AFC East: Thomas Welch

PFF: Colin Brown earns worst Week 1 grade

September, 11, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills had an open competition at left guard during training camp to replace Andy Levitre, who departed through free agency.

Brown
After cycling several players through the position, fourth-year veteran Colin Brown was tabbed as the starter. He started all four preseason games and continued in that role for Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots.

But according to ProFootballFocus.com, which grades every player on each play, Brown finished with the worst aggregate grade Insider of any in the NFL for Week 1.
When people said that the Bills' left guard spot was a problem area, they weren't lying, were they? Brown beat out Doug Legursky for the starting job (which isn't the hardest thing in the world to do) and promptly did his best to force his coaches to reconsider their decision. In a week that saw some terrible guard play, his took pride of place, giving up a hit and three hurries and being punished against the run. If you could see our grading sheet, you'd see a lot of "stood up at point of attack" next to the name of Brown, who was no match for Vince Wilfork.

If the Bills agree with the assessment -- it's worth noting that head coach Doug Marrone has a background as offensive-line coach and continues to work closely with that unit in practice -- they have few other options.

Legursky remains on the active roster but is out indefinitely with a knee injury. That leaves the Bills without a traditional backup guard/center option. Buffalo's lone reserve options on the offensive line are Sam Young and Thomas Welch, whose backgrounds are mostly at tackle.

Examining Patriots-Bills connections

September, 6, 2013
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After preparing for each other throughout the offseason, coupled with the fact that they're division rivals, the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills have grown familiar.

There are also several connections between the two organizations -- including former Patriots players now with the Bills, who are highlighted below.

Tight end Lee Smith. Smith, a 2011 fifth-round pick of the Patriots, was released by the team at the final roster cut-down that year, and the feeling was that the Patriots wanted to sign Smith to the practice squad. The opportunity never presented itself, as he was claimed by the Bills off waivers. He has eight catches in 26 games for Buffalo.

Offensive tackle Thomas Welch. Another former Patriots draft choice, Welch has kicked around among four organizations, eventually landing in Buffalo. He started one game for the Patriots in 2010 and played in three for Buffalo last season.

Other connections of note

Patriots linebacker Chris White. White, recently claimed off of waivers by the Patriots, was traded from Buffalo to Detroit in exchange for quarterback Thad Lewis in August. White, 24, was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in 2011.

Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones/Bills head coach Doug Marrone. The Patriots may rely on Jones for some scouting reports this week, as Jones was a star for Marrone at Syracuse when Marrone was head coach there. Said Marrone of Jones on Wednesday, "Obviously we were very proud of Chandler at Syracuse and I’m very proud of him now. I’ve seen him get better and better. I’ve seen him really step it up and really be a good professional. He’s one heck of a football player and we’re going to have our hands full with him."
Walking off the practice field Sunday, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone was asked if the team had any immediate plans to fill the open spot on its 53-man roster.

Marrone's answer? Let's wait and see.

"I've been talking to (general manager) Doug (Whaley) about it. Obviously we've been meeting," he said. "I think we have a lot of flexibility with it and we'll see where it goes."

As it turned out, the spot will be filled sooner rather than later. With rookie Dustin Hopkins suffering a groin injury in Monday's practice, the Bills are signing kicker Dan Carpenter to fill in, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

But before Hopkins' injury came to light, Marrone gave insight on one position where they felt the spot may be used.

"Right now the natural position would gravitate probably to the offensive line," Marrone said.

The Bills have eight offensive linemen on their active roster, but their top interior backup, veteran Doug Legursky, is out indefinitely with a knee injury. That leaves Buffalo with just two reserve linemen -- Thomas Welch and Sam Young -- and both are primarily tackles.

But Marrone cautioned against overlooking Young's versatility.

"I would probably label Sam Young as versatile to all four (positions)," he said, referring to Young's ability to play both guard and tackle spots. "Rather than just saying we only have three (interior linemen)."

In three seasons, Young has played 18 games, including four starts (all last season).
Despite making the bulk of their roster cuts on Friday, the Buffalo Bills could still be in for a busy weekend.

Nearly 100 players hit the waiver wire or open market Friday evening, giving the Bills a chance to comb the free-agent landscape for help.

Buffalo's roster stands at 55 players entering Saturday, and while they must get down to 53 players by 6 p.m., it may not be as straightforward as releasing two players. Waiver claims, signings and trades all could be in the forecast.

At what positions might the Bills need a boost? Here's a look:
  1. Cornerback: The Bills have battled injuries at this position since the start of training camp, and their most recent loss is their biggest. Top cornerback Stephon Gilmore is out six to eight weeks with a fractured wrist, creating a gaping hole in the secondary the Bills will try to fill. Outside of Gilmore, the Bills have veterans Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks under contract -- Brooks has been exclusively playing the slot -- while undrafted rookie Nickell Robey has also been retained to this point. It would be surprising if the Bills go into Week 1 with just those four players healthy. With Crezdon Butler released on Friday, they could use another option to try out at the position.
  2. Interior offensive line: There hasn't been any word on the exact nature of Doug Legursky's leg injury in Thursday night's preseason finale that required him to be carted off the field. The Bills did not place Legursky on injured reserve on Friday, but perhaps that's only because they're waiting for more tests. If it's a season-ending injury, the Bills would be down to just two backups along their offensive line: Thomas Welch and Sam Young. Both play primarily tackle, but could slide inside to guard in an emergency. Still, the Bills are likely on the lookout for interior offensive line help, particularly a player who, like Legursky, can play both guard and center.
  3. Quarterback: Quarterback was the biggest story of the Bills' preseason, and even with EJ Manuel closer to returning to play, they could still be in the market for a veteran backup. They released Matt Leinart on Friday after he posted a dismal 0.0 quarterback rating in Thursday's finale. Thad Lewis, acquired in a trade on Sunday, looks to have earned the No. 3 job, if only by default. The Bills would probably like a player with more experience than Lewis to join Manuel and fellow rookie Jeff Tuel in their quarterback meeting room.

Bills slowly trimming active roster

August, 19, 2013
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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.

Bills add wrinkle in LG battle

August, 7, 2013
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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.

AFC East links: Brady's focused on football

June, 5, 2010
6/05/10
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The Boston Globe's Albert Breer analyzes Tom Brady's contract situation, while the quarterback says he's just trying to "go with the flow."

Buffalo Bills

Coach Chan Gailey says he still hasn't spoken with Marshawn Lynch. Meanwhile, safety Donte Whitner says he saw Lynch two days ago but that he doesn't know what to expect from the running back.

Unheralded and undrafted, running back Joique Bell from Wayne State in Detroit is ready to compete for a roster spot.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny wants to add some weight and bulk before starting the season.

Miami Dolphins

Even though wide receiver Brandon Marshall is still recovering from hip surgery, a Friday practice session should have Miami fans excited.

Backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen finally has a real quarterback coach.

Former Miami greats Jake Scott and Bill Stanfill will be added to the team's Honor Roll.

New England Patriots

Wes Welker's recovery from a torn ACL and MCL is going better than expected.

Patriots sign their seventh-round draft pick Thomas Welch.

New York Jets

Fifth-round draft pick John Conner inks a four-year deal worth $1.99 million.

Darrelle Revis may have avoided Thursday's practice, and HBO's cameras, on purpose.

Former Jets long snapper James Dearth contemplates what might be the end of his career.

Pats minicamp notes from ESPNBoston

April, 30, 2010
4/30/10
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ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss has filed a few updates from Friday's Patriots rookie minicamp over on his blog.

Some highlights:

  • There were 26 players on hand: 12 draft picks, eight rookie free agents, five players in on a tryout, and free-agent signee David King (punter). There were also 41 members of the media in attendance.
  • Tight end Rob Gronkowski, a second-round pick, is a big presence at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, but Reiss thinks Gronkowski will be a legitimate threat in the passing game and was impressed with his speed.
  • Patriots second-round draft choice Brandon Spikes also made an impression on Reiss. "While most of the rookies seemed nervous or reluctant to say the wrong thing, Spikes appeared most comfortable in his new environment. It is easy to see how Spikes potentially could emerge as a leader of this rookie group," Reiss wrote.
  • Seventh-round draft choice, offensive tackle Thomas Welch, said that Patriots coach Bill Belichick was the only NFL head coach to put him through a private workout.
  • Reiss reports that, for the second year in a row, quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien appears to be holding the unofficial title of offensive coordinator.

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