Bills Camp Report: Day 11

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Thunderstorms in the area caused a rain delay about in hour into practice. That lasted about an hour before players came back onto the field to complete the full-length session. Players were in full pads for the seventh consecutive practice, highlighting what has been a physical training camp for the Bills. It will be interesting to see if coach Doug Marrone dials it back at all in the final two practices before the preseason opener in Canton, Ohio.
  • The offensive line carousel continued to spin Wednesday with Chris Hairston leaving practice with a back injury. Hairston had been in the mix at right guard, where there is an open competition that includes incumbent Kraig Urbik. That battle added another participant Wednesday when fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson received some reps with the first team. Urbik continues to get the majority of reps in team drills, but for a player whom the Bills signed to a four-year extension in 2012, he can't feel comfortable lining up alongside younger players on the second team, as he did at one point Wednesday.
  • The Bills have picked up the pace in the red zone. Marrone has implemented a 7-on-7 period at the end of practice dedicated to red-zone work, and results were impressive Wednesday. Although it was against the second-team defense, EJ Manuel completed four touchdowns in his five reps. Two went to Robert Woods, and tight ends Chris Gragg (returning from a week-long absence) and Lee Smith snagged the others. Jeff Tuel then stepped in and completed his first two passes for touchdowns. With some success in the 7-on-7 look, it might be time for Marrone to switch to an 11-on-11 drill and add a pass-rush element for Manuel to face in the red zone.
  • Tight end Scott Chandler (groin) remained out of practice for a second straight day, as did tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring). Their injuries don't appear to be serious, but it has thinned the position for practices. The key for both players -- Moeaki especially, given his injury history -- will be to stay healthy once the regular season begins.
  • Chris Hogan continues to get significant playing time with the first-team offense and has become a reliable player in the slot. The Bills got in some 11-on-11 third-down work Wednesday and Hogan cut across the middle of the field for Manuel's biggest gain of the drill. Secondary coach Donnie Henderson, always vocal from behind the play, made it a point for his safeties to keep an eye out for No. 15.

Fred Jackson extends with Bills

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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[+] EnlargeFred Jackson
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesFred Jackson is the second running back in Bills history to post 4,000 career rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has signed a contract extension with the team. 

The extension is for one year, according to a league source. Jackson, 33, is the NFL's oldest running back.

"Usually when guys get to be my age they're just about ready to kind of shut it down and not come out here and get beat up like we do at training camp, but I wake up every day and I love it," Jackson said Wednesday.

Jackson said he would like to play "three or four" more years in the NFL.

"I was telling [my agent] I haven't felt this good in a long time," he said. "So, hopefully I can continue to feel like that and get into this season and make some plays for our team, that way it's all worth it, them giving me this extension."

The move means that the Bills will have Jackson and fellow running backs Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon under contract for next season.


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Nigel Bradham suspended 1 game

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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[+] EnlargeTravis Benjamin
Jason Miller/Getty ImagesBills linebacker Nigel Bradham is the favorite to replace Kiko Alonso but will miss the 2014 opener after being suspended one game for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham was suspended one game for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

He cannot play in the Bills' regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears, but may participate in the remainder of training camp and the preseason.

Bradham was charged with marijuana possession following a traffic stop last August. The NFL did not discipline Bradham at the time, but informed him in March that he faced a possible suspension.

"Everything was dismissed [in court]. Everything was dismissed. I'm not in the substance abuse program," Bradham said Wednesday. "It's kind of shocking and it's kind of disappointing that it came back again."


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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Three initial bids were submitted Tuesday to an investment bank handling the sale of the Buffalo Bills, the Toronto Sun reported.

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula, a Toronto-based group that includes rock star Jon Bon Jovi and real estate developer Donald Trump all submitted bids, according to the report.

The New York Post reported that Pegula's bid topped $1 billion.

A person familiar with the process told The Associated Press last week that once the initial bids were submitted, the investment bank handling the Bills' sale would review the bids and determine which prospective groups will be eligible to proceed to the next stage.

It's possible that a prospective owner could be identified as early as late August and presented to NFL owners for approval during league meetings in early October.

Former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano, who previously stated an interest in purchasing the team, did not submit a bid by Tuesday's deadline, according to the Buffalo News and the Toronto Sun.

Trump confirmed his bid Monday in an interview with Fox News but said it was "very, very unlikely" that he would own the team.


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Bills' offensive line faces tough task

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
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video
ESPN.com Buffalo Bills reporter Mike Rodak says Seantrel Henderson, Erik Pears and Cyrus Kouandjio have been in the spotlight as Buffalo’s offensive line tries to hold its own against the team's star-studded defensive line.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Remember training camp last summer, when there was a true quarterback competition between EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb?

Those were the days. With Manuel virtually entrenched as the starter entering his second season, the Buffalo Bills have surprisingly few position battles brewing as they progress through their second week of training camp.

[+] EnlargeDa'Norris Searcy
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Da'Norris Searcy seems to have the upper hand in the race for the Bills' open safety spot.
How many starting spots are up for grabs? Here's our rundown:

Right guard: Coach Doug Marrone confirmed last week that there was a competition at this position. Kraig Urbik started 16 games last season, but with an influx of depth players along the offensive line this offseason his job isn't safe. His main competition is Chris Hairston, who began to see some reps with the first-team late in spring practices. Through the first eight practices of training camp, we'll peg Urbik's reps with the first team at around 70 or 80 percent. Hairston is getting some time, but it's not an even split. We'd expect Urbik to be the starter in preseason games.

Right tackle: This was our top competition of the spring but it's barely been a contest. Second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio hasn't received any time with the first team and looks to be coming along slower than the Bills would have hoped. Marrone had praise last week for Erik Pears' play through the early part of camp, noting that Pears was healthy after apparently being banged up last season. The real competition for Pears might be seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson, who has held up fairly well at left tackle in place of Cordy Glenn. If Glenn returns soon then Henderson could get a crack at the right tackle spot.

Third receiver: There might not be a clear-cut winner of this battle. The Bills have used a variety of receiver groupings through the first eight practices. Mike Williams, Chris Hogan, and Marquise Goodwin have all seen time alongside Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. How each of those players are used in the regular season could be determined by the situation. T.J. Graham, who we considered part of this mix in the spring, has barely seen any time with the first-team offense. He's fighting for his job.

Weakside linebacker: This spot opened up when Kiko Alonso suffered a season-ending knee injury. Nigel Bradham has seen the most reps with the first-team defense, but we've also seen the Bills mix-and-match their personnel here. Preston Brown, Jimmy Gaines, Stevenson Sylvester, and Randell Johnson have all rotated through in different groupings. We'd still put our money on Bradham but like the third receiver spot, this could depend on the situation and the offensive style of the opponent.

Safety: This has been Da'Norris Searcy's job to lose since the spring. The Bills have almost exclusively used Aaron Williams and Searcy as their top pairing at safety, which is a notable step down from the Williams-Jairus Byrd combo from last season. The key for the Bills is not putting Searcy in a spot where offenses can expose a weakness in the defense. He's not a rangy ball-hawker like Byrd. Ideally, the Bills would like for Duke Williams to grow into a larger role, but he hasn't shown it yet in training camp. Williams and fellow second-year safety Jonathan Meeks should see plenty of time in the preseason, and they will need it.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The potential for Jon Bon Jovi to be part of a group owning the Buffalo Bills continues to be a sore subject for the team’s fans.

Count former wide receiver Andre Reed, who will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Saturday, among those irked by Bon Jovi's likely bidding on the franchise.

In a feature piece published Tuesday by New York Magazine, Reed offered a strong opinion on the rock star who is part of a Toronto-based group that also includes Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum.

"Man, f--- Bon Jovi!” Reed said. "You might as well just take this city, throw it in the river, and let it go down Niagara Falls."

Since Bon Jovi's group has close Toronto ties, there is a fear among Bills fans that it would try to relocate the team to Canada.

Reed's comments were apparently part of a conversation with the co-founders of the "Buffalo Fan Alliance," a fan group with the aim of keeping the Bills in the region. The magazine later provided more details from the conversation.

“Now, I ain't gonna lie to you,” Reed said. “One year I went up to Toronto, and man, I had a good-ass time up there.”

“Off the record,” [Buffalo Fan Alliance co-chairman Matt] Sabuda said.

“Off the record -- I had a great time,” Reed said.

A representative for Reed told ESPN that Reed had no further comment on the subject.

While the Toronto Sun reported recently that the Bon Jovi-fronted group wouldn't relocate the Bills to Toronto, the Associated Press reported last week that the group had commissioned a study of possible stadium sites in the Toronto area.

Bills Camp Report: Day 9

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Sammy Watkins did not participate in team drills for most, if not all, of Monday night's practice. A team official said that Watkins wasn't injured, but that it wasn't a "rest day," either. He took part in one-on-one passing drills and also got some work in with the quarterbacks after practice.
  • Safety Aaron Williams missed practice with an illness. He had been in and out of practice for the last several days and at one point last week had his shoulder examined by a team doctor. Williams had shoulder surgery this offseason and was eased back into action during organized team activties. He wore a large black pad on his arm in a practice this weekend and, besides his illness, appears to be a little banged up.
  • Tight end Scott Chandler (groin) remained out of practice after leaving Sunday's session early. In addition to Chandler, the Bills were also without tight ends Tony Moeaki (hamstring) and Chris Gragg (heat-related symptoms). The trio watched practice from the sideline. In their place, the Bills used plenty of Lee Smith, but also turned to other position groups for help. At one point, guard Kraig Urbik and fullback Evan Rodriguez were lined up at tight end. Urbik, who caught a touchdown in goal line work Sunday, committed a false start penalty.
  • The Bills tried their first two-minute drill of training camp Monday night. Against the second-team defense, EJ Manuel found Fred Jackson on two crossing patterns to push the ball past midfield. But on a second down throw from the plus-45, he tried to push a pass to Robert Woods near the sideline and was intercepted by cornerback Ron Brooks. The second-team offense didn't fare much better. Thad Lewis was sacked twice on his first three plays, which should have ended the drill, but the Bills went back to a first-and-10 and kept playing. An apparent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Mario Williams moved the ball 15 yards into plus-territory, where Lewis found T.J. Graham on a deep ball to cap the drill.
  • Speaking of Graham, he's had an inconsistent camp and may be hard pressed to make the roster. He hasn't shown to be a more reliable pass-catcher, one of his bigger problems in his first two seasons in Buffalo. He had two more drops Monday on well-targeted passes. The Bills are getting another good training camp from Chris Hogan, who has run with the first team at points. Hogan was Graham's main competition but it isn't a contest right now.
  • In addition to his interception to Brooks, Manuel was also picked off by linebacker Brandon Spikes on his first play of a 7-on-7 third down drill. But otherwise it was a good practice for Manuel. The best play, in our view, came when he faced double A-gap blitzes from linebackers. He took a quick drop and got rid of the ball quickly, but accurately, lofting a pass directly into Mike Williams' hands along the sideline. Williams saw increased playing time in Watkins' absence and performed well.
[+] EnlargeDonald Trump
AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaDonald Trump says he doesn't expect to be the winning bidder for the Buffalo Bills.

Billionaire Donald Trump says he is "very, very unlikely" to become the next owner of the Buffalo Bills.

"We'll see what happens. Everyone knows I'm bidding," he said in an interview Monday with Fox News. "But many other people will be bidding. I would say the chances are very, very unlikely because I'm not going to do something totally stupid -- maybe a little bit stupid, but not totally stupid."

Trump was one of the first potential bidders to emerge this spring, after he said in a radio interview that he would keep the Bills in Western New York if he eventually purchased the team, which is being sold following the death of Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson.

The real-estate mogul is among several notable potential bidders for the franchise. It's a group that also includes rock star Jon Bon Jovi, current Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and former Sabres owner Tom Golisano.

Prospective bidders must submit to Morgan Stanley by Tuesday a "first letter of indication," which includes their initial and non-binding bid to purchase the team, a person familiar with the sale process told The Associated Press. The person said the firm will review the bids and determine which prospective groups will be eligible to proceed to the next stage of bidding.


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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- We're at that point in camp: It's time for the Buffalo Bills to start hitting another team.

In their sixth consecutive padded practice Monday night, pushed from the morning because of rain, there were two scuffles after plays that led coach Doug Marrone to call over defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.

After a heated exchange with Johnson and offensive line coach Pat Morris, Marrone called a huddle between the offensive and defensive lines. Fired up at first, Marrone eventually drew some laughs out of the two groups.



When Marrone walked away, center Eric Wood -- a team captain -- called a truce between the two sides before they returned to action.

"Coach just wanted us to put an end to it and we did," Wood said. "There wasn't anything going on past that and that was the end of it."

The first tussle involved rookie tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and some defenders, while rookie center Macky MacPherson battled rookie defensive end Bryan Johnson shortly after.

Monday night's practice was the sixth in the last week -- all in full pads -- before the Bills have an off day Tuesday. They're just days away from their preseason opener in Sunday's Hall of Fame game.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Earlier Monday, we released our latest 53-man roster projection for the Buffalo Bills.

What about the players who didn't make the cut?

Here are some thoughts on the "last five" cuts for the Bills:
  1. OL Chris Hairston -- We'll call him the 54th man. Hairston is currently battling for the starting right guard spot, although he saw less reps with the first team in Sunday's practice. If he can't beat Kraig Urbik for that job, Hairston could still be a valuable piece as a backup guard and swing tackle. Much will depend on the health of Cordy Glenn. If Glenn is placed on the reserve/non-football illness list, which would knock him out for at least the first six weeks, then Hairston could have a much better shot at cracking the squad. If Glenn returns, then Seantrel Henderson and Cyrus Kouandjio become the top two options at tackle beyond Glenn and Erik Pears. Inside, Doug Legursky is undersized but brings value as a backup center and guard. Fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson would be a developmental player. Teams usually carry seven active linemen on their 46-man game day roster and 8-10 on their 53-man roster. I pegged the Bills with nine, with Richardson and Kouandjio as game-day inactives. That doesn't leave room for Hairston.
  2. TE Chris Gragg -- His roster spot could depend on the health of the tight end position. Tony Moeaki could miss a large chunk of training camp with a hamstring injury. Since Moeaki already practiced, he's not eligible for the PUP list, so that's not an option. Scott Chandler suffered a groin injury in Sunday's practice and we don't yet know when he will return. Gragg is out of the hospital and likely to return to practice this week. If Chandler and/or Moeaki have long-term absences, then Gragg's chances of making the 53-man roster are increased. But if the Bills go into the regular season healthy at tight end, it's unlikely they carry four at the position.
  3. FB Evan Rodriguez -- Despite bringing value last season on special teams, I don't think Rodriguez can carve out enough of a role this summer to stick. This is a pure numbers game. It will be tough to carry both four running backs and two fullbacks. Frank Summers should have a roster spot as a short-yardage and goal-line blocker, leaving Rodriguez out of the mix.
  4. LBs Jimmy Gaines and Stevenson Sylvester -- We'll consider these two as a group right now. Both are challenging for playing time on defense following the loss of Kiko Alonso. They'll face more competition now that rookie Randell Johnson has returned from the PUP list, and ultimately the Bills are unlikely to carry more than six linebackers. If one of these players sticks, it will probably mean they leapfrogged Johnson or Ty Powell on the depth chart.
  5. DT Corbin Bryant -- It never hurts to have an extra big body on the defensive line, and Bryant filled that role last season. Teams that run a 4-3 defense typically carry around eight or nine defensive linemen, and Bryant would likely be the ninth. If the Bills go with nine offensive linemen, as we have them carrying in our latest projection, then that could shave one player off the defensive line. Bryant would be the most likely casualty.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- One of the highlights of Buffalo Bills training camp practices in full pads are one-on-one pass-rush drills.

The concept is simple: A coach stands where the quarterback would, and, on a whistle, one offensive lineman tries to keep a defensive lineman at bay.

It's a chance for coaches to assess technique on both sides of the ball. It's also a drill where one rep can vary significantly from the last. But when viewed as a whole, trends develop.

We kept track of "wins" and "losses" -- these are judgment calls, sometimes -- in Sunday's drill. Here are the highlights of the results, noting that each player didn't receive the same amount of reps:

Winners:
Losers:
  • DT Stefan Charles -- He received the most reps of any player -- five, total -- but didn't stand out. I wouldn't read too much into it, but it wasn't his best day.
  • LG Chris Williams -- He had a tough task against Kyle Williams, but we also recorded a loss for Chris Williams against Corbin Bryant.
  • DT Landon Cohen -- Journeyman vet had trouble penetrating against Legursky and MacPherson.
  • DE Manny Lawson -- He has looked better as a pass rusher in live drills, but in one-on-one work Lawson was kept at bay by Kouandjio and Erik Pears.

Buffalo Bills' projected roster

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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Examining the Buffalo Bills' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

No changes here. Tuel and Lewis are battling for the No. 2 quarterback job, but I still think the Bills will keep three quarterbacks this season.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
No changes here. Jackson was banged up in practice last week but is back in action. The Bills are giving Brown and Dixon plenty of reps and they add valuable depth to the backfield.

FULLBACKS (1)

No changes here. Evan Rodriguez is a tough cut after he finished last season on the 53-man roster, but the added depth at running back -- including a burly runner in Dixon -- lessens the need to keep two fullbacks.

RECEIVERS (6)

No changes here. T.J. Graham has been inconsistent through the first week of camp and will need a strong preseason -- and then some help -- to make the cut. Hogan has practiced well and is in very good position to make the final roster.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

No changes. The Bills have been hit with injuries at this position early in camp, with Moeaki, Chandler, and Chris Gragg sidelined by the end of Sunday's practice. We have the same group making the cut, though. No room for Gragg as a fourth option.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

This position group continues to be in flux. Glenn's status is up in the air as he remains on the non-football illness list. That has thrust Henderson into a starting role at left tackle and puts him back in the mix after he was left off our last projection. Ditto for Erik Pears, who is holding onto his starting right tackle job. Kouandjio and Richardson look to be more developmental pieces right now.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

We're keeping an extra offensive lineman in this latest projection, so Corbin Bryant misses the cut here.

LINEBACKERS (6)

No changes here. Undrafted rookie Jimmy Gaines looks to be making a push, but we'll need to see more before he makes the cut on this projection.

CORNERBACKS (6)

No changes here. This is a deep group with plenty of talent.

SAFETIES (4)

No changes here. Plenty of youth here but not a lot of experience. Depth is an issue.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Moorman has punted well so far in camp, so we'll keep him over Jake Dombrowski after going the opposite way with our first projection. There will be five preseason games for the punter battle to play out. With needs elsewhere on the roster, Dustin Hopkins doesn't make the cut as a kickoff specialist.

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