, April 25th and I lost one of my true mentors. Rest in peace Larry, you’ll be in my thoughts forever.

Evaluating the Bills Draft: E.J. Manuel (QB, Florida State)

April 29, 2013 by

In what was arguably the most controversial pick in the first round of the 2013 draft, the Bills moved down from 8 to 16 and selected the quarterback that is likely going to define the Doug Marrone era. Manuel was not just the first quarterback selected in the first round, he was the only one selected in the first round. The draft experts had Marrone’s former QB from Syracuse Ryan Nassib pegged as almost a guarantee to reunite with his coach at 16. Todd McShay was quoted as saying “EJ Manuel is not a first-round draft pick at the quarterback position. I think it’s going to be a big mistake for this organization.” This coming from the same “draft expert” that thought Aaron Maybin was Demarcus Ware reincarnated and compared Blaine Gabbert to Matthew Stafford. If anything his lack of praise justifies this pick for the Bills as he’s been wrong far more often than he’s been right in recent years.

Whatever the case may be, it’s impossible to judge a player until he’s in the league for roughly 2-3 years. The Bills obviously knew that Manuel had the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this draft. Marrone made what he believed to be the best call for the future of this franchise and if nothing else, it may be the most intriguing pick of the entire draft.

Why it Makes Sense: Marrone plans on using a fast-paced, no huddle offense that emphasizes speed. Manuel fits in perfectly. He ran a complicated pro-style offense at Florida State and left the school with a 25-6 record including a 4-0 Bowl Record (Orange, Champs Sports, Chick-fil-A and Gator Bowls). Manuel stands up to the pressure and had some of his best career games in high-pressure ACC matchups and Bowl games. He has all the intangibles. He’s big (6’5”, 237lbs), fast (4.55 40 at the combine) and smart. McShay criticized him for having “slow eyes” which I’m not even sure is a thing but he’s a proven winner and is a threat on the ground and has a cannon for an arm. He was a more accurate passer at the college level than Nassib and had a significantly better record.

Who could They Have Picked Instead: If they would’ve stood pat at 8 they could’ve taken Tavon Austin. Austin is a dynamic threat and will likely be Sam Bradford’s favorite target in St. Louis. He’s comparable to Percy Harvin without the headaches (no PUN intended).

Final Verdict: Trying to determine what’s going to happen in the NFL Draft is like guessing the weather without a barometer. Some people have made the case that the Bills could’ve selected Manuel in the second round but rumors were running rampant that Chip Kelly and the Eagles were positioning to move back in the first to get him. In the end the Bills didn’t take any chances and they made the right pick. Not only did they get the guy that they believe is the quarterback of the future, they added two additional draft picks, selecting an almost-guaranteed starter with one, and screwed the Jets out of Austin in the process. Nothing’s sweeter than getting a player with superstar potential and screwing ole Rex “Toe-Sucker” Ryan in the process. Only time will tell if the former Seminole will pan out but for now the Bills’ QB situation just got a lot more interesting.

Evaluating Sheppard for Hughes Trade

April 29, 2013 by

The Buffalo Bills have reportedly traded inside linebacker and 2011 3rd round pick Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts for former first round DE/OLB Jerry Hughes. The move comes three days after the Bills drafted Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Alonso is expected to start from day one and his selection along with the presence of former Florida State linebacker Nigel Bradham evidently made Sheppard expendable.

Sheppard had a dreadful 2012 season under former defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. He rarely saw the field on passing downs and was essentially a ghost when he was on the field. At 25 he’s still extremely young to be considered a bust but obviously new d coordinator Mike Pettine wanted to go in a different direction. Alonso will likely take over for Sheppard from week one and Bradham will have a good shot to see plenty of playing time as well.

In return for Sheppard the Bills acquired another pass rusher to go along with Mario Williams, Mark Anderson and Manny Lawson on the outside. Hughes has been considered by many to be a bust since being taken with the 31st overall pick by Indy in the 1st round in 2010. The Colts used him as a defensive end in their 4-3 scheme under Mike Caldwell in 2010 and 2011 and he struggled mightily, only registering 21 tackles and one sack in his first two years. Hughes doesn’t have ideal size as a defensive end in a 4-3 (6’2”, 254 lbs.) but the Colts always liked undersized faster ends. When Chuck Pagano took over last season and brought in the 3-4, Hughes was a different player. He amassed 41 tackles and four sacks while playing behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis as an outside linebacker. Hughes is likely to challenge for playing time as a situational pass rusher behind Williams and Lawson. He’s fast off the end and was a dominant pass rusher in college. The glimpses he showed last year were obviously enough to warrant the Bills trading a very young player.

This post-draft move could lead to another in the next few days. The Bills hosted free agent middle linebacker Karlos Dansby for a two day visit last week and Buddy Nix made it clear that the lines of communication were still open between the two sides over the weekend. Dansby is an instant upgrade in the middle, has played primarily in the middle of the 3-4 his whole career and is a big voice in the locker room as well. If this move translates into the Bills signing Dansby and Pettine is able to squeeze anything out of Hughes (think Aaron Maybin) this would be a massive win for the Bills.

2013 Buffalo Bills Mock Draft

April 24, 2013 by

Mock Draft Done by Contributing Writer Matt Guarino 

Round 1 (Pick 8): Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

NassibIn a very uncertain draft, one “certainty” is the connection between the Bills and Nassib. After earning the starting job at Syracuse in 2010, Nassib showed steady improvement over three seasons for current Bills Head Coach, Doug Marrone. With Marrone, and Offensive Coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett implementing the same offense from Syracuse, the fit of Nassib in Buffalo is ideal.

No player has skyrocketed up draft boards more than Nassib. However, like many Quarterbacks in this class, there are several skeptics and believers. Many scouts question his arm strength, and the level of competition faced throughout his career in the Big East Conference.

The strengths of Nassib’s game appear in his intermediate, quick release passing game. He is an extremely efficient Quarterback, possessing excellent mechanics, drawing comparisons to Drew Brees.

Overall, Nassib may be considered a “reach” at pick 8, much like Ryan Tannehill was for the Dolphins last year. However, if the Bills are confident Nassib can turn into a legitimate NFL starter, they need to be bold, and pull the trigger on the signal caller.

NFL Player Comparison: Drew Brees (Saints)

 

Round 2 (Pick 41): Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia

StedmanYes…the Bills go back to the (former) Big East, this time to grab a Wide Receiver. Overshadowed by former teammate, and potential top 15 pick Tavon Austin at West Virginia, Stedman Bailey is a very reliable target, with magnets attached to his wrists.

One trait standing out about Bailey’s game, is that he plays much bigger than his 5’10”, 190 pound frame would lead to believe. He is physical, and has a tremendous feel for finding holes in zone coverage.

Bailey may not project to a true “go-to” receiver at the next level; but possesses the traits of an excellent complimentary target.

NFL Player Comparison: Greg Jennings (Vikings)

 

Round 3 (Pick 71): Kevin Reddick, LB, North Carolina

RiddickSmart, experienced, and consistently around the football. Kevin Reddick may not wow anyone with his speed or strength, but makes up for his physical limitations with a tremendous knowledge of the game.

In 2012, North Carolina allowed to Reddick to blitz more often, resulting in a career high 6.5 sacks. Overall, most of his game is of a classic “thumper”, and his best fit would be on the inside in a 3-4 defense.

A sure tackler, possessing pass rushing ability, Reddick fits right into new Bills Defensive Coordinator, Mike Pettine’s hybrid defensive plan, and could step into a starting role the moment he arrives in Orchard Park.

NFL Player Comparison: Brandon Spikes (Patriots)

 

 

Round 4 (Pick 105): Ricky Wagner, G/T, Wisconsin

WagnerMuch like Penn State was once referred to as “Linebacker-U”, Wisconsin could very well be known as “O-Lineman-U”. After producing the third overall pick and now Pro Bowler in 2007, Joe Thomas (Browns), the Badgers have produced several exceptional Offensive Lineman in recent years…Gabe Carimi (Bears, 2011), John Moffitt (Seahawks, 2011), Kevin Zeitler (Bengals 2012) and Peter Konz (Falcons, 2012). Ricky Wagner very well may be the next in line to follow in the footsteps of recent Badger teammates.

A tackle in college, Ricky Wagner projects as a guard in the NFL at 6’6”, 308 pounds. Wagner’s strength comes in the run game, where he is an absolute bull, and will create a path by blowing defenders off the ball. Much like Reddick, Wagner could potentially start at guard immediately, and would be a MAJOR upgrade over Colin Brown or Keith Williams.

NFL Player Comparison: John Moffitt (Seahawks)

 

Round 5 (Pick 143): Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi State

BoydThe Bills brought in Alan Branch to play the nose in an odd man front. Torrell Troup is a former second round pick, teetering on bust status, who may not make it out of camp. Josh Boyd would be a solid selection in round five, providing much needed depth at Defensive Tackle.

Boyd is limited, and is really a true Nose Tackle who wouldn’t see much, if any time with a four down lineman alignment. The Bills should feel comfortable with this selection, and hope to possibly come out adding a solid role player to their defense.

NFL Comparison: Ron Brace (Redskins)

 

Round 6: Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

Auburn TEWith Scott Chandler recovering from an ACL injury, the Bills take a late round flyer on a Tight End. Aside from having a great football name, Lutzenkirchen possesses the size (6’3”, 268) of a potential red zone terror.

Maybe Lutzenkirchen can become the next great Bills Tight end with a ridiculously long last name? (Pete Metzelaars, Jay Reimersma).

NFL Comparison: Matt Spaeth (Steelers)


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