AFC East: Derek Fine

Bills draft record not as bad as you think

April, 21, 2011
Kyle Williams and Steve JohnsonUS PresswirePro Bowler Kyle Williams (left) and receiver Steve Johnson were both drafted in the later rounds.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills fans have pondered some persistent questions over the years.

How would life have changed if Scott Norwood made that kick?

What will happen to the team when Ralph Wilson passes away?

Was the Music City Miracle really a forward lateral?

How on earth does Tom Modrak still have a job?

Modrak is Buffalo's vice president of college scouting. Modrak, formerly a Pittsburgh Steelers scout during their Steel Curtain years and director of football operations with the Philadelphia Eagles, has held the Bills' top scouting job since May 2001 and worked his first draft for them in 2002.

In that time, the Bills' streak of seasons without a playoff appearance has extended to 11 and counting. Despite holding prime draft-order slots, they have repeatedly squandered them with maddening first-round decisions.

The list is enough to make the most optimistic Bills fan groan: pass-rusher Aaron Maybin (zero sacks) 11th overall instead of Brian Orakpo (19.5 sacks) two years ago; small-school cornerback Leodis McKelvin 11th overall instead of Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady in 2008; safety Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in 2006 and then trading up for defensive tackle John McCargo; trading up for quarterback J.P. Losman in 2004; useless tackle Mike Williams fifth in 2002.

"Certainly we've had our misses up at the top," Modrak said Tuesday at a news conference to preview next week's draft. "We've done pretty well in the middle and at the end, the non-glamour kind of picks. But we've missed some. That is regrettable."

There are additional selections one can criticize: wide receiver James Hardy in the second round; running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall even though the Bills had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers already ...

[+] EnlargeTom Modrak
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesDespite some high-profile misses, Tom Modrak's draftees have performed well on the whole.
OK. I'll stop now. That's enough to illustrate why there's frustration over Modrak and his scouting department's evaluation skills.

The fact Modrak joined the Bills to serve under former president Tom Donahoe -- an executive Wilson and Bills fans came to despise -- only adds to fascination of Modrak's continued employment.

Now that I've set the table, let's yank the tablecloth out from underneath the plasticware.

Data suggest the Bills haven't drafted much worse than the average NFL team since 2002.

ESPN researcher John Fisher -- he claims no relation to St. John Fisher, the namesake of the college where the Bills hold their training camp -- shuffled some spreadsheets and came up with some information that's not particularly damning when compared to the rest of the NFL.

  • The Bills have drafted five Pro Bowlers with Modrak in charge of scouting. That's tied for 14th in the league. One of those Pro Bowlers was Willis McGahee for the Baltimore Ravens, but Modrak was the chief scout who drafted him. What the Bills did with McGahee afterward that isn't his fault. Same goes for Marshawn Lynch.
  • Although a game started for the Bills isn't as impressive as a game started for the New England Patriots the past nine years, Bills draftees from the first through third rounds have started 804 games, 15th in the league.
  • Bills draftees from the fourth round or later have started 417 games, eighth in the league.
  • When it comes to individual statistics accumulated with the teams that drafted them, Bills taken from 2002 onward have ranked third in 1,000-yard rushing seasons, tied for seventh in 1,000-yard receiving seasons, 20th in total sacks and 19th in total interceptions.

While the Bills have missed badly on several of their prominent selections, they have done quite well in the latter part of the draft with gems such as cornerback and Pro Bowl kick returner Terrence McGee (fourth round in 2003), Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kyle Williams (fifth round in 2006), receiver Steve Johnson (seventh round in 2008) and left tackle Demetrius Bell (seventh round in 2008).

Top running back Fred Jackson and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters -- traded to Philly two years ago -- weren't drafted at all.

"If you look at other teams, they do it. They miss at the top," Modrak said. "When you don't win, it's magnified. It looks bad.

"But I think from a strictly homer point-of-view [late-round success] is the work and the labor that goes into it and the detail that's paid to those kinds of things. That does not say that other teams don't do the same thing, but we have a good group, and we fortunately have done that."

The Bills have had some obvious blind spots in the draft.

A refusal to pick a tackle earlier than the fifth round since 2002 has hurt them. Peters' success as a converted tight end is a factor in that trend, but the Bills were having contract problems with him while he still was on the roster. Foresight would've been helpful. But that's an organizational philosophy more than Modrak's domain.

The Bills' track record at tight end is miserable, too. They've drafted five: Tim Euhus, Kevin Everett, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson. Everett was the lone selection sooner than the fourth round. A broken neck while covering a kickoff on opening day in 2007 ended his career.

That tight end quintet has combined to score five NFL touchdowns. Of the 143 tight ends drafted since Modrak joined the Bills, 43 of them have scored more than five touchdowns individually.

Some might also say finding a quarterback has been a failure. Starting quarterbacks, however, aren't easy for any team to locate.

Forty-seven quarterbacks have been drafted within the first three rounds since 2002. The only three teams not included in this pursuit have been the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys. The Bills took two within the first three rounds, Losman 22nd overall in 2004 and Trent Edwards 92nd in 2007.

That league-wide group yielded nine Pro Bowlers, but just two of them -- 24th overall pick Aaron Rodgers and third-rounder Matt Schaub -- weren't selected in the top 11. Rodgers and Schaub served as backups for three seasons before they became starters.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix explained that scouting is only one of three critical phases that determine whether a draft pick explodes or fizzles.

"You've got to pick the right guy," Nix said Tuesday. "He's got to have enough athletic ability and enough intelligence, production to do the job, which is what you spend the year doing. We're scouts and personnel guys.

"The second phase, now -- and don't make light of it because it's just as important -- is coaching, strength coaches, trainers. That's the second phase, and both of those things have to be in place. If not, the development of the guy is retarded.

"I'm not going to name teams, but you can name teams every year that get top guys and they don't get any better. They actually may go the other way, and it's the developmental part."

Chan Gailey is Buffalo's fourth head coach -- fifth if you count interim coach Perry Fewell -- since Modrak came aboard. Coordinators have passed through a revolving door. The Bills also have overhauled their strength and conditioning program a couple times.

Nix then stressed that even if the precisely correct draft choice is made and the proper infrastructure is in place, a third phase still can torpedo development. The player can ruin his future if he's "not willing to be a professional and do everything it takes."

"You can go back and look at the so-called busts, and it's one of these three phases," Nix said. "You've got to have it all for them to be really good.

"So even though we put it all on one thing -- 'That was a terrible draft. That was a bust. Those idiots don't know.' -- that's just about a third of it."

Another element that must be considered when discussing Buffalo drafts is the question of who makes the final pick.

Nix and Gailey have been clear Nix makes the final call, although Wilson still can exercise his ownership privilege.

Before Nix became GM last year, trying to decipher who was to credit or blame for a Bills draft choice was like a "Three Stooges" scene. The irate boss hears a commotion, storms into the room and asks "Say! What's the wise idea? Who did this?" Moe pointed at Larry. Curly pointed at Moe. Larry pointed at Curly.

Modrak has been a constant since 2002, but there have been many voices in the Bills' draft room in that period, from Donahoe to GM Marv Levy to chief operating officer Russ Brandon to the various opinionated head coaches who lobbied for prospects they hotly desired.

The Bills' scouting department clearly needs to step its game up to help turn around the franchise. They'll never be the kind of team that lures top free agents because of their market conditions. Buffalo simply isn't as sexy as Miami or San Diego or New York and doesn't offer a perennial chance to win like New England or Pittsburgh does.

But, believe it or not, the Bills' drafts could have been substantially worse since Modrak arrived.

Parsing the AFC East's tight ends

February, 19, 2010

Getty ImagesThe tight ends in the AFC East -- including the Jets' Dustin Keller, the Patriots' Ben Watson and the Dolphins' Anthony Fasano -- are mostly afterthoughts in the passing game.
Note: Thursday and Friday, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson is reviewing key aspects of AFC East teams. Thursday, he reviewed and ranked the division’s secondaries from best to worst. Today, he is examining the lack of prominence of the AFC East's tight ends.

The tight end position really seems to be an afterthought in this division.

One reason is three out of the four AFC East defenses play a 3-4 scheme, with the Buffalo Bills going that direction in 2010 to make it four out of four. Why should that matter?

The 3-4 emphasizes speedy outside linebackers, so these offenses feel the need to keep their tight ends in to block on pass plays. Along those lines, this is also quite possibly the most physical division in the league. In order to be physical on offense, a team needs a strong, inline blocking tight end to help the running game.

While the Bills and the Miami Dolphins have not used prime resources at this position, the same cannot be said for the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Each team has used first-round draft choices on tight ends: The Patriots selected Benjamin Watson, now a pending unrestricted free agent, in the 2004 draft; and the Jets picked Dustin Keller in 2008.

Keller is the wild card of the lot. The Jets have been able to use Keller as a pass-catching weapon. They can do this because their offensive line is strong and the Jets also have a good blocking tight end in Ben Hartsock. Although Keller is inconsistent, he has a chance to be an asset to quarterback Mark Sanchez's development. Keller can attack a defense from many different spots in the formation, giving him the opportunity to match up against linebacker coverage. Keller could break out in 2010.

The Pats and Watson are in a state of flux. Many believe that he will not return to New England. If that is true, the Patriots next option is Chris Baker, who is ordinary in all facets. Watson is very athletic, but he’s too much of a liability as a blocker, particularly in this division. Considering the uncertain state of the Patriots’ wide receiver position, upgrading at tight end would make a lot of sense for New England.

In Miami, I can live with Anthony Fasano. Of course he isn’t real flashy, but he does sure fit the Bill Parcells mold at the position. He is smart, tough, a hammer in the run game and has been productive near the goal line. The problem here is that Miami is just so weak at wide receiver that Fasano’s lack of big-play ability is exposed. But this is a solid football player. Backup Joey Haynos gets a lot of playing time, but his role as a blocker is pretty clear. He isn’t going to cause any mismatches in the passing game.

Buffalo gets so little out of their tight ends. The threesome of Derek Schouman, Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson were among the worst in the league, and Fine recently was released. The fact that the Bills offensive tackle position is simply horrendous doesn’t help the tight ends’ pass-catching potential. With the possible exception of Nelson, calling the Bills’ tight end corp underwhelming would be a massive compliment.

Around the AFC East

February, 18, 2010
Buffalo Bills

After being released by the Bills, tight end Derek Fine was awarded to the St. Louis Rams.

Are the Bills the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL? Here's one columnist who is making that claim.

Miami Dolphins

Shoulder surgery is keeping Jason Taylor from attending the NFL's annual Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program.

The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero attempts to figure out why the Dolphins won't try to get something in return for Joey Porter.

New England Patriots

Deion Branch says he'd be open to returning to New England and playing for the Patriots.

The Boston Herald's Ian R. Rapoport explains why the Patriots' hands are tied when it comes to linebacker Adalius Thomas.

New York Jets

Quarterback Mark Sanchez says that Wednesday's surgery on his left knee went "exceptionally well."

Jets defensive back James Ihedigbo is leaving for Haiti for a few days next month to help with the recovery from the earthquake.

Wendling, Fine among seven Bills cuts

February, 16, 2010
The Buffalo Bills released a member of the 2009 All-AFC East squad that you, the readers of this blog, selected two weeks ago.

The Bills cut seven players Tuesday. Among them was All-AFC East special-teamer John Wendling, who led the Bills with 26 coverage tackles.

Also jettisoned were receiver Justin Jenkins, tight end Derek Fine, center Marvin Philip, defensive ends Jermain McGhee and Marcus Smith and linebacker Ashlee Palmer.

The moves come a week after new head coach Chan Gailey and his finalized coaching staff convened at One Bills Drive to begin roster evaluations.

Fine was the most notable player aside from Wendling. He started six games last year and made nine catches for 64 yards. Fine was a fourth-round draft choice in 2008. Jenkins played 36 games over three seasons with Buffalo but didn't register a reception.

Palmer started a pair games at linebacker for the injury-plagued Bills.

Philip, Smith and McGhee spent the entire season on injured reserve.

Bills' bloated IR list amazingly hits 20

January, 2, 2010
Make it a full score for the Buffalo Bills.

They have sent 20 players to injured reserve, adding linebacker Nic Harris to the list Friday.

To illustrate how badly the Bills have been ravaged by injuries, I've put together a complete catalog. The rundown includes one player, receiver C.J. Hawthorne, who's on the practice squad IR.

The rest, however, are on the standard list.

Thirteen of them have started at least one game, as designated by an asterisk.

What you'll see here are players from the opening night starting lineup: both tackles, the right guard, a tight end, two linebackers and both cornerbacks. You'll also see am NFL defensive rookie of the year candidate.

You won't see quarterback Trent Edwards, who probably should be on the list. When he suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago, interim coach Perry Fewell said Edwards wouldn't play again. But the Bills have chosen to keep Edwards on the active roster rather than add an extra body.

Brady, Manning are NFL's top double agents

November, 12, 2009
Nobody relies on the double formation more than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

ESPN Stats & Information tracks every snap and notes the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts favor the formation -- single back, two receivers to each side -- more than any other NFL team.
[+] EnlargeTom Brady
t: Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireTom Brady and the Patriots operate out of the double formation 49 percent of the time.

A standard look from the double formation would be a wideout and slot receiver to one side and the tight end and a wideout to the other side.

The Patriots have operated out of the double formation 268 times, or 49 percent of their 552 plays from scrimmage. They're averaging 6.4 yards a play.

The Colts have gone double an NFL-high 354 times on 47 fewer snaps, or 70 percent of the time. They have amassed 2,323 yards out of double, an average of 6.6 yards per play.

But Indy's average doesn't lead the league. The Dallas Cowboys have averaged 9.1 yards on their 144 plays in the double formation. The San Diego Chargers have averaged 7.5 yards on their 104 plays.

The Arizona Cardinals are a distant third with 189 plays out of the double formation.

I was in the Buffalo Bills' locker room on Wednesday, so I stopped by backup quarterback Gibran Hamdan's stall to get his take on why the double formation suits Brady and Manning.

The Patriots visit the Colts on Sunday night in Lucas Oil Stadium.

"It's about being blessed enough to keep a system in place for a long period of time," Hamdan said. "They've built a whole package around the formation."

Hamdan, who took part in the NFL's Broadcast Boot Camp over the summer, has a bright future as an analyst. He's one of those guys who makes you feel smarter for speaking with him.

"You can ask a lot of quarterbacks, and they feel good about certain formations," Hamdan said. "The key to it is those two guys like it. They know the intricacies of that formation, and they've seen pretty much everything a defense can do to them.

"Once you've seen all the looks, now you're just letting the players' ability to take over. Then you get into a feel and a rapport between the quarterback and receiver that happens when you play for a long period of time and run a formation like double over and over and over."

Hamdan noted the Bills' double formation often has Lee Evans split out and slot receiver Josh Reed to the left, with tight end Derek Fine and receiver Terrell Owens on the right.

New England's version might have Randy Moss and Wes Welker on the weak side, Chris Baker and Sam Aiken on the strong side.

"There's versatility," Hamdan said. "You can create things on both sides of the field, so symmetry definitely creates a versatility that maybe a three-by-one formation would lack."

It also comes down to precision. Hamdan pointed out neither team offers much variety out of the double formation.

"Turn on their film," Hamdan said. "They're not running that many plays out of that formation. They just know what they're doing and execute it."

In case you were curious what formations are popular with the other AFC East teams, the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets rank third and fifth in most plays out of a backfield set (two running backs). The Dolphins have used two backs on 48 percent of their snaps. The Jets have done so on 47 percent.

The Dolphins, of course, lead the league in Wildcat (any player other than a quarterback takes the snap). They've made 76 Wildcat attempts, more than three times as often as the next team on the list, the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Bills most frequently operate out of a trips formation (single back with three receivers to one side). They've run it 191 times, third-most in the NFL. They also rank 11th in the double formation with 160 plays.

The Patriots have run an empty set (only a quarterback in the backfield) 45 times, three fewer than the league-leading Houston Texans.

Captain Checkdown doesn't go deep for Bills

October, 2, 2009

Posted by's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills fans have given Trent Edwards a derisive nickname.

"Captain Checkdown" they call him for his reluctance to throw downfield despite having a couple of deep threats in Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

Owens and Evans have combined for 13 receptions through three games, while running backs and tight ends get Edwards' seemingly undivided attention.

As an old friend texted after Sunday's loss, in which Owens had his reception streak snapped at 185 games by the New Orleans Saints: "When do you think heads will roll at One Bills Drive? They didn't pay T.O. and Evans 15 mil to be decoys for Derek Fine."

Actually, Owens is getting paid $6.5 million and Evans a base salary of $4.6 million this year. But I understand the sentiment.

Running back Fred Jackson has 15 receptions. Tight end Derek Schouman didn't play last week and is out for the season, yet he has caught only four fewer passes than Owens and Evans together. Fine has started one game at tight end but has as many catches as Owens -- five.

To see just how much Edwards deserved his Captain Checkdown moniker -- "Trentative Checkwards" hasn't caught on -- I broke out some situational passing numbers provided by ESPN Stats & Information, which tracks every NFL play.

Short passing games have gained popularity in recent years. Many teams employ that strategy, and I thought maybe Edwards wasn't too far off the norm.

Turns out, Captain Checkdown is quite appropriate.

Edwards' average pass travels 7.7 yards in the air. That's tied for 26th in the league among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts.

As the accompanying chart shows, Edwards' stats plummet the farther his passes fly.

Trent Edwards' passing performance by distance
Distance Comp. Att. Pct. Yards TD Int. Rating Rank
Under 11 yards 49 70 70.0 424 2 1 89.2 (14)
11-20 yards 5 13 38.5 99 0 0 65.9 (23)
21-plus yards 2 8 25.0 75 2 1 66.1 (20)
All 56 91 61.5 598 4 2 86.2 (T-16)

Edwards throws 10 yards or shorter 77 percent of the time. He has thrown only 21 passes beyond 10 yards, and eight of those were longer than 20 yards downfield.

Edwards is 2 of 8 when throwing longer than 20 yards, but both completions went for touchdowns -- a 32-yarder to Evans and a 43-yarder to Owens.

Bills opt for project over O-line veteran

September, 22, 2009

Posted by's Tim Graham

Injuries forced the Buffalo Bills to execute three roster moves that make them younger and underscore a rebuilding effort.

Rather than sign some veteran help to replace injured right tackle Brad Butler, the Bills cherry-picked rookie Jamon Meredith off the Green Bay Packers' practice squad.

The Bills worked out veteran right tackle Jon Runyan before their season opener. Their starter the previous two seasons, Langston Walker, hasn't found work since they cut him three weeks ago. Eight-year starter Damion McIntosh, who didn't make the Kansas City Chiefs' final roster, also is available.

Meredith, despite being a fifth-round draft choice, wasn't good enough to make a very thin roster. The Packers selected him with the 162nd overall pick acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots along with the 26th overall pick for the Packers' 41st, 73rd and 83rd picks.

Meredith mostly played tackle at South Carolina but finished as a guard. Half of his 38 collegiate starts were at left tackle. He also started eight games at left guard his senior season.

The Bills also placed starting tight end Derek Schouman on injured reserve, rendering his season over.

Schouman is Buffalo's leading receiver after running back Fred Jackson. Schouman made nine catches for 103 yards in the first two games.

The Bills promoted Johnathan Stupar from their practice squad. In the preseason, he led the NFL with 19 receptions for 184 yards and a touchdown. But the Bills elected to keep Schouman, Derek Fine and fourth-round draft pick Shawn Nelson.

Bills-Patriots inactives

September, 14, 2009

Posted by's Tim Graham

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Inactives for the Monday night opener between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium:

Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009

Posted by's Tim Graham

Biggest surprise: The Bills lopped versatile running back Dominic Rhodes from their roster. The only free-agent signing more notable than Rhodes was receiver Terrell Owens. The Bills obtained Rhodes to provide depth behind Marshawn Lynch, who will be suspended for the first three games. The backs at their disposal are Fred Jackson, Xavier Omon and fullback Corey McIntyre.

Backup offensive lineman Kirk Chambers, who played all 16 games and started at right tackle, right guard and left tackle last year, was waived.

The Bills waived tight end Jonathan Stupar despite a great statistical preseason. He led the NFL with 19 receptions for 184 yards and a touchdown. The Bills opted to keep Derek Schouman and Derek Fine along with fourth-round draft pick Shawn Nelson.

Buffalo also cut a draft pick from this year, sixth-round defensive back Cary Harris.

No-brainers: The Bills placed James Hardy on the physically unable to perform list. He won't be allowed to work out with the team for six weeks. Last year's second-round draft choice suffered a knee injury in Week 15 and still is recovering. The Bills could afford to shelve Hardy because the have plenty of depth at receiver.

What's next: With Jackson and Omon the only viable runners on the roster who can play against the New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, the Bills must be on the lookout for backfield support.

At first sight, Bills fans go bonkers for Owens

July, 25, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Terrell Owens knows he's a big deal. He's reminded of it everywhere he goes, in everything he does.

But, relatively speaking, Owens is an even bigger deal in Western New York than he ever has been anywhere else.

Legends were forged in San Francisco before Owens arrived there. Philadelphia has seen its share of superstars. Icons have passed through Dallas for decades.

Aside from maybe O.J. Simpson, nobody in Buffalo sports history has embodied the combination of sports stardom and mainstream celebrity as T.O.

Each time Owens touched the ball Saturday morning during the Bills' opening training camp practice at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, the crowd erupted. It was his debut in front of the fans, and they welcomed him like a hero.

They beseeched him for autographs afterward and exploded with the loudest ovation of the day when he obliged. The roar drowned out part of head coach Dick Jauron's news conference being held 50 yards away.

"I pinch myself sometimes," Owens said. "I've realized that I've had a following everywhere that I've been. I expected nothing different here. I know that the Buffalo fans are very, very fanatical. They're behind their team 100 percent, so coming out here I expected nothing less."

Bills fans have rooted for Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith. None of them arrived with the credentials that T.O. can boast.

Owens has 951 receptions. His next will move him past Bills great Andre Reed for sixth place all-time. Owens has scored 141 touchdowns, the most of any active NFL player. He has his own reality television show. He's known around the world.

Add all of that to a team that hasn't been to the playoffs in nine seasons, and it's easy to see why fans are so euphoric over Owens.

Win or lose, he makes their team relevant again.

Even though Buffalo's top four draft choices were absent Saturday, almost every question posed to head coach Dick Jauron and quarterback Trent Edwards was about Owens' presence.

"He's one of many here, but he's a great example because -- let's face it -- we don't have anybody else that's caught 951 balls in the league," Jauron said.

Actually, all of the Bills with at least one career reception combined -- Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, Steve Johnson, James Hardy, Derek Schouman, Derek Fine, Dominic Rhodes, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Corey McIntyre -- have 997 receptions.

No wonder Owens received more cheers Saturday morning than the rest of the team put together.

"It definitely gives me an appreciation for who I am and what I've done throughout my career," Owens said. "It's a humbling situation. I know I'm a blessed individual and know that I have a lot to offer. I expect to bring some of those same things I brought to other teams. That's a lot of success, a lot of touchdowns and a lot of wins."

Around the AFC East: Jets should nix Plaxico

June, 17, 2009

Posted by's Tim Graham

New York Jets

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

  •'s Christopher Price sets up the dead period between the end of last week's minicamp and the start of training camp July 30.

Several tight ends outperform Pettigrew

February, 21, 2009
Posted by's Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- Several draft gurus, including ESPN's Mel Kiper, predict the Buffalo Bills will select Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the 11th pick.

Pettigrew's performance Saturday at the NFL scouting combine in Lucas Oil Stadium might have given pause to teams with early draft slots.

Pettigrew, the top-rated tight end in the draft, ran his 40-yard dash in a sluggish 4.87 seconds, failing to register among the top 10 tight ends invited to the combine.

That's Tim Graham speed. But we knew stopwatches weren't Pettigrew's allies. He's a blocker first, receiver second.

Pettigrew tied for sixth with a 33-inch vertical jump, was fifth in the broad jump at 9 feet, 10 inches and tied for eighth with 22 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press.

The most impressive tight end performance of the day was turned in by Jared Cook, a receiving end with marginal blocking skills.

Cook ran his 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, had a 41-inch vertical jump and a 10-9 broad jump. All three measurements were the best of the day. Cook also pushed out 23 bench-press reps.

The Bills need an extra weapon on offense, and tight end is an area where they can upgrade. Robert Royal had 33 catches for 351 yards and one touchdown. Other tight ends on the roster are Derek Schouman (15 receptions, 153 yards, one touchdown) and Derek Fine (10 receptions, 94 yards, one touchdown).

Bills coach Dick Jauron on Thursday noted how receiving tight ends still can curtail defensive penetration because of their threat in the passing game.

"Given some degree of blocking proficiency, the better receiver you are the better blocker it makes you because the defense is busy defending you all the time," Jauron said. "They're defending you in the run game because they fear you in the pass game.

"If he's got some kind of blocking ability and he's a really good pass receiver, it'll make him a better blocker. They're worried about him escaping and getting down the field."

Edwards tries to dink and dunk out of his funk

November, 18, 2008
Posted by's Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards cannot get into a rhythm, and he's quickly running out of time to pull himself together in 2008.

In Monday night's gut-wrenching 29-27 home loss to the Cleveland Browns, whether by design or Edwards' decisions, he threw only 19 passes beyond the line of scrimmage according to ESPN Stats & Analysis.

Edwards tossed seven passes behind the line of scrimmage. He completed all of them for 19 yards.

On his other throws he was 9-of-19 for 129 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions for a 46.8 passer rating.

He looked skittish all night.

Trent Edwards by Distance
Behind line771900
0-10 Yds.6146511
11-20 Yds.356402
21+ Yds.00000

"For a young quarterback, it's got to affect you when things start to slide a little bit and go downhill," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "I think that the guy is a terrific player. I think he's just going to get better and better as we move on. We have to live through some of these issues when you're playing a young quarterback."

Said Edwards: "When you turn the ball over a little bit it's tough. You start seeing things that you're not really seeing and you start doing things that you're not normally used to doing."

His one touchdown was all Marshawn Lynch. The running back caught the ball in the left flat, merely 1 yard beyond the line. Lynch made a brilliant run, weaving his way through a half-dozen clueless defenders for an 18-yard touchdown.

Edwards' inability to go down field was illustrated by his targets. He failed to complete a pass to highly paid No. 1 receiver Lee Evans even though the Browns went into the game ranked 21st against the pass.

In fact, the only time Evans' name appears in the official NFL statistical game book is on the first play of the night. Edwards threw a pass intended for Evans that was batted at the line and intercepted. Evans made the tackle.

"I did plenty of forcing the ball in the first quarter, so I don't really know if I need to force the ball to Lee Evans again in the game," Edwards said. "But we need to look at the tape and fix some things here and see if Lee's open on any of these plays that I could be throwing the ball.

"That's my job here, to try to do that, fix what I'm doing wrong and try to get this thing going in the right direction and that's what the quarterback needs to do here."

Edwards completed only four passes to wide receivers, with three of them going to rookie Steve Johnson and the other to Roscoe Parrish. Tight ends Robert Royal and Derek Fine each caught one pass.

Edwards dumped off to Lynch 10 times, accounting for 62.5 percent of the completions.

Around the AFC East: Cassel on FA watch lists

November, 6, 2008

Posted by's Tim Graham

New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets