AFC East: Duke Williams

Rapid Reaction: Buffalo Bills

December, 14, 2014
12/14/14
4:25
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 21-13 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium:

What it means: The Bills (8-6) took down the NFL's hottest team in the Packers (10-4), who fell to 0-6 all time in Buffalo. While Buffalo's offense -- especially quarterback Kyle Orton, who finished with a 54.2 quarterback rating -- was inconsistent Sunday, the Bills' defense and special teams won the day. The Bills have won eight games for the first time since 2004. Considering the strength of the AFC, they'll still need to win their final two games to have a chance at the playoffs.

Stock watch: Defense -- up. There isn't one player to single out from this unit, but they proved Sunday that they are the real deal and should be in the discussion as the NFL's best defense. After holding Peyton Manning to a 56.9 quarterback rating last week, the Bills' defense was truly stifling Sunday, limiting Aaron Rodgers to a 34.3 rating -- the worst of his career. The winning formula was tight coverage from the Bills' secondary, a slew of bad throws from the game's best quarterback and plenty of drops from his receivers. Rodgers had a 40 percent completion rate and averaged 4.4 yards per attempt, some of the worst statistics of his storied career.

Game ball: Safety Bacarri Rambo. The most unlikely of heroes for the Bills in their win, Rambo intercepted Rodgers twice in the second half after entering in the third quarter for an injured Duke Williams. It was Rambo's first extensive action with the Bills since being signed last month. Who would've guessed?

Carpenter perfect: As anemic as the Bills' offense has been, kicker Dan Carpenter has been solid. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals Sunday, including 51- and 48-yard kicks. Carpenter is second in the NFL with 28 field goals.

What's next: The Bills close out their regular season with back-to-back road games. They'll travel cross-country Friday for a game Sunday against the Oakland Raiders (2-12), and then finish out at New England (11-3) in Week 17.

Ups and downs for Buffalo Bills

October, 13, 2014
10/13/14
9:31
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A look at which players are "up" and which players are at the opposite end of the spectrum after the Buffalo Bills' 37-22 loss to the New England Patriots:

Up

Chandler
TE Scott Chandler: The veteran had a career day and the best game for a Bills tight end since 1992, catching six passes for 105 yards. All but one of his catches were for first downs.

WR Robert Woods: With Darrelle Revis keeping Sammy Watkins quiet on the other side of the field, Kyle Orton threw at Woods 10 times and the second-year receiver snagged seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown.

WR Chris Hogan: The Bills' decision to deactivate Mike Williams allowed Hogan to take over as the third receiver. He caught five of six targets for 72 yards and his first career touchdown.

Down

Spiller
Jackson
Running game: Where has this gone? The Bills have played from behind in each of their last four games, which has caused the offense to shift more toward the pass, but there just hasn't been much push up front. Blame falls across the board: Fred Jackson had 26 yards on 10 carries, Anthony Dixon added 23 yards on seven carries, and C.J. Spiller gained 19 yards on six carries, including a fumble.

S Duke Williams: Flags against the second-year safety accounted for 46 of the Bills' 107 penalty yards.

DE Jerry Hughes: An emotional player, Hughes accounted for another 30 of the Bills' 107 penalty yards. He drew three flags: unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer and defensive offsides.

LT Cordy Glenn: Glenn's name doesn't normally come up, which is a good thing. However, he's partly responsible for one of the Bills' three turnovers, a Chandler Jones strip sack in the second quarter.

Aaron Williams' head injury termed 'MTBI'

September, 11, 2014
9/11/14
3:30
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams, who left Sunday's victory over the Chicago Bears with concussion-like symptoms, was listed on Thursday's injury report with what the team termed a mild traumatic brain injury, or MTBI.

Williams was limited in practice for a second consecutive day. Coach Doug Marrone said Williams participated in "more than individual drills."

The Bills said Wednesday they are following the NFL's return-to-play protocol for possible concussions. If Williams can't play Sunday, expect Duke Williams to start in his place alongside Da'Norris Searcy.

Here is the Bills' full injury report from Thursday:

Did not participate
LB Keith Rivers (groin)

Limited participation
S Jonathan Meeks (neck)
S Aaron Williams (MTBI/head)
TE Lee Smith (toe)

Full participation
CB Stephon Gilmore (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (ankle)
With three of their 10 organized team activities in the books, the Buffalo Bills have just scratched the surface of the team-building process that will continue through the summer.

During last week's practices there were impressive catches, dropped passes, a few interceptions, and even a fumble. Viewed individually, none of it is of much consequence this time of year.

But if patterns begin to develop, that's where we can begin to draw more substantial conclusions, both good and bad.

With the Bills set to begin their second week of OTAs this week, here are some areas where trends have cropped up. We'll be looking to see if they continue:

Robey
Robey's role: When the Bills signed Corey Graham to a four-year, $16 million deal in March, we scratched our heads a little. Graham is a good player, but the Bills' top three cornerbacks last season -- Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, and Nickell Robey -- were a strength of the team and all were returning. When the Bills hosted some of the draft's best cornerbacks on pre-draft visits, we continued to scratch our heads. When the Bills selected cornerback Ross Cockrell in the fourth round, it gave an even greater indication that something might change at cornerback.

With McKelvin and Gilmore out of OTAs this week because of hip surgery, the Bills' first-team cornerbacks were Graham and Ron Brooks. The next group on the field was Cockrell and Brandon Smith, followed by Robey and Mario Butler. That wasn't shocking to us, because Robey isn't considered an "outside" cornerback. Rather, he excelled in the slot last season. But when the Bills' first nickel unit came onto the field this week, it was Cockrell and Brooks outside with Graham in the slot. The next wave featured Robey in the slot with two younger players manning the outside.

What do we make of that? It could mean that Jim Schwartz doesn't value the 5-foot-7 Robey in the same way that Mike Pettine did. Would that mean Robey's roster spot is in jeopardy? Probably not, but it could indicate reduced playing time for him. The other possibility is that the Bills are simply tinkering with their personnel, seeing what they have in Brooks in what could be a make-or-break training camp, while getting Cockrell on the field as much as they can. We'll be watching to see whether this trend continues this week in OTAs.

Duking it out: Who will replace Jairus Byrd in the starting lineup at safety? The top two contenders are Da'Norris Searcy and Duke Williams. With Aaron Williams (shoulder surgery) out of OTAs this week, Duke Williams and Searcy made up the first team in the back end. That means we're in wait-and-see mode as far as who will get the first crack next to Aaron Williams. If he returns this week, I would lean toward Duke Williams remaining with the first team and Searcy sliding down to the second team with Jonathan Meeks. If Aaron Williams doesn't return, the question about who will get the first chance to replace Byrd will remain on the back burner.

Two-headed attack: As noted by WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia in his Friday practice notes, the Bills put Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller on the field together for some selected plays in OTAs this week. It's something I can remember seeing early in training camp last summer but rarely during the regular season. With Spiller back to full health, offensive coordinator Nate Hackett may try to vary his usage within the offense. Spiller's receiving numbers dipped last season, but if he can be motioned into the slot with Jackson remaining in the backfield, he will cause matchup problems for defenses.

Dixon's position: The Bills' signing of Anthony Dixon added a low-cost depth player to their backfield. When the Bills traded for Bryce Brown earlier this month, it signaled that Dixon may be used more as a fullback or goal-line back than a tailback. So far in OTAs, that hasn't been the case. Physically, Dixon is a far cry from Frank Summers or Evan Rodriguez, and his body type is more in line with a traditional running back. Brown was sidelined Friday with an undisclosed injury, and with fellow running back Ronnie Wingo dealing with a hamstring injury, Dixon got plenty of work at tailback. Ultimately, I think there is room for both Dixon and Brown on the 53-man roster, especially if Dixon contributes on special teams.
The shorts and flip-flops are out in Buffalo, which can only mean one thing: training camp is right around the corner.

While an exact date hasn't been announced, the Buffalo Bills will begin training camp as early as the third weekend in July. That's sooner than usual because the Bills will play in the Hall of Fame game in early August.

Even before the Bills kick things off at St. John Fisher College, players can get in valuable work over the next three weeks during organized team activities. While the emphasis is on teaching and installation -- not so much evaluation -- players who excel in OTAs could carry that momentum into training camp.

Obviously, it's beneficial for every player to attend OTAs, pick up the system quickly, and build a head of steam entering the summer. Yet for some Bills, it's even more important that they don't fall behind in the coming weeks.

In our view, here are the players who will be under the microscope the most in OTAs:

Manuel
EJ Manuel: This is a no-brainer. Unlike Geno Smith, his 2013 draft counterpart in New York, Manuel won't face veteran competition during training camp. It's a move designed to take some pressure off Manuel, whose health and up-and-down rookie season have been well-documented. Yet it keeps the spotlight squarely on Manuel, as backups Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel don't pose a challenge to supplant Manuel as the opening-day starter. How Manuel and Sammy Watkins, the Bills' 2014 first-round draft pick, fit together during the three weeks of OTAs will be of top concern from an outside perspective.

T.J. Graham: Graham could face an uphill battle during training camp this summer and will need to be sharper than most players over the next few months. He can't control how Mike Williams fares in training camp, or how Marquise Goodwin's role within the offense changes in his second season. Those two players are Graham's main competition. Goodwin is a near-lock to make the roster, while Williams' guaranteed salary makes him an unappealing cut come August. Yet if Graham can leap-frog either on the depth chart, it will help his case to stick. What Graham can control, then, is how he can become a more complete receiver. He's mainly a speed threat, but improving his pass-catching and route-running abilities should be his top goals.

Pears
Erik Pears: Pears turns 32 next month and while he proved durable last season with the Bills, his health and conditioning should be of prime concern as he preps for training camp. Pears faces stiff competition at right tackle from second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio. Like Graham, Pears' fate could be out of his control. If Kouandjio develops well over the next few months, then I don't think the Bills will hesitate to make him their starter at right tackle. If Kouandjio is slower to come along, then Pears could hold onto his starting job. He struggled as a run-blocker last season and while OTAs don't involve contact, improving his technique should be tops on his list.

Marcell Dareus: The Bills exercised Dareus' fifth-year option for 2015 in April and within two weeks he was arrested for felony drug charges in Alabama. Dareus' court date hasn't been set yet and since he faces felony charges, the legal process could be drawn out. In the meantime, Dareus must make a good impression on the coaching staff if he participates in OTAs. He ended last season on the wrong note when he was suspended for parts of the final two games. OTAs are voluntary and the coaching staff can't discipline players for not taking part, but I can't imagine too many around the Bills' facility will be happy if any of Dareus' issues from last season carry over into OTAs or minicamp.

Duke Williams: The Bills want to give Williams a chance to make an impression and earn a starting role. As we've noted previously, Williams didn't take advantage of his opportunities last season. The Bills weren't able to re-sign Jairus Byrd and didn't sign any veteran to replace him. That leaves a gaping hole in the secondary. While the Bills signed Aaron Williams to a contract extension and praised him as their next young star, he will need to continue to prove it. Even then, who will start alongside Aaron Williams? Duke Williams has the chance to take over that spot but he'll need to take steps forward during OTAs, minicamp and training camp to lock down that role.

W2W4: Bills at Patriots

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
4:05
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The final hours of the Buffalo Bills' season are ticking away, but there is still one last game to play.

When the Bills travel to face the New England Patriots for Sunday's season finale, there's a few items coach Doug Marrone wants to check off the list.

First, the Bills have yet to win at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002. Second, the Bills have a chance to finish with a winning record in the division for the first time since 2007. And finally, a win Sunday would give Buffalo its first three-game winning streak since the first three games of the 2011 season.

That's what's on the line for the Bills in Foxborough, Mass. Here's what else to watch for:

1. Lewis' curtain call: With EJ Manuel sidelined for a second consecutive game with a knee sprain, backup Thad Lewis will make his fifth start of the season. Now 2-2, Lewis will have a chance to finish with a winning record as the starter. But more importantly, Lewis could be playing for his job next season. At this point, nothing seems guaranteed at quarterback for the Bills. If they bring in another option at the position this offseason, then Lewis could become the third quarterback -- if that role exists on the roster. In that sense, Sunday's game has some added importance for Lewis.

2. Swan song for Byrd? Could this be Jairus Byrd's final game with the Bills? The safety will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and unless the Bills decide to assign him as their franchise player, he will hit the open market. Either way, this will be Byrd's 73rd career game with the Bills. He has 353 tackles, 22 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, and three sacks in his five-year career.

3. What about Chandler? This could also be the final game for tight end Scott Chandler with the Bills. Like Byrd, he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could find greener pastures elsewhere after a career season (50 catches for 600 yards). With Chandler's future uncertain, this could be the time for the Bills to debut tight end Tony Moeaki, who they signed three weeks ago. He was active for the first time last Sunday but did not play an offensive snap. It would make sense for the Bills to evaluate Moeaki in game action before deciding how he fits into their plans for next season.

4. Last chance for Williams, Meeks: With safety Aaron Williams placed on injured reserve Friday, the Bills are expected to use Jim Leonhard and Da'Norris Searcy in his place. Leonhard is a free agent after this season but played every snap in last Sunday's win. Meanwhile, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks -- who the Bills drafted in back-to-back rounds in April -- did not appear on defense, which has been the norm this season. Perhaps that changes Sunday. If not, it's a troubling sign at a position where the Bills could see turnover this offseason. It would make sense for Buffalo to evaluate their draft investments in what will be their final game until next August.

Football journey: Duke Williams

September, 28, 2013
9/28/13
5:00
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When you think of Nevada football in recent seasons, one name likely comes to mind before all others: Colin Kaepernick.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback, though, is just one of nine former members of the Wolf Pack drafted since their 13-1 campaign in 2010. Among them is safety Duke Williams, drafted by the Buffalo Bills last April.

The fourth-rounder has settled into a role on special teams, and with injuries continuing to bite the Bills' secondary, could be slated for a larger role on defense.

He sat down with ESPN.com this week to discuss his journey to the NFL:

[+] EnlargeDuke Williams
AP Photo/Scott BoehmDuke Williams is one of nine players to come to the NFL from the University of Nevada in the past three years.
Early beginnings in basketball: "I started off playing basketball. That was my first love. Because with football, you have expenses to play. You have to pay for equipment and traveling and things like that. From my family's standpoint, we weren't able to afford it. But basketball was free. I've played basketball most of my life."

Moving from Louisiana to Nevada: "I had family in Nevada already. I had uncles and aunts up there. Me, my mom, and my two sisters left and started over. I was young, probably 10 or 12 years old. It was just a different vibe for me. We had pretty much nothing when we moved to Nevada. But my mom took care of us and made sure everything we needed, we had."

Joining his high school team: "When I moved to Nevada, I kept on playing basketball. My first year playing football was my freshman year of high school. One of my best friends' father paid the expenses for me. I was fortunate to play then. Football came really natural to me. I flied around. Watching all my friends play football and me not playing, I didn't know how to actually stick my foot into it. I didn't know what to expect, how to actually play. All I knew was full speed. That was something I pride my game on, from day one. It was great for me to have the opportunity to play, so when I did I took advantage of it."

Favorite memory from Hug High School: "My first game as a freshman I played on the varsity team. I led the team in tackles. I had 12 tackles against the No. 3 ranked school in California. It was just fun, playing the game. When you have so much fun doing something, you fall in love with it."

Influence of his coach: "My high school coach [Rollins Stallworth] took me and my cousin in as his own. Whatever we needed, from food to clothes, anything, he provided that to us. He's been great. I still keep in contact with him now. I can't tell you how much of a help he's been for me since I was younger until now. I still interact with him, talk to him every single day. He's the one person that I really can give all my credit to."

Recruitment by Nevada: "My sophomore year, I had the opportunity to get a scholarship. The [University of Nevada] was only five minutes away from my high school campus. My cousin and I went to a camp that our school goes to annually at the university. There's a lot of schools from California there, schools from different areas that are competitive. Fortunately, my cousin and I got scholarships my sophomore year. I committed. I stayed loyal to my first offer. There were a lot of other offers afterwards, some great schools -- USC, Washington State, Fresno State, UNLV, Boise State, Arizona -- it was just great to see that notoriety and being able to make a name for yourself throughout all three sports."

Favorite memory at Nevada: "Being ranked No. 11 in the nation. We almost cracked the top 10, but for the first time in school history we broke the top 15. First time in school history two ranked opponents ever played in our stadium. That's the year we won the championship, 2010, Kaepernick's senior year. We beat the No. 3-ranked team in the nation. It was just great. That was just a great season. We went 13-1. We slipped up one game, we shouldn't have, but that was the greatest accomplishment in college."

Relationship with Kaepernick: "We talk here and there, how we're doing, how our season is going. He has some advice for me, has some great stuff for being a rookie and what I should expect, what obstacles I should look for. He was a lot of help and I still keep in contact with him today."

Taking pride in his journey: "[Football] kept us out of trouble. The area that [I] grew up in was in the low end of town, an urban area. There was a lot of things going around near us that could have led us to jail time or even worse. It was just a great outlet to stay away from that, be able to play ball, go to college and go to the NFL from it, so it's just great. I came from a long way from moving from Louisiana to Nevada. Just resilience and just being strong and being strong and having a great family to support me."

Moving to Buffalo from Nevada: "Yeah, East Coast period. I've been in New York once before I came here. That was my freshman year of college. I stayed for about a whole break, two or three weeks. It was different. Coming back, it's just like ... it's a whole other place. This is not the city. It's country. It's a mixture. It's a completely different vibe. I'm getting used to it. As long as I'm staying here, I have great teammates I hang around with and great veterans that helped me adapt, so it's pretty much been an easy transition."

Playing in snow: "A lot of people don't know, [the University of] Nevada is in the northern part of Nevada. It's not in Vegas where you get 120 degrees all year. We get the worst part of it. We get snow in the winter, a lot of snow. In the summers, it's blistering, probably 110 degrees. I get a little bit of both worlds. I have a Jeep, so I'm ready for the snow."

Making a mark on special teams: "Any time you take a snap on the field, whether you're on special teams, a punter, whatever you're doing, you have to make a mark. I take pride in this game, so if I'm on the field, I'm going to do my best. Wherever I fit in, I'm going to do my best. My role on defense is becoming bigger and bigger and I'm ready to take that on, also."

Goals for rookie season: "I have a lot of goals. Everyone wants to be a starter. Everyone wants to perform well. My goal is to get better every single day and be the best football player I can be and help this team win."
The Buffalo Bills trail the Detroit Lions 35-3 at halftime of tonight's preseason finale.

Scatter-shooting some notes and thoughts on the first half:
  1. Ouch. After getting trounced in Washington on Saturday, the Bills have put up another clunker tonight at home. Keep in perspective that the Bills are resting their starters and playing with two quarterbacks who have only been with the team since Sunday, but still, not an encouraging performance by any means.
  2. Head coach Doug Marrone to the team's broadcast at halftime: "We should be playing much better than this, and that's a concern."
  3. The Bills chose to rest Jeff Tuel, protecting what will likely be their opening-day quarterback from injury.
  4. Matt Leinart's stat line: 3-for-10, 11 yards, no touchdowns, 2 interceptions. QB rating of 0.0.
  5. Thad Lewis' stat line: 2-for-5, 11 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions.
  6. Bills' offense: 44 net yards on 30 plays (1.5-yard per play average), 8 net passing yards, two first downs, 1-for-9 on third down. Yikes.
  7. Lions' offense: 221 net yards on 40 plays (5.5-yard per play average), 17 first downs, 4-for-4 in red zone.
  8. The biggest non-quarterback story of the game? Nigel Bradham starting on defense and playing the entire first half. The second-year linebacker is the only presumptive defensive starter to see playing time tonight. It's unclear why Bradham is in the game, and if it's at related to him being cited for marijuana possession on Aug. 19. Don't think his roster spot is in danger, but it's something to watch.
  9. Also notable: Da'Norris Searcy playing the entire first half. He started the first three preseason games at safety in place of Jairus Byrd, who could return for Week 1. The Bills started their pair of rookies -- Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks -- at safety tonight, with Searcy playing extensively in sub packages. Unlike Bradham, his roster spot could be in danger, but it also could be a case of the Bills wanting to get him comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage in sub packages, something he may do when Byrd returns.
  10. Draft picks not playing tonight: EJ Manuel (injured), Kiko Alonso, Robert Woods.
  11. One draft pick playing tonight: Marquise Goodwin, who was poked in the eye late in the first quarter and won't return.
  12. Another injury: Brad Smith, who took a hit to the ribs on the final kickoff of the first half. He's questionable to return.
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd signed his franchise tender, the team announced late Tuesday.

Byrd
It was really just a matter of time before the Bills had Byrd back in the fold. After not reaching a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline, the franchise-tagged safety did not report to training camp in late July.

For a Pro Bowler like Byrd, skipping out on camp was a logical move. With about eight months standing between him and his next shot at unrestricted free agency, his risk of injury -- and any potential financial losses in his next contract -- were minimized by remaining at home.

But the Bills will pack up their training camp at St. John Fisher College later this week, and make the 90-mile trek back to their facility in Orchard Park, NY. With dorm living in the rearview mirror and roster cut-down dates approaching, it was also time for Byrd to make the trip back to Buffalo.

It's unlikely that Byrd will see any action in Saturday's preseason game in Washington, if he suits up at all. And while you can bet that Byrd has been doing some distance learning of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's playbook over the last month, he will still need to get up to speed on the field.

Once Byrd is ready to play, the Bills will have some decisions to make at safety.

Through their first two preseason games, here's a look at how the Bills divided snaps at the position, without Byrd:

Aaron Williams (starter): 16 snaps versus Indianapolis, 27 snaps versus Minnesota.
Da'Norris Searcy (starter): 22 snaps versus Indianapolis, 31 snaps versus Minnesota.
Jonathan Meeks: 35 snaps versus Indianapolis, 20 snaps versus Minnesota.
Duke Williams: 29 snaps versus Indianapolis, 16 snaps versus Minnesota.
Jordan Dangerfield: 13 snaps versus Indianapolis, 24 snaps versus Minnesota.
Dominique Ellis: 8 snaps versus Indianapolis, 19 snaps versus Minnesota.

At this point, it's a good bet that the Bills will stick with Aaron Williams in one of their starting roles. The converted cornerback, a second-round pick in 2011, has come on strong this offseason after an underwhelming start to his career in Buffalo.

Searcy, a fourth-round pick in 2011, played in 15 games last season and was among the team's leaders in snaps on special teams at 56 percent, according to data compiled by FootballOutsiders.com. He figures to return to a similar role and back up both Byrd and Williams at safety.

Beyond that, the Bills invested a pair of 2013 draft picks in Meeks (fifth round) and Duke Williams (fourth round). Barring injury, both should make the 53-man roster.

Bills slowly trimming active roster

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
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The Buffalo Bills have been busy on the NFL's transaction wire over the past week. With the team's third preseason game approaching -- they travel Saturday to face the Washington Redskins -- the Bills have begun the process of paring down their 90-man roster.

Here's a snapshot look at their moves since last Tuesday, which have cleared eight roster spots:

Aug. 13: Waived P Brian Stahovich
Aug. 14: Waived/injured TE Mike Caussin; signed LB Jamaal Westerman
Aug. 15: Placed Caussin on injured reserve; waived DT Aaron Tipoti
Aug. 18: Placed WR Kevin Elliott on injured reserve; waived OT Tony Hills, WR Terrell Sinkfield, CB Don Unamba, and S Mark LeGree
Aug. 19: Released K Rian Lindell

In the last week, the Bills have settled their kicker battle by releasing Lindell, as well as their competition at punter by cutting Stahovich. Meanwhile, Tipoti and Caussin had missed most of training camp with injuries, and Elliott suffered a season-ending injury in Friday's preseason game.

As of Monday afternoon, the Bills' roster stands at 82 players. All NFL teams must trim their roster to 75 players by Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. ET.

Here's an early look at where the Bills can make some further snips to their squad:

Offensive line -- The Bills are carrying 15 offensive linemen on their active roster. According to the Buffalo News' Jay Skurski, only Keith Williams and Thomas Welch were held out of practice Monday. Meanwhile, tackle Chris Hairston remains on the active/physically unable to perform list. Moving him to the reserve/PUP list would clear a roster spot, but keep him out at least the first six weeks of the regular season. Either way, the Bills look to carry only about half of these 15 players into the regular season.

Defensive line -- The Bills have a pair of big-name players who are working back from injuries (Mario Williams and Kyle Williams), which could lead Buffalo to stay heavy on their defensive line numbers through the final two weeks of the preseason. Yet a longshot such as Izaan Cross (11 snaps vs. Minnesota) could be part of the 75-man trim.

Safety -- Even as franchise-tagged Jairus Byrd remains unsigned, there's not a whole lot of intrigue at this position. Aaron Williams and Da'Norris Searcy have filled in well in Byrd's place and will stay in those spots for now. Beyond that, the Bills invested two draft picks in safeties (Jonathan Meeks and Duke Williams), and unless there's a late injury, they also will be in the mix. That might mean Jordan Dangerfield (13 snaps vs. Minnesota) and Dominique Ellis (eight snaps vs. Minnesota) could be soon on the outs.

Depth at cornerback tested for Bills

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
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With three of their top cornerbacks not playing in tonight's preseason game against Minnesota, the Buffalo Bills will be digging down their depth chart to find healthy bodies at the position.

Cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, and Crezdon Butler all will sit out the contest. Undrafted rookie Nickell Robey will start opposite Stephon Gilmore.

The Bills started Ron Brooks in that spot in last Sunday's win over Indianapolis, but Brooks projects to man the slot cornerback position this season for Buffalo, and the team wants to keep him there.

Robey, 21, is one of the youngest players in the NFL, having left USC after his junior campaign. He is also the smallest player on the Bills' roster, at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds. He should see extensive action tonight.

Otherwise, here is how the Bills' depth chart in the secondary could shake out tonight:

First team
Cornerback: Gilmore, Robey
Slot: Brooks
Safety: Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy

Second team
Cornerback: T.J. Heath, Jumal Rolle
Safety: Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks

Third team
Cornerback: Don Unamba, Kip Edwards
Safety: Dominique Ellis, Jordan Dangerfield, Mark LeGree
Led by quarterback EJ Manuel, the Buffalo Bills' win over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's preseason opener was powered in large part by the team's rookie class.

In fact, 32 of the team's 44 points -- a preseason franchise record -- were scored by rookies.

Here's a look at how Buffalo's draft choices, plus some undrafted free agents, performed:

Quarterback EJ Manuel (first round) -- Started and played the full first half, going 16-of-21 passing for 107 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Was credited with a fumble on a botched handoff in the first quarter.

Wide receiver Robert Woods (second round) -- Started and was targeted five times, all in the first half. Finished with four receptions for 32 yards, but muffed a punt return on the opening drive.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso (second round) -- Started and made a key pass breakup in the end zone, swatting the ball away from Colts tight end Coby Fleener to prevent a touchdown.

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (third round) -- Returned the Colts' first kickoff 53 yards in the first quarter, then took another kick 107 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Was flagged for unnecessary roughness on Woods' muffed punt on the opening possession.

Safety Duke Williams (fourth round) -- Had three tackles in his preseason debut.

Safety Jonathan Meeks (fifth round) -- Had one tackle and one pass defensed, but was unable to corral a would-be interception.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins (sixth round) -- Was 2-for-2 on field goals, but had a kickoff in the second quarter go out of bounds, setting the Colts up from their own 40-yard line.

Tight end Chris Gragg (seventh round) -- Was targeted four times, making two catches for 12 yards.

Quarterback Jeff Tuel (undrafted) -- Played the entire second half, completing 19 of 23 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Had a strip-sack fumble early in the fourth quarter that was returned by the Colts 72 yards for a touchdown.

Wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (undrafted) -- Lanky receiver had a 29-yard catch on the final play of the third quarter, and added a 5-yard touchdown grab late in the fourth quarter.

Wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers (undrafted) -- Was targeted just once in the game, but his 6-yard touchdown reception capped an 80-yard drive to begin the third quarter.

Cornerback Jumal Rolle (undrafted) -- A Division II prospect from Catawba College, Rolle returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Cornerback Kip Edwards (undrafted) -- Recorded two quarterback hits, including a 9-yard sack of Chandler Harnish in the third quarter.

Bills add wrinkle in LG battle

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
2:30
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After saying last week that he wasn't pleased with the competition at left guard, Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone added another layer to the battle on Wednesday.

Left tackle Cordy Glenn, who started 13 games as a rookie last season, was cross-trained at left guard for Wednesday's practice.

"We're not experimenting with him not being the left tackle," Marrone stressed. "We know that down the road from now, when we're dressing seven linemen, we'll have a swing inside player and a swing outside player. That's why we wanted to work him (at left guard) today."

Marrone hinted that it may have been a one-day move, although the Bills' uncertainty at left guard could eventually land Glenn back inside.

"I saw what I needed to see, meaning that he can do that and make the transition," Marrone said.

In Glenn's place, Thomas Welch took first-team reps at left tackle.

"We're looking at him as obviously competing for a starting position," Marrone said. "If you're not the starter, then you have to be able to swing."

On the second-team, Colin Brown took reps at left guard, while Doug Legursky moved to right guard. Both players had been splitting time at left guard on the top unit early in camp.

Passing along some other news and notes from Wednesday's practice:
  • Quarterback Kevin Kolb was not on the practice field, two days after missing Monday's scrimmage due to a death in the family. Marrone said he anticipates Kolb arriving back to training camp on Thursday night, and that the medical staff will determine if his knee, which he injured Saturday, is healthy enough to let him practice.
  • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin also did not practice, after participating in Monday's scrimmage. Marrone said McKelvin was sore and the team is "trying to be smart" about his recovery from an offseason groin injury.
  • Marrone said that safety Mana Silva, who was placed on the exempt/left squad list Tuesday, did not inform the team before leaving camp on Monday. "He did not contact me or speak to me about the decision," Marrone said. "I'm concentrating on the guys that are here." Silva will be away from the team indefinitely, per a source. "It's been very hard to try to talk somebody into playing," Marrone said Wednesday.
  • To fill Silva's roster spot, the Bills signed safety Mark LeGree on Wednesday. This is LeGree's seventh NFL team after being drafted in the fifth-round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. The 24-year old played at Appalachian State and will wear No. 30 with Buffalo.
  • Safety Duke Williams, who left Saturday's practice with concussion-like symptoms, was medically cleared and back on the practice field Wednesday.
  • The Bills on Wednesday announced that Antwon Bailey, Michael Grant, Matthew Scott, Jamar Nesbit and Kevin Mawae were selected as the 2013 Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship participants, and will assist the coaching staff during training camp.

Buffalo Bills practice report

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
12:22
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PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills were back on the practice field Wednesday morning, holding their second full-padded session of training camp.

Passing along some observations:

Williams back, but does not participate: Defensive end Mario Williams was back in uniform after leaving training camp to have his sore foot evaluated. Williams worked with the strength and conditioning staff on the sidelines, and did not participate in practice. Meanwhile, tight end Scott Chandler (ACL) and defensive lineman Kyle Williams (Achilles) continued to be held out of team drills. Head coach Doug Marrone said the team has built in rest days for Chandler, who had knee surgery in January.

[+] EnlargeLeodis McKelvin
Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SportsBills coach Doug Marrone came away impressed with the play of defensive back Leodis McKelvin on Wednesday.
Rogers sits out; McKelvin gets bumped up: Cornerback Justin Rogers was not in uniform on Wednesday after suffering a right hamstring injury in Tuesday's session. Marrone said after practice that Rogers will be out "for a short period of time." Rogers began training camp with the first team and was replaced by T.J. Heath on Tuesday. However, veteran Leodis McKelvin ran with the first team on Wednesday, with Heath and Crezdon Butler playing cornerback for the second group.

"He made a heck of a play on a comeback [pattern]," Marrone said of McKelvin after practice. "When you're out for that long, it takes some time. He's really coming along nicely. We're excited about that."

Elliott carted off: Second-year receiver Kevin Elliott was carted off the practice field with a right shoulder injury. Elliott made an impressive diving catch during 11-on-11s against top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but came down hard on his shoulder and looked to be in pain on the sideline. Elliott is the mix for a back-end roster spot.

Other injuries: Marrone said a pair of running backs were hobbled with ankle injuries on Wednesday. Veteran Tashard Choice came up slow during a punt drill and talked to trainers, but later came back onto the field for 11-on-11 work. Meanwhile, Zach Brown suffered an ankle injury that Marrone said doctors will examine.

Manuel gets first-team action: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel ran the first-team offense during the initial 11-on-11 period of practice after spending most of his time with the second team to begin training camp. Veteran Kevin Kolb led the top group for the final two 11-on-11 periods. For the second consecutive practice, Manuel avoided making any critical mistakes while in the pocket, but looked to face more blitz pressures than he has in previous sessions.

Kolb was intercepted during an early 7-on-7 drill by Gilmore, who undercut rookie running back Kendall Gaskins on a short pattern. Kolb was later intercepted by safety Da'Norris Searcy on a pass intended for rookie receiver Marquise Goodwin, and also had some throws that sailed behind receivers T.J. Graham and Robert Woods. On the plus side, it was Kolb who lofted a well-thrown ball to Elliott on the play where he was injured.

Dime package gets work: The Bills had six defensive backs on the field for a stretch of their final 11-on-11 period. Safety Duke Williams was one of the players coming on, with Bryan Scott replacing Nigel Bradham at linebacker. Along the defensive line, Manny Lawson and Alex Carrington provided the pass rush. On the second unit, rookie Nickell Robey manned the slot, intercepting quarterback Jeff Tuel late in the period.

Punters look even: The punt unit returned to action Wednesday, with Shawn Powell and Brian Stahovich both impressive during both special-teams periods. However, returners had issues during the first period, with Woods and Graham both muffing catches, drawing the ire of special-teams coordinator Danny Crossman.

Good day at the office for: McKelvin. The changes at cornerback continue for the Bills, and McKelvin was the latest to take reps with the first team. He didn't disappoint, showing tight coverage and breaking up a throw from Kolb to Woods during 11-on-11s.

Bad day at the office for: Kolb. It's tough to compare him side-by-side to Manuel since Kolb is usually seeing the best unit from the defense, but Kolb continues to struggle at times with his accuracy and decision making. He's in the spotlight given the quarterback situation, so his mistakes are more magnified than those of other players.

What's next: Players are off Thursday before returning to practice Friday morning from 8 to 11:10.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East:
  • New England Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady says backup Tim Tebow will not distract him.
Morning take: That’s one reason why the Patriots thought they could bring in Tebow-mania. Brady is the unquestioned starter regardless of what happens on the field, and there will be no push for Tebow to take over.
Morning take: The Jets need Holmes, but it’s important for him not to rush back. Holmes should probably sit out most or all of training camp in an effort to get ready for a Week 1 battle against Darrelle Revis and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Morning take: This is a chance for Williams to show what he can do. Byrd has been absent all offseason and might not show up for the start of training camp unless a contract gets done. That’s more reps for Williams and others.
Morning take: Miami added linebackers Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and cornerback Brent Grimes. These are all upgrades from a year ago. The Dolphins’ defense should be faster and more athletic.

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