Buffalo Bills Archive: October 2013

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (knee) was upgraded to full participation in Thursday's practice after not practicing Wednesday.

Wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who also did not participate Wednesday, was limited in his return Thursday.

The Bills also added two players -- wide receiver Chris Hogan and cornerback Brandon Smith -- to their Thursday injury report.

The full report:

QB Thad Lewis (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (back)

QB EJ Manuel (knee)
RB C.J. Spiller (ankle)
WR Stevie Johnson (hip)
LB Manny Lawson (hamstring)
CB Brandon Smith (illness)

WR Marquise Goodwin (elbow)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles')
RB Fred Jackson (knee)

Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson practice

October, 31, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson (knee) and wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hip) both returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Thursday.

Johnson said Wednesday that he'll "be ready for Sunday," and Jackson is expected to play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Quarterback Thad Lewis remained out of practice Thursday, nursing sore ribs while battling a flu virus.

Quarterback EJ Manuel was participating in the start of Thursday's practice. He continues to rehab from a knee injury and will not play Sunday.

Wide receiver Chris Hogan and cornerback Brandon Smith were not spotted Thursday at practice. Their status is unclear.

Double Coverage: Chiefs at Bills

October, 31, 2013
Alex Smith and Mario WilliamsAP PhotosAlex Smith will face Mario Williams and a pass rush that have the second-most sacks in the league.
The 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs have some big games upcoming, including showdowns for AFC West supremacy on Nov. 17 and Dec. 1 against the Denver Broncos. But first is Sunday’s game against the 3-5 Bills in Buffalo.

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Bills reporter Mike Rodak discuss the game:

Teicher: With the exception of three lost fumbles, it looks like quarterback Thad Lewis is playing better than the Bills had a right to expect. For those of us who aren't familiar with his game, give us a little scouting report with regard to his strengths and weaknesses and things he might be able to do -- if he is able to play Sunday -- that could give the Chiefs some trouble.

Rodak: I think you nailed it. Even though Lewis is still in the bottom third of the league among quarterbacks, the Bills are more than happy with what they're getting from him. Most importantly, Lewis is a heady player with a real strong grasp of the offense. That's what impressed offensive coordinator Nate Hackett when they sat down with Lewis after EJ Manuel's injury and why they chose him. He's physically not the most gifted quarterback, but Hackett likes Lewis' arm strength. We've seen it on some deeper passes Lewis has completed in the past three games, and if he can get the protection, they're going to keep trying that. As a runner, Lewis isn't Terrelle Pryor, but he has the mobility to run the read-option the Bills like to mix in out of their no-huddle offense. The question is, how much will they run him? Lewis got drilled from behind on a designed run to begin the game Sunday, suffering bruised ribs, and his status against the Chiefs is still up in the air. If Lewis plays Sunday, the Chiefs shouldn't have to worry too much about him as a runner.

Adam, I'm sure you've been asked this plenty of times this season, but what has clicked for the Chiefs? Was it the move away from Scott Pioli and Todd Haley/Romeo Crennel to John Dorsey and Andy Reid, or were there personnel changes that made a bigger impact?

Teicher: The coaching and administration moves were huge. For the previous four seasons the Chiefs had a lot of guys with their own agendas, pulling in different directions and focusing on things that didn’t matter. Dorsey and Reid deserve a lot of credit for getting everyone to fall in line behind them. Everyone has the same goals now. Reid has persuaded some players to put aside personal goals for the greater good. A lot of Chiefs players were tired of the losing and the sideshow stuff and were ready to be led in a positive direction. Reid walked through the doors with some impressive credentials and they listened to him. As far as personnel changes, most of the Chiefs' better players are ones who were here when Reid and Dorsey arrived. The only new guy in what you could call a key role is QB Alex Smith. Otherwise, most of their key players (Jamaal Charles, Branden Albert, Dontari Poe, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry) have been around.

Smith was sacked six times against Cleveland last week and 24 times this season, so pass protection has been a problem for the Chiefs. The Bills are doing a good job getting after the opposing quarterback. What have teams done to try to counter Mario Williams, and do the Bills have anyone else consistently putting pressure on the quarterback?

Rodak: I think the best job an opposing offense has done against Mario Williams was in Week 6, when the Bengals took down the Bills in overtime. They caught the Bills off guard by opting for a shorter passing game, forgoing the chance to attack a shaky (at the time) Bills secondary with A.J. Green. Instead, Marvin Jones had a 34-yard end-around run and a 42-yard catch-and-run in the first seven minutes of the game that set the tone. Williams finished with just one tackle and a half-sack, even with the extra period. The Bills don’t have a player putting up 11 sacks like Williams, but their pair of defensive tackles -- Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus -- are among the better duos in the league. Each has four sacks. Overall, Mike Pettine’s defense thrives on generating pressure from many different sources, including the defensive backs. Andy Reid is a veteran coach and knows his offense will have to be ready for the blitz from start to finish Sunday.

Adam, would you say the Chiefs are effective in spite of Alex Smith this season -- he has posted just an 82.1 QB rating -- or because of him? Is their success through the first half of the season sustainable even with Smith at quarterback?

Teicher: There are things Smith can be doing better, but they’re 8-0 because of him, not in spite of him. Among the things Smith has done exceedingly well are protect the ball and run from trouble. Smith has thrown only four interceptions, so he’s not forcing the ball into tight situations or otherwise taking risks with it. He’s fumbled just once, and the Chiefs even recovered on that one. For him to handle the ball on every offensive play and have only four turnovers is amazing. When he’s been sacked, he’s holding on to the ball. Smith is the Chiefs’ second-leading rusher and has scrambled out of trouble a number of times. It’s fair to say they wouldn’t be 8-0 without his running ability. It’s been that valuable. That said, Smith needs to complete a higher percentage of his passes. Right now, he’s only at about 59 percent. Getting that into the low to mid 60s would make a big difference for the passing game. The Chiefs also have trouble getting touchdowns in the red zone. That can’t all be blamed on Smith, but he can be more efficient inside the 20.

I can’t figure out why the Bills aren’t better defensively. They’ve been solid against the run, have strong pass-rush capability, create a good number of turnovers, yet still have allowed 20 or more points in every game. I know they’ve allowed some big pass plays. Is that the only reason they haven’t been better defensively?

Rodak: I think the big plays are part of it, Adam. The Bills have allowed 14 receptions of 35 yards or more, the most in the NFL. But the Chiefs have allowed 12, the second-most, so there’s more to it than that. I think the first place to look is on the other side of the ball, where the Bills' offense averages just 27:41 in time of possession. That’s the fourth-lowest mark in the league and is putting stress on the defense. The Bills have a creative mind in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and talent at all three levels of their defense. But their offense, between injuries and inexperience, has been so ineffective at some stretches that the defense just can’t hold up. This is a defense that has put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and forced some turnovers, but they’ll need to prevent the big play and have their offense pick up some slack going forward.

Adam, what do you think it will take for the Chiefs to lose Sunday?

Teicher: Opponents have started to give the Chiefs their best shots. Houston did two weeks ago and Cleveland did last week, and each team came close to knocking off the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. So if the Texans and Browns can keep things close in Kansas City, it reasons that the Bills can beat them in Buffalo. The Chiefs have played the past couple of weeks, and particularly against Cleveland, as if they’re weary of the burden of being the NFL’s remaining unbeaten team. They took a 13-0 lead against the Browns, then looked like they ran out of energy. They’ll need to bring more Sunday in Buffalo or they certainly could be in trouble. The Bills could make things easier on themselves by getting an early lead. The Chiefs have led much of the time this season and have been able to play the games on their terms. When they’ve been behind, it’s never been by more than a touchdown. Kansas City has trailed in the fourth quarter in just one game, that being by four points early in the final period on Oct. 6 in Tennessee. That deficit didn’t last long, so it would be interesting to see how they do if they need to play catch-up late in a game.


Byrd moves on as trade deadline passes

October, 31, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tuesday's trade deadline came and went, and Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd remains in Buffalo.

The prospect of trading Byrd dates back several months, when Byrd waited until the third week of the preseason before signing his franchise tender. He then sat out the first five games of the regular season with a foot injury.

Byrd is now back to a full workload on defense and, after Tuesday, will be staying put.

On Wednesday, Byrd briefly addressed his status with reporters:

Q: Are you surprised you're still here?
Byrd: Anything can happen. I'm not surprised at all.

Q: Are you glad that day is out of the way?
Byrd: I'm glad it's over and behind us, and we can just work on winning games.

Q: Were there any whispers that a trade was close?
Byrd: I don't want to get into that. I'm here. Let's win.

Q: Are you glad you're here?
Byrd: Yeah. Let's win.

Whether Byrd is still with the Bills next season, though, is a separate story. If he hits the open market, it seems unlikely that the Bills will make the financial commitment he wants. If the Bills franchise tag him again, it will likely set-up another summer full of tension.

But for now, Byrd has settled into what could be his final eight games in Buffalo.

Bills' Jackson, Johnson sit out practice

October, 30, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson (hip) and running back Fred Jackson (knee) did not practice Wednesday.

"I talked to Stevie today," head coach Doug Marrone said. "He told me he thinks he'll be ready to go and be out there tomorrow, limited."

"I'll be ready for Sunday," Johnson later said.

Jackson also sat out last Wednesday's practice as he continues to "manage" a knee injury that has limited him this season.

Meanwhile, running back C.J. Spiller was limited Wednesday. He remains "day to day" and his status for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs is uncertain.

"I'll take a look [at him] tomorrow," Marrone said. "I'm not ready to stand on a table one way or the other."

It was Spiller's first practice action in more than a week.

"Fred was down. I felt like I needed to go. I didn't want to leave Tashard Choice and [Ronnie] Wingo out there. I'm a team player," Spiller said, tongue in cheek. "There's definitely no reading between the lines, though, saying, 'Oh, he's back [at practice],' because I'm definitely not back to normal yet."

Linebacker Manny Lawson returned to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday's game in New Orleans with a hamstring injury.

Rookie wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was close to full participation, Marrone said. He wore a sleeve over his injured left elbow at the start of Wednesday's practice.

QB Thad Lewis (ribs)
RB Fred Jackson (knee)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)
WR Stevie Johnson (hip)

QB EJ Manuel (knee)
RB C.J. Spiller (ankle)
WR Marquise Goodwin (elbow)
LB Manny Lawson (hamstring)
OL Kraig Urbik (knee)

NFL Nation Buzz: Buffalo Bills

October, 30, 2013

ESPN.com team reporter Mike Rodak on the Buffalo Bills' hot topics as they begin preparations for Week 9.

Bills sign Canadian DT Stefan Charles

October, 30, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills on Wednesday signed defensive tackle Stefan Charles to the 53-man roster from the Tennessee Titans' practice squad.

Charles is a native of Oshawa, Ontario, and played at the University of Regina. He was selected 10th overall by the Edmonton Eskimos in the 2013 CFL draft but instead spent training camp with the Titans.

At 6-foot-5, 323 pounds, Charles fills the roster spot vacated by defensive tackle Jay Ross, who was waived Tuesday.

QB Watch: Bills' Thad Lewis

October, 30, 2013
A weekly examination of the Bills' quarterback play:

Rewind: The Bills' string of injuries at quarterback nearly grew longer Sunday when Thad Lewis was drilled from behind by Saints linebacker David Hawthorne on a designed run to begin the game. Lewis stayed on the ground for several moments before coming to his feet and returning for the next series. He lost a fumble on the play and another on a strip-sack by Cameron Jordan later in the quarter. Those two plays defined the game for Lewis; the Saints took advantage of the second turnover, scoring a touchdown. Lewis, who later threw an interception, finished with a 13.5 QBR, the worst of his three starts so far and the third-worst of any NFL quarterback in Week 8.

Fast-forward: The task doesn't get any easier for Lewis, as the Bills return home to face the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. With two of the NFL's best pass-rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, pass protection -- which has been an issue for Lewis since taking over as the starter -- will stay in focus. The Chiefs are disrupting 24 percent of opponent dropbacks, the highest rate in the NFL. The Bills' offensive line will need to be on its toes Sunday.

Wood defensive on sacks: Lewis has been sacked 13 times in the three games that he has started, the most of any NFL quarterback in that span. Center Eric Wood said after the game that not all of the sacks, however, can be pinned on the offensive line. He expounded on those thoughts Monday on WGR 550 in Buffalo. "In a lot of football, in a lot of circumstances, it's really easy to blame the offensive line," Wood said. "We have plays where guys have blown assignments, a sack [allowed] by the tight end. ... Are we playing perfect? No. But do we deserve all the blame for plays [Sunday]? No."

Prediction: This just doesn't seem like the type of game where Lewis will excel. He'll be under constant pressure from a very good Chiefs defense. He may be playing with a banged-up top receiver, Stevie Johnson, who is dealing with a hip flexor injury. And the status of his most explosive running back, C.J. Spiller, is still up in the air. Lewis is at a level where he needs a lot to come together around him to be successful, and it doesn't look like that will happen against Kansas City.
A look at the Buffalo Bills in our weekly stat check:

This week:
Tied-18th (22.0)

This week:
25th (26.6)

This week:
22nd (46-of-128, 35.9 percent)

This week:
22nd (50-of-129, 38.8 percent)

This week:
11th (plus-2, 15 takeaways, 13 giveaways)

RED ZONE OFFENSE (based on TD percentage)
This week:
24th (11-of-23, 47.8 percent)

RED ZONE DEFENSE (based on TD percentage)
This week:
10th (14-of-29, 48.3 percent)

Bills waive DT Jay Ross

October, 29, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills on Tuesday waived defensive tackle Jay Ross, opening a spot on their 53-man roster.

Ross played in five games as a reserve since being re-signed in September.

The Bills also signed wide receiver Cordell Roberson to the practice squad. Roberson is an undrafted rookie from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Roberson had four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games with the Cleveland Browns.

Power Rankings: No. 20 Buffalo Bills

October, 29, 2013
A weekly examination of the Bills' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 30 | Last Week: 21 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Despite an 18-point loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints, the Bills climbed up one spot in this week's Power Rankings.

That sounds about right, actually. Few expected the Bills to win the game, and all things considered, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The Bills led 10-7 early and, even after giving up scores in quick succession, kept the game competitive into the second half.

At No. 20, the Bills hold their highest ranking since Week 4 of last season, when they peaked at No. 19. If they climb above that, it'll be their best ranking since Week 11 of the 2011 season.

The next challenge for Buffalo is one of their biggest of the season. The Bills host the No. 1 Chiefs, who are undefeated.

After that, the Bills couldn't have asked for an easier second-half schedule. They face the No. 27 Steelers, the No. 16 Jets, the No. 23 Falcons, the No. 31 Buccaneers, the No. 32 Jaguars and the No. 19 Dolphins before finishing against the No. 9 Patriots.

Robert Woods quiet since Bills QB change

October, 29, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A lot of well-deserved attention has been given to one of the Buffalo Bills' second-round picks -- linebacker Kiko Alonso -- but their other second-round selection also came out of the gates strong this season.

Wide receiver Robert Woods was considered as one of the most NFL-ready players in April's draft and has lived up to that billing, starting the first eight games of the season for the Bills.

With top pass-catcher Stevie Johnson dealing with a preseason hamstring injury, Woods seemed to develop an early rapport with rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. The 21-year-old receiver and 23-year-old quarterback connected on the Bills' first touchdown of the season -- and for each, of their pro career -- in a season-opening loss to the New England Patriots.

For the month of September -- when Alonso was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month -- Woods was among the offensive nominees, named by NFL coaches.

But in the three games since Manuel went down with a knee injury, Woods hasn't been the same.

Consider his performances with Manuel at quarterback:

Week 1 vs. Patriots: 2 targets, 1 receptions, 18 yards, 1 touchdown
Week 2 vs. Panthers: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 68 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 3 vs. Jets: 8 targets, 2 receptions, 35 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 4 vs. Ravens: 8 targets, 4 receptions, 80 yards, 1 touchdown
Week 5 vs. Browns: 13 targets, 5 receptions, 64 yards, 0 touchdowns

Since Thad Lewis has taken over the starting role, Woods' numbers have dipped:

Week 6 vs. Bengals: 6 targets, 2 catches, 9 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 7 vs. Dolphins: 4 targets, 3 catches, 24 yards, 0 touchdowns
Week 8 vs. Saints: 4 targets, 1 catch, 7 yards, 0 touchdowns

Asked Monday about Woods' recent drop-off, Bills coach Doug Marrone noted that it hasn't been Woods' playing time that has fallen off; it's been his production.

"I think his production numbers are down," Marrone told ESPN. "But not his playing time. He's playing more than anybody."

Woods has played in 565 of 592 offensive snaps so far this season, a 95.4 percent clip.

Marrone hinted that defenses may be targeting Woods, who has been a bright spot in the Bills' 30th-ranked pass offense.

"We just have to see where we fit him in and find him ways to put him in the progression. What teams have been doing has been taking away some of the progression, what we do," he said. "It's not from his lack of playing well."

Digging deeper, ESPN Stats & Information tracks whether a receiver runs a pass route on any given play. Through Week 5, Woods was targeted on 22.7 of plays where he ran a route. Since Week 6, he has been targeted on only 14.1 percent of such plays.

With Lewis the quarterback for the immediate future, there is a simple conclusion on how to get Woods' numbers back up.

"We need to get him the ball," Marrone said.

Upon Further Review: Bills Week 8

October, 28, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 35-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

[+] EnlargeThad Lewis
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsBills QB Thad Lewis has impressed coach Doug Marrone with his ability to play through pain.
Bills lose turnover battle: One of the biggest factors in the Bills' Week 7 road win over the Miami Dolphins was their ability to force Dolphins mistakes. Nickell Robey's interception began that game, Aaron Williams' interception prevented a touchdown, and Mario Williams' strip-sack set up the game-winning field goal. The Bills weren't able to make any such plays Sunday, and coach Doug Marrone didn't hold back Monday when addressing the loss. "We are not good enough to lose the turnover battle and win football games," Marrone said. The Bills were minus-3 against the Saints, with two fumbles and an interception.

Field position hurts Bills: It's not rocket science, but the Bills' inability to force turnovers affected their field position. Marrone pointed out that the Bills' average drive started at their 23-yard line, while the Saints began at their 40-yard line. Over an 11-possession game, Marrone noted, the field position difference adds up to 187 yards.

Players didn't influence challenge: After the game, Marrone said that he would review the procedure for challenging plays after he lost both of his challenges Sunday. On Monday, Marrone said he hadn't yet evaluated that process. "I haven't had a chance yet to do that, but I'm gonna do it and I'm not gonna tell anyone," he said. "But I'm doing it. Because I'm O-for." Marrone said running back Fred Jackson and other players urging the sideline to challenge a goal-line spot Sunday didn't influence his decision to throw the red flag. "No. I don't have that type of mentality," he said. "Which is disappointing for me. I know better. The percentages of challenging those types of plays ... I talk about it all the time. I did a poor job. That's on me. But I'm going to change that. Because if I keep it the same and I screw up, then I'm really an idiot."

Lewis' toughness stands out: For the second time in his three games as a starter, Thad Lewis played through injury. Two weeks after spraining his foot in a loss to the Bengals, Lewis played the full game Sunday after taking a shot to his ribs on the first play. Marrone was asked what about Lewis has impressed him the most, and the coach didn't hesitate in answering. "His toughness," Marrone said. "I think we all would agree on that. There's not many people that would hang in there and take those shots." Marrone said that Lewis "showed us a lot."

Defensive snaps: Jim Leonhard slides

October, 28, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- A look at snaps played by Buffalo Bills defensive players, while analyzing how the totals reflect the way players were utilized (totals provided by the NFL):

LB Kiko Alonso -- 70 of 70
S Aaron Williams -- 70 of 70
OLB Jerry Hughes -- 67 of 70
DE Mario Williams -- 65 of 70
S Jairus Byrd -- 63 of 70
DT Marcell Dareus -- 58 of 70
CB Stephon Gilmore -- 57 of 70
CB Leodis McKelvin -- 56 of 70
DT Kyle Williams -- 54 of 70
S Da'Norris Searcy -- 43 of 70
CB Nickell Robey -- 43 of 70
DT Alan Branch -- 37 of 70
LB Nigel Bradham -- 20 of 70
LB Arthur Moats -- 20 of 70
CB Ron Brooks -- 13 of 70
DL Corbin Bryant -- 13 of 70
S Jim Leonhard -- 11 of 70
OLB Jamaal Westerman -- 7 of 70
DL Jay Ross -- 3 of 70
S Duke Williams -- 0 of 70
CB Brandon Smith -- 0 of 70

Analysis: With Byrd seeing nearly a full workload for the first time since returning on Oct. 15, there was a trickle-down effect that left veteran Jim Leonhard with just 11 snaps on Sunday. His previous snap totals: 57, 30, 73, 65, 63, 83, and 62. ... On the flip-side, an injury to Manny Lawson allowed Hughes to see his most significant action of the season. He played in 96 percent of snaps, but was caught in a tough position trying to cover Kenny Stills on his 69-yard touchdown grab. Hughes is probably best suited as a down lineman rushing the passer, but Mike Pettine's defense can give him coverage responsibilities on zone blitzes. ... Through half the season, Alonso has yet to come off the field for a defensive snap.

Offensive snaps: Stevie Johnson hobbled

October, 28, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- A look at snaps played by Buffalo Bills skill-position players in Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints, while analyzing how the totals reflect the way players were utilized (totals provided by the NFL):

QB Thad Lewis -- 71 of 71
WR Robert Woods -- 67 of 71
TE Scott Chandler -- 53 of 71
RB Fred Jackson -- 51 of 71
WR T.J. Graham -- 50 of 71
WR Steve Johnson -- 47 of 71
WR Marquise Goodwin -- 33 of 71
RB Tashard Choice -- 19 of 71
FB Frank Summers -- 13 of 71
TE Lee Smith -- 11 of 71
TE Chris Gragg -- 5 of 71
WR Chris Hogan -- 4 of 71
WR Marcus Easley -- 2 of 71
RB Ronnie Wingo -- 0 of 71

ANALYSIS: Johnson had an apparent groin injury, limiting him to just 66 percent of the offensive snaps. He led the Bills in the first half with four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, so not having him at full strength hurt the Bills in the second half. ... Goodwin played nearly 50 percent of snaps and is emerging as a big-play threat. His 26-yard catch was the Bills' longest play of the game. Goodwin was carted off late in the game with an elbow injury and his status is unclear. ... Even with C.J. Spiller inactive, the Bills hardly upped the workload for Choice. He provided a burst on a 20-yard run in the second quarter but was used sparingly after that as the Bills were playing from behind. Choice as also banged-up in the fourth quarter. ... For playing 70 percent of offensive snaps, the Bills didn't get a tremendous amount of production (two catches for 19 yards) from Graham. He's been one of the more underwhelming Bills performers this season.